Good for Ball, Bad for Ball
Buckner's return, D-backs' style of play good for game
Here's how it works: Outfielders who throw laser-like strikes to punish overzealous runners are Good For Ball. Not only does it take tremendous arm strength, but it takes nearly flawless footwork and mechanics.
When an outfielder gets pinned with an error because his dart deflects off a sliding runner's foot, however, it's Bad For Ball. A great throw is a great throw. Official scorekeepers should reserve the right to simply let the play stand -- the runner gambled and won, end of story.
It works outside of baseball, too: Steve Carell, for instance, is Good For Ball. If that man can't make you laugh, you might have been unwittingly subjected to a humorectomy. His clueless, self-absorbed antics as the boss in TV's "The Office" are nothing short of comedic genius, and his gibberish-spouting scene as a news anchor subjected to Jim Carrey's devilish intentions in "Bruce Almighty" might be one of the funniest cinematic turns since we saw Bill Murray hunting gophers at Bushwood Country Club.
On the other hand, the Summer Olympics are nearly upon us, but we're hearing more about torch-relay protestors than we are of Australian swimmers and Kenya's seemingly endless supply of long-distance gazelles. Bad For Ball.
It's simple, really. Everything in life can be labeled in one of two ways: Good For Ball or Bad For Ball. With that in mind, let's take a look around our grand old game and see which label fits where.
The return of Billy Buck: Red Sox Nation on Tuesday finally and officially forgave Bill Buckner for getting nutmegged by Mookie Wilson's ground ball in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, welcoming him back to Fenway Park with a standing ovation that brought mist to many an eye.
Buckner was basically an emotional wreck in the aftermath, frequently pausing during a press conference to gather himself. It was kind of like watching the final scene of "Free Willy" -- it made you a little sad, a little giddy, and you had to marvel at the beauty of the spectacle.
In Buckner's case, the marvelous spectacle was his hair. Somewhere, George Hamilton was asking for his look back.
Oh, and never mind that Buckner (a) shouldn't have needed forgiveness and (b) probably wouldn't have been forgiven if the Red Sox were still battling the Curse of the Bambino. It was a cool, timely moment. Period. Good For Ball.
Stay West, young men: Does the U.S. media have an East Coast bias? Sure. Our country was founded there, as were all of the big-time sports leagues. (Save your e-mails, hockey fans. We're aware that the NHL was founded in Canada. We're also aware that you aren't "big-time" until your TV ratings top those of "Golden Girls" reruns on Lifetime.)
So yes, the media tends to focus on baseball teams in the Eastern Time Zone. When teams playing out West are in the fifth inning, much of country is in bed. But don't sleep on the Diamondbacks.
From Eric Byrnes' maniacal approach to the game, to the electric young five-tool tandem that is Justin Upton and Chris Young, to the 1-2 punch atop the rotation of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, the Snakes give you plenty of reasons to stay up late. Good For Ball.
Keep an eye on the V-Boys in San Francisco, too. Utility man Eugenio (ay-ooh-HEN-ee-oh) Velez is a triple waiting to happen, and Merkin (mare-KEEN) Valdez is a gas-throwing, fast-rising bullpen star. Dominican dandies, both.
Ozzie being Ozzie: Always outspoken White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen recently ruffled more than a few feathers by declaring that Pudge Rodriguez and Robbie Alomar -- not Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, one of baseball's true icons -- are the best players to come out of Puerto Rico.
Guillen qualified the statement by saying he's a huge Clemente fan, but he's still wrong. By the stats, Clemente has a higher career batting average and more RBIs. He also won 12 Gold Gloves to Pudge's 13 and Alomar's 10, and Clemente was named MVP of the 1971 World Series with an out-of-this-world performance against the heavily favored Orioles -- at age 36.
Pudge and Alomar have pretty shiny resumes, too, but when you factor in what numbers can't quantify, it's not even close. The heart, courage, determination, will, charity and love for humanity Clemente showed throughout his career put him in a class that perhaps only Jackie Robinson belongs. Ozzie, though, suggested that Clemente is the people's favorite in part because of "the way he died." Unreal.
This week, by the way, Guillen accused umpire Phil Cuzzi of carrying out a vendetta against him after Cuzzi tossed him for arguing balls and strikes, which earns everyone an automatic ejection. Usually it's a good thing when someone's in midseason form. Here, it's Bad For Ball.
Speed round: Word got out Thursday that players and owners have are about to reach another agreement that will make it tougher to cheat the game. Good For Ball. ... The Braves' top prospect just got suspended for human growth hormone, and he's not the first Minor Leaguer to get popped this year. Getting busted in this day and age is either an example of phenomenal arrogance or mind-blowing ignorance. Both are Bad For Ball. ... The Tigers finally won a game Wednesday. "They're too good a team to go 0-162," said former Tiger Sean Casey. Good For Ball. ... Can someone please put an end to the pajama trend in uniforms? Unless you rock it with the high socks, a la Prince Fielder, who gets a pass in the name of Babe Ruth, you just look fat and sloppy. Bad For Ball. ... John Smoltz and Johan Santana locked horns in a day game Sunday. That's about as pure as it gets if you're fan of true mound masters. Good For Ball. ... And finally, Trevor Hoffman looks less like a dominant closer almost every time he takes the hill these days, prompting talk in San Diego about him hanging on too long. When Hoffman hangs 'em up, we'll be losing not just one of the all-time late-game greats, we'll be losing one of the game's really, really good guys. That's always Bad For Ball.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.