Saturday, October 29, 2011

Cardinals 6, Rangers 2: The Loathsome Cardinals Win the 2011 World Series, But At Least It's Winter Now

A fifth World Series ring for the great catching Molinas
There was no way that even a genuinely remarkable Game Seven could have equaled the mad splendor of Game Six. We knew that going in, and we pretty much got what we expected all the way around: Chris Carpenter, starting on three days' rest but only starting at all because rain pushed these final games back, pitched into the seventh, the only trouble coming early on two runs in the first (back-to-back doubles from Micheal Young and the prophet Josh Hamilton); and the Rangers, as it turned out, used up all of there chances to win the World Series the night before, just like we'd figured. 

The 2-0 first-inning Texas lead evaporated later that same inning on MVP David Freese's two-run double, and Allen Craig's solo home run in the third put the Cardinals out in front for good. The game didn't feel well and truly over, though, until the sad debacle of the fifth. Reliever Scott Feldman, for whom we can only feel sympathy at this point, walked Craig, hit Pujols, and, after a Berkman ground out, was asked to put Freese aboard to load the bases with two away. A bases-loaded walk -- which is totally the worst kind -- on a close pitch brought Craig home, Washington to the mound, and C. J. Wilson in from the 'pen. With his first pitch of the game, Wilson plunked Rafael Furcal to plate another run. It was brutal

And that was pretty much that. After the best thirty-one days of baseball in my lifetime, the St. Louis Cardinals walked away with their eleventh World Series championship, perhaps the unlikeliest of them all. Good for them. You can't help but feel for the Rangers, the first team to drop back-to-back World Series since the Atlanta Braves of 1991 and 1992. Ron Washington is getting absolutely murdered in the papers and on the blogs, fairly or not, and you've got to wonder if he'll even be back after this. But there's no reason to think the Rangers can't survive the odd free agent loss and remain the class of the AL West for the foreseeable future; and with their young talent coming to the fore this postseason, and with the Brewers about to take a step back, the Cardinals look like they're going to remain relevant for a long time, too, with or without Albert Pujols. It's not inconceivable that these two teams could end up here again in a couple of years. It's almost entirely inconceivable, though, that they would be able to put together a series like this again, a seven-game thriller that featured the best single-game World Series performance in a generation, and one of the strangest and most compelling games we've ever seen. 

This one was a honey. Baseball is awesome.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Cardinals 10, Rangers 9 (F/11): Greatest Bad Game, or Baddest Great Game?

Mike Napoli, seen here dying inside, would have been World Series  MVP
Only a few short hours after the utterly ridiculous conclusion of last night's mad game, it became clear that Game Six of the 2011 World Series had joined the pantheon, and taken its place alongside all the familiar candidates for greatest game in World Series history. I mean, as soon the late innings began to take their strange shape, I was pretty sure that this was the best World Series game since at least Game Seven in 1997, and probably since Game Seven in 1991, so it's not like I needed to have that impression confirmed by outside sources, but I was struck by how widespread the agreement was, especially for a non-New York, non-Boston game, and how quickly it all came out: last night, it would seem we all agree, we probably watched one of the greatest games, if not the greatest game, in the one-hundred-and-seven-year history of the World Series. How about that! 

And what a mess it was: five errors, including balls just straight-up dropped out there; Micheal Young's continued inability to field any of the positions he is asked to field (heck of a hitter, but a true futility infielder); Matt Holiday's amazing trick of dropping an easy fly ball in left and getting picked off of third base (on a great throw by Mike Napoli and a crafty block of the bag by Adrian Beltre) at what was, at time, a crucial moment in the game and injuring himself in the process, thereby requiring the Cardinals to use up a bench player who should have been available to pinch hit; Tony La Russa running out of bench players completely, and burning two pitchers in the same at-bat, an at-bat that ended with a sacrifice bunt that was popped up and could easily have been turned into a triple play had Beltre been a shade less aggressive in his charge from third; Josh Hamilton hitting a two-run home run, his first of the postseason, in extra innings after God told him he would (nice of him to check in!); Ron Washington somehow leaving Scott Feldman in there to pitch to Berkman, which went about as well as you might expect; and a dozen other crazy things you can revisit in Steve Gardner's estimable and workmanlike live blog.   

