Baseball’s pitching staff: Gourmet fine-dining

When going to the type of restaurant that asks if you made a reservation even though the establishment is empty (you know, places that serve a side dish of snobbery with your meal), one can expect multiple courses of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts.

This is how a pitching staff operates in baseball. All those pitchers milling about aren’t there for the conversation (although pitchers do a lot of talking when not pitching). Rather, much like golf clubs (remember that post?), each pitcher has a specific role to help the team.

Each team has five starting pitchers. These pitchers begin each game in turn but

Matt Cain; a starting pitcher

they are so much more than an appetizer of calamari. Starting pitchers are expected to throw about seven innings in a nine inning game so they are more like the appetizer, salad, and main course. Starters are the most important pitchers on the staff because they throw the most innings.

A bad main course will ruin the meal but the evening isn’t just your order of  rib-eye. To support your steak, an order of mushrooms or asparagus will complement it perfectly. However, side dishes can

Santiago Casilla; the middle reliever

detract from the experience too (especially when served a la carte; nothing hurts more than spending $9 on so-so green beans).

The side dish is like the middle reliever. They throw maybe one inning per game, but it usually occurs when the starter needs help much like how a slightly bland chicken can be rescued by otherworldly mashed potatoes and gravy.

Sergio Romo; the set-up man

With all this great food, one must drink something special too. A superior steak needs a stellar red wine while a fantastic fish needs a wonderful white. No screw-top grocery market special will do for a meal like this. You spend a little extra because this evening is special so you avoid wines capable of cleaning paint off of paintbrushes. This is the set-up man.

The set-up man usually pitches the 8th inning in tight ballgames. This pitcher is a bit better than the middle relievers and his main job is to preserve the lead for the 9th inning. Then it’s time for the dessert; better known as the closer.

Even though the majority of the check is spent on the appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and wine, the dessert can leave a lasting impression throughout the car ride home. Some restaurants have a special dessert totally unique to them designed to keep you coming back for more. It’s the last thing you’ll remember from the restaurant just like a closer who saves the game or blows the lead.

The closer’s job is to record the final three outs with a lead of three runs or less.

Brian Wilson; the closer

This is called a save and while it’s only three outs out of 27 total outs in a game, the final three outs have a way of being the most difficult to get. That is why the closer often times has the best stuff on the staff. Much like how a death-by-chocolate-caramel-medley has more taste and deliciousness than your main course of steak.

Steak is steak; there’s only so many ways to prepare it. But dessert? There’s all kinds of personality in desserts. In the same way, closers usually have crazy hair, long beards, and lots of tattoos and can be a little off mentally. That’s like putting sparklers in your chocolate brownie.

For the meal to be perfect, however, each part needs to special. Any course found to be lacking can negatively cloud the experience. Same with the pitching staff. The starter, middle relief, set-up man, and closer all need to pitch well for the baseball team to win.

Anything less, and you might as well be eating at Arby’s…

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