A post by Grant Brisbee over at McCovey Chronicles reminded me that in 2013, baseball will bid adieu to the fake-to-third-throw-to-first move. Well, pitchers can still do it if they really want to, but the move will be considered a balk, so they probably won't bother. MLB's reasoning or motives behind the decision are unclear. Perhaps to speed the game up by an iota or two. Perhaps it looks kind of dumb and almost never works.
Ah, but when it did work, it was a joy to behold, provided your favorite team was the executor and not the executee. It provided the viewer with the pleasure of knowing your team had succeeded not on brawn but on guile. There's something very satisfying about fooling someone else, lulling them into a false sense of security and then pouncing on them when they least expect it.
Brisbee's post got me to wondering, when was the last time a Mets pitcher successfully picked off a batter using this now-illegal gambit? I couldn't recall one in recent years, but I had a vague memory of Turk Wendell pulling it off.
For once, my vague memories were validated. MLB has a clip from May 16, 2000, in which Turk manages to nail Rockies baserunner Brent Mayne in the top of the 11th inning at Shea. Behold!
This is pretty awesome to watch. The awesomeness is somewhat diminished when you learn that the pickoff move only came after Wendell had surrendered a go-ahead homer to 31-year-old rookie Bubba Carpenter. "Carpenter called Shea one of the most beautiful ballparks he had ever seen," the Times noted drily, "which would be true since he had only seen two."
This also provides me with an opportunity to remind you that Turk Wendell:
- Spiked the rosin bag whenever he finished warming up.
- Wore a necklace made of the teeth of animals he hunted.
- Was obsessed with the number 9.
- At some point had a ranch where you could go kill stuff with him.
I miss organically crazy relievers (as opposed to the contrived kind). So we salute you, Turk Wendell, and your pickoff move that has been consigned to the dustbin of baseball history.