Baseball Toaster Mike's Baseball Rants
Monthly archives: October 2003


Close But No CEE-gar
2003-10-31 18:40
by Mike Carminati

At the start of the World Series, we baseball fans were giddy after witnessing two exciting League Championship Series, both of which went the distance, seven games, and were packed with exciting twists and turns, heroes and goats. The LCS round couldn't have ended any more dramatically than the eleventh-hour, eleventh-inning walk-off homer from unlikely pinch-hit hero Aaron Boone.

The sports media, which had been promulgating an All-Curse World Series, had to switch gears quickly and latched onto the idea that this was the closest of times, the best of times for playoffs baseball. Fox and ESPN both were telling us that the 2003 playoffs were among the closest of all time. Joe Buck told us that in the first two rounds 32 of a possible 34 games had actually been played—that is if all series went to their maximum number of games. The media evidently felt the David v. Goliath angle was too. Or maybe they have to justify the Elias Sport Bureau budget. Anyway, this analysis cum sales approach boded well for an exciting World Series we were told—or at least we were left to infer it.

But, A funny thing happened on the way to the closest playoffs in history. Suddenly it was last call for us excitement-inebriated fans. The party was over as Don Merdith was wont to sing amid cocktails in the Monday Night Football booth. A group of relative unknowns were the champs—"Look, Chauncy, that nice Pudgy fellow is playing on a new baseball nine. Oh, dear me, that Tim McCarver says the most original things!" This is a team that Fox Felt compelled to introduce us to I the first round.

The World Series was more of a hangover, or a hanging curveball, then a continuation of the Herculean, late-innings feats. It was like releasing a new Star Wars movie or two after 20 years and having it be a complete stinker. Boy, I'm glad that hasn't happened (Or "Yar, mes so so happy no flippity-floop-floop," in Jar-Jar Binks speak).

It started with such promise, too, with a one-run size-'em-upper in the opener. Then the Yankees grabbed a seemingly commanding two-games-to-one lead with two 6-1 victories, albeit with late-innings rallies to secure the second one. The Yankees then trailed for the next three games and the spoils went to the Marlins. The Yankees did tie up game four with some late-inning heroics, only to call on Jeff Weaver to Calvin Schiraldi the game away along with all excitement for the rest of the Series.

Amid the toasting of Jack McKeon, whom most of America wouldn't know from Jack Bauer, who Fox ensured would have more of a presence in the playoffs, and the speculation over who George Steinbrenner would vivisect first, the story of the closest playoffs ever got lost in the shuffle. I guess that's what a six-game World Series will do.

However, I think this postseason was remarkable in many ways and contained some classic series. It's too bad that, like a John Grisham novel/movie (since they are one in the same), the finale couldn't live up to the hype of the setup. But that shouldn't condemn the entire postseason, one that many were calling the most exciting they had witnessed in many a year, to obscurity. Even the tepid World Series had some interesting points that should be considered before we close the book on the year and enjoy the excitement of the free agent season—Ooh, who will win the John Flaherty sweepstakes!

(Be forewarned that the following contains many numbers many of which are organized into (gasp!) tables. Proceed at your own risk.)

First, let's start with the Series. One obvious thing that is remarkable about it is that the Yankees outscored the Marlins 21 to 17 and still lost in six games. Well, in 106 championship games—that includes World Series and nineteenth century championships—there have been 22, including 2003's, in which the loser outscored the winner.

Here is a yearly scoring breakdown for the World Series (Notes: RF=Runs For (Winner), RA=Runs Against (Loser), and MOV= Margin of Victory):


Note that even though the winner has only been outscored only 22 times or about one out of every five Series, it has happened six times in the last 12 World Series. That's odd. I wonder if the high scoring of the last decade or so make it more likely that a team, even the eventual Series loser, will have a lopsided victory or two in a series. Or can expansion have so depleted the staffs of even the eventual champ to such a degree that even they are prone to a big loss or two in a short series.

Another thing of note is that the Marlins did not score a heck of a lot of runs. The Marlin's 2.86 runs per game match the 1992 Blue Jays and '96 Yankees for the lowest in a winning effort since the A's in 1972 (2.29 runs per game). It's also one of a handful of cases all-time in which winning teams scored fewer than 3 runs per game in the Series.

It kind of reminds me of another unlikely Yankee World Series loss. I am, of course, referring to the famous 1960 World Series, that witnessed the Yankees outscoring the Pirates by an average of 4 runs per game and still losing. That is the largest average margin of victory in the World Series for a losing team. It included Yankee wins of 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. The Pirates won four games by a grand total of seven runs (6-4, 3-2, 5-2, 10-9). The 1960 Yankees 7.86 runs per game were and still are the most ever by a losing team.

Another thing I found interesting about this postseason was the number of teams that won series against teams with better record in the regular season. In the Division Series, Florida (91-71) beat San Francisco (100-61), the Cubs (88-74) beat the Braves (101-61), and the Red Sox (95-67) beat the A's (96-66). That's three "upsets" in four series. The League Championships did feature an upset with wild-card Marlins beating division winner Chicago. However, for the sake of this study, the Marlins were the "favorites" given their record was two games better than the Cubs during the season. The final "upset" came, of course, in the World Series when the Marlins beat a Yankee team that was its superior by ten full games during the regular season.

That makes four series out of seven won by the team with the inferior record in 2003. This was also the third of four World Series since 2000 in which the "inferior" team lost. Since 2000 only one winning team in the eight NL Division Series has had a superior record. The AL has had just two of eight. Adding an extra round of playoffs especially a very short one seems to be throwing up a major stumbling block for teams that have superior records.

Maybe that's an obvious statement but I just thought an historical comparison would be useful. Here's a table per decade and playoff round of the records of the teams with better records in each series and the winning percentage of each:


Actually, the Yankees were the first team with the best team in their league to represent that league in the World Series since 1999 when The Yankees and the Braves faced off. 1999 was also the last year in which the teams with the best records in their respective leagues met in the World Series. Before expansion the best teams from each league went to the World Series automatically. Since the addition of the wild card, only twice have the best teams from each league met in the World Series (1995 Braves-Indians being the other).

As far as the team with the best record winning the whole enchilada, that hasn't happened since 114-win 1998 Yankees. And that was the only time in the wild card era that the team with the best record in baseball won the World Series.

Here's a breakdown by era of World Series winner and losers, whether they has their leagues' best record, individually and as a pair, and the number of times that the World Series winner has the majors' best record. The eras are pre-expansion (prior to 1969), expansion (1969-2003 inclusive), and then the expansion era broken down thusly: 5-game LCS (1969-84), 7-game LCS (1985-93), and wild card (1995 to today).

EraW Lg Best?L Lg Best?W MLB Best?Two Best in WS#YrsWS Winner Best PCTTwo Best in WS PCT
LCS 5 G108571631.25%43.75%
LCS 7 G5622922.22%22.22%

For those of us who want to see the best teams in the World Series, to quote Austin Powers, "That train has sailed." The odd thing is that the dropoff happened after the League Championships were expanded to seven games. One of the major complaints of the wild card is that the Divisional Series are too short, thereby allowing a "hot" or lucky team to beat a superior team. The thinking is to lengthen the series to seven games thereby legitimizing the winners even if the cost is shortening the schedule to 154 games to accommodate the additional playoff games. The only problem is that when the LCSs were expanded from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven, fewer regular-season "champs" made it to the World Series. This is a very small sample (15 years) and luck could be the explanation, but the data certainly don't support expanding the wild card round for any reason other than aesthetics.

Now, as far as the 2003 postseason, taken as a whole, to complete the thought that Joe Buck kept repeating at the beginning of the World Series, 38 of a possible 41 games or 92.68% were played this year. That's three games more than the previous high, 35 in 2001. The last time a higher percentage of possible playoff games were actually played was in 1985-86 when 95.24% (20 of 21) were played both years. The only expansion-era postseasons that are higher are the 1972-73 seasons in which all possible games were played (17 of 17).

Here's a comparison by era (note that the games possible for the pre-expansion era is above 7 because of a few nine-game series—1903, '19-21):

YrRdsGG PossibleG/Rd%played
19th C17.88N/A7.88N/A
WS only15.917.125.9182.94%
5-G LCS313.7317.004.5880.78%
7-G LCS317.6721.005.8984.13%
Wild card733.4041.004.7781.46%

You may have noticed a trend that as each newly-imposed playoff structure is imposed, the percentages seem to drop and then gradually and frenetically increase.

From 1955 to 1968, ten of fourteen World Series went the distance. In 1969 the League Championship Round was added and in the first two years the losing teams in the LCSs won a total of zero games against 12 losses. The World Series were won those years in five games. In the first three years, they won one game against 18 losses, but by the third season the World Series went a full seven games. Suddenly, the League Championships went the distance for the next two years and so did the World Series.

The same thing seemed to happen after the wild card round was added in 1995, though 1985-86 when the LCSs were increased to seven games experienced the opposite effect.

Now, of course you're going to say that this is an incredible small sample and it's all just luck. Well, maybe but it would like to theorize that it takes teams a year or two adjust to playoff changes that tend to level the playing field. If you graph out the percentage of teams that have a .500 or better record, you will see a dropoff every time there is an expansion in either the playoff field or the expansion rounds. This seems to be counter-intuitive as more teams would see an opportunity to make a World Series run. For example, 1994, the first year of the wild card system (though there were no playoffs due to the strike), has the lowest percentage of winning teams in baseball history (35.71%). 2003 saw 60% of the major-league teams registering a winning record, the highest percentage since 1991.

In a few years of the playoff expansion, they percentage of winning teams is high again, though it seems to be telescoping down with each expansion. Could it be that it takes a few seasons for the teams to adjust to the new playoff structure? More teams feel capable of advancing to and in the playoffs but perhaps the realization takes a few years. You see more toying with teams in order to fill holes than ever now. It used to be about bettering yourself for the playoffs. Billy Beane still does this, but a number of teams just rent a decent player to fill a hole. Look at the Cubs revamping their offense with rented players from the Pirates. The Marlins filled a whole in left by grabbing Conine, fixed their bullpen problems with Fox and Urbina. When I was a kid, the Phils grabbed Bake McBride to replace Jay Johnstone, who was a solid veteran. The Phils were trying to improve. Teams now seem to be filling holes mid-season. They aren't looking for great players. They're just minimizing liabilities. Payroll slashing is becoming more and more an issue. So you have the teams picking up other teams mistakes at the deadlines.

It's just a theory. I'm not sure if there is anything more than luck involved. There was a large increase in the number of non-losing teams this year—maybe teams were inspired to try to contend after seeing the once –lowly Angels win it all. Maybe the Yankee and Brave dynasties are perceived to have weakened and more teams feel emboldened to contend. Maybe nothing other than luck was involved. I'm not sure, but it’s something that I am going to be watching for next season.

OK, so back to this season. How close were the playoffs anyway? Here is a table with the average wins and losses per series per year as well as the average run differential:

YrRoundsWW/RdLL/RdAvg W-LWin RR/GLose RR/GR Diff

Note that this season's 0.32 run differential per payoff game is the lowest of the wild card era. Witness the increases in 1969 and 1995 after the playoffs were expanded. It seems that the losing teams are much better prepared today than they were right after the wild card round was added. This may be some more evidence that supports my playoff theory.

OK, we're just about done. There's just one more thing to check out: what was the closest series of all time? To qualify the series has to go the distance. Whether that's five, seven, or nine games, I don't care. However, I don't want to include a four-game sweep that consists of four 1-0 games. Yes, each game is as close as it gets, but taken as a whole those series are not as close, in my opinion, as a seven-game series won by a 10-0 score in the final game.

Next, we want to look at run differential throughout the series. How close were those games? A seven-game series in which one team outscores the other by just lone run is closer than a bunch of lopsided victories in a series that happens to go seven games.

To hone that down a bit more, we will look at average margin of victory (MoV). The run differential over a series is important but trading lopsided victories can make the games of a series seem closer than they were. Average margin of victory will break down the run differentials into individual games. For example, Series A features Team One vs. Team Two. Team One wins the series with the following game scores 1-0, 1-3, 8-7, 4-6, 3-1, 2-4, and 2-0. The run differential is nil (i.e., both have 21 runs) and the avg. MoV is 1.71 runs (i.e., a 12 run difference in seven games). Now consider series B with Teams Three and Four: 10-2, 1-9, 6-0, 5-11, 7-4, 2-6, and 1-0. Again the run differential is zero, but the avg. MoV is 5.14. Which would you consider a closer series?

Finally, let's look at margin of victory in the final game and extra innings games/innings. Obviously, when we think about close series, we remember the one-run seventh-game victories like the Yankees over the Red Sox in this year's ALCS rather than the Royals beating the Cardinals 11-0 in the seventh game of the 1985 World Series. Also, if the final game goes into extra innings (again like this year's ALCS), that's even better. If there are extra inning games during the series that's just an indication of how close the games were played.

First, here is a table of all playoff series that have gone to the maximum number of games sorted by the run differential:

Note that this season's 0.32 run differential per payoff game is the lowest of the wild card era. Witness the increases in 1969 and 1995 after the playoffs were expanded. It seems that the losing teams are much better prepared today than they were right after the wild card round was added. This may be some more evidence that supports my playoff theory. OK, we're just about done. There's just one more thing to check out: what was the closest series of all time? To qualify the series has to go the distance. Whether that's five, seven, or nine games, I don't care. However, I don't want to include a four-game sweep that consists of four 1-0 games. Yes, each game is as close as it gets, but taken as a whole those series are not as close, in my opinion, as a seven-game series won by a 10-0 score in the final game. Next, we want to look at run differential throughout the series. How close were those games? A seven-game series in which one team outscores the other by just lone run is closer than a bunch of lopsided victories in a series that happens to go seven games. To hone that down a bit more, we will look at average margin of victory (MoV). The run differential over a series is important but trading lopsided victories can make the games of a series seem closer than they were. Average margin of victory will break down the run differentials into individual games. For example, Series A features Team One vs. Team Two. Team One wins the series with the following game scores 1-0, 1-3, 8-7, 4-6, 3-1, 2-4, and 2-0. The run differential is nil (i.e., both have 21 runs) and the avg. MoV is 1.71 runs (i.e., a 12 run difference in seven games). Now consider series B with Teams Three and Four: 10-2, 1-9, 6-0, 5-11, 7-4, 2-6, and 1-0. Again the run differential is zero, but the avg. MoV is 5.14. Which would you consider a closer series? Finally, let's look at margin of victory in the final game and extra innings games/innings. Obviously, when we think about close series, we remember the one-run seventh-game victories like the Yankees over the Red Sox in this year's ALCS rather than the Royals beating the Cardinals 11-0 in the seventh game of the 1985 World Series. Also, if the final game goes into extra innings (again like this year's ALCS), that's even better. If there are extra inning games during the series that's just an indication of how close the games were played. First, here is a table of all playoff series that have gone to the maximum number of games sorted by the run differential:

YearRoundWLTWinnerRLoserRDiffAvg MoVFinal game marginExtra Innings
1987NLCS43St. Louis23San Francisco2302.8660
2003NLCS43Florida40Chicago Cubs4004.0032(4)
1924WS43Washington26NY Giants2711.861(12)2(6)
2003ALCS43NY Yankees30Boston2912.141(11)1(2)
1962WS43NY Yankees20San Francisco2112.4310
1985ALCS43Kansas City26Toronto2512.4341(1)
1976ALCS32NY Yankees23Kansas City2412.6010
1964WS43St. Louis32NY Yankees3313.0021(1)
1977ALCS32NY Yankees21Kansas City2213.4020
2001NLDS232Arizona10St. Louis1222.0010
1995ALDS232Seattle35NY Yankees3322.401(11)2(8)
1957WS43Milwaukee Braves23NY Yankees2523.1451(1)
2002NLDS132San Francisco24Atlanta2624.4020
1997ALDS132Cleveland21NY Yankees2432.2010
1973WS43Oakland21NY Mets2432.4332(5)
1931WS43St. Louis Cardinals19Philadelphia A's2233.5720
2002WS43Anaheim41San Francisco4433.5730
1945WS43Detroit32Chicago Cubs2934.1461(3)
2003NLDS132Chicago Cubs19Atlanta1542.4040
1988NLCS43Los Angeles31NY Mets2743.1461(3)
1967WS43St. Louis 25Boston2143.7150
1958WS43NY Yankees29ML12544.0042(2)
2000ALDS132NY Yankees19Oakland2344.0020
1965WS43Los Angeles24Minnesota2044.5720
1984NLCS32San Diego22Chicago Cubs2645.2030
1955WS43Brooklyn31NY Yankees26
Bare Jordan
2003-10-30 22:29
by Mike Carminati

Alex Belth has a great interview with Pat Jodan up at Bronx Banter.

He speaks his mind on Roger Clemens, Jeff Weaver, and even his step-daughter, Meg Ryan. I'd love to be a fly on the wall for their Thanksgiving reunion.

Pennant Bluster and Joe Morgan Chat Day on Wry
2003-10-29 18:07
by Mike Carminati

Ah, radio. It's a sound salvation. Radio, it's cleaning up the nation. I remember those halcyon days of my obviously misspent youth spent listening to my Phils on a little, bright blue, hand-held transistor radio with accompanying black leatherette case.

There was nothing better than listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. Kalas's rich voice was unaffected, cool, and yet somehow still had a warmth to it. It’s a tool that Thom Brennamen would sell his father's soul for and apparently has tried. Ashburn's comments were laconic and his tone fraught with bemusement and irony. They were the perfect team to convey the enjoyment and excitement of the sport to a young novice such as myself back in the day. It's hard to believe Tim McCarver learned his trade under these two stellar gentlemen's tutelage. (And there were those innings that the dreaded Andy Musser would swap out one of the Hall-of-Famers. Musser's voice cut like a knife and his insights galled my 10-year-old sensibilities—like calling Garry Maddox Elliott Madox. And he looked like a taller, thinner, younger version of Bud Selig, not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Kalas and Ashburn did the television broadcasts back then, too. However, there were plenty of games that were broadcast only on the radio. I believe that all the West Coast games and most home games (other than Sundays) were radio-only back in the mid-Seventies. Anyway, they brought the game to life for me with just their voices. I remember one game in particular in which the Phils' biggest rival back then, the "Big Bad Bucs" as the Pirates were referred to, held on to a lead with the bullpen tandem of Enrique Romo and Kent Tekulve. I developed a hatred for Enrique Romo right away, on the radio, before I ever saw him pitch (he was an AL'er before that and watching them back then was like taking a trip to China, with the culture-shock it induced and the lack of exposure to NL towns).

However, I'm sorry to say that I haven't listened to a radio broadcast of a baseball game in a good twenty years. In my teens the Phils started to broadcast games on a local cable network called Prism. Now you can see just about every game the local team plays, home or away, East Coast or West, on either your local affiliate or some Comcast/Fox cable channel. If you aren't into the local team, cable has tons of packages and pay-per-view options. With all those options, radio just got squeezed out.

And why not when TV offers actual views of the plays and players with replays and if you're lucky enough to watch the McCarver network, super-duper slo-mo employing the same technology that they used in videos in the early Eighties (e.g., Golden Earring's "When the bullet hits the bone" effect in Twilight Zone). Super slo-mo is so grainy and meaningless that you'll think you are watching a rebroadcast from the early Sixties. What great technology! It's a time machine as well as the antithesis of HDTV. Fox will even deign to display the radar gun readings when they feel like it and even show an individual's stats after his first at-bat once in a blue moon—as if McCarver had to do the fancy ciphering with his own cally gulliver.

That brings me to Joe. Joe feels that radio is still superior to television as a media to broadcast baseball games. And that might be true if you are Vin Scully or Harry Kalas, but if you are Joe Morgan all it does is allow you to spread your propaganda without the annoying encumbrance of actual views of the game. Soriano is a good fielder, Dontrelle Willis is the best young pitcher in baseball, Billy Koch is a superior closer to Keith Foulke—it all must be true since Joe Morgan said it on the radio. Never mind the stats or even what the average baseball fan can see with his own eyes. In the land of the radio, the man with one eye is king, or words to that effect. It's kind of like a blog.

So I beckon you forth to put on blinders and listen to Joe's deep thoughts. So put in your earplugs,
Put on your eyeshades, You know where to put the cork:

the Good

Jeff, Indianapolis: Joe, what does McKeon do with his rotation now? We know the Series is going at least 6. Does he bring Beckett on 3 days rest or try someone like Dontrelle or Penny?

Well, I think a lot depends on what happens in today's game. If he wins, he'll probably send Dontrelle out on Saturday and save Penny. If he loses today the decision becomes a tough one.

[Mike: Or he'll win today and pitch Willis for no apparent reason thereby requiring Beckett to go on three days' rest.]

Colin (Bridgeport, CT): Joe! I have had it up to here with Aaron Boone. Yes, we Yankee fans are indebted to him for his walk-off job, but this is the WS!! All we needed was a productive out, and he could not even put the ball in play! Was that a turning point in this series, or do you see the Yanks coming back unphased this evening? Thanks!!!!

Well, the Yankees have to be phased by the missed opportunities. They had control of the series and couldn't finish. I wouldn't be surprised if Torre replaced Boone in the lineup today or Saturday. It is one of the few places that the does have an option (in Enrique Williams). But, I agree with you, you are indebted to the guy for life.

[Mike: First, Colin when you say "up to here" are you bragging or complaining. It's hard to convey gestures in the written language. That's why Harpo Marx never had any lines in the Marx Brothers' scripts.

Anyway, Joe makes more sense than the actual moves, leaving Boone in but swapping out Soriano for Wilson. Too bad Luis Sojo was available.

By the way, it's "unfazed". "Phased" means that they were completed in incremental steps. I don't thinkl that's the case for most of the Yankees unless you are speaking in a deeper, metaphorical sense.

ryan ( dubuque, ia): Do you think the yankees comeback was bigger than the loss since it showed the never die attitude. With the maturity and experience on the club do you believe this is a team that can come back from a dramatic loss to get it done on the road? Thanks a lot for you insite I truely enjoy it.

The Yankees had already proven that they never die with the Boston series. I don't think last night is as tough a loss for hte Yankees as it would have been for the Marlins. Tonight's game really holds the key to the rest of the Series. There is a lot hinging on it. If the Marlins win tonight, they have a shot with Beckett in Yankee Stadium. If New York pulls it out tonight, it will be tough deficit for Florida to overcome.

[Mike: Unless Torre overreacts and swaps out the starting lineup for replacement level scrubs. Maybe Joe watched The Bad News Bears recently and took Buttermaker's change of heart from a "win at any cost" Machiavelli to a kinder and gentler "Everybody plays" loser in the Bears' champion game literally. "Good job, Enrique. Don't worry—relay throws are hard. As long as you're having fun out there."]

The Bad

Crawford (atlanta, Ga): Hey Joe, I'm sad that you can't be on FOX commentating the WS....but my question is Florida's game tonight a must win if they are to beat the yankess in new york. It seems that the only team that wins in yankee stadium is the yankees.

It would be tough for anyone to win if you are down 3-2 and have the last two games at the oppositions field. To their credit, though, we know that they did beat the Yankees in Game 1 in the Bronx. So, it can be done.

[Mike: Actually, the Yankees had a better road record than home record this year (51-29 to 50-32). They were fifth in the AL in home won-lost record behind Oakland (57-24), Boston (53-28), Chicago (51-30), and Seattle (50-31). Florida had a better home record than the Yanks (53-28) as did three other NL clubs. By the way, Florida was just 38-43 on the road this year.

And in the playoffs, the Yankees lost at least one game at home in each round: 1 vs. Minnesota, 2 vs. Boston, and 1 so far with Florida (it ended up being two including game 6).]

David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, do you think we will see another fire sale in Florida or is there a chance that the World Series run has convinced some to possibly stay?

Well, what I've read in the papers, it will be tough to keep the whole team together b/c they would have to add about 40 mill in payroll. I don't know that that they will be willing to do that, but at the same time I don't expect a total firesale. If they wanted to do that they would have done it this year before the deadline when they weren't even expected to make the playoffs. They could have dumped a lot of folks then if they had wanted to.

[Mike: Well, how can it be a "fire sale" when they don't own the players in the first place? This is a completely different situation than 1997. Then they had high-priced veterans, whom they did unload the next season. Now, they have a number of young players (e.g., Lowell and Lee) and veterans (Pudge, Castillo, Urbina) who are free agents this offseason. A number of the potential free agents have already said that they want to stay in Florida, and the team wants to re-sign them. It just comes down to money and choices.

I'm not sure how they would all add up to the $40 M that Joe cites, but they'll be a chunk of change. There are a few veterans that the Marlins would be wise to let walk (Urbina, Castillo, Hollandsworth and the Foxes to name a few) because they are highly fungible commodities. Lowell and Lee are solid youngsters that should anchor the team for the foreseeable future. Pudge should stay in Florida. However, they should remember his not-too-distant health problems.

I think signing Lowell, Pudge, and Lee would be the best course of action for the team even though letting the rest go may be seen as a "fire sale". Look what happened to the Angels' misdirected desire to keep a championship team intact.]

Bryan (Jackson, NJ): Mr. Morgan, although I am extremely impressed with this Marlins team and their postseason run, I am like a lot of fans waiting to see if ownership will sign its key free agents (Pudge, Lowell, Castillo, Lee) in the offseason. Based on the Marlins poor attendance during the regular season, and their past history (destroying the team after the 97 WS) do you think the city of Miami will continue to support the Marlins next season, or is this just a bandwagon effort?

The fans were great down here last night. In fact, I think they helped the Marlins win. Even after they lost the lead in the ninth, all the fans stayed and continued to stay and sustain that energy. This could really be the start of a great thing here in Florida. The support is admirable. Whether the fans will keep this up in the future will probably depend heavily on the success of the team. But last night was great, I was very impressed.

[Mike: C'mon some of these people have been Marlins fans as far back as the Divisional Series. The Marlins drew the smallest crowds in baseball last year (they only passed the Expos because of some charity in the form of a 15K block seats purchased by an unknown benefactor). Yes, there was disillusionment after the 1997 dismantling, but the Expos were nearly contracted out of existence and the Marlins could not outdraw them?

Fans are great when teams are winning. Look at how great the Anaheim fans were last year.]

Ralph (Miami): I grew up in NY and now live in Miami which makes me rooting for both teams and just great baseball. I was very pleased with the way Marlin fans and players recognized Roger when he left the game. This was and continues to be baseball at it's best. What did you think of that scene Joe?

I thought the fan reaction was great. Roger Clemens is one of the greatest of this game and they acknowledged his accomplishment last night regardless of team affiliation. I believe the moment was started by the Yankee fans in attendance, but the spirit and sentiment was picked up by the Florida fans and players and it was just a great moment in baseball and in World Series history.

[Mike: It was nice, but if the Marlins fans really cared about the game, would they be so gung-ho to cheer Clemens? Would the Bronx faithful have been so kind if the situation were reversed? Jeez, I hope not. As Ralph illustrates, Marlins fans are not so invested in their team. Neither is their owner apparently since he has box seats at Yankee stadium.]

Scott Peterson-Crystal Harmony: Joe, love the work you and Jon do. Do you think Torre has to get Soriano out of the lead off spot and put a more disciplined hitter in there the rest of the series?

The question is -- who would that be. If you had a choice you probably would do it but who would you use? Jeter isn't discipled. Giambi is, Matsui, Nick Johnson -- they are disciplined hitters but they are not lead-off guys. The Marlins are in a similar position. Castillo has been striking out left and right but they don't have a better alternative. Neither one of these teams has the versatility they desire in a line-up.

[Mike: Discipline Schmiscipline. Jeter has a .393 on-base percentage this season and a .389 OBP for his career. Soriano was just .338 in 2003 and .322 for his career, poor for a leadoff hitter. Jeter is a good leadoff hitter. The problem for the Yankees becomes who bats second and what to do with Soriano.

Steve "Don't Call Me Bobby" Bonner points out that Joe says Jeter is not "discipled": "I mean I know there are a lot of people who claim that Jeter is a baseball god. But I wouldn't expect him to be discipled." Good catch, Steve. I missed it completely. I did say the other day that the media were ready to canonize Jeter after his performance in game 3. Maybe Joe took that idea literally. (By the way, Bobby Bonner was utility infielder with the O's in the early Eighties.)]

Duke (Dallas, TX): Can you explain Soriano's slump through game 3? Also, if he isn't hitting, why isn't he trying to bunt his way on or try to get a walk to help his team? Thanks.

One of the problems is that he is a free swinger. He doens't go up and take a lot of pitches. Jeter has a similar style. The problem is Soriano is striking out and Jeter is putting the ball in play. I personally think Soriano is physically tired. His bat looks slow to me and that is why we're seeing him strike out so much.

[Mike: Duke from Texas? Well, hello, pilgrim.

Well, Jeter and Soriano really don't have similar styles at all. As I said earlier Jeter has 60-70 point advantage in on-base percentage and that's due mostly to his ability to a walk on a regular basis. Jeter had 43 walks to go with his mere 482 at-bats this year. Soriano had just 38 walks to go with his 682 at-bats.
But an even bigger difference is in the approach of the two Yankees. Jeter has an idea of what type of pitch he is looking to hit and what type he is not. He has an idea of how the pitcher will try to get him out and will accept a pitch that he can't drive and will instead go the opposite way with it.

