Monthly archives: October 2004
The Revolution Is Being Televised
The Internet Baseball Writers Association (IBWA), of which I am a proud member, released their first annual baseball awards. Here are the results. Unlike most other awards, the IBWA got the awards right. No Juan Gone over A-Rod type, eyebrow-raising decisions here.
The awards might not be as widely covered but with the idiotic cronyism and flock mentality of the baseball writers in selecting their awards, they need someone to keep them in line.
Below is my ballot for what it's worth:
2004 IBWA END-OF-YEAR AWARDS
Note that my method for the player, pitcher, and debut categories was to take the rank for each league in Win Shares and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) and averaging them. There are a few adjustments mentioned in the individual categories.
AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
The AL ranking were a bit dicier. Gary Sheffield led the AL in WS but ended up much lower in VORP. Averaging the rankings would place him about sixth. I felt it was only fair that the leaders in the two categories should rank 1-2, so I moved him up.
Madson was an eccentric pick based not on the rankings (though he did well there) but rather based on my assessment of his worth watching him pitch this season with the Phils.
NATIONAL LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Bobby Cox
AMERICAN LEAGUE MANAGER OF THE YEAR
1. Mike Scioscia
In the managers categories, I voted for the manager who got the most with the least talent.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
1. John Schuerholz
Schuerholz had to be rewarding for continuing to win a division while losing a good deal of a his core talent and for doing it by believing in many players (Hampton, Drew, Estrada, Franco, Thomson, etc.) that no one else did. Jocketty: a) same as second point for Schuerholz and b) shoring up the hole he created by trading Drew by getting Larry Walker. DePodesta for his cajones in addressing his starting pitching problems (i.e., by getting Brad Penny) by putting his division lead on the line.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR
1. Terry Ryan
This was the hardest category. I went with the execs who had the most successes without the glaring errors. I wanted to vote for Theo Epstein but the A-Rod and Nomar sagas prevented me from doing so. I wanted to vote for Bill Stoneman, but didn't because a) he signed Jose Guillen and b) he released him for basically nothing with two weeks left in the season in the middle of a playoff race. I wanted to vote for Brian Cashman but given that the Yankees were unable to make the Randy Johnson trade (and the fact that the Yankee minor-league system is in shambles), I couldn't. Mark Shapiro? Remember the Milton Bradley situation? Bily Beane? Can I borrow a closer please? John Hart? Remember the A-Rod closeout sale?
Ryan has the best group of young players possibly in baseball. Dombroski took a team from historically bad to respectable. Lamar fleeced the Mets for Scott Kazmir and has a good group of young talent. [By the way, I realized that my ballot got truncated in transit when I retrieved the email. The AL Exec of the Year was not included, so my votes are not in the IBWA totals for this category.]
Sox de Deux
Here is each part:
The Worst of Series, The Not Quite Worst of Series?
As the jubilant Red Sox players, management, and fans celebrate their championship and the dispelling of "The Curse"—hopefully keeping the body count to a minimum—I am left to mull over whether or not this train wreck of a World Series was the worst in my lifetime or not.
Was it 1990 when Eric Davis dived for a ball in game four and put himself in an Oakland hospital? The Reds won so quickly that he was still there when the Series was done, and charitable then-owner Marge Schott left him there to pay his own return airfare.
Was it 1976 when the Big Red Machine at its height stormed through the NLCS and World Series without a loss, sweeping the pre-Reggie Yanks?
Those are good, but my vote goes to 1989. That's when the Series was interrupted by an earthquake postponing game three for ten days. For a time, it wasn't certain if the World Series would resume or if the Bay Area had the inclination or the wherewithal to continue. Candlestick Park sustained some minor damage. When they resumed the A's led game three 13-3 going into the bottom of the ninth after winning the first games by a combined 10-1 score. In game four San Fran starter Don Robinson lasting 1-2/3 innings and the A's led 8-0 in the middle of the sixth. It did end up being the closest game of the series though (9-6). Things were so bad for the Giants that seldom used Billy Bathe was one of four San Francisco players to homer. Aside from Dave Stewart's and Dave Henderson's performances, there wasn't much to recommend it. Maybe we should have taken the earthquake as a hint.
However, this was arguable one of the worst World Series ever from an aesthetic stand point. The Red Sox outscored the Cards by 12 runs in four games. There are only 12 Series sweeps that are that lopsided or worse:
The Cardinals never owned a lead—they tied for one and two-thirds innings in game one.
The meat of the Cardinal order was historically bad. Scott Rolen was 0-for-15 with one walk and one pointless sac fly that scored one of only two Cardinal runs in game two but helped kill an eighth-inning rally (first and third with one out, trailing 6-1). Rolen's poor plate at the plate followed an 0-for-12 in the Dodgers series and a seeming rebirth towards the end of the NLCS, that turned out to be short-lived.
Here are the men who have collected at least 10 at-bats in a World Series without a hit. Rolen's is tied for the eleventh most ABs without a hit:
The only ones with more hitless at-bats in recent memory were Rafael Belliard who replaced an (I believe) injured Jeff Blauser late in the NLCS in 1995. The other was Mike Epstein who led the Series-winning A's with 26 home runs (really) and had an OPS 67% better than the park-adjusted league average but went hitless in the World Series. He was no longer an A in 1973 and was out of the game within a year.
Meanwhile, Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders, the number five and six hitters, were the strikeout kings. Edmonds K'ed 6 times in 15 at-bats or 40% of the time. His batting average was .067 for the series. He's one of 36 players to strike out that many times and have 40% of his at-bats consist of Ks.
Sanders sat out most of game four but still managed to strike out five times in nine at-bats (plus four walks and one stolen base, the only Cardinal SB for the series). He's one of 30 players to strike at least 50% of the time in the Series
Here are the worst strikeout offenders in the Fall Classic (>60%):
Basically, David Justice and a bunch of pitchers. Others in recent memory (last 40 years):
The Cards batted .190 as a team. That ties them for the 16th worst all-time. They also had a .261 on-base percentage and slugged.302 for a meager .563 OPS:
By the way, the Sox .283 team batting average was good for 22nd best (.404 OBP, .478 SLUG, and .882 OPS). Here are the top ones:
The Cardinals pitchers registered a 6.09 ERA struck out only 20 and walked 24. Their team ERA ties them for eighth worst all-time and the highest since 1993:
Their strikeout-to-walk ratio (.833) is the seventh worst in World Series history and the worst since 1990:
The Red Sox meanwhile registered a 2.50 ERA with 12 walks and 32 strikeouts. That's the 66th best ERA and 32nd best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.667).
Here are the best:
The one thing that you can criticize the Sox for was their defense. They recorded 8 errors and had just a .946 fielding percentage though they did turn 5 doubleplays. There were 42 teams who erred more often a Series though. Here are the worst:
Here are the last teams to flub at least 8 balls:
The Red Sox errors led to only 2 unearned runs, but that did help keep the team ERA low. Bill Mueller committed three errors all in the drizzle of game two. There have been 24 players who erred more often. The worst offender was shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh for the 1924 Senators with 8 errors. SS Joe Sewell (who replaced ay Chapman on the 1920 Indians), 2B Davey Lopes (1981 Dodgers), and SS Hans Wagner (1903 Pirates) are next with 6. No one since 1982 (Brewers Robin Yount (3) and Jim Gantner(5)) has recorded more than three. The only players with three since then are 1B Jim Lindeman (1987 Cardinals), 2B Alfonso Soriano (2001 Yanks), 3B Aaron Boone (last year's Yankees), and C Joe Oliver (1990 Reds).
Let's measure the disparity between the two teams by looking at some basic stats. The difference between their team ERAs is 3.59, fifth greatest all time:
The Red Sox batting average (sorry, I don't have the other ratios' historical values) was 93 points higher than the Cards'. That's the fourth largest difference between opponents batting average in the history of the World Series:
You'll notice that the 1989 Series is very high on both lists, but so is 2004. It has a very strong argument for Worst Series ever.
World Series Game 4 Log
National Anthem—More country hee haw schmaltz. Some nondescript country singer. Now, let some fan site link to that.
Montage—ends with Babe Ruth winking. Didn't think he was playing tonight.
Chris Myers—references lunar eclipse, "the planets are aligned" for a Red Sox win. More schmaltz.
Red Sox 1st
Damon—2-seamer called strike. 2 high 4-seamers. Why fastballs? 2-seamer—gone to right. Red Sox 1, Cards 0
Cabrera—4-seamer nubber halfway to third, great play Rolen
Ramirez—low. Called strike. Inside. Low. High. Walk.
Ortiz—outside. McCarver—"LaRussa's one batter away from getting Haren up". Low. Strike on outside corner. 4-seamer, swings through. Outside—full count. Flies to straightaway left. Ah, Mabry is finally in a game—too late.
Varitek—called strike outside corner. Change at knees right over plate—0-2. Low—blocked Molina. Fastball called a ball, looked good—at knees. Foul tip on same pitch. Outside—curve? Ks
Go Johnny Go—"Johnny B Goode", Chuck Berry for Damon.
1 run, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Womack—way outside. Looked outside—called strike. Lines off Cabrera's glove as he leaps. Jumped early. Single.
Walker—inside. Throws to first. Bunts to Lowe's right. Sacrifice good. I guess they are desperate for runs.
Pujols—high and inside—checks. Grounds to right of back. Bellhorn positioned there. Out.
Rolen—fouled off. Low. Hits dribbler down first base line. Lowe gets it, rolen dive headfirst, tags him.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Red Sox 2nd
Mueller—2-seamer at knees—called ball. Outside—curve? Strike called—outside corner. Grounds to Womack.
Nixon—In the dirt. Inside. Lines 4-seamer to right-center. Walker—sliding stop, nice, holds him to a double.
Bellhorn—Low. "Let's Go Red Sox"?—greatest fans in the world? Strike—outside corner. Low. Outside. Crushes one inside to deep right—foul. Outside. Walk.
So when do they get Marquis?
McCarver—predicts wheel play.
Lowe—outside. Bunt down, to mound, Rolen there but bobbles. Slides and barely gets Lowe. Well done by Cards.
Damon—Low. Outside. 2-seamer gets the outside corner. 4-seamer-fouls to left of third. Pujols unassisted.
0 runs, 1 hit, 2 LOB
Edmonds-strike inside corner. Flies to left.
Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds. Lot o' homers there.
Renteria—Called on the outside corner. Low. Low and outside. Fouls at plate. Mistake up—lines to Mueller on one hop, out.
Mabry—low and inside. Catches inside corner. Hanger—right to Nixon.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 3rd
Cabrera—More fastballs? 2-seamer right over plate—called strike. Outside. Low and outside. 2-seamer, just misses, flies to shallow left.
Little league pitches of Jason Marquis. Varitek also in LL World Series.
Ramirez—2-seamer in—fouled. Inner half—lined to left.
Ortiz—low I guess—fastball. Again—lines into RF corner. 2nd and third. Good pitch selection!
Varitek—video from LL WS with Bad News Bears theme. High and In. Low. Curve—looked low—called strike. Varitek doesn't like it. Again—outside. 3-1. 4-seamer—grounds to first, Pujols at line, goes home, Ramirez way out.
Mueller—1st and 3rd. Outside. To mound. Outside. In the dirt—blocked Molina. High—walk. No one up still in the pen! Incredible!
Nixon—called low, looked borderline. Low again. Again. Goes on 3-0, high heat outside, deep to right-center, 2/3 up the wall. Double. 2 runs. 2nd and 3rd.
Bellhorn—IBB to get to pitcher.
Lowe—low and outside. Finally LaRussa on phone to pen. Misses high heat. Fastball right over the plate. 1-2. Called ball—looked good at knees on outside corner. Ks.
2 runs, 3 hits, 3 LOB
Molina—Ugly K on change? (doesn't like sinker)
Marquis—why is he batting? Grounds to short
Womack—called strike. Low twice. Grounds to short.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 4th
Damon—"Red Sox fighting back smiles in their dugout". Fouled back. Called inside—looked borderline. Outside. Called inner corner. Grounds slowly to second, past Marquis, Womack shuffles with glove to first. Out. Nice play.
Cabrera—high heat up and in. "Let's Go Red Sox!" High heat—fouled. Curve low. Ball. Missed change? Flies high heat to center.
Ramirez—arguing with Molina? Ump? Someone? Francona out. Wonder what Manny said. Outside. Low. Outside. Flies to deep center-out.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Walker—Outside. Inside but close—2-0. Fans are up for first time. Curve on outside corner. Hits to warning track in right. Nixon has it.
Pujols—Called strike—looked borderline low. Again—not this time. Fouled off. Ks on curve outside. Ugly.
Rolen—jams to 1st base side in front of dugout. Ortiz squeezes it.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 5th
Bonnie Tyler—Total Eclipse of the Heart.
Ortiz—called strike outside corner. Outside. Same as #1—didn't get it. Fouls off low fastball. 2-2. Bouncer. 3-2. Low and inside. Take yer base.
Haren up in pen. Duncan to mound.
Varitrek—low and outside. Outside. Right over plate—takes. Fouled off. Low fastball—called third K.
Mueller—checks, but called on inside corner—I guess. Fouled off. 100th pitch. Molina sets up outside. Inside fastball—just missed, fouled back. Curve—in dirt inside again Moina outside. In dirt. Low. Ground low fastball to Womack, runner going, goes to first.
Nixon—flies out Edmonds going back.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Edmonds—Called strike. Lines to Muller.
Renteria—2 low and outside. Change on inside corner, had him turning away. Outside—but foul tipped. Boul. Sinker, one hands into gap left-center. Damon falls down after catch. Double.
Mabry—fastball way outside. Varitek misses it completely. PB—Renteria to 3rd. change—fouls to right. Fouls to left. Foul tip? Varitek reacts that way. Then tags. Out. Way outside—hard to tell. Diamond Cam? Argues. Hard to tell. Shouldn't complain when he swings at that cheese.
Molina—Outside. Called strike. In dirt—blocked. PH? Grounds to short. Boos rain down.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB.
Red Sox 6th
Marquis is still in????
Bellhorn—called strike at knees. Little lower—ball. Called strike. In dirt. No one in pen. Ks on low curve?
Chris Myers—interviews a Boston kid playing hooky. Where's the truant officer?
Lowe—grounds hard to pitcher.
Damon—More F'ing fastballs! Lined to right-center. Triple. Reyes up in pen—Reyes again????
Cabrera—"Let's go red sox!" and "A-holes" Outside twice. Fouled. Called on outside corner—looked like off. Foul. King now up—for Ortiz? Sheez. Flies to right.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Anderson---Really!?!?! Called strike. Bunts on one hop to Lowe. Pathetic.
Womack—sinker low. Outside. Called right on the plate. Flies.
Walker—Ball outside. Fouls down 1B line. Outside. Bud Selig—Ahh! Is it Halloween already? Wide again. 3-1. Take yer base.
Pujols---crowd gets up. Takes change right over plate. Fouled off. Outside curve—doesn’t go. Varitek to mound. Just missed low—2-2. Again—Lowe wanted it. 3-2. Ortiz and Varitek to mound. Change right over plate--Pops to second. Thinking fastball?
0 runs, 0 hits, 1 LOB
Red Sox 7th
Ramirez—Called strike. Outside. Again. Splitter low and outside—Manny swings way ahead. Again—couldn't check. Ks.
Ortiz—low. Low and inside—fouled off. Outside. Grounds behind 1B bag, 31, out.
Varitek—Low. Right over plate. Edmonds on the run. Basket catch at track. Almost overran it.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
"God Bless America"—Guy from Creed? Tool? Nondescript post-grunge crappy band. Herman Munster was a better singer
Rolen—Arroyo and Embree up. Inside. Foul Tip. High heat—didn’t get call. Again—now strike. Low—checked swing. Flies right to Damon.
Edmonds—Flies to shallow center. Damon has it.
Renteria—Called strike. Low. Lines to right. Single.
Mabry—Foul. Outside—couldn't hold back. Outside. Sinker—Ks.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Red Sox 8th
Mueller—called strike on outside corner. Singles to right.
Conference on mound.
Nixon—into the corner. Double. 2nd and 3rd.
Isringhausen coming in.
Kapler PR at first—defensive change too.Sanders in left double-switch.
Bellhorn—low. Inside but goes. High heat—holds up, 2-1. Fouls. Change—in and low—3-2. High—walks to load bases.
Millar—PH for Lowe. Reese PR for Bellhorn—also a defensive change. Inside. Called low—looked borderline. Swings through cut fastball. High heat—fouled back. Just missed. Ks on high heat.
Damon—change grounded to Pujols to his right on infield grass, across body, FO at home. Nice play.
Cabrera—in dirt—blocked. Outside. Arroyo—up in pen. Off the corner—throws to first to late. Fastball on the outside corner—taking all the way. On inside corner—acts like it almost hits him—1 ft away. Fouled back. Foul tip in and out of glove. High heat—fouled back. Don’t throw that again. Ks—on high heat!
0 runs, 2 runs, 3 LOB
Crappy "In Your Eyes" cover
Cedeno—PH for catcher. Called strike. Low. Way inside—hits ump's knee? Pops in front of Reese. Out.
Sanders-- looks 100 yrs old at the plate. Low. Turns on inside fastball—foul. Called strike. Low/outside. Outside—Varitek wanted it. 3-2. High and outside. Walks.
Embree—coming in, struck the side last time
Luna—PH for Womack. "You'll get to know me when you start doing business with me and stop f'ing around, Hector!" High strike. Low—Sanders takes second. High heat—doesn't get it. Cabrera to mound. Fouled off. Fastball all over the plate—Ks
Walker—Foul. Timlin in pen. High and outer half—pops high to short
0 runs, 0 hits, 1 LOB.
My friend Mike on the tremendous Luna move: " I always turn to a rule V guy when my season is on the line".
Red Sox 9th
Matheny catching. Luna at second.
Ramirez—Grounds to third.
Mientkiewicz—Flies to shallow right.
Polar Express Play of the Game—where's Leon?
John Henry is an alien
Varitek—Outside. Foul. Strike called. In dirt. Fouled back. Mookie Ball replay. Fouled off. Lines to LF. Single.
Mueller—Grounds to short, FO unassisted.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Pujols—Has to be the meat of the order. Called outside corner. Again—called ball. Foul. "It's been an offseason when ordinary foulke been extraordinary foulke"—McCarver keeper. Singles right up the middle.
Rolen—called strike at knees. Swinging. Inside. Flies to deep right. Terrible series.
Edmonds—misses high heat. Fouls. Misses High Heat. Ks
Ok, here it is…Armageddon or Billy Buck II
Renteria—Grounds to Foulke… Armageddon.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Jimmy Fallon french-kissing some chick on the field in a Red Sox jacket? Where's "Leon"? (He's waiting for the coin first.)
"We Forgive Bill Buckner"—I feel good for him.
Is Epstein old enough to drink champagne? Theo's a frat boy.
John Henry does his best Emo Phillips impression.
Jeanne with the tough free agent question to Theo. Of course, Schilling has to interrupt with champagne on Theo. Actually, holy water disguised. Jesus helped him because he's sick of hearing all the frigging Red Sox fans' prayers.
LaRussa—aw garshes. Red Sox just played better.
Schilling—"Greatest team in Red Sox history." Really?
"Sweet Caroline"—Neil Diamond? This is 2004, not 1974.
"Rest in peace, Babe"—He won plenty of rings. He's resting fine.
Aint She Sweep?
There is some drama in tonight's potential World Series finale. Should the Red Sox win by at least 10 runs—that's 12 baserunning errors in Cardinal-ese—they will win the most lopsided playoff sweep in baseball history. Here's the current list with the 2004 World Series listed as of the third game. Note that the Sox are already on it for the Angels series. Also note the dominance the Yanks had over the Rangers in 1998-98: 6-0 in two series with 23 Yankee runs to just 2 for the Rangers (!):
World Series Game 3 Log
Hey it stopped raining.
Red Sox, 1st
Cabrera—outside, 1-0—little too much plate, 1-1—low, high fastball—fouled straight back. NO FASTBALLS TO CABRERA. Again—straight back. Low fastball—lined to left-center, but Edmonds has a nice bead, gets it
Ramirez—ball low, fouled straight back, fastball low. Same pitch, but got the call—it was a ball. 2-2—high fastball, crushes it to left, one too many. Too high, too much plate. All Buck cares about is his postseason hit streak. Does anyone care?
Ortiz—1-1, fastball ripped to right. Bad signs. They are turning on that fastball.
Varitek—Strike called. Outside. Fouls off pitch inside. 1-2—low. Change low, expected fastball but adjusted, grounds to second.
1 Run, 1 Hit, 1 LOB
Red Sox 1-Cards 0
Renteria—low and outside, outside, nice outer half and low fastball—2-1. Change, grounds to second, Bellhorn falls, still gets him.
Walker—swings through high heat. Tried again—too high. Again. Off the plate outside—3-1. Pedro's birthday yesterday—what did his little friend get him? Again misses high, walk.
Pujols—strike one right down the pike. Calls time right before Pedro delivers. Called strike 2-seamer on outside corner, looked low. Called high, but that's the high strike they don’t call. McCarver discussing how Pedro disrupts the running game by holding the ball. Doesn't he have to deliver the ball in 20 secs. Close throw to first, Walker stands up. Lines on one hop far to Mueller's right, backhands but drops it, single.
Rolen—this is where he has to come out of his slump. Ball one low and outside. Called strike, borderline, may have gotten the outside corner. Varitek moves way outside on pitch, way outside. Rolen was calling time out. Outside again. Nowhere near the plate yet. Again, walks the bases full on 18th pitch. Fox needs their vertical hold fixed.
Edmonds—no K's now! High heat, very. Not looking good. Tips an inside pitch, does Pedro a favor. Misses high inside fastball, 1-2. In the dirt inside. Buck sends kisses to Varitek for blocking ball. 2-2—steps out. Pops to left. What is Walker thinking? No jump, great throw, tries to avoid tag, out. Ends inning.
0 runs, 1 hit, 2 LOB
Mueller—outside, lines another, right to Edmonds.
Evidently, Pujols went on fly last inning thinking two outs. McCarver claims that Varitek's insouciance fooled Walker. I think Walker fooled Walker.
Nixon—called strike, pops to Renetria roaming back.
Bellhorn—called strike outer half. Inside ball. Change fouled. Inside and low—2-2. Fouled off. Bounces in dirt—Full Count. Fouls down first base line. Called strike three on low breaking ball, looked very low.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Nelson De La Rosa—that's Manny's little friend.
Sanders—called, missed over the plate. Varitek stands—high, 1-2. change—popped high to left, got away with one.
Womack—High. Again but went—1-1. Again. Looked like he got the corner high but called ball. Womack does him a favor and grounds high pitch to second.
Matheny—looks terrible at plate. Two quick called strikes. Curve high and inside, doesn’t go. Fouled back. Ks—of course.
If these guys settle down, the Cards will really regret that first inning.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB.
Red Sox 3rd
Martinez—strike called right on the plate. curveball low. Same as #1—1-2. Again. Pedro wanted no part of that.
Damon—strike called, change—grounds to second.
Cabrera—low strike. Low. Same as #1, fouled down third base line. Low. Outside. In dirt. Walks.
Ramirez—low and outside. Gets that low strike again. Fastball runs inside. Manny way out in front—1-2. Throw to first. Jams him high and inside—flies to straight away RF.
0 runs, 0 hits, 1 LOB
Suppan—strike called right over the plate. Inside. Outside. Fouled off. Again—outer half. Dribbler down third base line. Mueller barehands, too late. Safe.
Renetria—low and outside. Throws to first. Fouled off. Right over the plate, lines do deep right. Nixon hits a puddle at the warning track, double. Suppan to third.
Walker—grounds to second. Suppan holds then goes. Walker slows to draw play from Ortiz, throws to third, way out. Should have scored. They conceded the run. Oquendo looks pissed on the replay—started, stopped, then went.
Pujols—Foul. Outside. Called strike. Outside and low—checks. 2-2. Duncan is chewing out Suppan in dugout. Way outside. Bounes to third. Crowd boos.
That could become an infamous play. Suppan's Boner--The Soup Bone.
0 runs, 1 hit, 2 LOB
Red Sox, 4th
Ortiz—Way inside, turns, fouls off. Way high and outside. Grounds right to Pujols unassisted.
LaRussa points out that the third baseman wasn't even there, shift.
Varitek—low, called on curve. Foul. In dirt. Ks.
Mueller-low. Fastball nothing on it right over plate—to gap in left-center. Double.
Nixon—Rip in hanging curve over plate, bounces to wall in right. Runner scores. Single.
Bellhorn—fouls. Inside. Outside. Hits him. Francona on the steps of the dugout.
Martinez—fouls back on inside. Misses breaker in the dirt. No go outside. Got low call. Ks looking.
1 run, 2 hits, 2 LOB
Rolen—low 2-seamer strike. Goes on low pitch—0-2. low and outside—grounds to Mueller. Pedro ate him up.
Edmonds---fouled. Flies to left-center—Damon has it.
Sanders—catches the corner. Outside—1-1. low. Swings threw low fastball—2-2. Again—Ks.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 5th
Damon—ball outside. Inside called strike. Low. Again. No longer getting that low call. Fastball down the pike, just foul, in the RF Stands. Again—hanging curve. Walker jogs. Bounces off the WT. Double.
Cabrera—Fouls off outer half fastball. Shows bunt, low. Corners play in. Suppan steps off looks at 2nd. Singles to right—breaker outer half, goes with it. First and third. LaRussa dials up pen.
Ramirez—Fouls. Throws to first. Inner half hanger—fouled off. On the outside corner—called ball. Change--Grounds throw hole at short. One run in. 1st and 2nd.
King up in pen. Don't they need to get him.
Ortiz—low, gets under low fastball—flies to straightaway center, Edmonds gets it, Cabrera feigns to go to third.
Varitek—low. Grounds hard right at Pujols, goes to second, too late at first, throw bounces. 1st and 3rd two out.
Mueller—fouls off. Nothing on pitch, inner half, Frozen rope beyond Pujols. Red Sox 4-0. 1st and 2nd. Suppan is gone. Al Reyes comes in… really.
Nixon—flies to left-center—Sanders has it.
2 runs, 4 hits, 2 LOB
Womack—called strike, but inside. Bounces. Same as #1 but actually a strike. High. Fouled off. Swings threw change low—way ahead. Ks.
Matheny—flies to short.
Marlon Anderson—PH, outside, pops to mound—Mueller has it.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 6th
Bellhorn—Calero pitching. Lines one foul. Inside. Grounds to Pujols unassisted.
Martinez—strike called. Swings threw breaker in dirt. Low and outside. High. Fouled off. Low. Again. Walks. The strategy is wear Pedro out on the bases.
Damon—called strike. Why is he holding Pedro? Low. Again almost went around very close. 2-1. Grounds into 463 DP.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Zombies-Pedro montage—who's your daddy?
Renteria—two changes—called strike, foul. Next in dirt. Next shattered bat, to second.
Walker—ball. Hanging change. Humpback to second. Mistake—did nothing.
Pujols—2-0, right down the pike. Again a little lower. Why is he taking these? Ks on change.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 7th
I am thinking the turning point of the series was when walker went from super hot to super cold (in the middle of game 2) along with the rest of the team.
Cabrera—ball. Fastball right down the pike, fouled back. Outside. Outer half—called. Outside—fouled back. Another fastball outside—fouled back. 4-seamer—drilled to left-center. Double.
Ramirez—King up in pen—will go for Ortiz. Fastball-caught corner. Outside. #1 again. Outside again. Unintentional walk. Outside again—checks. Low and outside. Take you base. King coming in.
Ortiz—outside/low. Way low. Swings through slider. In the dirt, checked swing. Dribbler to Pujols, unassisted.
0 runs, 1 hit, 1 LOB
Rolen—2-0, excuse me swing to first.
Walker—strike called. Inside. Outside. Swings through 4-seamer. In dirt—3-2. 4-seamer—Ks.
Sanders—called. Swinging. Foul. High 4-seamer. Gets him on the change. Sanders aged about 10 years in the postseason.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 8th
Kabler-PH Nixon. 1-1 grounds foul. Low. Grounds to Rolen.
Chris Myer—interviewing "Leon" from Bud commercial. WTF is this?
Bellhorn—flies to right in the middle of the commercial
Millar—PH for Martinez. Takes strike. Another outside corner. Grounds to third. LaRussa said he would use King for six outs and is. Doesn't matter that only lefty in pen since the Cards will be done tomorrow.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Mr. Buttermaker is letting everyone play
Timlin in. Kapler in right. Mientkiewicz at first. Reese at second.
Womack—grounds to Mueller who was playing up.
Cedeno—PH for Matheny. Where's Mabry??? Grounds to short.
Mabry—PH for King. To First unassisted. McCarver says that the Red Sox have a pen by committee led by Foulke—what?????
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
Red Sox 9th
Tavarez in. Molina catching.
Foulke up in pen.
Damon—ball. fouled off. Ball. Flies to center.
Cabrera—ball but looked good. Same but a strike. Inside corner, strike. At his head. Fouls off his foot. Another high heat—flies out.
Ramirez—Buck is saying that the Suppan play didn’t determine the outcome because Pedro was "that good", but he wasn't early. Besides only plants seeds for McCarver to say, yeah, but that demoralized the Cards and Pedro took over. Ks.
0 runs, 0 hits, 0 LOB
McCarver is going to facily make is all about that one play.
Renteria—Fouls deep to right, but Fox doesn't show us, cameraman's gone home. Ball. Foul. UGLY swing very late on 2-seamer, wants to go home.
Walker—two fouls. 4-seamer drives to deep left-center gone.
Pujols—1-0. deep to left. Out in front of the track.
Rolen—appropriate he should end it. Polar Express Play of the Game—Where's Leon? Hits it deep to left, foul. 0-2. Fastball inside corner belt-high. Strikes out looking.
1 run, 1 hit, 0 LOB.
Pedro in clubhouse with Chris Myers—first question about Suppan. That will become the play of the game/series.
This was pathetic, little-league baseball. Tony LaRussa should have to answer for this. Walker AND Suppan? You have to go after Martinez early. They did but couldn't put him away. Kennedy is now blaming the loss on the Jeff Suppan play, but it was just one of many issues. Throwing fastballs to Cabrera is a bigger one.
LaRussa's press conference—He says that Suppan heard "No No" not "Go, go" on the play. No tough questions for LaRussa!?!?!
As an NL guy, I am now convinced that the NL is like the NBA's eastern conf. The best team there isn't as good as a borderline playoff team in the AL.
Are Cardinals Lying Suppan? Or Will Sox Get Martinized?
There is no calamity…which equals that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice and the consequent loss of… self-respect and honor, beneath which are shielded and defended a people’s safety and greatness.
Game three of the World Series returns to Busch Stadium which, of course, has great impact in the series. It means that Tony LaRussa can no longer complain about the hotel accommodations (Evidently Quincy—pronounced Kwin-zE—is too far on the T and LaRussa prefers the North Shore).
But seriously, we are being told that the Cardinals are in a real hole. Only seven teams have been able to lose the first two games on the road and win the World Series, and none have done it since the 1981 Dodgers (the others being the1956, '58, and '78 Yankees, the 1955 and '65 Dodgers, and the 1971 Pirates). Overall, 37 of the 48 teams that won the first two games have gone on to win a World Series crown. The Red Sox have won six games straight. The Cardinals have not even owned a lead so far in the series. And god is on Curt Schilling's side—the big man hates QuesTec too it appears. Actually, they covered all of their theological bases with a blessing from a Navajo Code Talker. Heck, the Sox fans probably even view the death of Robert Merrill as some sort of divine intervention. Meanwhile, the Cards are sending a failed starter for last year's Red Sox to the mound (Jeff Suppan) to prevent falling to the brink at 0-3. They might as well just call it a series already.
