30 October 2003

Updates and Plugs...

Your friend and mine, Alex Belth, was kind enough to mention my Yankee Hell in one of his posts a Bronx Banter, his ecxellent basball/Yankees blog. Alex is a very forgiving sort, as he did this in spite of the fact that I usually forget to plug his work when he asks, either entirely or not until it's about three weeks after the fact. So, thanks to Alex's much more frequented blog, I have had a significant spike in visits over the last day or so, about twice as many as normal. Hopefully some of those people will come for the amusing Hell construction and stay for some decent writing (I'm in the market for a decent writer now...) but either way, I'm indebted to Alex.

Speaking of Alex, he's got a couple of interesting posts with actual, published baseball authors. The first is an interview with Pat Jordan, who wrote A False Spring, A Nice Tuesday, and the book I used to leard to throw a curveball, Sports Illustrated Pitching: The Keys to Excellence. This great book helped me to identify three minor flaws that are preventing me from becoming an All-Star pitcher: Velocity, Control and Stamina. Other than those, I'm set.

So anywho, Alex has an interview with Pat Jordan and you should go read it.

Alex also has a sweet but melancholy little post with an excerpt from a book by Roger Angell, that will remind you how little football and watching the leaves change does to abate the emptiness of The Void.

Speaking of The Void, those of you who enjoy interesting, informed baseball writing with a wry sense of humor and a twist of culture sprinkled in should already know Ranting Mike Carminati, he of the oh-so amusing Joe Morgan Chat Days. Well now Mike has defected to All-baseball.com, where the aforementioned Alex Belth, baseball injury guru Will Carroll, and Cub Reporter Christian Ruzich already maintain their own blogs. Th addition of Carminati gives the All-Baseball Team four aces that Steinbrenner would covet. If he owned a newspaper. Which he probably does.




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27 October 2003

Yankee Hell

Games that don't end til 1AM
Circle I Limbo

Jeff Weaver?!?
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Outscoring an Opponent Who Beats You
Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Using Your Closer in a Game you're winning by Five Runs
Circle IV Rolling Weights

NOT Using Your Closer in a Tied Game in Extra Innings
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Trading Away Mike Lowell for 3 Nobodies
Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Aaron Boone: .143, 1 Run, 2 RBI
Circle VII Burning Sands

Jorge Posada: .158, 0 Runs, 1 RBI
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

"World Champion Florida Marlins"
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

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24 October 2003

Somebody?

Somebody needs to tell the Florida Marlins that they don't have to win.

...that nobody expected them to win.

...that most of us still expect them not to win.

...that no one will really mind if they don't win.



Somebody needs to tell them that they don't have to try so hard.

...Let an opposing runner on third with less than two out cross the plate once in a while.

...Let a ground ball through the infield once in a while.

...Let Aaron Boone have a meatball once in a while.



Somebody needs to let the Marlins know that their season is already a success.

...that nobody expected this, so it's a pleasant surprise.

...that nobody cared about them until three weeks ago.

...that nobody will care about them next year if they don't re-sign Pudge.

...and Luis Castillo.

...and Ugie Urbina.



Somebody needs to remind the Marlins that the Yankees make three times as much money as they do.

...that the Yankees have more than four times as many playoff appearances as the Marlins have seasons of existence.

...that the Yankees have about four times as many future Hall-of-Famers.

...that the Yankees have about a hundred times as many fans.

...and much cooler uniform colors. (Teal?! c'mon!)



Somebody needs to refresh the Marlins memory.

...that the Yankees won ten more regular season games than they did.

...that the Yankees had to beat two teams better than them, the Giants or the Cubs to get here. OK, maybe not the Giants.

...that Roger Clemens by himself or any two of the Yankees' starting pitchers have more career wins then their entire pitching staff combined.



Somebody needs to tell the Marlins that their manager is too old.

...that their ace pitcher is too young.

...that their rookie 3B/RF/DH/whatever is way too young.

...that their catcher is too...Pudgy.



