Tagged: World Series

Congratulations, Boston Red Sox!

As in 2004, you came back from the brink of elimination in the ALCS to sweep in the World Series.

Congrats also to Series MVP Mike Lowell for the work with bat and glove and to Jonathan Papelbon for the multi-inning saves.

And what a difference a year makes for starter and winning pitcher Jon Lester!


End It Today, Boston!

You’ve shown a dominance in this World Series that has even won the grudging admiration of "My Friend, the Yankees Fan." "They’re doing what the Yankees used to be able to do," she emailed me the other day. "They’re getting hits when they need them."

Bunches of hits. Enough to chase Rockies’ starter Josh "The Dragon Slayer" Fogg off the mound after two and a third. Sometimes you get the dragon; sometimes the dragon gets you. I knew it was going to be your day when your pitcher, Daisuke Matzusaka, chose that third-inning rally to get his first major league hit: a 2-out, 2-run single.  Imagine that! Getting your first major league hit in the World Series. And for all the wringing of hands that the lack of a DH in the National League park was supposed to cause for the Red Sox because it meant that Ortiz or Youkilis or Lowell would have to sit, the concern was just so much waste of pen and ink and pixels. Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, rookies at the top of the lineup had everything in hand.

Even when the Rockies tried to make a game of it by cutting the lead to 1 with 2 runs in the 6th and 3 more in the 7th, the dragon merely awoke from his nap and hung 3 more runs on the board in the top of the 8th, and 1 more in the top of the 9th for the symmetry of outscoring the Rockies by 2:1 in this game.

So let’s end it today, Boston! In a sweep like 19 of the 22 teams who have taken a 3-0 lead in the World Series (including your own 2004 incarnation) have done. It’s Sunday. Let’s end it so that there is no untidiness to clean up on Monday as a new work week starts. And  untidiness is all it would be as history tells us that the 3 teams that won Game 4 after being down 0-3 went on to lose Game 5. Let’s all start fresh tomorrow, ready to focus on hot-stove debates, football pools, what the kids will wear on Halloween night…

and how the Red Sox are a lot like the Yankees used to be.


Closing the Deal

The Colorado Rockies are looking more like a sand castle with the tide coming in. It’s because they haven’t shown the ability to finish innings against the Boston Red Sox. Eleven of Boston’s 13 Game 1 runs were scored with two out. In yesterday’s 2-1 Boston victory, the game winning hit, Mike Lowell’s 5th inning double, also came with two out.

The Rockies’ best chance to win a game is probably tomorrow’s Game 3. They are back home now with NL rules, so either Ortiz, Youkilis, or Lowell will have to sit, not that I am sure the Rockies would want to see any of those three come up as a pinch-hitter in a clutch situation. The Sox also sacrifice a bit of defense in putting Ortiz at first and Youkilis at third. And Manny Ramirez, on a gimpy knee in the expansive left field at Coors, is also a risk.

The Rockies’ Game 3 starter, Josh Fogg, has a reputation for defeating big-name pitchers. But he’ll have to do better than  the previous starters, Jeff Francis and Ubaldo Jimenez, who went 4 and 5 innings respectively.

Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka is a puzzle. He’s done OK in his first year in MLB, but not at spectacular as a lot of people expected. Were the expectations impossibly high because of the amount of money it took for the Red Sox to get him? Did he need the first season as a settling in period? Will any of that matter? He has an advantage here–the Rockies don’t know him–and thanks to the humidor, Coors is not the Launching Pad it was in the 90’s. So if Dice-K is not at his best, it doesn’t mean he’ll  give up a bunch of gopher balls.

Given the way Okajima and Papelbon performed last night, you’ve got to like the back of Boston’s bullpen if Matzusaka can go deep into the game. Boston’s pitchers have shown that they can close the deal.


The Layoff Mattered

Game 1 of the World Series was a rout by Boston, 13-1. Josh Beckett’s filthy stuff kept the Rockies lineup in check. But it also was clear that the 8-day layoff the Colorado Rockies endured did, in fact, affect them. Not only did the pitching staff give up a week’s worth of runs in 5 innings, but the sideline announcer reported that the team looked flat from the beginning.

These playoff schedules are being spread out more and more to accommodate the TV networks. But the accommodation hurts long term audience-building by making the games end too late for many young fans. And now the accommodation is starting to hurt the game itself. Waiting for a particular day to start the Series because of ratings set up the long layoff. And if the ALCS had also ended in a sweep, you may have had two rusty teams playing for the championship. Not to mention that a lot of the casual fans who pay attention to baseball only during the post-season would have forgotten about the series. This can’t be good for the game.

If the World Series goes 7 games, it will end on November 1. That’s too late. November is for football, elections and Thanksgiving, even the Arizona Fall League for the baseball diehards. But not the World Series.