Soriano has the "see the ball, hit the ball" mentality. My friend Murray says that he's just plain dumb: " He doesn't have a plan, he doesn't stick to a plan when he's given marching orders about what to do at the plate, and he doesn't make adjustments based on his mistakes." He is a great bad ball hitter though. However, by not developing an eye and by not being willing to take a walk occasionally or even slap an opposite-field hit once in a while, he makes his slumps all the more pronounced. He seems either incapable or unwilling to keep a book on each pitcher and appears to forget within an at-bat what the pitcher has gotten him to miss. Beckett served him up three fastballs, then three curves, and then three strikeouts all for strikeouts in game 3. Maybe fatigue has exacerbated the issue, but everyone is tired in October and Soriano is only 25.

Also, Jeter is more of a slap hitter and Soriano an all-or-nothing power type though both are aggressive in the box. The all-or-nothing approach can lead more easily to a rut then a slump and then hanging out with Kevin Maas at the Gas-N-Sip. I do think, however, a move to center will cure all of Soriano's problems, just like it did for Juan Samuel.]

Matt (St. Paul,MN): What major leaguer past or present would you compare Cabrera to? He has been great all postseason but I was so impressed last night when he got brushed back by Clemens and ended up taking an outside pitch the other way for a home run.

I can't think of a 20 year old that has showed this kind of a toughness in World Series competition. Most 20 year olds do not get to the WS. He is much differnt than Andruw Jones was at 20. I can't compare the two, but they both his some World Series home runs. He is really in his own.

[Mike: In his own what? League? Element? Feces?

At the age of 19, Andruw Jones batted .400, hit 2 home runs, and had a 1.228 OPS in the 1996 World Series against the Yankees. That's pretty impressive and I hear Jones is pretty good with the glove.

Cabrera ended up hitting under .200, but did collect the home run off of a Hall-of-Famer. Looking at his Series stats, his meager totals look strikingly similar to a pretty goos player from the past though, Willie Mays. Here are the batting stats for all players under 21 in the World Series. There are quite a few Hall-of-Famers on the list:

1885Bug Holliday18400.
1887Silver King191401.
1888Elton Chamberlain201300.
1888Silver King201500.
1907Heinie Zimmerman20100.
1907Ty Cobb202000.200.200.300.500
1913Joe Bush20400.
1914Herb Pennock20100.
1914Les Mann20701.
1915Babe Ruth20100.
1923Travis Jackson19100.
1924Freddie Lindstrom183004.333.394.400.794
1924Travis Jackson202701.
1927Fred Brickell20200.
1935Phil Cavarretta192400.
1946Joe Garagiola201904.316.316.421.737
1951Mickey Mantle20500.200.429.200.629
1951Willie Mays202201.
1955Tom Carroll19000.
1956Don Drysdale20000.
1957Juan Pizarro20100.
1965Dave Boswell20000.
1965Willie Crawford19200.500.500.5001.000
1967Ken Brett19000.
1970Don Gullett19100.
1970Milt Wilcox20000.
1974Claudell Washington20700.571.625.5711.196
1981Fernando Valenzuela20300.
1996Andruw Jones192026.400.478.7501.228
2002Francisco Rodriguez20000.
2003Miguel Cabrera202413.

The Ugly

Scott (Lebanon, NH): Watching the venom spewing from Boston writers' pens is discouraging regarding Grady Little. I think that giving Pedro the choice was the right thing to do. Had he brought Embree in, and Embree ended up the loser, Grady would have been vilified even moreso for not staying with Pedro. Little's decision was the right one, Pedro's his best pitcher.

It was not the right thing to do. Pedro was not his best pitcher after 120 pitches. Pedro had been limited to around 100 pitches or so during the regular season and he had also struggled to get out of that previous inning. Timlin and Williamson had pitched great and I think they could have held a three-run lead. Pedro was out of gas. A manager should make the decision -- not the pitcher. If you're a manager, you don't ask, you must make the decision and take the ball.

[Mike: No wonder Dan Shaughnessy is such a horrific, one-subject writer. His pen is full of venom. What, is ink hard to come by in Boston? Is it cursed?

Joe's right. Had Little left Martinez in without having asked him, he wouldn't have been in trouble. But didn't everyone know that Manny Ramirez's and Pedro Martinez's egos drive the Sox by now? Didn't the beanball game put that on full display?

This is in the "Ugly" section due to the following…]

Sugar (Sacramento): Hi Joe, thank you for taking my question today. I am interested in knowing what you think about the management/coaching abilities of Torre and McKeon, and their performances thus far in the World Series. Have they made the right moves thus far? PS: I miss seeing you on televison, however do enjoy watching the games on mute and listening to the radio.

Thanks for the compliment. I think both of them have managed well. The only decision I would question would be McKeon pulling Pavano last night after he had retired 11 straight batters to bring in Urbina. Urbina is not Mariano Rivera. I had to question that decision. But other than that I think they have both done a great job getting their teams here and so far this Series.

[Mike: How can this response follow (there was one question in between) the one above? Pavano had thrown 115 pitches, I believe. Why should Little pull Martinez after 120, but McKeon should stay with the estimable Pavano at 115? Maybe it’s just because the results dictated the second-guessing. Nice, Joe.]

Paul Radetsky (Longwood, FL): Hi Joe. There have been rumors that the Yankees will be moving Soriano to the outfield for next season. Do you think that this is a wise decision, and whom do you think out of the available free agents or Yankee Farm Club players would be a "best fit"? Thanks.

I don't know anyone who would be able to take his place at second base. I personally would like him to stay there and learn the position. I think he needs to develop but he has it in him. I don't know of anyone who could step in there and best Soriano.

[Mike: Paul, are you related to Scott? Never mind. Soriano will "learn the position". That's what Joe always says. That's what he said about Juan Samuel when he succeeded Joe in Philly.

Look, Soriano is a hitter or maybe just an athlete playing the field. If he is passable at second and is a 40-40 man fine. I would be more concerned about his learning to take a walk or slap the ball the other way once in a while.

Why hide a guy who has problems with either his mechanics or his attention span in center field, where problems in either area could prove catastrophic? How often does a second baseman miss a ball and have it go for a triple? How about a center fielder?

His problem is to remain effective enough at the plate to compensate for his shortcomings in the field. So far in the Series that has not been the case. I don't know maybe he should just be pawned off to some poor rune of a team. Where are the KC A's when you need them?]

Tony (Manchester, CT): Far be it for me to question a Joe Torre decision after all the success he has had, however I found it curious that Jeff Weaver was called upon in extra innings of last nights game when there were many fresh arms in the pen. Why do you think he went with Weaver who Torre has said publically was a guy he did not trust to get big outs?????

Well part of the problem was that the Marlins are really a right-handed hitting line-up. Joe did not want to bring a left hander in against these guys. I think Torre also felt that Looper was throwing so well that it would be a while before the Yankees scored so he wanted to hold off on bringing in Mariano. It was a tough situation for Weaver and a tough decision for Joe. Jeff has not pitched since September. But, if you are not going to use a guy, then he should not be on your roster. Jeff Weaver is on Joe Torre's roster for a reason. Joe took a chance last night and while it could have gone either way the Marlins were the winners of that. Tough call.

[Mike: This is a self-parody of a response. Now go away or I shall taunt you another time.]

Ali (Bethesda, MD): Joe, these late games have afforded me a unique opportunity to listen to the games on the radio in bed (thanks, by the way). Why is it that baseball tranfers into radio waves so much better then any other sport?

I think radio offers you more time to explain what is happening in the game. TV has many things imposing on your viewership -- cut ins, replays, fan shots -- all of this kind of intrudes on your thought process of just watching the game. When you listen you can picture things in your mind as they are explained to you rather than what they are showing to you. It is a great medium. Thanks for listening.

[Mike: Joe not only has Super Analyst Sight, he now has Super Analyst Explantory powers. TV "imposes" upon us, the viewers? That's true, I felt quite put upon, but that was due to having to endure Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, not replays. Besides, am I the only one or did everyone notice that Fox's replays show every conceivable angle but never really a decisive one. They either show you the runner without the bag or the bag without the tag being applied or there is an ump right in the middle of the frame or they show you from 500 feet above.

But on the radio there is no need for replays of what actually happened. Joe knows all and tells all. Joe controls the audio. Joe controls the video. And it was good…]

Retro Rocket?
2003-10-28 00:56
by Mike Carminati

Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a comparison of Josh Beckett's and Roger Clemens career through the age of 23. Rich feels that next year Beckett could have a year similar to Clemens breakout year of 1986. As for me, I'm not convinced. He looked great in the Series but with the failingly flailing Yankee hitters as a guide, he could end up Clemens, Booby Witt, or Joyce DeWitt for all I know.

It's interesting to compare their minor-league stats though. There is one major distinction between the two at the age of 23 however. Clemens was just two years removed from college whereas Beckett never attended college. Beckett's career started at 19.

Beckett may have a breakout year in 2004, but as of now he has .500 career and has never thrown over 150 innings in parts of three major-league seasons. Even if Beckett has the ability, he has yet to show that he can put it all together for an entire season. One thing is certain, however: he won't be a surprise to anyone next year like Clemens was in 1986.

Rabbit Season! Mighty Ducks Season!
2003-10-27 13:27
by Mike Carminati

See her picture in a thousand places
'cause she's this year's girl.
You think you all own little pieces
of this year's girl.
Forget your fancy manners,
forget your English grammar,
'cause you don't really give a damn
about this year's girl.

—Elvis Costello, This year's Girl

It's appropriate that in October hockey season is just getting underway. In October baseball the playoffs have now turned into a crapshoot reminiscent of the annual hard-fought struggle for Lord Stanley's cup, in which fourth-place teams often have vied for conference finals.

All of which brings me to the Marlins, who beat the Yankees 2-0 behind the brilliant pitching of Josh Beckett to snare the World Series title in six mostly anticlimactic games. This is the third in a string of meaningless teams winning meaningless titles. In 2001, the Diamondbacks rode the arms of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to win the Series in just their fourth year. The team was in third place in 2000 and has since been overhauled. In 2002, the Anaheim Rally Monkeys started the season 6-14 and then went on to win 99 en route to the wild card and then the World Series. In the process David Eckstein became everyone's favorite player and then was quickly forgotten, Gene Autry was eulogized ad nauseam, and the Anaheim fans were called the greatest in the world. Prior to 2001, the team had been playing out a streak of mediocre seasons that culminated with a 12-games-below-.500 2000 season. This season, the Angels returned to the obscurity from whence they sprang, finishing third, 19 games out, and 8 games under .500.

And then here come the Florida Marlins. The Marlins have no history: They do have the blight that was the 1997-98 World Champions cum 108-game losers team. Since then they have been a mediocre team at best.

They have no fan base. Last year they drew the second worst in the majors, barely above 10,000 fannies per home game and only slightly above (13 fans per game) the nearly contracted Montreal Expos. The only reason that they even finished ahead of Montreal was that a benefactor purchased a block of 15,000 tickets in the final weekend of the season to ensure that they would. Besides they have an owner who ran his previous team in the ground and was rewarded with a new franchise in Bud Selig's orchestrated ring-a-round-the-roses shuffling of the Red Sox, Marlins, and Expos ownership groups.

And the Marlins may not have a future with potential free agents Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Derrek Lee, Luis Castillo, Ugueth Urbina, etc. The management may not have the money to hold the team together, and even if they could they could return to mediocrity next season.

The young pitching staff is highly touted but has not really produced for a full season. World Series MVP Josh Beckett was just 9-8 this season in about two-thirds of a season, though with a 3.04 ERA. He is a hard thrower how may be the next Roger Clemens or the next Bobby Witt. Dontrelle Willis had an ERA close to 5.00 in the second half and pitched poorly in the postseason. Beckett, Mark Redman, Willis, and Brad Penny may be the next Smoltz, Avery, and Glavine or they might be the next Pat Combs, Tommy Greene, and Jason Grimsley.

Pudge Rodriguez is a great player but he had had three injury-plagued seasons before 2003. That's why he couldn't land a better deal than the one-year contract he signed with Florida.

Alex Gonzalez has had a rollercoaster career and he is only 26. After an encouraging rookie season (.277 BA, 14 HR, 59 RBI), he had a miserable sophomore year (.200 BA, .548 OPS, 7 HR, 42 RBI in 385 ABs). It took him two more seasons to return to health and productivity. This year he hit 18 homers and had 77 runs batted in.

Juan Pierre may be a budding Willie Wilson or he may be a one-year wonder like Alan Wiggins. He is impatient at the plate. He seemed to learn how to take a walk at least once or twice a week this year (55 in total), but will that last? He has no power and he is caught stealing a large percentage of the time (65 stolen bases and 20 caught stealing for a 76% success rate, good but not great, in 2003). In his favor are the speed and the ability to make contact (only 35 K's in 2003). However, if he doesn’t keep his average over .300 and his on-base percentage over .350, he's a liability to the offense. He proved that in Colorado last year. That's why the Rockies were willing to trade centerfield problemw with the Marlins with Colorado receiving Preston Wilson.

The same can be said of Luis Castillo (.300 BA and .350 OBP). Encarnacion is at best an average player in right. Lee and Lowell are solid but one or both are likely gone. Cabrera looks like a budding star, but it's way too early to tell. Besides he doesn't seem to have a position except left field and he has a lot to learn about playing the outfield. They have a poor bullpen—their 4.31 bullpen ERA was tenth in the NL—with two closers, neither of which is an enviable option.

Indeed, their present belies the World Series victory. They are a good team, however little credit I give them, but not a truly great one. They have no glaring holes—other than left-handed relief, which the Yankees miraculously managed to avoid exposing in the Series. As I said before, Florida is one of only 8 teams to win 91 games or fewer and win the World Series. They are also one of 13 teams to have a losing record one season and win the Series in the next—the Marlins were 79-83 last year. Here they are with their records in the season the won the World Series (WS Yr), the year prior to the World Series win (Yr 1), and the year after (Yr 3):

1914Boston Braves9459.6146982.4578369.546
1924Washington Senators9262.5977578.4909655.636
1933New York Giants9161.5997282.4689360.608
1954New York Giants9757.6307084.4558074.519
1959Los Angeles Dodgers8868.5647183.4618272.532
1965Los Angeles Dodgers9765.5998082.4949567.586
1969New York Mets10062.6177389.4518379.512
1987Minnesota Twins8577.5257191.4389171.562
1988Los Angeles Dodgers9467.5847389.4517783.481
1990Cincinnati Reds9171.5627587.4637488.457
1991Minnesota Twins9567.5867488.4579072.556
1997Florida Marlins9270.5688082.49454108.333

Note that those teams returned on average to mediocrity. They were about ten games better, but a .526 winning percentage was basically where the Phils, Jays, Dodgers, and White Sox were this year, OK but not great. Only three of the twelve improved the next season but then again only three returned to sub-.500 in the third year, including the Marlins 1997-98 cautionary tale of a team. Given that the average year-after World Series champ has a record of 89-64 for .579 winning percentage, which was only reached by three teams on the list, that's not very encouraging. It's no wonder that the two "Miracle" teams ('14 Braves and '69 Mets) appear on the list.

The Marlins will be in a competitive division next year with maybe four of the five teams vying for the title. They may be able to remain mediocre—say, win 90 games—and win the division next year. However, with four fifths of their infield perhaps in free agency flux and a bunch of young players who have yet to produce for an entire season, mediocrity may be tough to achieve.

However, the Marlins did win the World Series. The Yankees have to go home licking their wounds with the knowledge that they had a winnable title in their grasps and let it slip away, or to be fair, let the Marlins take it away. And this year they can't blame the pitching. They registered a 2.13 team ERA in the Series, the lowest ever for a losing team. Even in a game in which they were dominated by Josh Beckett, the opportunities were there for the Yankees. They just did not execute.

In game six, the Yankees had the leadoff man on base in the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth innings. In only two of those instances did the Yankees successfully move the runner into scoring position, and both times cost them an out (Jeter's grounder to the right side in the third and Boone's bunt in the fifth). In the seventh Jason Giambi was unable to pull the ball to advance Jorge Posada, who had led off with a double. He grounded to third. In the eighth, Soriano led off with a poke single to left. Derek Jeter had a 2-0 count, Wayne Rosenthal visited the mound, and Dontrelle Willis was up in the pen. If Jeter reached base, Beckett was likely down for the night. After going up 3-1, Jeter flied out mildly to Pierre. In two instances the Yankees grounded into a doubleplay to erase the leadoff baserunner.

One note on Jeter, just as he was being prepared for canonization for his heroics against Beckett in game 3, which enabled the Yankees to go up two games to one, his Series hit some major bumps in the road. He abruptly set the tone for game 4 after he failed to run out an arching liner to second that turned into an inning-killing doubleplay. The play itself was bad, but even worse may have been that he had a 3-0 count to start the at-bat and failed so badly. He hit into a doubleplay again in the fifth inning, after Roger Clemens collected a single on an 0-2 count, and in the process he almost got Clemens decapitated on the relay from second.

In game 5, he went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a run batted in. He made a key mis(non)play in the fifth. With the Yankees trailing, 4-1, and Pudge Rodriguez on second with one out, Aaron Boone snared a hard grounder by Jeff Conine and seemed to pick Gonzalez off of second. He relayed to Enrique Wilson, but Wilson quickly threw the ball to an empty third base and what ended up being the winning runs eventually scored. So how can I blame Jeter? Jeter should have been at third. The play enfolded before him. Boone threw to Wilson and rotated out expecting someone to replace him in the rundown just as the practice it. Jeter should have been that man. Wilson's throw was ill-advised and much too quick, but Jeter made no effort to get to third.

Jeter, who went 3-for-4 against Beckett in game 3 with two doubles, the second of which ushered Beckett out of the game, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in game 6. His best at-bat was the productive out in the third. He struck out on three pitches to lead off the game and on five in the fifth. In the sixth, Jeter's error on a Jeff Conine ball allowed the Marlins to score their second run, a huge mistake with the way that Beckett was pitching.

Maybe George was right, Jeter had been partying too much. Maybe he started sniffing the champagne a bit too early.

In addition to the Jeter misplay, a throw to the left side of the plate by Karim Garcia would have had Gonzalez at the plate easily. Andy Pettitte pitched a great game and deserved better.

So we baseball fans are left with the another Mighty Ducks of a world champion. I feel bad for teams like the A's, Red Sox, and Mariners, who have been building competitive teams for years and have nothing to show for it. The Marlins catch lightning in a bottle and like a fourth-place Smyth Division qualifier eke out series win after series win.

Well, the Marlins were the best team in baseball since May 23, you say. Joe Buck has been repeating it on a regular basis since the playoffs started (he also keeps saying that Karim Garcia started the season in Triple-A Buffalo, a patented ridiculous statement given the fact that Garcia was Cleveland's starting right fielder coming out of camp after hitting .299 with 16 home runs in 202 at-bats last year and the fact that Garcia only played in Buffalo for two weeks in June during a rehab stint). The Marlins were in fifth place in the NL East with a 19-29 record (.396 wining percentage) after losing six straight. The Marlins were never 10 games within first-place Atlanta from that point on.

This is not a team for which the wild card was originally proposed. It was meant as a refuge for those teams that vied for a division title all year but failed to garner one. The 2003 Marlins were never in any sort of division title hunt. They were barely in a wild card race until the Phillies floundered in the second half. Their admittance to the postseason was the hanging chad of the season.

I know that all of that, to quote Nigel Tufnel, "Is nitpicking, isn't it?" However, I argue that we deserve better as fans. After a great postseason, the World Series showed great promise but ultimately fizzled and we awake to the vision of the Marlins as champs, whose flaws will become clearer next season as the World Series beer goggles wear off. But by then we will have next year's one-year wonder to gawk at as it cantors through a World Series title.

Down the Wells
2003-10-24 12:53
by Mike Carminati

You know, Joe Torre is an all-or-nothing sort. Last year the Yankees squeezed every regular-season out of Jorge Posada's body leaving him enervated for the playoffs. They overworked a basically four-man bullpen with only one lefty (Rivera, Mike Stanton, Steve Karsay, and Ramiro Mendoza). In the process they overworked an old starting rotation, working Clemens, Wells, Mussina, Pettitte, and El Duque Hernandez deeper into games than any other major-league staff. The starters ended up breaking down in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.

This year was different. He used a caste of thousands in the bullpen and in right-field. He still leaned on the starting players but they responded and the overworked Jorge Posada has been playing well even into the playoffs. In the playoffs, Torre was making deft moves like triple-switches and seemed to be two steps ahead of McKeon throughout most of the first four games.

However, everything changed abruptly when Torre turned to Jeff Weaver in the eleventh inning of game four. Then Torre played yesterday's game like the Yankees were on the brink of elimination, and now guess where they are.

Soriano had been killing them at the top of the order. Giambi has had his problems and he's injured. Soriano had a .209 batting average, a .254 on-base percentage, a .284 slugging average, and a .537 OPS in the playoffs prior to yesterday's game. Since batting .368 with a .789 OPS in the first round, his numbers look especially poor: .143 BA, .208 OBP, .224 Slug, and .432 OPS (including yesterday's AB). And of course, he continues to establish a postseason strikeout record nearly every time he bats. Giambi didn't look much better: .246 BA, .358 OBP, .509 Slug, and .867 OPS (including yesterday's homer). OK.

But so has Aaron Boone, both offensively and defensively (5 errors in the playoffs), and yet he was in the game yesterday. Boone's numbers in the playoffs through last night's game: .173 BA, .200 OBP, .308 Slug, and .508 OPS. Well, Boone had to be in because of the cascading dominoes that resulted after Torre decided to bench Soriano and Giambi.

Well, maybe that's not fair. Torre probably decided that he needed more production in the top three spots. He could have moved Jeter to leadoff, but then what does he do with Soriano and who fills in behind Jeter? Well, Johnson had batted second a few times in the postseason, but Torre did not seem enamored of that move either. And if he put Soriano in the 7th or 8th spot, then the bottom of the order would be Boone, Soriano, and the pitcher, an unenviable threesome right now.

So he landed upon backup Enrique Wilson, who makes decent contact and has decent speed, as his second baseman and #2 hitter. The rest flowed. Wilson is the only backup infielder on the roster (Luis Sojo is apparently just a team mascot) along with a glut of rightfielders and useless left-handed relievers, so Boone had to play.

Giambi was as gimpy going into game 5 as he was in the first game without the DH. However, Torre was heckbent on resting him, too, of course in the same game. Who cares that Giambi and Soriano had almost 80 home runs together this season? Never mind that Giambi was 2-for-6 in the previous game and that he has had a .367 on-base percentage, a .561slugging percentage, and a .928 OPS in the last two rounds (including the homer yesterday).

The game seemed like an exercise in futility. It was like the scene in "Hooisers" (a film I am incapable of turning off once I happen upon it) when Gene Hackman asserts his hegemony over the high-schoolers by continuing to bench a star player who disobeyed orders earlier in the game, even after another player fouls out and the team is short one player. After the game he says something like:

"Those of you who were left on the floor at the end, I'm proud of you. You played your hearts out. All of you have the weekend. Decide whether or not you want to be a part of this team or not, under the following condition. What I say when it comes to this basketball team is the law, absolutely and without discussion."

OK, Joe. You're in charge. Entrust the Series to Jeff Weaver's and Enrique Wilson's trusty hands.

And even so, the Yankees could very easily won it if it weren't for Wells' back and a silly rundown mishap in which Wilson thought they were instead playing "hot potato". The Yankees out-hit the Marlins in game 5. The bulk of the Marlins runs came when Contreras hurriedly entered the game after Wells was forced to leave and after the Wilson error. Oh, sorry, David, you had to actually slog off the mound and evade your girth in order to field a bunt. Take the World Series off and go get drunk. I felt sorry for Contreras, who was asked to do something he probably never did before in his career, pitch an extremely long relief stint a day after pitching the ninth and tenth innings of a then tied ballgame. He was very wild and almost hit two Marlins in the head.

But even after Contreras exited the Yankees were just trailing 4-1 leading off the fifth. Then Torre went to Chris Hammond, who hasn't pitched the entire postseason, but, hey, at least it justified Hammond's pointless activation just before the Series. Then Hammond gets into a little trouble and is seemingly rescued by a great play by Boone getting Pudge Rodriguez caught between second and third. That is, until Enrique Wilson, in the ensuing rundown, throws to an empty base leading to two unearned runs. By the way, why are both runs unearned or even one? Had Wilson not made the ill-advised throw, it was unlikely that he would get Pudge given that Boone had rotated off the play and Jeter had not yet gotten into it. (Where was Jeter anyway?) Let's say, Wilson holds onto the ball, Pudge would then scurry off to third, and Conine would likely advance to second. Even if Jeter had been able to get into the play and they got Pudge, wouldn't Conine have been at second anyway? When Lowell singles at least Conine would have scored if not both of the runners.

Anyway, the Yankees then leave the bases loaded in the seventh but at least score one and stage an obligatory ninth-inning rally after Giambi's po'ed, pinch-hit home run. The ninth could be the Yankees' season in microcosm: trailing by two with a runner at second and one out, the tying run in Bernie Williams hits a ball to deep right-center that is caught by Juan Pierre (the third time in the series and he has just one HR to show for it). The Hideki Matsui hits a bullet that Derrek Lee one-hops guarding the line at first. End of game.

The Yankees have Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina while the Marlins are still cobbling a rotation together as the Series proceeds. They decided that Dontelle Willis won't be the game 6 starter after inserting him in relief in game 5. But then again, the Cubs had Prior and Wood going and were 5 outs from clinching before the Marlins won both games to advance to the Series. These Marlins have more lives than Freddy, Chuckie, and Jason all rolled into one.

I still think the Yankees will win it, but then again I thought the Giants would take the Marlins in 5, so what do I know. The Marlins at 91-71 would not be the worst team to win a world championship (my Phils in 1980 had the same record), but they're up there. The Yankees had just 87 wins in 2000 when they won it all, but the all-time worst is the '87 Twins at 85-77. In total there are just 7 World Series champs with a winning percentage no better that the '03 Marlins ('59 Dodgers, '74 A's, '80 Phils, '85 Royals. '87 Twins, '90 Reds, and 2000 Yankees).

What kind of staff do the Yankees have now anyway? Pettitte and Mussina will start. They have the three lefties in pen, two of whom Torre has ignored the entire Series and the third, Hammond, gave up two unearned runs yesterday, so he retreats back to the doghouse. Then there are the three righties in the pen, Rivera, Nelson, and Contreras, who probably gets excused for yesterday's bad outing due to being rushed into action. Then there's Weaver who may as well take a flight home instead of to the Bronx today. Wells could be available because he only pitched one inning, but who knows if his back will respond in time. Clemens is a possibility.
So that leaves the two starters and basically an all-righty four man bullpen including Clemens and maybe a situational lefty or two. I hope that Aaron Boone's "ghosts" have learned to pitch in the last week.

Yankees' Heel—Weaver Breakdown Had To Happen Osuna or Later
2003-10-24 00:07
by Mike Carminati

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.

—Bible, Job 7:6.

Here lies.... You know, Weaver, I’ve forgotten who we just buried.

—William "Bee" Holden in The Bridge On the River Kwai

As of the start of game four of the World Series, Joe Torre bestrode the battlefield apparently impregnable. The Yankees game three victory had been a minor key masterpiece by Torre. Every move worked to perfection. While Torre was pulling triple-switches, Jack McKeon was blundering his way through late-inning missteps. It was like Bobby Fisher challenging Fisher Stevens to a game of chess.

Game four seemed headed in the same direction even as the Yankees feel behind in the first inning, 3-0. The game started with a misstep by game three hero, Derek Jeter. With Soriano on first and none out in the first, Jeter failed to run out an arching pop up that ended up dropping, allowing the Marlins to double him up. Yankee woes continued as Roger Clemens, in theoretically the final start of his career, gave up five straight two-out hits, including a Miguel Cabrera home run, to fall behind the Marlins, 3-0. Ironically, the inning-ender was an outfield fly by Alex Gonzalez.

Torre showed great confidence in Clemens, allowing him to work out of the early jam and keeping him in for an additional six innings. He was rewarded with six shutout innings in which the Marlins collected just three hits while Clemens walked none, struck out five, and threw just 64 pitches. He threw 42 in the three-run first inning.

Torre then turned to Jeff Nelson and Jose Contreras for three shutout innings with only one hit and one walk between them. Contreras struck out four in his two innings of work.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Marlin starter Carl Pavano was pitching the game of his life. Pavano survived a bases loaded, none-out jam in the first surrendering just one run. He then allowed just three hits and no walks over his final six innings of work. He faced the minimum number of batters from the fourth to the eighth innings.

The Yankees entered the ninth still trailing 3-1, but McKeon had gone to erratic closer Ugueth Urbina. The Yankees made the most of the opening. Bernie Williams got a one-out hit. Hideki Matsui followed with a six-pitch walk after falling behind 1-2 at one point. Jorge Posada hit a fielder's choice to second that erased Matsui. The Marlins did not attempt to get Posada at first even though it seemed that they had time.

With men at the corners and two outs, Torre inserted pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra, batting left for fellow lefty bat Karim Garcia. For the second time in the Series, Sierra faced his former teammate Urbina. Both had started the season in Texas and took much different routes to get to the Fall Classic. It was an unconventional move, inserting a switch-hitter batting left for a lefty bat, but perhaps as my friend Murray suggests Torre prefers Sierra's bat in power-hitting situations over Garcia's and wanted to ensure against the Marlins dipping into their bullpen with for a lefty. Whatever the rationale, the move worked beautifully.

Urbina started with two changeups off the outside corner and then a borderline outside changeup brought the count to 3 balls and no strikes. Then Urbina went to fastballs on the outside corner. He got two in a row to run the count to 3-2. Actually home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg's strike zone was nebulous the entire evening and was even more so in this at-bat. Borderline outside and low pitches were being adjudicated apparently by some random ball-strike generator.