Somebody needs to inform the Marlins that the Fates are against them.

...that History is against them.

...that Mistique, Aura and Buffy the Pole-Dancer are against them.

...that the Best Team on the Planet is against them, and ought to win.



Somebody needs to instill in the Marlins the understanding that it's OK to loosen up a little.

...that nobody will be fired in Florida if they don't win. (Not so in NY.)

...that they're going to have a hard time outdrawing the Expos again next year anyway.

...that a pansy-ass little expansion franchise that can't decide from year to year whether it wants to win or lose, stay or move, exist or be contracted, isn't supposed to beat the Mighty Yankees.



Somebody needs to tell the Marlins to lose.

Please?

...They're running out of time.


...And they're not listening to me.

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Noted baseball/history author Harvey Frommer, for whom I have done several book reviews, and who is in the midst of conducting an e-interview with me, to be published next week, has two books coming out soon. I hope to have reviews of these available for you as they become available, but for now, here are the plugs:

*Coming Spring 2004
New York City Baseball :
The Last Golden Age, 1947-1957
By Harvey Frommer
At one time New York City had three major league teams: the Yankees, Giants and Dodgers. In the days after World War II, the New York teams owned baseball. Relive the golden days of the 1950s in this amazing account.
When the lights came on again after World War II, they illuminated a nation ready for heroes and a city--New York--eager for entertainment. Baseball provided the heroes, and the Yankees, the Giants, and the Dodgers--with their rivalries, their successes, their stars--provided the show.

"We shall not have such an era again except in such loving books as this one." --RED BARBER

“No red-blooded baseball fan will want to be without it. A genuine social history of New York sports in 1947 to 1957. A compulsively fascinating book.” - - NEWSDAY

“A look back at the heyday of Big Apple baseball when at least one New York team appeared in the World Series in 10 of the 11 years. - - “USA TODAY

”Lovingly described.”- - -NEW YORK POST

*New edition with an introduction by Monte Irvin

****COMING OPENING DAY 2004
*******************
THE GREAT RIVALRY:
THE BOSTON RED SOX VS THE NEW YORK YANKEES
By
** HARVEY FROMMER AND FREDERIC J. FROMMER **

Covers nearly a century's worth of epic battles on and off the baseball field between these age-old rivals.
Featuring exclusive interviews with former governors Mario Cuomo of New York and Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, former press secretary Ari Fleisher, congressmen, reporters, broadcasters, and especially players, coaches, managers and front-office execs from the Red Sox and Yankees including Don Zimmer, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Jason and Jeremy Giambi, Lou Meroni, Dwight Evans, and Theo Epstein.
Two unique features of the book are a Rivalry Timeline and a "Talkin' Rivalry" section, a free-for-all in print among fans, journalists, players who all have something to say.
Other chapters include Marker Moments, In-depth Profiles of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
More than two years in the making, this coffee-table book will have nearly 400 pages of text and more than 125 photos, some in color, some archival.
A perfect book for Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, and all baseball fans.
***************************************************
Harvey Frommer is the author of 34 sports books,
including "The New York Yankee Encyclopedia, "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," "Growing Up Baseball" with Frederic J. Frommer and "Rickey and Robinson: The Men Who Broke Baseball's Color Line," "A Yankee Century: A Celebration of the First Hundred Years of Baseball's Greatest Team."
Frederic J. Frommer is an Associated Press correspondent based in Washington, D.C. This is his second book.

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22 October 2003

Sports Theology

Andy Pettitte pitched a great game on Sunday night, which the Yankees won, 6-1. Eight & 2/3 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, only one, unearned run. (My wife thought I was in physical pain when she heard me screaming at Boone's 9th-inning, shutout-ruining, second-error-of-the-night from upstairs. She'll learn...I was.)

But this column isn't about baseball, at least not directly.

After the win, Pettitte said this to Fox Sports' Steve Lyons:

"...And the main reason is just...I've got so many people back home at my church, praying for me and I know they're there, and around all over the country praying for me and I just thank God that he just blessed me to be able to do this tonight."

