- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
I live in the New York area, but my 12-year-old had never been to a game at Yankee Stadium until Monday night. She loved the massive scoreboard and hated the foul balls that zoomed past us repeatedly on the left field side.
And while she decided as a child to give her allegiance to the Boston Red Sox -- her Kevin Youkilis shirt is now outdated, I told her Monday morning -- she got a kick out of the exuberance of Nick Swisher. "I think he's my favorite player," she said as he ran off the field after the top of the eighth inning.
Her response was directly related to his effort -- nothing more, nothing less.
By the eighth inning, the New York Yankees had control of the game against the Cleveland Indians, carrying a 7-0 lead. Hiroki Kuroda came out to start the inning with his pitch count at 100, with an outside chance at a shutout. Lonnie Chisenhall laced a ball into right-center field, a hit, and as he came out of the box, the Cleveland DH was thinking about taking second base.
But Swisher rushed into the alley, hustling to cut the ball off, and he fired back toward the infield, holding Chisenhall to a single.
In a perfect world, this is what Swisher and others should always do. But the reality is that this doesn't always happen, especially when the outcome is decided, as it was by the eighth inning last night. Sometimes players don't hustle, don't care enough.
But Swisher had scrambled after the ball and made a nice play, and at least one 12-year-old fan noticed.
Shin-Soo Choo doubled Chisenhall to third base, after Kuroda was relieved, and Asdrubal Cabrera hit a line drive toward right-center field -- and Swisher again rushed over to glove the ball, spin and fire toward the plate. Chisenhall hadn't tagged up, so the Yankees' shutout was intact, and the fans in Yankee Stadium cheered.
Swisher was challenged again. Jason Kipnis hit a ball to right field, Swisher made a nice catch, and Chisenhall tagged up and scored. But the baseball gods weren't through with Swisher yet: Carlos Santana lifted a long fly ball down the right field line, and Swisher raced toward the corner, catching the ball before he reached the padding along the line.
From the stands on the opposite side of the field, you could see Swisher laughing about his crazy half-inning, his exuberance filling the giant scoreboard as he jogged off and some of the fans in the park gave him a standing ovation.
Some opposing players and coaches -- and fans -- don't like Swisher because they think he's too expressive, too showy, and that some of what he does is for effect and nothing more.
All I can say is this: Swisher's energy level is the same four hours before a game as it is when the cameras are on. He is loud and boisterous for batting practice. He is grinning and waving his hands when you talk to him in the clubhouse. He wears the same big smile when he's chatting with a teammate alone in the runway that leads to the Yankees' dugout.
The guy loves to play and consistently competes with the same level of energy in the eighth inning of a forgettable June game as he would in the playoffs in October, and there is value in that. It might not be worth nearly as much as Stephen Strasburg's pure stuff or Joey Votto's ability to get on base or the defense that Adam Jones provides for the Baltimore Orioles.
But it's worth something. Ask Charlie Manuel, who arrives at the park every day knowing that Juan Pierre will be on the field 5.5 hours before a game practicing his bunting or his throwing or his break from first base. Ask Jim Leyland, who knows that Justin Verlander will always be prepared and will always be in shape and will always take him through at least six innings. Ask Ron Washington, who knows that any effort to take Adrian Beltre out of the lineup might require some sort of argument, regardless of whether Beltre is limping or bruised.
Or ask a 12-year-old, who went to a ballgame and came away appreciating a ballplayer -- a member of a team she does not like -- because of the passion he played with and showed on her first trip to a big league park.
Swisher has no regrets about what he said last weekend.
The Yankees hit their 115th home run in their 72nd game of the season Monday. That tied the 2002 team for the most homers through 72 games in franchise history (the '09 team, which won the World Series, had 108).
A new Youk era
Whether Youkilis can still be a productive hitter remains to be seen, but at the very least, he and Adam Dunn will force opposing pitchers to work hard. They rank No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in pitches per plate appearance at 4.58 and 4.55.
• Other clubs are monitoring the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies to see if they're going to become sellers in the next few weeks, but at least one of the would-be trade targets is dealing with an injury: Shaun Marcum tried to play catch, and it didn't work out that well.
And meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers know that Matt Kemp will be out at least a few more weeks. This probably means, of course, that Kemp won't be able to participate in the Home Run Derby, for which he is a captain.
• The Blue Jays' injury situation has gotten absurd: A fourth member of their rotation got hurt.
Moves, deals and decisions
3. A couple of Twins relievers are splitting the closer's role.
Dings and dents
By The Numbers
From ESPN Stats and Info
16: Games with four or more strikeouts by Adam Dunn, the second-most such games behind Ryan Howard since 2001.
24: Consecutive strikes thrown by Mat Latos on Monday, the longest streak by a Reds pitcher in a game since pitch data is available (going to 2000).
398: Career home runs by David Ortiz, tying Dale Murphy for 51st on the all-time list.
1998: The last time a pitcher allowed at least eight runs in a complete game prior to Alex Cobb on Monday.
NL West notes
• The D-backs' hitters have been on a roll.
NL East notes
NL Central notes
• Milwaukee got shut down.
• St. Louis mounted a huge comeback.
• Mat Latos was dominant, racking up 13 strikeouts.
From ESPN Stats and Info, how Latos was so good:
A) Latos threw a career-high 43 sliders and induced a career-best 16 swings-and-misses on the pitch. The 16 swings-and-misses were the most any pitcher has had on sliders in a game this season.
B) Latos also had eight swings-and-misses on his fastball, giving him a career-best 24 whiffs. That's the fourth-most by any pitcher this season and the most by a Reds starter in the past four seasons.
C) Latos finished with a career-high 13 strikeouts, which came on fastballs (six) and sliders (seven). Seven of his strikeouts were on three pitches, tied for the most by any starter this season.
D) Latos pounded his fastball in the zone and used his slider as a chase pitch. He threw 35 of his 49 fastballs (71 percent) in the strike zone, the highest percentage of his career. He threw just 10 of his 43 sliders (23 percent) in the zone, but Brewers hitters chased 17 out of the zone. Nine of the 12 outs he recorded on his slider, including all seven strikeouts, were out of the zone.
AL West notes
AL Central notes
• Cleveland has its top two starters in order, it appears.
AL East notes
• Alex Cobb was lit up.
• Felix Doubrant was shelled, writes Brian MacPherson.
• Two days ago, the baseball world got very sad news about Padres bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds.
• The Blue Jays' draft class is set to take off, writes Richard Griffin.
• The Phillies' poor decisions go beyond the dugout.
• Nick Castellanos is the Tigers' can't-miss kid, writes Lynn Henning.
• Stan Kasten knows the rebuilding of the Dodgers has only begun.
• The removal of D-backs announcer Daron Sutton has been puzzling, writes Dan Bickley.
And today will be better than yesterday.
There are obvious, tangible forms of value in baseball: Joey Votto's offense or Adam Jones' defense, for example. But as Buster Olney writes, Nick Swisher brings an intangible value to the Yankees through his energy and effort that should be appreciated.