Urbina continued with two more outside fastballs that Sierra fouled off. The fifth straight fastball got a little more plate than the rest and Sierra deposited it deep in the right field corner. After it rattled around there while inexperienced rightfielder Miguel Cabrera tried to get a handle, both runners had scored tying the game and Sierra had rumbled to third.

With the go-ahead run at third, Aaron Boone grounded meekly to short. Boone helped kill off the second-inning rally hitting a sac fly to center with one out and the bases loaded. His sac fly did score the only Yankke run in the first 8.2 innings, but it also ensured that the second-inning rally, that started with three straight singles, would end with just one run.

The Yankees had tied the Marlins in a remarkable comeback, but Torre had pinch-ran for his catcher and used three right fielders in the process. In a play similar to game three's, Torre used the pinch-runner David Dellucci to turn a double-switch. As the pitcher's spot batted leadoff in the tenth, Torre put backup catcher in the game as the number-nine hitter. He then replaced pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra in the order with Jose Contrearas. To complete the switch, Dellucci had stayed in the game as the right fielder.

The move seemed even more prescient as Flaherty lead off the tenth by sending a 2-1 offering to the wall in right-center. However, Juan Pierre made a tremendous play to reach the ball robbing Flaherty.

To lead off the eleventh Bernie Williams started another rally, doubling to left on a 1-2 pitch. Williams was 4-for-6 on the night and scored the first two Yankee runs. Like in the ninth, Mastui followed the Williams hit with a walk and again the Yankees had men at first and second. David Dellucci was then ordered to lay down a bunt, moving the runners to second and third.

Frankly, I do not see the point in bunting here. The pitcher's spot was up and Juan Rivera was in the on-deck circle. Dellucci is a fast runner and shouldn't be easy to double up. But let's say he hits into a doubleplay. The Yankees would have Williams at third and two outs with Rivera at the plate. Even though Dellucci is a good bunter, a bunt in no way assures that the runners will advance. A popup, falling behind 0-2 in the count, and nailing a lead runner are not unexpected results of a bunt. Besides even a successful one means that Rivera will be walked intentionally, as he was, and leaves the game in the shaky hands of Aaron Boone.

Boone had been up with the bases loaded and one out in the second and with a runner at third and one out in the ninth, and all he could muster was one sac fly RBI. He had the bases loaded and one out here. The infield was virtually eliminating the doubleplay. Boone fell behind 0-1 and then fouled off four of the next five pitches. He stood at 1-2 and then struck out on high heat. Then Flaherty popped out to third.

It seemed that the strategic tide had turned in this inning as McKeon pulled off his first double-switch perhaps in the entire postseason. Bringing in Looper and Encarnacion for Fox and Cabrera. The successful double-switch and the ill-conceived bunt were bon mots leading to the game's denouement. Looper's appearance was nothing short of miraculous. He entered with the bases loaded and one out in a tie ballgame, a ballgame that would put them down 3-1 in the Series basically if the Yankees scored. He exited with the tie intact.

Though Torre seemed to have been dipped in the River Styx and made impervious a la Achilles with his moves in the previous 19 innings, he was about to make a move that exposed the Yankee's Achilles heel in the person of Jeff Weaver.

After Contreras had been pinch-hit for, Torre made an ill-fated call to the bullpen. The Yankees had three left-handers (Felix Heredia, Gabe White, and Chris Hammond) and two right-handers, Jeff Weaver and Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. Rivera had been getting up in the pen from time to time ever since the Yankees tied the score in the top of the ninth. Weaver had not pitched in the playoffs. His last appearance was September 24. Torre apparently wanted the platoon advantage and since the Florida lineup featured righties, that narrowed it to Weaver and Rivera. Rivera had pitched three innings in the Yankees game seven victory over the Red Sox, but Torre apparently did not want to insert Rivera for more than an inning and then only after the Yankees had taken a lead.

That is how Torre arrived at inserting Jeff Weaver in the eleventh inning of a tie ballgame, which if the Yankees won would leave them one win short of another title. He chose Weaver as confidently as Neville Chamberlain had declared that a piece of paper guaranteed "peace in our time" to an English populace that would be bombed close to extinction.

Weaver served up a 1-2-3 eleventh inning on just 8 pitches. That brief success may have been the Yankees undoing. After the Yankees went quickly in the 12th, instead of patting Weaver on the tush, counting his lucky stars, and informing the pitcher that his next role would be as Louie Sojo's benchmate, Torre, perhaps influenced by his success in the eleventh, called on Weaver again. The last time that Weaver had pitched more than one inning was more than a month ago, on September 13 in a game that he started and in which he surrendered three runs in five innings to the lowly Devil Rays.

After a called strike one, Weaver fell behind to Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez entered the box in the twelfth having gone 0-for-4 on the day with two strikeouts and hitting under .100 in the postseason. After going 3-2, Weaver got Weaver to foul off two pitches. Gonzalez later said that he rightly guessed sinker on the next pitch, and he was greeted with a meaty, non-sinking one, which he deposited over the wall in left directly above the "330" mark like a bullet from a gun.

The Marlins won the game and tied the Series. In the process, they rehabilitated this year's Byung-Hyun Kim, Ugueth Urbina, and perhaps ended Jeff Weaver's career as a Yankee. The game and Alex Gonzalez's abrupt turnaround was reminiscent of Aaron Boone's game-seven, eleventh-inning, walk-off homer in the ALCS.

The Yankees are left with the knowledge that they very easily could have won both the games that lost. They have a well-rested Mariano Rivera, but if he goes unused in game 5 the Weaver move will seem all the more curious. Indeed, Weaver's mere presence on the postseason roster is an oddity in itself. The Yankees had a right-handed reliever who had pitched fairly well during the season, Antonio Osuna. With Florida predominantly right-handed (just Pierre, left, and Castillo, switch-hitter, are the exceptions among the regulars), the Yankees chose to add Chris Hammond to the active playoff roster for the Series, giving them three left-handed relievers who have pitched a grand total of zero innings, bubkis, in the Series. If they had instead added Osuna, perhaps Torre does call on Weaver or if he does, not for two innings.

For us baseball fans the game left us with an honest-to-goodness series, with the chance for further seventh-game heroics, instead of a 5-game lopsided cakewalk. It's appropriate that tonight's game is a rematch of game one with Brad Penny facing Davod Wells because the Series in essence has been reborn like a 3-game phoenix from the charred remains of Jeff Weaver's career as a Yankee.

Fitting To Be Tied
2003-10-23 01:36
by Mike Carminati

Wow! The Marlins tied up the Series tonight on a twelfth-inning walk-off home run by Alex Gonzalez, 4-3. There were plenty of stories and heroes from Roger Clemens, who battled back from a 3-inning first in his farewell start, to Carl Pavano, who fought Clemens tough all night, to Ruben Sierra, who tied the game with a triple in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, to Gonzalez.

All I can say is if you didn't like this one you are not a baseball fan. And if you missed the lat-inning heroics because of something as mundane as sleep, then shame on you.

I predicted that the Yankees would take the next two games after going up 2-1, and boy, am I ever glad I was wrong. Now, it's a series. I can empathize with my Yankee fan friends, but I have to admit that it was an extremely enjoyable game, perhaps one that will be remembered for a long time.

It's a rematch of game one (Wells and Penny) tomorrow and then back to the Bronx for at least one more. Now, I've got to get some sleep.

Just Your Average Joe Morgan Chat Day
2003-10-22 20:18
by Mike Carminati

I know that I pick on the Joe Morgan, but I have to say that this postseason has made me appreciate the halcyon summer daze of Joe. Sure, Joe says some of the jaw-droppingest, double-takingest, dad-burn-it-est statements that you have ever heard. He eschews these new-fangled statistical do-hickeys like the leading-edge ERA and on-base percentage. He looks down on any player who came to the majors after the Big Red Machine's reign. He can waffle on a subject so severely that over the course of an individual sentence one cannot tell which side of the fence he is favoring. And if he ever does say something, don't worry he'll deny it if not immediately within the course of a week or two.

But that's Joe. I read the last Joe Morgan chat session and it seemed like attending my high school prom after being in the Big Chill of Fox's postseason coverage. Ah, those woebegone Joe chat's of yore. Times were simpler then.

Now we are burdened with commercials for Fox programs and ads for cell phones, soft drinks, beer, etc. being passed off as a baseball broadcast. We have a 45-minute pregame show that features mockumentaries on the so-called history of the sport. Jeannie Zelasko's Clutch Cargo expressions and Speed Racer cadences as well as Kevin Kennedy's pudgy pores menace us, the viewers, well after the game is done. They bookend the playoff games as horrendously as the present-time scenes bookended the actual film in Saving Private Ryan. Broadcasts are interrupted with interviews of Shecky Greene and shots of the casts of various Fox shows—what a coincidence! Mid-inning, NexTel asks us managerial questions that aren't really questions and don't involve a manger. Discuss! It gives me schpilkas in the ganetikazook.

So without further ado here's a kinder and gentler Joe Morgan Chat Day—Don't worry, it can't last:

The Good

Dave (Wadsworth, OH): Do you think Clemens will have enough left in the tank to get it done in game seven?

The only one that knows is Roger Clemens. Maybe Pedro doesn't have enough gas. We'll find that out tonight. People are trying to predict and asking for predicitions -- no one knows. That's why they play the game.

[Mike: Right you are, Joe. Besides, "gas" and performance are two different things.]

Tim(Illinois): Hi Joe. Do you think the cubs choked? They lost two straight at home with their two best pitchers on the mound.

Well first of all, what does choke really mean? The series started 0-0 and the Cubs lost 4-3. I just think Florida outplayed the Cubs, that's all there is to it.

[Mike: Right, Joe. Why do people have to boil the playoffs down to heroes and goats and curses? Teams win. Teams lose. Yeah, Little probably trusted in Martinez too long and Baker would still have Prior out there pitching if he could. However, no one choked. They tried their best and lost. Fans seem to have a tough time living with that.]

Tony (Manchester, CT): If Clemens comes up big tonight and has success in the World Series do you think he would reconsider his decision to retire????

From what I've heard and read, he is completely set on his decision to retire. I don't think a couple great games here in October could change his mind.

[Mike: Right, besides he was 17-8 this year. It's not like he was Steve Carlton touring the majors in his last season.]

Darren, Hartford, CT: Joe: Do you think that the Sox are planning to use Wakefield in relief tonight, given his ALCS magic?

Well I expect they will use him in relief tonight if the situation warrants it. He was warming up last night,

[Mike: It's game 7. You use everything but the kitchen sink.

And oh boy, did the Red Sox ever use him! He got used and abuse by Aaron Boone, and obviously he did not have his best stuff.]

Bill - Ny, Ny: Joe the great, I have to believe there is a lot of pressure on this Yankees lineup tonight due to the fact that if they dont produce there going to send Roger out on a losing note, and I understand Boone is in and Enrique is out, what do you think of this?

Well, first of all, I don't think they are thinking about Roger at this point. Personal and individual concerns are not very pressing right now as they face elimination. They want the team -- the Yankees -- to advance, not just Roger Clemens. They are one team in one direction right now. As far as Boone goes, he has not looked very good lately but I don't know that Joe Torre has too many options over there.

[Mike: What a difference a game makes.

Joe's right: no one was concerned necessarily about Roger. And that was a good thing for the Yankees and for Clemens as each survived to play in the next round.

Wilson actually did start at third but Boone replaced him later in the game and ended up hitting the dramatic eleventh-inning home run. But how could Joe be expected to have known that?]

Matt Vermont: Joe there has been a lot of criticism of Grady Little despite the fact that he has gotten the sox within 1 game of the World Series what are your opinions of Grady

I think he's done a good job to get him to this point. It's unfortunate that one game will decide whether a lot of people think he's done a good job or not. IF they win he's a hero, if not, he is a disapointment. It's unfortuante but that's the way the game is.

[Mike: See the above answer. Joe's right, Little may not be the next Earl Weaver, but he did get his team to the seventh game of the ALCS. He may have left Martinez in for one extra batter and batter Gabe Kapler leadoff in game two, but no one's perfect. It seems that he will be the scapegoat though. The funny thing is that if Posada's bloop was caught and the Sox won, Little's sticking with Martinez would have been lauded.]

Katie (Arizona): Joe, what is the Yankees biggest weakness? What makes them most vulnerable?

Their middle relief is obviously a problem. But their lack of consistant hitting and disciplined at bats in key situations are really hurting them right now.

[Mike: Actually, it's Don Zimmer's left-right combination that needs the most work.]

The Less Good

Bill Ohio: Mr. Morgan, The Marlins are truly one of the most amazing stories in baseball over the past couple years. Could you imagine just how good this team could have been if AJ Burnett had not gotten hurt! Anyway, what do you think the current Marlins pitchers chances are of stopping the yankees or red sox bats?

Well during the playoffs, Josh Beckett was the only consistant starter they had. But they are an amazing team whose offense never quits and they've certainly proven that they can beat anybody ... we'll just have to wait and see who they're up against.

[Mike: Joe, uh, that's why Bill here is pointing out that they would have been even better with Burnett. Swap Pavano for Burnett and you have a great, young staff. Although teams could do a lot worse than Pavano as a number-five starter.]

Ryan, Fargo ND: Hi Joe, You and John do a great job on ESPN Radio. I look forward to listening to tonight's game. What do you think is going on with the Yankees bullpen? Contreras has looked great until yesterday, and I don't think Joe Torre has much confidence in Heredia or White.

I thought that Torre had confindence in Rivera and Contreras -- those two guys, that's really it. He will now have to entrust somebody else, it's a tough choice between Nelson or Heredia, he'll have to choose somebody tonight.

[Mike: Fargo? Say "Hi" to Margie.

Actually, he chose Mussina who held the fort enabling the late-innings heroics. Not a readily apparent move, but Joe should have mentioned that any and old pitchers would be used in game 7.]

Mike: Boston: Baseball is a kids game. It supposed to be fun. Is it me, or does it look like the Red Sox & Florida look like they're having the most fun? The Yankees just don't look like a loose club. Are the expectations to win EVERY year to much to bear? The feeling of winning it all must be incredible, but the champagne must taste better when most people thought you wouldn't be drinking it. Thoughts?

Mike, go back and read my column from two weeks ago about the Yankees and the pressure they face.

[Mike: Gee, it's funny that you are from Boston and you say that. I know Yankee fans who enjoy the heck out of watching them play. It seemed to me that Martinez and Ramirez weren't too happy-go-lucky in game 3. It's all a matter of perception. As for me, I don't really care—my fun's on the field.

Oh, and Joe, You think that the Red Sox with every fan in the Nation holding his or her breath on every out and dying a thousand deaths with each misstep by the team. Ask Grady Little if he doesn't feel the pressure. You'll have to loosen the noose that the lynch mob, er, fans tightened around his throat first.]

Brian, Rockville MD: Joe, you've been around baseball long enough to weigh in on this one: where do these current playoffs rank in your eyes among some of the greatest (86, 91)? You can tell I am 24, I have had limited experience, but I haven't seen too many postseasons like this! Thanks Joe!

Every year playoffs are different, each one has its own character and point of excitement. We have two 7-game LCS -- that is always full of excitement. This certainly feels like the best in recent memory but it is also what we're watching right now so of course it is going to feel like the most important -- and it is, it's the present. Every year is different. But this is certainly exciting, can't argue with you there.

[Mike: Brian, don't go back to Rockville and waste another year. I beg of you.

What does R.E.M. have against Rockville anyway? And what happened to Elvis Costello in Chelsea? I know Russell Zizky got his A's kicked in Wisconsin once, but I digress.

"[I]t's the present"—very astute and existential statement. So is it the present now? Are you Squidward now? If Achilles and a turtle have a race, and one train leaves the station at 12:45, what has four wheels and flies?]

I have a preference for 1980 since my team won for the only time. But they get no sympathy since they just stink and are not cursed. I have been researching close playoffs and hope to have something soon.]

kevin (boston): Does Pedros antics in Game 3 hurt him or help him tonight. Personally I don;t think the Yankees are intimidated or afraid to go against him a t all.

No one knows anything about what is going to happen today. If Pedro has his best stuff, the Yankees won't hit him. If Roger brings his best stuff, the Sox won't touch him. So it depends on who brings their best stuff and which club responds best to the pressure.

[Mike: Well, it helped him in game three. He seems to thrive on it. That seems to be one of the reasons he pulled the stunt in the first place. Maybe he'll run over an old lady on the way to the game and become unhittable.]

Chris -- Michigan: Do think the viewer ratings will drop significantly for a Yankees / Marlins World Series? As a kid I loved watching your Reds, the Red Sox, Phillies, Royals, Dodgers, and even the Yanks. It's hard to identify with the current players so the Cubs / Red Sox stories were what compelled me to watch. I think I'm like a lot of other people in this. What do you think?

I think the ratings will drop. The Cubs were the draw in this post-season. If Boston wins it will keep some of the Cubs fan interested. If the Yankees win it's kind of that "same old story" disinterest. Either way I think the ratings will drop off. The Cubs were a huge draw.

[Mike: That's because MLB and Fox could only sell the facile "curse" angle. The Yanks/Marlins is a great David and Goliath story. That should play in Peoria if baseball had any idea how to market itself.

P.S., Early returns have the World Series ratings up 16% from last year.]

Brian - Boston: Joe, thanks for your time and expertise, I have seen Pedro Martinez pitch numerous times both on the road and at Fenway Park, in my opinion the guy thrives on the road much more than Fenway, and especially in Yankee Stadium, how do you feel about that?

I agree from a mental standpoint that he will be well prepared to pitch this ballgame in the Bronx tonight. The only question mark is whether or not his is physically able to match that.

[Mike: Great, Joe, but that's not the question. Is there any basis for Brian's opinions? Let's find out. Mr. Owl?

Actually Martinez's home-road splits support the assertions. Here's 2003:


Now for the last four years:


Now Fenway vs. Yankee Stadium (keep in mind that he only pitched 13 innings in the Bronx in 2003 and 50.1 in the last four years):

Fenway Park3.1382.2411.174.269.446.43
Yankee Stadium1.3910.1910.7720.0013.856.50
Fenway Park3.932971.405.2214.394.83
Yankee Stadium2.50320.996.7313.236.29

Well, he does seem to like the road in general. But I don't think you can say that he's significantly more successful in the Bronx than off of Mass Ave. Joe you can now continue blathering.]

Andrew (Green Bay): In your mind what was the best World Series ever? In my opinion it was the Brave/Twins series in 1991.

Everything is a matter of choice, me, I was in 1975's. I played in it so of course, first-hand, I've got to go with that one. That was exciting to me.

[Mike: Thanks, Joe. To quote Billy Ray Valentine, thanks, you've been halpful. I'd like to offer three that no one ever mentions: 1924 (Senators 4- Giants 3), 1972 (A's 4-Reds 3), and 1912 (Red Sox 4-Giants 3, one tie—the 8-game World Series to which yutz Robin Williams inadvertently referred).

These are the only three series in baseball history that went the distance and had an average margin of victory under two. Basically, the average game was won by one or two runs. Also all of the game 7's in these series were won by one run. 1924's game 7 was won in the 12th, and 1910's in the 10th. Also, 1924 featured two extra-inning games with six total extra innings and 1912's featured two as well with three extra innings in total.]

Ratan: (Dhaka, Bangladesh): If the Yankees lose tonight do you think Joe Torre will still be manager next year. I get the feeling Mr Steinbrenner is losing patience and maybe a tense loss to their arch rivals might push his patience one step too far. Whatever happens I hope Torre remains in the same seat next year.

I think he deserves to be there. George made a statement last week saying no matter what happens Torre will be retained as manager. I think he'll be there ... and I think he should be. He deserves the spot.

[Mike: Ratan, I have some of your furniture.

Yeah, if you believe a vote of confidence before the playoffs are done. And if you believe that Torre will want to be there next year.]

The Much Far Less Good So Much As To Be Tremendously Ugly

Mike Washington, DC: What do you think of Mike Mussina's performance in the postseason? He is supposed to be the ace of this ballclub and now he is sitting at 0-3 and the Yankees are on the brink of being bounced from the playoffs. The Moose has zero 20 win seasons, zero Cy Youngs and zero championships. Does he have what it takes to be the man in the big city?

I dont' know who said Moose was was the ace of the Yankees staff -- Andy Pettitte won 21 games -- I wouldn't say Mike is the ace ... but sure, they are definitely counting on him. He is 0-3 right now but It's not like he has been horrible. The defense behind him wasn't perfect and the offense didn't produce so you can't blame Mike completely, but you're right, he has not been up to his full potential, certainly a little dissapointing.

[Mike: Me got dumber by reading dat interchange. How 'bout u? Now I know why tigers eat their young.]

Waiting for Godzilla
2003-10-22 20:17
by Mike Carminati

The Yankees squeaked by the Marlins, 6-1, tonight in Miami amid frequent rain showers and one 40-minute rain delay. You ask how a team can squeak by with a 5-run lead? Well, it was tied 1-1 in the top of the eighth with two outs and the Yankees up. A Matsui single scored Jeter for the go-ahead, and eventual winning, run. The Yankees pelted the porous Florida bullpen for four more runs on two homers in the ninth.

This game was a second-guessers paradise and if Jack McKeon were Grady Little, the Red Sox fans would have formed a lynch party by the bottom of the ninth.

First, in the bottom of the seventh with the leadoff man on first and no outs, Alex Gonzalez failed to bunt the runner to second and eventually popped out. That meant that the Josh Beckett, for whom the Marlins were ready to pinch-hit, had to finish Gonzalez's bunt. Then with two outs, Mussina walked Pierre intentionally and punched Castillo out on three pitches, the time he struck out against Mussina on the night. Gonzalez looked pathetic bunting, something McKeon should have been aware of. Having Beckett bunt leaves you just one out and takes Pierre out of the game. Basically, it just takes you out of the doubleplay. McKeon was afraid to use a pinch-hitter for Beckett unless it was an ideal situation. By not pinch-hitting he allowed the Yankees to make sure that perfect situation never manifested itself.

In the top of the eighth, McKeon then had Derek Lee play off the line allowing Derek Jeter to double the opposite way down the line.

Next, McKeon went to the ineffectual Dontrelle Willis to relieve with one out and Jeter on second in the eighth inning of a tie ballgame. Willis looked bad in his last couple of starts and had been starting to lose it against the Yankees in his other relief appearance in game 1. As a matter of fact the two men who had back-to-back hits and drove him out of that game were due up after Giambi (i.e., Williams and Matsui). Willis was wild (6 strikes in 18 pitches) and walked Giambi. After getting Williams to fly out in shallow center (allowing Jeter to tag and go to third because of Pierre's weak arm in center), he gave up an opposite field single to Matsui nearly the same as the last time he faced Matsui, putting the Yankees ahead, 2-1. It was supposed to be the Yankees middle relief that was suspect. Why not use one of your "2 closers" in a tie situation?

McKeon used Encarnacion and Hollandsworth to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth, but by then the game was already decided. McKeon also went with Lowell at third, who looks like he is still recovering from injury. Encarnacion was out of the lineup all together.

While McKeon was blundering through the tail end of the game, Joe Torre was pulling off tactical minor notes with ease. He brought in Delucci to pinch-run for Giambi in the eighth. When the inning was over, the right field spot was the last to bat and Delucci went into right while Torre double-switched Sierra and Mussina for Rivera and Johnson, burying the pitcher's spot in the now vacated right fielder spot and having Johnson bat second in the ninth.

Once Torre got a lead, he got Rivera up in the pen and then went directly to him to preserve the one-run lead. Torre had been able to save Rivera through the first two games, so for some this was their first glimpse at the closer (all but Pudge, Conine, and Encarnacion).

After hearing that New York benched Johnson instead of Giambi I emailed my friend Murray before the game and said that if the Yankees could muster enough offense to win tonight, they would win the series in five. If they couldn't, the Marlins would win in seven. With Clemens facing Pavano tomorrow, I am pretty confident in that statement.


Yankees 1st: Free taco from Taco Bell for everyone in America if someone hits a home run into a section peopled by schmoes who have to hold up Taco Bell signs the entire game.

Beckett—trying to run fastballs in—Soriano's first AB (strikeout of course) and first pitch to Jeter.

Jeter—Pitch 2 curve ball down the middle of the plate, Jeter frozen. Out on 97-MPH rising fastball.

Giambi—hits first pitch (low fastball) foul. Is turning on the fastball. Guesses fastball on strike 2, misses change running outside. Pops out.

Marlins 1st: Encarnacion is out of the lineup and Cabrera is in right, Lowell at third, and Conine in left. Will Cabrera's inesperience in the outfield hurt them? I would have rested Lowell, who is Giambi-ing at the plate.

Pierre—Popup. Drops between Williams and Garcia.Looks like Garcia's ball, but can't get there. Williams dives for a shoestring catch unsuccessfully. Ends up at second base. Throw is way off but Pierre can't advance.

Castillo—Shows bunt. Strike looking. Bunts foul. Foul swinging. Posada to mound. Strikeout on curve.

Rodriguez—Flies out, not deep enough.

Don Shula—in attendance. Where's Mike Shula?

Cabrera—nice block by Posada on ball one. Swings 3-0, foul. Jams him with running fastball inside, but hits it beyond Soriano. Pierre scores, 1-0 Marlins. Nice AB for Cabrera after some tough ones in game 2.

Yanks 2nd: Williams—out on warning track. Reminds me of McCarver's "That's about as hard as Williams can hit a ball" comment on a deep fly in the Red Sox series (game6?).

Matsui—tapper to mound.

Marlins 2nd: Mike Tyson—in attendance, slapping and raping fans.

Conine—Fouls off seven pitches. Grounds out, hitting ball out of the catcher's glove.

Gonzalez—Doubles to left field corner. He hasn't hit a ball like that in a series or two.

Tony Perez—having a meal in the ower's box with Jeffrey Loria, who is cleaning his teeth with his tongue.

Beckett—struck out looking.

Yankees 3rd: Boone—5th straight NY out to right side.

Jamie Moyer—in attendance.

Marlins 3rd: Pierre—2-0. Third pitch was an inside strike but Posada drops it—called ball. Same pitch on 3-1, called a strike. Grounds out.

Castillo—K's on splitter.

McCarver—"Mussina hasn't pitched with the Yankees ahead". Yeah, but look at what he did in game 7. He was a big part of that win.

Pudge—Turn-ons include Yanni and Scarface, preferably together.

Yanni—in attendance. Maybe he'll perform take me out to the ballgame.

Rodriguez—Boone indecisive on tapper. Waits for it. Rolls up his arm.

Is Boone the new Knoblauch?? He has the same look on his face as Chuck did. Is Weaver the new Whison?? Is orange the new pink?

Cabrera—fouls off ball4. Strikes out looking, thought he walked. McKeon—"Cabrera is the finest young player he's ever seen." No dis on Miguel, but Sparky Anderson loved Chris Pittaro, too.

Yankees 4th: Soriano K's (of course) on curve. Four fastballs in first AB and 4 curves here. Beckett is toying with him. Sets the MLB record with 23 K's in postseason. I think he will obliterate that record by the end of the series.

Jeter—Double in left field corner on hanger.

Giambi—ball one high and tight. Ball three—nice block by Pudge. Walks on borderline pitch, looks like a strike to me.

Matsui—HBP on lead foot by a curve.

Posada—change back-doors on strike 2. Keeps fouling off high inside fastball. Ball 3—goes away, wide by close. 3-2—runners going, walk. Looks borderline low. Tough call. McKeon is furious, signals with arm re. high pitch and low pitch. The low one looked closer. Jeter scores, score tied. Rosenthal to mound.

Garcia—grounds out to Lee behind the bag. (Editorial comment: he's guarding the line here but not later.)

Beckett—threw 29 pitches in the inning. Threw 31 through three.

Marlins 4th: Mussina retires the side on 10 pitches.

Yankees 5th: Raining hard now.

Mussina—breaking ball K's looking. Didn't look particularly good.

Mike Tyson cam again—biting fans' ears as he runs from the rain.

Soriano—strike two, curve ball hangs in the middle of the plate, Soriano still misses. Taps weakly to mound on ball 6" outside.

Boone-Mussina-Soriano—Death Valley of Yankee lineup.

Marlins 5th: Raining even harder.

Beckett—T-O'ed in dugout over calls.

Lowell—K's looking on outside corner. May have been wide.

Rain Delay—after Beckett K's (10 PM).

Mussina—has struck out 3 of the last 4 Marlins. Delay is bad for Yanks.

Selig—being interviewed but Fox botches it and does not have a camera available to film him. What, couldn't they free up the Tyson-cam? "Meat-Or-Ologists"—is this man really the commissioner? I'd love to hear a conversation between Selig, Tyson, and Grady Little.

40-Minute Rain Delay.

Pierre—liner right over Jeter's glove. Single.

Castillo—showing bunt. Pierre—goes, no bunt-ball called, slips, caught stealing.

Mussina—9-pitch inning even with rain delay.

Yankees 6th: Jeter—2-0, gets fastball right down the pike, hits it straight back for a single.

Giambi—Ball one very high. Beckett's having control problems. Didn't look like he committed but called out.

Williams—struck out on curveball. Williams is uncharacteristically angry. Hard to tell. McCarver says it was a strike, but that is his wont.

Matsui—walks on 4 pitches. Pudge to mound.

Posada—grounds out to short.

Marlins 6th: Castillo—still up. Shows bunt on ball one. Chopper to Soriano on 1-0.

