— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
September 10, 2003
Sammy becomes a Cunnane linguist.
As usual, I?m sitting on the couch watching the Braves. Tonight?s Wednesday, so it?s a Fox Sports South night. Instead of the familiar TBS crew, complete with Skip "The Funniest Man in Baseball" Caray, I get Bob Rathbun and Tom Paciorek. I don?t know who thought it would be a good idea to put Tom Paciorek behind a microphone, but it was a mistake. Not to be mean or anything (he seems like a nice enough fellow) but if I hear "HELLO!" one more time, as if the simple repetition of that word were insightful baseball analysis, I may snap. Of course, to be fair, I?m probably closer to snapping than most people, anyway.
Anyway, Paciorek notwithstanding, it?s baseball, and baseball is always a good thing. I like baseball.
One of the things I like best about baseball is the Insane Happenings that bubble up out of the ground every now and then, like the showdown between Chris Bootcheck and Justin Duchscherer yesterday. Here it is, early September, the defending World Series champs are facing off against recently perennial playoff contenders Oakland and you get two guys their mothers? have never heard of toeing the rubber, respectively. That?s just too groovy for words. (The fact that both names confound spellcheckers everywhere only adds to the wonderment.)
So I?m sitting around watching the Braves game, like I said, and old Bob and Tom are chattering something or other about John Smoltz and the Braves? bullpen woes and how much they need him back healthy, etc., et al, and I?ve got Bootcheck vs. Duchscherer on the noggin? anyway, so naturally I think of Will Cunnane.
Cunnane is, of course, the very walking definition of journeyman reliever. He debuted as a 23 year-old reliever for San Diego in 1997. Four seasons of mostly-ick later and he shuffled over to Milwaukee for a season. 2002 saw him testing out the country?s other sausage haven, with similarly craptastic results. This year he was happy to have a job at all, with AAA Richmond in the Braves system. In August, due to injuries to Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Gryboski, Cunnane was called up to fill out the back end of the pen for a while.
Then something odd happened. Be it freakishly small samples (likely) or the supercilious magic pixie dust that results from the friction between Leo Mazzone?s bum and a dugout bench (equally likely), Will Cunnane has just dominated. He?s posted a 1.35 ERA over 13.1 innings (I told you it was freakishly small.) He?s recorded two holds as well as the last two saves recorded by the team. He?s struck out 11 batters compared to only 4 walks and 7 hits. He?s played himself onto the post-season roster (likely at the expense of Hernandez.)
Now look, I know it?s all sample size stupid and everything, but good-googley-moogley, the boy?s been super. And this brings me to today?s point. (You didn?t think I had one, did you?) Cunnane is very likely to impact, perhaps significantly, post-season baseball. He?s not exactly Frankie Rodriguez 2002 (not young enough, was actually legally on the roster prior to September), but I?d wager money to odds no one in the world would have guessed that Will Cunnane would be a player (literally and figuratively) in the 2003 post-season, even a month ago. (And lo! While he is typing, Jaret Wright comes into a 2-run ball game with heavy wild-card implications, trying to hold the 8th inning lead.)
My question is, who else is out there that is likely to sneak into the national subconscious, a la Rodriguez, as the mystery out-of-nowhere key performer for 2003?s playoffs? I am throwing down Will Cunnane (with a nod to Jaret Wright, and a big fat raspberry to Szymborski) to start the discussion. Both Cunnane and Wright throw in the mid-90s without breaking a sweat. Both are mowing down batters in September. Both have quick access to St. Leo?s bag of pixie dust. One of these guys is going to record a pivotal hold in Game 6 of the World Series, bridging the gap for Smoltz? series clinching save. And don?t think I won?t lord it over Dial all winter long.