But since they are going to play game three, we may as well take a look at it. The biggest change is the change of venues. With three games at home, the Cardinals could easily find themselves up three games to two by Thursday (or maybe I should say early Friday morning). Well, maybe not so easily, but they could do it.
Keep in mind that these are two great home teams. The Red Sox were 55-26 at home and the Cardinals were 53-28, second and third behind the Yankees (57-24) on the year. This postseason the Sox are 5-1 at home and 4-2 on the road. The Cardinals are 6-0 at home and 1-6 on the road (the one win coming game four of the Division Series with LA, 6-2, on October 10). It's odd because the Cardinals were the best road team in baseball in 2004 (52-29). The Red Sox were barely above .500 (43-38) and eleven teams had record better than or equal to them, including every other playoff team.
On the road the Red Sox became beatable in the regular season. Their ratios on the road (.260/.342/.441/.783) are nowhere near their home performance (304/.378/.504/.883). Their OPS drops 100 points, 63 from slugging and 36 from on-base (and one from rounding), and their batting average is 44 points lower. The Red Sox scored the most runs (517) and had the best OPS (.883) of any major-league team at home this year. On the road, they were tied for seventh in runs (432) and had the sixth-best OPS (.783).
It's even more dramatic when you look at certain individuals. Kevin Millar: home 350/.425/.592/1.018, away .242/.338/.351/.689. Trot Nixon: home .343/.420/.586/1.005, away .291/.337/.443/.780 (though in just 79 at-bats). Bill Mueller: home 344/.413/.579/.993, away .225/.319/.319/.638. Jason Varitek: home .336/.431/.528/.960, away .256/.348/.436/.784.
Also consider that game three starter Pedro Martinez is much better at home (9-3 with a 3.22 ERA) than on the road (7-6 and 4.61). That's almost a run and one half difference. Then there's game four starter Derek Lowe, who's been abysmal on the road (6-8 with a 6.21 ERA as opposed to 8-4, 4.55 at home). Game five starter Tim Wakefield has been equally mediocre at home (6-6, 4.99) and on the road (6-4, 4.70).
Then again game three starter Jeff Suppan is lighting the world on fire with his 6-8 record and 4.75 ERA at Busch this year 1.2 runs higher than on the road (3.55, 10-1). However, game five starter Woody Williams has been much better at home (5-3, 3.36 vs. 6-5, 5.01). Game four starter Jason Marquis is a push (9-5, 3.76 vs. 6-2, 3.65). The Cardinals batters are about the same at home as on the road (.812 vs.796 OPS). The biggest difference is with Reggie Sanders (.738 road OPS and .858 home) and Mike Matheny (.580 road (!) and .702 home). Then there's Scott Rolen who's been slumping so far in the series (thanks in part to some bad luck outs in game two). His home stats don't inspire much confidence of his pulling out of the downward spiral (club-leading 1.156 OPS on the road vs. .866 at Busch).
Of course, the biggest difference on the field with be the fact that Boston DH David Ortiz will move to first base, where his immaculate glove once developed a hole earlier this season. First baseman Kevin Millar will either have to move to right field, shared time there with Trot Nixon, or sit on the bench. With his road stats, perhaps that's best. Also, Tony LaRussa will no longer have to overthink the DH slot and end up putting one of his tail-end bench players (Marlon Anderson anyone?) in the lineup.
Also, keep in mind that Pedro Martinez has not had a hit since his Montreal days. He is 0-for-19 since joining the Sox in 1997. His career ratios are .094/.138/.121/.259 with 121 Ks in 265 at-bats. Jeff Suppan is no Barry Bonds but at least he has respectable pitcher numbers (.181 .215 .188 .403 with just 33 Ks in 138). Lowe is 2-for-20 (.100/.182/.150/.332) at the plate in his AL-only career. Tim Wakefield is 1-for 21 since joining the Sox in 1997 (.119/.149/.179/.328 in 84 career ABs with 30 Ks).
As far as strategy, Terry Francona had been a manager in the NL for years with the Phils, so I don't expect him to flub the double-switch. He'll be his usual undistinguished, mediocre self. LaRussa will continue to pull his Wile E. Coyote Super Genius-type moves, but without the DH, there's less for him to overthink and he will no longer have the room service problems he had in Boston, or rather Quincy.
Lastly, the weather in the Gateway City may be a concern. They are calling for some showers tonight and perhaps even wose weather tomorrow. If the cancel one game, they might be able to play a game on the travel date like they did in the ALCS. However, this is not just a trip up the Merritt we are talking about. Playing on the travel day may require moving the game to earlier in the day, something Fox would surely balk at. Then again, they don't want to be playing baseball in the Back Bay of Boston in November. You can barely complete the Freedom Trail then. I have no idea what they'll do if both games are rained out. My bet is that they will do everything within Bud Selig's power to get the games in—full speed ahead and damn the weather-induced Bill Mueller errors.
Adrenalin dispels boredom. Run, you sufferers from ennui! Run for your lives!
Well, I'm going to disregard Red Smith's warning. I'll forge ahead and say my nothing. And I won't even mention my Al Leiter-"Scooter" murder/suicide pact theories.
Game two was not much of a game. The Cardinals could muster only five hits, three by Albert Pujols and no other hits by the other top six hitters in the lineup.
The Red Sox used their eight hits and six walks to bunch up six runs. And Curt Schilling was again masterful. But what can we expect when he has the man upstairs suturing his lame ankle before the game all the while ignoring that heathen Scott Rolen. We should have known that there was divine intervention when catcher Jason Varitek tripled in the first two runs in the bottom of the first.
Again there was plenty of grist for the Tony LaRussa mill. Should he have gone with Matt Morris on three day's rest, something Morris had never done before, even though he barely outpitched Pete Munro in his last two starts and still couldn't get out of the fifth inning? Why is LaRussa putting So Taguchi and Marlon Anderson in to DH? As a Phils fan it gives me great pride just to see Anderson in the majors, let alone starting in the World Series, but he had a OPS (.649), which is the second lowest among the Cards' active position players (Matheny had a .640). There were three Cardinal pitchers, actually the three Jasons (Jason Simontacchi, Jason Marquis, and Jason Isringhausen) who had a higher OPS. Taguchi at least contributed to two runs, and wasn't a completely horrific choice, just not the best one. Meanwhile, the Cardinals best bat on the bench, John Mabry (13 HR. 40 RBI, .296/.363/.504/.867 in 240 ABs) languishes on the bench waiting for his first World Series at bat. LaRussa prefers to hold him back for that one important at-bat rather than four at-bats.
Perhaps Tony LaRussa's worst decision was the one he never made, which was to leave the struggling and apparently injured Scott Rolen in the cleanup spot. Rolen was tremendous during the season but has been an albatross throughout the postseason. He does not look comfortable at the plate, and that calf injury from last month must still be affecting him. Rolen is batting .184 in the last three rounds, with 12 strikeouts in 46 at-bats (.184/.293/.408/.701 overall). He went 0-for12 with six walks in the Dodgers series. He seemed to come around in game two of the NLCS with two homers and ended up having a great series (.310/.355/.690/1.044 with 3 HRs).
But he's been back to his old ways in the Series going 0-for-8 plus a useless sac fly last night with one out and two men on in the eighth inning when the Cardinals trailed by five. Yesterday, Rolen had some bad luck as well. He lined to Bill Mueller in the first with two outs and Albert Pujols on second, after a great piece of hitting. Again in the fourth, he followed Pujols who had doubled to lead of the inning but flied out to Trot Nixon on a nice catch (if not a nice run to intercept the ball). In the sixth he reached on one of Bill Mueller's three errors.
Then again, with the entire lineup faltering, there's not a lot of juggling LaRussa can do. Reggie Sanders is 0-for-6 with three walks in the Series. Jim Edmonds is 1-for-8 with four Ks. The Cards as a team are a collective .239/.316/.373/.690 and have 18 strikeouts in 67 at-bats in the Series even though they did score nine runs in game one.
LaRussa did move Edgar Renteria up to the leadoff spot to replace Tony Womack in the last game of the NLCS. Renteria lead off the game yesterday looking like a real leadoff hitter battling Schilling for a twelve-pitch at-bat, though he grounded out. One would think that would help the other Cardinals batters become familiar with Schilling, but it didn't seem to help them against the crusading hurler.
The game devolved quickly from there. The Albert Pujols beauty of a double with two out in the first was followed by the Rolen lineout to end the inning. This typified the Cards night, that is at least while the game was close.
In the bottom of the first, Matt Morris got himself into trouble by walking both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz with two outs. He then delivered a nice fat pitch to Jason Varitek that he tomahawked for a triple to the deepest part of Fenway. The Red Sox went ahead 2-0 and barely looked back from there.
The second had more bad omens for the Cards. Jim Edmonds could do nothing after being given new life by a Bill Mueller error on a foul fly—he and Varitek pulled a Charlie Brown play on the ball (it was sort of the Bob Boone-Pete Rose Game 6 1980 World Series play in reverse). After Sanders drew a one-out walk, Tony Womack singled to right-center. Sanders passed second and either was deked by Orlando Cabrera or thought he missed second or both (Cabrera took credit later in the dugout), he circled back. Then Mike Matheny lined to Bill Mueller who tagged the lollygagging Sanders for an unassisted double play (that McCarver said would have been a triple play if there were none out—no mention of how many Mueller could have gotten, had there been negative or an irrational number of outs).
Mueller's mercurial play at third again became an issue in the fourth. With Pujols leading off with a double and moving to third on a diving catch by Trot Nixon, Sanders hit a two-out ball to Mueller that just ate him alive, scoring Pujols and cutting the lead to one.
However, the Red Sox got that back and more in the bottom of the inning. It started with a one-out hit batsman, Kevin Millar, who longer has his bill goat beard to protect him. Mueller doubled to right, sending Millar to third. Meanwhile Tony LaRussa wanting to save what remained of his bullpen had no one getting loose. It was pretty ludicrous given that his starter went on three day's rest and had only gone five innings in his last two starts with regular rest.
Mark Bellhorn came up next and sent a nice straight as an arrow fastball to deep center scoring both runners. It was 4-1 and the Cards could do nothing on offense.
The Red Sox decided to help out the Cardinals' by flubbing two grounders in the sixth on Mueller's third error and Bellhorn's first as the ex-Cub factor exacted some revenge. But Mueller was able to handle a Sanders grounder to get a force to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth with one on and two out, Johnny Damon hit a nice opposite field single on cut fastball away. Then Cal Eldred battled Orlando Cabrera seven pitches. He at first started Cabrera with breaking stuff and got ahead 1-2. A couple of fouls and a ball in the dirt, which almost fooled Cabrera, followed. Then Eldred gave him the nice meaty fastball that Cabrera slammed to left, scoring both runs. Eldred had given him a similar pitch earlier in the at-bat that Cabrera just missed, fouling it off. That was essentially the game.
The seventh did have some nice moments. Alan Embree struck out the side. Donna Summer, looking a cake left out on the rain, sang the "God Bless America" to the beat of "Last Dance". And Jim Edmonds made a basket catch on a Jason Varitek fly to deep centerfield, drawing comparison's to Willie Mays famous catch.
Also, there was more wackiness from LaRussa, who turned to game four starter Jason Marquis in the seventh for one scoreless inning (thanks to Edmonds). Marquis stumblingly pinch-ran in game one. He'll probably be the emergency catcher in game three (shades of Jose Oquendo and Super Joe McEwing). I hope they have oxygen ready for him when he actually starts a game.
LaRussa is one of those super-geniuses, whose move I never understand but at least the work out some of the time. But that has not been the case in this series. Either LaRussa feels that preparing for a game is beneath him or his pitchers are disobeying orders by throwing fastballs to Damon and Cabrera. Either that or he's adopting Jo Torre's strategy from the seventh game of the ALCS.
And I won't even mention replacing Anderson with Taguchi in the seventh (Embree's big inning).
The bottom line is that when game one and game two were within their grasps, LaRussa's wacky genius routine did nothing to help. So the Cards return home with not much to feel too happy about from game two except that the reportedly Curt Schilling will not be able to pitch again. They must rely on ex-Sox Jeff Suppan to keep the series from going to the brink.
But then again, maybe that's LaRussa's strategy, to lull them into a false sense of security. He saw how the Sox came back from the same situation in the ALCS and wants to top them. There's a method to his madness. It's "Rope a Dope". He's playing off the Red Sox's admission that they are all a bunch of "idiots". To quote the Guiness guys, "Brilliant!" Tony LaRussa, Super Genius, strikes again.
I'll Be Glad To Beat Up on Balboa Again
The Red Sox beat the Cards tonight at Fenway, 11-9, in the highest scoring first game in the hundred years of World Series history. They combined for 24 hits, 14 walks, and five errors. And even though 20 total runs were scored both teams left plenty on base: Red Sox 12, Cards 9.
There were plenty of turning points in game that was a play in four acts: first, the Red Sox jump to a big lead, 7-2 in at the end of the third; the Cardinals tie it up, 7-7 at the end of the sixth; the teams trade runs, 9-9 in the middle of the eighth; and finally, the Red Sox pull out the win, 11-9.
In the first act, the first three innings, were ruled by David Ortiz's three-run shot with one out in the first. The Sox mounted two rallies in the first, going up 4-0. Woody Williams slider was not biting all night and just about every out he recorded in his scant two and one-third innings were hard to come by.
Meanwhile, the Cards were at first having trouble scratching out hits. Through the first three innings Larry Walker's double and home run accounted for two thirds of the Cardinals hits, the other being a bunt single by Jim Edmonds against the shift.
In act two, relievers Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo took over. Haren at first had trouble, giving up a single on his first pitch to Orlando Cabrera, putting the Sox up 6-2. However, with the bases loaded and one out, he got Manny Ramirez to ground out to short (with Orlando Cabrera looking to dance with Tony Womack on that play), pitch around David Ortiz to walk the bases again full, and then got Kevin Millar to ground out.
After Tim Wakefield walked the bases full to lead off the fourth, Mike Matheny hit a sacrifice fly to Trot Nixon in right, scoring Jim Edmonds, 7-3. Kevin Millar wisely cut off the throw, but then he threw about twelve feet wide of third and into the dugout. The second runner scored, 7-4, and the runner at first (Womack) went to third. So Taguchi hit a high hopper to third. Womack ran inside the foul line. As Bill Mueller came down with the ball he double-clutched, and then threw to first. Had he thrown home and hit Womack, he would have been called out for running outside the basepath.
After Renteria walked, Wakefield was pulled. Reliever Bronson Arroyo's first pitch was hit to right for Larry Walker for his third hit. But Albert Pujols grounded out to end the inning. The Cards had scored five runs but had only four hits, three by Walker. Pujols and Scot Rolen had been up five times and had accounted for five outs.
The relievers calm things done for one inning, the fifth. But then the Cardinals got a two-out rally going in the meekest of manners. So Taguchi hit a slow chopper down the third base line. Bronson Arroyo got to the ball but then pivoted wildly and threw the ball wide of first and into the camera crews beyond the dugout, putting Taguchi at second. Inserting Taguchi in the lineup was the first of a handful of typically odd moves by LaRussa. However, Taguchi was effective enough, scoring one run and driving one in without getting a ball out of the infield.
Edgar Renteria followed with the first non-Walker, non-infield hit for the Cards, a single to center (7-6 Red Sox). And then of course, Larry Walker, doubled down the first-base line for his fourth hit, tying the ballgame 7-7.
That's how it remained until Kiko Calero relieved Haren in the seventh and quickly walked two of the first three batters he faced. After Manny Ramirez singled and the Red Sox took a one-run lead, Calero was gone (and Ramirez almost got caught trying to stretch a single to a double). Ray King came in to face David Ortiz, who hit a sharp grounder to second. The ball hit the infield cutout and then caromed off Tony Womack's collar bone, removing him from the game and possibly the series.
The Cards got the runs back in the eighth. After a one-out single by Mike Matheny, LaRussa made his second odd move. He put game four starter Jason Marquis in to pinch-run. After a bloop single by pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno (pinch-hitting for So Taguchi, erasing his first odd move). Jason Marquis tumbled into second doing his best Jerry Lewis impersonation.
Boston then called on closer Keith Foulke, who gave up a single to Renteria to bring the Cards within one, 9-7. The hit was a hard grounder through on the left side. Marquis unwisely went home on the play but Jason Varitek fielded the ball on a high hop and couldn't get the tag down in time.
Larry Walker hit a shallow fly to left, but Manny Ramirez tried to slide under it for catch, and apparently his cleats caught. He them tumbled headlong, the ball bounced off the back of his glove, and the score was again tied, 9-9. Manny Ramirez was charged with an error on both plays. Albert Pujols was walked with first empty.
Scott Rolen had the bases loaded and one out but popped out on the first pitch. Then Jim Edmonds struck out on two highly questionable inside strike calls.
In the bottom of the eighth with one out Jason Varitek reached on an attempt by Edgar Renteria to duplicate Manny Ramirez backhand prowess in the top of the inning. Then, on an 0-1 count Mark Bellhorn turned on an inside pitch but drove it foul. On 1-2, reliever Julian Tavarez gave him the same pitch, but grooved a little bit better. Bellhorn socked it to right for two runs and an 11-9 lead.
The Cardinals mounted a minor rally in the bottom of the ninth on a one-out double the opposite way by Marlon Anderson. But Tony LaRussa decided to leave scrubs Yadier Molina and Roger Cedeno in instead of calling on lefty John Mabry. He was stuck with Mlolina having pinch-run for Mike Matheny with Marquis earlier on. And while Cenedo is a better hitter from the left side, he's still Roger Cedeno.
So that's it. The Cards somehow scored nine runs with Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen going a collective 0-for-8 with 9 men left on. The Cardinals middle relief woes continued. The Red Sox defensive woes from mid-season returned. The Red Sox got five and one-third from their bullpen and that might become a big issue with potentially injured Curt Schilling going tomorrow. The Cards can feel good that they got to Keith Foulke. Tony Womack's injury may be an issue. Those are the more salient results. We'll have to see how they build in game two.
If Schilling is ineffective the Cards can come away with a split and go home able to put the Sox away. If the Sox win bug with Schilling, they have Pedro Martinez going in game three and could put the Cards away early.
The crimson flower of battle
Weave no more silks, ye Lyons looms,
With the Cardinals and Red Sox both narrowly surviving the League Championship Series round, we have an all-red world series. Given that this sort of novelty, a playoff between two teams of color, is such a trivial novelty, I will pause now to review all of the previous ones before making a prediction for the series.
Here are the previous "Color Wars":
OK, that's enough of that. Given that neither of my predictions in the last round (Yankees and Astros) bore fruit, I have to start from square one for the World Series. So here goes, throwing caution to the wind I will risk my history as a negative barometer and predict the Cardinals in six.
I think St. Louis has the best lineup in the NL and by adding, say, John Mabry as DH, compare favorably even to a high-powered AL offense like the Red Sox's. The Astros had three holes at the bottom of their lineup with Ausmus, Vizcaino, and the pitcher.
Meanwhile, by using Pedro Martinez in a "Daddy" cameo in game 7 of the ALCS Terry Froncona must turn to Tim Wakefield in game one. Schilling, whose physical state depends on his daily standing with god, goes game 2. And Pedro Martinez will finally start game 3. Then game seven star Derek Lowe will start game 4, and one has to wonder what kind of pitcher will he be, the one he was in game 7 or the one he was the rest of the year that causedhim to get dropped from the postseason rotation.
Meanwhile, the Cards have Woody Williams tonight, but then turn to Jason Marquis, who owns a 7.36 era in the postseason, Matt Morris, who looks nowhere near the ace he once was, and Jeff Suppan, whose been great in the postseason, but whose old ways may return against his 2003 teammates.
The Cards bullpen has been inconsistent at best while the Sox have the superior closer in Keith Foulke.
I expect some high scoring games, which of course will lead to more five-hour epics. That's good for Fox and their sponsors, but not so good for those of us still in need of sleep from the last round.
Everything's coming up roses
So it'll be an all-red World Series: the Red Sox and the Cardinals. I know Fox is ticked that they don’t get the Clemens-Red Sox angle, but come on, guys, you get Suppan-Red Sox. You can't beat that. Besides for you baseball historians, you get a rematch of the 1946 and 1967 World Series, both of which were won in seven games by the Cards.
1946 saw Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky, and Bobby Doerr match up with Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, and Marty Marion. In '67 the Cards had Lou Brock, Orlando Cepeda, and Roger Maris and the Sox had Carl Yastrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, and Reggie Smith. The big story in each series was a hot pitcher who ended up winning three games, Bob Gibson in 1967 and Harry Brecheen in 1946.
Anyway, in the "Greatest Series that Nobody Saw" finale tonight, they was plenty to mull over. Leading 1-0 in the second, the Astros were set to break the game wide open, they had men at first (Vizcaino, who had singled) and second (Kent, who had walked), with one out. Unfortunately, for them Brad Ausmus was up next and then Clemens. However, Ausmus sent a 2-1 ball deep to left center for a sure double and two runs. Jim Edmonds went full out, dove, and timed a fully extended catch perfectly. He even got up and got a throw into second in attempt to double-off Kent. Clemens then K'ed.
In the third, Carlos Beltran walked and stole second with one out. Then on the next pitch, a shallow fly to center by Bagwell, he went to third on what seemed an ill-advised tag-up attempt. But Edmonds throw came into third at the same time as Beltran, it got past both third baseman Scot Rolen and Jeff Suppan, who was backing him up, and rolled into the dugout as Beltran scored.
Suppan was laboring. The Astros led 2-0, but it could very easily have been at least 4-0, and Roger Clemens was breezing. In the bottom of the third, the Cards used the suicide squeeze by pitcher Jeff Suppan to plate Womack, who had doubled and moved to third on a fielder's choice.
In the fourth Kent was hit by a pitch and Ensberg singled in an 11-pitch at-bat. Duncan had already gone to the mound; Danny Haren was up in the pen. Vizcaino hit what looked like a sure double play ball to Pujols, but the Ensberg slid late into second and Renteria held the ball. It was then first and third with one out, and Ausmus and Clemens both struck out. If I were the Astros, I'd have Ausmus bat ninth.
It was quiet until the fifth, and then Clemens started to loss control. He gave Jim Edmonds a pitch that wasn't bad but was a bit high on 1-2, and he singled past a jogging Jeff Kent (who if is foot isn’t hurt, must have lost much more range than I realized). He finally registered his first strikeout of the night on Sanders, but then gave up an 0-1 single to demoted leadoff man Tony Womack, on a nice piece of hitting by Womack. (They aired an interview with Houston pitching coach just before that, a certain kiss of death in this series.) Clemens appeared to be laboring already here but Garner, who lost all faith in his middle relievers, had no one up in the bullpen. Clemens then caught a broke, catching Womack leaning and then picking him off even though replays showed he was save, not to mention Bagwell was blocking him off the bag. Then Matheny did him a favor and flied out an outside 2-1 pitch.
Next came the fateful sixth. With Clemens looking tired on the mound, Garner still had no one throwing in the bullpen. The Fox crew disclosed that his plan was to bring Roy Oswalt in for an inning before going to closer Brad Lidge. As Bob Brenly pointed out this was not a well-thought out plan because Oswalt would take to long to get ready in a pinch. After pinch-hitter Roger Cedeno started out with two balls, he hit a 2-1 single past a diving statue of Jeff Kent. Nothing else would have that little range. That should have been it for Clemens after a poor but lucky fifth, but no.
He went 2-0 on Renteria, all the while worrying about Cedeno at first, before finally giving him something to sacrifice. Again Walker started 2-0. No one up in the pen. He got a meaty low fastball past Walker, and amid taunts of "Roger", got Walker to ground out meekly. It looked like Tony LaRussa's small ball and luck would get him out of this inning again. Garner had a conference on the mound with the entire infield but had no one up in the pen still. With Pujols up, Clemens was missing his spots entirely. He gave him a fastball over the plate that Pujols just missed at 1-1. That brought Ausmus to the mound. The next pitch wasn't terrible, but it was supposed to be up and in and it wasn't in or up enough. Clemens didn’t have anything but the fastball tonight (which was still around 94) and Pujols was obviously timing it. It was the third time he had seen it in the at-bat. Pujols doubled in the tying run.
Then he threw the same exact pitch to Rolen and he hit a perfectly timed, line-drive home run right over the left field wall. The Cardinals led 4-2. That finally got Dan Wheeler up in the pen, but the game was essentially done as the Astros could do literally nothing (no hits, no walks, nothing) against three different Cardinal relievers in three innings. No Brad Lidge, but Garber did get two innings out of Oswalt for whatever reason.
So again a manager played a game as it were a Sunday afternoon game in May and paid the price. The Astros deserved better, but Phil Garner had clearly decided he was not going to lose with his middle relievers even though he apparently had no qualms about losing with his Hall-of-Fame starter. So he did. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I don’t care if you have Cy Young himself on the mound. If he is laboring in a close game in the playoffs, get him out.
If the Astros win tonight in the seventh game of the NLCS, it will be the second time in the last three years that both World Series combatants are wild card teams. Also, five of the last six World Series opponents would be non-division winners (the 2003 Yankees being the only exception. Of the ten World Series, including this one, since the wild card, half have had a wild card representatives.
And it seems that wild card teams are performing better as time goes on. In 2002, both Anaheim and San Francisco gained entrance to the postseason via the wild card and then met in the World Series. It was the first time that had happened since the inception of the wild card in 1994, but could happen this year. Of the first 7 World Series since the wild card, only two had representative teams that were wild cards. Compare that to the fact that the last two World Series champs were wild card teams.
Could it be that the teams that were power houses being built when the wild card was in its inception—The Indians, Braves, and Yankees—have been overtaken by a broader range of teams that are now able to compete? Or could it just be luck? Ten years is not enough to determine that.
However, it is interesting that the wild cards are slightly outperforming expectations. A given wild card has a one-in-four chance, theoretically, of reaching the Series (slightly less given that they are assured of losing the homefield advantage in both of the first two rounds). On the other hand, the odds that there will be at least one wild card in the Fall Classic are seven out of sixteen. Let me explain: You can't just add the AL odds and the NL odds because you have the overlapping scenario that the both teams are wild cards. Instead, let's determine the odds that a given league is not represented in the World Series by a wild card. That's three out of four, right? There are three division champs and a wild card. So it's 3/4. Square those odds to get the odds that neither league is represented by a wild card and you get 9/16 or 43.75%.
Now, consider that there have been five wild cards in the last nine Series, those since the expansion to three rounds. Therefore 5 of 18 World Series teams (or 27.78%) have been wild cards. One would expect there to be just under four (3.9375). Now, if both teams are wild cards this year, bring the total to seven (or 35% of all WS opponents) in the wild card era, while one expect no more than four (4.375 actually). It's odd but we'll have to wait another fifty-odd years to see if there's a trend.
Speaking of World Series odds, much has been made of the Red Sox's World Series championship drought since 1918, even a Master Card commercial. That's 86 years. You probably know that two other teams with longer droughts (the Cubs 96 and the forgotten White Sox 87 years). You may not know that they Red Sox are 5-4 in World Series competition, and that there are just four franchises with more World Series rings (the Yankees, A's, Cardinals, and Dodgers).
Here is the Red Sox record in the Series:
Also, speaking of 1918, the Red Sox won five of the 15 World Series played by the end of that year, two more than the next best team, the Philadelphia A's.
Of course, it's the Red Sox record of futility since 1918 that irks their fans. But consider that it hasn't caused them to defy expectations. If you look at the odds that a team will win a World Series over its history and use them to determine the expected number of rings for the team, the Sox's 5 championships is just about as expected (actually 5.26).
If you rank them in order of matching expectations, there are only nine clubs ahead of them who have met or exceeded expectations better than the Sox (led by the Yankees with almost 21 more than expected). If they win it this year, there will only six teams that have done more to exceed expectations.
Here's the complete list:
Besides there are teams that have had substantial runs without even tasting champagne in October. The Rangers have had the longest wait, 42 years and two locations, without a Series ring. Anaheim just got theirs two years ago after waiting as long as Texas. The Astros, who might face the Red Sox in this year's Octoberfest, are next with 41 years of futility. You won't hear much about their disaffected fans on the TV broadcast, however. And don't quote Billy Buckner to them when they have the disappointments of both the 1980 and 1986 NLCS's to remember.
I, frankly, will be relieved if the Red Sox win and the "Curse" fades into oblivion, hopefully with Dan Shaughnessy's book-cum-cottage industry that helped spur Curse-mania. It reminds of a hockey's teams story of long-suffering but highly devoted fans and a team that had not sipped from Lord Stanley's Cup for decades. Then when the New York Rangers finally did, while some relieved fans exhaled that they could now die peacefully, a funny thing happened. The team went back to mediocrity (or worse), the fans found other things to occupy their time, and I don't think that team even plays anymore.
Ambien Commercial--A Cruel Joke?
I'm much too tired to attempt to sum up what happened in tonight's game. You'll just have to settle for random thoughts:
- "The riptide of big innings are walks"--Tim McCarver said this in the midst of the Red Sox barrage. It is now my new personal credo, replacing, "Don't let your meat loaf." If you want to know what was the Red Sox "riptide" tonight...
- DON'T THROW FASTBALLS TO JOHNNY DAMON!!!!--The Yankees had made Damon their monkeyboy. And how did they do it? Breaking balls. Well, not litearlly. They threw him changes, curves, sliders, anything but a fastball. He had a four-strikeout game as a result.
Did you see the nice meaty fastballs that Vazquez threw Damon tonight? Never mind that both missed their expected locations by a mile. They came in straight. They went out straight. Someone is going to have to answer to why they changed what had been an effective approach to one that was known not to be and why they repeated their mistake.
- Pedr-Oh-No?!?--Was bringing in Pedro Martinez the stupidest move ever made by a manager in a playoff game? Derek Lowe was cruising and had thrown only 69 pitches in six innings. Given that he faced 21 batters, that's a little over three a batter. Why to make the guy work, Yankees! Martinez ended giving up just two runs in his inning of work, but had the Sox broken down, Terry Francona would have been flambeed in Boston. He'd have been blown up like the Bartman ball in Chicago.
There was mention in the booth that Pedro had asked to come into the game. Great, and let's let Rudi Stein pitch while we're at it. Pedro quickly pointed fingers at Grady Little last year for sticking with him too long, but apparently he feels he is the pitching coach on the Sox.
- The best 7-game series that nobody saw--The Astros and Cards finally get to solo in prime time tomorrow. It's so clear that this was the B series from the start that when the Yanks and Red Sox started at 4 before leaving Boston, they made certain to keep the game going until the ninth inning of the NLCS game.
This series has been arguably better than the ALCS, but no one is given the NL champ a chance in the World Series. Let's see if the Senior Circuit can deliver a more interesting seventh game.
- Here's a quickie poll: Who will be the first Yankee casualty after a disappointing season:
- Brian Cashman?
- If Carlos Beltran leads the Astros to a Series championship, what will it cost Steinbrenner to sign him next year?
- Presidential Palaver--If the Astros win, it'll be teams from the two home states of the presidential candidates in the Series. Is this a referendum on the election? If so, will I have to root for the Red Sox?
- John Henry is a mutant. Gotta be.
- Is Theo Epstein old enough to drink the celebratory champagne?
- As I'm sure you heard, the Red Sox are the first team in major-league history to come back from a three games to none deficit to win a seven-game series. They're even the first to send the series to a full seven games. They are the only one in the 26 series that started down 0-3 to win. On the other side of the coin, 20 of the 136 seven-games series in baseball history have been four-game sweeps.
Why is it so much easier to win the first four games than the last four?
- Bushed Leagues: With both League Championship Series going seven games, will both teams be too beat to compete? Well, this will be only the fourth World Series to follow LCSs that both went the distance. The others were 1972 (A's-Reds), 1973 (A's-Mets), and 2003 (Marlins-Yankees). The good news is the first two went seven games and last year's went six. So expect a good seven five-hour marathons come World Series time.