Right there on live, inter-national TV, a grown man is standing there telling another grown man and about 13 million other people who are still watching that the Lord of the Universe helped him win a baseball game because a bunch of people from his church in Texas asked Him to do so.



Of course, you couldn't find the text of this quote anywhere on the internet if you so desired, which I did. I had to go to Fox Sports' web page, sign up for a free trial of RealOne Superpass and then download the video of Pettite's interview with Steve Lyons. Any of the normal news sources who had quotes from Pettitte in their game stories didn't bother to include this particular comment, which fell in the midst of a response to a question that Lyons asked about how Pettitte handled the speedy Pierre and Castillo at the top of the Marlins' lineup, but obviously encompassed more than that. Most writers left their stories to baseball, which, while a little biased against religion, is probably appropriate, in my opinion.

Getting back to the point...

Andy Pettitte is a Christian. So am I. Otherwise, we're pretty different. For one thing, he's left handed, and makes about 250 times as much money as I make every year. But this column isn't about money. It's about (get ready...)

God.

More specifically, it's about God and Sports. My particular take on this issue is that God and Sports is a little like peanut butter and tunafish: they just don't go together. But clearly there are those who disagree with me. Andy Pettitte, for example.

It's not that I don't think God cares about the people who play sports. Clearly, if "God so loved the world..." this must have included professional athletes, right? Right.

But what about the other professional athletes? The ones competing against Andy Pettitte? This is where the issue gets dicey. You see, I'm willing to bet dollars to potluck supper buntcakes that there are Christians on the Marlins team as well. I'm not sure whom, exactly, but there's got to be somebody, and if you assert that Andy Pettitte was caused to and/or helped to win a baseball game by God, then it logically and necessarily follows that some other people, some of whom may also profess an allegiance to Christ, were specifically caused to fail by God, because God for some reason likes Andy Pettitte better, or something. I have a hard time with this notion.

For one thing, how do you explain times when Pettitte has not succeeded? Were the prayers of Pettitte's church more effective in 1997 (18-7, 2.87 ERA in 240 innings) than in 1999 (14-11, 4.70 ERA in 191 innings)? Was God angry with Andy or his church in 2002 when he sustained an injury and was only able to make 22 starts? Does God like it better when Andy pitches during the day (2.43 ERA in 2003) than at night (4.83 ERA)? Or do the people in Andy's church pray harder on Tuesdays (5-1, 2.72) than on Thursdays (1-2, 9.14)?

And if so, why? Why would Jesus care how well Andy Pettitte (or anyone else) does in any given baseball game? And why should Andy Pettitte's requests for success be honored any more than anyone else who prays to God for such things? Who does God decide to listen to when a potential game-winning field-goal is about to be kicked in a football game and there are circles of players on both sidelines praying for both it's success and failure? Can we really take him seriously when Evander "Real Deal" Holyfield thanks Jesus for helping him to turn his opponent's face into an impressive Memorex of raw hamburger? Pretty tough to imagine that the same Jesus who said, "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also."

Retrospective...

Back in 1996, the Yankees won their first World Series in almost two decades, and some (not all) Christians attributed their success to the presence of professing, Bible-believing Christians: Pettitte, Joe Girardi, Mariano Rivera, John Wetteland, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. (Doc and Straw, as you may know, only met Jesus after running thier lives into the ground with drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and/or tax evasion. This means, therefore, that all their early success was accomplished without the supposed aid of a higher being, or at least, presumably, without a significant number of prayers on their behalf.)

