Ruminations on Jordan Danks getting picked off second to end a game

Bob Levey

White Sox resorting to unusual methods in losing back-to-back games in Houston

Give the White Sox credit -- if they have to lose the first two games of a series in Houston, at least they're doing the favor of making it interesting. It certainly softens the blow when the first reaction after disheartening defeats is morbid curiosity ("When was the last time that happened?").

After doing some digging, I'm reminded of this scene from Anchorman:

"You pooped in the refrigerator ... and you ate the whole wheel of cheese? How'd you do that? That's actu-- I'm not even mad. That's amazing."

The offense pooped in the fridge on Friday when they abandoned Chris Sale to the extent that he became the first Sox pitcher in 100 years to strike out 14 and lose a game. On Saturday, Jordan Danks took care of the latter with this:

Danks objected to Dana DeMuth's call, less because he believed he was safe, but more because he didn't want to be a guy who was picked off second to end a game:

"I knew it was close," said Danks, who argued his case with umpire Dana DeMuth. "I told him I'm not saying it wasn't close, but I didn't think it was close enough to end the game that way. But what are you going to do about it?"

To answer the last question, I went back and tried to figure out how rare this feat might be. The answer -- pretty rare.

Back in 2011, Mat Kovach at The Hardball Times drilled down through Retrosheet's event logs and discovered that 66 games ended with a pickoff since 1916. The Danks debacle marks at least the 70th time, because I found three others in between the publication date and Saturday.

Two were courtesy of the fake-to-third-throw-to-first move. The now outlawed ploy fooled Carlos Beltran to end a game last year, and Curtis Granderson the year before that. In between, Josh Hamilton was directly picked off by Franklin Morales to end a game on Sept. 3, 2011 (although Hamilton was safe).

But to find a game-ending pickoff play that happened at second base -- at least at the major-league level -- that's a bit more difficult to come by.

The most recent instance took place on July 2, 2010, when Francisco Rodriguez caught Roger Bernadina napping, prompting Adam Dunn to make a face we've seen plenty of since:

Before then, the nearest one I could find was April 11, 1998, when Anaheim Angels shortstop Craig Shipley turned into a goat with one Mike Jackson move. Shipley's poor judgment was actually more harmful, because the Angels trailed by three, and Tim Salmon represented the tying run at the plate. You can understand why Danks strayed too far -- he was intent on scoring on a single should one occur. With Shipley, his run meant nothing if the guys behind him didn't cross the plate.

The guy who placed the tag on him could relate:

Indian shortstop Omar Vizquel, who snuck behind Shipley and made the game-ending tag, could empathize with Shipley.

"The same thing happened to me once in winter ball," Vizquel said. "You never forget it."

It might take a while for Danks to live this one down, which is problematic for a guy who is trying to stick on the roster as a primary pinch-runner, among a couple other roles. Saturday's brain fart marks the second time in his last seven pinch-running appearances where it ended with an inexcusable mistake. You may remember this one from last September:

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