Good night, folks! I'll be here all week. Try the veal!
What about Time?
All-Baseball.com got mentioned on Newsweek online. Unfortunately, they left out the hyphen. So somewhere AllBaseball.com is getting a lot of traffic.
It reminds of a story the film director M. Knight Shyamalan told about his demanding parents. He told them that he was going to be on the cover of Newsweek, and they said, "What? Not Time? You'll do better next time".
Oh, and we're also listed prominently in Google News now.
Spare the Manual and Spoil the A-Rod—Rodriguez Gets Slapped Back
"While contact may occur between a fielder and runner during a tag attempt, a runner is not allowed to use his hands or arms to commit an obviously malicious or unsportsmanlike act. Such as grabbing, tackling, intentionally slapping at the baseball, punching, kicking, flagrantly using his arms or forearms ... to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases."
That clears up some of the gray area in the definition of offensive interference and it does clear up the ruling. A-Rod did "use his hands or arms". The play certainly wasn't malicious. See the Robert Fick play in the playoffs last year for that (i.e., when he hit Chicago first baseman Eric Karros with a forearm as he passed Karros, who was awaiting the throw to first). It was probably unsportsmanlike and he did "intentionally [slap] at the baseball...to commit an intentional act of interference unrelated to running the bases"
OK, so like E.G. Marshall in Twelve Angry Men, I'm finally convinced. A-Rod was out.
Since the definition of offensive interference states that if the batter-runner breaks the rule, all runners return to their original bases. That's why Jeter was back on first. Had A-Rod been on first and Jeter on second and they tried a double-steal, if A-Rod done the same thing to Bellhorn on a tag at second as he did to Arroyo, he would be out (unless the secret "rule" has provisos specifically for individual bases) and Jeter would be at whatever base he last occupied prior to the interference. If the umps judged that Jeter made it into third before the interference, he would remain there. If it were a run-down and Jeter had already scored, the interference would not have wiped the run off the board.
One last note on the "rule" itself. According to this information (thanks to Doug for the link), umpire Rich Rieker states, "On page 19 is a quote from the rulebook; and the other side, section 6.1, that's out of our umpire manual for Major League umpires." MLB does not make public this umpire manual at least not to my knowledge, nor is it referenced directly or even acknowledged in the "official" rule book that MLB publishes on its site.
I have written to MLB to get a copy of the manual or at least the full text of the rule. My initial reaction is then that every play at the plate is interference. How many plays do you see at the plate where a runner tries to jar a ball loose from the catcher with his foot, hand, arm, elbow, tuchus, or whatever other part of his anatomy he happens to have handy. Does this "rule" (or rather interpretation of a rule) apply to tags at the plate? Enquiring minds want to know!
But back to last night's play. Could he have done something that was not illegal to avoid the tag?
Well, Arroyo was running right toward him, so he couldn't merely out-run the tag.
Could he have slid? Well, he was pretty far from the bag (about five feet) and had the first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz in his way.
That brings up an interesting subject. Mientkiewicz obstructed first base ump Randy Marsh's view, leading to the initial miscall. However, could Mientkiewicz been called for obstruction? Joe Torre seems to think so, "And there was also a player on the Red Sox who was in the line that didn't have the ball, which can be an obstruction play." He is slightly biased, however.
What Mientkiewicz was doing in no-man's land is beyond me. Maybe he was providing moral support for Arroyo. He did break for the ball initially, but when Arroyo got to it first, isn't it his job to go back and cover the bag. I guess you could argue that he was there to back up Arroyo, but he clearly was standing in A-Rod's way, had he gotten past Arroyo. Most likely, it was some sort of brain cramp in the middle of action. Hey, it was a bang-bang play and no one knew what it was about for a couple of minutes anyway. I can't blame him. That said, had A-Rod been able to avoid Arroyo's tag (as well as his body), I would bet that Mientkiewicz would have been called for obstruction had A-Rod not been able to get to first safely, unintentional obstruction but obstruction all the same.
By the same token if A-Rod had avoided the tag but collided with Arroyo and then had been subsequently tagged before reaching first, the Yankees would have a good argument for obstruction. Here's the definition from the official rule book, otherwise known as, the "rule book sort of" from now on:
OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered "in the act of fielding a ball." It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the "act of fielding" the ball. For example: an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.
Also, Jeter would have been awarded second and A-Rod first by this sort-of rule:
It's a judgment call on a play that never enfolded the way I described, but it would an even more tangled mess.
Of course, these sorts of issues are just tinker toys for Bronson Arroyo, a man who chose to have his hair in corn rows. "No, there was no doubt at all," Arroyo said. "I haven't watched the replay, but it's got to be plain as day."
A-Rod had his own take on the call. "They said I should have ran him over, kind of like a catcher," Rodriguez said. "I can't go out of my way to knock the ball out of his hand. I was perplexed by the whole situation."
"I don't know what I tried to do. I knew he was coming, and I know that the line belongs to me. Looking back, maybe I should have run him over."
Obviously, he was perplexed, even befuddled. He did apparently know enough to attempt to cover up the play. One could see him arguing after the reversal and tell by the way he recreated his arm motions that he was arguing that it was an unintentional slap from the natural motion of his running. (At least that's what he appeared to be arguing to me.)
Anyway, A-Rod's confusion points out a glaring issue here. Why is this double-secret umpire's manual not made public if it is going to be used to arbitrate in these situations in critical games? Had A-Rod or the other players even had access to the manual to know what was and what was not legal?
But is his assessment valid? Could he have bowled Arroyo over? Let's ignore the fact that Arroyo's body was still on the other side of the foul line and by running him over, A-Rod would have been called for running outside of the basepath. Let's say A-Rod hit a dribbler to first and the first baseman walked down the line in the basepath to tag him. Can A-Rod run him over if he so chooses? It's legal at home plate.
I don't see a ruling here specifically on this play, but my inclination is that it would be included in the above "malicious or unsportsmanlike act[s]". Then again, what play in the plate would not be called interference if super-secret rule 6.1 were applied on all plays.
A-Rod had one other option that has not been but should be discussed. He could have leapt over Arroyo and Mientkiewicz, a la Willie Mays Hayes (a.k.a. Wesley Snipes or was that the Omar Epps incarnation) in one of the "Major League" movies. Some would argue that for $25 M a year, he should be able to fly to first. Given that Schilling's appearance seemed more like something out of Hollywood than the Bronx, maybe in the TV movie, A-Rod will be able to fly.
At least Rodriguez learned his lesson. His assessment, "I don't want those umpires meeting any more. Every time they have a meeting, they make a call against the Yankees. No more meetings." The baseball equivalent of Frankenstein's "Fire bad!" conclusion.
One last note on interference. When Terry "Chicken Little" Francona pulled his men from the field and the storm troopers entered the field of play, what would have happened if one of the balls (one from the field, not the stands) had hit one of them? Well, to quote "Scarface", "There's an answer for that, too, Tony":
Of course, this rule may be superceded by the super-dooper submanual of umpiral knowledge, that exists some in the basement of the Hall of Fame. So you never know.
I have to say that everyone overreacted to the supposed melee in the stands. Yes, there were fans throwing things, though how they got baseballs past security I'll never know. Were they foul balls not thrown back? Did anyone notice fans throwing balls onto the field at Fenway, and at least in one case from the street? By the way, when did Fenway become Wrigley? Look just because you're both old stadiums, it doesn’t mean you have to abide by the same rules.
Anyway, as for security, what did they expect after two controversial plays were overturned, each time after a lengthy conference? The crowd reacted and then stopped as far as I could tell. Besides does anyone remember that in 1999, during Game 4 of the ALCS, the Fenway Faithless went berserk and throw bottles on the field after a call didn't go their way. I don't remember there being the same reaction then. And this was when the Sox were trailing 9-2 in the bottom of the ninth, with no real hope of winning the game.
All I can say is, "Sheez". We Phils fans are used to seeing games played under a constant barrage of batteries. What's a few baseballs? In Oakland and Chicago they throw cell phones. You'd think that a game played in the Bronx would have had combatants of sterner stuff.
For The Want of A Conference
The Red Sox made history tonight by being the first major-league club to come back from a three games to none deficit to reach the seventh game of a series. They beat the Yankees 4-2, but the score resulted from two conferences among the umpires both of which overturned the initial ruling on the field and both of which went against the Yankees. It ended up getting pretty ugly as enraged fans threw baseballs (where's security anyway?) and general debris on the field momentarily suspending play.
If both calls had stood, by the way, the game would have ended after nine innings in a 3-3 tie. Here is a quick overview of the two because it's late:
The Revenge of Tony Tarasco
In a moment that recalled Jeffrey "I Got It" Maier, Mark Bellhorn hit a ball into the stands that bounced off a fan's hands. This was apparent in the replays. The ball's trajectory changed as a fan in a black shirt reached to catch it.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It was the top of the fourth with no score and two outs. Kevin Millar hit a double to left and then scored the first run on a Varitek single. After a Cabrera single, it was first and second with Mark Bellhorn, who was having a tough series, at the plate. He hit a ball to left that was initially called an automatic double scoring two runs by umpire Jim Joyce. The score was 3-0 at that point. The umps conferred and changed it to a three-run homer, 4-0 Boston. (By the way, the postgame conference with Randy Marsh disclosed that every other ump thought the ball went over the wall).
This one was clearly correct. The replay showed that the fan attempted to catch the ball and did not in anyway lean over like Maier to interfere.
With the Yankees trailing 4-1 in the bottom of the eighth and Curt Schilling replaced by Bronson Arroyo, Miguel Cairo, the Yanks offensive "star" tonight, hit a one-out double to right. Jeter followed with a clutch single to score him, 4-2. Next was Alex Rodriguez, who grounded to the right side. Bronson Arroyo fielded the ball and attempted to tag A-Rod out. It appeared that he dropped the ball, A-Rod was safe and Jeter scored. The Yankees trailed by one with a runner at first, one out, and a pitcher who was losing control on the game.
The ump who made the safe call was Randy Marsh, who was clearly blocked on the play by first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz. The replay showed that A-Rod went out of his way to slap the ball out of the pitcher's glove. According to the rules the rules the only thing that applies is the definition for intereference:
2.00 Definition of Terms
That leaves a lot up to interpretation. Runners trying to score do much more to dislodge the ball from a catcher's mitt and it's all legal. Alex Ciepley informs me that the postgame news conference with Randy Marsh alluded to double-secret supplement that is only supplied to umps that specifically deals with this type of play. However, I don't see anything about it the Major League Baseball site, nor does their excerpt from the Marsh conference include this reference. More investigation is needed. I do have to say that the idea of play intuitively seems like interference.
So that's it. Two controversial plays became the big story on the night that Curt Schilling had his ankle sewn back together to pitch. Game seven will be interesting, but one has to wonder if either of these teams will have anything left in the tank come World Series time.
So in your discussions…I urge you to beware the temptation of pride—the temptation blithely to declare yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the…race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil.
This series, the American League Championship Series, comes down to good and evil, doesn't it? That's what Fox told us with the intro to the series opener that was laden with Star Wars clips and references to the "Evil Empire". Everyone wants to take the Yankees down, right? All they do is spend. Last offseason they had the highest payroll in baseball and then took on the most expensive player in the game, Alex "A-Wad" Rodriguez, someone even the Red Sox could not manage to afford with his current contract. There was a joke headline in The Onion before last season that the Yankees had guaranteed a championship by signing every player. But to quote Homer Simpson, "It's funny 'cause it's true."
Besides they represent New York, which got a hiatus from derision briefly with 9/11 but is again the cynosure of the collective hatred throughout America. Most people agree with the comments from pitcher John Rocker from a few years back even though they would never voice them in public. It's the breeding ground for PC, liberal, "anything goes" mentality from which we are trying to rid ourselves, right?
Meanwhile, the long-suffering Boston Red Sox have been America's darlings since at least last season when the Rally Monkey was replaced by their charming "Cowboy Up" approach. This season, they call themselves just a bunch of idiots—hah, that's great. This good ol' boy mentality is so appealing it can get someone elected president after all. It sure sells in Peoria.
As everyone knows the Sox haven't won a World Series since 1918 after selling the greatest player the sport has ever seen to the Yankees. They were cursed but it wasn't fair: they were duped by the "Evil Empire". Harry Frazee's deal for Ruth is equivalent to Anakin Skywalker's turning away from the force and turning towards evil, but in the Red Sox case it was thrust upon them, and it's about time it was rectified.
What would be considered delusional self-absorption in the New York is hokey fun out in the boonies of Boston. The Carlton Fisk homer even though it did not bring a ring to Boston is probably the most fondly remembered World Series moment of all time. It was even panegyrically praised by Robin Williams in "Good Will Hunting". And the cottage industry that Dan Shaughnessy spawned by coming to grips with the "Curse of the Bambino" included an HBO documentary narrated by Ben Affleck to accompany his book. Affleck himself appears at just about every important Red Sox game, Jack Nicholson-ing (Spike Lee-ing?) it up for the cameras. Steven King, avid Red Sox fan he, even decided to write one of his biweekly books on his Fenway experience, this time with Stewart O'Nan, and it is to be called Faithful evidently for the fan's devotion to the new "Dem Bums". A quick search at Amazon for "Curse of the Bambino" resulted in a plaque, a collage, a T-Shirt, and 711 other products from five of their online sub-stores.
Besides the Sox play in the oldest stadium in the majors, Fenway Park. Built when stadiums had to conform to urban landscapes, Fenway has a short left field porch guarded by the Green Monster. It's a structure that is now often imitated by the new state-of-the-art stadiums even though they steamroll under whatever landscapes came before them to put a parking lot (ooh la la la). Then there's the hand-operated scoreboard, the Citgo sign, the contours of the outfield wall, and all the rest. Fenway is so stored that SABR decided to publish a book about the many experiences of watching a game there, The Fenway Project.
The Sox are accessible to the masses. They look like regular guys at your corporate softball game. Johnny "Captain Caveman" Damon, Kevin "Billy Goat Gruff" Millar, and Bronson "Corn Row-ed" Arroyo looked more like members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers than professional baseball players.
The high drama of the series hits the movie-of-the-week throttle tonight as Curt Schilling attempts to channel Jimmy Stewart's portrayal of Monty Stratton in the end of "The Stratton Story". Meanwhile, the Red Sox will attempt to be the first team to send a series to seventh game after starting three games down. They are the ultimate underdogs and everyone everywhere is pulling for them.
Well, I'm not.
I'm not, and there are a myriad of reasons why, starting with their recent history. You see, I lived in Boston about 12 years ago, frequented Fenway, and rooted for the local nine regularly. However, back then this "Curse" mania that currently grips all Boston fans was not at such a high pitch. Sure, Sox fans would crumble at the mention of Bucky Dent or—dare I say it?—Bill Buckner. It was a great way to win arguments, let me tell you. They had a disappointing past. However, it had not yet been covered in the conspiratorial veneer that now has refracted and replaced the team's history. It also caused the Cubs to come up with their own ancient curse, that of the Billy Goat, to be in the paranoia club.
The ludicrously facile "Curse" aside, The Red Sox have had an, at best, shady and, at worst, incestuous relationship with commissioner Bud Selig (and I'm the one making fun of conspiracy theories?). Bud Selig awarded John Henry the team even though there was at least one higher bid on the table, the reason being that baseball was trying to regroup and re-gather its forces to either force a contraction of two clubs or to bring down real pressure on the players union with the end of the collective bargaining agreement nearing an end (or both). Henry was shifted from Florida to Boston, Montreal owner Jeffrey Loria was ring-round-the rosy-ed to Florida, and the soon defunct franchise in Montreal along with Minnesota Twins, whose owner Carl Pohlad wanted out of, were to be contracted or at least that was the threat to the players and the metropolitan areas involved. Anyway, John Henry married up to the Red Sox when he really should not have been able to do so, and we were supposed to swallow that he was an avid fan from his youth and even Strat-O-Matic player or so the encomiums led us to believe.
For the favor, Selig seems to want to help Henry break the Yankees stranglehold on the division by bending the rules whenever possible (it also could help reign in the maverick Yanks owner George Steinbrenner, who is willing to pay big in order to win, a strategy frowned upon by the powers that be). Two seasons ago, Selig apparently helped launder Cliff Floyd via the MLB-owned Expos under the guise that they could take on more salary for a playoff run, a strategy that changed 19 days latter when the Red Sox in dire need of a lefty bat were at the receiving end of Montreal's largesse. Last season, Selig intervened to get the Sox a much needed spare bat in Kevin Millar, who had already signed a contract with the Chunichi Dragons to play in Japan. This past offseason, he extended the negotiation timetable so that the Red Sox caught snare ace Curt Schilling and wave rules so that the Sox could underpay to get Alex Rodriguez, that is intil the players union wisely intervened.
Then there's GM Theo Epstein, whose sabermetric chops are such that he knew enough to hire Bill James as a special adviser. And yet he delivered a team of eight DHs and a shortstop this season. After the embarrassment of the David Ortiz immaculate glove incident, he went out and got Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera to shore up the infield to the analysts' delight (they had demanded the change after all) even though the change was pure window dressing.
The Sox also sent former fan favorite Nomar Garciaparra packing and then when the deal at first appeared to go sour leaked negative press about Nomah's contract negotiations, about his showing up to camp already injured, and about his cheating at cards in the clubhouse. Well, I made up the last one, but it was getting that petty and ridiculous. This came after the Red Sox made their intentions to get A-Rod known, including the inclusion of two of their biggest stars, Nomah and Manny Ramirez, in the deal. I don't blame him for being less than enthusiastic during the negotiations.
OK, but that's the past. To quote Tony Montana, "I here now, he not." What's no to like about how the Sox have come back in this series. Well, the first thing to tick me off was game three. I noticed that when the Sox fell behind in the third 5-4, the fans got as quiet as church mice. When the Sox came back to tie it, sure, the got behind the locals. But when the Yankees quickly surged ahead for good, Fenway emptied out. Even in the lower sections late in the game, there were more people disguised as empty seats than, well, actual people. Some (including me) have poked fun at the fans at the end ofthat drubbing cheering and doffing rally caps, but at least they were the real die-hard fans. I respect them, but they were few and far between. The fans have gotten behind their Sox with the improbable comeback in the last two games, but they were not there when they should have been there most. Nor should they be allowed to share in the rapturous joy should the Sox come back to win it all. The reneged on it.
As for the team itself, game five perfectly illustrated when the Red Sox are the most detestable group of players this side of Ty Cobb. Exhibit A: In the sixth Pedro Martinez served up a three-run double to Jeter to fall behind 4-2. The next batter to the plate is A-Rod, who gets plunked on his elbow. This recalls the game last year in which Martinez sent both Jeter and Alfonso Soriano to the hospital with pitches in on the hands. If it were any other pitcher, he would get the benefit of the doubt, but Martinez has a history of hitting batters, and not on the rump but in places that could end a season.
Martinez is clearly a strange bird. He feels that the "Whose Your Daddy?" chants represent respect. He threw ancient Don Zimmer aside in an altercation in last year's playoff. And let's not even go into his little friend that he carries around with him.
Exhibit B: David Ortiz is called out in the twelfth in an improbable stolen base attempt. The play is very close but Ortiz is irate. This followed a strikeout in the tenth where the third base ump said he went to far around on a check swing. I agree with Ortiz that it wasn't a swing, but a) they do call that today and b) he acts as if it's a conspiracy against him whenever he's called out (By the way, I think the ump was making up for the miscall on the previous batter, Manny Ramirez, who did his best Tarantella with two strikes and the first base ump said he sis not go around). For a player who should thank his lucky stars that when the Twins foolishly cut him to reduce payroll, he was able to fall into so favorable a position. He also seems an analyst's darling even though he cannot play any defensive position well, usually the kiss of death for them.
If the Red Sox can come back to win this series, I’m sure that I’ll be able to appreciate it as a baseball fan, but I don’t think I’ll enjoy. That’s fine, but drop all the good and bad, underdog and evil empire crap. Keep in mind that the Red Sox were essentially the favorites to win the division at the beginning of the season—they were picked by a vast majority of the analysts out there. The assumption of most was that they would surpass the Yankees when they went on a tear late in the season. They were picked by most expects to represent the AL in the World Series at the start of the playoffs. And they were almost guaranteed victory at the start of the ALCS because of the edge in starting pitching. The only thing that makes them an underdog is that they lost the first three games and game three in epic fashion. The only pleasure that I’ll get out of a Red Sox victory parade down the Central Artery will be that I’ll never have to hear about the damnable “Curse” again.
Balk This Way
In the third inning of the 19-8 epic third game of the ALCS with the score still 5-4, something odd occurred that I meant to comment on at the time, but it got lost in the shuffle when the game ended up with the Yankees counting runs in Base 12.
The Red Sox's Ramiro Mendoza, in relief of starter Bronson Arroyo, had just given up the go-ahead run on a Bernie Williams' single—if it were 1987, that would be the Game-Winning RBI. With Matsui on third, Williams on first, and none out, Mendoza had one ball and two strikes on Jorge Posada. On the next pitch, the oddity occurred.
Mendoza stepped off the rubber momentarily, stepped back on, and delivered a pitch, called a ball, to the plate. He did not move his hands, arms, or anything else above the waist. He simply stepped off with his pivot foot and then stepped back on before the pitch. You could have missed it if you blinked.
But a balk was called and what seemed like an important run at the time crossed the plate—6-4 Yankees. Mendoza would get Posada and the next two batters out to end the threat, and the Red Sox would end up tying the game in the next half inning—before the Yanks took off in the fourth. Therefore, at the time it seemed like a big run.
The play left everyone non-plussed. The announcers said, yes indeed, it was a balk but seemed unconvinced, and admitted to never seeing anything like it before. Boston manager Terry Francona came out to argue but seemed more confused than anything else, and I don't blame him. My reaction was the same as everyone else's. I watched it with sort of a raised eyebrow, like "Did I just see that?" It was basically the look everyone had on their faces walking out of the movie "Mulholland Drive" (and I don't mean just because of Laura Harring). Then when it was called a balk, my reaction was something like, "OK, that seems logical. There's something deceptive there, I guess, like a quick-pitch." But like everyone else, I had no justification for it.
Well, I didn't know then, but now I do know why it was a balk, and my initial reaction that it was like a quick-pitch were justified, so I'm gratified. At least I have that. The rule isn't even in the balk section of the baseball rulebook but rather in the definition of a legal pitch, it's so fundamental to pitching. That's probably why no one had ever seen it: it's something learned in Pitching 101. It would be like pitching with your glove hand while the glove's still on.
Here's the rule:
Yeah, that's it, but like in study anything you need the gloss to understand the precise meaning of the terms used. So for you completists like me, here goes:
OK, got it?
The Yanks and Red Sox are now starting the sixth hour of their (so far) 12-inning marathon game in Fenway. David Ortiz is being thrown out for the second out in the bottom of the twelfth as I type. Not only was everyone from here to Marblehead shocked that Ortiz would rumble into second for a stolen base attempt, one had to watch the replay about five times to determine that he actually was tagged out before flailing for second in his highly unorthodox slide, at least that's what I think it was (and Tim McCarver was wrong: clearly from at least two angles Jeter tagged Ortiz high before his flipper, er, hand grappled for the bag).
As the thirteenth starts (Mientkiewicz followed Ortiz's Fosbury Flop with a K), there are just too many wacky plays in this wacky game to review. By the way, Sheffield just led off the thirteenth with a strikeout and a passed ball by Varitek to reach at first. The oddest thing may be that I am choosing to watch this game instead of Brandon Backe possibly making history in the NLCS game (the reason for which I cannot mention because I have scruples unlike Joe Buck). That game I am watching in picture-in-a-picture.
The Yankees have not scored since the sixth inning when starter Pedro Martinez last pitched. They have faced an array of six mostly dead-tired relievers, including game three starter Bronson "Don't Call Me Brandon (Timmy Mac)" Arroyo on one day's rest. They did have opportunities though. Speaking of which, Jason Varitek just registered his third passed ball on the inning trying to catch Tim Wakefield's kunckler moving the runner to third. Oh, but of course, Sierra struck out to end the rally. Back to the sixth, the Yankees trailing 2-1 scored three runs on a double by Derek Jeter. The last runner, Miguel Cairo, had a great evasive slide but may have been out.
After Gordon gave up a lead-off solo homer to Ortiz to start the eighth. The Red Sox then relived the game four comeback with a no-out walk to Millar then being replaced by pinch-runner Dave Roberts, who later scored the tying run.
In the top of the ninth, the Yankees narrowly missed scoring the go-ahead run. With two outs and Ruben Sierra, who walked, on first, Tony Clark hit a ball deep to the right field corner on a 1-2 pitch. The ball bounced on the warning track, glanced off the top of the wall, and went into the stands for an automatic double. Sierra who certainly would have scored had to stop at third, and the next batter, Cairo, fouled out.
The bottom of the ninth started very encouragingly for the Red Sox. Johnny Damon, who has been flailing at pitches worse and worse as the series progresses, eviscerated his bat on a 1-2 pitch inside but was able to reach on an infield single. He, however, got himself thrown out on the next pitch as if god had corrected the himself. [By the way Damon just walked with one out in the 14th. Let's see if he goes again.]
In the bottom of the tenth with one out, Mientkiewicz went from 3-0 to a full count and then battled with three fouls before doubling to right. He moved up to third on Kapler's fielder's choice ground out, but was stranded there were Varitek popped up to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eleventh, the Red Sox started the inning with two singles to right (from Mueller and Bellhorn, on an 0-2 pitch). Bellhorn's single came after he failed to lay down a bunt to go to 0-2. Damon attempted a bunt on the next pitch and popped out to Posada. On that play Buck thought that Paul Quantrill was singling for Posada to drop the ball and go for two. It turns out that he re-injured his knee. But that didn’t prevent Tim McCarver from proclaiming that the ball wasn't hit high enough for the Infield Fly rule to apply. Well, I have to admit (begrudgingly) that McCarver was right but for the wrong reason. You see, the Infield Fly rule does not apply to bunt attempts:
An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out… If the ball is near the baselines, the umpire shall declare “Infield Fly, if Fair.” The ball is alive and runners may advance at the risk of the ball being caught, or retouch and advance after the ball is touched, the same as on any fly ball. If the hit becomes a foul ball, it is treated the same as any foul.
It turns out that the point was moot once Orlando Cabrera hit a hard grounder for a 6-4-3 double play.
Then there was Ortiz getting caught stealing in the 12th. The Yankees left runners at second and third to end the top of the 13th after the three Varitek passed balls.
That brings us back to the bottom of the fourteenth. When last we left it Damon had drawn a one-out walk on five pitches. After Cabrera struck out, Ramirez walked. Then came a ten-pitch at-bat for David Ortiz to end it. After getting called strike on the outside corner and a ball outside, Ortiz then fouled off six of the next seven pitches (the other was a ball low and outside), including one deep to right that was about ten feet foul. On the tenth pitch, Ortiz fisted a ball with a little too much plate into center. As Damon scampered home, Bernie Williams could only hold the ball. That was almost six hours after the game started.
The Red Sox now send the series into game 6, trailing three games to two, and incredibly, these teams do not get a day off to travel and recuperate since they lost that to a rainout of the original game three. However, that they are returning to the Bronx in and of itself seemed highly improbable after the way the Yanks won game number three. Of the 25 best-of-seven series that started with one team winning three games, only two went to six games and none have gone to seven. Tomorrow will have Curt Schilling on the mound, and more wackiness will ensue.
I now switch to the Astros-Cards, a game almost subsumed by the one that started about three and one half hours before it, only to find Brandon Backe, who had been throwing the no-hitter I could not mention earlier, being pulled to start the ninth in favor of closer Brad Lidge. Each team had one hit and no runs. More wackiness, but I'm too tired to stay up any more. I'll have to entrust this one to my VCR and MLB.TV.
OK, I lied. Jeff Kent just hit a massive three-run homer off the façade at Minute Maid on a first-pitch high fastball to put the Astros up three games to two. Of course, the rally started with a single by Carlos Beltran, on a 2-0 pitch to lead off the bottom of the ninth. A fly out by Bagwell, a stolen base by him, an intentional walk to Berkman brought Kent to the plate. All this came off closer Jason Isringhausen. Oh, and for more wackiness, Bagwell hit a foul fly off the roof that was immediately dead due to the ground rules.
I'm beat. I've got to go to bed. I can't take any more of this.
(Oh, by the way, both managers can be second guessed for pulling pitchers early. Torre could and probably should have let Mussina pitch the seventh with the bullpen in tatters. It caused overworked Gordon and Rivera to pitch longer and possibly allowed the Red Sox to tie. Francona used and then pulled game three starter Bronson Arroyo after just one inning perfect inning with two Ks in the tenth though that one did not cost him.)
A Curse, on Steroids
Some Yankee fans, mostly friends of mine, took exception to the way I characterized the Yankees in game four as lacking "killer instincts". It may be a bit strong. They did come back the next half inning after the Red Sox took just the second lead in the series. However, the Yankees did not take advantage of a number of opportunities. Maybe they were a bit tired (scoring a googleplex of runs in the previous game will do that). Maybe it's human nature (witness James' Law of Competitive Balance) to take a breath when you go up 3-0 in such a dramatic fashion. Or maybe the, as the baseball proverbs go, you just have to tip your cap toe the Sox. Whatever the reason, it's understandable.
The Yanks need to nip this in the Bud.
Actually, I just realized that the numbers don't matter. It's that the Yankees are cursed. They were three outs from the World Series and lost. That's it, cursed. Donnie Moore, the Billy Goat, Babe Ruth and 1918--they're all tinker toys in the world of jinxes. The Yankees are cursed by the spirit of recently expired Ken Caminiti whose Padres got beaten by the Yankees in the 1998 World Series. Who lost the final game? Kevin Brown--who may, I mean will, pitch the seventh-game loss to the Red Sox. Who got the save in the final game of the 98 Series? Rivera, who blew the lead yesterday. It's really quite eerie.
Then again, I was all set to go to bed. I had actually typed the signoff in my log of the game, and then Ramirez singled to start the game-winning rally in the twelfth. So, it’s mine, my curse. And I won’t share the residuals with anyone. I’m a happy miser.
ALCS Game 4
Coming off one of the most pathetic pastings in playoff history, can the Red Sox mount any kind of comeback? The Yanks beat them in every facet of the game. The Red Sox players, coaches, fans (most of whom left before the final frame) all seemed demoralized. Do they give up or do they fight back even against a seemingly insurmountable lead. If the Yanks let them up, do the Sox at least expose their weaknesses for the Series? And if they sweep tonight, will MLB make them play tomorrow's makeup anyway?
Jeter—slaps on right back, off Lowe's tucchus, to short, out.
A-Rod—strike outside corner, barely say it due to in-game Bud commercial. Fouled off. Low sinker. Same low and outside. Jams him in, fouled to right. Again, tries to check, called strike on appeal. Pulled back but body went.
Sheffield—called strike, Flies to right.
Damon—called strike right over plate. Low and inside—1-1. Outside—2-1. Lined to right of A-Rod on one hop, gets there quick but he digs it out, nice play.
Cabrera—change on inside corner, called strike, Cabrera ducks out. High, fouled to left. Brian Cahsman—digging the scene. High and outside—fastball Ks.
Ramirez—Outside. Off the plate—2-0. Borderline high—3-0. Takes, right over the plate, 3-1. low and outside, walks.
Ortiz—change too far off the outside corner. Farther inside. Lollipop on inside corner, too high—3-0. Called over plate. Foul tip. Bounces to plate. Walks. Scooter tells us about curveball—oh joy!
Varitek—ball. Foul. Foul. Ks on high and wide.
Matsui—1-1 Ball inside, goes out, drives to left down line, double.
Williams—2-2, Grounds out to second, Mastui to third.
Posada-2-2, Matsui goes on contact, slides to outside, out at home.
