October 24th, 2004


Random Thoughts on Game 1

-- One of my favorite memories of playing softball in the URI summer league is from a championship game we played in. Our team (Chemistry) was playing what had been by far the best team in the league that year. By comparison, we were going to have to win the championship to get to .500. I came up to bat in the top of the ninth with two outs, a man on first, and us down a run. I'm a right-handed hitter, but I usually tried to hit the ball to the opposite field, because one of the axioms of playing in an intramural league is "Always hit it at the foreign kid in right." The other team knew this, and their captain (who was playing left) put a huge shift on for me, playing me as though I was a dead-pull left-handed hitter. The flaw in this tactic was, of course, that I am not left-handed. The pitcher threw me a pitch I could pull, and I hit a long line drive down the third base line for a triple. Tie game, and the next batter hit a single that scored me for the go-ahead run. The bottom of the inning ended with our center fielder throwing a perfect strike to home from deep in the outfield to nail the potential tying run at the plate, and we won the championship. It was a good day.

The reason I bring it up is that I remember the satisfaction I felt watching the back of the other team's captain as he chased down the ball I'd hit. I imagine Jim Edmonds must've felt the same way last night when he dropped that perfect bunt down the third base line where absolutely no one was playing because they had such an extreme shift on for him.

-- Oddball trivia department - Occasionally last night, Fox flashed the cover of a program from the 1967 series between the Sox and the Cards. I presume it must have been the program from St. Louis, because it shows the Cardinal catcher tagging out a Sox runner at the plate. The catcher's uniform number is 15, which makes sense, because the starting catcher for the Cardinals that year did, in fact, wear number 15. It was Tim McCarver.

-- There are a lot of comparisons being made between this series, and the '67 one, but I don't think they apply very well. The '67 series was about two guys, Bob Gibson, the best pitcher in baseball in the late sixties, and Carl Yastrzemski, the best player in baseball that year. Gibson threw three complete games, giving up only three runs in the series. Meanwhile, Lou Brock and Roger Maris were having a field day with Sox pitching. Yaz hit well, but he was the only one of the Sox that did.

A better comparison might be to the '75 series. The Cards are this year's version of the Big Red Machine, a team that can hit and field so well that it can get by with a mediocre pitching staff. There are differences. The Cards are probably a better team all around than the '75 Reds (and the '75 Reds were pretty good). The Sox pitching is better than it was in '75, and the hitting is a bit better, too, because in '75 the Sox lost Jim Rice just before the series. (The equivalent would be this year's Sox losing Ortiz.) Where the analogy really breaks down is with the Sox' fielding. The '75 Sox had six gold glovers on the field, including the entire outfield. The fielding helped keep them in the series. If it weren't for Dwight Evans making one of the greatest catches ever off Joe Morgan, Fisk would never have had a chance to hit his home run in game 6. The '04 Sox' fielding is atrocious, but they've been able to cover for it by hitting the shit out of the ball. I don't think we'll see many pitching duels.

-- There was a book-ended pair of plays in the outfield last night demonstrating the disparity in fielding ability. Early on Larry Walker had to make a very difficult play on a wind-blown pop up behind first, and he made it look fairly routine. He's got seven gold gloves so one expects him to make those plays. Manny Ramirez got a similar chance on the other side of the field, made a bit easier by the fact that the wind was blowing the ball back towards him, and he failed to get his glove pointing in the right direction to make the catch. He got to the ball in plenty off time. Then he let it bounce off the back of his glove. I mean, I could see it if he had the ball pop out of the glove because he was running so hard to get there. Stuff happens. But it hit the back of his glove. Somewhere in the stands, Yaz had to be weeping.