This account of the best at-bat ever is a complete delight.
If you’re not a fan, all you really need to know is that the guy holding the bat in this story — Casilla — went to the plate with no intention whatsoever of swinging, made no secret of it, and the other team still managed to walk him for no good reason. (The hows and whys of the situation are in the article, but you can just accept it as the Argument and still enjoy the writing.)
Casilla had pitched in the eighth inning of a close game because Casilla is a pitcher. Specifically, Casilla is a reliever. A decent reliever, but still a reliever, and a reliever who had never batted in the major leagues. It’s weird when relievers go up to hit. But what happened with Casilla turned out even weirder.
(Yes, a veteran relief pitcher like Casilla might never, ever bat. Mrs. Heathen can explain why.)
Casilla walked to the batter’s box under strict orders not to swing. Why would he swing? Nothing good could come of Santiago Casilla swinging, and if he took a bad swing, he could hurt himself. Casilla was batting not because [Giants manager] Bochy cared about the at bat, but because Bochy cared about keeping Casilla on the mound, and if Casilla were to watch three strikes and turn around, it wouldn’t matter. The at bat didn’t matter
Now, it’s one thing to bat with no intention of swinging. If the catcher and pitcher don’t know you have no intention of swinging, they’ll attack you like usual. But Casilla didn’t even try to hide his approach. […] For the Marlins, there was absolutely no mistaking what Casilla was going to do: he was going to stand there and not do anything. […]
Casilla, then, made himself the equivalent of a tall plant. Marlins reliever Jose Ceda was, for all intents and purposes, pitching to a tall plant in a major league baseball game. His only challenge was to throw three strikes to a plant that posed zero threat on account of its plantness.
Ceda should been able to connect with the middle-of-the-box catcher’s mitt 3 times in a completely casual manner, no muss or fuss, and retire Casilla. And yet three pitches in:
Think about this for a minute. Jose Ceda is a pitcher in the major leagues. It stands to reason, then, that Jose Ceda is one of the very best pitchers in the entire world. Sunday afternoon, he was tasked with throwing three strikes to a tall potted plant, and he fell behind 3-0.
There’s bad video.