Sierra—3-3, Ks on slider inside and low.
[More to come]
Clark—change, gets it as it breaks, past a diving Cabrera.
Cairo—wide, shows bunt. Bunt to Lowe, bobbles, but gets him at first.
Jeter—watches it wide, ground to third.
A-Rod—Varitek to mound. Two low balls. Called on outside corner, 2-1. Varitek to mound again. Varitek set up inside, moves outside, low and outside—3-1. change on the outside corner. Jammed inside, grounds out to third.
Millar—Outside. High. Looking good but called ball (low?). Again looked good but called ball (Outside).
Mueller—High and outside. Again. Posada to mound. Inside, fouled off. Grounds to first, Clark to Jeter to get lead runner, no throw to first. Perhaps El Duque late to base, but of course no Fox replay to tell us for sure.
Bellhorn—low, High and outside. Third straight batter started 2-0. Another—3-0. Takes a strike on the inner half. Ball but looked good to me—I guess inside. Ump shakes his head, appeal to third—no dice.
Damon—Outside corner. Farther outside—1-1. Sinker low—2-1. Fastball off the outside corner—too late—2-2. High—full count. Outer half fastball-gounds to short, runner at second out, Cairo, double clutch on relay, safe at first by a stride. 1st and 3rd, 2 out.
Cabrera—throw to first. Curve on the outside corner, Cabrera thought it was low. Posada to mound. Curve off outside corner, way out in front, 0-2. Steps off, fakes to third, then to first. Nothing on. Low and outside—1-2. Again—Cabrera not going. Fastball, Damon going fouled off. Fastball outside, not far enough, slaps through on right. Yanks 2-1. Runners at 1st and 2nd.
Ramirez—Low and outside. Stottlemyre to mound. Heredia & Sturtze up in bullpen. Outside corner—1-1. Again outside—2-1. On outer half a bit down, but looked like a strike to me, called ball. "Baseball is a game of inch"—Tim McCarver—I hear he knows a lot about having just an inch. Low and outside, walks the bases full.
Ortiz—fouled back. I'm not sure why the Yankees are giving the Sox life here. Fat change inner half. Singles to right, two runs. Red Sox 3-2. first and third.
Varitek—High. swings but called ball inside. High and outside. Takes fastball strike on outside corner. Lollipop change—on outside corner (my grandma could hit that). Ks on curve in dirt.
Sheffield—It'll be interesting to see how the Yanks respond after giving up the lead with a three-game cushion. High and inside. High. Two strikes called outer half. Grounds to third.
Matsui—outside. High strike called. Low, goes down to get it, tomahawks it to right-center beyond Damon, Triple. Nice bit of hitting. Lowe gone.
Timlin in. Lowe leaves po'ed, left dugout.
Williams—ball low. Low outer corner, misses—strike. High and tight—called ball but may have been a strike technically—2-1. Fouled off, 2-2. Again. Same as #3—doesn't get second time either. High heat—fouled back. Chopped high to left side. Infield in, Cabrera tries to bare hand, doesn't get it, Mastui holds momentarily but goes and scores. Tied 3-3.
Posada—low. High. Bounces at plate inside, WP, Williams jogs to second. In dirt again, walk. Francona to mound. Second-guessing pulling Lowe in booth already. Frankly,
Sierra—Low outer half, called strike. In dirt again, gets away from Varitek, throw to third, close play called out. Mueller tags trailing foot, but blocks base. Should be safe. Slaps to right of Bellhorn, nice play to get to ball, but foolishly throws to first, Bounces, Millar blocks it. Safe.
Clark—first pitch to Bellhorn's left, knocks it down, nowhere to go. Run scores. Yanks 4-3, First and second. Cheers of "Pokey". If you pulled Lowe, don't you need to pull Timlin here.
Cairo—Low twice. Inside corner—strike. Fouled strike back. Guy with bag on his head a la old Patsies Patriots team. Fouled. Off the outside corner. Farther outside—walks bases loaded.
Jater---Nice strike outer half. Fouled off. Inside, fouled off plate. Just off the plate—1-2. Grounds to second.
Sturtze in. How will Red Sox respond now that they've been slapped down?
Nixon—two outside and low balls. Same but outer half—2-1. Fouled back.High and outside—Full count. Inner half—pops to shallow left.
Millar—Low—ball. High and inner half—fouled back. Strike—fastball called over plate. Same but inner half—right into left. Single.
Mueller—low—ball. High and looked outside, but called strike. Grounds foul past first. Inside. Grounds into DP 6-4-3.
A-Rod—Ball low and outside. Again. Again. Fourth about a foot outside. Foulke up in pen. Why is Timlin still in? McCarver says that they are playing the 7th like the 9th due to Rivera's presence, but because about to be swept, and besides again why is Timlin still in?
Sheffield—Throw to first twice. Outside. Varitek to mound. High sinker at hands, Sheffield misses. Way high—2-1. Swings through another with more plate. Throws to first. High heat, popped straight up, Varitek behind the plate.
Timlin gone. Foulke in. Buck says Timlin was surprised, but what was he thinking would happen?
Mastui—High, in more than where Varitek set up. "I think he considers this the ninth inning"—McCarver on Francona. High and outside. Again pitch in and Varitek has to stab at it, somehow called strike. They never call that esp. when catcher stabs at ball. Throw to first. Fenway quiet until Buck says so, then "Let's go Red Sox" starts. Taps down first base line, Millar tags him.
Williams—high heat—called strike again. Over the plate, fouls strike back. Inside fastball low—called ball, may have been good. Again but sinking, fouled off. High and inside. Varitek to mound. High inside heat--Fists straight back. High—full count. Change inside—fouls off. Ks on high inside heat. Buck, "Got him in a high hard one, up and in." (And they fine Howard Stern?)
"God Bless America"—Jo D Massina—what's with the country sh*t in Boston. I lived there for five years and never heard one country song.
Gordon up in pen. Rivera stretching.
Bellhorn—Balls low and inside. Fouled back over plate—2-1. way outside—3-1. Over the plate, fouled back. Full count. Inside corner—frozen, Ks. Booed by Fenway Faithless.
Damon—Called strike over plate. Grounds to Sturtze. Looks like he'll be this year's Grady Little, will take blame for debacle, and be shuttled out of town.
Cabrera—Off the outside corner. Lines other way to right-center. Williams makes nice play on slide. That was quick.
Posada—outside ball. Outside low—2-0. Rivera throwing in pen. Called strike. Fouled off same pitch. Low and outside—full count. Sox fan shaking head. High and off the plate, walk.
Sierra—Grounds to second to Cabrera for lead runner, too late for first. "If a doubleplay's a pitcher's best friend what's a force out, an acquaintance?"—McCarver
Clark—Ball high. Called strike. In the dirt, blocked, 2-1. Borderline high—3-1. Swings through high heat, may have been ball. Again—Ks.
Cairo—High heat, Fouled to right. Sinker in dirt, blocked. Again—bounced. High and inner half, flied to right, Nixon can't get it, in stands. Pops to short.
Red Sox 8th
Rivera in. "Sweet Caroline" in background. That Neil Diamond really gets fans going.
Ramirez—High and inside—ball. Rudy G.—takes the night off from shilling for the GOP. High and too much plate, bounces to left. Single.
Ortiz—called strike on the inside corner. Same but a little lower, fouls off. High and tight—ball. High strike, check swing, committed, out on appeal.
Varitek—swings throw heat. Fouled back, Posada runs out of room. Again, chops high to first. Clark stretches to get it.
Nixon—Too far inside. Too high—2-0. Topless man with bird-Dino the dinosaur head. Woman coverong face in horror. Called inside. Low—3-1. High chop to first, same pitch as Varitek—same result. Clark to Rivera.
Jeter—Inside—1-0. High heat, fouled back. Bounces at plate. High and tight, borderline, called ball. High heat, fouled back. Off the plate—walks.
A-Rod—inside—ball. Jammed, fouled back. Swings through high heat, but again not where Varitek set up. Throw to first. Pops behind second. Bellhorn has it.
Sheffield—throw to first. Inside-ball. No one up in pen. On inside corner—called strike. Ball in dirt, blocked. Throw to first, close but got back. Again, not close at all. Hangs heat outer half and high, Sheffield doesn't get all of it, lines to Ramirez going to his left.
Matsui—Throws to first. Inside corner low, called strike. Same, fouled off. Again to first—sixth time. High and outside. Steps out. Way inside—2-2. Ks on slider outside and low.
Red Sox 9th
Millar—Ball inside. High, fouled. Inside, ball. Again—3-1. Way high and inside—walks.
Mueller—Roberts PR at first. Throw to first, slides back. Again. Again, close. Throw 2 inches lower, he'd be out. Roberts goes, high and outside, Posada throws to wrong side of bag, too late. Shows bunt-strike on called inner corner. Right up the middle. Williams goes home, Rivera intercepts.
Mientkiewicz—PH for Bellhorn. Bunts to Rivera, out at first,
Damon—Ball outside. Chopper to first. Clark bobbles on transfer from glove. E3. First and third.
Cabrera—swing through heat. Again but higher. Same—last two not strikes, maybe all three. Ks.
Ramirez—Damon goes. Strike called over plate—no, called ball. SB uncontested. Low-ball. Inside—3-0. Should just walk him now. Embree now up in pen. Strike right down the middle, taking. Ks on high heat, way inside. Outer half, fouled off. Way inside and high, almost hits him, walks bases full.
Ortiz—High inside, fouled off. Swings through high heat. High and off the outside corner. Way inside, jams him, Pops to second.
Embree in. Mientkiewicz stays in at first. Reese at second.
Williams—called strike, fastball right over the plate. Called on the outside corner—was it low, Williams didn't like it. Rivera looks shocked in dugout. Inside, 1-2. Outside—2-2. Fouled twice, Lines other way, right to Nixon.
Posada—outside—ball. Low, flies to Damon.
Sierra—Gordon up in pen. McCarver calls Sierra, "Rivera". Ball. Buck emphasizes batter's real name. Strike. Fouled back. High heat, Varitek stands, fouls back. Breaks bat, flies to shallow right-center, Reese can't get it, single.
Clark—throws to first. Ball outside. Low—2-0. Fouled straight back, just missed it. Flies high to center, right to Damon.
Varitek—0-1, lined to short, Jeter jumps, out.
Nixon—called srike. Grounds to second.
Reese—Called strike right over plate. "Believe" chant. Swing through high heat. Steps out. Low and off outside corner—ball one. Inside corner, freezes him, called strike.
Cairo—Called strike outer half. Way outside, 1-1. Myers and Leskanic up in pen. Swings through fastball over plate. High heat, fouls back. High and outer half, goes other way, down RF line. Single.
Jeter—shows bunt, throw to first. High fatsball, gets it down, Embree to first. Runner to second.
A-Rod—strike inside. Embree turns to throw to second, Cairo is back. Again. Lines to short. Cabrera dives, makes catch right before ball would hit ground, Cairo back to second.
Sheffield—Inside—ball. Way inside and low—2-0. Low—3-0. IBB? Yes.
Matsui—Meyers from pen. Ball inside, Varitek outside. Way outside—2-0. Again. Leskanic back up. Walks on four pitches. Meyers gone. Leskanic in.
Williams—Slider over the plate, called strike. Wakefield in pen. Flies to shallow center.
Leaves bases loaded. Sneaky feeling…
Mueller—two quick balls outside. Gets outside corner. Way outside—3-1. Fouled off—Full count. Grounds to first foul. Flies to left.
Mientkiewicz—lines down first base line. Clark guarding the line, snares it in foul territory.
Damon—low and inside. Called. High and inside. Slapped the other way, foul. Bounves to plate. Again—walks.
Cabrera—way in front of curve. Throws to first. Again. Damon goes, Ball, no throw. Low and outside—2-1. Chops to short.
Posada—low. Quantrill up in bullpen. Ball in on hands, pops to shallow left for a hit.
Sierra—1-0, called strike inside corner, Buck calls him "Rivera" bit corrects self. Outside again. Hits Leskanic on tuchus. Out at first. Posada to second. Trainers checking out pitcher. Flies to left.
Cairo—swings through pitch right over plate. Ball almost at his head. Ball off inside corner—called strike. Way out in front of change.
Red Sox 12th
Quantrill in and I'm dozing off.
Ramirez—singles to left.
Ortiz—low, high-gets corner, called strike, low, Blasts high/inside fastball deep over the RF wall, Red Sox 6-4.
The Yankees seemed not to have the killer instinct. They should have won this game. Let's see if it means anything.
ALCS Game 3
You know the drill. Two-zip Yankees. Rainout yesterday. A O Let's go:
Jeter—0-1, three balls, last checked swing Foul. Foul. Walks.
A-Rod—3-1 change that doesn't break, down into the right field corner. Jeter scores, double. Yanks 1-0. Bad way to start at home. The crowd is silent.
Sheffield—two bad swings, enough to foul it off. Deep fly to the warning track in center. Deep enough for A-Rod to tag up.
Matsui—1-2 fastball, too much plate, right over the wall in right. 3-0 Yanks. It gets worse for Red Sox.
Arroyo interview—he has cornrows like Bo Derek. Does everyone on this team have screwed up hair?
Williams—Singles through on right.
Posada—1-2, taps to second, easy DP. Yanks 3-0, but the let Arroyo off the hook.
Red Sox 1st
Damon—High one bounce chop behind the bag at second, nice play Jeter, gets him by a stride.
Bellhorn—Ks on four pitches.
Ramirez—slider low. Foul. McCarver suggest Brown "get him off" corrects himself "get 'm out". Low. Inside. Grounds to A-Rod behind the bag on two hops, nice play, too late at first.
Ortiz—ball. Strike called. Too high—2-1. outside—3-1. Chopper through to right. Ramirez going to third all the way. Nice throw Sheffield to A-Rod on one hop. Out. Inning over. McCarver irate.
Sierra—2-0, called on outer half. Gapper to left, double. Silent at Fenway.
Ramirez replay shows that he was safe on high tag but very close.
Olerud—0-1, jammed to short.
Cairo—fouls out to first on first pitch.
Jeter—change right over outer half of plate—called ball. Same pitch, further outside, 2-0. Change low—3-0. Taking, over the plate, 3-1. Outer half—fouls to right, 3-2. Same pitch on outer half that doesn't break, Jeter goes the other way, deep but playable.
Red Sox 2nd
Varitek—inside ball one.Ball. Again inside. Taking—3-1. Inside and low—walks as McCarver says "And yet he has good control." Maybe he should shut up and watch the game.
Nixon—2-seamer over plate—called strike, same but inside—1-1. Tipped at plate—1-2. Too far outside—2-2. Slider grooves a bit but low and inner half, Nixon gets all of it, right over rightfield wall. Yanks 3-2, the Red Sox faithless wake up. "That was a sinker that ended up sinking about 375 away in the stands, not the plate"—McCarver.
Millar-1-1, two-seamer too much plate, Millar hits it deep but playable.
Mueller—2-1, same pitch as Nixon but more plate, double.
Brown—Leiter says that he's missing spots, but no movement on his fastball. They're turning on it. The Nixon ball location was fine. Losing it—3-0. "Kevin" chant. Called backdoor. 3-2. Outer half, high hop to third, out.
Damon—first-pitch, same two-seamer inside to lefty but up. Chops to first, Olerud deflects it to right of Cairo and Mueller scores (will McCarver blame Olerud for going after the ball?). Cairo throws home. Damon to second. Tied 3-3.
Bellhorn—slider (first?), crosses up Posada—should have been outside but in, wild pitch, Damon to third. Fastball—called. Slider—way in front. In dirt—2-2. Taps foul. Posada to mound. Full count. Ball 4 very low.
Ramirez—Leiter thinks Posada stole the Red Sox signs and is relaying them. Strike called. Vazquez up in pen. Aah, Steven King. High fastball right to Jeter on short hop, drops it, picks and flips to second too late. Red Sox 4-3. Ruled a hit at first then an error. "Omar Vizquel must be the official scorer tonight"—goo one by Buck
Ortiz—1-0, inside fastball fouls but just missed. In dirt—2-1."It's remarkable how manty multi-run innings start with a walk"—McCarver the pompous ass, Ball three way outside. Hard to Cairo's left, knocks it down, out.
A-Rod—2-1, Big hanging curve right over the plate, way out in left. Tied 4-4. Ball thrown back—what, is this Wrigley?
Mastui—Mendoza in pen. Hangs a breaker but at least inside, fouls deep to right. Outside. Called. Low. Foul. High—called ball. Full count. Change slings to rightfield corner. Double. Sheffield to third. Arroyo is gone.
Williams—outside ball. Change outer half—way in front. Again. Change away—not as much break, singles. Yanks 5-4. Matsui to third.
Posada—low change called strike. Fans quiet again—Sheez, this game is far from over. Low—1-1. Leiter thinks the Yankees stole the signs since Williams anticipated pitch, but had just had two. Change called. Balks in a run. Moves back foot and then goes home. Francona arguing. Ball taken off, back to 1-2. I've never seen that, will check rule. Pops—first out.
Sierra—outside—but called strike. Same—now ball. In dirt—2-1. Low—3-1. strikes swinging but Fox shows replay—miss pitch. Change in dirt, Sierra goes, tagged by Varitek.
Olerud—strike on outside borderline pitch. Farther outside—ball. Inside. Leskanic up in pen. In dirt—3-1. Tapper to short, inside but Varitek set up outside.
Red Sox 3rd
Varitek—Foul. Low. High inner half—called ball. Little lower—pops foul to left. Checked swing on low. High inner half (slider?)—slings to right. Howie Long—where's Terri Hatcher?
Nixon—change inner half. Fouled. Balled way inside. Foul tip. Gone on change.
Millar—change too far outside. Backdoor—takes for called strike. Foul tip—1-2. Change hangs right over plate. Off green monster, Matsui plays carom right but throws to third too late. Millar to second, bad pitch, bad play.
Mueller—low. Inside. Stottlemyre to mound. Millar insterview—WTF? Looks like the guy with the albino kid playing banjo. High and outside—3-0. Fouls off grooved fastball low. Outside—ball. Walks bases full.
Cabrera—Leiter likes the fact that Vazquez could get nothing over plate to Mueller. Change grooved, fouled straight back, just missed. Strike called, 6" outside. Tries again—but now ball. Change, a little too much plate, but foul. Outer half—fouls to right. Way outside, gets past Posada, but no one advances. McCarver likes it, not sure why. Low—Full count. Fenway Faithless finally excited. Goes to right, Sheffield in too far, runs across bad angle, Williams retrieves, Cairo relay just misses second runner but gets one from first. Tie ballgame. Two outs, Man on third.
Damon—Strike called. Ball ball. Foul. Outside—Full count. Steps off—crowd wants balk. Inside, grounds to first, Olerud behind bag to Vazquez to end inning. This is some weird game.
Cairo—HBP, Fox has a nice split screen with a camera on each runner for Cabrera hit, shows Millar went to tag up at second holding up Mueller who was going the whole way. Mendoza gone.
Jeter—Excuse me foul tip. High and tight on hands, just misses him. Lines to right, nice catch and dive by Nixon.
A-Rod—Called strike. Sinker in dirt—goes. 0-2. Wakefield up in pen. Inside—1-2. Maybe Lowe to go tomorrow. Fouls high heat straight back. Outside—2-2. Buck speculating that Schilling may be back in rotation. In dirt—3-2. Low, Cairo going, Varitek stands to throw as A-Rod goes to first. No throw. Walk.
Sheffield—outside ball. High breaking pitch that doesn’t break—way out in left, three runs score. Yanks 9-6. Reminds of game 4 of the 1993 Series.
Matsui-strike called. Ball. High fastball outer half, goes other way to left field corner. Double. Leskanic out. Wakefield in—weird, wasn't effective in game one but can eat up innings.
Williams—Pops to first on first pitch.
Posada—IBB, I can't help but feel that brining in Wakefield is an act of desperation. I can't see how the Sox can now win the series no matter what happens today.
Sierra—strike called outer half. Swings through knuckle ball, 0-2. "Knuckle ball really a misnomer—it's thrown with the fingertips"—McCarver. Foul grounder to right. I always thought it was knuckler as in the ball knuckles down. Ball. Knuckleball stays up a bit, slings to right, gets past Nixon, Triple, two more runs. Yanks 11-6.
Olerud—lines out on first pitch.
Bellhorn—Ks on slider on three pitches.
Ramirez—two quick fastballs right on plate, outer half. Fouled off. Four-seamer—rides high and inside. Manny, charge the mound! Fouled off. Change outside and in the dirt. Fastball outer half—looked good, but called ball. Fouls to right. Fouls off fastball. Rising fastball—looked like he swung through it and Posada dropped (?). Fouled to right. Rising fastball—fouled back. Outside just off plate, walk. 11 pitches.
Ortiz—Deep but foul to left. Low—1-1. Change low and inside—2-1. Fouls to right, angry that he missed that one. Lines to right for a single on inner half low fastball.
Stottlemyre to the mound. "We have seen more of Mel Stottlemyre than the Cardinals did in the 1964 World Series"—Buck is on a roll. Sturtze up in pen.
Varitek—Ball. Vazquez no longer getting ahead. Well inside almost crossed up Posada. Inside fastball, lined to Olerud, doubles off Ortiz.
Cairo—1-1 to deep short, Cabrera to his right, near outfield cutout, leaps to throw across body, gets Cairo by a step. Wasn't he running? Very good play.
Jeter—2-2 right at his head. 3-2. Foul. Way outside, walks.
A-Rod—throw to first, chases one outside and low. Way in front of ball over plate. A-Rod's not been seeing breaking stuff well all series. In dirt, blocked, 1-2. Throws to frist—why so worried about Jeter? Again to first—Sox fans booing. High and outer half. Gapper to right. Double. Yanks 12-6.
Sheffield—Misses knuckler low, low and outside, hits on into LF bleachers off his shoetops. 1-2. Inside—2-2. Sheffield lines past Ramirez, to wall, runs scores. Double. Yanks 13-6. You could hear a pin drop.
Mastui—takes called strike. Fouls off high inner half. Outside—1-2. Woman sleeping in stands. High and outside, 2-2. Flies to left.
Williams—Nice pitch on outside corner. Fouled behind Red Sox dugout. Thrown back onto field. High, Williams almost went. Ks on outer half, way in front.
Stars of Arrested Development—Fox doing far less in-game self-promotion.
Bud Selig in attendance, unusual not to have mouth full of food when on screen.
Nixon—0-1 Flies out to Williams.
Millar—1-1, Called strike, outside in dirt, fouled off. Baserunning blunders "can put a tourniquet on an inning faster than anything"—McCarver—Huh? Foul. Pops out to Cairo.
Mueller-0-1, grounds out to second.
1-2-3 inning makes Sox look completely demoralized.
Posada—0-1, Keeps hands back but doesn't get all of pitch right over the plate, deep but Damon tracks it down.
Sierra—two called, low. Johnny Cash's "I've been everyehere (Man)." I love that guy. Damon to the wall, catches it in the corner in straightaway center.
Olerud—Deep but foul to left. Ball. Woman crying in stands. Called strike. Ball. Stephen King—oohm that's scary. Foul. Grounds to Cabrera. Olerud limps into first.
1-2-3 again. C'mon, this is just the sixth.
Red Sox 6th
Clark replaces Olerud.
Cabrera—Foul. Grooves change high—gapper to left-center, Double.
Olerud says that the bat hit him on way out of box.
Damon—pops to shallow right.
Bellhorn—0-2. Dope talking to Stephen King, seems like a nice guy, keeps it in perspective, Chris Myers calls situation "horrifying" and King's hopes "unrealistic". Ks
Ramirez—ball. Ball off the plate—umps calls it, want to go home. Heredia and Sturtze up in pen. Leiter calls Clemens greatest pitcher ever. Called strike outer half. McCarver—sees Leiter's analysis an opportunity to get on soapbox, wants to move mound back up to 15". Outside. 2-2. Hangs breaker inside, fouls off. Posada to mound. Ks on slider.
Cairo—tests Cabrera again, but this time he ran it out, infield single.
Jeter—Foul. Flies to left-center, pop-slide by Damon to get it. Nice play.
A-Rod—0-1, fouls, pop post second, Bellhorn drops the ball running on his heels. Gets the force though.
Sheffield—Misses knuckler. Fouled straight back. Sheffield is either feast or famine against the knuckler. He's too anxious a hitter but his bat is so quick he catches up to it in a hurry. Fouled down third base line. Ball. 2-2. Off the middle of the monster. Just a single though.
Wakefield gone. Timlin in.
Mastui—ball. High strike, he's all over it, bounces past Bellhorn, one run in, first and third. Yanks 14-6. Matsui has really impressed me this offseason.
Williams—Full count, Deep to center, Damon jumps at wall and misses it. Double. Two runs. Yanks 16-6.
Posada—2-0, called strike inner half. Golfs one off the green monster in left-center. Double. Yanks 17-6. Red Sox fan shaking his head. Conference at mound. Why not just let Embree finish it up now. Myers in pen.
Sierra—called strike. Two-hopper to Cabrera.
"God Bless America" by a State Trooper. Hey, he pulled me over with 20 other cars en masse on the Mass Pike once. "Barnakey, he still owes me money." This guy is so into it he doesn't even need the mic.
Ortiz—1-1, Turns on inside fatsball, goes other way, off the base of the LF wall. Matsui holds him to a single.
Varitek—Quantrill in the pen. 1-1 fastball on the plate, too ,much plate, deep to center. 2 runs. Yanks 17-8.
Nixon—A-Rod to mound, Ortiz pulled something on that play. Ball inside. Outside. Strike called. Low and inside—3-1. Fouled off. Grooves one inside, deep to right, but Sheffield has it in front of the track.
Vazquez gone, may have pitched himself into a start in the World Series. Quantrill in.
Millar—called strike. Ball low. Fouled hard into LF stands. Low—2-2. Sturtze up in pen. Grounds hard to Jeter.
Mueller—Foul liner off fans hands. Ump gives him the ball. Nice. Will he throw it back? Same way but fair into corner, Matsui again holds batter to a single.
Cabrera—strike called. Ball low. Outside corner—called. "Football score in the wrong game"—McCarver. Slider too much plate, to center. Runners at first and second.
Damon—Stottlemyre to mound. Look Fox, Johnny Cash is one thing but Barry Manilow? C'mon. 0-1 Foul tip, Gordon and Strurtze up in pen. Poked to Matsui. Damon is having a horrible series.
Sidearmer Myers in. Mirabelli catching.
Clark—strike called. Inside ball. Called 1-2. Foul. Borderline low—2-2. Strikes out on change (?).
Cairo—Ball. Called strike outer half. In dirt. Inside. Leiter is daring the Red Sox not to show up tomorrow if not ready to win. Swings through two.
Jeter—Foul tip. A-Rod doesn't through foul tip to crowd and is booed. Weren't they throwing them back. 2-2. Foul. Jams on an inside pitch, fists it into shallow right. Single.
A-Rod grounds to left of second base. Bellhorn gets to it, flips to second.
Red Sox 8th
Bellhorn—Ball. Called strike—looked a bit low. Fouls. Again. Strikes out on a nice fastball on the inside corner.
Ramirez—ball low. Fouls. Soft fly to center.
"Lean on Me"—for Red Sox fans.
Ortiz—foul. Inside. Timlin up in pen. Steps out. Sharp foul back. Graphic: Martinez has a 4.77 ERA on 4-day's rest. 2.98 on 5. Wow. Ortiz gone on high heat.
Sheffield—Called strike. Singles to center. Bubba Crosby in to PR
Matsui—HR to right, just into corner of stands jutting out. Yanks 19-8. Looked like cutter inside.
Williams—called strike on outside corner. Singles to left side. Foulke up in pen, more bad news for Sox.
Posada—2-0, line drive over Bellhorn. First and second.
Sierra—inside. Called on outer half. Again, fouled deep to right. Called strike on the corner.
Clark—1-1, fouled back. High. Foul. In the dirt. Foul. Again. Hits ball four outside on a line to third, Williams doubled off second.
Gordon in. Crosby in right.
Mirabelli—2-1. Pops to second.
Nixon—ball—Buck says 400th pitch of the night. Foul to left. Foul down first base line. Foul. Doubles off center field wall on fastball with too much plate.
Millar—foul. Insane man with rally cap. Way outside, gets past Posada. Nixon to third. Called wild pitch, but Posada didn't do much to stop it. Feway looks empty. What is this, Atlanta? Chase fastball way outside. Lollipop two-seamer over plate—Ks.
Mueller—high ball. Outside 2-0. Flies to Williams.
The Fregosi Curse
One day on the late, great TV sitcom "The Munsters", Eddie presented Marilyn with a birthday gift, a big diamond ring he found in the attic. Grandpa took one look at the ring and instantly recognized it as the Fregosi Emerald, a jewel with a centuries-old Transylvanian curse on it. Herman, the enlightened monster that he was, placed the ring on his finger to disprove the curse.
Of course, wackiness ensued. Everything he touched went kaflooey from that point forward, and even after he believed in the curse, he couldn't remove it from his finger. Grandpa informed him that the only person who could remove the curse was a member of the Fregosi family, and the only surviving member was an automobile head in Detroit, who wouldn't acknowledge his family's past.
That was until he met Herman, who would cause men's toupees to flip on sight. Fregosi revealed his secret laboratory from which he had cursed the Edsel (big laugh). He whipped up an antidote, and voila, Herman was free.
In the last scene Eddie finds another ring that happens to be in their attic, the Nathanson Ruby, which Grandpa says makes the Fregosi Emerald look like a good luck charm. Herman accidentally swallows the ring in typical Herman fashion, and the show ends with Grandpa looking up Nathanson in a stack of phone books. Cut to credits.
Now, this little excursion into TV Land does have a point. The Phils interviewed former Indian manager and season-long Bowa understudy Charlie Manuel yesterday. And according to ESPN they have a whole litany of "previously owned" managers to interview:
The Phillies interviewed former Cubs manager Don Baylor on Tuesday. They'll interview former Boston manager Grady Little on Thursday, former Rockies and Tigers manager Buddy Bell on Oct. 25th and former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi on Oct. 26th.
Among the usual suspects, one name sticks out "former Phillies manager Jim Fregosi". Wait, aren't these the Phillies doing the interviewing? Why would they be interviewing a man they fired eight years ago?
Well, thank goodness Jabba the Conlin has an answer for that. He says that "A return to the dugout by one of the five Phillies managers to lead a team into a World Series since 1883 would be all Ed Wade needs to prove beyond doubt that he is not a slave to public opinion." Well, I guess Eddie Sawyer is dead, hmm…what the heck! Why not re-hire Bowa to prove he's no slave to public opinion.
Conlin says that even though "He's the local equivalent of the 'Young Frankenstein' scene where the name 'Count Dracula' causes horses to rear and whinny, small children to run in terror and adults to make the sign of the cross..." Nice try, Bill. However, that's "Fronkensteen." The name being invoked was Frau Blücher, Cloris Leachman's creep character who called Dr. Frankenstein her "boyfriend", not Dracula—different schtick altogether. Her name would cause horses to whinny amid lightning and thunder and all the special effects accoutrements, but sorry again, it had no affect on people. Also, it was a running theme throughout, not just in one scene.
I'm sorry to belabor the point of the "Blücher!" inaccuracies, but they point to the larger inaccuracies in Conlin's piece and indeed to the self-involved prism warping everything with its own perspective that is Conlin. But I digress.
According to Conlin, Fregosi was let go for a laundry list of reasons that were beyond his control:
"His former best pal, [then-Phils GM] Lee Thomas, hung him out to dry after the cash-starved, injured and talent-depleted Phils sagged to a 67-95 record in 1996."
