We tend to like ballplayers who are gamblers -- the guys who go all in, using their athletic abilities, instincts and sometimes even just sheer guts as their currency.
Michael Cuddyer is a gambler. He guesses on pitches, which is why he clobbers the ball sometimes and misses it by three feet other times. And last night he made two huge gambles -- calculated plays, but still risks -- in the ninth inning of a game the Twins needed to win very much.
La Velle has already walked through much of Cuddyer's thought process in an excellent post-game blog entry. But just to reiterate: Cuddyer taking second on his bloop hit set up the entire inning. We're not sure Thome gets walked otherwise. That walk led to Danny Valencia's single, which was Cuddyer's even bigger gamble. Cuddy put his head down on that flare to left and started running at the crack of the bat. It was hardly a sure thing single; another stride or two, and the left fielder catches the ball. Cuddyer would have been doubled off second base
-- a force out that would have negated the run Joe Mauer scored and left the Twins with a 1-0 loss and 8 games back in the AL Central.
UPDATE: As a couple of astute readers (Doug and Rick) have pointed out via e-mail, we have the privilege today of one of our favorite things about baseball -- learning something new. We were so sure that was a force out. We were wrong. It is an out on appeal. Per an approved ruling example in section 4.09 of the baseball rule book:
Approved Ruling: One out, Jones on third, Smith on first, and Brown flies out to right field. Two outs. Jones tags up and scores after the catch. Smith attempted to return to first but the right fielder's throw beat him to the base. three outs. But Jones scored before the throw to catch Smith reached first base, hence Jones' run counts. It was not a force play.
So if that ball would have been caught, and Mauer had tagged up and scored before Cuddyer was thrown out trying to get back to second, Mauer's run would have counted. That said, the throw from left field to second base surely could have been in plenty of time to get Cuddy before Mauer scored. Or, perhaps Mauer wouldn't have been able to tag up at all, Cuddyer would have been thrown out at second, and the game still would have ended 1-0.
Regardless: Not a force out. Thanks everyone.
Anyway, here was the money quote from Cuddyer:
"Right when it was hit, I had to go. I made the decision,'' Cuddyer said. ``If I would have been doubled up, I would have been the goat, and that’s the way it would have been. Fortunately it didn’t happen. Once I made a decision, you don’t have time to think. It’s either going to work out for me, or I’m going to be the idiot, and fortunately I wasn’t an idiot tonight.''
We were at the game. We couldn't believe it when we saw Cuddyer right on Mauer's heels. But we love a good gamble and a willing gambler.