Something is terribly wrong with me, I’m convinced of it. When most people go to a ball game, they like to see home runs, diving catches, blazing fastballs. Me, I like walks. That’s right — the good old bases on balls. I enjoy watching a batter work the pitcher, fouling off the good pitches, laying off the bad ones, and then trotting down to first base, a potential run despite not “doing” anything.
And I don’t just mean Frank Thomas or Barry Bonds, guys who obviously are going to draw their share of free passes by virtue of the fear they instill in opposing hurlers’ hearts. Not to take anything away from those guys, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out there are a lot of times when as a pitcher you’re better off not giving them anything to pulverize and taking your chances with the next batter. (Though there is talent in knowing enough not to swing at junk — ask Mel Nieves.)
The ones I love to watch are guys like F.P. Santangelo, Dave Magadan, and John Cangelosi, to name a few. They draw obscene amounts of walks and it’s not because the pitchers are worried about them going yard. Cangelosi I can understand — he’s tiny, and it’s next to impossible to throw him a strike. But Magadan? The guy is 6’3″ and has virtually no power, but his batting eye is incredible.
Magadan is the kind of player that drives opposing pitchers (and most fans) out of their minds. He’ll make a pitcher throw 10 or 11 pitches in an at bat. In August, in a game against the Yankees, he launched a foul ball into the second deck along third base, and some kid caught it. The very next pitch he fouled to the exact same spot, to the exact same kid. I don’t remember how the at-bat finished, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he drew a walk.
I don’t mean to belittle the homer or the diving catch or even the blazing fastball. They’re all great parts of a great game, and I’ll always enjoy them. But there’s a perverse pleasure I take in watching a guy get rewarded not for hitting a homer or even a single, but just for being patient. So here’s to you, Mr. Magadan; God bless you, and the next time you’re trotting down to first after ball four, listen for me — I’ll be the idiot screaming like you hit the ball 500 feet.