So the GM let him down, sports radio was against him, and some touchy PC reporter outed his "off-the-record guy talk" to the masses. [Note: Both my parents came from South Philly. Arrrrrgggghhh!] Fregosi must have been a great manager until 1996. Well, he managed for five seasons in Philly and was only over .500 once, in 1993:
Under Fregosi, the Phils were never in a real playoff race after the '93 World Series. As a matter of fact, on average they were almost 19 games behind the leader, and that includes the 1993 division-title year.
It's true that 1993 was a great year, but it was a lightning-in-a-bottle season. It's also true that the Phils had plenty of injuries, disappointing non-development by young players and free agent failures, but it's not like Fregosi gets a free pass for his otherwise abysmal record. The Phils had largely the same team in 1994 but were seven games under .500 when the season was ended early by a strike.
Fregosi served three lackluster seasons after 1993. But the Fregosi Curse is something more deeply rooted, more fundamental than just a few poor seasons. It's integral to the Phils history. It epitomizes how a lackluster franchise can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It's perhaps not ironic that the name of the TV show's emerald cam directly from Jim Fregosi when he was an All-Star for the Los Angeles/California Angels in the Sixties. The curse took on new meaning when Fregosi was traded to the Mets for a slew of young players including a 24-year-old pitcher named Nolan Ryan in one of the most famously lopsided trades of all time.
For Conlin and probably most fans the Fregosi Curse is entwined with Mitch Williams and the fateful pitch he threw to Joe Carter in the 1993 World Series, which Carter turned into a series-winning, walk-off home run. I, however, do not point to that incident as the genesis of the "curse". It was game four, won by Toronto 15-14, that made Fregosi infamous.
Going into the game, the Blue Jays led the series, two games to one. They split the first two games in Toronto, and the Phils suffered a pummeling in game three at home, 10-3. Trailing by one run, Blue Jays starter Todd Stottlemye employed a belly-flop slide into third to end the visitor's half of the first and seemed to have very close to knocking himself out. The Blue Jays seeming threw in the towel by sticking with the dazed pitcher even as the Phils broadened their lead to 6-3. The Blue jays charged back in the top of the third, 7-6, and the Phils tied it in the fourth. Al Leiter came in to relief Stottlemyre, he was left in in the fifth to absorb five runs in just one-third of an inning, 12-7. The Phils extended their lead to 14-9 in the sixth: Tony Castillo walked two to load the bases in the seventh, hit Dutch Daulton to force in a run, and was allowed to complete the inning. It seemed apparent that Toronto manager Cito Gaston had conceded the game perhaps three times. But Fregosi brought in Mitch Williams with a four-run lead in the ninth and he allowed five runs in two-thirds. Fregosi left him in even though it was apparent from the start that Williams had nothing left in the tank. Fregosi had outmanaged himself.
If that game wasn't bad enough. Fregosi repeated his mistake by calling for Williams in game six with the series on the line and a one-run lead.
How 1993 ended and what happened in the seasons to follow represent the unfulfilled promise that had its antecedents in the World Series-losing 1915 and 1950. Many of the Whiz Kids failed to develop leaving that singular season of excellence alone in Phils history like a beached whale. The 1915 club had two future Hall of Fame pitchers in Pete Alexander and Eppa Rixey, but when that team failed to repeat its level of success, they were allowed to find greener pastures elsewhere. And let’s not even mention the debacle of the 1964 season, OK?
Perhaps the worst thing to come out of the 1993 season was that the Phils tried to recapture that season's glory for the remainder of the Nineties and instead floundered. This is the true Fregosi Curse, I guess. By the way, I lend no credence to baseball's current fascination with team curses, but I do believe a team may be cursed with poor management as the Phils are. They can also be cursed with a fan base used to accepting less, as the Phils fans, who still think was actually a great player in his day, are. The one good thing about the Bowa era is that the Phils and their fans longer harkened back to 1993. Unfortunately, Bowa proved to be the Nathanson Ruby as the Phils instead harked back to their glory days of the late Seventies and early Eighties. They had been built to contend and instead imploded.
So now the Phillies are ready to returneth to the vomit of the 1993 season, Jim Fregosi. You can't teach an old dog of a team new tricks.
I Love That Dirty Water
Game 3 of the ALCS was rained out tonight. It will be played on Monday afternoon, and the teams will lose a travel day--You can get from Boston to NYC in four hours if you take the Merritt anyway.
Games 4 & 5 will be at their normal times, Saturday and Sunday. So if the Sox lose the next two, they still have to play game 3 to determine if it's a sweep.
But, no worries, you can watchinstead the David Arquette magna opus "See Spot Run" on Fox.
It kind of makes you appreciate Scooter a little more, eh?
LCS Day 4: Suffering from U2's Vertigo
Well, slama lama ding dong, indeed! Both series are now 2-0 and there's no reason to think that we'll get a classic series out of either one, but stranger things have happened. We switch homefields and that means that we get the "House" commercials before the iPod commercials. And the guy in the top bunk, he's got to make the guy in the bottom bunk's bed. It's regulations. Now, if we were in Italy…I'm a lean mean fighting machine! Stewardess, is there a movie on this flight?
I'm sorry Dewey Oxberger momentarily took position of my body. That's what the combination of suffering through Jeannie Zelasko and Kevin Kennedy riffing for 45 minutes to fill during the rain delay plus a night of the three stooges of baseball analysis—the shrill silliness of Steve Lyons (Shemp), the basso profundity of Thom Brennaman (Larry), and the obtuse abstruseness of Bob Brenly (Moe)—will do to an innocent little mind like mine.
And then there are the commercials. C'mon, is there anyone likely to wander across a game now and say, "Hey, Fox has a new series called 'House'? I got to watch me some of that there show." Are there new viewers tuning into game three of a series who missed the first two games plus all of the division series? By now, everyone likely to watch the game knows about "House". Now, Fox, leave us alone! I actually thought the show looked interesting the first fifty times I saw the commercial. Now, I can't stand the sight of it.
Anyway, there is some actual baseball amid the bread and circuses that is the Fox telecast. Yesterday's Cards-Astros game was a testament both to the St. Louis potent offense and to Phil Garner's impotent frontal lobe. Actually, it was a paean rather than a testament and it was to his mustache which is actually were Garner's brain Samson-like resides. But you get the point.
What's interesting about the series has been what has not happened. The Astros starting pitching was supposed to be highly suspect. They had a rookie who had just 9 starts in the majors prior to the playoffs (Brandon Backe) and basically a Quad-A starter (Pete Munro) going in the first two games. Munro was a last resort. However, he has had the best start in the series albeit a short one, while his opponent, Matt Morris, looked terrible but was aided by the Astros inability to drive in runners in scoring position. The next best start was Backe's and both deserved better than a pair no-decisions.
One thing that was supposed to happen did: the Astros' tattered bullpen has been obliterated by the Cardinals' offense. Finally, Garner has turned to Dan Wheeler, who was not even used in the Braves series, first in mop-up duty in game one and then to hold down the fort for two innings when game two was tied.
Unfortunately, Garner chose to turn to journeyman, short reliever, Dan Miceli instead of closer Brad Lidge in the eighth with the game still tied and the meat of the order up, and he promptly gave up back-to-back tomahawked monster homers. Lidge has not been used in the first two games and worked just 4-1/3 innings in the five-game division series. Two and two-thirds of those came in game two, when Garner used him to hold down a 2-1 lead. He entered with one out in the seventh with a man on second and one out and eventually gave up the tying run. The Braves eventually won 4-2 on a home run off of—now who could it be? Hmm. Oh yes—Dan Miceli in the eleventh by Rafael Furcal (or inmate #00293771 as he's better known today). Since then Garner has refused to use Lidge in anything but late-inning duty. He got the save in game three and was used to defuse a one-on, one-out situation in the eighth inning of a tie ballgame in game four. He got the next two men out, but Garner foolishly forgot to double-switch for Lidge, he was up in the bottom of the inning and was pinch-hit for, and the winning run was given up by Russ Springer in the next half inning.
Garner is not using Lidge because he has painted himself into a corner. He's afraid to use him early because he can't rely on his other short men. He can't even bring him in before the ninth, because he (Garner) cannot figure out the double-switch.
So that leaves close but non-save situations for Chad Qualls, Chad Harville, Dan Miceli, Russ Springer, and now Dan Wheeler. Qualls is the only long reliever of the crew. Mike Gallo is the situational lefty (he's the only active lefty on the staff). Springer (18.00 ERA in postseason), Qualls (14.40 in 5 innings), and Harville (13.50) are getting killed. Qualls has cost them two close games. I know he wasn't hit hard in game one, but he was left in for five runs on five hits and a walk. With their bullpen beaten up, why didn't they activate for the NLCS a starter/long reliever like Darren Oliver (who pitched well for them in the regular season), Tim Redding, Carlos Hernandez, or Brandon Duckworth? They might not be the greatest choices, but they are fresh and can eat up innings (like Munro). The Astros depleted their bullpen via trades all season and lost two starters. That means that they are low on the typical long relief-types for the postseason. They ignored the options and the short-relief guys are suffering.
Then there's the offense. They are getting on base enough (.363 OBP in the NLCS and .382 in seven playoff games), but they are not driving runs in. Part of that is their collective failure to hit with runners in scoring position (.250 BA in 64 at-bats).
But a large part is the poor in-game situational strategizing by Garner. He bunts when he should hit away. He sends runners when he shouldn't. (Why Bagwell was that far from first when Kent struck out in the third yesterday is beyond me. Beltran knew to get back to second. Why send Bagwell if he is that poor a runner. Maybe he couldn't see the backdoor pitch to the left-hander, but Munro was throwing it all night, and all he really had to see was that Kent didn't swing.) As I've already established, he cannot figure out the double-switch. He doesn't pinch-hit when he should. (Why let both Vizcaino and Ausmus bat in the ninth in game one? He had just brought Everett in to play short the previous half inning while shifting Vizcaino to second and pulling Kent. Why? It just wasted a body.) And if I went through my logs, I would probably find a dozen more poor choices by the Houston manager. Consider too that his management of the pitching staff has been even worse than his offensive choices.
The one thing that was expected, that the Cardinals offense will have a field day, is fast becoming the big story. However, they have been kept in check by good pitching while feeding on poor pitching (and some questionable defensive plays as well). Garner is managing with the in-season mentally of making pitching changes to fit the score and situation. I think it's been demonstrated a number of times this postseason (e.g., any game managed by Bobby Cox) that that doesn't work. He would be better served, especially with this Cards team that devours pitching mistakes and hits in bunches, to minimize the big innings by pulling pitchers who are obviously laboring no matter the score. He also thinks that he has a set bullpen like the Mariano Rivera-to-John Wetteland Yankee pen of yore. He thinks that he can run Qualls out in the sixth/seventh, then bring in Harville for the setup, and then go with Lidge for the ninth and ignore the rest. He can't do that and expect those pitchers to perform, not with the number of innings they are throwing.
So even though I had said that the Astros should not panic should they lose the first two games, there are some deep concerns. Their bullpen is fried and Garner seems incapable of coming up with a solution other than piling more innings on tired and ineffective middle guys. I think he should stick with Wheeler for long relief—he has no other option—, use Lidge whenever they are in a close situation from the seventh inning on, and rotate in the other guys as necessary and depending on who's hot and not overworked. And certainly, if one of them is ineffective, don’t wait until the game is out of hand. Get them out quickly. His options are not very enviable, but a better manager could figure it out.
There is now more pressure on Clemens and Oswalt because of the tired pen. If the two aces pitch well but exit early without a commanding lead, the bullpen issues come to the fore. If Houston can win the next two, they look good with Backe, Munro, and Clemens going the last three. If Munro falters, and they are facing elimination in game 6, they can use Clemens in long relief (on three day's rest) and then pitch Oswalt in game 7.
I guess it's too late to replace Garner, however.
By the way, Steve Lyons said that the Pujols play in the fourth on Berkman's single, where he at first appeared to throw his glove at the ball, should have been a two-base error. Brenly corrected him on one account, that the glove would have to hit the ball for this rule to be invoked and it clearly hadn't. However, Lyons got the number of bases wrong, too. Here's the rule:
Clearly, Brenly was right and since the ball was not hit by the glove, the point is moot. However, had the glove hit the ball and it was unintentional (which was clearly the case), Pujols would not have been penalized. When Lyons said that the penalty would be two bases, he confused the glove rule (7.05c) with the everything-else-rule (7.05d). Or possibly he thought of 7.05e which penalizes two bases for a thrown glove, but only on a throw ball, not a batted ball.
But enough of rules, the Yankees and Red Sox resume tonight at Fenway, which will surely be feted by the Zelasko-Kennedy dynamic duo. The Red Sox are still reeling from losing Curt Schilling to his ankle injury and of course there is no DL nor any roster changes during a series. Therefore, they will need to move Derek Lowe from the pen to start game five (against Mike Mussina who was tremendous in game one).
Then again, that game may not be necessary given how the first two have gone. The Yankees just announced that Orlando Hernandez is well enough to pitch game four against Tim Wakefield, who the Yankees hit well in a short relief appearance in game one. Tonight it's Kevin Brown still recuperating from losing a fight with a wall against Bronson Arroyo, who went from a four-year scrub to a decent number three pitcher this year.
Suddenly one of the Red Sox strengths, starting pitching, has evaporated overnight. The Yankees seem to have a distinct edge in each game going forward at least until the John Lieber-Pedro Martinez rematch in game six, should it come to that. The Yankees seem like huge favorites now, but that could always change.
NLCS Game 2
The Cards-Astros are in a rain delay. So while we have time, here are a few random thoughts. Pete Munro is the ultimate underdog. He had four wins this year. Is that the fewest by a playoff starter? I believe that the Twins started Milton last year, and he had something like one win in three starts, but he was injured most of the year. I also remember maybe Randy Lerch, who had something like 4 wins starting in maybe the '78 NLCS. I don't Kyle Lohse had that many his first year. I'll have to make a note to study that.
Anyway, everyone is concentrating on how bad an option Munro is (no power, four wins, hasn't started since Oct. 1). However, if he has a decent game or at least if Morris pitches like he did in the DS, a Houston win would be huge with Clemens and Oswalt going next. Of course, if they lose then concern becomes those two going on third day's rest. Anyway, the helpful Jeanie Zelasko informs me that the game is ready to commence. She looks like she's going to turn some tricks while the game goes on.
Biggio—flies to left on first pitch.
Beltran—High fastball. Line drive to right. HR, Astros 1-0.
Bagwell—Ks on high heat.
Berkman—Flies to left.
Womack—line drive over short. Single.
Walker—throw to first, had three lucky hits that very easy could have been none in previous game. 1-1. Throw to first. Munro hits Womack, into the stands. Womack takes second. Doesn't get third since going back to first. If rundown and going to second, I think he is awarded third. Full count. Foul on change. Ks, way in front of change.
Pujols—Lines hard on broken bat to third.
Rolen—0-1 pitch in dirt. When he misses, he misses big. 2-1, flies to center.
Kent—approaches plate in the stupendous "Groundhog cam", 0-1 bullet hits stands jutting out behind third, Double.
Ensberg—high strike called. Foul other way. Curve low and outside. Ensberg is way out in front of it K.
Vizcaino—Big curve—strike. Pops to shallow left, Renetria gets it.
Ausmus—way outside, 1-0. High—2-0. IBB. Lyons—"named cutest Astro"—great stuff. Real in-depth. Why walk this bum? Doing them a favor by getting rid of pitcher for next inning.
Munro—First pitch in dirt, swings, gets away from Matheny, Kemt goes to 3rd. Dolts not even watching. Nice walk. High, 1-1. Again 2-1. Still discussing how well Methany did not stopping WP. Low, 3-1. Way inside, almost hits him. Walks the bases loaded. Lyons just discovered that walks aren’t a good thing.
Biggio—Outside again, 1-0, Methany to mound. Off plate again but Biggio helps him by grounding to second, tosses to Renteria covering second. Bad piece of hitting.
Slama Lama Ding Dong. U2—iPod. God am I sick of these commercials. I still have nightmares about, what was that dumb show last year?, "Flesh"—"Her father's the DA, his father's the mob boss. When they met, it was murder…"
Edmonds—deep fly to center, Beltran in front of the track.
Scooter on the sinker—"I dive down like an anvil fell on my head—d'oh, the things I do for show business."
Renteria—Lost an ump (Ed Rapuano)—no reason why. Full count all on soft stuff around plate. Another—grounds to short.
Sanders—0-1 grounds to second.
Beltran—away, 1-0. Change right over plate, called strike. Heat outside and high, 2-1. Now just outside, Matheny wanted it. Change over the plate—called. Outside—walks. These dolts aren't even watching—did not acknowledge any pitch nor the walk.
Bagwell—Low. Ball in the dirt—WP, Beltran to second. Hangs a curve, liner down third base in stands. Ball. Morris is getting outpitched here. High heat called strike—first time in this series. Full count. Fouls change. Outside—walk.
Berkman—Off outside corner, gets called strike. Low, goes and gets it, pops off end of the bat to shallow center, Edmonds runs it down.
Kent—slider freezes him, 0-1. Low, 1-1. Fouls change. Slider in dirt, blocked. Fastball—outside and low. Can't locate fastball. Called strike on backdoor pitch as Brenly says to start runners because Kent doubles up a lot. Methany picks Bagwell off first. Tagged in a rundown. Do these guys even call anything right? Astros are wasting a lot of chances.
Matheny—right through Munro, single.
Morris—bunts on first pitch, Munro tags him.
Womack—Change outside, called strike. Hits to right side, Kent. Matheny to third.
Walker—"Larry" cheer. Ball. Ensberg in a little covering the bunt. Inside again, 2-0. Slider(?) called strike, looked outside. Fastball backdoor. Walker and crowd don't like it but good call. Same but lower on next pitch. Ks looking. Nice piece of pitching by Munro.
Ensberg—Outside heat. Inside—fouls to right. Hanging curve—deposits deep to left. Astros 2-0, just as they were complaining about Ensberg's lack of homers.
Vizcaino—1-1, same pitch as Ensberg, gapper to left, Sanders throws to second, get him by three feet. It's good to be aggressive but these guys are wasting a ton of chances. Lyons likes the play but doesn't mention that Vizcaino hesitated out of box (thought homer?) and jogged around first.
Ausmus—three called strikes. I'd bat this guy ninth.
Ed Rapuano—left due to dizziness.
Munro—swings better than Ausmus. Grounds to second.
Pujols—ball. Backdoor, timed perfectly, single to center.
Rolen—strike called. Low. Fouls outside heat. Ks on change outside. Nice pitch by Munro.
Edmonds—Outside slider. Called strike (change?). Same pitch—fouled back. These guys aren't even watching the game. High and inside—fouls. Bounces in front of the plate. Nice block by Ausmus. Same pitch as foul tip but more plate and Edmonds turns on it, into right field corner. Double. Why didn't Pujols score? He got a jump off of first? First bad pitch from Munro.
Renteria—foul fly into RF stands. Lines hard right to Kent on one knee. Pujols took step towards home. Kent laughing.
Sanders—Not swinging the bat well. Ball inside. Fastball on outside corner freezes him. Munro is pitching well here. Again, but too far outside. Same pitch—grounds to short. More wasted chances.
Biggio-called strike. Low fastball, drives for single to left. They just noticed that Biggio was up.
Beltran—Gets call on fastball on corner, looked too far outside. Change in dirt, way ahead. Same pitch—Ks.
Bagwell—steps out. Foul tip. Low fastball—called a strike. Bagwell doesn't like it and shouldn’t it. Change almost in the dirt—why not call that a strike too? Ball. Bounces change. Fouls high heat—just misses. Morris throws to first, Balk. Sets to go home, steps, and then throws to 1st, yep. High change—foul tip. Just off the corner outside. Walk.
Berkman—Fouls back. Ball. High and tight—pulls to right. Pujols loses glove. Garner arguing that Pujols threw glove but no contact. Astrsos 3-0. First & Second. Duncan to mound. Pen getting up—Eldred.
Kent—Fastball grooved, Kent fouls right back—just missed. Two balls. Another low and outside but fouled off. Jammed inside to short. Klime up now too.
Ensberg—Fouled back. Over plate but doesn't get it all, flies to Edmonds.
Matheny—Can Munro get bottom of order and get a win? Called strike. Ball outside. Gallo up in pen. High and in, fouled off. Backdoor—doesn't get it, but should be K. Whiffs on same pitch farther outside.
Anderson—PH for Morris, K, ball, Harville up in pen now. Ball outside. Bounces it, 3-1. Walks. Booth talking to pitching coach—kiss of death.
Womack—Inside. High fastball, grounds to Ensberg who was playing bunt, wants to go to second, but Kent was doing bunt rotation. No DP.
Walker—strike swinging, Womack goes to second without throw. Golf swing. Right over RF fence. Hanging change(?). Astros 3-2. I would pull Munro. He's lost it.
Pujols 1-1, Ball—ump no longer giving him outside corner. Same pitch—3-1. Again—hits up the middle. Garner pulls Munro—he can't get a decision but he deserved better.
Rolen—High/inside-fouled down 3B line. Some pitch as Pujols—hanging low curve. Same result but to left. Cards 4-3. Wow. "Shama Lama Ding Dong" sign—Oh mercy! Munro looks like he's going to cry on replay—poor guy.
Edmonds—1-1, curve-misses. Inside change—fouled down 1B line. Way outside. High fastball—foul. Ks on change.
Kline in. Hey, his hat's clean.
Vizcaino—sinker in dirt. Same pitch into LF—single, Cards get Calero up. Duncan to mound.
Ausmus—same as Vizcaino on first pitch. They need to get him.
Bruntlett-PH for Harville. Wheeler up in pen. Kline gone.
Bruntlett—Ball shows bunt. Bunts right in front of plate, Pujols right there, to third—out, over to first, too late. Ouch! Garner's Bobby Coxing this series away.
Biggio—Misses slider 0-1. Outside, check swing, say he went around but didn’t. Same pitch—way out ahead. Ugly.
Bektran—Duncan to mound again. High change—ball. In dirt—2-0. High change again—3-0. Brenly says to give him green light. Ball way outside. Walks bases loaded.
Bagwell—change on outside corner freezes him. Same pitch—flies to right. Another wasted chance.
Dan Wheeler in. Garner doesn't trust this guy, wouldn't use him in the DS, but had OK stats in limited use.
Renteria--0-2. Ball in dirt. Pops to Bagwell in foul territory.
Sanders—flies to Berkman on first pitch.
Matheny—called strike right over the plate. Rising fastball-foul. Low—Lyons really wanted it.
Taveras in pen. Gallo in Stros.
Berkman—curve that hangs, goes other way to left-center. Double.
Kent—0-1 hanging curve—foul, 0-2 way outside, Methany thinks went around, bat barely off shoulder, crowd is disappointed—surprise!, flies to left
Ensberg—high strike, tries to pull it back too late. In the dirt, 1-1. Outside and low, 2-1.
Vizcaino—Fireworks going off. Hit and run. Outside fastball—Vizcaino misses. Runner out by a mile. Grounds to short on next pitch. Nice way to kill a rally.
Joe Nichols—"God Bless America", some awful country singer. Looks like you'd expect. Obligatory shots of a cop and a flag. Ends. Doesn't seem that anyone really cares.
Cedeno—PH for Calero. Ks on four pitches.
Womack—takes right over the plate, ball, Gallo & Oswalt (just between starts) up in pen, dribbler down the line that Ensberg lets go foul—see that Bagwell? Grounds to Bagwell. Wheeler covers.
Walker—Lyons thinks that Oswalt will come in to pitch and then start on three day's rest. What a moron! Or maybe Garner is that poor a manager. Pops out to Vizcaino on 1-0.
Ausmus—1-0, grounds out to short.
Palmeiro—PH for Wheeler. Lyons—asks Brenly why Wheeler was on deck. Why not? Why show anything? Why help them get the lefty arm ready? Takes inside fastball. Fly to center. Lidge up in pen.
Biggio—Duncan to mound. Inside half of plate up fastball—strike. Slider outside—goes, 0-2. Two more farther outside and low, 2-2. outside change fouled. Same pitch—grounds to short.
Pujols—1st pitch, high fastball, too much plate, line drive, deep HR to left. Cards 5-4.
Rolen—1-2 outside corner waste high, timed it perfectly, way out to left-center. Cards 6-4. Garner's moves are killing this team. Why not use Lidge?
Edmonds—Lyons is talking about how they can't get Lidge in, why not bring him in her to face meat. 2-1 down first base line, Bagwell gets him.
Renteria—first pitch, grounds to short.
Sanders—big swing, way out in front. Check swing, called strike 2. Way outside. Foul. Low. Goes other way with same pitch as Rolen, Berkman in front of track gets it.
Beltran—Ball. High heat looking—1-1, Ball outside. Same as pitch 2—goes around. Low. Outside. Walks.
Bagwell—Fouls. Low—1-1. "Let's Go Cardinals"—No "Who's Your Daddy?" High fastball—flies to center.
Berkman—Lidge and Oswalt up in pen. Beltran goes. Foul fly. High heat inside, jams flair to deep short, Renteria has it, throws to first but Beltran back.
Kent—low fastball, 1-0. High & inside—2-0. Low and outside—3-0. Way outside—walks.
Ensberg—Duncan to mound, Everett-PR for Kent. High heat, goes opposite way, Walker has it on the track. Cardinals up two games to one. Munro deserved better. The Astros should have won this game. Garner's choices are killing this team.
In Praise of PIP (Picture in a Picture): ALCS Game 1/NLCS Game 2 (And I'll Record the Debate for Later)
I'm a little panicked because I couldn't find the NLCS game at first. I get both the New York and the Philly Fox affiliates, and both had the Yankee-Red Sox game. CBS Sportsline informed me that the Cards-Astros were on FSN, which is a pay service from my cable provider. I couldn't even order it with my digital service. But my night is saved: the TV Guide site tells me than Comcast Sports Network is airing the game for some reason. All set...
Red Sox First/Astros First
Damon—2-1, grounds out to Olerud unassisted, at least he didn't strike out
Bellhorn—First pitch, pops to Jeter.
Biggio—Long AB, singles over Williams.
Ramirez—0-2, Inside chest high, K's; End of first
Beltran—2-2, Hits a liner straight into the stands in right, HR, Astros 2-0.
Bagwell—2-2, hard liner to third, Rolen backhands, out
Jeter—Starts 2-0, high and outside—3-0, walks
Berkman—Frozen on change (?) over plate
A-Rod—Jeter goes, perfect throw, Bellhorn drops it
Kent—Popped up, first pitch; End of 1st
A-Rod—2-0, takes for strike, fouls off. "Who's Your Daddy" chants to "Let's go Yankees". Pitch on the hands. Hits him on wrist.
Sheffield—1st pitch high, single to center, Jeter goes home, throw too late and up third base line. First and second.
Womack—lines out to left.
Walker—Long AB, liner to right, Berkman lunges for it. Gets past him. Triple.
Matsui—0-2, changing pitches, McCarver up in arms, called strike.
Pujols—low strike, rocket to right field. Tie ballgame.
Williams—1-2, in the dirt. 2-2. Nice change on the outside corner.
Posada—First pitch up high and in, Nice pitch—1-1. Maybe Peddro was psyching himself up with paranoia. Next pitch in the dirt. Varitek to the mound again. Change right over the plate. Fouls off high fastball. Ugh, Diamond Vision is back. Change again—grounds out to second. End of first.
Edmonds—Full count, nice single to right.
Renteria—1-1, throws to first, inside strike, way inside. 2-2. Change right over the plate. An "excuse me" foul. Ks on curve(?) via low. End of first.
Red Sox 2nd
Ortiz—way outside 3-0. Taking strike on inside corner. High over plate. Called a ball. I thought that pitch was a strike now. Walks.
Millar—ball low and outside. Called ball—I guess a little inside. 2-0. Pops out. Jeter has it.
Ensberg—Pops out to same spot as Millar.
Nixon—0-1, fly out to left.
Vizcaino-lines out to second.
Varitek—does the same. End of second.
Ausmus—0-1, outside, grounds out to short. End of second.
Olerud—1-1, grounds out hard to Bellhorn.
Cairo—2-2, "A drop and drive pitcher can neither drop nor drive."—Dr. McCarver. Francona davining. Full count. Walks.
Sanders—Finally Ks on change in the dirt.
Lofton—1st pitch, a single up the middle. Those high fastballs are causing Martinez problems.
Jeter—pitch at the hands just misses him. Again way inside but lower and Jeter had backed off. Deep fly. Damon has it. Cairo tags up. First and third.
Matheny—quick 0-2. Ks.
Williams—high and inside. Foul. Another inside. Outside. 3-1. Fly out. End of 2nd.
A-Rod—Lofton goes. Fouled off. "Who's Your Daddy?" Ball. Throws to first. Stopped faking to third then looks first. I think that he had his foot on the rubber, balk, no? strike two. Ball 2. Another hesitation near balk. Couldn't see feet, behind PIP. Throws again to first. Fouled fastball. Full count—ball outside. Nice backdoor change. K looking. End of 2nd.
Backe—batting over .300. Ks.
Biggio—grounds out to short
Beltran—Second pitch deep to right but foul, he's on fire. 0-2. Two balls. Both low. Strikes out on change. End of inning.
Cabrera—"Lieber has not allowed a hit. Now he has"—Buck. After two strikes looking. Third pitch, same location, single over short.
Mueller—grounds out to Olerud. Runner moves up.
Damon—Ugly swing when he tries to pull it back. Grounds out to Cairo.
Womack—1-2, fouled off. Ks on change low.
Bellhorn—1-2. Fouls off. Soft liner right to Williams. End of inning.
Walker—Ball. Misses low change. Right to Backe to first.
Pujols—Strike on high heat outside. Same pitch foul. Deep but foul on same pitch. Outside—Ball. Low—ball.
Sheffield—pops to short. Scooter makes first appearance. Lordy Mama!
Matsui—2-0. Foul.Varitek to mound again. Hard ground ball to Millar unassisted.
Pujols—Finally Ks. End of the inning.
Williams—soft ground, 3-1. End of inning.
Bagwell—1-2. In the dirt, 2-2. Again—Full count. Foul.
Red Sox 4th
Ramirez—Flies out on first pitch.
Ortiz—Pops up behind second.
Bagwell—Foul again, then walks.
Millar—2-0. Check swing to Lieber. End of inning.
Berkman—grounds out to second. Ball in dirt. Renteria makes nice play, but no DP.
Kent—1-1, throws to first. Called strike. Runs on in low—fouled off. Steps out. Change that hangs right over the plate—deposits it in the leftfield stands. Astros 4-2.
Posada—3-1. Missed high 4-seamer. Next pitch at his feet—walk.
Ensberg—Pops up foul, just beyond Pujols reach. Deep fly. Walker has it on warning track.
Olerud—2-0, Pitching coach to the mound.
Vizcaino—singles to right.
Ausmus—First pitch, grounds out to third. End of inning.
Olerud—pops out behind second.
Cairo—Foul. "Who's Your Daddy". Flies out to Ramirez.
Lofton—Ks on 4 pitches. Eyeballs Pedro. End of inning.
Rolen—Backe was given first bat at age one—great stuff. Full count. Looked like a strike. Umps not calling the high strike in the playoffs. Change right over the plate freezes him.
Edmonds—Antisemite is talking to Astros pitching coach.
Red Sox 5th
Nixon—soft line out to left.
Varitek—grounds out to Lieber on second pitch.
Cabrera—1-2. McCarver just notices that Clemens pitched for both ALCS teams—great stuff. Change in the dirt. Same a little higher—Ks. End of inning.
Renteria—3-0, called strike. Edmonds goes—ball four.
Garner to mound. I can't even stand the Brennaman—Lyons repartee for the ten seconds that I switch from PIP.
44 up in Astros BP.
Celeb cam-Ben Affleck
Lorne Michaels & Conan.
A-Rod—infield hit on soft grounder to third.
Sanders—1-1 grounds into a DP to third to end inning.