Pudge—liner off left field wall on 0-1 fastball inside.

Cabrera—Hits slider to right. Garcis boots it but Pudge already holding at third.

Lee—third foul ball, Posada to mound. 1-2 knuckle-curve just foul down third base line. Tapper to Mussina, knocks it down, goes home, Posada chases Pudge up the line & out. (Anyone else think of Ramon Hernandez on that play?)

Lowell—3-2, rain starts again. Lowell strikes out on curve inside.

Yankees 7th: Garcia—driving rain now.

Nelson up in pen. Mussina due up third. Garcia lines out.

Boone—Pitch that ends up behind his shoulder—swung at for strike 2. Fouls off ball 4, low and outside (2-2). Out, changeup over the plate.

Mussina—bats for himself with 2 outs. Strikes out.

David Cassidy—Sings God Bless America. What, was Danny Bonnaducci booked?

Marlins 7th: Heredia up in Yankees pen. Willis & Fox up in Florida pen. Beckett up third.

Still raining. Cover off the tarp. Excuse the expression.

Gonzalez—Conine on first, none out. Bunts. Foul and hits himself, but in box so not out. Bunts for strike 2, popup foul. Ball one—may have gone around. Pops out foul. Big out—didn't advance runner.

Beckett—bats for himself. Fox & Willis—sit in pen. Strike one called, showing bunt. Bunts to first.

Pierre—Conference on mound. IBB. The Bunt only avoided DP.

Castillo—K's on curves. Looks very bad. Third K on the night.

Yankees 8th: Willis is up in pen.

Soriano—Beckett is toying with him, daring him to hit his fastball. Out on a curve on an appeal.

Nelson—up inpen.

Jeter—double past Lee. Slips around first. Cabrera—tiptoes through puddles in RF corner. Why wasn't Lee guarding line?

Beckett—gone. Rain stopped.

Willis—in. Umps in a conference. Assess a trip to mound to Marlins since Lee went in dugout and talked to McKeon before returning. Lee Mazzilli caught it. I love that guy, he's such a character. Willis—appeals to first. Nope. Jeter slipped on the bag, making it obvious he touched it.

Giambi—ball four borderline outside.

Williams—switches to right-side. High strike. Rivera up in Yankee pen in case they score. Ball two way outside—Pudge set up inside and has to lunge for it. Willis—Fox announces he won NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year from The Sporting News. Sorry, Webb, get yourself a gimmick and a PR man. Fly ball, not deep. Jeter—goes anyway, tests Pierre's arm, save with a head-first slide into third.

Matsui—Pudge sets up outside on ball one but pitch is way inside. Willis looks pretty bad. Only reason he's in there is that he's a lefty and they don't have a decent lefty. Singles past Gonzalez. Jeter scored. 2-1 Yankees.

Posada—walks on 4 pitches to load bases. Delucci-PR for Giambi. RF spot up next—double-switch? Torre is out NL-managing McKeon. Why is Willis still in: Posada's a switch-hitter.

Sierra—announced as PH. Willis pulled, only 6 strikes on 18 pitches. Chad Fox in. 1-0 pitch—hits straight back foul, just missed. 2-2 pitch roped, but just foul down right field line. K's.

Marlins 8th: Torre does a triple-switch (sort of) Delucci stays in right, Rivera in will bat in RF spot, Johnson in at first as defensive replacement to bat second in ninth. He's a better NL manager now than when he managed in the NL.

Cabrera—Boone on line, Johnson is not. K's.

Rivera—9-pitch 8th.

Yankees 9th: Boone—HR to left on a hanging slider. Where did that come from? Yankees 3-1. Important run.

Soriano—Foul bounces into right field seats. Cabrera can't get to it. Could Encarnacion? Walks. Fox relieved by Looper. Finally, too little too late.

Jeter—fouls strike one off foot bunting. Nicked by inside fastball.

Tejera up in pen.

Williams—2-1 rising fastball, straightaway center. HR right over fence. Yankees 6-1. Second ball he hit to that spot, this one went over.

Marlins 9th: Lowell—weak grounder to short. He has had some bad ABs today: 0-for-4, 2 K's, one ground out, one popup.

Conine—single to right after two straight balls. Nice.

Encarnacion—PH for Gonzalez. K's.

Hollandsworth—PH for pitcher. Two quick strikes inside. Shatters bat on foul ball, barrel ends up beyond Rivera. Posada—missed high heat, PB, Conine to second. Grounds out to end it.

(By the way, the headline is a reference to Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. Get it?)

Where Do We Go From Here?
2003-10-20 21:06
by Mike Carminati

Where does it go from here?
Is it down to the lake I fear?
Ay ah ah ah ah ah
Ay ah ah ah ah ah

—Lyrics to "Love Plus One" by Haircut 100, which sadly I know by heart.

Where are we headed in the 2003 World Series? Why, back to Miami of course. And you thought I meant something more profound?

Metaphysically speaking, this series is heading to perhaps its most important game. After game two, both teams are tied and both have a right to be optimistic. The Marlins earned a split in New York and could win the Series with a three-game sweep on their own turf. The Yankees dominated game two from Matsui's home run in the bottom of the first until the end and can find solace in the game one loss coming as it did with one day's rest after the dramatic seven-game series against the Red Sox and in the fact that their starting pitchers, putatively their number 3 and 4 starters, have outperformed the Marlins'.

Besides game one was highly winnable for the Yankees, a poor decision to cut off a ball to the plate by Boone and a little alertness by Nick Johnson at third (as well as Soriano's inability to move runners along) made the difference in the game. Perhaps that's a positive for both teams: the Yanks can feel good that played well enough to win and the Marlins can feel good that the made the key plays when it mattered and the Yankees did not.

The Yankees appearance in the World Series is remarkable given that they have gotten very little production from two of their first three batters (Soriano and Giambi) and from their erstwhile game-seven hero, Boone. That's really an understatement—all three have been sinkholes in the lineup, just collecting really bad at-bats: failing to work pitchers, chasing bad pitches, and striking out often. Maybe that's a bit hard on Giambi. Due to injury, he has just been unable to catch up with even a decent fastball given. Soriano and Boone would swing at a pitch from The Bad News Bears' Rudy Stein. Game 2 saw Giambi break out slightly from his slump with double the opposite way in the seventh and witnessed Soriano being a bit more patient (he actually walked and struck out looking, not swinging) and possibly breaking out with a homer. If those two players break out, the Yankees could take the Series in five games.

There are other positives for the Yankees: Hideki Matsui has been hot in the first two games. Williams is getting on base. Nick Johnson came up big (3-for-4) in game two and somehow Torre is squeezing the most out of Juan Rivera, Karim Garcia, Ruben Sierra, and David Delucci as bit players and part-time right-fielders. The Yankees pen, especially Mariano Rivera, who pitched three innings in game 7, is well rested. Rivera will become more dangerous to Marlin hitters the less the get to see him (though Conine, Pudge, and Encarnacion have faced him in previous, AL lives).

Defensively, the Yankees have played consistently well. A number of Yanks have stepped up their defense since their embarrassment in game one of the Twins series. Posada is imitating Pudge. Jeter has been solid at short and his arm has seemed much stronger than during the season. Soriano has stopped imitating Jerry Lewis at second and has even turned in a couple of great plays. Williams range in center no longer seems a liability. Boone is the only sore sport with two errors yesterday and a costly non-relay on a play at the play in game one.

For positive signs, the Marlins can point to the tablesetters, Pierre and Castillo, getting on base. And Lee has a couple of good at-bats at the end of game two as he tries to break out of his playoff slump. The bullpen has done relatively well (aside from a Rick Helling homer ball to Soriano yesterday), given the amount of work it has already gotten. Their defense has been solid and Rodriguez has had some spectacular throws in both games. Game one starter Brad Penny pitched reasonably well and may have righted himself.

The Marlins have far more negatives yet far though. Pudge Rodriguez has been flat and was involved in two doubleplays in game 2. Lowell may not yet be 100% and has not yet hit. Conine looked great in game one and flat in game two, which personae will he inhabit the rest of the Series? Alex Gonzalez had looked as bad as Soriano and Boone at the plate and shows no signs of breaking out of it. The Marlin offense has not yet produced an extra-base hit in the first two games as the Yankees hit four home runs.

The Florida bullpen has been overworked. The Yankees are becoming familiar with Dontrelle Willis and Carl Pavano, one or both of which will be a starter later in the series. And however Willis is to be used, as a spot starter and/or long reliever, he again showed in game one that he is prone to getting into jams. Closer Ugueth Urbina worked himself into trouble with walks in game one, though he did work himself out of them as well. Redman, a reliable starter all season, has had a poor postseason. He has gotten into trouble with walks, and having to continually work out of jams seems to have worn on him. The Marlins displayed little patience with his problems yesterday and may have to lift him from the rotation if they can afford it.

The Yankees only issues stem, basically, from Aaron Boone. He did not have a quality at-bat after the game seven home run until his seven-pitch single in the eighth yesterday. His defense has been very good at times and spotty in others. Giambi, aside from the two-homer, "I'm po'ed because I was dropped to seven in the order" game against the Red Sox and Pedro Martinez, has looked pretty bad against any hard fastball. Soriano has been downright awful at the plate but may have started to come out of it.

Without the DH, the Marlins may bench Mike Lowell in favor of Cabrera at third and Conine in left like in the NLCS. The Yankees will probably bench Giambi the way he's been hitting.

Now, both teams head into game three with arguably their best starters facing off in Mike Mussina and Josh Beckett. And a lot of the nebulous pros and cons for each team will fall away and one team will set a tone by winning game three. A Marlins win could right them after a game two loss. However, a Yankee win could prove devastating for the "little ballclub that could". One thing is certain, however, Fox's coverage will be abysmal. I'm just waiting for Steve Lyons to interview "The Next Joe Millionaire" in the stands. That would be the ultimate Fox moment.

Measure for Measure (Belated Game One Notes)
2003-10-20 21:04
by Mike Carminati

...the measure you give will be the measure you get...

— Jesus (not Ivan De), New Testament, Mark 4:24.

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

—John Greenleaf "Sweet Lou" Whittier as quoted by Felix "Millan" Unger

Well, the World Series opener seemed like an opening round in a boxing match with each team tentatively measuring up the other. It seems that the close games that we've witnessed in the postseason will persist in the Series. The Marlins won game one, 3-2, with the tying run on second.

The story of the game according to the Fox crew was Juan Pierre, who was 2-for-3 and got on base four out of five times. I'm here to tell you that the Yankees could easily have won the game if it were not for Boone cutting off a throw to the plate, Johnson lollygagging and getting picked off at third, and Soriano's inability to move a baserunner along (three times). Besides, reliever Dontrelle Willis looked hittable and closer Ugueth Urbina worked himself into a ninth-inning jam. And Yankee starter David Wells outpitched his Marlin counterpart Brad Penny overall.

The Marlins do deserve credit for making the plays necessary to win, especially in Yankee Stadium. I'm not sure that it's the kind of win that they can build on in a series though. Not that they care a whit. It takes four dubbyas to wrest the trophy from the Angels' moribund grasp, and the Marlins are a quarter of the way there.

Here are my notes from game one:

Marlins 1st: Pierre—Bunt single gets past pitcher to second.

Castillo—Texas leaguer past Johnson.

Pudge—Sac fly. Marlins 1-0. Still the SF is the first out and why hand one to Wells?

Yanks 1st: Soriano—Gets his own infield hit. Gonzalez to right, throws behind Lee. A good throw would have gotten him.

Marlins 2nd: Robin Williams—hamming for camera, trying to be funny during Conine's entire AB in some cell phone commercial that Fox is doing during the game.

Billy Crystal—finally tells him to get off and watch game. Thanks, Billy.

Encarnacion—Wells' pitch not far enough inside. Bloop single. Conine to second.

Gonzalez—Doubleplay Boone to Johnson. He's killing them offensively.

Yanks 2nd: Bud Selig—in attendance. Needs a drool cup.

David Stern—Also in attendance. Can we trade our commissioner for yours?

"Skin" cast also in attendance. C'mon. Fox is not interested in the game. It's all bellybutton-watching and advertising.

Posada—4-pitch walk. Fourth pitch a good foot and a half outside.

Giambi—Fourth pitch is a high fastball that just missed. K's on breaker down and away.

Mayor Bloomberg,

Boone—K's (looking) on curveball.

Marlins 3rd: Pierre—Entire infield in but Jeter. Shows bunt on second ball. Chopper gets to Soriano quickly since infield in. Out.

Jeffrey Loria—And people hate Steinbrenner?

Pudge—second strike on big curve. Same pitch—hits it just foul. Don't go there again. Finally gets him to fly out on high heat.

Yanks 3rd: Bruce Willis—Tells the camera to leave him alone and watch game. Buck says he's "saying hi to the kids" and then something like "it's hard to pay attention to the game with all the celebrities." Doofus!

Bob Gibson—Doesn't give a damn about the camera.

Garcia—To left. Cabrera breaks the wrong way, slides, catches it on the bounce. Garcia stretches it to a double. First time that Cabrera's defensive inexperience has hurt them.

Soriano—First strike is a foot outside. Second strike (2-1) is low—would've walked. Hits a ball to the left side on a pitch that's low and a foot outside.

Johnson—First pitch is supposed to be outside but two-seamer catches inside corner. Third pitch misses location on outside corner like first. Then a foot outside to walk.

Jeter—Penny drops ball. Fox completely misses it. Time was called since Jeter is not in the box. Zimmer raving. Shows bunt on ball one. Dribbler down third base line. Finally rolls foul thanks to the research of Juan Pierre. Hits ball right back at the pitcher for a single. Score tied. Pudge set up inside but pitch is outside. Johnson took third because of Pierre's weak arm. Hits shortstop with throw.

Williams—Ball one, nice block by Pudge. Fly ball but not deep enough to score Johnson.

Matsui—Lowell on set play goes back to the bag at third. Johnson—picked off a yard from third. Almost crawls back toward bag. Why slide? Clears the lane for Pudge to throw (McCarver points out) but also severely slows runner (esp. Johnson) down. Yanks couldn't score with runners at corner and one out. Lee Mazilli tells Johnson not to slide in dugout.

Marlins 4th: Cabrera—Second big curve, second bounced—both swinging Ks. Fly out.

Lowell—high fly to leftfield corner. Mastui catches it w/ hand on wall.

Wells—56 pitches through 4 IP. Only 7 pitches in the 4th.

Yankees 4th: Matsui—rope on a high fastball. Johnson's mistake looks even bigger.

Posada—Pudge angry at Penny after second ball. Again on third. Fouls second K straight back, just missed. 3-2, Matsui goes, fouled off his foot. Mastui goes but ball 4.

Giambi—High heat but too high. Rosenthal goes to mound. First strike, straight down Broadway, Giambi way out in front. Taps to short (no shift). DP.

Boone—second K fouled straight back. Hits a ball hard, right at Lowell.

Penny—76 pitches through 4 IP.

Marlins 5th: Gonzalez—Men at first and second. Ball one shows bunt. Sacrifices them over. It’s like he's the pitcher.

Pierre—liner to shortstop spot, but infield in. Boone cuts off relay and throws to first. Encarnacion scores (Marlins, 3-1). Boone had plenty of time to get Encarnacion. Matsui's throw looked like it would be up the line though McCarver liked it. What was Boone thinking?

Castillo—Ball one in dirt and blocked by Posada.

Pudge—Wells fakes a throw to first twice. Pierre goes on first pitch. Rodriguez grounds out.

Yankees 5th: Soriano—Garcia at first. GIDP on first pitch! Second straight time he failed to move the runner with no outs.

Penny—Only six pitches in the inning.

Marlins 6th: Pepsi Fan Cam (another ad)—Robin Williams. Sarah Jessica Parker & Matthew Broderick. Bruce Willis. Bud Selig. Where are J-Lo and Ben?

Yankees 6th: Pavano and Willis (Dontelle not Bruce)—up in pen.

Jeter—good AB. Fox—watching a kid doing a coloring book. Are they bored? Grounds out on tenth pitch.

Williams—1-0 fastball right down the middle of the plate. Pierre leaps but can't get it. HR. (Marlins 3-2)

Matsui—2-1 Fastball to right. Penny should be gone. Pudge to mound. McKeon comes out. Willis in.

Posada—switches to right side. Force out.

Giambi—0-2 fastball looked good, called ball. Ball 2 in dirt, stolen base for Posada. Posada is in a personal battle with Pudge. Dink fly beyond pitcher. Gonzalez on the bounce. Out. Nice play.

Marlins 7th: Conine—a great racketball player. So is dad and wife. In-depth Fox reporting.

Nelson—up in pen.

Gonzalez—pop up in front of mound. Boone's got it.

Pierre—bunts foul. Boone falls down. Hit by a pitch.

Stottlemyre to mound, but Wells stays in.

Yankees 7th: Boone—strike one shows bunt. Strike two, fouled straight back. Foul popup, Lowell and Rodriguez let it drop. Flies out.

Rivera—PHs. Delucci on bench picking nose. K's on change—way out in front.

Marlins 8th: Nelson in. Heredia up in pen.

Cabrera—patient AB. Walks, Stottlemyre to mound.

Contreras gets up in pen with Heredia.

Lee—hits to first baseman hole but holding runner. Cabrera slowed rounding second but throw off line.

Lowell—Fly to Rivera, not deep enough. Cabrera holds. Throw way offline though.

Yankees 8th: Urbina up in pen.

McCarver on Willis: "There's not a pitcher on the AL that has a delivery like Willis, for that matter in the NL." Where does Willis pitch? Mars?

Jeter—K's on high heat.

Williams—Pudge to mound after first strike. Singles.

Mastui—Nice AB. Single right up the middle. Willis gone. Urbina in.

Posada—Switches back to left side. Ball one low, Pudge really wanted it. Strike two—delayed call, too far inside. K's.

Marlins 9th: Weaver up in pen (really).

Look it's THE Marlin fan.

Pierre—infield in. Three straight balls. Torre rolls eyes on bench. Walks.

Castillo—After 6 straight balls, fouls off foot when Pierre trying to steal.

Pierre—steals second. Posada's throw high. Called safe, looked out to me.

Yankes 9th: Giambi—walks. Delucci PR.

Boone—showed bunt on ball one. Misses on first bunt attempt. Pops up on hit and run. Pathetic AB.

Sierra—PH. Was teammate of Urbina in Texas at start of season. Delucci goes on ball 4.

Soriano—2-1 pitch 2 feet outside, surprised he's not swinging. Strike out looking.

Pettitte Force
2003-10-20 01:50
by Mike Carminati

Game two turned out to be a much different game than yesterday's. Andy Pettitte survived some early control problems—he went 2-0 to each of the three batters faced in the first—to take a 3-0 lead after one inning and dominate from there on.

Here are my game two notes:


Montage: What do Jilliam Barberie and Sheila E. have to do with the World Series. At least Sheila E. is doing a Tito Puente impersonation on the drums. Jillian Barberie is just standing there (is that a problem?). I swear this network would put cheerleaders in fould territory if they could.

Jeannie Zelasko is dressed like a rhinestone cowboy.

Short film ("100th Anniversary of a Fall Classic")—Two words: "What the?" By the way, they messed up the Bostons uniforms. They wore white uniforms with navy blue socks and a white hat with a horizontal blue stripe in 1903. They didn't become known as the Red Sox until they permanently borrowed those uniforms and the identity from the Boston NL club. Also, the were known mostly as the Pilgrims not the Puritans, though names were unofficial back then. They mention Cy Young as if he was a new player who developed in the new league (the AL). He played 11 years in the NL before the AL became a major league. Cy Young also lost the first game 7-3 to Deacon Phillips, even though he did pitch 4 games in the Series. There is a little witty repartee between the owners in which the championship is dubbed the "World Series". It actually was known as the Championship of the United States, and it wasn't so new. It had been done in the 1880s between the NL and rival American Association. There are probably a million other inaccuracies, but those are off the top of my head.

National Anthem: sung by Rene "Who?" Flemming, who has manhands.

Marlins, 1st: Castillo—Reaches on an infield single. Jeter's throw is a bit to Johnson's left, but couldn't he have tried to hold the bag?

Rodriguez—starts 3-0. Pettitte looks a bit shaky—third batter at 2-0 or worse. Becomes strikeout looking, and a strike-him-out-throw-him-out doubleplay. Castillo is out by a good yard.

Yankees 1st: Donnie Baseball is in attendance. His son looks just like him.

Jeter—misses a curveball down and in by a good foot and half.

Dusty Baker in attendance. Fox is already bored and is again scanning the crowd for celebs. At least tonight they are baseball celebs.

Williams—doesn't like strike 2. It looked a foot inside. Giambi is running on 3-2 and gets to third.

Matsui—smacks a homer to center on a 3-0 pitch. I was thinking that he was crazy to swing but I guess he knew better than me. Yanks 3-0.

Yankees 2nd: Rivera—shows bunt on first ball. Ball 2—Rodriguez to mound & Rosenthal calls pen. Redman is losing it and they have lost all confidence in him. Doubles Johnson home (4-0) and is safe by a sizeable margin at third but called out. McCarver says that Lowell blocked him with his foot, but if so he should be safe since the fielder can't block the runner off the bag.

Marlin 3rd: David Smith, the new Joe Millionaire, is in attendance—what a coincidence! How can he afford a trip to the Series in NY on his $11 K a year salary?

Jeff Conine—three quick called strikes. Much different from yesterday.

Pettitte—strikes out the side. Looks in command.

Yankees 3rd: Williams—Helling is up in the bullpen. Walks. Helling to come in. Only 50 pitches for Redman, I guess they can use him in spot relief if needs be and they want to do so.

Matsui—a one-hopper to Castillo forces Williams at third. Did he not field it to try to turn the doubleplay? It looked like he may have been able to get to it and knew he couldn't double the runners off. If so, doesn't the infield fly rule come into play?

Posada and Helling battle. 3-2. Posada strikes out on a slider.

Marlins 4th: Pierre bunts to the pitcher. Pettitte throws well wide of first—lucky Pierre couldn't advance. Forced at second on a nice play by Boone. Soriano may have been off bag though. McCarver is convinced that Soriano was pulled off the bag. I don't think he was.

Yanks 4th: Aaron Boone—strikes out (surprise) and drops an F-bomb on America.

Another shot at the Joe Millionaire cam—all the world's a commercial for Fox.

Soriano—0-2. Grooved a flat breaker (McCarver says slider, OK) on 1-2. Big mistake. 6-0 Yankees.

Marlins 5th: Cabreara—reaches on a tough error on Boone.

Yanks 6th: Boone—2-0. Rodriguez to mound. Pavano up in pen. 2nd strike—2 feet outside literally and bounced in dirt. Is Boone the same man who hit the game-7 homer?

McCarver (on the Boone homer)—"That swing makes up for a lot of outs"—uh, not if he continues to do this in the Series.

Boone—Doubleplay. Swung at ball 5 for a K. Pudge makes a perfect throw to second to get Posada. The throw had to be perfect. Why go with Boone up, like he needs the added pressure?

Johnson—doubles. It would have scored Posada if not for the dumb DP.

Rivera—strike one—2 feet outside, missed by a foot.

Marlins 7th: Cabrera—grounds into a doubleplay 5-4-3. Cabrera doesn’t run and Soriano almost doesn't throw to first. Replay shows that the ball hit his lead foot. Bad break. Umps want to go home.

Lee—hits a ball to the wall.

Yanks 7th: Soriano K's on a ball 6" outside.

Pavano is in but isn't he supposed to start a game in the series. With their overworked staff and the way he's pitched, they will have to start him at least once. Why give the Yankees a look at him.

Jeter—hits fourth pitch hard off his knee. The commentators can't be bothered. Not paying attention. Discussing the Pirates and Reds. Don't realize they're not playing.

Giambi—Nice swing the opposite way. The Marlins would hate to see him come alive.

McCarver—finally notices that Pavano is in the game and will starts a game in the series. These guys are phoning it in (literally with that cheesy cell phone tie-in).

Looper up in pen.

Marlins 9th: Castillo—leadoff hit. Gets Contreras and Rivera up in pen. Why use Rivera up 6-0?

Castillo—Johnson is holding him at first—why?

Boone—2nd error, worse than first. Cuts in front of Jeter, but Jeter is dogging it a bit and probably would not make play. Costs Pettitte the complete game shutout after Lee singles to right (Yanks 6-1).

Pettitte gone. Boone apologized and Pettitte gave him a "that's OK" tap with the glove, but he's probably pissed.

Contreras—relieves. Two quick balls—brilliant!?! Could the Marlins possibly come back?

Lowell—grounds out to end it.

Yankees to BEAT Marlins?
2003-10-19 01:09
by Mike Carminati

Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a preview of the Series with comparisons by position. Rich picks the Yankees in seven.

Fearless Predictions… That Are invariably Wrong—World Series Edition
2003-10-18 22:12
by Mike Carminati

Given that both staffs are tired and the Yankees just got over a dramatic 7-game series while the Marlins had an extra day's rest, I would think Yankees in 6.

So that, of course, means Marlins in 7. I have underestimated the Marlins every step of the way, and I will continue to do so here.

Though I'll be wrong, I say Yankees in 6.

Déjà vu All Over Again
2003-10-17 02:19
by Mike Carminati

"Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it"

—Pedro "El Cobarde" Martinez (that's "coward" in Spanish)

Holy cow!

The Yankees beat the Red Sox in improbable fashion tonight with an eleventh-inning walk-off home run by Aaron Boone, 6-5. The win was improbable because the Yankees once trailed 4-0 with Red Sox starter Pedro Martinez cruising.

The Red Sox led 5-2 with one out in the bottom of the eighth with Martinez in control. The Fox crew was ramping up its salute to the Red Sox in anticipation of their appearance in the Fall Classic. The Yankees had just five outs left and Derek Jeter had seemed ready to be expend one, after falling behind 0-2 while being made to look silly in doing so.

But all of a sudden Jeter put a charge in a ball and doubled to right over Trot Nixon's head. Bernie Williams followed and singled Jeter home on a 2-2 pitch.

Grady Little then visited Martinez on the mound. It was apparent—and Little confirmed later—that Little had asked Martinez if he wanted to remain in the game, to which Martinez "cowboyed up" in the affirmative. Little had left-hander Alan Embree ready and Hideki Matsui was up.

Martinez seemed to regain control as he quickly got two (questionable) strikes called on Hideki Matsui. Then Matsui took the next ball down the right field line for a ground rule double as it was touched by a fan, momentarily a lucky break for the Red Sox since Williams would have scored easily.

Jorge Posada was due up next. My first thought was that Martinez would plunk Posada as he promised in game three. The beanball was delivered under similar circumstances: left-handed batter with runners at second and third. But Martinez was pitching to Posada.

This was the Martinez's undoing as Posada took a 2-2 pitch and sent a Texas Leaguer that fell between three fielders. Both baserunners scored, tying the game, and the winning run in the person of Posada ended up on second since no one covered the bag when the middle infielders chased the fly ball.

Martinez's night was over and only his exit could possibly have turned the overwhelming cheers to a smattering of boos. Embree got Giambi, who had been the Yankees only offense through eight hitting two home runs, to fly out. Little brought in Mike Timlin who promptly walked pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra intentionally. Timlin then walked Karim Garcia unintentionally on four pitches to load the bases. The next batter, Alfonso Soriano, who entered the box with four pathetic strikeouts on the night, hit a 1-1 pitch back to the pitcher that caromed off the mound but was somehow caught by second baseman Todd Walker who retired the Yanks on the force out.

The Yankees then summoned Mariano Rivera, who gave up a hit in each of his first two innings, but held firm. Meanwhile the Yankee bats fell silent as they went 1-2-3 in both the ninth and tenth innings.

Fox started concentrating on the Yankee lineup card to determine who was left in the bullpen (i.e., Gabe White, Jose Contreras, and Jeff Weaver) as Rivera mowed down the Sox in the eleventh for his first three-inning appearance in reportedly 7 years.

In the bottom of the eleventh, the leadoff hitter was Aaron Boone who had pinch-ran for Ruben Sierra after he was intentionally walked in the eighth. It was his first at-bat of the night and he was batting .161 with a .406 OPS, no home runs and one RBI in the postseason. Tim Wakefield was on the mound and he had continued to mesmerize the Yankee batters for the third time in the series with his perfect tenth. Wakefield's first offering to Boone was quickly deposited in the left field bleachers, ending the incredible game.

So maybe the Red Sox are cursed…cursed with stupidity.

The remarkable thing about the game was that it seemed a replay of the sixth game of the NLCS. Both the Cubs and the Red Sox were five outs from the World Series and had their ace on the mound. The Cubs then coughed up eight runs to lose the game and later the series. The Red Sox at least were able to send the games to extra innings.

However, in both games the manager was given ample opportunity to give the flagging starter the hook but chose not to. Prior threw 119 pitches; Martinez 123. If it were I managing, I would have pulled Martinez after the Williams hit with the left-handed Matsui at the plate. Certainly he should not have pitched to switch-hitter Jorge Posada, who has more power as a left-hander and who ended up driving in the tying runs.

The Yankees will now host the Marlins on Saturday for game one of the World Series. Both clubs enter the Series with decimated pitching staffs. The Yanks used starters Clemens (65 pitches), Mussina (33), and Wells (6) today and Pettitte threw 92 pitches yesterday. That leaves only Wells, Contreras, and Weaver (gasp!) available to pitch game one. Wells will get the call and Pettitte will probably pitch game two on three days rest (two lefties in the Yankee Stadium games). Rivera also pitched 48 pitches for the win tonight so his availability may be questionable for game one.