It would be nice to have baseball scheduled in a way that was best for the players and the fans, rather than the TV networks. I’m sure any player would tell you he’d be willing to play through the snow to be in the World Series, but no need to actually test that claim.

While we are waiting for sanity to return to the schedule, let’s hope that the Rockies shake off their rust quickly for the sake of the competition, even though I fully expect (and hope) that the Red Sox will win it all.


Rockies’ Religiousity Crosses the Line

Arizona via Slough linked to an article by Andrew Gimbel from the Independent, a well-regarded newspaper in the U.K. It detailed the pervasive influence of "born-again" Christianity in the Rockies organization. In the article, called Batting for Jesus, Gimbel reported that:

The team’s chief executive is a born-again Christian. So is thegeneral manager and the team coach. Their two star players, along with
many other members of their regular line-up, are not only believers but
attend team-organised Bible studies.

The team doesn’t like to talk about it much – mainly because the
overlords of Major League Baseball don’t think it’s good for business –
but they have an explicit policy to recruit as many Christian ball
players as they can.

Gimbel cited as his source a USA Today article called Baseball’s Rockies Seek Revival at Two Levels  (6/1/06) in which Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd and other club officials talked about the team’s Christianity.

There’s things about this that are absolutely no problem, such as the Rockies looking for players of good character. Having a religion can (but not always does) confer that. There’s also nothing wrong with players, coaches, or front office personnel having a faith. Or magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse, and obscene rap music being banned from the clubhouse. And players who wish to come together for a Bible study should have the same right and opportunity to do so as players who wish to come together to play cards and video games.

But former Rockie Mark Sweeney hit the nail on the head when he told USA Today:

"They have a great group of guys over there, but
I’ve never been in a clubhouse where Christianity is the main purpose. You wonder if some people are going along with it just to
keep their jobs. Look, I pray every day. I have
faith. It’s always been part of my life. But I don’t want something
forced on me. Do they really have to check to see whether I have a Playboy in my locker?"

And that is the issue: the team organizes the Bible studies. The team strongly encourages Sunday chapel attendance. Would a player who is a good citizen, but also an atheist for example, be comfortable  knowing that his paycheck is signed by a "born-again"? If he were the guy sent down or DFA’d in a roster shuffle and told by the manager that he was the one chosen to leave because of a "numbers game," could he be sure that that, and not his lack of Christianity, was the real reason?

And as Gimbel points out in his article, the Rockies are one of the whitest teams in the majors. Does their particular brand of Christianity, and their location in a region of the country that is home to some major right-wing political and religious organizations, preclude black players from being drafted or traded for, even though African-Americans, as a group, have strong Christian roots? Pitcher LaTroy Hawkins is the one African-American. (The Rockies do have minorites: catcher Yorvit Torrealba, and pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales and Manny Corpas, and outfielder Willie Taveras are Latinos of color born outside the U.S. Pitcher Brian Fuentes is a Latino born in California. Second baseman Kaz Matsui is Japanese.)

If the Rockies win the World Series–I don’t think they will; the Red Sox are just too strong–but if they do, let’s hope we don’t see their followers hyping religion as the reason. With a different team winning the World Series every year this decade, God/dess is showering His/Her favor on just about everyone, if He/She really cares at all. (Take a look at my photo album called "An Astronomical Perspective" and ponder that question). The notion that a particular group of people have Divinity on their side is one of the deadliest ideas in the world.



Tying up Loose Ends

First of all, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox for coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win the American League pennant.  They seem to have patented the process of coming back from way behind.  Now I hope they Pound the Rocks!

22 people voted in my poll about how the Diamondbacks season would end: 2 thought they would lose the division series, 10 thought they would lose the NLCS, two more thought they would go on to the World Series but lose, and eight optimistic souls thought they would win it all.  Oh well, wait till next year!

Next poll asks voters to focus their crystal balls on Randy Johnson.  Come on over and make your prognostication on what he will do next year.  The best time to do this would be before noon Pacific Time, as the poll is only open for 100 views a day.

A review of Eric Byrnes’ year will come later.  I’m still crunching the numbers.


Congratulations, St. Louis Cardinals!

You’ve won the 2006 World Series in 5 games. The final score tonight was 4-2.

David Ekstein was named Series MVP. Jeff Weaver was the winning pitcher.

I was at an informal FCC hearing in downtown Oakland, so I missed most of the game. It was 2-1 Tigers when I left work to go to the hearing. But now I read that Justin Verlander, the Tigers starter made an error in the fourth that cost the team two runs.

Jim Leyland had better make pitchers’ fielding a top priority for hurlers in Spring Training. But that’s a long ways away from now. It is now officially Hot Stove Season.

Again, congrats, St. Louis Cardinals!