So these six players somehow, supposedly, managed to sway the favor of the Lord of Creation toward themselves and their teammates, the other 19 of whom, presumably, only pray when being shot at. Frankly I find this pretty hard to believe. I don't know off-hand, how many of the 1996 Braves would profess to be Chrstians as well, but I would guess that it's less than six. It would be an interesting study, sort of an antithesis to the "Ex-Cubs Factor", to look at the correlation of born-again Christians to World Series winners over time. Informative? Probably not, but interesting. Scott Brosius, apparently also a Christian, had an interesting take on this, from the Google translation of a French Christian webpage:

"Several claim that, if our team counts many Christian players, we will gain the world Series, Brosius entrusts. It was certainly amusing not only to belong to a gaining team, but cĂ´toyer players who gained good way, by showing the true characteristics of humility. Many guy understood that they received many things, which are actually blessings that they did not deserve. I life a really formidable experiment! "

Well, I guess that clears things right up!

A Lesson From History

So from whence does this notion come? It seems to me that it's probably rooted in the same sorts of ideas that cause someone to be a fan in the first place, to be loyal to a particular team or city's teams. Identifying with a particular place, and with the team that represents it is nothing new. People have been doing so for centuries, rooting and praying for their athletes probably since the Athens Red Sox competed against the Sparta Yankees in the first Olympics (Athens later being permanently cursed by Zeus for allowing thier star shot-putter, Bambinostotle, to defect to Sparta and become a full-time javelin thrower.) Praying for these athletes made a lot more sense, because:

A) they were actually from your city, and not just a collection of mercenary ringers.
2) If you didn't have the Olympics, you'd have probably had a war instead.

Personally, I'd pray for victory too, if it meant that I wouldn't have to fight a war. But such is no longer the case, in 21st century America, where the biggest war addressed in a baseball game is either the battle for elbow-room in the urinals or the bean-ball war on the field. And that's only when Punk-Ass is pitching.

Godviews

So we're back to pondering the veracity and applicability of Andy Pettitte's statement. It seems to me that there are a few ways in which his statement might be interpreted, depending upon whether or not God exists and whether or not Andy Pettitte really knows Him very well. Let's see:

1) There is no God. Andy Pettitte is a delusional weirdo. This stuff all happens either by random chance or because someone "wanted it more".

PROS: Charles Darwin and Joe Morgan both believe at lease some aspect of this scenario. Your fate's in your own hands, which is good news for control-freaks like me!
CONS: If the Universe can exist and hold itself together without a Designer, then life isn't really worth living, which would suck, and is therefore an unacceptable conclusion.

2) There is a real God. He's on Andy Pettitte's side when it comes to baseball games, and maybe other stuff too.

PROS: Andy thinks this is true. Other people, not just athletes, do also.
CONS: Andy doesn't win all the time, which either means that God is fickle or powerless, either of which would suck, and is therefore an unacceptable conclusion.

3) There is a real God. Andy Pettitte just thinks He's on his side in these things, but really God doesn't pay that much attention to these things. He's off somewhere playing cosmic marbles with planets we'll never see or something, and it would come as a surprise to Him that Andy Pettitte thinks He helped him win a baseball game.

PROS: Joan Osbourne believes this. It would explain why Andy doesn't always win, without making Pettitte out to be either delusional or a liar. That's good.
CONS: This scenario makes God out to be in less than complete control of all things at all times, and therefore less than all-knowing and all-powerful, which would suck and is therefore an unacceptable conclusion.

4) There is a real God. He is all-powerful and has control over, indeed, has already determined the outcome, of every event in the course of human history, including professional baseball games. Therefore, any prayers offered up by Andy, his church, or other fans "around all over the country" are not so much effective in terms of swaying God's mind as they are good practice for the praying people in relating to God and potentially understanding him better. This God is only concerned about the results of baseball games in so much as His people honor him in playing them, watching them or paring about them, which is appropriate, what with Him being the Lord of the Universe and all.

PROS: I believe this one, as did a lot of saints and theologians. Blessed assurance, right? God's got it in control, so you don't hafta worry. Pretty cool, I think.
CONS: An unpopular option, since it means that ultimately we don't really have as much control over things as we think we do. Also, this option requires much more faith and a lot of residual life choices that the other options don't necessitate.