Sheffield—change hanging over the plate, fouled back. Ball. "who's your daddy". Be original—say "Is he rich like me?" Fouled at plate, Varitek comes up firing to second, almost hits Pedro. Ball was off Sheffield's leg.
Sheffield—ball, 2-2. tips into dirt.
Beltran—flies out to right, end of inning.
Sheffield—Ks on high inside Fastball.
Matsui—Throws to first. Steps out. Ball one. Misses change. Ball off the corner called a strike. Change—foul. "WYD?"
Williams—0-2, deep fly to right. Over Berkman, double off wall.
Matsui—foul. In the dirt. Full count. A-Rod goes. Another change fouled.
Womack—Grounds out to short. Williams to third.
Mastui—strikes out looking on back door. End of inning.
Walker—0-2, on pitch off the plate called strike. Bloop to left field, drops for double. Williams scores. Astrors 4-3.
Pujols—Psycho-Semitic wants them to walk him to get to Rolen.
Red Sox 6th
Mueller—Pops out to mound.
Pujols—ball low.again. strike low. Ball. W
Damon—0-2, looks like batting in bucket, hips going while pulling back. Ball—fans wanted it but outside. Foul down line.
Pujols—Walk. Astros pull Backe.
Damon—foul. Ball. Tips it out of Posada's glove. Foul A-Rod can’t get it.
Qualls in for Houston.
Damon—fouls off 12th pitch. Full count. Fouls backdoor cutter (Leiter called before pitch) off foot.
Rolen—singles to left. Scores one. Tie ballgame. Mistake walking Pujols.
Damon—two more fouls. Lines out to center. Fox was too busy showing all other pitches—almost missed this one. 16th pitch.
Edmonds—Fouls off. 1-2. Ball was high. Pitching coach to mound. Ks to end inning.
Bellhorn—2-2. Full count. Ks on cutter. Ends inning.
Bagwell—swings through, Ball inside and low. Ball low. Bounces to plate. Foul. Foul. Called strike[[looked good, Bagwell didn't like it.
Williams—Ball one up and in. Foul. Ball very high. Change over plate, 2-2. Same pitch, this time a ball—why not? McCarver has just inducted Pedro in Hall. Fly out to center.
Berkman—grounds out to second.
Posada—3-0 (100th pitch). Backdoor change—strike. Walk.
Kent—Two balls low. Third inside. Foul. Fouls off front foot, goes down.
Timlin up in Red Sox pen.
Olerud—1-1 fastball, off the plate, gets call. He's giving them that call all night. Bullet to right—gone. Varitek outside but pitch inside. Yankees 3-0. Right after discussion on pitch counts: "Well ... with Pedro's guile, he may be able to be effective over 100 pitches, plus pitch counts vary depending on how you feel." McCarvers says, "Some days, the cutoff might be 125."—good stuff.
Kent—strikes out to end inning.
"WYD?" cheer returns.
Cairo—low ball. Then away and high three times—2-2. Schilling report is really WebMD ad. "Pedro" taunt now. To quote Han Solo, "Don’t get cocky." Again outside corner. Ks looking.
Lofton—pops up to mound on first pitch to end inning.
Renteria—singles on first pitch to center. Now must be irritated by B team as A team goes to commercial.
Sanders—Jams him, broken bat to second base, Kent knocks it down but no play.
Calero up in pen.
Matheny—good bunt on first pitch. Second and third.
Red Sox 7th
Ramirez—Grounds to short.
Cedeno—PH for Williams. Soft grounder to first. Bagwell grabs it even though it was going foul. Tags Cedeno as Renteria crosses plate. Run scored. Cards 5-4.
Womack—dink to second. Kent doesn't get t o it, even though it looks playable. Cards, 6-4.
Ortiz—single to right.
Millar—swings through high heat. Gordon up in pen. Misses change outside.
Walker—Womack steals second. grounder to short, Throw past Bagwell on bounce. Cards 7-4. Qualls stays in. Dolts say Vizcaino shouldn't have thrown but good throw gets him.
Millar—DP543. ends inning.
God Bless America—Who's Your Daddy Mix.
Pujols—Harville in pen. Throws to first. Walks on four. Qualls gone.
Now WebMD report on Scott Rolen—great stuff!
Harville in for Astros.
Timlin in for Red Sox.
Jeter—foul to third. Ball again not getting high strike. Foul. Grounds out to short.
Rolen—ball. Foul. Ball. Check swing, went around, not called—they are so inconsistent with that. Walks.
Edmonds—I think they just batted around. Goes down and gets one to right—double. 3 runs. 10-4 Cards. They try to get Rolen at the plate, but he is too good a runner—slides to the outside and Ausmus can't reach him.
A-Rod—liner to Mueller's right, nice catch.
Sheffield—singles to left.
Renteria—2-1, strike right down the pike. Broken bat to second ends inning—6 runs. 10-4 Cards.
Matsui-Takes inside pitch the opp. Way, flair to left, single. Foulke up.
Williams—Pops to right field line. End of inning.
Calero in for Cards, warmed up for about an hour.
Ensberg—grounds out to second. Psycho-semitic loves Calero's name.
Red Sox 8th
Nixon—Lieber still in. 1-1 pitch too much plate. Singles past Olerud.
Lieber gone—great game. He's Pedro's daddy.
Vizcaino—infield single on 1-2.
Varitek—2-1. Rivera gets up to stretch. Nice slider inside. Swings through. Gordon needs a good performance tonight.
Palmeiro—PHs for pitcher—what no double-switch? Hits one in the corner. Vizcaino held at third.
Varitek—full count. Fights one to the gap off this fists. Second and third. Nixon should have gone. Both games 2nd and 3rd for trailing team. Meeting at mound.
Biggio—whiffs to end inning.
Cabrera—Rivera throwing. Foul.
"God Bless America" in St. Loo. Looks like Jim Kaat is singing. They have a real eagle—wow.
Cabrera—grounder to short. RBI. Runner holds at second. Yanks 3-1. McCarver explains the best way to ground out—he's an expert, I know from his Phillies days.
Mueller—2-1 pitch in the dirt.
Sanders—foul to third.
Mueller—Fouled off—Full count. Grounds to second. Runner to third. Gordon gone. Rivera coming in.
Matheny—On the hands, foul. Ball. Unbearable discussion about foul balls and caught home run balls. Psycho likes how Midwesterners throw balls back—can't this guy shut up. It's like Scooter came to life. Ks looking.
Damon—Rivera in. Ball. Shatters bat—foul to Olerud. Foul. Tip off glove. Ks looking at outside corner fastball. End the inning.
Anderson—PH for Calero. Grounds out to end inning.
Haren in for Cards. Beltrane turns on inside fastball, lines a single to right.
Bagwell—foul. Foul. Ks on fastballs.
Posada—First pitch, singles to center.
Olerud—Just missed a good pitch to hit, deep fly out to center. Embree is gone.
The Cards must have made a pitching change since they went to commercial.
King in for Cards
Berkman—fastball, foul. Fastball--homer to left. Right after Lyons applauded King for challenging hitters—nice, I like. Cards 10-6.
Foulke in for Red Sox.
Cairo—Hit by pitch on inside breaking ball. Ugly—just as they applaud Red Sox for getting Foulke some work.
Kent—0-1 low fastball, pops up. King gone—Is LaRussa over-managing this?
Lofton—Ks on tip called by ump. Didn’t see it. No replay. Announcers bored with game, talking about game 5. Oh, Schilling. It may not go 5, guys.
Jeter—1-1, low curve—2-1. Still talking about Schilling.
Taveras in for Cards and then they go back to that annoying Dodge truck commercial—"You are a…wonderful man."
Jeter—walks. Bases full. Maybe it would be better to rest the closer.
A-Rod—Swings through fastball, 1-1. Curve (?) low. 2-1, Derek Lowe is up.
Oops missed Ensberg lining out to end 8th on first pitch.
Womack—lines at to Everett who just came in.
A-Rod—3-1. called strike. Foul, stays full. Flies out to right. End of inning.
Is U2's Vertigo worse than Zoo TV album?
Pujols—single to center.
Rolen—Called strike. Foul. Ball. Missed high heat. End of inning.
Ugh, U2 Vertigo again. Wasn't this the riff in a better U2 song?
Red Sox Ninth
Bellhorn—2-1, grounds to Olerud unassisted.
Ramirez—Takes strike right over plate. What is he, Mighty Casey? Pitch four inches inside called strike 2.
Vizcaino—grounds out, what no PHs.
Ramirez—gapper to left-center. Double.
Ausmus—they're letting him hit? Don't they have a backup catcher? Ks on 3 pitches.
Lamb-PH for pitcher. 2-1 pitch. Goes other way, just over fence, Cards 10-7.
Ortiz—Ks on three pitches, all inside.
Millar—called strike. Ball—checked swing.
Biggio-ball low. Automatic double to left.
Millar—swings through pitch low and inside.
Tavera pulled. There's that Dodge commercial again.
Millar—foul, broke bat. Ks.
Yankees win 3-1. Sinatra sings.
Beltran—First pitch, down the line but Cardinals guarding lines. Cards win 10-7. No Sinatra. Now, they are bothering Larry Walker while he shakes hands with teammates. Tell him that all he needed for a cycle was a homer. Looks like Walker wants to slap him.
Well, that was really hard to follow. I'm glad that this will be the last time that both series will have games at the same time, but I'm grateful that I didn't have to listen to Lyons-Brennaman more than I did. I can't imagine how I'll last the rest of the series.
Lieber looked great. The Yankees looked in control throughout. The Cardinals scored all over the Astro bullpen. Again Garner stuck with Qualls too long. And if Garner had pinch-hit for the stiffs at the bottom of the lineup then maybe they could have mounted more of a comeback in the ninth.
ALCS Game One Things Reconsidered
With game one in the proverbial books—that's not a book on proverbs, but rather..well, you understand—I just wanted to go over the more salient point of the game and take stock of the series going forward:
They won, that's the bottom line.
Mike Mussina pitched unbelievably well until he lost it all at once in the seventh.
Mariano Rivera pitched very well under the circumstances, and went over an inning.
Eight different batters got a hit (All but Posada). The 3-4-5 hitters (Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, and Bernie Williams) went 8-for-14 with five doubles, six runs, and eight RBI (every extrabase hit but the Kenny Lofton HR were from them).
When the Red Sox came back within one, they scored two insurance runs to seal it with Rivera on the mound.
They struck out just three times on the night.
Joe Torre stuck with Mussina and Tom Gordon too long.
Tanyon Sturtze did not pitch well. Gordon had some bad luck but didn't have a great outing.
Hideki Matsui misplayed a couple of balls in left. He overran one and took a bad angle on the other.
Alex Rodriguez, contrary to Tim McCarver's assessment, did not get good at-bats and didn't wake up at the plate until Timlin threw near his head.
Red Sox Pros
They came back to make a game of it even after they were down 8-0 in a perfect game with one out in the seventh.
They didn't expect to win two games in the Bronx. They came close in game one and have something to build on for game two.
They left only two men on base—kind of a mixed bag. Early on, they couldn't buy a hit and later on, they drove in just about every one on base.
Curt Schilling only threw 58 and may be able to go on short rest, but more on that later.
Eight different batters got a hit.
They were able to rally even with two outs.
They showed that the Yankees pen is vulnerable.
Red Sox Cons
Schilling pitched very badly. Whether it was the bone in his ankle or his head, if he cannot quickly recuperate, what should have been a big advantage for the Red Sox, the rotation, could become a big question mark especially with Pedro Martinez facing his "daddy" tonight.
The Red Sox hitters could do nothing against Mussina until he lost it at once in the seventh.
They used seven pitchers. Fatigue could become an issue for the pen later in the series.
Tim Wakefield did not look effective, a big issue if he starts game four.
Of the six relievers, only Alan Embree and Keith Foulke pitched well, and Foulke threw to just one batter while Embree did give up a hit to Cairo in his inning of work. Curtis Leskanic couldn't throw strikes and was bailed out by a stupid Alex Rodriguez first-pitch doubleplay ball. Ramiro Mendoza had no control and was very close to being taking long by Miguel Cairo. Wakefield fluttered his knuckler. Mike Timlin was battling but he did give up three nice deep liners to left.
Manny Ramirez looked comatose in left field. He misplayed about four balls. Some didn’t hurt them, but some did (see log).
Leadoff hitter Johnny Damon struck out each time up, leading to 10 strikeouts by the Sox on the night.
As everyone knows, the pressure is now squarely on Pedro Martinez's shoulders, but that is how he likes it. He may have set it up that way with the "Daddy" statement (or he was merely answering the Zombies' musical question, "Who's your daddy?", and he is "rich like me" if he's the Yanks). Martinez competes like Seabiscuit—he needs the odds against him so he can come from behind—and is almost as smart.
But aside from the Division Series start, he has not been pitching well for a while. He was 2-4 with a 4.95 ERA down the stretch (Sept and Oct). He was 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA against the Yanks this year. Down the stretch, he was 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA against them.
As for the NLCS, Garner is wisely avoiding Pete Munro in game one. Even so, the Astros get a pass for game one after their tough five-game series. Winning game one would be a huge plus for them; losing it wouldn't be the end of the world. Given that their rotation is backloaded, they could even survive a typically disastrous start by Munro in game two.
The big question is who was the moron in the commissioner's office who scheduled the two games at the same time on the same night as the final presidential debate? I joked in the last round that Fox was conspiring to ensure that no one saw Bush's performance in the first debate. Now I'm starting to wonder if that was a joke.
And they are broadcasting a game on FX?!? What about those people without cable? What about those kids that MLB is always worried about? Ah, screw 'em. I just hope that they readied the extra Jeannie Zelasko mannequin for the other network.
ALCS Game One Running Log
What the F' is the pregame with references to the Evil Empire and clips from Star Wars? Do these people have any respect for the game or what? Then that animatronic dummy Jeannie Zelasko appeared. Yoda looked more lifelike. To quote Red Foxx, "You big animatronic dummy!"
Huh, so FOX has a new show called "House". Wow, they should advertise that puppy more.
Top of first
Three up, three down on 11 pitches. To quote Borat, "Nice. I like."
Bottom of first
Sheffield—Nice hit on 3-1 slider. Double.
Williams—singles. 2-0 Yanks.
Top of second
Again three up, three down. 11 pitches.
Bottom of second
Bottom of the order goes down in order. 1o pitches
top of third
Took 12 pitches this time.
Bottom of third
Jeter gets that slider—single to lead it off.
A-Rod—nice play by Cabrera. Should have held it. Could Millar have tagged him?
Sheffield—2-1 slider: way outside and low. Can't locate it. 3-1, Sheffield thought was a ball, but a strike. Foul. Walks on splitter outside and low—Varitek set up inside.
Matsui—pounces on first pitch fastball, double, 3 runs, Yanks 5-0. Don't they have to pull Schilling? Pitching coach to mound.
Williams—2-0, Myers up in pen. 2-1 ground out, runner to third.
Patty Smyth "The Warrior" for Schilling. Sort of inappropriate given score.
Posada—fly right to Damon. Sac Fly.
Olerud—3-0. Walks on four.
Cairo—deep fly to dead center. Damon in front of track. 27 pitches.
Top of Fourth
Leskanic in pen.
Damon—Full count. Called strike on a nice pitch right on the inside corner.
Bellhorn—3-1. Mussina starting to go deeper in count. Fastball on inside half of plate fouled off. Called third strike, outside corner. Looked like it was off the plate.
Ramirez—fouled off. Inside and high, almost goes. I'm surprised he didn’t charge the mound. Two outside fastballs. Called third strike. "Moose" cheers.
16 pitches this time.
Bottom of Fourth
Curt Leskanic is in. Love those ex-Rockie pitchers.
Lofton—Outside 2-0. Way high 3-0. Called strike. Announcers making excuses for the "Warrior" Schilling. Must be the ankle. Yeah. Called strike. Foul. Again. 3-2: way high and outside. Take yer base.
Jeter—What? They are putting one of the LCS games on FX? Pathetic! Two thrpws to first. Bunted foul. Backe is going against Williams in game one. Glad to hear those Munro rumors are false. They couldn't have him go twice in the series. Throw to first. Pitch down the pike, a little above the waist—Ball, really? Didn’t show bunt. Fouled off. Again. Inside, Jeter doesn't move, almost hit. Lofton goes, ball four high. Millar approaches mound. Reading his lips: "Throw strikes, stupid."
A-Rod—DP ball. Announcers impressed since it wasn't hit hard. I thought DP right away. Does Leskanic a favor. Dumb not to work count.
Sheffield—Called strike. Inside. Low over plate, he goes around—1-2. Jams him--Fouled off. Ball two, a little high, called ball two. Ump not giving high strike. Outside—full count. Mendoza up in the pen. Sheffield K's. Looked low to me, and he didn’t really go around. But he's walking away. Must've gone around enough.
Top of Fifth
Ortiz—called strike inside. Too far inside—1-1. Off hands—1-2. "Moose" cheers. Moose K signs. Outside—2-2. Ortiz steps out. Fouled off. One of the announcers (Buck?) just said the "P" word—what an idiot! Knuckle curve, taking low. 3-2. K's on curve. Buck segues into Jackson 5 "ABC" with "It has been as easy as ABC for Mussina". Shama Lama Ding Dong.
Millar—called strike inside corner. McCarver just said the "P" word. I feel like the guy in charge of the stoning in "Life of Brian". Little low—1-1. Fatsball fouled off. Curve in the dirt. Goes around, K2-3. Scooter makes his first appearance. Rizzuto should sue. Leiter explains curve with nice closeup of Mussina's delivery. Why use that stupid Scooter thing.
Nixon—dribbler. Mussina pounces. 1-2-3. "another P inning and a P night for Mussina"—Buck, the a-hole.
"Karate Explosion"—that commercial cracks me up every time. I am an idiot.
Bottom of Fifth
Willie Randolph to be interviewed by the Mets for managerial job. Must mean that they are ready to hire someone and need to meet MLB's minority requirements.
Matsui—Mendoza in. Off the end of the bat but on the track. Matsui seems like a different hitter this year. He improved so much and he wasn't bad in '03. Oh, the announcers just noticed the pitching change.
Williams—2-0. Rivera shows up in pen and gets big hand. Nice. Misses low curve. Rivera looks happy for a guy who just left a funeral. Low 3-1. Hit right to Bellhorn.
Posada—big curve right at his feet. HBP. Wakefield is up in pen—I guess he could still start game 4.
Olerud—2-0, gets away from Varitek, not far enough. Goes with pitch. Flair to left. No one's going to get it. Ramirez dogging it. Posada takes third.
Cairo—2-0, Mendoza losing plate. Announcers still talking about Schilling. Watch the frigging game. Fouls one straight back, just missed it. 3-1 on change inside. Ugly strike on low slider. 3-2. Lined right to Cabrera.
Top of the Sixth
Varitek—called strike on inside half. Hits one high and deep foul. Ball one in the dirt. McCarver—"Talk about odds: Varitek is 0-for-35 at Yankee Stadium this year, and Mussina has a P game in the sixth" Huh? Curve inside half, strikes out swinging.
Cabrera—Ball one. Ball two just off the outside corner. Called strike over the plate high. Same pitch—pop out to right.
Mueller—Ball one. Strike—same pitch as last two to Cabrera. Again—fouled off. "Moose" calls. Curve in dirt. 2-2. Low and inside. Full count. Leiter calls fastball. Foul tip on curve. Steps out. Pops out to Matsui.
14 pitches in the inning. 78 pitches in six innings.
Bottom of the Sixth
Lofton—strike. Way inside—almost hits 'im. Another ball. Fouled off. Inside. Brings his hands in. Nice adjustment. Pops it down the line. Fair or foul. They say it's a homer. I can't tell, Yankees 7-0.
Jeter—Hit the dirt. McCarver says it was a knuckleball. It looked like a soft fastball to me. Another inside. Now low, 3-0. Called strike a little higher. Hard grounder right to Mueller.
A-Rod—two quick strikes. Misses knuckler down the pike. Bad ABs tonight for A-Rod.
Sheffield—quick 2-0. Strike called on inside corner. Strike two, looked low. Sheffield lines it to left-center. Ramirez looks like he's about to fall down on every play. Double.
Matsui—Ball one. High and outside somehow called a strike. Hits a rope off his shoes. Down the line. RBI single. 8-0 Yanks. Leiter says it was a curve. He seemed to expect it and followed it with his eyes.
Williams—another curve for called strike. 1-1. Can't hold up. Then flies out to the corner in left.
Top of the Seventh
Damon—called strike outside. Fouled off curve. Ball one in the dirt inside. Damon almost went. Curve outside, 2-2. Knuckle-curve inside, way out in front. K number 8.
Bellhorn—Tops a fastball down the middle. Called strike on fastball on inside half. Hits another one to base of the wall. Why throw three exactly the same in a row? Double. "Moose".
Ramirez—first pitch right to Jeter. Two out and Bellhorn can’t advance.
Ortiz—ball. Inside Knuckle-curve. Fouled off. May have gotten away with one. Leiter is quoting Springsteen. Another—hits a soft liner to right. Runner to third.
Stottlemyer to the mound. The dolts in the booth discussing Springsteen's favorite NJ hot spots. Dumbing down Leiter.
Millar—Nice outside pitch, called strike. Sturtze up. Curve low. Hard liner to left. Matsui knocks it down on the run but can't get it. Two runs. McCarver blames Matsui for the second run by trying to catch the ball. The idiot.
Nixon—Ball right down the pike. Ball hits Posada in the chest. PB. Runner to third. Nice liner to center. 8-3 Yankees. Mussina is gone. He lost it in a hurry.
Sturtze is in. How many commercials do we get? I can't believe how easily Steinbrenner became the avuncular type.
Varitek—Fouled off. High 4-seamer. Strike. Same pitch. Gets out in a hurry. 8-5 Yankees.
Cabrera—two quick strikes. Steps out. Fouled off. K's on pitch way outside.
God Bless America. Bob Sheppard's intro takes longer than the song. That was a stunning turnaround. Mussina is saddled with four runs. If the Yankees end up losing this, the slow hook for Mussina will be questioned. "God Bless America" Plus a commercial? C'mon!
Bottom of Seventh
Wakefield pulled!?! I guess the Red Sox just realized they can win. Embree in.
Posada—Fouled off. Low, 1-1. Outside half of plate, fouled off. Another foul, on inside half. Ball 2. McCarver informs us that the stock market crashed in 1929, Bush blames Clinton. Another foul. Ground out to Bellhorn.
Olerud—Ball one. Gordon getting up in pen. Fouled off inside. Ball 2 right off the plate. Soft fly out to Ramirez. Every ball hit right to him is an adventure.
Cairo—Ball one. Rivera loosening up with weighted ball or there are a lot of mosquitos in the pen. Ball two. Strike one, looked low. Same pitch, takes it the other way, down the line. Right on the bag. Single.
Lofton—Throws to first. Again. Ball one. Called strike. Soft fly to left. Third out.
top of Eighth
Mueller—Ball one high. Ball two inside. Called strike on borderline low pitch. High fastball. Nice play by Cairo to get to the ball but he can't control it. Single.
Damon—Called strike. Ball. Way out in front of the change, 1-2. Rivera is up in the pen. K's on low change.
Bellhorn—got first hit. Sox have scored five runs in eight batters. Flies out.
Ramirez—Ball one outside. Over the plate, fouled off. Inside and high, jams him, flair beyond Jeter. Runner to third.
Ortiz—Gordon stays in against lefty. Ball one, looked like it caught the inside corner. Ball 2—way outside. Same pitch as first, fouls it off. Ball three very low. Oustide, Pop that goes all the way to the wall. Matsui seems to overrun it. Off his glove. Triple? Two runs. 8-7 Yanks.
Rivera coming in but may be one batter too late. What a weird game.
Millar—High, ball one. 2-0. Change outside corner, missed it. Pop up. Jeter behind the bag.
Bottom of the Eighth
Top of the order. Timlin in.
Jeter—Outside and low, ball one. Dribbler to Cabrera.
A-Rod—has been sucking wind all night. Let's see if he can do anything here. Swings through the fastball. Fouls off a fastball on inside half of the plate. High pitch going in towards his head. Varitek stands up to receive it. Was it anything more than a setup? Ball two. Nice liner to left. Ball got more of the plate than Varitek wanted. Single.
Sheffield—Called strike one. Throw to first. Ball way outside and low. Turns on an inside pitch, way foul. Vazquez up in the pen—just throwing in between starts? Inside, 2-2. A-Rod going, fouled off. Nice lofted liner to left.
Matsui—Inside and low, ball one. Timlin stops, crowd wants balk. Foulke up in pen. Same pitch, 2-0. Fouled off, ball got more plate than Varitek wanted. He was set up outside. Same setup got a pitch off the outside corner called a strike. It was a ball, Timmy. Jammed on a high inside pitch. Two outs.
Williams—Ball one outside. Outside, Williams goes that way with it. Soft liner deep to left. Ramirez jogs after it, can't get it. Williams gets all the way to third. Pitcher cuts it off but safe anyway. Yanks 10-7.
Timlin gone. Foulke in.
Posada—switches back to lefty. Ball one. It looks like Torre overworked Posada again. He doesn’t seem to have much left in the tank. Another inside. Now outside, 3-0. Change over the plate, 3-1. Soft liner to third.
Top of the Ninth
U2 "Vertigo" in an iPod commercial. Those guys went from "Sunday Bloody Sunday" to corporate shills.
Nixon—Pops up first pitch to short.
Varitek—Ball one inside. Lines it into dugout. Cabrera on deck—will they pinch-hit. Williams' hit ruled a double and an error, I guess, on Ramirez. Same pitch. Again, fouled back. Again. Varitek is going to time this eventually. Crossed up, way high, pasy Posada. And he does while Al Leiter tries to demonstrate a cutter, wrong time.
CABRERA—GROUNDER THROUGH ON THE LEFT SIDE
MUELLER—BALL ONE, STRIKE ONE CALLED ON INSIDE CORNER. LOOKED GOOD TO ME. BALL TWO. LINER FOUL. MO, KEEP THE BALL DOWN. RIGHT TO RIVERA, DP 163.
SINATRA PLAYING, YANKEES WIN 10-7, AND MY KEYBOARD CAPS ARE EVIDENTLY LOCKED.
Fearless Predictions… Part II (The Self-Congratulatory Edition)
Don't know why I'm even bothering.
Brimming with confidence after correctly selecting all of the division series–hey, it's a 1-in-16 shot—, I shall now sally forth wondering how I will screw it up. So I won't. I'll stick with the predictions that I had at the start of the playoffs even though logic might now dictate otherwise.
Those predictions were:
ALCS: Yankees in 6 (Pedro Martinez implodes as there are no sexagenarians to toss around this year.)
NLCS: Astros in 7 (Pixie dust again does in a staff.)
WS: Astros in 6 (What the hey? They are the hot team that snuck in. They should be huge favorites given the recent past.)
Now for logic: The pitching matchups for the first three games in the ALCS will be Curt Schilling-Mike Mussina (slight edge to Boston), Pedro Martinez-John Leiber (big edge to Boston), and Bronson Arroyo-Kevin Brown (slight edge to Yankees, it would be bigger if it weren't only his fourth start since he lost a fight with a wall).
The matchups aren't set after that. The game-one starters could pitch game four on three day's rest. If they can't go, the Red Sox will bring out Tim Wakefield, who befuddled the Yankees in last year's ALCS until the Aaron Boone series clincher. The Yankees have less enviable options. Either it will be Javier Vazquez, who stunk up the field (5 ER in 5 IP) in the Twins series clincher, or either Esteban Loaiza or Tanyon Sturtze, who have both been working out of the bullpen in long relief. Sturtze's last start was August 11; Loaiza's September 21. It's also been pointed out ad nausem that Vazquez had a horrible second half (4-5 with a 6.92 ERA). This becomes a big edge for the Sox.
That gives the Yankees a pitching advantage on paper in just two of the seven potential games and those are in shaking wall-punching hands of Kevin Brown. Given that the Red Sox were leading 5-2 in game seven of the ALCS last year with only five Yankee outs to go and lost in the eleventh, 6-5, on Boone's home run, some will say that the pitching edge will be enough to turn the tide.
I guess that's more logic. I guess it makes sense. I don't care. These are the Red Sox facing the Yankees. They'll find a way to lose. Besides the Yankess have a secret weapon, the "Whose Your Daddy?" T-shirts.
As for the NLCS, I already went through the Astros' starting pitching woes. The matchups are not set but I guess they'll be Woody Williams-Brandon Backe in game one, Matt Morris-Pete Munro(?) in game two, Jeff Suppan-Roger Clemens in game 3, and Jason Marquis-Roy Oswalt in game four. The first two games favor the Cardinals and the next two the Astros.
The Astros will most probably have Clemens and Oswalt again go on three day's rest for games six and seven should it go that far. That minimizes their advantage.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros made a roster change of two for the next round to add a long reliever/swing man type (Brandon Duckworth, Darren Oliver, Tim Redding, or Carlos Hernandez) if for no other reason than to eat up innings and give the other overworked relievers a rest. Hey, you never know—one of them might start game two.
All of this, their killer lineup, and the fact that every broadcaster will tell you that St. Louis is the best baseball town with the best fans in America dictate that the Cardinals are big favorites. I don't care. I'll still take the 'Stros to carry on the proud tradition of the 2002 Angels and 2003 Marlins, i.e., teams that shouldn't have but did win.
So I'll fend off logic. I'll find off the impulse to emulate Joe Morgan and argue for both sides at once. I'll go with my original choices. What's the difference: I'm already guaranteed a better than .500 postseason anyway. So ending up 4-3 in my predictions will assuage my ego when I watch the Red Sox celebrate the first World Series championship since World War I, beating the Cardinals (stop it, Joe!).
It is interesting though that the League Championship Series both feature the best team by record in each league plus the runner-up in the same division. It's a referendum on the wild card.
Consider that the better team has lost in the LCS more often than it's won (in this table series victories are divided up by the teams with the better record and those with a worse record):
Also, the team with the better expected winning percentage fairs even worse:
The Yankees and Cardinals, of course, had the better record since they each won their division. The results in expected wins are slightly different, however. The Cards still lead the 'Stros (.628 to .569), but the Red Sox have a distinct "advantage" over the Yankees (.604 to .552).
What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing, but it's kind of cool. The "odds" predict that the Red Sox will both win and lose. And given that it's the Red Sox, maybe they can, in their own inimitable idiom. And again, this analysis does not take into account the "Who's Your Daddy" T's.
Ad-Venturas in Robin Sitting
After the Dodgers were ousted from the playoffs the other day by the Cardinals, Robin Ventura retired after 16 years in the majors.
Ventura will be remembered as a good player (a two-time All-Star) and a very good defensive third baseman (six Gold Gloves). He'll be remembered for being baseball's version of Joe Theissman: he caught his spikes sliding into home in an exhibition game in spring training of 1997 dislocating his ankle and suffering a compound fracture. Amazingly, he returned just after the All-Star break (a week before the famous White Sox-Giants "White Flag" trade). He's also one of 86 players ever to play for both the Yankees and the Mets.
Though Ventura is in no way a Hall-of-Fame caliber of player, he does reside in that next tier of very good players that seem to be brimming with third basemen. Here are all the players with at least 250 home runs and at least 1000 games at third. Ventura is 12th. The recently deceased Ken Caminiti just missed the list with 239 HRs. Both Chipper Jones and Vinny Castilla passed him this season:
The Excuse Me Series
The Astros finally beat the Braves, 12-3, tonight to advance to the NL Championship Series. Much will be made of the Astros winning their first series, but c'mon, someone had to win this series and both of these teams were famous for first-round hooks.