Florida used all five of its starters in the final two games of their series: Redman (69 pitches), Penny (9), and Beckett (45) yesterday and Pavano (86) and Willis (23) Tuesday. I guess Willis will get the call give that he will have the most rest and he is left-handed and the game is in Yankee Stadium. That leaves either Penny or Pavano for game 2.

Hey Joe Morgan Chat Day, What Do You Know?
2003-10-16 22:06
by Mike Carminati

Knowledge is power.—Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est.
—Francis "Macon" Bacon, the godfather of British Empiricism.
Also, Schoolhouse Rocky.

He that hath knowledge spareth his words.
—Old Testament, Proverbs xvii. 27

He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
—Old Testament, Ecclesiastes i. 18.

Lisa Simpson: So, dad, are you ready to spread knowledge and enlighten minds?
Dancin' Homer Simpson [Confused. Patronizes]: That's right, honey. Daddy's a teacher.

I get it now: Joe Morgan is a teacher and we are his flock. It's all so simple. After a chat session, that's why we're all flocked up. Joe is here to tell us the error of our ways. Why, we have been led astray by these Svengali sabermetrcians. Wins ARE the best way to evaluate a pitcher. The Triple Crown stats—batting average, homers, and RBIs—ARE the only ways to evaluate a batter.

The scales are falling away. I can see clearly now; the rain is gone. I can see most of the obstacles in my way, at least.

Joe is, at heart, an empiricist. All knowledge comes from experience, his experience that is. Joe eschews facts especially when they disagree with what he sees with his own two eyes. "Of course the earth is flat and the sun travels around the earth. Open your eyes, rube." Welcome to the church of Joe. Come in and testify, my brother.

So in the words of the words of the head honcho…"Let there be light: and there was light." Or more to the point…

Moderator: Ok folks, away we go!

The Good

John, Orlando: Joe.. In Yankee stadium, the distance on the walls is written in white (except the 408 in center). Is there a reason for this.. So Batters seeing the ball better? Or did they just feel like painting it black?

Yep, 408 is in black as not to distract the hitters.

[Mike: Yeah, they took Mick Jagger's advice.]

Ryan (Boston): Joe, are you expecting a raucous atmosphere at Fenway on Saturday? If so, do you think it will affect the game?

WEll I expect an excited crowd -- I don't expect them to do anything out of the ordinary. Both teams are used to that kind of atmosphere now in the post-season. Of course it is a factor, but with these two teams, it's minor at this point.

[Mike: Oh, man. No on could have anticipated the events of game three.]

The Bad

pat mcguigan (Scranton, PA): what do you think will blow up first, boston's starting pitching or yankee middle relief?

I think starting pitching comes to the forefront in the playoffs b/c the deeper you get into the game the easier it is for your closers to get out. I think the Yankees' starting pitching has been the most consistant, it's certainly has the edge over Boston's but with Pedro coming up, anything can happen.

[Mike: Yes, Mariano Rivera was very awkward socially. It's great to see him get out and socialize during the playoffs.

In typical Joe fashion, he expresses no opinion and all opinions at once. How 'bout Pedro Martinez and Don Zimmer? They blowd up real good.]

Don, Philly: I thought that perhaps the Yankees should have gone with Clemens in Game 2 and Pettite in games 3 and a potential Game 7. Do you agree with the decision Torre made?

I thought Pettite should have pitched game 1 since he has won more games ... but Torre obviously had his reason for doing so. I think Pettitte is definitely their best big game pitcher. I agree with Roger in Game 3.

[Mike: Don Philly? Are you related to Dave Philly?

Really Torre didn't make a decision. He set a rotation in the Twins series and stuck to it. The only change was to hold off on Wells after the rainout. There's probably something to be said for sticking to a set rotation.

The Yankees have odd home-road splits for ERA: Mussina, 3.04 home and 3.81 road (OK); Pettitte, 3.78 and 4.24; Clemens 5.22 and 2.53 (huh?); Wells, 4.89 and 3.36. Part of me says that I would avoid using Clemens and Wells at home, and part of me is saying, "Is that really significant or just luck?" I'm inclined to think that Torre knows his staff well enough to know if Clemens has some sort of problem pitching in Yankee Stadium.

But, no, Don, I would not have gone with Clemens game 2 since it shuffles your rotation and given that maybe the home-road splits have some meaning. At least Don put some though into it. Joe just would shuffle his staff by regular-season victories even though clearly Mussina had a better year than Pettitte.

For the record, Clemens is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in six World Series starts. Pettitte is 4-1 with a 5.08 ERA in eight World Series starts. Who would you rather have? Of course, Joe would point out that Pettitte has more wins.]

Simon (Clifton, NJ): Pedro or Rocket. Who would you want pitching game 3 for you?

If I was in Boston it would be Pedro, if I was a Yankee it would be Roger.

[Mike: Typically Joe evasive indecisiveness. How about, who would you rather have your back in a dark alley, Martinez or Zimmer? Roger Clemens is the best pitcher of his generation. Martinez is great but fragile, physically and mentally, and he's a coward. I pick Clemens.]

Kyle Krapf Chicago, Illinois: Joe, I think Mark Prior is the most dominant pitcher in baseball. At the age of 23, don't you think that his mechanics and make-up are something I should be excited about for a long time?

I don't know him personally, and mechaics -- we'll have to wait and see how they hold up ... I know that Mark Prior has won all these games in a row ... but let's not forget about Kerry Wood -- he is pretty special, too. I believe he is just as good. The Cubs are very lucky to have these two guys.

[Mike: No, but Joe is prepared to go on record to say that Dontrelle "D-Railed" Willis will be a special pitcher for a long time.

Jacky W. (Rancho Cucamonga): All his abilities and accomplishments considered, Bonds may be as good as it gets for sometime AND he is still not viewed as "greater" than Ruth. With that in mind, can ANYBODY EVER supplant Ruth as "the greatest" in the eyes of the public/media?

I don't think so Jacky. Babe Ruth started the revolution that brought baseball to the forefront of Americana. It was more than just baseball with this guy, it was his persona, his talent, his iconicism. I don't think anybody will ever be able to supplant that image that people held of him -- he was larger than life.

[Mike: Jacky, first, go Quakes!

Second, Babe Ruth is to baseball what the Beatles are to rock music. He was in the right place at the right time but he performed amazingly given the opportunity. In 1920 Ruth hit an unheard-of 54 home runs. No other team in the AL had as many home runs as Ruth and only one NL club (the Phils) had more than he did (64).

That is unthinkable today. When Bonds hit 73, the lowest total in the NL was Montreal at 131 and Tampa Bay, 121, in the AL.

Besides Ruth was a very good young, left-handed pitcher. He was great in two World Series (3-0 with an 0.87 ERA). His numbers look better today than they should given that he pitched in the deadball era (94-46 and 2.28 ERA), but a Hall-of-Fame pitching career was definitely within his reach.

Bonds is the greatest ballplayer that I ever saw, but it is impossible to be another Ruth. And not because of his "iconicism" (not a word) or "iconoclasm" or "epicurism" or whatever Joe is trying to say, but because the nature of the game today.]

Glen(Mahwah NJ): Andy Pettitte has come up with big win after big win for the Yankees. Do you think George will be smart and resign him? Rumor has it Texas will try and lure him back to his home state with big money.

Well, I know there will be a lot of teams who want Pettite when he becomes a free agent after the season. I can't say what George will or won't do -- who knows. But i'm sure a lot of teams will want Andy -- not just Texas.

[Mike: They had already said on Fox that Buck Showalter does not expect to sign Pettitte because of the payroll decrease in Texas. Given that Clemens is, supposedly, retiring, and Wells is 40, and Weaver looks like Eddie Whitson Jr., and Jose Contreras may be Hideki Irabu Jr., and Pettitte is a lefty, doesn't Steinbrenner have to re-sign him? George should have the cash and the only other real competition financially may be the Phils, who have always coveted Pettitte, have almost traded for him on numerous occasions, and have deep pockets as they move into a new stadium.]

Ryan (Elkhorn, NE): Joe, first off let me say you and Jon make Sunday Night Baseball the best around. Also, I'm a big fan of the Cubs as well. I've been extremely impressed with the bat of Alex Gonzalez lately. Any differences you see that have made his stroke come alive in the playoffs? And do you expect him to stay hot?

Thanks for the compliment, Ryan. Gonzalez has always had a lot of potential, I haven't really seen enough of him to make an evaluation as to why he is finally doing these things. If the Cubs get to the World Series I will definitely be speaking to hitting instructor Gary Matthew as to why he has come to life and what adjustments he's made.

[Mike: First, typical Joe not wanting to actually talk to the actual ballplayer. The youngster can't have made the improvement on his own. Joe will only speak with his contemporaries, ex-ballplayers who knew how to play. I hope when he does, he addresses Sarge correctly. It's Gary Matthews. Don't leave the last 'S' off for "savings."]

Jorge (Watertown): Hello Mr. Morgan, What are your thoughts on how Grady Little ran yesterday's game? I found many of his decisions poor, starting with opting to start Damian Jackson at 2nd when Todd Walker has been so hot lately. But there were also other questionable decisions, such as having Kapler at leadoff, and bringing in the lefty specialist Sauerbeck to face switch-hitting Posada, when the game was still in reach.

I was surprised to see Kapler in the leadoff spot b/c a bunt situation came up and hes not a good bunter -- in that situation he hit into a double play. That's not his fault, he should be in the 1 spot. Damian Jackson was playing second because Derek Lowe forces so many ground balls and he is a much better defensive second baseman than Walker. I think Grady wanted to use Saurback early to see if he could count on them later in the series -- like Joe Torre found out he could use Contreras to set up Rivera.

[Mike: Kapler's not a good bunter? What? Who cares? Kapler gets on base at a .336 clip. The Sox ended up pinch-hitting for him. How often do you see the batter you expect to give the most at-bats to being lifted in the ninth inning. And I'm not talking about being lifted for a slugger in a tight game. The Red Sox were trailing 6-2 and needed baserunners, but they would rather send the ever-average Dave McCarty to the plate than Kapler.

Jackson's a better second baseman, but Walker has been the hottest bat in the Red Sox lineup. The only real reason to leave Walker out of the lineup was that he was a lefty and Pettitte was pitching.

The worst move was staying with Lowe against Giambi, when the left-handed Sauerbeck was ready.]

Chris (Raleigh): Joe, out of all of the playoff teams, who do you think will is the Most Valuable Player?

Hmm, Chris, I'm not sure you can pick one guy. They all have a valuable player. Cubs with pitchers Prior or Woor ... or their offense from Sosa. It's as if each team has three MVPs. They all got here from every player showing up and consistantly putting out. It really is a team effort at this point, that's why they are still playing in October.

[Mike: Good answer. It's better to be diplomatic than to give an actual opinion. It's not like this is a chat session or anything.

It's not like Pudge Rodriguez has not hoisted the Marlins onto his back and dragged them through the playoffs. But it's pretty close. Walker has been great in Boston. Lofton gets the nod in Chicago with honorable mention to Sosa. Posada and Rivera have been big for the Yankees.]

Joe - NY: florida MVP Pudge - hands down - how did you miss that?

If I'd a thought Pudge deserved it I would have said so. How do you choose between Prior and Wood, for example? I'll answer it again. There's really not one standout guy that's more valuable than the rest.

[Mike: That's right, Joe. Stick by your guns. You didn’t know the answer when you were asked the first time and you still don't know. Don't let individual performance get in the way.

Just because Pudge has 10 RBIs, about a third of the team's total he is no more valuable than, say, Alex "The Lesser" Gonzalez of the .125 batting average.

We're all MVPs after all. God bless.]

dieter - sf: joe - dusty baker pithced prior late in a blowout game. Do you agree with this move? Why would Dusty not pull him and try to rest his arm when he had a chance. THis guy has pitched a ton of innings and thrown a lot of pitches lately. Is Dusty begging for disaster down the road (a la AJ Burnett)?

I wasn't there, but, I will say that pitch count is only important when you can calculate how much stress is involved. In a blowout game, those pitches were probably not as stressful as they would be in a tight game. That could be the equalizer. I will not question Dusty Baker, he knows what he's doing.

[Mike: First, Dieter can I touch your monkey?

Second, as Al Leiter said at the time, once you are over about 80 pitches, it does not really matter. Prior pitched 116 in that game. It's not like 140 or the 133 he threw in the Atlanta game.

Yes, it all has a cumulative effect and that's why he ran out of gas in game 6, but if Baker had gotten him out earlier, as he should have, everyone would have said that they wasted a great performance by him in that game.

Oh and Joe, it’s not like Prior was doing his Matty impersonation, pacing himself with a hefty lead in the deadball era. C'mon.]

Lou (Syracuse): As one of the all time best second basemen ever, what do you see in terms of strenths and weaknesses when you look at Alfonso Soriano? Do you think he has a chance to be one of the best ever?

What I see is that he is a guy that just needs to work specifically on his footwork and his focus on EVERY ground ball. He has to look at every ground ball as if it is the ninth inning and he as to make the play. He is still learning the position, footwork will come. Yes, I do think he could be one of the best ever.

[Mike: Yeah, and the same could be said of Tanner of Bad News Bears fame. Soriano has flashes but he is a dreadful second baseman. The man has two stars to steer by: Joe Morgan and Juan Samuel. It looked like he was headed toward Morgan last year, but this year Samuel has been the guiding force. He may soon head to center just like Samuel did as well.]

Steve - Minneapolis: Joe...Thanks for your great work. I really like the way you focus on the strategy of the game and talk about pitch location, hit and run, etc. The things that REALLY make baseball the great game that it is. All those other guys ever talk about is how great this guy is or that guy is. Do you think small-ball will play a significant, if any, role in the rest of this post season?

I think small-ball has it's place in this world of home run hittrers today and it definitely becomes more important in the post-season. Unfortuately a team like Boston really isn't built for small-ball. The Yankees are, the Cubs are, the Marlins are. Those three teams have speed and can hit for basehits. Boston must resort to slugging there way through these series. That hurt them last night and I think that will hurt them in the end.

[Mike: "Gee, Mrs. Cleever, that's a lovely housecoat. Will you please take me question?" Brown nose.

I agree with Joe though. Those three other teams could potentially blow a game with a stupid, wasteful bunt, and the Marlins kind of did.]

Andrew (New Jersey): Joe the great. I know this question isn't about the four teams remaining, but do you thing the Atlanta Braves will unload most of their team similar to what the Marlins did after '97? Also do you think their run is over? Take care Great One.

The Braves have won 12 straight divisional titles. Everybody keeps thinking the run is over and it keeps going. I think this time it will depend on whether they resight Gary Sheffield and Javy Lopez. Without one or the other it could come to a hault. But Bobby Cox is a great manager and he will always keep them competative. I do think they will be without Maddux next year though.

[Mike: If Castilla, Giles, and Lopez return to earth and they lose Maddux, they could drop precipitously to fourth.]

The Ugly

Joe - Portland OR: Let's fanatsize a minute, suppose the Cubs and Sox make the World Series, would this be the biggest WS in years, or just a sign of the Apocolypse?

I think for baseball fans it would the greatest series in a long time. The curse of the Bambino and the curse of the goat -- all that stuff would finally disintigrate. That would certainly be the baseball fan's series. Those two teams are due. We'll see what happens.

[Mike: From Joe Morgan's October 1 chat:

[O]nly people in Boston and Chicago want it to be a Sox-Cubs World Series.

Oh, but I forgot, never quote Joe to Joe because he never said the things he said. He isn't even voicing the denials. Joe is really some AI program that randomly generates responses based on Joe's brain. The real Joe is a mindless automaton that Jon Miller shepherds around via a remote that makes your DVD remote seem advanced a la "Spock's Brain". Fascinating, Captain.]

Dennis (NY, NY): Joe: Where have the fundamentals gone? League MVP's with these baserunning blunders and standing in the batters box watching fly balls barely clear the fence (Tejada & Manny). Are these just mental blocks or is this just not being taught throughout farm systems? Thanks.

I think it is not being taught in the farms. Players get rushed to the big leagues when they are not mature. Fundamentals is a lost art. Overall, as Joe TOrre told me earlier this year, baserunning is the worst right now as it has been in years. That's a product of today's system.

[Mike: No, studies have shown that players are no more rushed today than ever. It's not that they are rushed, but that the minor-league systems feature different approaches today.

"Today's system" eschews stolen bases as it should. If certain players are not taught how to take an extra base or when to go on a fly ball, then maybe Joe's buddies, Gary Matthew and Joe Torres, should teach them instead of complaining about these young whippersnappers.]

Scott(Vernon,CT): Joe....I have to disagree that Boston has to slug it's way in order to win. They have many contact hitters in that lineup(Nomar, Mueller, Walker, and Damon) to compliment their power hitters (Manny, Ortiz, Millar). They may not have the speed of the other teams, but they can get the job done when necessary.

Scott, were you watching the game last night, when you had runners thrown out in a double play. They had Pettite on the ropes, they could have gone up 2-0 and they can't get the basehit. Again, they will have to outhit the Yankees to win.

The contact hitter Muellar took a third strike while Kapler was being thrown out stealing in the first. And then in the second with 0 outs runners on 1st and 2nd they hit into a double play. When they let Pettitte off the hook, he got his act together and beat 'em. MIssed opportunities because they can't lay down the bunt of drop a basehit. That's why I'm the analyst, I see all those things happen in a game.

[Mike: Answer is…"The most ridiculous statement ever said in a Joe Morgan chat session." Joe has Super Analyst vision—he sees things the average fan misses.

By the way, the Red Sox had one fewer bunt than the Yankees and almost twice as many sac flies. But yes, they rely more on the bat rather than speed. There are notable exceptions in Damon, Garciaparra, and Jackson. But Damon was out.

The bottom line is they missed opportunities, but they did outhit the Yankees (10 to 8) in game 2. The missed opportunities weren't because they didn't hit the way they usually do. It was because they small balled their way out of a big inning in the first. If they hadn't started Kapler anticipating that Mueller would make contact (a decent percentage move), then they would have probably scored on the Garciaparra and Ramirez singles. But they made the mistake of listening to schmoes like you, Joe.

As far as the second Kapler DP, if he had bunted they would have had second and third with one out. Mueller grounded out anyway, so that's two outs. And then you have men at second and third, 2 out, and the incredibly cold Garciaparra at bat. Maybe if Kapler went the other way at least they could have avoided the double play. Or if Kapler wasn't batting leadoff at all, perhaps a better hitter would have done better. If they used Jackson's speed at the top of the order, maybe they could have avoided those double plays.

But I'm not an analyst, so I can't see those things. ]

22 Minutes and 8 Seconds in Hell
2003-10-16 01:19
by Mike Carminati

They had only one World Series win in the previous 95 years but were riding high with a substantial lead at home and only 6 outs to go with a possible world championship looming. They got the first out easily. However, a key defensive error and a porous bullpen turn the lead into a deficit in the eighth and the team went down to ignominious defeat.

The Cubs? No, of course, I am referring to the 1993 Philadelphia Phillies, who led Toronto 14-9 in the eighth inning of game four of the World Series (October 20, 1993), but ended up losing the game 15-14. Two games later they lost the series to Joe Carter's walk-off homer, the first to the point in a World Series game.

There were a lot of similarities between the 1993 game and the Cubs defeat yesterday. In 1993, a ball was booted by Dave Hollins though not scored an error with men at first and second and one out. Last night, Alex Gonzalez dropped a possible double play ball with one out and men at first and second and the Cubs leading 3-1. The Cubs turned to Kyle Farnsworth who gave up three runs in a third of an inning. The '93 Phils turned to Mitch Williams, who surrendered three in two-thirds an inning.

Williams went on to become, undeservedly, the goat of the series. He would relinquish the Carter series winner three days later. In the offseason, Williams is the subject of abuse from the fans and he is mercifully traded to the Astros in December.

The Cubs goat was not a player, though Gonzalez may have worn that mantle, but rather a fan who reached for a foul ball apparently in the stands but one that may have still been caught by Moises Alou, attempting to secure the second out of the eighth. The fan technically did not interfere with the ball since it was ruled in the stands. However, he has already been the butt of many an angry North Sider's spleen. The fan's name was disclosed by a Chicago newspaper (though we bloggers have better scruples and I would not publish it here) along with his place of work and the name of his little league club (?).

Just like Williams in 1993, this fan is not at fault for the events that enfolded last night. The Cubs somehow lost a 3-0 lead with 5 outs to go and created a 5-run deficit within the span of 22 minutes and 8 seconds including two breaks for pitching changes. They also went from a 3-0 lead to a tie game in three pitches. Here is how they did it:

0:00 Mordecai flies out to Alou for the first out of the inning.
2:23 Pierre doubles down the left field line.
4:56 Prior's 3-2 pitch to Castillo is his 110th of the night.
5:52 Farnsworth gets up in the bullpen (finally).
6:20 Castillo hits the infamous foul ball (112th pitch).
7:07 Ball four to Castillo and wild pitch, Pierre to third. (114th)
7:50 Conference on mound, probably to buy Farnsworth time.
7:53 Steve Lyons advices the Cubs faithful to throw the fan onto the field a la the throw'im back opponent home runs. Lovely.
8:17 Security removes the fan.
8:40 Hanger on first pitch to Rodriguez, which he misses. (115th)
9:44 Single to left by Pudge on 0-2 pitch, Cubs 3-1. (117th)
10:33 Cabrera's grounder dropped by Gonzalez. Looks like a slightly bad hop, but catchable. Loads bases. (118th)
11:25 Lee doubles down the left field line (see a trend yet?) on first pitch. Score tied. (119th)
13:49 Farnsworth is in.
14:18 Lowell intentionally walked to load the bases.
15:00 Sac fly by Conine, 4-3 Marlins. Sosa either misses cutoff man or cutoff man is out of position. Weak throw gets most of the way home before cut off. Runners both advance, 2nd and 3rd.
16:25 Hollandsworth is intentionally walked to load the bases.
17:44 Mordecai (the Marlins batted around) shows bunt on 0-1.
18:46 Mordecai double to gap in left on 2-1 pitch, Marlins 7-3.
19:41 Conference on mound.
21:58 Mike Remlinger in.
22:08 Pierre singles to right. Mordecai scores, Marlins 8-3.

If you notice, all of the balls including the foul one hit off of Prior in the eighth were to the left. They were jumping on his hanging curveballs. However, it took almost 6 minutes to get a pitcher up in the bullpen. And another 7 minutes to finally give Prior the hook.

If the fans of Chicago would a goat, don't blame the fan. Don't blame Alex Gonzalez. Don't even blame the Billy Goat, who haunts the Wrigley faithful to this day. "And I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for those pesky kids and their dog."

Just like in 1993 when Jim Fregosi went to clearly unserviceable Mitch Williams time and time again, blame the manager for the Cubs' loss. Put the blame squarely on Dusty Baker's shoulders. Baker had no one up in the bullpen to lead off the eighth. Baker failed to recognize that Prior had run out of gas even though the batters started to feed furiously. I understand Baker did not have that many great options in the bullpen, but to keep Prior in there to work out of his jam when he had thrown over 110 pitches and clearly had nothing left was foolish.

I would have pulled him after the first man reached. Certainly he should have been gone after the walk-wild pitch. Baker was just stirring his pen brethren at that time.

Now, we NL'ers have to live with a substandard, Jeffrey Loria-owned Marlins team representing us in the Series. This club used five starters in the last two days, so who knows who will be the starter for McKeon's club come Saturday.

I do have to admit that the Marlins defined the series in the first game. They showed their tenacity and their ability to come back. The Cubs could have closed the door on this club and it is to their credit that the Marlins did not let them. I don't think the same can be said of a superior Yankee or Red Sox team.

DH'ing by Degrees
2003-10-14 10:45
by Mike Carminati

Every guilty deed
Holds in itself the seed
Of retribution and undying pain

—"Hammerin'" Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After Saturday's brawl ball in Boston, you've probably heard a number of people bemoaning the evils of the designated hitter rule, how it allowed Pedro Martinez to cavalierly throw at Karim Garcia's head without fear of retribution. You see, the DH made him do it.

It's a great theory. As is his wont, Tim McCarver espoused it on the spot. William C. Rhoden wrote an article for the erstwhile prestigious NY Times:

The symbol of baseball's problem -- the root of it -- is the designated hitter rule. The rule has to go. Make pitchers hit. I guarantee, you'll see less of the nonsense we saw from Pedro Martinez Saturday and Roger Clemens throughout his career…[the DH's] a coward's rule that allows American League pitchers to intimidate batters, brush them back, and hit them without fear of retaliation. If there is retaliation, the pitcher's teammate is the victim…the rule has become the Berlin Wall of Major League Baseball.

Interesting stuff, eh? Great bluster, too. Hey, I'm all for casting aspersions on the DH. Caste away, guys. Too bad it just taint true.

Historically, pitchers have been reluctant to throw at other pitchers. Maybe they think it'll be too obvious. Maybe it's the people in glass houses angle. Maybe it's just human nature. Maybe it's just common sense, knowing that whatever they do unto their brother may be done unto them. For whatever reason, like doctors and mafia toadies, pitchers just don't like to go after each other.

The average player has been plunked about twice as often as the average pitcher. That is, the pitcher hit by a pitch-to-plate appearance ratio is about half of the average major-leaguer's (based on "pitchers" being players who pitched at least three games in a season in order to filter out position players who pitched once or twice).

Actually, from the turn of the century until today, that ratio has been steadily increasing from about 1.5 plunked batters per pitcher to about 3.0, with only one significant dip. The trend reversed itself in the Fifties and Sixties and took until the Eighties to get back on track completely, though it remained relatively high (1.78 is the low in the Sixties). Unfortunately, this short-lived reversal happened to be during the formative years of most of today's sportswriters and broadcasters, and the anomaly became the inculcated norm for these individuals.

Take a look at the historical averages:

DecadePitcher HBP%Average HBP%Ratio

Well, you say that the increase since the Seventies is due directly to the DH itself. The AL ratios for position players are so high that they drag up the major-league average. That's another good theory, that happens to be wrong.

Here are the league numbers since 1970:

DecadeLgPitcher HBP%Average HBP%Ratio
Since 1970AL0.27%0.64%2.39
Since 1971NL0.25%0.59%2.39

Do you notice that the ratios in the AL and NL are identical (2.39) since 1970? I know that we are talking about much fewer plate appearances for pitchers in the AL (mostly interleague play and manager mistakes), but the numbers are consistent between the leagues.

If you want to get rid of the DH, there are plenty of arguments to support its demise. However, pitchers not getting plunked is not one of them.

Lessons in Small Ball…Or How to Avoid Winning a Ballgame
2003-10-14 01:24
by Mike Carminati

The Cubs-Marlins series may very well be decided tomorrow as the two clubs travel back to the City of Big Sosas. I think that the series may have been defined by two extremely close, eleven-inning games, the opener and game three.

Game one was a classic that had everything. The Marlins showed great resolve in pulling out the victory. I predicted at the time that it would set a tone for the series. That said, I know believe that game three will end up being the series' defining moment.

The Cubs ended up winning 5-4 in game three. It was a game that started as a pitchers' duel between Mark Redman and Kerry Wood and ended in a nail-bitter with potentially the tying run caught off second in a rundown. For me though, the game was an exercise in the limitations of small ball and perhaps proof that Dusty Baker is deserving of the glowing accolades that the media accord him.

Witness the following:

In the top of the first inning, with Kenny Lofton at first and no outs Mark Grudzielanek bunted Lofton to second. Lofton then scored on a Sosa single (Cubs 1-0).

Top of the fourth, with Damian Miller on first and one out, Kerry Wood sacrificed to Miller to second. The Cubs fail to score (Cubs 2-1).

Bottom of the seventh, the Marlins had Alex Gonzalez on second and Mike Lowell on first. Juan Pierre sacrificed to move the runners up. Both later scored. (Marlins 3-2).

Bottom of the eighth, with Miguel Cabrera at first and no one out, pinch-hitter Mike Mordecai bunted Cabrera to second. Cabrera later scored on Hollandsworth's two-out single.

Bottom of the ninth, Juan Pierre bunted for a hit to lead off when he caught Aramis Ramirez napping. Luis Castillo then sacrificed Pierre to second. The next batter, Pudge Rodriguez was intentionally walked. The Marlins failed to score.

Top of the eleventh, Lofton was at first with one out. Pinch-hitter Doug Glanville tripled with the ball got beyond left fielder Jeff Conine. Lofton scored the eventual winning run on the play.

Bottom of the eleventh, with two out and Luis Castillo representing the tying run at second, Derek Lee apparently grounded out to end the game. But Ramirez dropped the ball. Seeing this Castillo broke for third. Just then Ramirez regained the handle on the booted ball and picked Castillo off in a rundown.

So the Cubs started bunting in the first inning (!). The initially had success but after a failed, peremptory attempt—the pitcher was up—in the fourth, they changed their strategy and eschewed the bunt. In the deciding eleventh inning, with the speedy Lofton at first and the equally speedy Glanville at bat (i.e., very low probability of a double play) with one out, Glanville did not take the safe route and bunt the runner into scoring position and hope for the best. They made a preemptive strike, as Glanville hit away and stroked the winning hit.

Meanwhile, Florida latched onto the sac bunt and refused to stop suckling at her teat. The Marlins used a bunt in three straight innings (7, 8, and 9). They scored with the play in the seventh, and in the process took the lead in the game. After losing the lead momentarily, they evened the score using a bunt in the eighth. However, they went to the well one too many times: in the ninth all the bunt did was allow the Cubs to walk their hottest hitter Pudge Rodriguez which helped prevent them from scoring. The Marlins also used their superior speed to end the ballgame perhaps immaturely with the Luis Castillo was caught off of second.

