Muhammad Ali, who passed away at the age of 74 just a couple nights ago, often referred to himself during his prime fighting days as "The Greatest." It was hard to argue against it, given his dominance in the ring, but more then that, he ultimately became a cultural icon through his actions outside of the ring.
Ali's youth was long gone by the time I became aware of his existence as a child. The handsome, brash, arrogant fighter had been replaced by a frail legend, his body wracked by the awful machinations of Parkinson's disease. As I sit here typing and thinking about Ali, I realize that I admire him just as much, if not more, for his battle against Parkinson's -- a 32 year battle -- then for anything he did prior to the 1984 diagnosis.
Ali ultimately succumbed to his mortality as we are all destined to do, true; but he fought it, hard, like he fought all his battles in life, all the way to the end.
Even the greatest lives filled with the greatest achievements are fraught with failure; in this way, baseball will mirror life occasionally. The best hitters fail two thirds of a time. The best pitchers will get knocked around sporadically. That's just how
life baseball works.
David Phelps has been nothing short of a revelation this year as the set up man for the Marlins. In 30 and two third's innings pitched he had put up a 1.76 ERA/1.66 FIP. His 11.45 K/9 rate and 1.2 WAR coming into tonight was best in the National League among qualifed relievers and second best in all of baseball behind established relief ace Dellin Betances. Through two plus months this season there were few surer things than David "The Bridge" Phelps locking down the eighth inning.
Phelps came into the game last night, gave up two singles and a double. Unfortunately, there were men on base, and they scored.
Sometime in the not so distant future, Phelps will probably fail again. But he will also succeed again. Ali's passing serves as a reminder that even the greatest will fall eventually; given that, we should appreciate the triumphs and the victories for the special things that they are, accept that failure will eventually occur, and look forward to the next series of (Marlins) triumphs and victories.
- For those looking for some hope regarding Giancarlo Stanton's slump, I offer you this: While he is striking out at a career high 34.4% which certainly isn't helping him any, he is also running a career low .256 BABIP (.324 career). That is what you call an unsustainably low number, folks. He hit two hard outs tonight. Those kinds of hits are eventually going to start dropping in. Unless you're one of those people who believe Stanton is in real, permanent decline at an age where most baseball players are beginning to peak, you have to believe that his numbers are due for some progression. I certainly understand if you're tired of waiting, though.
- Juan Lagares apparently had an amazing catch to rob Ichiro! of a single that would've probably driven in a run. I was going to post a video of it but oh look at the time.
- Justin Nicolino continued his tightrope act, giving up nine hits and a walk and somehow only managing to give up two runs while striking out two in five and a third's innings pitched. His counterpart Bartolo Colon was slightly better through five, giving up only one run, but he gets bonus points for rocketing a single and being an amazing human being.
- Keeping tabs on the rest of the pen beside Phelps: Dustin McGowan relieved Nicolino in the sixth and pitched the remaining two third's of the inning, striking out a batter. Kyle Barraclough pitched the seventh and though he did allow a single and a walk, he also struck out three Mets batters swinging, a good showing after his recent struggles. Cody Hall had an inning in the ninth and he was not good, walking three and allowing the Mets to pad their lead a couple runs. Offensively, Miguel Rojas, Christian Yelich had RBIs. Martin Prado hit his first homerun of the season which probably deserves more then it's getting here. Most everyone had a hit...the offense wasn't the issue this evening.
A trend through a third of the season that must turn itself around: The Marlins are 11-19 against NL East opponents and 18-8 against the rest of the field. That reversal of fortune should start tomorrow, as Jose Fernandez will face Matt Harvey in the series finale, 1:10 ET.
Hero of the game: James Loney (.322)
Flounder of the game: David Phelps (-.465)
Play of the game: Matt Reynolds singles in the eighth, driving in Michael Conforto and advancing Curtis Granderson to third base (.272)