Aristides Aquino Unleashed The Throw Of The Year, And They Let Us See It
10:08 AM EDT on August 25, 2022
Philadelphia's Rhys Hoskins singled to left with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning on Wednesday night, scoring Matt Vierling, who'd tripled two batters earlier. This put the Phillies up 7-4 over the Cincinnati Reds. Next Alec Bohm flew out to center, bringing up J.T. Realmuto with two outs and Hoskins still at first. On a 1-1 count, Realmuto got hold of a sinker over the outside corner and ripped it the other way, deep into right field.
Here I would like to pause for a second and note that, earlier on Wednesday, on the other side of Pennsylvania, in the second inning between the Braves and Pirates, Pittsburgh's O'Neil Cruz turned on a hanging slider and rocketed it off the top of the wall in right; the ball left his bat, according to Statcast, at 122.4 miles per hour, making it the hardest-hit ball in any major-league game since at least as far back as 2015, and very possibly in all the history of baseball. The ball traveled so fast, in fact, that Cruz wound up with only a modest single to show for possibly having hit a baseball harder than anyone has ever hit a baseball: There simply wasn't time for him to do more than run to first base. Anyway, this is just a fun and weird little bit of vague symmetry, or some kind of foreshadowing.
Back to Philadelphia. Realmuto's ball is not traveling anywhere near 122 miles per hour—for one thing, you can actually see the ball—but it is still a pretty hard-hit sucker. Cincinnati's right fielder, the very huge and powerful Aristides Aquino, tracks it back toward the wall, gathers, leaps ... and comes up short: The ball smacks off the top of the wall (a foot or so above where Aquino himself crashed into it), bounces across the warning track, and rolls onto the right-field grass. Realmuto is rumbling toward a double; Hoskins has trucked all the way around from first and is now rounding third and heading home. So Aquino, owner of one of MLB's most powerful throwing arms, simply collects the ball, springs up, and unleashes hell:
What a rocket! What an absolute freaking howitzer blast! I have watched this replay a good 35 times this morning, after watching it a dozen times last night. I feel confident that I will watch it 20 more times today. I can't get enough of it. The way Aquino's body coils before the throw and then explodes, whipping his arm through its cruelly fluid three-quarters delivery nearly too fast to follow. The ball's low, beam-like, somehow mean trajectory. How even its bounce, a few yards shy of home, winds up being perfect, delivering it directly to catcher Austin Romine's hands in position and time to turn and apply the tag. How inarguably beaten and defeated Hoskins—a vile Philadelphia Phillie, after all—is at the end of it; it's not even all that close. This is demigod shit. A perfect baseball play.
And, just as importantly, it is a perfect baseball broadcast moment. I've written before about the dismally familiar, inexcusably bad decision baseball broadcasts typically make in similar situations, to cut away from the in-flight progress of the outfielder's throw in order to show a boring, uninformative moment of the baserunner, running. As though that—some jerk, running straight, along a line literally drawn on the ground!—might deliver the action and drama in a potential play at the plate, as opposed to a baseball screaming at a hundred miles an hour toward the infield from the cold depths of space. Blessedly, the broadcast of this play ditches the customary shot of the baserunner, sticking with Aquino's throw all along its flight path, letting the play-by-play ("Windmill on at third base, Hoskins sent home!") and the simple fact of the throw itself tell you all you needed to know about what was happening on the basepath.
This is the way to do it! Sticking with the throw means that when the one-in-a-million athletic feat happens—a 99-mile-an-hour laser from deep right field, cutting down a runner at the plate to end a rally—viewers get to see it in its entirety, instead of the million-in-a-million athletic commonplace of a doofus running straight. It observes the indisputable sports truth that a thrown ball arcing through the air is cool, and thrilling, and inherently dramatic: Its flight is a story that you watch to see how it will end. This is why the normal broadcast angle in baseball is not a close-up of the catcher. This is why NFL broadcasts do not cut away from a beautiful arcing deep ball to show a wideout looking back over his shoulder; it's why NBA broadcasts don't cut away from a three-point attempt in flight to show the guys boxing each other out under the hoop. It's why live attendees at sports games, in virtually every sport, tend overwhelmingly to watch the ball. It's why the sport has "-ball" in its name, and not "goober running." The ball is the action, and the action is the juice!
Now there is a perfect, unbroken, high-definition record of Aristides Aquino's perfect throw, the best throw of the season and one of its very coolest and most spectacular athletic feats. The canonical real-time record of this baseball moment is also, for once, a view of what made it special. Everyone watching got to see the cool shit as it happened, instead of watching Rhys Hoskins run. Hell yes! Always do this! And always, always, try to take the extra base on Aristides Aquino, so that he can gun your sorry ass down from orbit.
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