What are my conclusions from this? If you bunt early, you give the pitcher an extra out and allow him to work through whatever problems he may have, while stymieing whatever big inning is possible. Don't bunt late in the game and give the opposition a reason not to pitch to your best hitter. And moving a runner into scoring position with small ball is nice but so is a nice extra-base hit.

The rest of the NLCS series is compressed of lopsided Chicago victories and a masterpiece by Josh Beckett. With the series winding down the story of the series may be told in the few close, low-scoring games. The Marlins' used sheer will to win the first such game but the Cubs used an evolving but superior strategy to win game three. Game six comes tomorrow and with Mark Prior and the surprising Carl Pavano—hasn't allowed a run in the postsseaon in five appearances— pitching it could be another low-scoring affair. For the Marlins sake, I hope the don't bunt three straight innings again.

Shock and Awful
2003-10-13 01:57
by Mike Carminati

The backers of the V-chip are right: there is a lot of violence on TV. It's too bad that so much of it occurs in televised sports. As a sports fan I have been witness to, and so probably have you:

Roberto Alomar spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck.

Joe Theisman's leg being snapped like a wishbone.

Kermit Washington punching Rudy Tomjanovich in the face.

Vladimir Guerrero rushing the mound, bat in hand, after being hit by a Brad Penny pitch.

Guillermo Mota throwing his glove at a charging Mike Piazza after plunking same.

And Thom "Ted Baxter" Brennamen's baseball play-by-play.

I have seen a lot in my three decades of sports fandom, but I had never seen a 72-year-old man wrestled to the ground. Until now. As I'm sure you know, Boston's Pedro Martinez performed that stunning by scuffling with Yankee coach Don Zimmer en route to a game three loss to New York on Saturday.

It all started in the top of the fourth. The score was tied 2-2 at the start of the inning, but Pedro Martinez started to lose control of the game. He walked Jorge Posada to lead off the inning and then gave up a single to Nick Johnson and a ground-rule double to Hidecki Matsui which scored Posada. This gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead and two men in scoring position, and still there were no outs in the inning. Next up was lefthander Karim Garcia, who had driven in the first Yankee run on the night in the second inning, followed by right-handed Alfonso Soriano. As Martinez is a right-hander, one might expect him to intentionally walk Garcia to get to the right-hander with the possibility of a double play.

That's the way that it played out but Martinez did not use an IBB to get there. He took a more economical route. Martinez's first pitch to Garcia was a fastball aimed more or less at his head. Garcia ducked and the ball apparently hit his bat. He was awarded first for having the ball graze his back though that was not apparent to me even on replays. Also, the fact that Garcia stood in the box after the pitch and stared in wonderment was viewed by the broadcasting team as an indication that he had not been hit instead of the confusion attendant in having one's head being used as a bull's eye.

The umpires warned both benches. Martinez's strategy worked like a charm as Soriano grounded into a double play. Though the Yankees did score one run, Martinez got out of the jam. After the plunk, he sent the next 11 batters down in order.

On the double play ball, Garcia ran hard into second baseman Todd Walker adding fuel to the fire. As Garcia left the field, Martinez pointed to his head and yelled something like "I'm going to hit you in the head" to Posada as he left the field upon scoring. The dugouts started to empty and Joe Torre argued against his pitcher having to share in the umpire's warning. Zimmer and Posada were then seen screaming at Martinez from the dugout.

To lead off the bottom of the fourth, a Roger Clemens' offering sailed high on the inner half of the plate to Manny Ramirez. Ramirez, apparently anticipating aYankee retaliation, took umbrage at the pitch and charged the mound. Both dugouts quickly emptied.

Suddenly, Don Zimmer appeared as if on cue and lunged meekly at Martinez. Martinez, with game face in tact, grabbed the septuagenarian by the head and jerked him to the ground. The incident was such a shock that one can see teammate David Ortiz cringing in the replay and it effectively broke up the fracas.

Zimmer was hit by a pitch in 1953 and was unconscious for two weeks and unable to speak for six. He returned the next season, but in the 1955 World Series had a pitch break his cheekbone. He had a plate inserted in his head as well as having both knees replaced. He is, as one would expect, sensitive to headhunting pitches.

The rest of the game was played under an eerie pall with the Yankees winning, 4-3.. A pitch sailed up on Kevin Millar that was closer to him than the Ramirez pitch, but to Millar's credit he just took it and waited for the next pitch. There were no further incidents until a ground crew member, who was originally identified as a fan, had an altercation with Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia in the bottom of the ninth.

I have always respected Martinez. He is one of the best pitchers of his generation. But what he did in front of a national audience in a mid-afternoon game is inexcusable. He clearly was headhunting when Garcia came to the plate. That's bad enough, but when he yelled at Posada and indicated that he would hit him, it got worse. The coups de grace was leveling Zimmer. Zimmer is far from the avuncular little sprite that the media make him out to be, but he is an enfeebled, elderly man. Martinez could have easily avoided him or just held him but instead he sought Zimmer out and engaged in the lopsided fight. How Martinez can live with himself after that is beyond me.

It all left me very angry. The Red sox fans chanting "Yankees suck" while Martinez all but dared the umpires to eject him was extremely galling. Add Manny Ramirez unnecessarily inciting a riot and the Red Sox look very much the aggressors. (By the way Tim McCarver, "inciteful" is not a word but "insightful" is, but that's a word that is alien to you.)

Yes, the Yankees are not without fault. Garcia did run Walker down, but that was in retaliation for Martinez's William Tell act. Zimmer was engaging Martinez but he is about as intimidating as Grandpa Simpson.

Look, I just don't want to hear about the curse or the karaoke guy or the shaved heads or the "cowboy up" palaver. It's not cute or even annoying anymore. It's just inappropriate, like a joke at a funeral.

I used to refer to Martinez as simply Pedro. Like I call Barry Bonds "Barry", Alex Rodriguez "A-Rod", Roger Clemens "Rocket", and Sammy Sosa just "Sammy". These are larger than life players that like that icon Cher don't need any further introduction. That was before. Now I don't want a cute, short name for Martinez. He's one of the best pitchers that I have ever seen, but I now admit that begrudgingly. He's a bad man, a very bad man. I wish him into the cornfield.

Martinez took a potentially highly enjoyable series and made it nauseating. All I want is for the series to end, the Red Sox to go home for the winter, and for me not to see there bald countenances until next spring.

Yankees of Old?
2003-10-10 16:04
by Mike Carminati

As last night's game two of the ALCS enfolded the Yankees again looked flaccid. Their defense was poor— there were two misplays by Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano in the first inning on admittedly difficult plays resulted in infield singles and allowed the Red Sox to load the bases. Andy Pettitte was shaky out of the gate allowing one run on six hits and a walk in the first two innings.

The Red Sox loaded the bases in the first but did not score with the help of a strike-him-out-throw-him-out doubleplay to clear the bases just before they were loaded. After getting out of the bases loaded jam in the first, Pettitte started the second by allowing two rope singles by Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon on high meaty fastballs. He then threw a 1-2 pitch that Damian Jackson, who started at second for his defense, sent right back up the middle scoring Varitek. The Yankees trailed 1-0 in the middle of the second, but it could have been worse had leadoff hitter Gabe Kapler, subbing for Johnny Damon, not gotten involved in two doubleplays.

Meanwhile the Yankee offense failed to get a ball out of the infield through the first six men. Even though Jorge Posada led off the second with a walk, Hidecki Matsui nullified him with a force to second. Next up was struggling Nick Johnson, who was 1-for-17 in the playoffs. It looked like a potential repeat of game one fore the Yanks.

And then it all changed as Johnson connected on a hanging fastball that he clobbered for a two-run homer. It appeared to be the same tailing fastball that Derek Lowe used to great effect against lefties in game five of the A's series. The only difference was it didn't tail.

The home run and the doubleplay ball in the second that Jeter scooped up stymieing the Red Sox second-inning rally turned the Yankees around completely. Jeter's play revitalized the Yanks' flagging defense as they played mistake-free the rest of the game including the first nice play by Jeter seemingly in months on a one-hopper by Bill Mueller in the fifth. Matsui also avoided a potentially catastrophic play reminiscent of Jose Cruz Jr. in the first round as he circle a sixth-inning David Ortiz ball to the wall in left, measuring the distance to first the wall behind him and then to the ball to his right and finally making the catch. Jason Varitek later followed with a home run that would have brought the Red Sox within one of the lead had Ortiz reached base.

The Johnson home run spawned a nice rally, albeit for only one run, in the third. It started innocently enough with a Jeter nubber down the third base line for an infield hit but snowballed from there. Jason Giambi then went with a pitch on the outside of the plate to left field. Bernie Williams followed with a single just past diving first baseman Kevin Millar. Jeter scored, but Giambi failed to take third, which may have cost them a run. Posada then hit a line drive at Damian Jackson at second, and Jackson appeared never to fully possess the ball even though it fell as he was attempting to throw for a force at second to start a potential doubleplay. It was scored an error and the Yanks had bases loaded, a very tired-looking Lowe on the ropes, and Boston's Jeff Suppan stirring in the bullpen. Lowe escaped with no further damage on two ground balls.

Meanwhile, Pettitte was settling in, allowing no hits from the second Kapler doubleplay with two on and no outs in the fifth until a two-out single to left by Nomar Garciaparra, hitting a ball out of the bucket the other way. From the Jackson RBI single with no outs in the second until the Varitek home run in the sixth (that Pettitte left too far over the plate) Pettitte pitched four and two-thirds innings and allowed just one hit and one walk while recording three strikeouts.

The game reached a sort of stasis in the middle innings. The Yankees did score on a Posada double followed by a Matsui single to right. However, Matsui got caught in a rundown after rounding first that ended the inning (and I disagree with McCarver that Matsui traded a run for an out: the Red Sox fell behind 4-1 on the play so if the throw was on time to get Posada at the plate, I doubt Millar would have cut it off to get Matsui). The Yankees then went down on six pitches in the sixth.

After Varitek's home run, the Yanks sprinted to an end that would have made Seabiscuit proud. Jose Contreras came in and pitched a perfect inning and a third. It seems that Contreras might be the setup man that the Yankees were looking for all season. Mariano Rivera then pitched the ninth to seal the victory.

Meanwhile the Yankee bats awoke to score two in the seventh finally knocking Derek Lowe out in the process. As the Yankee bullpen was quelling the Red Sox bats, the Red Sox pen went back to its old ways with Scott Sauerbeck allowing two inherited runners to score on a double and a walk in one-third inning of work.

As the Yankees strode with confident insouciance after the victory, they looked like the dynastic Yankees of, say , 1998. They had timely hitting, competent defense, good starting pitching, and a bullpen that shut the door. The Red Sox were the ones making misplays in the field (the costly Jackson error and a passed ball in the seventh that allowed Posada to get to third) and whose bullpen collapsed.

But it was one night. Meanwhile, the Yankees offense still has many holes. Aaron Boone and Alfonso Soriano are swinging at everything and anything. Soriano was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts including one in the fourth in which Soriano took two called pitched right down Broadway and then struck out on a slider purposely way outside. Boone had three unproductive at-bats and was rescued in another by a hit-by-a-pitch. Boone looked so silly striking out in the eighth that I felt bad for his brother sitting in the broadcast booth. Nick Johnson seemed to settle back into the stupor of his slump after the home run, leaving five men on base thereby ending two rallies—the Yanks had the bases loaded in the third and men at the corners in the seventh with Johnson up and he grounded out both times.

So have the Yankees hit their stride and finally playing like the team of old? The Yankees and Red Sox will have at least three more games to make that determination. Pedro versus Rocket at Fenway Saturday will be a great way to start.

In Praise of PIP (Picture in a Picture)
2003-10-10 16:03
by Mike Carminati

So you say two blowout games bring you down? So you say you're ticked off at FOX for airing two league championship games simultaneously? So you say Jeannie Zelasko in stereo is too much to bear?

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm a-here to tell you that I have your salvation-ah. I'm a-here to free your soul—Hallelujah—and challenge your spirit. Yes, sir!

I'm a-here to tell you that PIP is your redemption. Sister Zelasko, oh yes, showed you the way. PIP ensures you see every pitch and miss minimal inane commentary. Praise PIP, brother and sisters! Can I get an amen?

OK, enough of the evangelist bluster. How can you reinvigorate two flaccid games? Watch'em at the same time. Try watching Buffy-spun-off Angel and givinbg your one-month-old a bottle of the course of the night as well. Entertainment through multitasking. Distill them down and the games don't suck as much.

Let's watch, shall we?

Pregame Yanks-Red Sox: Opens with a montage out of A Clockwork Orange: Ted Williams morphs into Joe DiMaggio. Then there are Babe Ruth, Bucky Dent's home run, and excessive subways to represent sexual repression.

Presgame Cubs-Marlins: Cubs montage with blurred picture of Hack Wilson Ernie Banks, Bruce Sutter, Bill Buckner, Sammy Sosa—the ascent of Sammy. Oh, and yeah, the Cubs are playing these guys called the, uh, Marlins?

Sammy—valet parks his car dressed like Huggy Bear (Cubby Bear?).

Red Sox 1st: Fox reports that Johnny Damon received a concussion in high school playing free safety against tight end Warren Sapp (isn't that a contradiction in terms?).

Marlins 1st: Castillo walks.

Rodriguez: Bako goes after foul in stands but Cubs fans don't let him get the ball. I guess they're not throwing that one back. Strikes out on a curveball outside.

Lee: slaps a high fastball to right. First and second.

Cabrera: K on outside fastball.

McCarver: "You hear a lot about the Green Monster in Boston. What you don't hear a lot about is the Blue Monster here at Yankee Stadium."—circles the right field fence on the teleprompter. Lordy mama!

Cubs 1st: Randall Simon: bases loaded, hits high fastball for a single, two runs score.

Marlins 2nd: Encarnacion: dumps a ball to right for a double.

Conine: single goes through on the left, first and third.

Cabrera: strikeout again.

Al Leiter: says that NL is the superior league.

Penny: bunts foul, 0-2. Curveball for a K.

Yankees 2nd: Boone: men on first and second, hits it a mile but foul.

Steve Lyons: The dimwit is challenging Leiter and he's picking on pitchers' hitting. Why doesn't Leiter annihilate this pest? Doesn't he work for the D-Backs? What league are they in anyway?

Prior: gets a pop up to end the inning.

Boone: Pops up to shallow center

Cubs 2nd: Lofton: high hopper takes bad hop past Gonzalez scoring Bako.

Sammy: Long HR to straightaway center on fat pitch in middle of plate, 5-0. Hits TV camera shack.

Yankees 3rd: Jetr: Pops up in front of plate. Mueller gloves it, it pops out of his glove, and he catches it again for the third out (shades of Pete Rose?).

Cubs 3rd: Ramirez: Penny grooves another pitch. HR to left, 6-0.

Bump relieves Penny.

Red Sox 4th: Ortiz: HR to right, Mussina grooves one.

Bako: double to left-center, 7-0.

Lofton: single to the left side, 8-0.

Yanks 4th: Williams: high fastball, out on the warning track.

Marlins 4th: Conine double past Lofton.

Red Sox 5th: Walker: HR? Angel Hernandez calls it foul. Looks like it hit the pole, but may have been deflected by fan. McClelland overrules him. HR. (By the way, Angel Hernandez always reminds me of Angel Fernandez, the guy in the famous Scarface chainsaw scene.)

Mueller: Williams makes a great catch running into wall/

Ramirez: HR right over wall in RF, 4-0.

Steve Palermo: usual words of wisdom—"McClelland was 150% sure" of call (!).

Cubs 5th: Simon hits a ball in left field corner. A fan drops a beer on Conine. Good bye fan.

Gonzlaez: HR to left, 10-0. Helling grooved one.

Bako: Conine misses a foul ball.

Alex Gonzalez comparison: We find out that their nicknames are Sea Bass (under PIP but I'll take their word for it) and Gonzo. Fascinating. Now the announcers are discussing merits of nickname.

Prior: bunts a line drive down 1st base line and stares at it. Who is he, Manny?

Red Sox 6th: Heredia in to pitch for Yanks. 2 men on.

Walker: grounds out to Johnson behind the bag to end it

Lofton: Hanger. Single to right, 1st and 3rd.

Grudzy: Double on left field line, 11-0.

Sosa: IBB to load bases.

Alou: dribbler to mound. Force at home.

Yanks 6th: Fan "Ed Hillel" says ball hit fan's hand and dropped straight down. Says 6" foul. Maybe hit hand from replay but Ed is on other side of pole!

Marlins 6th: Lee: grooved HR, 11-1.

Cabrera: HR on liner to right, 11-2. Took outside pitch other way—nice!

Red Sox 7th: Ortiz: Ramirez on. Hit by pitch on back foot.

Mueller: ground ball off Jeter's glove as he dives—oopha! Ramirez scores. Second diving play that Jeter didn't make.

White: comes in to pitch for Yanks. White Stripes' "7th Nation Army" playing—did he pick it? I have newfound respect for White.

Cubs 6th: Gonzalez slider on out half of plate, HR, 12-2/

Little girl: gets a foul ball. Dang, I've never gotten one!

Nixon: ground ball through on right, bases loaded.

Mirabelli: one hopper to Soriano, end of inning.

Yanks 7th: Giambi and Williams walk.

Wakefield gone. Embree in.

Prior yanked.

Posada: souble to right-center, 5-1.

Matsui: SF to left, 5-2.

Boone and Johnson: fly out to center.

Marlins 8th: Veres in.

Cabrera: infield single, bases loaded.

Red Sox 8th: "Ed" cam again. Enough Ed!

Encarnacion: grounds into DP, run scores, 12-3.

Jackson: pinch-runs for Sox. Pick off attempt, Jackson goes, out at second.

Contrreas in for Yanks; Guthrie for Cubs.

Marlins 9th: Lenny Harris: PH ground out to first on a nice play to end it.

Yanks 9th: Williamson in for Sox.

Robin Williams in attendance, hanging out with "Ed"?

Babe Ruth in attendance, also with Ed.

Giambi: 2-2, fouled off, ball three inside. Slider—back door. Backwards K. Giambi thought it was a ball.

Fox's director: thinks frenetic cuts spell drama

Maybe Fox wants all camera angles used before the end of game (like the machine that goes "bing" in The Meaning of Life).

Williams: grounds out to first.

Posada: ducks out on called strike. Swings and misses the slider. Ball outside. Inside, almost hits him. Foul tip. Fouled off. Called strike. Ballgame.

Fans: taking pictures and kissing foul pole.

Ed: gone, must be hanging out with Robin Williams.

Pole Stir

Here are the rules that pertain to fan or rather spectator interference:


When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference. APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out. There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire's judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred…


No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach's box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference…

There are only three possible scenarios: 1) The ball hit the foul pole. 2) The ball hit the fan's hand fair or foul and fell straight down. Or 3) the ball hit the fan's hand fair or foul and then the pole.

So given that, what is the call?

In the first case, the ball is a home run.

From the rules, the last two cases are in essence the same since the ball is dead once it hits the fan's hand. Also from the rules, the ball can either by a foul ball, an out, or a hit if it was going to land fair.

The ball was clearly high enough that it was not going to be caught by the rightfielder. Therefore, it could not be called an out and if it is called a fair ball, it must be a home run.

Clearing the fan reached out. Therefore, Rule 3.16 tells us to apply the rule 3.15 section on intentional interference.

Both rules tell us that the ball is immediately "dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference". So it’s the up to the umpire.

But Angel Hernandez called it foul. Here's what the rulebook says about that:


(a) Any umpire's decision which involves judgment, such as, but not limited to, whether a batted ball is fair or foul, whether a pitch is a strike or a ball, or whether a runner is safe or out, is final. No player, manager, coach or substitute shall object to any such judgment decisions…

So why didn't the ruling stand?


(a) The umpire in chief shall stand behind the catcher. (He usually is called the plate umpire.) His duties shall be to:... (3) Call and declare fair balls and fouls except those commonly called by field umpires; …(b) A field umpire may take any position on the playing field he thinks best suited to make impending decisions on the bases. His duties shall be to: … (3) Aid the umpire in chief in every manner in enforcing the rules, and excepting the power to forfeit the game, shall have equal authority with the umpire in chief in administering and enforcing the rules and maintaining discipline. (c) If different decisions should be made on one play by different umpires, the umpire in chief shall call all the umpires into consultation, with no manager or player [or "Ed"] present. After consultation, the umpire in chief (unless another umpire may have been designated by the league president) shall determine which decision shall prevail, based on which umpire was in best position and which decision was most likely correct. Play shall proceed as if only the final decision had been made.

The crew chief disagreed and called the ball a home run. The replays seem to support this call. Therefore, the umps not only followed the rules, they for once got the call right. Mark your calendars.

Not Just Another Fish Story—Marlins Lowell the Boom
2003-10-08 15:27
by Mike Carminati

The short story is at an advantage over the novel, and can claim its nearer kinship to poetry, because it must be more concentrated [and] can be more visionary.

—Elizabeth Bowen

The surprise is half the battle. Many things are half the battle. Losing is half the battle. Let’s think about what’s the whole battle.

—Kevin "Crash" Costner as Eliot Ness in The Untouchables.

Nigel Tufnel: You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty DiBergi: I don't know.

Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.

Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

—Spinal Tap's Nigel Tufnel explaining why the band's amplifiers go to 11 instead of the usual 10.

The National League Championship series opened with a bang last night. It was a story that couldn't be told in nine innings so two more nail-biting innings were graciously provided. It was a tale that, as this series enfolds, will be referenced many times, at least in my mind.

It began in a way totally incongruous with the end except that homers were involved. The Cubs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first with two triples, a home run, and a walk collected by four of the first five batters, none of whom were named Sammy Sosa. Josh Beckett seemed to be pitching batting practice: Lofon walked on four pitches, Grudzielanek's triple was on a 1-1 pitch (and he began the at-bat with bunt foul, Sosa overeagerly popped out on a 1-1 pitch, Alou homered on a 1-0 pitch, Ramirez tripled on the first pitch, Simon struck out on four pitches, Gonzalez double on an 0-1 pitch, and Bako flied out on the first pitch. In total, Beckett threw only 20 pitches. That's a good number of pitches in an average inning but not for one in which the pitcher gives up four runs. Beckett's resurgence later would be enabled by the fatness of his pitches in the first.

As Beckett was settling in (following the four runs, none of the next 12 Cub batters got a hit or drew a walk and the Cubs went down on four pitches in the third), Carlos Zambrano was relinquished an extra base hit in each of the first two innings but seemed in control. That was until the third, when the game took its first M. Night Shyamalan-like twist. With one out, the Marlins had two runners on base for the first time in the game after Pierre tripled on a 1-0 pitch and Castillo. Zambrano threw his fifth straight ball to start Pudge Rodriguez off next.

Suddenly a comfortable lead evaporated even more quickly than the Cubs had scored in the first. Rodriguez homered to left en route to 5 RBI on the day and the battle was joined. Zambrano battled back after falling behind Lee 2-0 to strike him out on three consecutive strikes. But then the floodgates opened. He fell behind Miguel Cabrera, 3-1, and then allowed back-to-back home runs on two of the next three pitches to Cabrera and Encarnacion. The Marlins amazingly led 5-4.

They added another in the sixth. But just when the Cubs offense seemed DOA, it sprang to life. Beckett was coasting in the sixth. The FOX team had switched allegiances to the Marlins and were busily discussing Pudge Rodriguez's proclivity for Yanni. By the way, what a breath of fresh air Al Leiter's informed, well-spoken, and well-thought-out observations were in the booth. He put Steve Lyons to shame as Lyons tried to overimpress the obvious much more informed color man. Even the Golden Smog, Thom Brennaman, seemed bearable.

The Cubs had two out in the sixth after a weak grounder by Alou and a pop up by Ramirez on the first pitch and appeared ready to "go softly into that night". Suddenly, Randall "Sausage Gate" Simon, of all people, resuscitated the offense with a double to right. Alex Gonzalez then tied the game on a home run to right. You could tell that Josh Beckett was on the ropes because it took him all of five pitches to then strike out anemic Paul Bako.

Just as sudden as the scoring binges, a siege set in. Neither team had more than one hit in their half an inning for the next two innings. The Cubs had opportunities in the seventh and eighth to take leads—Miller led off the seventh with a double and they had first and third with two outs in the eight—, but Chicago was tentative and there was a palpable feeling of the game passing them by.

After Miller's leadoff double, the Cubs went small ball as Kenny Lofton moved Miller to third with a great sacrifice to third that he missed beating out by a step. Carl Pavano then came in and the Cubs went down without getting a ball out of the infield. Although it took a great play by Alex Gonzalez at short on the ball Sammy Sosa hit to keep it in the infield. The Cubs were ready to forego the long-ball style that had dominated the game's offense bursts and they paid for it. Didn't they read the script?

I didn't like the bunt when he did it and I liked it less when they failed to score. First, it lessens the possibility of a big inning. I guess one would argue that that's the point—you sacrifice the big inning for the big go-ahead run in late innings. Well, my second argument against the bunt, is that it does not improve your odds of scoring the one run that greatly. There are two advantages in having Miller at third: 1) he can score on a sac fly, but as the Cubs demonstrated that only helps if you deliver the sac fly. 2) Miller is a slow runner and may not score on a single. One could argue that a pinch-runner would have been a better route, but the Cubs had already used both catchers so Miller was the runner.

In the eighth, Alou lead off with a walk, but a great defensive play by the Marlins' Gonzalez, going deep in the hole, sliding to a stop, and relaying to second to get the lead runner momentarily stymied the stillborn rally. With two outs in, the Cubs' Alex Gonzalez (confusing, isn't it?) singled moving Ramirez to third. Chad Fox then got pinch-hitter on strikeout looking on in disbelief.

Actually, the Cubs demise started with Dusty Baker's tendency to over-maneuvers too early in the game. Miller replaced Bako when Farnsworth relieved Remlinger, as a double-switch with one out in the seventh. Baker double-switched again with Ramon Martinez replacing Alex Gonzalez when Mark Guthrie relieved Joe Borowski in the eleventh. Miller at least doubled and adding his bat in lieu of Bako's made some sense. However, Gonzalez was 3-for-5 at the time, and even though his spot in the lineup didn't come up again, at the start of the eleventh, it looked like it could.

It all seemed to form a pastiche that conveyed that the Cubs could only play catch up and that Marlins would somehow prevail. But it was still tied. Until the closers came in in the ninth.

Todd Hollandsworth battled Joe Borowski with an eight-pitch double with one out in the top of the ninth. Borowski then lost control for a short time. He walked Pierre on five pitches. It seemed that a ground ball to Mark Grudzielanek would end the inning. However, Grudzielanek attempted to tag Pierre as he passed without gaining full control of the ball (which was not apparent initially). He then recovered too late to get the runner at first for an error to load the bases. Pudge Rodriguez again played the hero following with a two-run single, before Borowski shut the door.

As the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth, it appeared a fait accompli that they would lose the game. Florida called on its closer Ugueth Urbina. Miller quickly obliged by grounding out. However, Lofton got a nice 1-2 pitch to drive to right for a double. The rally seemed short-lived as Grudzielanek grounded an 0-2 pitch out to third.

That brought Sammy Sosa up to bat. Sammy had popped out amid the Cubs' rally in the first, reached on an error in the third only to be double up, struck out in the fifth, and was out on the first great play by Gonzalez. Sammy proceeded to plaster a 1-1 pitch that was way too fat to left to even the score.

In the tenth, the closers settled in and both teams went down 1-2-3. Mark Guthrie came in for the Cubs in the eleventh, and Mike Lowell pinch-hit for Urbina. Lowell and Guthrie battled for five pitches. But Guthrie then delivered a 3-2 hanger that Lowell got every bit of for his first home run since September 15.

After Guthrie got Pierre to ground out, the Cubs' old reliever Antonio Alfonseca came in and quickly worked the bases full on an infield single and two walks. A Miguel Cabrera liner fortuitously was hit right at Martinez at short to double off Pudge and end the inning.

Braden Looper, the Marlins' old closer, came in to shut the door in the bottom of the inning to pick up his first save in a month. And Florida was the victor.

After the game, Lowell likened it to two boxers slugging it out:

"It just kept going back and forth. Weird," Lowell said. "It was kind of like a boxing match."

The analogy is a good one: The Cubs had a big inning in the first. The Marlins had a big inning in the third. The Marlins started to pull away in the sixth, but the Cubs then tied it up. The then measured each other for two innings. As the Marlins collected strength, two Cubs rallies were doused by Alex Gonbzalez's glove. Then the misplay by Grudzielanek and the big hit by Rodriguez seemed to tip the scales the Marlins' way in the ninth. Until Sosa's shocking drive in the bottom of the ninth. Both rallies came off the closers, who both recovered to pitch scoreless tenths.

But the Marlins' had a secret weapon on the bench in Lowell. While the two pugilists were wearing each other out, Lowell sat and he was fresh in the eleventh. Lowell allowed the Marlins to, in the immortal words of Nigel Tufnel, go to 11. Just like Rocky turning to Mickey to cut him late in his match with Apollo Creed, Lowell was the lift the Marlins needed. Not many teams have the luxury of their best hitter on the bench to pinch-hit whenever needed.

Unlike Balboa-Creed I, there will be a rematch tomorrow. (Remember the "Aint gonna be no rematch"-"Don't want one" exchange in the first Rocky. Who knew there would be, what, a dozen films more?)

