So how great was Cespedes' throw from left field Tuesday night?
JUN 11, 2014 11:30a ET
I suppose that someone reading this hasn’t yet seen Yoenis Cespedes’ tremendous throw Tuesday night. Some people said it was the best throw they’d ever seen in their lives; some said it was the greatest throw since Abner Doubleday invented throwing. You can decide for yourself:
Now, there are a number of things that made this play so tremendous. First there’s Cespedes’ sloppy fielding that allows the throw to happen at all. Then there’s the pinpoint accuracy, and catcher Derek Norris’ play to block the plate within the rules (according to the officials, anyway). And finally there’s the moment; in a game with pennant-race ramifications, Cespedes’ throw negated a run that almost certainly would have cost the A’s the game. Granted, the A’s wound up losing anyway. But at the moment it seemed pretty important.
The greatest throw in recorded history, though? We humans have a precious tendency to think whatever thing we just saw is the greatest thing. But we might stop for just a moment and think about the odds. Realistically, what are the odds that something we just saw is the greatest example of ... well, of anything? When we’re not able to precisely measure something, our imaginations can run wild. Which helps explain the wildly enthusiastic claims made for Cespedes, Tuesday night.
Granted, it was a ridiculous play. But much the same things were said when Ichiro Suzuki did this in 2001:
It was just his eighth game in the majors, and set the tone for Ichiro’s Gold Glove, Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player season.
In the 1970s, it was widely assumed that Montreal’s Ellis Valentine had the game’s greatest arm. Here’s why:
In the 1980s, it was widely assumed that Jesse Barfield had the game’s greatest arm. Here’s why:
And around the turn of the century, it was widely assumed that Vladimir Guerrero had the game’s greatest arm. Here’s why:
As impressive as all those throws were, though, I just don’t see how anything beats this one, rated by MLB Network a few years ago as the most unbelievable throw of all time …
Soon we’ll have OMGf/x, and someday we’ll have RetroOMGf/x, and then we’ll be able to compare all (or most) of these throws with precision tools. Just using the eyeball test, though ... from the warning track in right field to third base, on the fly? With the accuracy of William Tell?
But then of course there will still be the legendary throws and throwers. We’ll never have definitive video of Bo Jackson nailing Harold Reynolds. We’ve got very little of Roberto Clemente, who by almost all accounts had the greatest throwing arm that anyone had ever seen in the outfield. Before Clemente, Brooklyn’s Carl Furillo was famous for his arm; before Furillo, the Yankees’ Bob Meusel was famous for his arm.
We might also mention that there’s a difference between having a strong arm and making great throws. Bo Jackson and Vladimir Guerrero, for all their talents, both were erratic with their throws. Outfielders with tremendously strong arms often have just a cursory interest in cutoff men, which might lead to more runs allowed than saved.
But while there’s something to be said for hitting the cutoff man and throwing accurately almost every time – there’s a great deal to be said for those things, actually – there’s also a great deal to be said for OMG ... with the f/x, or without.