This week’s theme was inspired by Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco’s throw last night against the Brewers.
With his team up two in the bottom of the 5th, Franco dove for a sharp grounder off the bat of the still surprisingly speedy Ryan Braun. The momentum of the ball forced him into a sliding spin, and when he transferred the ball out of his glove he had no choice but to make the throw from the seat of his pants.
The “from the seat of his pants” throw is one of the most spectacular plays an infielder can make because you know something crazy had to happen before the throw to force the fielder onto his butt. It’s hard enough to make a strong enough throw across the diamond in time to nab a Major League baserunner at first, so taking your entire lower half out of the equation is not something any fielder would voluntarily choose to try. I’d be interested to know if it’s something any fielder practices regularly.
Two things before we get into it. First, after last week’s Who Did It Best? I got some people accusing me of “recentism”—ignoring older plays in favour of newer ones fresh in my mind. While some people had valid points (in particular commenter fajita who brought up this absolute hose from Dave “The Cobra” Parker in the 1979 All-Star Game), a lot of older plays either weren’t caught on video, or the footage is ruined by low-quality/bad camera work.
Second, I’m going to define a “from the seat of his pants” throw as such: At some point before the throw is released, the fielder’s butt must be touching or grazing the field. That means the fielder doesn’t necessarily have to be on his butt when he makes the throw, but butt-to-turf/dirt contact must have been made at some point. It also means that, unfortunately, throws from the knees are out of play. Now that that’s out of the way, welcome to Week 3 of Who Did It Best?
6. Asdrubal Cabrera gets tied up and dropped
This would’ve been a routine play for Cabrera had the chopper of the bat of the Orioles’ Felix Pie not bounced over the mound and ricocheted off Justin Masterson‘s ankle. Cabrera is already shading Pie to the second base bag and is in perfect position to make the play before he has to make the … adjustment.
The lightning speed of the whole play up to the throw means Cabrera has tons of time to make the throw—he even glances quickly at third to check the runner before releasing the ball. The distance isn’t particularly impressive either. No, the crazy part of this highlight is Cabrera’s quick reflexes and his unbelievable reach to snag the deflected ball with what looks like only his middle and index fingers.
5. Rey Ordoñez‘s graceful somersault throw
Ordoñez won three straight Gold Gloves (over Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin) at shortstop with the Mets before entering a short and sweet decline in his late 20’s. This play stands out for its dazzling grace and economy of motion.
Ordoñez makes the second baseman—John Olerud—look like a flat-footed chump meekly waiting in a chump’s stance. I’m imagining it went down like this:
Olerud is looking the ball into his glove thinking he’s gotta get some giddyup on his throw when Ordoñez charges in front of the ball letting out a guttural cry that sounds like the crescendo of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake before executing a sort of acrobatic manoeuvre that may have been painstakingly learned by Ordoñez directly from the choreography of the ballet Swan Lake as a child growing up in a culture-starved, embargoed Cuba.
The throw itself is secondary to the move. If I could edit the ball out of the GIF I would, and it would still be a pleasure to watch. And after a hearty round of applause, I imagine this fleshy Queens father told his Queens son, “Now that’s a ballplayer, son.”
BONUS: Rey Ordoñez’s knee-lay throw
A “from the knees” throw so it technically can’t be in the running. But Jesus Christ. Rey Ordoñez you are a bad, graceful man. Me on the other hand.
4. Roberto Alomar from the outfield grass behind first base
As a Jays fan, it’s weird for me to see Robbie Almoar in an Indians jersey. I don’t like it at all. But this play deserves to be on this list because there’s no way it should’ve ended in an out at first base. Alomar ranges a good five feet onto the outfield grass just to get to this ball and then flips over and throws in the exact opposite direction of his sliding momentum to get the runner by two full steps. Pure grace.
This one might technically break my definition of a “from the seat of his pants” throw. Whatever. The side of his butt is lightly grazing the turf.
3. John “Johnny Mac” MacDonald adds another chapter to his legend
If you weren’t following the Jays through their dismal 2000’s seasons, chances are you don’t know who Johnny Mac is. If you were, then you know Johnny Mac as a defensive wizard who, despite being a light hitter, came up clutch for Toronto time after time. And you know him as the guy who made you tear up when you found out he was traded to the Diamondbacks in 2011.
You can see from that white line on the astroturf that MacDonald is over a foot onto the outfield grass between second and third. He corrals the ball with a butt-slide, and then plants his right foot so hard in order to stop his momentum that he pops up into the air during his release.
Apoligies for the low quality. Go look up Johnny Mac if you haven’t yet.
I hope you enjoyed watching current teammate of fellow seat-of-pants-thrower Maikel Franco casually defying the laws of gravity. Any shred of power he is getting on this throw is coming from the side of his right foot/shin, and it’s apparently enough power to launch him into a perfectly horizontal spin a good six inches in the air.
I remember seeing this play the morning after it happened on Sports Centre and watching it over and over in disbelief. Galvis exited the game with a shoulder injury as a result of this highlight, and I’m not quite sure if the injury was caused by the bone-shaking impact of his dive, the hard landing after the throw, or the crazy torque his body was subjected to. Really, if there are any doctors reading this, please tell me.
1. Ken Caminiti gets foul-line chalk on the seat of his pants
Ken Caminiti is best known for blowing the lid on the steroid age in Tom Verducci’s iconic confessional for Sports Illustrated in 2002, and he made this play during his steroid-fueled 1996 MVP season. Caminiti died of drug abuse two years after that article came out. I’ll focus on the play itself, but I’ve been thinking about his sad legacy a lot with the recent Chris Colabello suspension.
This takes first place easily because nobody other throw on this list even comes close to this distance. Caminiti probably had to brush foul-line chalk off his butt after this one, and the baserunner isn’t even in the frame when the throw gets to first.
That’s it for this week. Before you leave, tell me who you think did it best!
BONUS BACKWARDS GIFS!
Just for fun, I made a backwards gif of Asdrubal Cabrera‘s play, and it sort of spiralled out of control from there. I didn’t want to distract from the serious work at hand above, but I know I have no right to keep this glorious GIFs from the world.