Much will also be made (and has been made) of former Astro third baseman Ken Caminiti's unexpected death last night at the age of 41. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell were both long-time teammates of Caminiti, but few others on the current roster had even any contact with Caminiti and that was in his second, abbreviated tour in Houston in 1999-2000 (they are Lance Berkman, Raul Chavez, Morgan Ensberg, and Wade Miller). I am saddened by Caminiti's passing for a number of reasons: 1) he was a joy to watch on the field, giving his all on every play, 2) his death will stir up the steroid bugbear, and 3) he was a perennial on my rotisserie team mainly because he was the only player in baseball history whose name bore even a passing resemblance to "Carminati". By the way, MLB seemingly used its newfound clout in DC to rush some porkbelly legislation on steroids through the Senate the day after Caminiti's death. Any connection?
Anyway, back to the game. They game was as odd as the series. A man was hit by a batted ball for the second time in the series. This time it was Rafael Furcal, who was hit by a J.D. Drew bullet up the middle, which ended up somehow being scored a hit (though I'm not sure how). The managers stuck with pitchers for too long and pulled odd double-switches. But luckily for the Astros, their superior talent up and down the lineup and on the pitching staff finally came to bear in simply overwhelming the Braves. All this came amid commercials for the Yankee-Red Sox series (that Jeanne Zelasko did a great running series on the history of the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry. Apparently, it goes all the way back to when the Yankees picked up A-Rod. You just can't get this sort of coverage anywhere else).
The game was close (4-2 Astros) until the seventh, but the were some odd calls earlier. Leading 3-0, Roy Oswalt was up in the fifth with one out and the catcher, Raul Chavez, on first. Oswalt was called on to bunt as everyone in the house knew would happen, he laid down a decent bunt, but Adam LaRoche wisely held Chavez at first and then was able to nab Chavez at first. That left Oswalt, who was already tired, on first with two out and he had to run out a ground out by the next batter, Biggio. Oswalt showed his fatigue in the next half inning, but more on that later.
Why not have the runner go on the pitch? Who cares if he gets thrown out? The worst case scenario would be a) your pitcher would have to stand there and watch three pitches wiz by as he saved his energy, b) you would still be up 3-0, and c) you'd have the top of the order coming up in the next inning. The best case is that the bunt is successful, and your pitcher can take a sit and relax while you try to lengthen the lead. My point is that the most valued resource at this point was Oswalt's arm. I don't like the idea of playing fast and loose with outs in a relatively close game, but the most important thing was to keep Oswalt in the game for as long as possible. The worst way to do that is to get him on base, which is what the bunt did even though it was a good one. Anyway, back to Oswalt's fatigue.
Oswalt, who had been able to get by by located his curve and fastball even though the Braves reached in each of the first four innings, started to lose control in the bottom of the fifth. He gave up a leadoff home run to Rafael Furcal and a two-out homer to Johnny Estrada along with some long fly outs by Chipper Jones and Adam LaRoche and a sloppy walk to Andruw Jones. However, Phil Garner did not get a reliever up in the pen until the Chipper Jones' flyout for the second out.
Oswalt could locate neither his fastball nor curve. The curve was constantly in the dirt and the fastball was getting way too much plate. The four-seamer still had some pop but he almost hit Andruw Jones with it. And even Garner should have known to pull him against the left-hander (LaRoche) when the score was 3-2, two outs, and a man on first. But he was able to get LaRoche to get under a fly ball to Carlos Beltran in front of the warning track.
Beltran got one of the runs back in the top of the sixth with his second homer of the game (4-2 Astros). And I have to hand it to Garner for brining in Chad Qualls after he gave up the three runs yesterday in almost the same exact situation. He believes in the guy and stuck with him, for which he was rewarded with a perfect inning from Qualls.
Next, came the five-run Astro seventh which seemingly put the game out of reach. The Braves pulled Kevin Gryboski, who had replaced starter Jaret Wright after he gave up the second Beltran home run and a one-out walk to Berkman, for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth. Chris Reitsma relieved Gryboski and after a leadoff single seemed to get out of trouble. With Jose Vizcaino on first and none out, Chavez sacrificed him to second, a choice that looks laughable when one considers that the 'Stros were about to score five runs in the inning. Then Qualls was rewarded for his perfect inning by being pinch-hit for by Mike Lamb, who promptly popped out in foul territory.
It looked like Garner had smallballed them out of the inning and then Craig Biggio unexpectedly singled to right. J.D. Drew short-hopped the catch and came up firing to home. Vizcaino and the ball came in at the same time, but the throw was off line. Vizcaino scored, the ball got away from Estrada, and Biggio wisely moved up all the way to third. It was an error on Drew, and one would say it was an unwise throw by Drew but a good one may have gotten the runner. I'm surprised it wasn't cut off. Letting Biggio go all the way to third was inexcusable.
Then with Beltran up batting left, the count went to 3-1, and then Reitsma grooved one that Beltran hit to right, scoring Biggio (6-2 Astros). I would have pulled Reitsma in favor of a lefty to force Beltran to bat right-handed. I certainly would not have let him pitch to Bagwell, who homered to left-center to run the score to 8-2.
Then Cox finally pulled Reitsma in favor of the left-hander Tom Martin (who should have come in for Beltran). Berkman doubled on Martin's first pitch. Jeff Kent then fouled off five pitches before singling Berkman in for the fifth run of the inning, all with two outs (9-2 Astros). Kent was caught trying to stretch the hit to a double.
The Braves got one run back in the bottom of the inning (9-3 Astros). With Ensberg up, Martin was pulled in favor of Juan Cruz, a right-hander. Again, his first pitch resulted in a double. Again, the next two men made outs and the runner moved up (to third). Jason Lane pinch-hit for Chavez and reached when a tough dribbler with lots of spin was dropped by Chipper Jones at third for a tough error (10-3).
Then the flood gates opened. Biggio doubled (11-3). And yet Cox left Cruz in. Beltran singled in Biggio (12-3).
This is the deciding game, remember? Cox still left Cruz in.
Finally, after he walked Bagwell after starting 1-2, and then Cox turned to Paul Byrd. To compound the slow hook, Cox decided to pull a double-switch. He brought in Eddie Perez to catch and bat ninth. Byrd would bat fourth. Yeah, the Braves are down by nine and have just nine outs to catch up, and Cox pulls his cleanup hitter. I know that the Braves don't really have a cleanup hitter, but one would assume that Estrada was there for some reason. If Bowa had pulled Jim Thome in a similar situation, he'd have been eviscerated, but then again, Bowa didn't know how to double-switch. And what do you get for a lost cleanup hitter, the opportunity for Byrd to pitch another inning.
Byrd got the next hitter, and the cleanup spot never came up again, but Cox didn't manage to the situation.
Anyway, the Astros advance to meet the Cardinals on Wednesday. Both staffs are pretty badly beaten up. Woody Williams will probably open the series again for the Cardinals. He was good in the DS but wasn't great in the regular season. Jeff Suppan pitched well yesterday, but probably won't go until game three, which means he faces Roger Clemens. Matt Morris and Jason Marquis looked pretty bad in the NLDS and Chris Carpenter is done.
Braves Garner Series Tie
As I was listening to today's Braves-Astros game in the car on the way to my in-laws I heard something that I was sure was a mistake. The announcer said that Mike Gallo was coming in for the Astros to pitch the seventh inning of the tie ballgame. Then he said that the Astros had pulled a double-switch, yanking leadoff hitter Craig Biggio, who was 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI, in favor of Jason Lane. Well, double-switches are fine and good, and can even make sense when you pull the hottest hitter in the given game. However, when all you get out of the bargain is moving the pitcher down one spot in the order, it's a bad decision.
I attributed to either an error by the announcer or too much static on the dicey AM station I was barely hearing the game on. I never thought that the truth, that the switch was made, was the actual truth until later in the game when the pitcher's spot came up.
Many will point to Phil Garner's decision to pull future Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens after a scant five innings and 87 pitches was his biggest mistake of the game. Clemens had just completed a perfect inning on just 11 pitches, they'll say. With Clemens in, the 'Stros were winning 5-2. Without him, their pen caved giving up four runs in four innings and lost the game.
They do have a point, but Clemens was coming off three day's rest and had gotten over a stomach virus. Maybe that's the best he expected to get from the Rocket. Some will fault him with starting Clemens at all if he wasn't fully ready. Then again, five innings of Clemens may be better than seven from another pitcher.
The problem wasn't pulling Clemens; it was entrusting a three-run lead to a rookie pitcher who had pitched 16-1/3 innings in the majors prior to last month, Chad Qualls. In September and October, as the Astros were ascending to the wild card thrown, Qualls registered a 2.41 ERA, six holds, and one save. Garner had started to use Qualls in the old Brad Lidge, i.e., old Octavio Dotel role as a setup man. Garner had already called on Qualls twice in the series, once with the game tied. He just went to Qualls one too many times. His single-mindedness had caused him to bypass Dan Wheeler, who had even better stats in the second half though in a more limited role, than Qualls. There was also Dan Miceli and Russ Springer, whom Garner preferred to use in a shorter outings.
But whatever, Garner trusted the inexperienced reliever and if he had held the Braves run-less, he would have drawn comparisons to Francisco Rodriguez in 2002. I can't really fault him: he knows his personnel better than I do. I was surprised that he let the game get away from Qualls and still let him finish out the inning after hanging a fastball that Adam Laroche crushed for a three-run, upper-deck home run.
Where Garner really erred was in the Biggio double-switch and then a double-switch that never was. In the eighth, Dan Miceli relieved Gallo and gave up a one-out walk to Johnny Estrada. That brought closer Brad Lidge in to prevent the go-ahead run. I agree with the move, but Garner forgot that Lidge was due up fifth in the next inning. Lidge did his job, retiring the last two hitters without a run scoring. However, when the Astros mounted a rally in the bottom of the inning—men at first and third with two outs—Garner pinch-hit for his closer with Orlando Palmeiro who promptly grounded out to end the inning.
Then Garner turned to Russ Springer, not Wheeler, after Springer gave up three runs the previous day. Then, they decided to pitch to lefty J.D. Drew with one out and a man on second, after the runner, Rafael Furcal, stole second on the first pitch to Drew. Springer pitched better against lefties (.240/.355/.400/.755) than righties (.310/.355/.483/.838) this year, so that's why Garner allowed him to face Drew in the first place. But it also may have led Garner to believe that setting up the doubleplay with righty Marcus Giles up was not as preferable as facing Drew. I would have thought a different pitcher, given that Springer's stats (and his lengthy career) weren't great to begin with. Then even though Springer fell behind 3-1, they still threw a curveball to Drew, with which he drove in the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Garner didn't even get another pitcher up in the pen until the run had scored.
I guess that's what happens when you have two teams that have become famous for losing in the first round. Maybe it's Bobby Cox's turn to small ball the Braves out of victory tomorrow.
By the way, the much talked about ground rule that resulted in keeping Craig Biggio's second-inning at-bat alive and led to his three-run homer, was absolutely in the Houston ground rules. Here it is.
Weirdness in the First
[Written before today's games.]
Yesterday's Braves-Astros game ended in a typical fashion with the Astros winning again at home for the 19 straight time. However, the start was anything but typical.
The Braves starter John Thomson had to leave after four pitches because of a strained oblique muscle. One has to wonder why Thomson started if he was ailing that badly. Anyway, he was replaced by Paul Byrd, who ended up taking the loss after surrendering four runs and seven hits in 4-1/3 innings.
Thomson exited after one out, a double to Carlos Beltran, and two balls to Jeff Bagwell. Byrd battled Bagwell to a full count, but he finally walked. The base on balls was charged to Thomson under this combination of rules:
BASES ON BALLS
So when a starting pitcher leaves a game, he may not know whether he will be charged with a decision, a run, an earned run, and in this case a walk. Thomson was credited with three batters faced in a third of an inning, and Byrd 22 in 4-1/3. If Bagwell had scored, it would have been charged to Thomson even though he was not on base when Thomson left the game. Had Byrd given up a hit to Bagwell, Thomson would only have been charged with even facing Bagwell.
Thomson's quick exit and the Bagwell BB were odd enough, but it then there was a play on the next batter that was odder still. With Bagwell at first and Beltran at second, Lance Berkman hit a bullet towards Marcus Giles, the second baseman. With the runners going it looked like they would have to settle for Berkman at first and the Astros would have second and third with two outs. However, as Bagwell scurried to second the ball came right at him very quickly. Bagwell is no longer at his most agile and the ball hit him on the trailing foot even though he tried to evade it.
Bagwell was out, the ball was dead, and the Astros had runners at second and third. Here is the rule involved:
OK, so that says that Bagwell is out, the ball is dead, and Beltran cannot advance. That leaves Berkman. Why is he allowed to advance to first? Here's the reason:
By 6.04, since Berkman was not out, he could only have completed his time at bat if he had become a runner. But had he? Couldn't Bagwell have been out, the runner stayed at second, and Berkman continue with his at-bat? But what would the call be for the ball that hit Bagwell, a strike?
Well, 6.09 says that since he had hit a fair ball, he became a runner and therefore, his at-bat was over. By 7.08 above no runners may advance except those "forced to advance". Berkman was a runner, he couldn’t be put out since the ball was dead when it hit Bagwell. Even if it caromed directly to Giles and he could easily throw Berkman out, it would all be a moot point. Since Berkman was a runner, he had to be allowed to advance to first given that he was forced to advance.
But how is it scored? Bagwell is out and therefore, Berkman gets a hitless at-bat, but he gets credited with the putout? Well, there's an answer for that, too:
So Giles gets the putout unassisted. Then Jeff Kent struck out to end the inning.
Dodger fans can rejoice over winning their first postseason game since clinching the 1988 World Series championship in 1988--they had lost eight in a row. Jose Lima was a robustious revelation shutting out the powerful Cardinals lineup for a full nine innings. Shawn Green looked like the player of old with two home runs, going 3-for-4 overall.
However, this game had all the markings of a one-game aberration in an eventual Cardinal win. First, Tony LaRussa stuck with Matt Morris for seven innings although he looked quite overmatched much of the game. As long as the game was eithin reached, he was going to allow his innings hog and one-time ace to throw.
Meanwhile, Jim Tracy mawkishly left Lima in for the ninth with a four-run lead with closer Eric Gagne on the bench. Lima ended up throwing 109 pitches. He had 99 after eight and could possibly have been used as at least a threat later in the series. Gagne has pitched just one inning in the postseason, and was a very good bet to hold the lead.
When the Cards eventually win this series, the Dodger fans will have their one moment in the sun, but Tracy could have used his as a step towards a great comeback. Now, it's just an aberration.
Duo-cide: A Twin Self-Killing
Today the Yankees beat the Twins, 6-5 in eleven innings, and will now meet the Red Sox in the Bronx on Tuesday to kick off the ALCS (and I celebrated the fact that my first round predictions all look pretty good for the first time ever). Again Alex Rodriguez was the hero, scoring a run single-handedly in the top of the eleventh with a double, stolen base, and a run scored on a wild pitch. Also, Ruben Sierra jump-started the Yankee offense with a three-run homer in the eighth to cap a four-run inning and tie the score at 5-5.
But before we celebrate the Yankee heroes, we should remember the Twin mistakes that helped the Yankees get back into and to win this game. Maybe that is a celebration of the Yankees since they always seem to make fewer errors as a series progresses.
The Twins started off the game right, quickly jumping all over Javier Vazquez, but missed an opportunity to knock him out in the first. Shannon Stewart led off the bottom of the first with a single to shallow center on an 0-1 pitch. Jacque Jones then singled to deep right sending on a 2-1 pitch Stewart to third. Torii Hunter then sent an 0-2 pitch to the right field warming track which plated Stewart. Then Justin Morneau struck out on a 2-2 pitch (the seventh of the at-bat), and Jones was doubled up trying to steal second by a good throw by Jorge Posada. If the Twins had gone for the jugular, then the Yankees great comeback would have maybe been much greater.
The Twins again put pressure on Vazquez in the second but came away with nothing. Lew Ford was hit by a pitch with one out and stole second. Then Christian Guzman and Michael Cuddyer both struck out on sliders and looked very ugly doing it.
In the third, Hideki Matsui bounced a ball to right scoring Derek Jeter. Henry Blanco, who is in the game for his defense, blocked the plate without the ball. Jeter was able to take his legs out and the throw from Jones went past Blanco allowing Matsui to move to second. Blanco was charged with the error.
In the fourth after Gary Sheffield lost the Justin Morneau fly ball in the roof and they had second and third with no outs, the proceeded to score just one run. Corey Koskie art least sent a fly to left that was deep enough to score one run. But he might have been a little more patient at the plate (he hit the first pitch) and kept the rally going instead of exchanging an out for a run even though conventional thinking demands that he go for the sac fly.
The Twins finally drew blood in the fifth scoring three, two with two outs.
Esteben Loaiza came in for the sixth, and after Michael Cuddyer singled, the next batter, Henry Blanco, showed bunt on the first two pitches. The Yankees pitched out and nabbed Cuddyer at second. Blanco went on to get a single in an 11-pitch at-bat after fouling off seven straight pitches. Shannon Stewart then started off 3-0 only to foul out on what looked like ball four. Jones singled Blanco to third on the first pitch. But the rally died when Hunter fouled out on the first pitch. They could have gotten deeper into the Yankee bullpen with a 4-run lead and didn't. They played for one extra run (i.e., with the bunt) and got none.
In the seventh, Lew Ford ended the inning by getting caught stealing. The Twins had one hit (a two-out double by Jason Kubel in the eighth) in the final four innings.
Then there was the Yankee eleventh. With one out, Alex Rodriguez hit double down the third base line. He then stole third when Kyle Lohse paid him no attention. He then scored when Lohse bounced an outside pitch to the plate. (By the way, Lyons blamed Pat Borders for backhanding the pitch and even though he should have attempted to block the pitch, it bounced way in front of him and then hit off his shoulder. I don't think he could have done anything to block it.)
The last mistake that people will point to was Ron Gardenhire pulling Johan Santana after five innings and just 87 pitches. I agree that Santana looked fine in the fifth, striking out two and probably could have stayed in at least another inning or two. However, Greg Balfour, who relieved Santana, pitched two perfect innings. Rincon then came in to surrender the lead, but he had been an effective pitcher all season. One could argue that using Balfour early depleted the pen to the point where Kyle Lohse (5.34 ERA in 2004) looked like a reasonable option when the game went into extra innings. But that's a somewhat spurious argument: the Twins still had Jesse Crain and J.C. Romero available in the pen.
That said, why bring in Lohse in that situation, i.e., the game on the line, when you have credible relievers available? Why is Lohse in the bullpen to begin with? Because he didn't pitch well enough to make the rotation. If you want to use him to eat up the middle innings should the starter be pulled early, that's fine. Wasn't that the reason that they didn't put long reliever Joe Roa on the playoff roster, because they would have two starters in the pen for middle relief? When are these people going to learn that you don't want your tail-end starters coming into a game in an unusual role (for them) with the game on the line? Ddidn't Gardenhire see what happened to the Angels just the day before by using Jarrod Washburn in a tie ballgame in extra innings?
What was I saying about demonizing mansgers for pitching decisions?Well, no sooner do I say that and then flip-flop and criticize Mike Scioscia. So here goes...
The Angels were swept from the postseason today by the Red Sox with a two-run, tenth-inning home run by David Ortiz. That came after an almost inconceivable five-run comeback in the seventh capped by a Valdimir Guerrero's game-tying grand slam.
Just prior to Ortiz's home run, Angel manager Mike Scioscia replaced Francisco Rodriguez with Jarrod Washburn, a left-handed starter who pitched game one, to pitch to the left-handed Ortiz. Of course, what happens on Washburn's first pitch? It gets launched over the Green Monster.
Now Scioscia is being second guessed for pulling Rodriguez in favor of Washburn. I think there was a bad decision, but there were two decisions made and only one was bad.
Rodriguez had thrown 38 pitches in 2-2/3 innings. That's a lot for a setup guy. Besides, there was a lefty coming up and everyone knows that a right-hander should under no circumstances pitch to a lefty with the game on the line (to paraphrase Vizzini in "The Princess Bride"). Of course, I'm being facetious. Let's compare their numbers vs. lefties:
Well, K-Rod's is better, but they are both pretty good. Let's take a look at Ortiz's splits. Keep in mind that until he came to Boston, the Twins were reluctant to use him against lefties:
Ortiz vs. LHP: .250/.315/.469/.784
Well, that looks like a no-brainer. But wait, Washburn just faced Ortiz the other day (game one)—who won their contests then? In game one, he singled on the first pitched offered in the first scoring the first run and he walked in the fourth on four pitches and later scored. He also grounded out to end the fourth but Washburn had already been pulled. That was two plate appearances both of which resulted in runs being scored, which doesn't seem all that encouraging.
So what would I do? The Angels have had one of the best bullpens of all time over the last four or so—believe me, I've studied it—, and the anchor of that has been Troy Percival, the closer. Percival had pretty good numbers against lefties this year (.218/.331/.396/.727), he wasn't tired (his last game was six days ago), and he didn’t get rocked in game one. Washburn was pretty horrific that day giving up seven runs but just three earned in three innings on five hits and three walks. And truth be told, Washburn hasn't been that great a pitcher since the Angels won the Series in 2002 (4.34 ERA in 2003 and 4.64 this year).
It is inexcusable that Scioscia did not use his ace reliever for what boiled down to their biggest game of the year. And on top of it, he turned to a pitcher who had been ineffective just three days before to the same team and was pitching in an atypical role.
But he was a lefty facing a lefty, so all was right with the world.
Maybe he was thinking that he would be skewered if he brought in a righty to replace a righty and lost the game. Maybe he though Washburn would redeem himself. I don't know. I can't and won't psychoanalyze him. All I know is that he lost in three games without using his closer. I'm not even sure if he even warmed up. And he was on his playoff deathbed and made a bad decision.
However, that decision was not pulling Rodriguez. It was sending in Washburn. Everyone will be coupling the two, but they are separate decisions. Unlike the Grady Little trend of late, he did not stick with a pitcher too long. Rodriguez was pitching relatively well and may have been able to go one more batter (I'll trust Scioscia's judgment here). However, the pitcher that goes in afterwards had better be your best available pitcher. That was Troy Percival, but Scioscia chose Washburn. It was a bad decision and Washburn ended up Donnie Moore-ing the game.
Anyway, Scioscia will be vilified but not for the wrong decision. He be blamed for the right one, and that's a shame because now the next manager will be pressured into keeping his middle reliever in the game too long. They're will be both the Grady Little and the Mike Scioscia affects which will result in more jittery managers and even wackier decisions
So now Jim Tracy is being vilified like Ron Gardenhire the other day for sticking with a pitcher too long?
I mean, the Dodger bullpen did throw, 6-1/3 innings the other day after all. Jeff Weaver looked pretty good going into the inning (as good as he can). He had given up just one hit and thrown 25 pitches over the prior two innings.
Yes, Weaver hit Larry Walker on his second pitch of the fifth inning. And yes, Albert Pujols got a nice single on the pitch after that. But then Rolen flied out on the next pitch, and Weaver struck Jim Edmonds out on five pitches. It looked like he could get himself out of the inning, but then he lost a pitch inside that hit Reggie Sanders to load the bases. Maybe he should have come out for Mike Matheny, but the Sanders pitch was in right location just overthrown. I guess Tracy felt that Weaver was the best option at the time. Of course, Matheny singled in two runs. Then Weaver was gone, but the damage was already done, and the second-guessing began.
Tracy is doubly criticized for the decision after Tony LaRussa pulled Cardinal starter Jason Marquis with the score tied in the fourth, one out, one on, and the pitcher up. I was surprised by but agreed with LaRussa's call since it was clear that Marquis had completely lost control. He had given up back-to-back homers to Shawn Green and Milton Bradley to start the inning, both on fastballs which errantly went right over the plate high. Alex Cora then flied out deep to left, and David Ross walked on five pitches. But the kicker was when Weaver came up to bunt, Marquis spun him around with an errant inside pitch. That brought the quick hook.
The reliever, Cal Eldred, was actually lucky not to give up more runs. Weaver popped up the bunt. Then Eldred walked the bases loaded before getting Steve Finley to fly out. The Cardinal bullpen ended up going 5-2/3 shutout innings allowing just two hits and three walks. So LaRussa's a genius and Tracy's a fool.
Is all of baseball adopting the Red Sox "goat" mentality? Last year, Dusty Baker kept Mark Prior in way, way too long in the NLCS. No one even blinked. The had found their goat for that game, Steve Bartman.
Now one batter too many can rain down criticism and Grady Little comparisons. Are the media just a bunch of lemmings who can't analyze a given issue but would rather reprint old, rote stories?
To quote Senator John Blutarsky, "Oh, sorry." Stupid question.
Recycling is mandatory in Philadelphia
Meet the new boss, the same as the old boss.
The Phils are set to interview Don Baylor, Charlie Manuel and Grady Little for next week.
Manuel, currently assistant to GM Ed Wade, has been mentioned throughout the season as a likely replacement for Larry Bowa. Jim Thome likes him from his Cleveland days. The decision may already be made with the others there just for due dilligence and to accommodate MLB's hiring requirements. Hey, at least they're not getting Chris Chambliss and Willie Randolph's hopes up again.
[By the way, I stole the headline pun from my friend Mike.]
I think that Bobby Cox is possibly the greatest manager of the last twenty years. That he has consistently been able to field a team that contends on a yearly basis for going on 14 years is staggering. And what he, pitching coach Leo Mazzone, and his staff have been able to do with a team that, by all rights should have done no better than .500 is incredible.
That said, I don't think Cox will ever get his due because of the cockeyed moves that he pulls in in-game situations during playoff games.
He uses excessive pinch-runner inadvertently burning up his bench: using both Wilson Betemit and Nick Green to score just one run in the eighth.
He uses his fastest runner to bunt over the runner with a tie ballgame in the ninth: i.e. using Furcal, who you'll remember won the game with a homer, to bunt Smoltz to second with no out in the ninth. Smoltz never scores. What are the odds that Furcal will be doubled up? Aren't the odds better to let Furcal swing away and if the get the lead runner, he'll steal the base anyway?
Throw in the bad decision by Furcal to go home (and then stop and then go again) on a pitch that got away from the Raul Chavez a few pitches after the Giles K in the eighth, and you know why it took the Braves 12 hits to score their first two runs and it took Houston only four.
But the oddest was the bullpen phone incident. Cox claimed that Phil Garner was up to "shenanigans" claiming that the phone from the dugout to the bullpen wasn't functioning. He had to send an emissary (game three starter Brendon Backe) down to the bullpen to retrieve his closer Brad Lidge. Cox protested the game saying that Garner was just wasting time to allow Lidge to loosen up. The protest is now a moot point since the Braves won, but I just don’t see any grounds for it anyway.
I don't know what Cox would have put in his official protest, but the announcers mentioned two things. First, that Garner came out of the dugout twice but did not replace his pitcher as the rule stipulates. Well, this is baseless since the rule states that he must visit the mound, and the second time he came out was to inform the home plate umpire that his dugout phone wasn't working. Second, he then proceeded to pull Roy Oswalt anyway. By the way, here's the rule to which they referred:
Next, there are the "shenanigans". Well, I don’t think it was ever established one way or the other if the phone worked. But Lidge had been up and appeared ready. When the call was finally made to the pen, he came right in. That all seems consistent with Garner attempting to call in a ready pitcher and not being able to do so. However, there is nothing that I could find in the rules covering the operation of a bullpen or dugout phone. There are no ground rules pertaining to it since the Braves apparently have no ground rules.
As far as what an umpire should do with a situation not in the rules, well, they cover that too:
The umpire made a judgment call and believed Garner. Then he proceeded to continue with the game in the most expeditious manner possible (sending a scout to retrieve the next pitcher). I can't imagine what Cox would have protested. Maybe the fact that the Braves can't seem to get about 80% of capacity for their home playoff attendance. Whatever it was, now we'll never know.
One Trick Pony
Closer Joe Nathan had never pitched more than two innings for the Twins. As matter of fact, he hadn’t pitched more than one inning in an appearance since June 9 and had only four outings all year that went over one inning long (in 73 appearances). He hadn’t gone at least three innings in an outing since 2000 when he was a starter for the Giants (and back then he had a 5.21 ERA). So why did his manager, Ron Gardenhire, consider bringing him out for the third straight inning yesterday, in the twelfth inning of a tied ballgame on the road? Gardenhire didn’t even have anyone ready in the bullpen to relieve him.
The Twins manager is sure to get blamed should the Yankees win this series for overusing his closer. But did he suddenly go beserk? Was he conducting a science experiment? A psychological one? Did he have a bet with Will Carroll?
Or is he just another victim of Division Series-itis? That’s the disease that afflicts a team when it must get the upper hand in a best-of-five series.
While, the Yankees were pulling out the improbable win, the Red Sox and Angels were playing a close nip-and-tuck game out west. It eventually turned into a blowout as the Sox scored four runs in the ninth. But the juxtaposing of the two close games demonstrated how fragile a team’s World Series hopes are.
As the AL series go into a one-day hiatus, the two losers in game one are headed in different directions. The Yankees tied their series in the second game, in what may be considered the turning point of the series. The Angels fell two games back and may soon exeunt the postseason. With the Braves and Dodgers getting beaten badly in the first game of their series, they are in similar positions today. However, given the pitchers they are sending to the mound, they seem far more likely to follow the Angels’ path than the Yankees’.
One thing’s for sure, the second game of the series, which in seven-game series is just another step in the progression, sort of an Act I scene ii to the series. It is the end of the first part of the series, before the teams regroup in the lower-seeded team’s home. In a five-game series it’s almost the denouement. It’s like that sketch on Sesame Street when they are building a story with just a beginning and an end with no middle. That leaves a less than awe-inspiring story for the first round of the playoffs. It’s just the arbitrary preamble to the epic battles of the seven-game series to follow. Is it any wonder that improbable wild card teams often survive this round and springboard to the World Series?
So what’s to be done? Of course, the only solution is to expand this round to seven games. But not only does MLB not want to deal with the consequences of adding the extra games plus the open travel dates (e.g., do they extend the postseason or shorten the regular season? And if it’s the latter, how is it done, by resurrecting—gasp!—true doubleheaders or even worse returning to 154-game schedules?), but they don’t even recognize it as a problem. Who cares if opens the door to more upsets? Everyone likes the underdog anyway. Who cares if it makes a mockery of the whole playoff system? C’mon, this is the sport that determines homefield for the World Series via an exhibition game peopled mostly with players from non-playoff teams.
So what’s going to make them change their minds? I can’t imagine what that would be. An act of god? The only thing that motivates the powers that be in MLB is, you guessed it, dough-ray-me money. Maybe if the Brewers ever had a prospect of making the playoffs and Bud could derive some extra income from an expanded round of playoffs, maybe he would get behind the idea. But with the team in the process of being sold that seems less likely all the time. The only way I see them expanding is if the revenue generated by two potential playoff games per division series would outweigh the moneys lost with somehow curtailing the regular-season schedule. Given that we are talking about two days (a seven-game series takes nine days, and a five-game takes seven), that means that those eight potential playoff games (two per four division series) must outweigh 30 regular season games (fifteen per day). That means that the division series revenue must be at least at least 4.5 times a regular season game and that the added revenue would have to be shared among all the clubs. So what do you think the odds are of expanding the first round?
Take My GM Please
Ex-Phils manager Larry Bowa put in an appearance on ESPN's Baseball Tonight yesterday and then appeared in the Forgetable-Corporate-Sponsor Hot Seat also on ESPN.
My guess is that in an effort to hasten the dumbing down of the network, ESPN is attempting to co-opt the entire staff of the most poorly run franchise in baseball. It started with former broadcaster John Kruk, who has been the bane of BT all season and may soon remain the only writer on ESPN.com that one can read for free. Now Bowa, who says that a managerial job will be hard to get by next season, makes a cameo on BT and may Bobby V into a position there next season.
One can only hope in this attempt to subsume, and I use the term loosely, the Phil's braintrust, that ESPN soon corrals both GM Ed Wade and president Dave Montgomery so that the franchise overhaul can soon be completed and more competent individuals can fill their enormous shoes.