And of course there was David Freese, whose two-run triple with two strikes and two out in the bottom of the ninth tied the game, and whose solo shot to leadoff the eleventh won it. Should the wall-shy Nelson Cruz been able to make a play on that lined shot to right in the ninth? It looked tough but playable, that's for sure. Had he gone all out for it and missed, though, it could easily have gone for an inside-the-park home run, as Hamilton didn't seem to be backing the play up at all (Ian Kinsler probably had a better shot at it at second base, given the way it came off the wall). In the end it was fitting that it was Freese who tied and won it: earlier in the game, in the fifth, actually, a Josh Hamilton pop up bounced off of Freese's head and fell to the ground for an error. As went Jeff Freese's night, so went everybody's. There's been a lot of vague talk about theatre in the papers today, which we can probably narrow in on a little: the game started out as a baffling absurdist play where the suffering, though at times comic, seemed not just situational but existential, and it ended with Henry V-levels of righteous slaughter if you're the Cardinals and some serious gouge-your-eyes-out shit if you're not. I have thought that sentence over for exactly as long as it took to type it so I'm pretty sure it's completely right.

Anyway, to conclude: best game ever, man.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

why baseball is the game of the nerds

This was in my morning paper, written by Tom Boswell (the dad from Happy Days) about this year's World Series...

The best World Series develop their themes and isolate unexpected key protagonists as they progress organically.
And sadly enough, that makes sense to me - even though there's like three "intellectual douchebag" red flags contained within. Baseball truly is the ultimate sport for wasted genius.

Rangers 4, Cardinals 2: La Russa Manages Worst Game Anyone Can Remember, Millions LOL

"oh shit that one was like a foot outside bro also hold on I am throwing out yr dude  for a sec" -- Mike Napoli
Something that keeps getting said today is that we really shouldn't let the truly unbelievably historically bad managerial performance turned in by widely celebrated baseball genius/arrogant aggravating mushmouth Tony La Russa completely obscure the fact that Ron Washington made some awfully odd moves last night, too. But my position is that we should totally let that happen, absolutely. Should Wash have put the potential winning run on with an intentional walk? Did he really need to IBB Pujols three times? Should he be batting Mike Napoli eighth? The answer to all of those questions is almost certainly no, but none of those tactical mistakes -- if that's what they are (note: yes, that is what they are) -- come anywhere close to the Bryan Clutterbuck crafted by TLR's expert hand. It was, in short, a masterpiece.

Forget sac bunting in the third inning ahead of Albert Pujols, thereby taking the bat out of the hands of the finest hitter in baseball since the gone-too-soon retirement of the gloriously enhanced Barry Bonds; that's nothing compared to what would follow. Nothing. Nuh.Thing

The eighth inning is where it really started to go downhill. Somehow, the game was tied at two at this point, despite C. J. Wilson walking pretty much everybody, and Chris Carpenter having pitched as well as one could have reasonably expected, really. La Russa shut Carpenter down, and brought in Octavio "Don't Ask" Dotel, a move that, in the frenzy of disapproval that has swept through the baseball internet in the last twenty-four hours (even more than usual amount!), has itself come under scrutiny, but I have absolutely no problem with bringing Dotel in at that point, none at all. Just because Michael Young doubled to open the inning, that doesn't make Dotel the wrong pitcher to have gone to in that moment, you know? I would like to know how many people thought it was nuts to bring in Dotel at the moment he was brought in; it could not have been many. La Russa did enough wrong last night -- more, in fact, than any other manager in a high profile game in living memory -- that there's no reason to make up extra stuff, in my view. Let us be content with what we have.

Anyway: a leadoff double to Young, and Dotel answers back with a big strikeout of Adrian Beltre. Then, madness. La Russa orders an intentional walk of Nelson Cruz. Really, Tony, you don't want Dotel, who has been money as hell, to go after this right-handed batter? Seems kind of crazy to put another runner on in a game this tight in this situation with Dotel on the hill, but OK! La Russa had determined that it was Rzeppin' time (he gets on extra grind when it's when it's Rzeppin' time), and it almost worked out: David Murphy hit one right back to the mound, and an excellent play by Scrabble could have turned that grounder into two outs, but instead it ricocheted away and all hands were safe. 