I have yet to jump on the Marlins' bandwagon. I predicted the Cubs would win in five games and I still feel they will win. However, this is the type of game in which series are defined. If the Marlins win this series, they will be said to have gained the winner's swagger and nonchalance during this game. If the Cubs lose, likely the problematic relieving and the defensive blink in the ninth—while Florida's defense was improving—will resonate through the series.

Then again if the Cubs win, it'll all be meaningless. But it was a heck of a game.

Fearless Predictions…That Are Invariably Wrong, II
2003-10-07 21:10
by Mike Carminati

First, let's review my predictions from the first round:

Yankees over Twins in 4—on the money.

Cubs over Braves in 5—on the money.

A's over Red Sox in 4—Should've been a sweep. Can I split the difference and count it as a W?

Giants over the Marlins in 4—Oh, lordy mama! I had the Giants winning it all. Barry, we hardly knew ye.

Now my predictions for the League Championship Series:

Cubs over Marlins in 5—I still don't believe the Fish are for real.

Yankees over Red Sox in 6—Red Sox pitching is a big question mark and they may miss Damon and Kim.

Travel Joe Morgan Chat Day
2003-10-07 01:38
by Mike Carminati

Do you get the impression that baseball has become a second-class sport as playoffs are foisted off on ESPN2 while ESPN proper airs college football of all things. I'm surprised Mia Hamm and the women's world cup or whatever it is didn't bump the playoffs to the ESPN News channel. Well, maybe if the Americans hadn't lost in the semifinals…

Fox seems to see the playoffs as a means to promote ad nauseum the new season of 24—how did the president recover so quickly anyway?—and for passing off Jeannie Zelasko, a performer better suited to wacky zoo openings and hard-hitting jibes with the weatherman on the local news, as a real sports reporter. Well, she did have that earth-shattering piece on the history and breadth of the Billy Goat, Bambino, and Red Baron curses. And she did have her hair and her wooden expression shellacked especially for the postseason.

At least Fox had the sense to can the Steve Lyons-Thom Brennaman seppuku-inducing broadcasts for a McCarver-Brennaman game last night. McCarver is far from perfect but is knowledgeable if you can withstand the bluster. It is a bit like watching Dennis Miller do the news accompanied by Dana Carvey dressed up as Dennis Miller though. Brennaman's career is basically McCarver lite, but he does tend to defer to McCarver limiting his own ineffectualness or underlining it, depending on how you look at it.

What else do the playoffs bring? Why, heaping servings of Joe Morgan and his trusty sidekick Jon Miller of the ironic tongue placed duly in cheek. Unfortunately, all the traveling limits his chats and it takes a long Joe chat to bring out inanities within. There are some good moments though in the short chat that follows.

However, I have one comment on the brevity of a Joe playoff chat: It's kind of like building a travel day into a playoff series after the first game when the teams are not even traveling. But baseball would never do that would they? How about the day off after game one of the Yankees-Twins series. They schedule the A's and Sox to fly literally across the country to play games on consecutive days in disparate locales, but the Yanks and Twins can cool their jets after a grueling single day of play. Makes about as much sense as Joe Morgan jumping on the A's bandwagon. And you'll get that in this chat session. But you'll get more, a lot more. But hey—enough of my yakkin'. What d'ya say, let's boogie! (God bless Marty DiBergi.)

The Good

Lenny Corning, NY: I disagree with your opinion on all or nothing attitude of the Yankees owner. When these players DEMAND millions they lose the right to play for fun and/or make mistakes. George is paying ~$180MM for these guys so it is his right to demand perfection!

Well Lenny, baseball is a game, it's not life and death and when you try to make it that way, you lose the run for the players and the tradition of the game. I don't think money (any amount) buys you the right to change that precept.

[Mike: Hellelujah, brother! It's all entertainment, just like a Joe Morgan chat session.

By the way, Lenny, how much money do you "DEMAND" at work? You're talking about an oligopoly in which 30 teams dominate the market. If a player wants to be paid more than those teams are willing to play his alternatives are limited, either independent teams like the St. Paul Saints or the Newark Bears or one of the foreign leagues of which the Japanese Pacific and Central Leagues are the most well known. Players cannot demand anything in the minors and can only seek free agency after playing a number of years in the majors and even then their markets are limited to the thirty major-league teams and the alternatives above. The only time a player gets to "demand" a salary as an employee is through arbitration, an artifice the owners came up with to limit free agency, and even then the player's demand is weighed by an arbitrator.

Also, I believe the abbreviation you were looking for was "M" as in "million". "MM" means "millimeter". I doubt Steinbrenner pays his players in volume. If so, he would get by with rolls of pennies.]

Doug, Palm Desert, CA: Joe, I'm having a debate with some buddies. They say Brian Cashman is a great GM. I say Cashman is George's puppet and that Gene Michael and Bob Watson should get the credit for building the nucleus of the Yankees over the last decade. I need a referee. Your thoughts?

Well there is no doubt that Gene Michaels has been a big part of what the Yankees have become and Bob Watson also helped build this dynasty. That said, Brian Cashman is not a puppet, he is active in making good decisions and spending money wisely. They all deserve some credit in the success.

[Mike: Cashman's a dessert topping AND a floor wax! Very diplomatic answer, Joe.]

Paul (Center Moriches, NY): With the Yankees-Twins series now tied at 1 going to the Metrodome, do you think that the Twins can finish off the Yankees at home, and if so who will have to come up big for the Twins?

The series is tied at 1-1. Joe Torre has decided to pitch Wells b/c he saw the effectiveness of a lefthander in Pettitte. Make no mistake, the Yankees can win on the road. It will be a great series.

[Mike: I don't know how great a series it will be—I have the Twins caving in four—but I agree that inserting the big lefty is a good idea. The Twins are very soft against lefties. (By the way, I wrote this before the deciding game four).]

Paddy (San Diego): Hey Joe, Love your broadcasts. and I recently visited Cooperstown and saw your plaque in person. I purchased Ted Williams' book on hitting and I was curious why there aren't more books on hitting. Do you think big leaguers today just don't talk about it as much? I'm curious what you thought of his book and if you were a guess hitter.

I was not a guess hitter, but I didn't read Ted's book -- I probably should have. I have seen his chart where you hit well at certain parts of the plate. The game has changed so much, video is such a key in self-analysis these days that books have taken a back seat.

[Mike: Huh? An open-minded and honest response on hitting? Joe's mellowing as the season progresses.]

Andrew (Troy, Ohio): Which is more possible for the rest of the giants marlins series, the low scoring pitchers duel we saw in game 1, or the high scoring slugfest we saw in game 2?

Probably somewhere in between Andrew. The Marlins are a lot better than people give them credit for -- especially in their ballpark. Today's game is key for the Giants... if the Giants do not win today, I don't think they will win the serires.

[Mike: Another overly diplomatic answer, but it was followed by a good prediction for the series. Heck, I thought the Giants would win in a cakewalk, so Joe had a better assessment than I for the series.]

The Bad

Eric (Pontiac, MI): Maybe you would know more about this than i do, but i find it kind of strange that Jack McKeon is waiting until game 4 to pitch Dontrelle Willis. Because in my opinion, it was Willis, not McKeon(although McKeon does deserve some of the credit), that propelled the Marlins into their race for the playoffs. I think he should start at least in game 3 ahead of Redman, or maybe started game 2 instead of Brad Penny. What is your opinion on that?

I thought he would start Game three, in his ball park ... that would have made a lot of sense to me. NOt Game 2 b/c I wouldn't have started him out on the road, but I do think he should be pitching today.

[Mike: Dontrelle Willis was 5-5 with a 4.60 ERA in the second half. He had the worst ERA of all of the Marlins starters in the second half. How did that propell them into the playoffs? For all the hoopla surrounding Willis' first playoff start, the fact remains that he allowed five runs in five and one-third innings though three hits are nice. He relinquished a four-run lead and it took Pudge Rodriguez's heroics to salvage the win. One could argue that he was tired from scurrying around the basepaths and that Jack McKeon left him in too long, but the fact remains that on the whole, he did not deliver. Though fellow rookie Jerome Williams took all the heat.]

Matt (Washington, DC): Hey Joe, love your broadcasts, your knowledge, and oh man those suits you wear on Sunday nights! Talk to me about the Giants. What do you attribute all those errors to, and what are their chances of righting the ship on the road?

IF you look at the Giants over the course of the season, you have to wonder how they won as many games as they did with just Barry Bonds and a good supporting cast ... a mix and match pitching staff, young kids. They've had a lot of people start games for them, not a consistant rotation here. THings just fell into place for them. In the playoffs and in these short series, a lot of your weakness surface. That's what's going on right now and we are seeing that the Giants are not head and shoulders about the Marlins like many had thought.

[Mike: No, this was true in the past but not in 2003. The Giants had a well-balanced lineup, maybe no Jeff Kents surrounding Bonds but no Marvin Bernards either. The only disappointment was Edgardo Alfonso, who redeemed himself well in the postseason batting behind Bonds.

They had serious pitching problems, but were supposed to have fixed them with the acquisition of Sidney Ponson, whose experience you had said put them over the top, Joe.

The Giants just happened to draw a hot team in the first round and play poorly especially defensively. Jose Cruz Jr. made some woeful plays in right. I would have to think that his days at Pac Bell are numbered. The Marlins are no '27 Yankees. Their best hitter is out of the lineup and even with Pudge's Herculean effort and Miguel Cabrera's emergence, they do feature a lineup with Joe Conine.

I wouldn't be surprised to see their offense fold to the superior Cubs' pitching. Then again, I expected the Marlins to fade against the Giants.]

Matt (Manalapan, NJ): Like many others, I was hoping for a Yankees vs. Red Sox ALCS. Do you still think it is possible for both teams to reach the LCS?

There's an old saying -- it's not probabble, but it is possible. Boston can beat the As three straight and the Yankees are back on top of their game. It will be tough for those Sox to reach the ALCS, but it sure would be exciting, well see.

[Mike: Matt from Manalapan? Didn't I see you at Zips the other day?

Joe, thanks for stating the obvious. Oh, that's a great old saw that you quoted. I think it's Shakespeare, right? How 'bout instead the seminal catchphrase, "Could be but I doubt it," coined by Erasmus I believe.]

The Ugly

James (San Diego): When it comes to the playoffs it seems that the team with the best pitching usually wins the world series. Why do the Atlanta braves think that by bettering their offense but having less depth at pitching than years past do they feel that they have a better chance to win it all and do you agree?

This Braves team is better built to win it all than others. They tried 11 other times with pitching being their dominance and they only won one World Series. You try different things. This year they are better prepapared to win it all -- if they can get by the Cubs.

[Mike: I thought that the Braves were going to lose (in five) to the Cubs and they did. By the way, it’s a nice story to say that the Braves tried something this year, but the truth of the matter was that they lost Tom Glavine to free agency and Kevin Millwood to a self-imposed salary cap. They coppled together a Fish That Saved Pittsburgh type rotation with Greg Maddux channeling the film's Dr. J character and the other misfits filling out the staff (Mike "Set Shot" Hampton?). They also gutted the amazing 2002 bullpen.

OK, so Joe must be right, i.e., they channeled their energies into their offense. But what exactly did they do? They picked up Robert Fick, far from an earth-shattering move. They benefited from a great season from Gary Sheffield, aberrations from the aging Vinny Castilla and Javy Lopez, and potentially a career-year from one-hit-wonder-so-far Marcus Giles. However, aside from Fick this is the same lineup that struggled to score runs the last couple years. They were all healthy for the entire year, but surely that was not the result of any master plan on the Braves' part.

The Braves got lucky, period. Given their offseason maneuvers, one would have expected them to fall back into the pack in the NL East. Next year could be a four-team race as the Braves' luck runs out.

Oh, and by the way, there is no evidence that superior pitching wins series, James (said in my best Esther Rolle drawl). Of the 208 postseason series played before the 2003 season, 110 were won by the team with the better pitching (i.e., lower team ERA) and 98 were won by the worse-pitching team. The average ERA for a series-winning team was 3.45; 3.50 for the average loser. Last year's series had three of seven victories for the inferior-pitching team, including the Angels in the series. That's not a tremendous edge. For anecdotal evidence, witness the Braves quick hook this year with the superior offense.]

Trevor (Novato, CA): Do you think the Red Sox can win Game 3 with a tired Derek Lowe pitching? This series looks like it has sweep written all over it.

Well, I don't think Derek Lowe will be tired. He throws in between starts anyway so that shouldn't be a factor. Boston will be back in the friendly confines of Fenway Park ... I don't think Oakland will be able to sweep them ... infact, that series isn't over yet. The A's are on their way, but anything can happen

[Mike: Huh, what does this cryptic message mean other than Joe wants to cover all his bases. Well, here's another on the topic…]

Jeremy(Baltimore, MD): Hey Joe, take my mail this week since I was the only one right last week!!! Everyone was saying, "Oh, Boston, they'll win big, Oakland has no chance". I picked the A's then and still do. That bunt will send them to the World Series. There is something about them now. Oh ye of little faith.

Last year the A's won 20 games in a row, they do little things right and they get big hit after big hit. This illustrates that trend continuing. That bunt was a huge play. That really set the tone and I really think Game 1 will be a key to the series outcome.

[Mike: Wow, last week I predicted that Joe would jump on the A's bandwagon and he did. For over a year Joe has been excoriating the A's for playing station-to-station baseball, waiting for the walk and the three-run home run to win ballgames. That, according to Joe, was the reason that they did win in the playoffs. Joe ran down Oakland's Big Three. And after all that Joe's opinion is completely changed by one bunt?]

Ryan in Austin, TX: With the Cubs stranding a whopping 17 base runners in the last two games and losing game two by a very close two run margin, don't you think that the art of the very playoff friendly sac bunt or even squeeze should be used by Baker. On several occaisions I noticed the Cubs had no outs, men on 1st and 2nd and not even showing an indication of a sacrifice. Why not? It takes away the double play (which has killed us) and puts two men in scoring position with one out. What gives Joe? By the way I'm a huge fan. Thanks.

Well if you are Cubs fan, you should look at the positive and say well they are getting a lot of men on base. But, that said you gotta move these guys up. Sacrafice or hit and run doesn't matter to me, I would never try to tell Dusty what to do, you gotta trust him, but those runners are certainly the key to winning close ballgames.

[Mike: OK, here's a log of all situations in which the Cubs had men at first and second with fewer than two outs in the first two games:

Game 1:
1st inning: Lofton on second, Sosa on first, one out, no score. Moises Alou grounded into a double play. But should you bunt in the first inning with your cleanup hitter?
3rd inning: Wood on second, Lofton on first, one out, no score. Grudzielanek and Sosa struck out. Again too early to bunt.
4th: Moises Alou on second, Aramis Ramirez on first, no outs, Braves led 1-0. Karros singled—bases loaded. Alex Gonzalez and Paul Bako struck out. Kerry Wood popped up. I wouldb't have bunted with Karros, and I wouldn't have squeezed that early.
6th: Alou on second, Ramirez on first, no outs, Braves led 1-0. Karros singled—bases loaded. PH Simon struck out. Bako grounded out scoring Alou. Eventually four runs would score. I see no opportunity to bunt here.
7th: Sosa on second, Ramirez at first, one out, Cubs 4-1. Karros and Ramon Martinez struck out. Again no bunt opportunity.
8th: Bako on first, no outs, Cubs 4-1. Wood attempted a bunt and struck out bunting foul on the third strike.

Game 2:
1st inning: Lofton at second, Grudzielanek at first (both walked), no outs, no score. Sosa doubled scoring Lofton. No bunt opportunity.
3rd: Sosa on second, Alou on first, no outs, Cubs led 2-1. Ramirez struck out. Karros GIDP. I wouldn't bunt with those hitters this early on.
4th: Miller on first, one out, Cubs 2-1. Zambrano bunted into a fielder's choice. Miller out at second.
5th: Sosa on second, Alou at first, one out, tie score. Ramirez flied out. Bunt a possibility if Ramirez capable of getting one down.
7th: Lofton on first, no outs, Braves led 3-2. Grudzielanek GIDP. Bunt was a possibility but away teams tend to play for win in later innings.

There aren't a lot of opportunities to bunt in there. That's the first point.

The second is why would you bunt with men at first and second anyway? You trade first and second with no outs or one out for second and third with one or two outs. Using Mike Wolverton's 2002 Run Expectation table, going from first and second with no outs to second and third with one out decreases the number of runs one would expect your team to score (from 1.5106 to 1.3580 runs). This is even more true with men at first and second and one out (from .9365 to .6327). Then there's always the chance that the batter will strike out, fall far behind in the count, pop up, or worst yet lay down a bunt that allows the defenders to nail a lead runner.

Indeed all of Wolverton's run expectations indicate that the sacrifice bunt, even when successful, lowers the run expectation for the inning. The only times that a bunt makes sense is when you have a pitcher at bat, when you are in a close game in late innings and one run is all you need. ]

Oh, one last point, the Braves left more men on base in the first two games anyway (18-17).]

Obstruction of Justice—A Case of Fenway Robbery
2003-10-06 01:44
by Mike Carminati

Kill the obstruction rule. That's the only answer since killing the umpire is apparently no longer an option.

Why? Because today's umpires have no idea how to apply the rule. They have divorced it from its original intent and have evolved the rule to the point that it is not only a contradiction of that intent but is self-contradictory as well.

If you missed it, the Red Sox beat the A's 3-1 last night on an eleventh-inning, pinch-hit home run by Trot Nixon, thereby avoiding elimination in the Division Series. The game's outcome, and in my opinion anything further that the Red Sox accomplish in this postseason, was muddied by the many controversial, strange and, oddly umpired plays.

First, in the bottom of the second with one out and no score, the Red Sox had Jason Varitek at third and Gabe Kapler at first. The A's had already booted two double play balls for two errors (Tejeda and Chavez). Damian Jackson then grounded to Eric Chavez at third. Chavez threw the ball home and Ramon Hernandez and Chavez seemed to have Varitek caught in a rundown. I say "seemed", because apparently Hernandez forgot it was a rundown and he proceeded to follow Varitek three-quarters of the way back to third. Chavez was gesturing wildly for the ball. When it came Chavez was on the bag, the throw was wide, and Chavez was found to have obstructed Varitek's path to third. Varitek, therefore, was awarded the next base after the last one he had occupied. Since that was home, Varitek thereby scored the first run of the game and Chavez was assessed an error.

The score was still 1-0 in Boston's favor when Oakland batted in the top of the sixth. With one out, Eric Byrnes was at third and Erubiel Durazo was at first. Miguel Tejada hit a dribbler towards third. Derek Lowe, the pitcher, fielded the ball but threw wide of home. The throw was up the third base line, and Varitek lunged towards the ball blocking Byrnes' path to the plate. Byrnes' feet were blocked by the catcher and his body pivoted like the old man at the end of the Mousetrap game, driving him hard to the ground. However, Byrnes missed the plate. As Varitek ran to retrieve the errant throw, a limping Byrnes shoved him with both hands as he proceeded slowly to the dugout. Varitek then picked up the ball and tagged Byrnes out. Had Byrnes merely touched home, he would have scored. Apparently, he hadn't realized that a) he did not touch home and that b) homeplate umpire Paul Emmel had made no call indicating the play was still active. Varitek was not assessed an obstruction since catchers are allowed to block the plate if they are going for the ball.

Tejada and Durazo moved up on the play. Next up was Eric Chavez who was walked intentionally. The next batter was game one hero Ramon Hernandez. Hernandez hit a high chopper that went under shortstop Nomar Garciaparra's glove for an error. Manny Ramirez retrieved the ball in shallow left field and relayed it home. Erubiel Durazo scored from third, but as Miguel Tejada rounded third, third baseman Bill Mueller blocked Tejada's path home. Tejada jogged home pointing continually back at Mueller to indicate the infraction and was tagged easily by Varitek. Third base ump umpire Bill Welke had called obstruction, but Tejada was called out at home. The umpires conferred, Ken Macha argued, but the call stood.

Then to lead off the bottom of the eighth with the score still tied, Chad Bradford threw an 0-1 pitch to Nomar Garciaparra who apparently grounded out to third. But Emmel called a non-pitch given that Bradford had not come to a set position before delivering the pitch. Garciaparra stopped halfway apparently claiming that the ball hit him on the thigh, which would therefore mean it was dead, but repeated replays from various angles failed to support this. (Oh, and one last controversy stemmed from the Red Sox' Kim changing his cap tipping to an obscene gesture—guess which one—when the crowd started booing him for having given up the lead in game one.)

While the baseball conspiracy theorists may draw a direct line from the gift Cliff Floyd acquisition to the fleecing of Japanese baseball of Kevin Millar to the Soviet Olympic basketball victory by the Sox last night, I'd prefer the explanation of the umpire incompetence. All of these events were on commissioner Bud Selig's watch thoughor at his behest. Selig was in attendance last night and was as ineffectual as ever. (By the way, for a relatively thin man, why does Selig without fail appear in public shoving gobs of food into his twisted mug? The man makes George Costanza engorging a sundae at the U.S. Open seem refined.)

Also, after a conversation with his Bud-ness, umpiring official Steve Palermo changed his opinion on the Tejada play from a critical to a conciliatory one:

"The runner is in peril to be put out," said Steve Palermo, a baseball supervisor of umpires. "Bill Welke determined that Miguel Tejada would not have scored if there had not been obstruction."

Heck, in the postgame interview, Trot Nixon, who hit the game-winner, disclosed that he had not hit the home run, but rather that Jesus Christ himself had. Talk about your inside connections!

So what happened? Not that this is an excuse for the umps but the obstruction rule is confusing and highly subjective. For the record here is the rule and the definition of obstruction in the rulebook:

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.

When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal "Obstruction." (a) If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire's judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out. When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls "Time," with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called. (b) If no play is being made on the obstructed runner, the play shall proceed until no further action is possible. The umpire shall then call "Time" and impose such penalties, if any, as in his judgment will nullify the act of obstruction. Under 7.06 (b) when the ball is not dead on obstruction and an obstructed runner advances beyond the base which, in the umpire's judgment, he would have been awarded because of being obstructed, he does so at his own peril and may be tagged out. This is a judgment call. NOTE: The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.

Section (a) was cited in the Varitek case and section (b) in Tejada's. The difference between the two being that a play was being made on Varitek but none was being made on Tejada at the time of the infraction. I agree with that assessment. However, I disagree with the application of the rule in both cases.

Replays clearly show that Chavez collided with Varitek in attempt to field the late throw from Hernandez, which went to the backup man. I submit that Varitek was not obstructed and the play should have continued with Varitek very likely making his way back to third safely.

On the Tejada play, the collision did not occur until Tejada had rounded third. Mueller had gone to cover third in case Garciaparra had fielded the ball cleanly and had attempted a throw there. However, the collision occurred after Garciaparra booted the ball and it seems that Mueller's only attempt at the time of the obstruction was to block Tejada's path home. I know that section (b) does not automatically award the next base to a runner and rather states that he advances "at his own peril", but given that Tejada had already passed third, the collision definitely slowed his path to the plate. I disagree with the assessment that Tejada's slow canter home is grounds for declaring that he would have been out. Clearly Tejada's reaction was a result of the obstruction and if he had been running full force, he would have probably scored barring a perfect throw from Ramirez.

Again that's my opinion. Welke is entitled to his own. As a matter of fact, it is the only one that matters. However, asking an umpire to assess the fielder's arm strength and accuracy and the baserunner's speed after an obstruction play is ludicrous. It is clear to me that the intent of the fielder in the second obstruction call was to block the runner. However, I do not believe that the same could be said of the first obstruction play.

How dissimilar was the Chavez play to the Byrnes play at the plate? Both fielders were going after the ball though neither fielded it. Chavez lunged with his arm for a relay throw and Varitek lunged with his leg. In my opinion Varitek had no play on the ball and know it. He then made the only play he could, which was to block the plate and hope for the best, which was forthcoming. Apparently on the Chavez play Hernandez had realized that he threw too late to Chavez and was throwing to the fielder behind him, thinking Chavez would rotate out. Chavez did not realize this and lunged clearly for the ball but could not catch it. If anything, the Chavez play is less a case of obstruction than the Byrnes one.

By my scorecard, that leaves a clear-cut case of obstruction by Mueller that ended up helping the guilty team, a possible but never called case of obstruction by Varitek on Byrnes that cost the offense, and a dubious case of obstruction by Chavez that automatically cost the offending team a run.

Therefore, the dichotomy between the two halves of the bifurcated rule ended up deciding the result. The mildest infraction carried the stiffest penalty while the most blatant infraction left the call open to whatever the umpire's opinion was based on very dicey evidence. How does Welke know whether Tejada running unobstructed would have beaten Ramirez's throw? Shouldn't an apparent close play go to the obstructed runner? If you were the third baseman, wouldn't it make sense according to this interpretation to obstruct the runner on a close play and hope that the ump rules in your favor?

But wasn't the original intent of the rule to prevent these sorts of shenanigans? From The Rules and Lore of Baseball:

John McGraw, the great ex-New York Giants' manger, used to pull the following stunt, which was an act of obstruction, when he played for Baltimore many years ago. When a runner was on third base and ready to leave third after an outfield fly, McGraw used to hold the runners [sic] belt to slow him down.

How different was what Mueller did to Tejada? Maybe it was not as blatant but the intent was the same.

Or how about this:

Eddie Stanky when managed Chicago between 1966-1968...had a neat trick that would involve Pete Ward, his third baseman. When an opposing runner attempted to score from second on a hit, Ward would move into the path of the runner, and then step aside just before the runner got there. (This would obstruct the runner's path.) There would be no contact, but Ward's actions would cause the runner to break stride just enough to give the Chicago outfielders a chance to nail the runner at home. The umpires finally caught on to Ward's trickery and nailed him a few times. Once they realized the umpires were on to them, Stanky and Ward soon scrapped this caper.

This sounds mild compared to Mueller's play. I submit that the game has been cleaned up to such an extent that umpires rarely see obstruction nowadays. Given that the umpires have become tremendous egomaniacs, they feel confident that they can assess the final result of a broken play, e.g., Tejada would be out at home, instead of assessing a punishment for the infraction. Apparently based on prior uses of the rule, Tejada would have been granted home.


Boston and Washington played a night game on May 21, 1955, in which Boston outfielder Jackie Jensen and Washington pitcher Mickey McDermott were involved in an obstruction play and mild skirmish.

In the top of the twelfth inning, Jensen was on first base with two out. Picked off by McDermott and trapped, Jackie made a break for second, then returned to first base. On his way back to first, his progress was obstructed by [first baseman] Mickey Vernon. Obstruction was called by the second base umpire, Ed Runge, but he didn't make any gestures to go with the call.

Jesnsen was steaming about the obstruction as he charged toward McDermott, who was waiting to put the tag on him at first base. Jensen pushed McDermott down, and the ball was knocked out of the pitcher's hands.

At first base, umpire Hank Soar called Jensen out for interference. The Senators, believing the side was retired, walked off the field. However, senior umpire Bill Summers said Jensen was obstructed by Vernon and should be given first base. Today Jensen would be given second base, one base beyond the last base legally touched. On the play, Jensen and McDermott got into a scuffle, and both were ejected from the game.

The only difference was that a play was being made on Jensen and not on Tejada, but why should that by the main criterion? The rule is divided into one section that clearly lays out the results if obstruction occurs when a play is being made on the player. The second half leaves the result completely up to the umpire's power of predicting the future. This is the same section of the rule that was employed in the NLCS last year. At the time Benito Santiago was obstructed by Miguel Cairo and was awarded third, because in umpire Jeff Nelson's view Santiago would not have made it home.

Isn't it time for baseball to unify and recodify this silly rule? The original intent, which was to clean up dirty play, has been lost and dirty plays now result in rewards for the offending team. How many times does baseball need to be embarrassed on a national stage to do something about it? Indeed, this game was the poster child for the inanities of the split rule. If baseball does not do something this offseason which, considering baseball's typical response, it won't, then they never will.

Finally, here's the little used stretch/set position rule:

SET POSITION is one of the two legal pitching positions.

The pitcher, following his stretch, must (a) hold the ball in both hands in front of his body and (b) come to a complete stop. This must be enforced. Umpires should watch this closely. Pitchers are constantly attempting to "beat the rule" in their efforts to hold runners on bases and in cases where the pitcher fails to make a complete "stop" called for in the rules, the umpire should immediately call a "Balk." (c) At any time during the pitcher's preliminary movements and until his natural pitching motion commits him to the pitch, he may throw to any base provided he steps directly toward such base before making the throw. The pitcher shall step "ahead of the throw." A snap throw followed by the step directly toward the base is a balk. (d) If the pitcher makes an illegal pitch with the bases unoccupied, it shall be called a ball unless the batter reaches first base on a hit, an error, a base on balls, a hit batter or otherwise. A ball which slips out of a pitcher's hand and crosses the foul line shall be called a ball; otherwise it will be called no pitch. This would be a balk with men on base.

You'll notice that the pitch was called a ball and the count was 1-2 when Garciaparra got the infield single. Again the intent of the rule was to protect runners and batters. However, how useful is it if Garciaparra was able to hit the ball about as equally well as the next pitch which was from a set position?

For the Want of Getting Nailed
2003-10-02 21:50
by Mike Carminati

Run in such a way that you may win it.

Bible: New Testament, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

You run ahead?—Do you do it as a shepherd? Or as an exception? A third possibility would be as a runaway.

Friedrich "Fat Freddie" Nietzsche

Let's get small.

