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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…]

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