Well you know where I stand now: Extremely glad that the people who control the Google translation tools don't control any of the rest of the Universe, but for the record, I'll be praying that God helps Roger Clemens to pitch the game of his life in his swansong performance tonight and beat those backward, Neanderthal, Cretan, pagan SOB's the Florida Marlins tonight, and for David Wells to do the same on Friday night. Amen.

Let's allow Andy to have the final word, though, from that same Google-translated French Christian webpage:

"People observe how you act, how you face the situations. When I gain a world Series, it is easy for me to hold to me in front of a crowd and to thank God. And much of players make in the same way, and it is well. But I really smell that I was faithful to my Christian faith,"

We smell it, too, Andy. We smell it too.

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15 October 2003

Curse Re-Trac-Tion

I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no urse Re-trac-tion.
’cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

When I’m playin’ towards the wall
And that fan wearin’ the radio
Gets in the way of the ball
So I can’t catch it for an out
And I have to scream and shout!
I can’t get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.

I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no Curse Re-trac-tion.
’cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.

When I’m watchin’ my TV
And that ball goes toward the short stop,
Who can always play the short-hop.
But he can’t play this one ‘cause it hits his glove
And I watch…it…to…the ground…drop!
I can’t get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.

I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no Curse re-trac-tion.
’cause I try and I try and I try and I try.
I can’t get no, I can’t get no.



When I’m pitchin’ ‘gainst the team
And I’m curvin’ this and I’m slidin’ that
And I’m tryin’ some outs to glean,
But I can get no outs, ‘cause the fielders reek,
’cause you see we’re on a (95-year) losing streak.
We can’t get no, oh no no no.
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say.



I can’t get no, I can’t get no,
I can’t get no satisfaction,
No satisfaction, no Curse re-trac-tion, no satisfaction….

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13 October 2003

Spineless Coward

Not long ago, an athlete with a world of talent at his beck and call, though perhaps a bit past his prime, found himself on centerstage in his sport, the place he most liked to be, against a formidable adversary. Finding that despite his best efforts, he could not beat this adversary at their game, this athlete became distraught and, perhaps not knowing how to deal with these feelings or perhaps not caring to try, he lowered himself to the basest level of human existence: Recognizing the victory he so desired slipping from his usually capable grasp, and lacking the wherewithal to stop it, he lashed out at his opponent, choosing instead to injure him physically, if he could not best him at sport.

The opponent, in justified (if not entirely righteous) anger, yelled obscenities back at our Anti-Hero, as the crowd cheered and jeered, according to their own dispositions toward both the Anti-Hero and his opponent. As the dust settled and the benefit of time and hindsight allowed fans, writers and other athletes to review the situation in all its grotesque angles, almost all agreed that the Anti-Hero was little more than a gutless, impetuous, selfish and childish punk.

But enough about the Tyson-Holyfield fight.

There was baseball played this weekend!

Sadly, last week my home computer decided that the ability to connect to the internet was not nearly as high a priority for itself as it was for me, and therefore left me without any realistic ability to comment on these happenings until now. Bronchitis hasn't exactly been helpful either.

Because I was working on the computer most of the day, I only got to listen to most of the game on the radio, rather than watch it.

Baseball is a game that lends itself to spoken description in ways that basketball, hockey and football simply do not. For example:

...The unique dimensions and character of individual ballparks, like Boston's Green Monster or Montreal's crickets (criquets?), allow the radio announcer to tell you exactly where the action is at any given moment. The uniformity and continual two-way movement along an ice rink, a basketball court or a gridiron simply cannot hope to be as interesting.

...The generally one-dimensional direction of play (mostly outward from home plate or back towards the infield), makes it easier for the listener to focus his mind's eye on whomever has the ball, where the ball is headed and what it's doing or has just done.

