October 19th, 2004



Not one, but two amazing baseball games tonight. I was mostly watching the Sox-Yankees, which the Sox won in the 14th inning. Great game, every inning a nail-biter. Ortiz drove in the winning run for the Sox for the second night in a row. Meanwhile, down in Houston, the starting pitchers were each throwing one-hitters, a counterpoint to all the scoring that had gone on previously in the series. The only scoring came in the bottom of the ninth when Jeff Kent hit a walk off three-run home run.

I was too caught up in the games to take a lot of notes. veejane has a great description of the Sox game here. The game was so long that the blimp ran out of fuel and had to leave. Wakefield finally had a game where his knuckler was working. It was so good that Varitek was having a terrible time catching it. The game turned on a couple of things. When Pedro Martinez tires, he loses it quickly. He pitched well for five innings, but the Yanks wore him out in the sixth. On the other side of it, Mariano Rivera is no longer a mystery to the Sox, either, especially at Fenway. That's two blown saves in a row for him. The other thing that has hurt the Yankees in both of these games is something that didn't seem to be a big deal at first, John Olerud getting hurt in game 3. Tony Clark, his replacement, has been completely overmatched in his at bats, and he's stranded a bunch of runners. His bat just looks slow. McCarver mentioned that he a great off speed hitter. That's because he can't catch up with the fast ball any more, Tim.

McCarver really does seem to be mailing this one in.
Tim McCarver: This year in the National League, only one player batted over .300 while being 0-2 in the count.

Al Leiter: Who was it?

McCarver: I forget...
(It turned out to be Shea Hillenbrand)

By the time the Sox game was over, the Cardinals and Astros, who started three hours later, were in the eighth. The Cardinals are probably talking to themselves at this point. The best team in baseball is not supposed to be one-hit by a rookie. Now they're down 3-2, and they know that Roger Clemens will be pitching game 7 with Oswalt in the pen.

Tonight, the Sox are apparently going to go with Curt Schilling trying to do his best Willis Reed impersonation. They've got nobody else. If his ankle fails, it's probably all over.

OTOH, God does seem to be rooting for the Sox. Remember, the only reason Pedro was able to go last night was because of Friday's rain out. It's raining today, too. Is the Almighty stalling for time?

My Way's Not Very Sportsmanlike...

One noteworthy thing about the Dodgers-Cardinals NLDS actually occurred after the final out of the final game. At the apparent instigation of the Cards' Larry Walker, the two teams stayed on the field and congratulated each other, shaking hands and hugging in a display of sportsmanship that is rarely seen on the ball field. It was a nice moment, but apparently not everyone in baseball thought so. Among others, it bugged Bob Watson, MLB's V.P. of Discipline, who's a bit old school about these things. From Paul Sullivan's column in the Chicago Tribune:
Major League Baseball isn't in the business of telling its players how to react after games, but officials are discouraging teams from shaking hands on the field after postseason series, as the Cardinals and Dodgers did last weekend in Los Angeles.

"I don't like it," MLB disciplinarian Bob Watson said. "We do it at the Olympic level, but we play 162 games and (players) are not going to shake hands. Go ask Nolan Ryan if he's going to shake their hands after they beat you. We play a different game. They do it in hockey (in the playoffs), but that's a tradition.

"More times than not, after big series, teams go behind the scenes. They come by your clubhouse and say 'Way to go.' But not in front of 50,000 people."

Baseball has a rule against fraternization between opposing players on the field before and after games, but it’s seldom if ever enforced.

I'm pretty sure the non-fraternization rule came in the wake of the Black Sox scandal. Baseball became paranoid about anything that could be conceivably construed as players not competing to the best of their ability, and being buddies with opposing team members could make it appear that way. It's nonsense, and given the way players move from team to team these days, it's irrelevant.

Bill Rhoden of the Times takes up the subject as well in an excellent column in which he talks about both the handshake incident, and also some of the nastier things that have happened in recent baseball history. He does talk to Ryan, who tends to agree with Watson, but isn't nearly so harsh about it. (For that matter, Watson doesn't come off nearly as harsh in Rhoden's column, either.) Rhoden's conclusion is that he much prefers what happened on the field after the Cards-Dodgers than what has happened so often between the Yanks and the Sox.

I have to agree with that. I think it's crazy that what was a genuine moment of sportsmanship is being criticized. It was only after the final game of the series. Nobody has suggested that they do it at the end of every game.

I also have to admit I'm disappointed by Watson's comments (at least the first set), because he was a favorite of mine when he played. He's had a truly interesting career. As a young catcher with the Astros, he thought it would be good experience to volunteer to catch Jim Bouton in the bullpen whenever Bouton wanted to work on his knuckleball. One of the pitches broke his thumb. For his pain he gets plenty of mentions in Ball Four. In 1976, he gained notoriety by scoring the one millionth run in major league history. He played for both the Sox and the Yankees. He later became the first black general manager in baseball with the Astros, and he was the Yankee GM when the Yankees began their current run of pennants.

Meanwhile, I have one more reason to like Larry Walker.
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