Today I Learned…

…that former Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina (I refuse to acknowledge his most recent team) has announced his retirement after 18 seasons in the majors.  At the time of his retirement, his 270 wins ranked him second among active right-handers, behind only Greg Maddux.

I always really liked Mussina, despite his traitorous nature.  I find it remarkably satisfying that after leaving Baltimore in order to win a championship, a certain pinstriped team could not get it done with him.  Mussina will be a borderline Hall of Famer, but I’m not sure he’ll make it in.

Today I Learned…

…that diminutive Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who is almost certainly shorter than yours truly, won the American League MVP award today.

Pedroia was the 2007 Rookie of the Year, and also won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards this year along with being voted an All-Star Game starter.  He beat out Twins first baseman Justin Morneau and teammate Kevin Youkilis (also a first baseman) to win the award.  He joins an elite list of Boston legends to win the award: Mo Vaughn, Roger Clemens, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Jackie Jensen, Ted Williams (twice), and Jimmie Foxx.

He tied Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki for the Major League lead in hits (213), lost the batting title to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer by just four points, led the majors in doubles (54), and led the American League in runs (118) and multi-hit games (61).  He finished with a batting line of .326/.376/.423.

Today I Learned…

…about Eri Yoshida, a 16-year-old Japanese schoolgirl who was just drafted by a professional baseball team in a new independent league in Japan.  She throws a sidearm knuckleball (which must be murder to try to hit) and hopes to emulate current Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield.

She didn’t allow a hit in an inning against male batters earlier this month in a tryout, which led her to be one of 33 players picked in the draft.

Today I Learned…

…that Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon has thrown more scoreless postseason innings to begin a career than any other pitcher in history.  The scoreless ninth he pitched last night in Boston’s ALCS Game 1 win over Tampa Bay got him to 20 2/3 innings, passing Joe Niekro’s 20.

Today I Learned…

…that Jacoby Ellsbury hit the first three-RBI single in baseball postseason history.  In the second inning, Boston’s rookie leadoff hitter comes to bat with the bases loaded and two outs.  On a full count, he hits what seems to be an easy flare out to shallow center field.  Los Angeles shortstop Erick Aybar (who would later have the game-winning RBI in the 12th inning), second baseman Howie Kendrick, and center fielder Torii Hunter all converge on the ball, but each of them stops short and the ball falls between them.  All three baserunners score after running on the pitch, while Ellsbury is stopped at first because the ball is hit so shallow.

Special bonus Ruloff’s Trivia wrap-up!

…The only state which broke the rule against having a living person on its state quarter is Ohio, featuring Neil Armstrong.

…”The Incredibles” is the only Pixar movie to receive a rating other than G from the MPAA.

…The only movie to win both Best Picture at the Oscars and Best Kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards is “Shakespeare in Love.”

Today I Learned…

…that it’s been waaaaaaaaay too long since I’ve really watched any baseball.

Go Red Sox!

Division Series Storylines: Can the 100-year Cubs beat out the Manny-led Dodgers?  Can the Phillies overcome last season’s disappointment?  How will the Rays fare in their first October games in franchise history, and how will the Brewers do in their first postseason in my lifetime (1984 being their last playoff season)?  Can the Red Sox defend their World Championship despite the most injury trouble they’ve had in years?  Can the Angels snap out of their self-imposed hibernation after winning their division by 21 games?  How will the White Sox perform after needing 163 games to win their division?  Will we see a “Freeway Series?” (Dodgers v. Angels)  Or maybe an all-Chicago series?  Both Chicago teams haven’t been in the postseason in the same season since 1904.  Just how much baseball can I manage to watch despite my job?

Today I Learned…

…that sometimes, I don’t have any idea what goes on inside the head of a major league manager.

Bottom of the 12th, tied at 1, no outs.  Dustin Pedroia at first after being hit by a pitch.  David Ortiz comes up to face Tampa Bay’s JP Howell, whose Rays are leading Boston 1.5 games in the AL East.

Big Papi, the greatest clutch hitter in baseball right now and in Red Sox HISTORY…

…lays down a sacrifice bunt.

Keep in mind, this is a franchise which has been run on the principles of quantitative analysis and “Moneyball,” and which even features one of the book’s key prospects (Kevin Youkilis).  The only game situation in which a sacrifice bunt *positively increases your team’s chances of scoring that inning* is with runners on first and second with no outs.  In any other situation a well-executed sacrifice bunt decreases the number of runs a team can be expected to score in that inning on average.

Of course, the same QA principles state that there’s no such thing as “clutch” and David Ortiz’s reputation is merely statistical noise, but my point is YOU LET HIM SWING AWAY!  YOU DON’T BUNT!

GAH!

Epilogue: Dustin Pedroia never moved from second base and the game continued.