—Steve "Pepper" Martin

The small things are what win games during the playoffs. Isn't that what we're always told? It's evident from the A's dramatic twelfth-inning win over the Red Sox last night won by a bases-loaded Ramon Hernandez bunt.

As my friend Mike points out the game did go long enough to finish (at least on the East coast) on the 25th anniversary of Bucky Dent's dramatic three-run home run off Mike Torrez that put the Yankees ahead to stay in their one-game playoff with the Red Sox. Dent was an unlikely hero given that he finished the season with just five homers, including the one in the playoff, and a .317 slugging average.

Ramon Hernandez's timely bunt was just as unexpected since he had only two in 536 plate appearances this year. The bunt is being seen as a victory for "small ball" but it actually connects to the soul of the game at a much more fundamental level. Hernandez could be said to have followed Wee Willie Keeler's credo to a tie: "I keep my eyes clear and I hit 'em where they ain't." That's exactly what Hernandez did.

That is small ball in the broadest sense—doing what is needed when it is needed to win. "Small ball" has become opting for a bunt mid-rally when the whole house knows what you are going to do. The small ballists and the sabermetric-minded are now at odds since the latter decries the wasting of precious outs.

What Hernandez did is something both camps can get behind because it was chosen based on what ideology the player embraces but rather as a means of surprising the opposition. And the Sox were as surprised as the Trojans as the horsehide entered their perimeter.

Now this is being used to support the "small ball" weltanschauung. Joe Morgan has repeatedly said that the A's cannot win a series with their station-to-station offense based on the three home run (never mind that their playoff woes cannot be directly attributed to this supposed style of play). Well, if anything the "small ball" style of play was indicted rather than supported by yesterday's games. Each of the three playoff games featured blunders on the basepaths, though only once did they prove fatal.

It all started in the Marlins-Giants game. The Marlins entered the sixth behind, 5-4. Juan Encarnacion one-out homer tied the game. Then consecutive singles loaded by Jeff Conine, Alex Gonzalez, and pinch-hitter Lenny Harris loaded the bases. Juan Pierre then hit a long fly to right that Jose Cruz Jr. misplayed as his foot got stuck in the warning track, plating two. Harris failed to score on the play though, and ended up at third. Luis Castillo then flied out to shallow center, and Harris decided to try for home. He was out by a good ten feet. However, the Marlins held the lead winning 9-5.

Next, the Braves beat the Cubs, 5-3, in a game with ample opportunity for second-guessing. The Braves led 3-2 at the start of the eighth and Bobby Cox decided to bring in John Smoltz one inning early even though there were still lingering question about his health and Smoltz had only be used for two full innings three times this season. The strategy seemed to backfire as Karros and pinch-hitter Randall Sausage-Gate Simon hit back-to-back singles. With men at the corners Tom Goodwin lofted a fly ball that scored the runner at third, but Simon, one of the slower runners in the league, decided to try for second and was tremendously out to end the inning. The Cubs had tied the game, but the rally was dead. The Braves' closer was wounded but still standing.

The play looked even worse as the Braves grabbed a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Again some strong choices were made. When John Smoltz had entered the game, the pitcher's spot was due up third in the bottom of the inning. Cox had brought Julio Franco in as a defensive replacement at third but since the first baseman's spot was due to lead off, no double-switch was possible. So when Franco grounded out and Vinny Castilla walked none other than John Smoltz, who had one at-bat on the year, was at the plate.

First, bringing Franco in as a defensive replacement is an unnecessary luxury in a close ballgame when the Braves bench is getting short. Second, at the start of the eighth the Braves had already used Giles and Bragg, leaving just Garcia, Estrada, and the Francos on the bench. Actually, both Giles and Bragg were used for the same at-bat when Giles singled for Hampton in the sixth giving the Braves the 3-2 lead and Bragg pinch-ran. Again given that Bragg is the only reserve outfielder, this was an unnecessary luxury.

Cox didn't take three catchers this go-round at least, but he still feels the need to keep one in reserve so he couldn't double-switch with Estrada in the eighth, even though that was the logical move (Lopez was the 8th hitter due up). The Francos are first basemen exclusively (Matt played third for the Mets a little but not in Atlanta), begging the question of why one needs three first basemen in a short series? Again, the first baseman was the first spot up so no double-switch is possible there. None of the outfielder could have been replaced because Bragg was already used and I wouldn't put Bragg in for any of the outfielders in a close game anyway. So that leaves Garcia, who Cox wanted to use and did use for pinch-running late in the game. Once again the Braves configured their roster and employed a strategy that leaves Cox with a non-existent bench. Instead of three catchers, carry three first basemen, but only one extra OF and of course, Cox won't use the catcher he has.

So of course this blows up in Cox's face, right? No, Smoltz bunts Castilla cum Garcia to second. The Cubs decide to intentionally walk Furcal with two outs to get to Mark DeRosa, who proceeds to double in the winning runs.

Lastly, we have the Red Sox-A's. Oakland actually killed a couple of earlier rallies earlier because they went the "small ball" route with miserable results. In the third, Miguel Tejada singled in a run to give the A's a 3-1 lead, but then stupidly tried to move up to second on the throw home. The throw was cut off and Tejada was out in a rundown.

In the fifth Mark Ellis went on contact from third on a dribbler to the mound by Durazo for the second out. This came after Pedro Martinez had thrown the ball away on a pick off attempt and Ellis had ambled into third.

The Tejada play was especially galling given that Pedro was on the ropes and the stupid out let him collect himself. I thought the A's were going to knock Pedro out in the third. He looked awful--not hitting spots, hanging big meatballs for the A's to hit.

So the A's do go on to win. And now the Red Sox are worse off perhaps than if Pedro had been knocked out early. Kim was just about their only reliable reliever in the second half and he again failed in the postseason. Their pen is in such a poor state that they had to use game-three starter Derek Lowe. Grady Little still says that Lowe will start game 3. The Red Sox rotation is not strong enough that they can afford to lose when Pedro starts. The A's must be happy to think that they will not have to face him again if they can beat Wakefield and a tired Lowe.

Let's say Pedro had hit the showers early and Burkett were used to mop up. The result would be that Pedro could potentially start or at least pitch in game three and Kim and Lowe would have been rested.

The A's now have a big edge and it came without a three-run home run. Meanwhile all of the mighty Red Sox runs came on homers. So will Joe Morgan now jump on the A's small ball bandwagon? Probably not, Joe is still incensed with Billy Beane for supposedly writing Moneyball. Of course, we all know that the book's author was Jim Bouton.

Play Off?
2003-10-01 19:10
by Mike Carminati

Well, day one of the 2003 postseason is in the books and so far we have had three low-scoring, tightly contested games, two of which were road wins by underdogs. The Yankees went up against Johan Santana and found out why he is one of the best young lefties in baseball (though apparently the Twins were among the last to discover this). He shut them down for four innings and then due to injury gave way to the very good Twins bullpen which would bend but not break for the final five frames. Next, Jason Schmidt shut out the possibly spent Marlins. And finally, the Wood giveth and the Wood taketh away: Kerry Wood shut down the powerful Atlanta offense and in the process collected as many hits and runs as he gave up (2 in both cases). (Oh, and in the process the execrable Steve Lyons and Thom Brenneman discovered Orval Overall. Gee, Steve, they did play baseball for decades before you started dropping your drawers on the basepaths. Oh, and is Jeannie Zelasko trying to replace Jennifer Anniston on Friends with her new hairstyle? And as my friend Murray points out, the game was played amid excessive use of the wifey cam.)

So basically two of the best pitchers in the National League and one of the best young pitchers in the American—with some sizeable help from his pen—just happened to serve up the opening salvos for their teams. That's all. These teams scored just 12 runs among them or two runs per team per game and that's with the Yankee defense doing its best to pad the Twins' scoring totals. That's less than half the regular-season runs per game (4.73). However, The high-scoring Red Sox has yet to join the fray and besides at least the Braves and Yankees offenses should rebound quickly. Right?

Well, historically runs get harder to come by in the playoffs. In 80 out of 106 postseason seasons so far (including the Temple Cup interleague championships of the nineteenth century) or about three-quarters of all postseasons, scoring has been lower than during the regular season. The Angels high-scoring lunacy helped make last year that rare year in which there is more scoring after the regular season ends (5.15 R/G in the playoffs and 4.62 during the season in 2002).

However, on average a team will lose over half a run (.61) from the major-league regular-season average during the playoffs (historically, 4.46 in the regular season and 3.84 in the playoffs). Well, that's just clearing out the odd Devil Ray or Tiger pitching staff. Well, there's some truth to that.

But consider that we remove the Dodgers and Tigers batters from the equation as well. Playoff teams historically outscore the major-league average by about a half-run per game (0.56). This season the eight playoff teams scored about one-third run more per game than the average team (5.05 R/G vs. 4.73 for a .32 difference). There has never been a season in which the average playoff team was outscored by the league average in the regular season (and they say pitching wins games?). On average playoff teams score 1.17 runs fewer per game than they did during the season.

There have been only 11 years in which the playoff teams scored more runs on average in the playoffs than in the regular season. Last year was one of those rare occurrences, the average playoff game registered 0.19 runs per team per game than those teams scored on average during the regular season (5.15 vs. 4.96).

OK, so scoring does go down in the playoffs, but surely the pace yet far in the 2003 playoffs is unprecedented, right? Actually, no. In 1950, the Yankees swept the Phils in four close, low-scoring games and in the process scored almost three runs less per team per game than the major-league average (2.00 vs. 4.85 for a 2.85 difference). In 1930, the A's beat the Cards in six games in which the losing team never scored more than two runs. The postseason average was 2.80 runs fewer than the regular season (2.75 vs. 5.55).

Those two seasons also witnessed greater dropoffs in the teams' scoring in the postseason as opposed to the regular-season averages than 2003 so far. So did 1887 when the Detroit Wolverines (NL) bested the St. Louis Browns nee Cardinals (AA) managed by the Old Roman, Charlie Comiskey (ever hear of him, Steve Lyons?), in a fifteen game series. The playoff teams average 3.69 fewer runs in the postseason that year.

OK, so where are we? There have been only three games and there's a dropoff, but such large swings are harder to find now that there are added rounds in the playoffs. When the Yankees swept the Phils in 1950, there were only four playoff games played. Last year there were 34. The differences have lessened since divisional play started in 1969, but not really that much. Playoff teams have dropped off an of .44 runs per team per game from the major-league average since 1969 and .80 runs per team per game from their own regular-season averages. That is slightly lower than the (orval) overall average by .2 runs. And no season since 1969 has witnessed a greater dropoff in postseason scoring than a run and one-half (in 1983), half of the dropoff we saw yesterday.

So what's the frequency, Kenneth? The odds are that scoring will not remain as depressed as it was yesterday, but don't expect a glut of 10-run games either. In other words, yesterday may have been a tacit declaration that this will not be a repeat of last year's postseason. And if that means fewer Fox commercials, I'm all for it.

Joe Morgan Chat Auto-Day-Fe
2003-10-01 19:08
by Mike Carminati

Auto-da-fe? What's an auto-da-fe? What you oughtn't to do but you do anyway…The Inquisition, what a show. The Inquisition, here we go!

—History of the World, Part I

"Cardinal Fang! Fetch...THE COMFY CHAIR!… Now -- you will stay in the Comfy Chair until lunch time, with only a cup of coffee at eleven."

—Cardinal Ximinez torturing an old lady in Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch

Last week, I theorized that Joe Morgan was "an absurdist of the highest degree", one that we mere mortals just do not "get".

Well, the Baseball Crank trumped me with this email on Joe:

Apropos of your latest comments on Joe Morgan . . . I thought you'd appreciate this item I posted, as it so happens, a year ago today:

BASEBALL: Why Joe Morgan Says Dumb Things piles on another idiotic column by Joe Morgan. I'm convinced that Morgan says the things he says just to tick people off. Also, as I've written before, every time I hear Morgan and Tony Perez attacking statistics, I keep wondering if it's really a veiled attack on their stat-obsessed former teammate, Pete Rose.

What a wonderfully awful idea! All the Joes down in Joeville liked chatting a lot, but the Mike's Baseball Rants that lives just north of Joeville (in Sanityville) did not. ("Oh, yah. That's wicked far. Just beer right at the Dunkin Donuts on the cornah in Somerville. Not the one on Highland or Broadway, but the one on Somerville Ave. Actually, you wannah pass those Dunkin Donuts, too. And the coffee is wicked good at the one on Highland. But you don’t beer there. You go straight. If you end up at Hahvahd Yahd, ya went the wrong way. Don't pahk. Turn around and beer towards Davis Square and beer right at the Dominos. Or yah could take 93 but then you'll end up in New Hampshah. But ya could get some wicked cheap bear there. But ya cahn't take the T thare.")

Why don't we like Joe's chatalogy? Because it puts dents in your head. No, what I mean is it's detrimental to your mental health (My first—and probably last—My Three Sons reference!).

Perhaps this torture is by design as the Baseball Crank suggests. Maybe Joe is not a satirist but a sadist. After all, "Morgan" is from the Middle English Morgan le Fey, the name of King Arthur's sister, a self-professed sorceress. The bewitching Joe is trying to lull us to sleep with his poison apple of sophistry and solipsism. And why not? Nobody expects the Joe Morgan Inquisition.

But we can take it. We are made of harder stuff. So in the spirit of Ash in Army of Darkness, we say, "Come get some…"

The Good

Josh Miggler (Las Vegas): Hey Joe! How on earth did the Twins win the Central again? They have no true "ace" in the rotation (unlike the sox, who have at least 2) and no bigtime power (unlike the sox and the big hurt) How did they manage to pull this off?

Well they play very well together as a team. Every guy in that lineup compliments the next. I was wrong -- I picked the white sox to beat kansas city and I forgot about the Twins. But, here they are!

[Mike: You and me both, brother. The Twins were the best team in the AL, record-wise, in the second half, going 46-22. But the White Sox were no slouches either at 40-27. The Royals faded as expected in the second half, 32-37. The Twins took over the division in September going 19-6 while Chicago went 12-12 and KC 13-14.

How did the Twins do it? Pitching. The Twins went from one of the worst staffs in the AL in the first half (4.74 ERA, ninth in the league , over a run higher than league-leading Seattle) to the second best in the second (3.88, slightly higher than Oakland's 3.55). "No ace"? I beg to differ. Johan Santana has been an ace when the Twins have allowed him to pitch in the rotation (11-2, 2.85 ERA in 18 starts). The Twins also got Eric Milton back after missing almost the entire season. And Brad Radke is pitching like the staff ace of old (9-1, 3.24 ERA in second half). And Joe is right: they may not have a Big Hurt in the lineup, but they are strong throughout the lineup.]

Josh Meyer (Palmer) IA: Any chance of the Twins knocking out the Yankees?

There is always a chance. Anytime you get into the playoffs in a short series, anybody can win. Starting on the road at Yankee Stadium is certainly different than starting your playoff journey anywhere else, but the Twins are as well prepared as ever. In the past, Minnesota was just happy to be there, this year they are looking to win the whole thing.

[Mike: Well, the Twins can knock them out if they keep jabbing with their left and then use that powerful paralyzing perfect pachydermous percussion punch to paste this pathetic palooka (before you email me, I know the line is "pitch"; it just doesn't go with boxing).

Every series has an interesting story behind it. The Twins were 0-7 against the Yankees this season, but were so strong down the stretch. I predicted the Yankees in 4. I think game one is the key for the Twins. If Santana can shut the Yankees down, they could surprise the Yankees. Look at the Angels last year. If Santana losses the first game, the Twins could cave pretty quickly. (By the way, I wrote this before the first game of the series, really.)]

The Bad

Jeff (Cleveland): There seems to be something missing from the Phillies, a chemistry or some intangible, and I think that is why they lost out on the playoffs. Do you agree? How do you create that in a locker room?

Well, if you look at the Phillies, they scored more runs than their opposition and they still couldn't make the cut, so there was certainly something amiss. I hate to say it was "chemisitry" because I think that word gets thrown around so much ... and I'm not ever sure what it means anymore. But, I do believe that they did lack a comradery or some sense that the ONLY thing that is important to each and every one of those guys is winning ballgames -- not statistics or individual hits, not ERA. Everybody just has to be in it to win baseball games and I don't think the Phillies had that mindset.

[Mike: Well, Larry Bowa is missing a brain, but aside from that they are OK. Though it's unlikely he could be another Lincoln if he only had a brain.

Good teams have good chemistry. I have said that I think Bowa should be fired because he adds nothing to the team besides his supposed fiery character. If anything, that fire has been a negative especially as the Phils folded. He has alienated certain players (Rolen, Burrell, etc.) during his tenure. That in and of itself is not entirely damning but when a man is brought in to act as basically a cheerleader on acid, it's sufficiently damning.

By the way, the Phils had more problems getting their offense and pitching to work together during the year than anything else. The first half the pitching was tremendous and the offense was logy. In the second half the offense came around, but the pitching collapsed. The bullpen has been blamed for this and rightfully so, but the starters (Wolf, Duckworth, and Myers especially) were extremely poor as well.

If I ran the team, my first move would be to divest myself of the overrated Jimmy Rollins. The Phils have some offseason evaluating to do with two players who receive a hefty paycheck, Burrell and Bell, and some of the young pitchers (Myers and Wolf). Millwood, Duckworth, and most of the pen should be gone, but unless another starter falls from the skies like Millwood did last year, they will actually have to make a creative trade, something that Ed Wade has yet to demonstrate that he can do. With money expected from the new ballpark, expect the Phils to rustle up a couple of free agents again this offseason (Bartolo Colon?). But the core of the team, especially the position players, is there. Now, we just have to see if they are better than an average team.

(By the way, the image to the left is that of the real Tomas de Torquemada that Mel Brooks parodied in History of the World, Part I).]

Chris, California: With the A's pitching and their offense finally clicking, and the Red Sox hitters still killing the baseball, who do you think has the upper hand going into this great matchup

Well, the As are going to have to hit to win, their pitchers certainly will be able to dominate the Red Sox. I'm not sure the Athletics rotation is as strong as it was last year, they certainly will not be able to shut that lineup down. I really think Boston has the edge there.

[Mike: Upper hand? What is this George Costanza on a date ("I got hand")? They start the series tied 0-0. The A's have the homefield if you see that as the upper hand.

However, I'll have to agree with Joe here. The Red Sox clobbered the A's pitching in the regular season to the tune of 36 runs, 6 more than the A's, a 40-point batting average advantage, a 70-point on-base advantage, a 17-point slugging advantage, an 87-point OPS advantage, and a 4.86 ERA in seven games. The only problem is the A's won four of those seven games. I'm sure the A's would be willing to make the same trade in this series.]

tony concord, CA: Joe, what is up with the Mariners....they just cannot seem to EVER get it done...Are the A's REALLY a better team??

That's a very good question Tony, when I saw the Ms in June and July, they looked like the best team in baseball, everything was working well for them. When I saw them in late August things were starting to go downhill for them, and now, they only have one guy (Ichiro) hitting over .300. I'm shocked, they just cannot finish, I don't know what it is, they certainly have the talent. I wish I had the answers. Nobody knows.

[Mike: Are the A's a better team? Well, it depends on your definition of better. If it means which team is ahead in the standings at the end of the year? Then, clearly yes. If it means which team gets better press, the media do love their Ichiro and Boonie show.

I believe that the A's are better because their GM, Billy Beane, has an approach for the season, to field the best team possible given the team's tight budget and then scratch it all if it's not working by the trade deadline. The M's field a good team and then Stand Pat Gillick—who has mercifully recused himself for the 2004 season—does not know what to do with it to keep it ahead of the pack come playoff time.

They remind me of the mid-Eighties Miami Dolphins. It seemed that the Dolphins were continually 6-2 or 7-1 by the middle of the season, but come playoff time they were 9-7 or 8-8 and would just miss the cut. The Redskins had a period like this a few years back, too. And yet, no one in NFL bemoans the lot of those Dolphins teams.]

Nemo (swimming to SF): What are your thoughts on how far my collegues (Marlins) have come this season? How do we match up vs. SF and any chance to make some noise in the playoffs?

I picked the Marlins to pick the Wild Card way back in June. They have speed, a lot of differnt ways to win, they just looked like the better team in that race. They have done very very well. They definitely have a chance against anybody -- that's just the way it is in the playoffs. We'll see what happens. They could certainly make some noise.

[Mike: Oh, "Just keep swimming!" Isn't that adorable? Oh, Marjorie, let’s see what that nice Suzanne Sommers is selling on QVC.

Will the Marlins make any noise? How about a thud? The Marlins did just eke out a wild card victory over the Phightin' Phils. OK, so they were 18-8 in September but so were the Giants, who had very little to fight for at that point.

By the way, the Marlins were 42-42 on June 30, 5.5 game behind the Phils and 4 behind the 'Spos. They also had five teams from the Central and West either tied with them or ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Not even Joe was crazy enough to pick them back then. And as far as I can tell, he didn't. Here's the only reference to the Marlins in all of Joe's June chats and articles:

David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, why are the Marlins so Mediocre? It isn't like they don't have any talent. To me they should be contending, not rebuilding.

I agree that they have some talent. But for some reason they have not been able to put it together. They had all those great young arms but some of them just broke down and were injured. That has been their problem. All the youngs guys have not been able to produce together at the same time.

Not exactly a glowing endorsement and far from a playoff prediction. Nice selective memory you have there, Joe.]

Ken (Washington D.C): Despite the yankees having a better record, do you feel that the redsox are a superior team? Thier lineup is dangerous 1-9, the starting pitching has been strong, and they have one of the best home records in baseball.

No, I don't feel that the Sox are a superior team only because you never know what you will get when you have to go to the bullpen -- that will be a key factor against Oakland and the Yankees. That pen certainly doesn't exhude confidence. WHo knows what will happen when you bring one of those guys into a game. Also, the Sox have certainly not dominated the Yankees in head to head competition. Until you beat them consistently, you can't say you're the superior team. It will certainly be a solid matchup.

[Mike: Matchup? Uh, Joe, the Yankees and Red Sox are not playing each and if the Twins and A's have their say, they never will. Besides the season series was won 10-9 by the Yankees with a 5.53 Yankee ERA. It's not like the Yankees dominated the Sox. Just move on. Nothing to see here.]

Paulsen, Cincinnati: With 3 games to go who's going to win the NL Central? Should the Cubs you think they have enough offence to beat the Braves?

If I had a crystal ball, I'd tell you Paulsen. I think Pittsburgh is a little tougher team than Milwaukee and that's who Houston is playing, so we'll see. IF you have the arms that the Cubs have, you will do well in a short series. They could beat anybody -- BUT it is never easy to beat a very good, very experienced Braves teams. If anybody were to knock off Atlanta, I'd say it would be the Cubs.

[Mike: It's not easy to beat the Braves?!? It’s like a national pastime unto itself. The Braves have lost in the first round 5 of the last six years. How's that for experience?]

Tony (Philly): Joe, Obviously nothing would be greater to a true baseball fan than a Cubs - Red Sox World Series. How realistic is this great matchup and if so, what do you think is the more intriguing pitching matchup, Wood v. Pedro, or Prior v. Pedro?

Tony, only people in Boston and Chicago want it to be a Sox-Cubs World Series ... but you're right, it certainly wood be an intriguing matchup between two storied ball clubs, each with a lot of history. Either of those pitching duels would be very exciting. It's early to be talking about that, though. I still think this is a wait and see situation, sure these two teams having it out probably would be good for baseball, but they have a long way to go.

[Mike: Who wouldn't want to experience a Wrigley-Fenway Series outside of the Chicago's South Side and the Bronx? Besides it ensure that one of this silly "curses"—the Bambino's or the Billy Goat's—would end. Then what would Jeannie Zalasko have to talk about during the pregames? Aw.]

Mike, Asheville, NC: Joe, Always enjoyed you as a player and now as an announcer! Seems to me Larry Bowa's personality is disruptive to the chemistry of the Phillies. Do you think he will be fired now that they did not make the playoffs? Also will Millwood re-sign? Thanks!

I have gone to PHilly two or three times in the last month, each time I was their I tried to figure out whether Bowa put too much pressure on his players. He doesn't think so, most of his players don't either. Volatile managers work well with certain teams, but you who knows, I can't get a good pulse read on how he effects these guys without talking to everybody. I've know Larry a long time, he's always been a very volatile individual. I'm not close enough to the situation to really know if he is good or bad for that organization, but I can say that before he was a part of that club, the Phillies were not as competative as they are now.

[Mike: I never took Chemistry. How 'bout the Phils' Social Studies, does it hurt them?

So the Phils were not as competitive without Bowa? You mean that the Gregg Jefferies- and Paul Qauntrill-led Phils should have done better but Jim Fregosi held them back? (In 1995 Jefferies led the Phils in OPS and Quantrill in ERA).

Look, the Tyler Houston incident shows that Bowa's inability to control a clubhouse. Houston was released at the end of August because he was a bad element—basically Bowa disliked him. The Phils then acquired non-factor Kelly Stinnet while the Marlins grabbed Philly-killer Jeff Conine. From that point the Marlins were five games better than the Phils. I'm not saying Houston alone would have made up the difference, but a lot of the "they just don’t look like a team out there" talk has happened after the incident. By the way, the Phils did miss Houston's lefty bat, especially so in the Florida series that ended the Phils' season. The Phils went to the Tomas Perez well one too many times especially in the second game, when a lefty pinch-hitter against Urbina in the ninth would have been useful. Oh well.]

Brian (Toronto): Carlos Delgado has had a great year for a mediocre team. How do you sum up his chances for AL MVP? How about those 4 homers?!

Well, he won't win the MVP, but those four homers are fantastic, I've played with a couple guys who hit three homeruns in a game -- but FOUR -- that just doesn't happen. That is such an incredible feat.

[Mike: Joe may be right about Delgado's chances, but why so quick to dismiss? Delgado is a great candidate. No one is truly more valuable to his team in the AL. But while many praised Ichiro through much of the season, Delgado was ignored after the Blue Jays dropped out of contention.]

Will (New York NY ): Hi Joe the only Cardinals fan in NYC . Real quick -- what happend to the the red birds?

Well, a lot of it was injuries, a lot of guys missed a lot of games. JD Drew, Jim Edmonds and their pitching staff all suffered -- they were never able to get it all straightedned out ... pull it together. That led to their downfall. They have a lot of work for next season.

[Mike: They had their fair share of injuries, but this team was far from the 1927 Yankees. The pitching staff was poor all season (the second- and first-half team ERAs are almost an exact match at around 4.60). However, their fall was hastened by a highly-touted offense that was outperformed by their opponents in the second half by 15 home runs and 17 OPS points. The offense of Bo Hart (second half OPS of .599), Fernando Vina (.582), Miek Matheny (.606), and Tino Martinez (.742) hurt. So did LaRussa's over-reliance on bit players who did not perform: Miguel Cairo (.639), Orlando Palmeiro (.672), Chris Widger (.672), and Kerry Robinson (.712) all had prominent roles in the Cardinals' collapse.]

The Ugly

Michael, Miami, FL: You mentioned in your column that NL Manager of the Year Race was between Alou, Baker, and Cox - you failed to mention Jack McKeon - taking over a team no one thought would finish .500 and guiding them to a possible wild-card berth, how could he not win it?

Give McKeon credit but he hasn't done what these other three guys have, Michael. He took over a team with out any pressure, nobody expected him to win -- these other three guys are expected to produce, the stakes were high. Jack McKeon has done a very good job in Florida, make no mistake about that , but watch how the writers vote, there will be no contest, he is just not in their league.

[Mike: Well, they are all in the National League, Joe.

Expectations? They are now the main criterion for evaluating managers? Then Joe Torre would win every year. Oh, except he truly is in a different league, the American League.

McKeon gets my vote. I pity the voters who share Joe's views.]

Matt (St Paul, MN via Athens, OH): What is the state of baseball in Cincinnati? With a below-sub par major league team and a lack of difference makers in the farm system, how long do you think it will take to be competitive again, let alone successful? Thank Joe!

I have no idea how long it will take -- it depends on who they hire as their GM. If they hire Omar Minaya who is with the Expos, I don't think it will take too long, he could do a lot of good over in Cincinnati.

[Mike: jhgk,gk,vha.vuqoe'v;ijhv—Oops sorry. That was from the laughing fit I just had. Omar the Magnificent in Cincy? That's a match made in heaven. Not only would the major-league Reds be execrable, the minor leagues would be bled dry. Just wait until a team that has actual fans gets a load of Minaya's "now you see him, now you don't" act. The man goes through talent like Pete Rose goes through Grecian Formula.]

Jerry (Portland): Joe, having played at Fenway park in the world series, do you believe that is is one of the tougher places to play a road game?

No, Yankee Stadium is certainly the toughest place to play a road game in the playoffs. When you are in the Bronx -- it gets rowdy. We've all seen it before. In Boston, the fans are great basball fans. Yankee fans are a different breed during the playoffs, nobody wants to go in there in away jerseys.

[Mike: Boston has great baseball fans but the Yankees are a different, rowdier breed? Joe, I hope you enjoy your next visit to the Bronx.]

OK, everybody, I'm looking forward to a very exciting playoff season ... and my Hawaii trip which is 62 days away!! Good talking to everybody, thanks for your questions! See you next time!

[Mike: Joe, even though it's 62 days away, you are already in Hawaii in your mind.]

This is my site with my opinions, but I hope that, like Irish Spring, you like it, too.
Frozen Toast
Google Search
Mike's Baseball Rants


10  09  07 
06  05  04  03 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
06  05  04  03  02  01 

12  11  10  09  08  07 
Links to MBBR