...Te ease with which the men who participate in the game can be seen, due to the relative lack of equipment on their persons (Barry Bonds' and Gary Sheffield's front elbows notwithstanding), allows the radio announcer to paint a much more descriptive portrait of the players's appearances than you can in say, football. Compare:

"McGuire steps in, a Hercules of a man at 6'5", 230 pounds of sheer muscle, rippling beneath the polyester double-knit uniform. He holds the bat with the ease of a flyswatter, weilding it as an ordinary man would a Wifle ball bat, as he prepares to swing. And here comes the pitcher's delivery...it's a fastball inside and McGuire's tied up, he grounds weakly to second and the inning is over. That's right folks, this Mr. Olympia of baseball was brought to his knees by the local office manager from H&R Block. Oh, wait. Sorry, folks, that was Greg Maddux."

or...

"And Steve Young is down, he appears to have a concussion, again. He was sacked by...number 68, a 360-pound lineman from Fresno State who looks like, well, a big fat guy in tight pants."

...The variation of physical stature in the players themselves makes us all feel as though it could almost be us out there. Players as varied in size and shape as Jeff Nelson (6'8" 240 lbs.), Nellie Fox (5'9" 150), Rich Garces (6'0" 250), and Darryl Strawberry (6'6" 200) have all enjoyed at least a reasonable degree of success in Major League Baseball. You don't have to be a physical freak to succeed in baseball, like you do in basketball or football. We can all relate to it better.

With that said, the Yankees announcers did a less than admirable job in understanding and describing some of the events of the melee on Saturday afternoon. When Pedro Martinez (henceforth to be known as "Punk-Ass") threw at karim Garcia's head, John Sterling and Charlie Steiner spent more time trying to discern whether the ball hit Garcia's bat than informing the rest of us that Punk-Ass was taunting the Yankee bench and threatening to bean Jorge Posada, who would have been a much greater loss to the Yankee cause than Garcia, frankly. Eventually they told us that the guys on the bench were screaming at Pedro, but I'm not sure they ever mentioned the taunting from Punk-Ass.


"If I weren't such a gutless coward, 

you'd really be in trouble!"


Later on, when Manny Ramirez ("Dumb-Ass") ducked to get away from a Roger Clemens pitch that wouldn't have hit him if he were standing a foot closer to it, and all hell broke loose, Steiner told us at first that David Wells had been knocked to the ground by Punk-Ass, when, in fact, it turned out that Don Zimmer actually did the stop, flop and roll. Wells (6'4", 250+), as we alls wells knows, knows how to handle himself in a fight, and would not likely have toppled so readily to a man (and I use the term loosley) who stands 5 inches shorter and weighs 180 pounds dripping wet and carrying a bag of Quikrete. Steiner corrected himself quickly, but still...

The Yankees were, as you may recall, pretty bummed when the Red Sox traded Carl Pavano, Tony Armas Jr. and another young pitcher (anyone remember whom?) to Montreal and then signed Pedro to that ~$15 million/year contract, but for my money (and some of it is...) I'll take a boring, composed, college boy like Mussina over a punk-ass like Punk Ass anyday. Didn't see the Moose letting loose at Trot Nixon's head when it looked like he was about to take his third defeat of the postseason, did you?

"...And now Mussina holds the ball, And now he lets it go,
And now Trot's skull is shattered! The blood from his head doth flow!"


Not exactly the classic picture of good, old-fashioned American sport Ernest Thayer imagined, is it?


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09 October 2003

Winter of Their Discontent

I mentioned yesterday how exciting most of the postseason has been, and despite the Yankees' loss to Boston last night, and the Cubs' pummeling the Marlins into submission, it's still exciting.

Thankfully, we didn't see the kinds of bone-headed plays to which we've become accustomed in this postseason in either game. ESPN's Jim Caple reviews some of the low points.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the Oakland/Boston game in which the A's played like the Nine Stooges. A friend tried to explain it to me and I almost gave up trying to listen, it was so hard to follow all the screw-ups. I did, however, catch the end of the Giants/Marlins game that ended the former's season and propelled the latter into the NLCS for the second time in their history. As exciting as it was, I couldn't believe my eyes when J.T. Snow came barrel-assing around third and tried to knock the ball out of Pudge's glove. You'd have better luck trying to knock the sword out of the Governor of California's hands.



