06 October 2002

You Lose Some, You Lose Some

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines. First, my favorite team loses. Loses badly. Plays ugly. Elephant-man ugly. Beaten like a red-headed step-child. Then, my second favorite team loses. Beaten not so badly, but beaten nonetheless.

So, congratulations are in order:

To the Twins Geek, for doing a great job of following and analyzing the Twins throughout their year. And to Aaron, who really did a great job of analyzing the playoff teams himself, though it's a little late for all that now. To the Twinkies, of course, for progressing to the ALCS. Send those Angels back to heaven, if you don't mind.

I actually haven't followed the Twins-A's series closely enough to comment on it much, but suffice it to say that if you can hold Miguel Tejada, David Justice, Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez to a combined batting average under .200, you have a pretty good shot at winning. Oakland mostly got the pitching it needed, three quality starts in five games, though the relievers did not do so well to stop the bleeding when they needed to. This notion that the Metrodome somehow intimidates opposing teams into playing badly is, as they say in France, poppy-coque. Both teams have to play there, and without having had a sellout, playoff crowd at the Triple-H in eleven years, there's no reason that the Twins should be any more adapted to the circumstances than should the Athletics.

My condolances go out to fellow blogger, Elephants in Oakland. The interesting thing about a blog dedicated to observations and analysis of just one team is that you get really detailed, in-depth commentary on a team you would not otherwise be able to read about were you not in that city. And of course, you're getting fans' perspectives on the team, so you get commentary you might not normally hear from the genetically cloned sportswriters who simply parrot whatever they think people want to read (...even Epsilons are useful...). However, the fact that a fan is willing to spend so much of his/her time and energy following and commenting on one team means that you are getting the perspective of a fan in the very definition of the word: a Fanatic. Totally ape-shit. Now, given their locality and fervor for the team, it seems to me that they probably know a little more about the situations across the Bay than I do, but it is at least possible, I think, that perhaps Art Howe is not, in fact, the Anti-Christ, and that every move he makes is not necessarily wrong. Howe was given a team that was expected to contend, a team that was expected to feel a big absence when The Giambino defected, and didn't miss a beat. I think that a manager who's used to getting .320/40hr/120rbi out of his first baseman and who's then given Scott Hatteberg, and still wins 103 games in the regular season, deserves at least a little credit.

I don't know how impulsive a man Billy Beane is, and I hope Howe doesn't lose his job over this. But it seems to me that the A's had some of the same problems as the Yankees did in their series. The Yanks are usually built for the Short Series, with four quality starters, patient hitters with power, and solid defense. They often don't have a great fifth starter, or a league leading offense, but they have enough to be top-five in pitching and offense, and in the Short Series, they have enough pitching to give the offense a chance to make a game out of it. This year, they seem to have gone with a different approach. They had six quality starters, meaning that they had to put two of their best pitchers in the bullpen, out of their normal roles, and it showed. They had a great offense, hitting homers and walking like it was going out of style, but also striking out a lot. Their defense was sub-par, at best, and terrible up the middle, except for Posada. Jeter, Soriano and Bernie Williams all have perhaps the least range of anyone in the majors at their respective positions. Over the course of a full season, playing often against lesser teams, these things even out. A 2B who hits over .300 with 39 homers and 40+ steals makes up for making more errors than the first version of Windows and striking out more often than John Tesh's attempts at a musical career. But in a short series, against good pitching, that same 2B gets all of two hits the entire series, misses routine grounders (both to his right and right to him) AND interferes with two differnet outfielders on plays they could have made if not for his intrusive presence in the no-mans'-land between second base and right center field. Jeter hit .500 with two homers, but again, did not make plays on grounders that most other shortstops can reach with ease. Those are the things a team has to do to win a series like this, because against playoff pitching, it's rare that you can just bludgeon a team into submission. Especially if your own pitchers have a collective 8.21 ERA. Ouch.

Well, at least SanFran is still Alive, and my pich for the Cards/D-Backs series was right. It would be neat to see an all-Midwest World Series, but I'm getting ahead of myself. More coming soon....

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