In the latest round of he said-he said between the Cubs and Sammy Sosa, the ursine slugger was fined one day's pay for missing the Cubbie finale. Hey, the same thing would have happened of you or I missed work. The only difference would be, at least in my case, I wouldn't forego $87,400 as a penalty.
That's a ton of cash, but really aren't the Cubs being a bit petty going through hours of surveillance tape just to determine Sosa's actions that day. Clearly Sosa lied and he was not in the clubhouse until the seventh inning. The footage shows him leaving 15 minutes after the game began. Unless Jim Kaat came out of retirement to pitch no one could have gotten seven innings in within 15 minutes.
There is more to the story. Sosa feels that he has been made a scapegoat. He even feels that he is being blamed for last year's playoff loss when everyone know's it was Steve Bartman's fault (I'm joking of course). The Cubs don't like his work ethic and feel he's become too fragile.
The bottom line is that winning would have cured all these ailments. It reminds me of the Garciaparra situation when he was in Boston. Nomar had been a franchise player for years, but when new players were brought in that perform better than him (in both cases with the surname of Ramirez) and as he aged and became more fragile, he became more expendable and the situation devolved from there.
Maybe it's the pent-up feelings that are surpressed while a team strokes its designated leader. Maybe it's that his shows were to tight (no that was the Grinch). Whatever the reason, the team starts to feel that the player must go due more to the situation, that they had some hand in creating, than for the player's declining skills.
So the Cubs will apparently shop the 500-HR hitter this offseason even with his hefty price tag. And apparently the team has to downgrade the superstar's status with the fans, usually through the local media, in order to create the public support for his ouster. The only problem is that it lowers his value in the marketplace as well.
But it seems to be the route of choice and since managerial firings are often leaked to the court of public opinion as well (e.g., Mets and Phils), I guess it's here to stay.
In Baseball, Interactive Beats Interleague
MLB.com launched what it calls the Interactive Baseball Network today, a three-channel expansion of its MLB.TV video streaming service. I had MLB.TV this season and thought it was the best thing MLB had done since expanding beyond 16 teams. It's hard to believe that the skinflints in the commissioner's office would allow fans to gain access to every one of their games for just eighty bucks a year. The last time I went to a ballgame, that's how much my jumbo beer (meaning with extra suds) cost. It must be that the powers that be are so computer illiterate that they
Their announcement comes just one day after I purchased MLB.TV for the playoffs. It's a no-brainer: ten dollars for all the playoff games, including those in the afternoon, the late ones on the west coast, and those that overlap with the game another game that I prefer watching. Ten bucks is basically a commemorative scorecard nowadays.
Now baseball is buttressing this great service with "Cooperstown.TV for classic games, BaseballChannel.TV for news, highlights and talk shows that go beyond games." Both are free, at least for the time being. They also have an online schedule.
As ESPN continues to dumb down there once nonpareil baseball site while making more and more content part of a pay service, who would have thought that MLB.com, a domain name that Major League Baseball didn’t have the foresight to nab and didn’t actually own until fairly recently, would become one of the more useful baseball sites around. Remember that it was just two seasons ago when MLB was more concerned with cracking down on fan sites than in developing a useful site of its own.
Now all they need is someone how can write content that doesn’t sound like your company's newsletter ("Today's birthdays…"). If whoever is running baseball's Web business moves next to resolve this issue, where else should he turn but to blogging community. That's where the best (and cheapest) content is now available. So MLB, the time is right to come a-running for the smoky flavor of Mike's Baseball Rants.
Alex Rodriguez just hit an automatic double to deep left-center with men on first and second to tie the game at 6-6. The Twins (for the moment) are still alive because the ball bounced over the fence after bouncing on the warning track. Otherwise, Jeter would surely have scored from first.
The odd thing is the same thing happened earlier in the game but to the Twins in the eighth. Had Koskie's drive down the left field line not bounced over the fence, Hunter would have scored easily from first, and the Twins would have won 6-5.
If the Twins lose, Ron Gardenhire will be double-guessed for leaving closer Joe Nathan in for his third inning of work.
The Yankees win. The Yankees win, 7-6 in twelve. I guess that's why people hate 'em.
In Praise of PIP (Picture-in-a-Picture)
The Angels just got out of a bases loaded jam in the second by picking Mark Bellhorn off of second in an incredibly ballsy play.
And as I am typing this Dallas McPherson just drove in a run to tie up the Angels-Red Sox game, 1-1.
Tonight's starter for the Angels, Bartolo Colon, had some odd numbers during the regular season.
He went 18-12, struck out 158 or just under seven per nine innings, and pitched 208 innings. That sounds like a great season, but he had a 5.01 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. His home record is even odder: 10-8 with a 5.42 ERA. The last time he had an ERA under five was May 14. He went into the All-Star break with a 6-8 record and 6.38 ERA. Since then he is 12-4 with a 3.63 ERA, and even though he pitched exactly 104 innings in each half, he allowed 16 fewer homers (27 to 11). He also cut his WHIP by 30+ points (1.54 to 1.21).
So who knows which Colon will appear tonight? For that matter, which Pedro Martinez will pitch for the Sox? In the last three months, Martinez had monthly ERAs of 5.46 (July, oddly with a 3-1 record), 2.25 (August, also 3-1), and 4.31 (September, 2-3).
Anyway, I wondered who had the most wins all-time with an ERA at or above 5.00. Two men have won twenty, but Colon is just one of ten in baseball history to win at least 18 and the first since 1938:
Cubs Chewed Out Over Wrigley
The Cubs were fined $6,725 for performing repairs on Wrigley Field without the proper permits.
When asked about the permits, "Team officials have said they weren't aware permits were required." As a matter of fact they were unaware the repairs had been done. They cited a surveillance tape of Sammy Sosa spackling in the bleachers.
But seriously, how come I can't even redo my basement without the local revenuers looking for a handout, but the Cubs almost get away with refurbishing a well-known landmark on the sly?
Out of the Mouths of Imbecilic Incompetents
Larry Bowa offered some parting shots in a piece in the Inquirer/Daily News/Where Oh Where Is The Bulletin before going quietly into that night.
As usual the topics were as pertinent as flag burning is to the current election. Is Bowa too fiery? Is he too tough on his players?
Who cares if Bowa is fiery and tough? Lots of successful managers are—Earl Weaver and Billy Martin come to mind. Bowa was just not a good manager. He managed the team poorly. Ignored the bench. Demoralized young players with his quick trigger. Had no concept as to how to run a pitching staff. Went with the hot hand in the pen and got burnt repeatedly before trying something new.
However, let’s listen to Bowa’s opinions on the more facile issues surrounding the club, the ones the media can readily digest. As for his being too tough on the players:
I know I wasn't too tough. I know that for a fact. I was told to tone it down a little bit, which [was] for my own good. That was pretty good advice. But they weren't overdisciplined because I basically let them handle their own clubhouse. I didn't have any meetings. I didn't berate them. You've seen me the last two or three years. I haven't ripped anyone in the paper at all.
If you base your relationship with the players based on your ripped-‘em-in-the-papers frequency, it aint good. Bowa does have a point though. He did mellow a bit this year. Now, if he would just learn how to manage with the time freed up from his rip-the-players schedule, we wouldn’t be discussing his temperament.
Bowa then goes on to dare the Phils to win the division next year:
"If they want to make a change and think they can get where they want to go, that's fine. That happens in baseball all the time. The only thing I say is if you're going to make a change, you better win the division next year because we came in second. We came in second, and if you are going to make a change, you better take the next step and win the division."
Go ahead, punk, make my day. Well no, Bo, they don’t have to win the division. They just need someone who is getting more out of the team. Who cares where they finished? They were out of the playoff hunt early: that’s the true assessment of their season.
Bowa continues on this line by questioning whether he was destined to be fired if the Phils missed the playoffs:
"The other thing was at the end of August when a certain writer had something in there that I definitely wasn't coming back. I literally talked to [general manager] Ed [Wade] and he told me they hadn't made up their mind. And from that day on, we went 21-9, so I don't know what changed from that day except we played real good for the last 30 games."
I’ll leave aside “literally talked” (what did they discuss Melville?) and “we played real good” and address the 21-9 record. On the date to which Bowa refers (August 31), the Phils were 65-67 after having led the division at the break. They were 12.5 games out of first, 4 games out of second, and 7 games out of the wild card and had five teams ahead of them for the wild card. Who cares how well they played the rest of the season when the pressure was off? However, if the Phils had decided to can Bowa before the season, I wish that they had followed through with that plan at the time instead of making us endure this season.
But among the blather, Bowa actually made some interesting points. They were interesting not because they were original—they were obvious to anyone who watchedthe club with a passing knowledge of the game. However, coming from a one-time Phillies employee, they piqued my interest. Regarding the trade deadline:
"We needed a centerfielder. And I know Ed tried to get Steve Finley. I know that for a fact because he was talking to them and Finley said he doesn't want to go to the East Coast. [Carlos] Beltran was out there. Probably the best free agent out there as we speak. It was a matter of what you had to give up. The philosophy here is, 'Don't sell the farm for two or three months.' My philosophy is, and I might have a different take if I was a general manager or farm director, my philosophy was, 'If you have a shot, roll the dice and go for it.'... I think the Phillies are conservative. You have to roll the dice and let the chips fall where they may. One player can mean the difference."
I never thought I would agree with the Mouse That Roared, but when he’s right, he’s right. Maybe he should have been GM, not the field manager. How much worse than Wade could he have been?
He also seems to know what ails the Phils better than president Dave Montgomery:
I thought if I was going to get fired, I thought they would probably make Ed go, too. That's the only thing. Nothing against Ed or the organization, I just thought they were probably going to say, 'They didn't get it done; let's go.' And it didn't happen.
Again it doesn’t take much to better Montgomery. I saw the Whartonite himself try to Dubya himself down on Comcast’s Daily News show the other day by wearing an open collar and speaking with a typically guttural Philly accent. He defended Wade and the administration's approach amid the fluff questions posed by the Daily News braintrust, basically the same tenor and depth as the questions in the Bowa article. He defended the overpriced signing of Pat Burrell all the while blaming it on the media for their criticism following the Rolen fiasco, and the Newsies accepted that. What, two wrongs do make a right? So again, Bowa gave the impression that he was truly underemployed.
Bowa’s cogency dried up before the interview was through, however. Asked whether the Phils would again win a World Series, he Cheneyed the question into a soapbox sermon on Philly fans:
"I do hope they get to the World Series. I do. As bad as the fans can get, we both know, they can be nasty. They can be nasty. But you know what - they care. They're passionate. They wear their emotions on their sleeve and they don't want to see guys that don't leave it all out there. If they get the right mix in here, and, hopefully, the new manager, whoever it might be, the biggest thrill in the world would be to see them raise another banner."
Well, that’s nice. It’s the classiest thing he said. However, for a man who has been involved with Philly baseball for over thirty years, he doesn’t have any idea about what makes Philly fans tick. “Passionate”? The fans were following the Eagles and had given up on the Phils when the NFL camps opened. Yeah, they “don't want to see guys that don't leave it all out there”, but they lack the facility to assess that. They still think Bowa was a good player. They accepted years of Steve Jeltz. They booed Mike Schmidt and Bobby Abreu and cheer Jimmy Rollins’ mediocrity. I heard a snippet of Philly sports radio when I was trying to find the playoff games yesterday and I was told that Brett Myers is a good number four starter, better than what the Marlins have. On what planet? Philly fans have been spoon-fed by mediocrity in their sports teams and sports reporting for decades. How else do you explain Bill “Jabba” Conlin? The Phils fans have no idea what it takes to build a credible club; otherwise, they wouldn’t be contented with just Bowa’s head. They’d aim a bit higher and nab Wade’s and Montgomery’s as well.
It’s time of the Season for Playoffs (Who’s Your Daddy?)
Just a few random notes on the playoffs while I ponder how Monty Burns somehow came to life and became our vice president:
Yankees-Twins: It’s too bad that I had to watch almost the entire game in a picture-in-a-picture box while watching the entire VP debate. My wife actually thought I was watching the debate: I cheered quite loudly at the first invocation of Halliburton. I also thought Sheffield hit a homer to left to cut the lead to one, but when I checked the CBS Sportsline scoreboard, it was still 2-0. Musta been foul.
In the final analysis, does it really matter what happened in this game. The Yankees knew that they were facing possibly the best pitcher in the AL this year. They did get to him to the tune of nine hits in seven innings. It took stellar defense, including five doubleplays and two great outfield plays (possibly preventing three runs) to prevent the Yankees from winning. They know that the level goes down from here. They also know that they lost the first game last year. The Yankees did hurt themselves by only making Sanatana throw 93 pitches thereby making a fourth-game start a distinct possibility. They also ended the first, second, fifth, and eighth innings with doupleplays of some sort. You can’t do that and expect to win.
In retrospect, the Twins played the early innings like it was going to close and the Yankees didn’t (e.g., the Williams-Jeter strike-‘im out-throw-‘im out DP to end the first).
By the way, my friend Mike’s prediction for the game was that Tim McCarver would become insufferable by the third inning. He was really selling Timmy Mac short. I missed a lot because of the debate but was still floored by the idiocy. He set a new record by stretching the boundaries of credulity before the game even started:
Before Mussina threw the first pitch, McCarver had already uttered this chestnut twice: The Yankees are the first team in baseball history to win 100 games without a 15-game winner. OK, so what? It's kind of interesting but does it mean anything? Is it good or bad? I see arguments both ways. Besides, they had two 14-G winners, a 12-, a 10-, and two guys who were on the roster for less than half a season who had 8. They also had a six-, seven-, and nine-game winner out of the pen. Basically, all that tells us that the Yanks had an old, fragile staff, which we knew already.
He proclaimed that the Red Sox and Cardinals won by "identical 8-3 scores". The Red Sox actually won 9-3. No one corrected him. It's not like there was a full slate of games. There were two games for crissake.
Oh and then there was the Joe Buck commercial for god knows what in which his agent wants him to sell out—no that's not the joke—by getting a catch phrase. He comes up with Shama Lama Ding Dong whenever anyone hits a homer and is shown wearing the T-shirt tie-in. Hilarity ensues. I thought, "My dad's rolling over in his grave? He was rolling over in his grave before he died," would have been a better one.
Red Sox-Angels: Much like the Yankees, Anaheim can take a Mulligan for losing against Schilling. However, the Angels were much uglier (e.g. the Figgins error, Washburn lasting 3-1/3, the seven-run fourth). I know that Bartolo Colon has been hot of late, but he still had an ERA over 5.00. The Angels could very easily go down in three with Colon and Kelvim Escobar coming up, a somewhat depleted bullpen, and Pedro Martinez due up in the second game. If Pedro can return to his usual form, it’s going to be a tough series for the Angels, as well it should be when you jettison your starting left fielder with two weeks to go.
Dodgers-Cards: Tony LaRussa must be a genius (or like Wile E. Coyote, a super-genius) because I have no idea why he does what he does. He batted Edgar Renteria fifth against the lefty (Odalis Perez) with Sanders going seventh. OK, he wants to move Edmonds down against a left-hander, but why move Renteria up? But the big rally in the third is a result of a two-run double by Renbteria sandwiched between to home runs by lefties (Larry Walker and Edmonds).
I don’t know why you go with Woody Williams in game one, especially when he had a month to set up his rotation for the playoffs, but Williams pitched six solid innings.
Perez was horrible. He even gave up the two homers to the lefties. The Dodgers went through seemingly their entire bullpen including a guy named Yhency Brazoban, who I think was my cabby the other day.
The Cardinals did what they did all year, pummel opposing pitchers and get enough pitching to win. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue.
Cheney-Edwards Cede Debate to Dusty-Sammy
Somewhere Steve Bartman is laughing, somewhere in a bunker safe from Cubbie fans.
Sammy-Gate is spinning out of control. Sosa claims that he stayed in the clubhouse until the 7th inning of the Cubs final, inconsequential game. The Cubs say that they have security camera footage that shows he left 13 minutes after the game started. Some Cub employee actually reviewed the footage to determine when Sosa left.
Baker is now saying that Sammy was "ailing"--nudge nudge, wink wink.
Who cares? The game didn't matter. The Cubs season was over.
Well, the real issue, and it's continually mentioned with the story, is that Sosa had his worst year since becoming Sammy Sosa. Sosa had an .849 OPS, which placed him 7th among the 11 qualifying right fielders. But he's 35. Not everyone can age as gracefully as Barry Bonds. Sosa's been steadily declining since hitting 64 homers in 2001.
Really, Sosa's numbers are not that bad 35 HR, .517 slugging percentage, but people see the .253 batting average and "just" 80 RBI. The odd thing is that anyone following the Cubs over the last year or so knows that Sosa is no longer the offensive leader. This year it was clearly Aramis Ramirez. Sosa was especially poor down the stretch with a .705 September OPS.
But there's no way Sosa can be blamed entirely for the Cubs' 2-7 record as their season faded. There's plenty of blame to go around. But what is it about the Northsiders needing to tab someone as the scapegoat each time their World Series hopes evaporate?
Bob Gets a Melvin from M's
Former Seattle manager Bob Melvin is "a real good man. He works hard. He cares about his players," that according to the GM that just fired him, Bill Bavasi.
Bavasi would not tell reporters why he let Melvin go but did praise his hard work and commitment. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Bob," quoth Bavasi. Why he'd even give Melvin a reference for another managerial job:
"To the untrained eye, I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth," Bavasi said. "We just let him go, but I'm recommending him. In this crazy business, that fits because he will do things differently the second time. He had some bad luck here."
All Bavasi would say was that the decision to fire Melvin "crystalized in my mind" over the past five or six days.
But given that I have a "trained eye", I know what Bavasi's doing here. In the biz we call it CYA. He's finding a scapegoat before he becomes one himself. Bavasi refused to trade young arms at the trade dealine in 2003. The M's ended up missing the wild card by just two games. That's OK, he must have told management. The Mariners were rebuilding for the future on those young arms. So when the team fell apart like tissue paper this season, who's to blame? Why, Bob Melvin. Surely, he was the reason that 41-year-old Jamie Moyer came back to earth in 2004. He signed Scott Spiezio to play third. He invested $4 M on Raul Ibanez in 2004. He sign Rich Aurilia, who was so bad that he had to be dumped along with his $3M+ contract mid-season.
Sure, it makes sense that Bavasi would bend over backwards to accommodate Melvin. Why tick off a guy who can get you fired in his exit interview?
No Division Series For You!
There were a couple of interesting playoff rosters decisions that were made in the Yankees-Twins series, and both came down to pitching numbers.
The one that will grab the headlines was Jason Giambi being left off the Yankee roster. The Yankees wanted to bring 11 pitchers, and Giambi was just 4-for-33 with one home run after missing almost two months of the season.
The other decision was ex-Phil and ex-everything else Joe Roa being left off the Twins roster. Minnesota is carrying only ten pitchers. Roa pitched 70 innings competently (4.50 ERA) this year for Minnesota. However, the Twins decided to bring young Jesse Crain who has just 27 innings under his belt as a righty out of the bullpen. Roa has worked as a long reliever all year, and the Twins, with extra starters in the pen, now find him expendable.
Roa was invited to travel with the club and was told that he might be activated for a later playoff round. But Roa decided to pack his ditties and go home. When asked
"I don't think I deserved that," said Roa, who turns 33 next week. "That's the reason I'm disappointed. If I pitched seven or eight times and not been as successful, I would have been the happiest guy in the room. I would say 'Thanks, I'll be ready for the second round.' But I wasn't given a chance in September. That's the reason I had to decline."
Roa had a 15.10 ERA in September. Crain had a 2.00 ERA in his short stint with the Twins.
So all of you fans who wanted to see Giambi hit a game-winning homer off of Roa,—and I know you’re out there—like a Phils fan, you’ll just have to wait until next year.
Read The Book!
Wild rumors are circulating (translation: I just made them up) that scheduling the Vice Presidential Debate at the same time as the the Yankee-Twin playoff game tonight is just a neocon-conceived and FOX-perpetrated plot to make Dick Cheney look as good as possible by not being seen by anyone in the New York metro area, Minnesota, by all male viewers 18-35, and anywhere else where the Yankees are hated. I'm sure David Brock will have something about this on the Al Franken show sometime today.
Adieu, adieu, adieu! remember me.
Now that the Expos are in the can, we are free to review their 36-year history as Bud Selig and the powers that be do a jig on the baseball grave of Montreal and their remaining fans while in all likelihood starting to explore the feasibility of relocating (or at least threatening to relocate) to the Canadian hamlet some time in the near future. I may be premature since they still don't have an owner in Washington after all. Then again, even MLB wouldn't dare to keep the Expos in Montreal after announcing that they were on the move; they'd probably just spend the remaining time in San Juan, baseball's Latin purgatory.
Anyway, first, we'll look at their best team by single-season record. I have ranked them all by actual and expected records and then averaged the rankings. Here's what I got:
Is it any wonder that the strike year of 1994 is the season that broke a lot of fans' backs.
Next let's rank the Expos managers. They are ranked by both winning percentage and overall wins and those rankings are averaged:
That's a great list of mediocrity. Bob "Buck" Rodgers deserves the nod.
To be continued…
Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has evidently learned a thing or two from his predecessor, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. He is proclaiming October "Minnesota Twins Month".
This is like skipping the typical gubernatorial black'n'white cookie-for-kielbasa winner-take-all gentlemen's bet and going right to the "It's a foregone conclusion that we're going to kick your hinders and still be celebrating at the end of this month" jugular. Remember what happened when the kid who skipped the Double Dare and went right for the Double Dog Dare in "A Christmas Story", and another kid ended up with his tongue frozen to a pole?
It may be a political embarrassment for the gov. if very soon the Twins end up celebrating their "Month" by watching other teams play in the next rounds of the playoffs. But they do get to keep the half-off coupons from Applebees.
…that are invariably wrong.
That’s my built-in excuse when I pick every series incorrectly. Gotta cover the ol’ hinder. Well, here goes:
The Division Series:
Yankees in 5 (Johan Santana and Brad Radke beat the Yankees in games one and two. El Duque stops the bleeding. Twins go with Lohse in game 4. Yanks beat Santana game 5.)
Red Sox in 5 (Schilling wins games one and five, Angels pay for Guillen banishment with poor offense throughout.)
Astros in 3 (Another quick exit for Braves as the fairy dust that Leo Mazzone sprinkled on the rotation in April finally runs out.)
Cards in 5 (Tough series to pick. The team with the refurbished staff that performs better wins. Jeff Weaver?!? I’ll take the Cards.)
ALCS: Yankees in 6 (Pedro Martinez implodes as there are no sexagenarians to toss around this year.)
NLCS: Astros in 7 (Pixie dust again does in a staff.)
WS: Astros in 6 (What the hey? They are the hot team that snuck in. They should be huge favorites given the recent past.)
The Astros quickly became everyone's postseason Cinderella pick by easily clinching a wild card berth today with a 5-3 win over the Rockies behind Brandon Bracke, of all people. It was an anticlimactic finish to a wildly improbable stretch run for the 'Stros.
On August 14, Houston was four games under .500 and had just lost six of seven to the lowly Expos and Mets. They were seven games behind the Cubs in the wild card hunt. They were, as a matter of fact, tied for seventh in the wild card race with the Reds and had teams like the Mets, Phils, and Marlins, who were hardly in the playoff race, ahead of them. They were in fact just a game and one-half out of last place, seven games out of the wild card, and 19.5 games out of the NL Central division lead. Many were criticizing the Astros for not having gotten rid of mid-season acquisition Carlos Beltran and other potential free agents.
They went on to finish August with a 13-3 record and won their last five games straight, but were still 18.5 games out of first place. They had, however, moved into a tie for forth in the wild card, tie with the Marlins, and trailed the Cubs by three games.
The streak continued in September. By September 8, they had won 12 consecutive ballgames. That day Roger Clemens got his 326th win to tie Eddie Plank for eleventh all time and ran his record to 16-4. At that date, Houston was in a virtual tie as the wild card leader with the Giants but led by winning percentage points.
The Astros then cooled a bit going 9-6 until September 25. They had lost the wild card lead to the Cubs. They were in third in the wild card race and trailed Chicago by 2.5 games.
Houston then won their last seven games. On September 28, they were still in third in the wild card, trailing both the Giants and the Cubs by one-half game. On September 29, they finished sweeping the Cardinals at home and took sole possession of the wild card. They were idle the next day and the Giants tied them for first. On Friday, the Cubs fell two games behind and were virtually eliminated. The Astros and Giants remained tied for first. On Saturday, the Cubs were eliminated and the Astros won 9-3 against the Rockies and took a one-game lead. Today, the Astros won obviating the need for the Giants-Dodgers game, which the Giants won big-time anyway.
In total, the 'Stros were in first or tied for first in the wild card on September 8, 9, 10 (three-way tie), 29, and 30 and October 1, 2, and 3. That's eight days, but they might be going to the World Series and the Cubs and Giants, who seemed to be in a dog fight for the spot all year, are going home.
So the networks may have lost a Cubs-Red Sox Series but may have gained a Clemens-Yankees Series. To me, it means one more year without the greatest player in the game (guess who) in the World Series. At least, no one can blame Steve Bartman for this one.
Today's Twins-Indians game had to be suspended after eleven innings and a tied 5-5 score so that the field could be readied in time for the Minnesota-PSU game, or as its known around State College, PA, the latest reason to fire Joe Paterno.
The Twins are trying to keep pace with the Angels for the second seed in the AL in order to gain homefield in the first round of the playoffs. They will complete the game tomorrow before their regularly scheduled season finale.
Manager Ron Gardenhire decided to use it as an opportunity to adverstise for a new stadium: "We're in the middle of a mess now. We don't need a stadium? C'mon." Good company man that Ron. Bud Selig would be proud. It's not like he never used an extra-inning tied ballgame become a PR opp.
Good Bye, Larry
The old order changeth, yielding place to new
Larry Bowa was fired today as the Phils' manager in one of the closing chapters to this failed season and failed administration. Rumors had circulated that Bowa's dismissal was already a foregone conclusion. When the questions became too much for Bowa to take, he pressed GM Ed Wade, who let the axe fall two days shy of a full season. Bench coach Gary Varsho managed the Phils to a 4-3 loss today and will finish out the season tomorrow.
Now, we will have to see how deep the cuts continue to go. Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan is also said to be gone. The earlier leaked reports had hitting coach Greg Gross and third base coach John Vukovich headed for the door. After Ed Wade completes those tasks, he might be hitting the bricks himself, if logic or the sentiments of the majority of Phillies fans have anything to do with it. Once the dust settles, the field is wide open. It seemed that Mike Schmidt was being groomed to replace Bowa when he was named to manage the Phils' Clearwater (A) affiliate, but that plan fell through when Schmidt quit at the end of the season saying, in essence, that being a manager was cutting into his career of being Mike Schmidt.
And then there's a small matter as to who will be on next year's squad besides a select few—those who either make megabucks (Thome, Abreu, Burrell, and Bell) and either are too valuable or make too much money to be traded, and those scant few talented young players who are underpaid appropriately (Floyd and Madson).
Whatever they do this offseason, don't worry, this moribund franchise won't fail to miss the playoffs next year. Consider that if the Phils win the final game of the season, they will end the year with the same record they had in Bowa's first year as their manager, the year that he won Manager of the Year. The more thing change, the more they stay the same.
Ichiro's Goin' to Sisler's! Ichiro's Goin' to Sisler's!
Ichiro Suzuki had three hits yesterday to top George Sisler's single-season hits record by two (259). Sisler had held the record for 84 years, but I don't think he's much put out having died over thirty years ago. But the might have to change his plaque.
It's odd that the record stood for so long with the schedule being expanded from 154 to 162 games, the number of major-league clubs nearly doubling, and the addition of the designated hitter. One with think that the additional games and additional players would help increase the odds that a player amass more than 157 hits in a season. Add in two offensive surges in the late-Twenties/early-Thirties and over the past decade or so. And then consider that the hits record was set and broken thirteen times in the previous fifty years, three times by one man, and it seems even odder.
Here are all the men to hold the hits record:
Five of those men of in the Hall of Fame (Sisler, Cobb, Burkett, Duffy, and Brouthers).
In 84 years, there were men who came close to the record, Ichiro is the first to break it. Here is everyone who came within 20 hits of Sisler's record only to fall short:
Ten of the men on that list and eight of the nine closest came within a decade of Sisler. The next didn’t come to 1977 and the one after that until 1985.
It becomes even more pronounced when one reviews the number of men who hit at least 200 hits in a season:
(The 2000s include eight this season.)
There were 199 men who had at least 200 hits in a season within two decades of Sisler's record. In the last 55, there were just 220. And even with offenses surging in the Nineties, there six fewer 200-hit seasons than in each of the two previous decades, which were known more for anemic offenses (other than a slight power surge 1985-87).
Maybe, this decade was destined to be the one in which the record was finally broken as the projected total number of 200-hit seasons (64) would be the highest total since the Thirties.
When Bernie Williams hit the walk-off home run yesterday to win the Yankees' 100 game and to clinch their seventh straight AL East division title, he also established a new Yankee single-season team record for home runs with 241.
The old record was set in 1961, of course, the year in which Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris vied to break Babe Ruth's single-season home run record. If you missed it, Maris won. That year the Yanks had six men with twenty or more home runs: Maris (61), Mantle (54), Bill Skowron (28), Yogi Berra (22), Elston Howard (21), and Johnny Blanchard (21).
Should the unlikely event that either Ruben Sierra (currently at 17 homers) or Tony Clark (16) be able to reach twenty home runs, the Yankees would become just the third club in baseball history to have seven men hit 20 or more home runs in a season. Here are all the clubs to have at least six:
As far as team home run records, there are four that have fallen this year. Here are all the current teams' home run records through 2003 and the 2004 total:
The Name Game
(Just don't play it with "Chuck".)
In real life, unlike in Shakespeare, the sweetness of the rose depends upon the name it bears. Things are not only what they are. They are, in very important respects, what they seem to be.
The Expos have yet to play their final game representing Montreal, and yetThe Washington Post is already polling its readers on the new Washington team's name.
Here are their options:
Bandits / Beltway Bandits
The Senators is by far the most popular option with 40.2%. Next, is the Grays (21.8%), and Nationals (9.8%). All of these names refer back to old Washington teams. The Grays refers to the Homestead Grays, who played in both D.C. and Pittsburgh (though I believe more in Pittsburgh). By contrast, the "Expos" has gotten just 1.5% of the vote. Why not bring back "Olympics"? Besides, don't the Twins own the rights to "Nationals" (the old Senators real name) and the Rangers to "Senators"?
"Bullets" was used until 1997 by the NBA club now known as the "Wizards". It was changed when the owners felt that it was a little too apt, with all the incidents involving guns in certain sections of DC? (And what about the children, I say sarcastically?) Why bring it back?
I hope that the real management will come up with better options than these. But then again, they might need a contest to name the owner as well.
Yesterday, the Royals became only the second team to have a winning season sandwiched between two 100-loss seasons. The highly disappointing Royals are now 57-102 after finishing a surprising 83-79 season last year. In 2002 Kansas City had a 62-100 record at the tail end of the illustrious Tony Muser administration. The odd thing is that 2002 was their first 100-loss season in the then-thirty-four-year history.
The other team to accomplish this feat was 1985-87 Cleveland Indians. Even if we project the seasons prior to the era of the 162-game schedule, we find that it would only have been done twice:
The worst bookend record for a team with a .500 season sandwiched between them is as follows:
Yep, the 2002/2004 Royals are there, fifth worst.
Here is the biggest difference between the middle year and the bookend years for all teams that fit the criteria:
It's great to see two recent teams that reached the World Series after a sudden one-year improvement (the 1997 Marlins and 1993 Phils).
This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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