Yesterday, the New York Yankees played their first Spring Training exhibition of the season, a hard-fought, heart-stopping 8-3 thriller against the Atlanta Braves. Tragically, this jewel of a game was nearly lost to eternity, as there was no video feed. Don't fret, however! I have scoured MLB.com's video archives and discovered two tantalizing clips from the classic that is sure to be remembered for generations to come.
The Yanks began the game taking their hacks against eight-year veteran Paul Maholm, who the Braves acquired from the Chicago Cubs last year at the Trade Deadline with Reed Johnson in exchange for prospect Jaye Chapman and former Yankee farmhand Arodys Vizcaino. Maholm felt the pressure of knowing that in order for him to legitimize his existence at all to his teammates, he had to vanquish the team that had given Atlanta the ability to make the deal in the first place by sending Vizcaino down south in the infamous Melky Cabrera-for-Javier Vazquez swap three winters ago. Maholm would never have been a Brave had it not been for the Braves acquiring Vizcaino. The Yanks were a part of his Genesis, with Vizcaino being the Peter Gabriel to Maholm's Phil Collins. It was time for Maholm to step up and strike down the team that beat Atlanta twice in World Series play 15 years ago, when none of the current Braves were anywhere close to the organization, lest his career suddenly turn to Disney soundtracks about ape men.
After four pitches, Maholm got Eduardo Nunez to bounce one to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who was no doubt seeking to take down the team that recently cut ties with his famous Curacaon countryman and former Brave great Andruw Jones. With Dutch pride, he threw out Nunez in the name of Druw and Queen Beatrix. Slugger Robinson Cano posed the next threat for Maholm, but the veteran shook off the fear thanks to the heavy anti-diuretics taken prior to the game. Robbie grounded one as well, sending a 2-2 pitch to the hands to first baseman Freddie Freeman, who had just been described as having "soft hands" in the field by the Braves broadcaster Jim Powell. Out number two was seemingly inevitable. But alas! The grounder trickled away from Freeman toward second baseman Dan Uggla. It was hopeless. Only about 10 pitches into their season and Atlanta had already screwed up. Maholm now had to face one of Freeman's predecessors at first base for the Braves, slugger Mark Teixeira. Surviving the tense moment, he got Teixiera to also hit a worm-killer.
Atlanta turned the double play and was out of the inning. Despite a good stretch on a horrendous throw by Uggla (nothing new), Freeman immediately realized how much he now owed Maholm for bailing him out, and he immediately began making arrangements for a nice, big bowl of pies with ice cream on it. (It was for Freeman, consoling himself. He knew Maholm's rage would be too difficult to control, and that he would likely be unconscious in the Atlanta dugout at any moment, a victim of Maholm's classic poisonous vengeance via drugged-up sunflower seeds.)
Young David Phelps was on the mound for the bottom of the first, brimming with the confidence of a bald eagle deadset on decapitating Derek Jeter. At the plate to lead off the game was Simmons, who upon returning to the dugout saw someone and became terrified about the possibility of losing his job to this new teammate once described as "a... baseball player," Ramiro Pena. Sensing this petrification, Phelps threw a pair of strikes right by Simmons while the bat rested on Simmons's shoulders. Snapping out of it, Simmons finally swung at the next pitch. Let the magic commence!
Triple-A second baseman Corban Joseph was starting at third base for the first time in three years, hoping an increase in positional versatility will help the Yankees find a place for him on the big-league roster. Little did he know that he would be tested posthaste. Deftly, he handled a quickly-moving grounder by Simmons and retired the infielder out at first in plenty of time with a throw right on the money. All in attendance gasped and broke out in thunderous applause; they would not stop cheering until CoJo performed his expected duty of bringing out a boombox and leading a rave to the dubstep version of "I'm a Little Teapot."
Then, the rest of the game happened, although as far as I'm concerned, it did't because there is no video evidence. They might have all joined CoJo on the field in a dance-off for all we know while the broadcasters uncomfortably fabricated a baseball game to describe.