That sounds weird.

Pudge isn't one of my favorite players. I think he's egotistical and self-absorbed and pretty over-rated in almost every category. But I know that he's good at what he does, and I don't think I'd have sent the runner in that situation.

Caple lays the blame on Snow for running late, I guess, and not making it to the plate on time, but I saw the hit, and it wasn't that deep. Most people don't score from second base on a bloop to left field, so it seems to me that the Giamts third base coach is to blame, more than Snow, at least. Unless Snow ran through the 'stop' sign. (He didn't, did he?)

Not only was it a dumbass play because the gamble of scoring one run still only ties the game vs. the chance that the game/series/season will be over if it doesn't work (high risk, low reward). It was also a dumbass play because they'd have had the bases loaded with a one-time pretty good hitter coming up next in Rich Aurilia, and another pretty good hitter behind him. You might have heard of that guy. His name is SuperMan. And of course, by the time Barry Bonds would have gotten to the plate, the game would have already been at least tied, and there'd have been no where to put him, so someone would have to pitch to him.

Of course, there are no guarantees. Aurilia might have struck out with the bases loaded. Even if he didn't, and Bonds came up with a tie game and the bases loaded, there's no guarantee that he'd have deposited the ball in the Gulf of Mexico. He might have struck out, just like Mighty Casey, and given the fans one more thing to hate about him. But either of those options would seem better in retrospect than the colossal "what if" that the Giants and their fans have to deal with over the coming winter.

Here's hoping that Willie "The Human Windmill" Randolph doesn't do anything that stupid...

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08 October 2003

Octobservations

With apologies to Rob Neyer...

A few random notes while wondering where Carl Weathers will show up in the vast, right wing conspiracy to get the entire cast of Predator elected to public office...

First of all, the fact that the games have been so competitive this far into the playoffs is simply fantastic. There have only been four games (coincidentally, one in each Division series) decided by four runs or more, and only one decided by more than four runs (the Yankees' 8-1 clincher at Minnesota...so much for home-carpet advantage.) In fact, three of the four series were decided by four runs or fewer, with the Oakland-Boston series decided by only one run. Almost all of the games have been exciting, some of them going to extra innings. Hey! Free baseball!

What's more, half (count 'em) of this year's playoff participants come from cities that have been traditionally considered non-contenders because of being in a small market. Oakland and San Francisco, with essentially the same market, the Florida Marlins, and the Minnesota Twins have all been the subjects of conversations about "competitive imbalance" and the Twins were even threatened with contraction less than two years ago. It seems that Commissioner Bud has a lot less to say about the issue now that Oakland has made the playoffs for four straight years, with two MVPs and a Cy Young Award winner along the way, and the Twins are were in the playoffs for a second straight season.

Last year, Selig was bitching and moaning that the teams who had won the recent World Series' were all in the top tier of payroll, but this year the Cubs (12th) and Marlins (20th) still have as good a shot at it as the Yanks (1st) and Red Sox (5th). And even if neither of the National League, cheapskate teams wins (please...) the playoffs are almost a crap-shoot anyway. It's getting there that's the tough part. Winning once you're there is little more than good fortune.

For the record, I still pick the Cubs to beat the Marlins in the NLCS. The Marlins didn't strike out much this year (3rd fewest in NL), but they also aren't very patient as a team (4th fewest walks in NL in 2003), and don't hit for a lot of power (11th in homers). The Cubs are among the best at preventing homers and striking out the opposition, even though they walk more than their fair share. Florida doesn't have the patience to take much advantage of that tendency, and won't be able to overcome two appearances each by Wood and Prior.

FuzzyCubbies in six.

And, as you might imagine, I will still pick the Yankees in the ALCS. They're rested, they've got their rotation set up, they've got home-field advantage, and Boston's never beaten them in the playoffs. OK, so they've only met in playoffs of any sort twice, but still...

More importantly, the Yankees have their rotation set up exactly how they like it, as well as a rested bullpen, since they only needed a total of 7 innings and change from their relief pitchers to put away the Twins. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the cowboy-upping Red Sox are trying to patch together their starters from the tatters in which Oakland's hitters left them after five games that all came down to the wire. Their bullpen, despite not giving up a run after the first game of the Division Series, has not exactly been a bullwark of out-making fortitude this season. Byun-Hyun Kim, their supposed closer, isn't even on the roster for the series. And their starting lineup will sorely miss Johnny Damon, however long he's gone.

The Yankees left Chris Hammond off their ALCS roster to make room for an extra backup infielder, Erick Almonte. If it were me, I'd probably prefer to leave one of the RF/DH types off the roster and keep Hammond. Some of Boston's key hitters (Nixon, Ortiz, Walker) struggle mightily against lefties, and Gabe White is the only one Torre's got now in that bullpen. Not the way I'd have done it, but then maybe that's why I don't have four World Series trophies to my credit.

There will be some messy games, but they'll be fun. and the Yankees will win it in Six.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a dog to watch and a game to walk. Or something.


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01 October 2003

Tradition

Error n. A defensive fielding or throwing misplay by a player when a play normally should have resulted in an out or prevented an advance by a base runner.

OK, so I was wrong.

The Yankees set out to embarass themselves right off the bat this year as well. Bernie "Can You Throw This For Me?" Williams misplayed a flyball, which led to a 2-run "triple" by Torii Hunter that should have been a single, first and third, at worst. Matt LeCroy isn't exactly a speed demon, and they might both have scored on Koskie's double anyway, but the point is that Bernie's play is an error if I ever saw one. For the record, I didn't see this one, but I heard it on MLB radio over the internet. (Free for the playoffs if you try eight free issues of Sports Illustrated, which they're hoping you'll forget to cancel in November. I won't.)

In addition, Bernie's universally acknowledged misplay led to Alfonso Soriano knoblauching a throw past Aaron Boone when he was pressed to make the play on Hunter, trying for third.

SOAPBOX TIME: Isn't it high-time that the rules were changed concerning errors? I mean, every report you hear or read tells you that Bernie Williams screwed up yesterday, and yet the box score doen't even mention the "misplay". It just says "triple". And Mike Mussina is laden with three earned runs, instead of the one or two he really deserved.

For whatever reason, the Powers That Used-to-Be decided that a player has to actually touch a batted ball for the play to be ruled an error. Now this kinda makes sense, considering that it's pretty hard to screw something up if you never get to handle it. On the other mitt, though, after 150+ years of playing this game, pretty much everybody knows how a centerfielder is supposed to play that ball: i.e., if you can't get to it, cut it off and keep the batter from running to second, or, say, all the way around to home plate.

Bernie didn't do that. He screwed up the play, allowing a single to be streched into an RBI "triple" and forced another error (actually called as such this time) that allowed another run to score. So why is that not an error? Why is Mike Mussina blamed for that run instead?

Tradition. That's why.

Tradition says that he's got to touch the ball. So if a ball is hit up the middle, and the shortstop dives to his right, everyone would acknowledge that this was a stupid thing to do, but the official scored can't actually call it an error.

Tradition says "You can't anticipate the double play." This means that with a runner on first and less than two out, the middle infielder can step on second base and then knoblauch the throw all the way to Tibet and he's not credited with an error. It simply goes down as a fielder's choice and a putout at 2B. But in the 21st century (and for most of the last one) hundreds, if not thousands, of double plays are turned every year, and we all know that if you can't get the throw off cleanly, it's better to just hold onto the ball. Everyone knows that, and yet the Rules still say it wasn't an error.

It's time to give Tradition the boot and bring in some common sense.

The Yankees still lost, which is ultimately what matters, but let's call a spade a spade here, eh? Or, you know, an error.


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