So. Bases loaded, tie game, eighth inning, reliable lefty -- that's reliable lefty -- Mark Rzepcyznski on the mound, and slugging catcher Mike Napoli comes to the plate as one of the best lefty-mashers in baseball this season (as measured by both conventional and advanced lefty-mashing metrics). And La Russa is apparently fine with this. Fine with it! Inexplicably, right-handed fireballer Jason Motte is nowhere to be seen. I can't imagine what Rzepcyznski is thinking at this moment beyond "fuck." A lined double to centre later, the Rangers are ahead 4-2. Scrabble, who is a mensch, strikes out Mitch Moreland, and is at last pulled in favour of a right hander out of the bullpen, but it's not Motte; it's Lance Lynn, who everybody thought was unavailable for Game 5. He comes into the game, issues an intentional walk to Ian Kinsler (hell of a player), and is replaced, finally, by Motte. That's right: Tony La Russa brought in a reliever to issue an intentional walk, and then leave. The manager most responsible for the senseless shape of the modern bullpen, loathed by all who are -- quite tragically, really -- capable of loathing anyone over, you know, the shape of the modern bullpen, had finally taken things not just too far, not just beyond too far, but beyond beyond too far: he'd brought in a righty reliever to issue an IBB while another righty finished his warmup. The broadcasters were baffled. The internet was bubbling like the sea itself when Poseidon, its master, rides atop it in his golden chariot drawn by golden horses and bridled in their golden reins and whatnot (look it up). "Fuck's sake," I may have uttered aloud. 

After the game, La Russa would mumble an explanation about the wrong message being received in the bullpen: he'd asked for Motte to be warmed up alongside Rzepczynski, and it hadn't happened, etc. He'd asked for Motte twice, he claimed, and hadn't gotten him either time. This was not his fault, he made clear to us. Apparently Joe Sheehan, in his subscriber-only email newsletter that I totally meant to sign up for a couple weeks ago but didn't, strenuously made the case this morning that La Russa's story does not add up, and that he is not to be believed on any of this, and that may very well be. But I would argue that even if things unfolded exactly as La Russa claims they did, this situation is still utterly his fault. It's not the fault of his bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist, nor the fault of the bullpen phone (only days after the New York Times' piece on bullpen phones, last bastion of the land line!). It's La Russa's. And part of being the guy in charge is just going out and saying, "We didn't get the right guy out there. It's on me. We're going to get it right next time." Don't bring anybody else into it; don't even mention Lilliquist's name. Take responsibility for the situation that is obviously the manager's responsibility: which pitcher is on the mound. To do otherwise looks, just, so shitty. 

Nearly as shitty: sending Allen Craig with Albert Pujols at the plate, and running into ridiculously costly outs in the late innings of a tight game. Word is that Pujols put the hit-and-run on with a sign in the seventh, and that's a horrible call, but OK, you can't exactly pin that one on La Russa (although you can question how wise it is to allow players, even all-time great players, to be making tactical decisions like that at crucial moments -- is it true that Tim McCarver said Dick Groat had that privilege with the old Cardinals? I have read that he said it but I am not a man of FOX so I have to take it on faith). But sending Craig again in the ninth, when you're down by two, could not possibly make less sense. The word "literally" has of course taken on a figurative meaning in recent years, particularly on these very internets, but I mean it in its original and true sense when I say that there is literally no justification for sending Craig three-times in a row on that 3-2 count with Pujols batting, down by two with nobody out in the ninth. La Russa offered something about wanting to blow that inning open by starting the runner and reduce somewhat the chance of the double play, but this is absurd. It is simply absurd. Craig wasn't helped by Pujols reaching for a pitch probably a whole foot off the plate, but there is nothing about this play that allows you to say "interesting idea, poor execution." That's not what happened. This was poor execution of an idea so terrible that no one who watched it live will ever forget how awful it was. Whether you subscribe to the old school of baseball strategy or the new, whether you are pre- or post- Bill James, you instantly knew how crazy this was. There is no approach to the glorious game of baseball that allows anyone to rationalize any of these decisions. Because they are all awful.

It was the worst managerial performance in a World Series game in my lifetime. And it made me so happy.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cardinals 16, Rangers 7: I Think I Hate Narrative

guess where this one's going
So, after Game 2, which apparently St. Louis totally lost because Albert Pujols made a whisper of an error cutting a ball off on a bad throw from right in the ninth, Pujols, along with a couple of other Cardinals veterans, declined to speak with the media. This meant we were in for a couple of days of the dumbest possible stuff, if you are foolish enough to read the papers, which apparently I am. Here are the two things I learned about Albert Pujols in the last few days: (i) he is selfish, and (ii) he is definitely not a leader. These things we now know, because Albert Pujols did not make himself available to answer "how did it feel when you . . .?" questions after an awesome game where everybody should have had more than enough to write about. The biggest unanswered question coming out of all of this, in my view, has nothing to do with why Pujols misplayed the cutoff; it's why anybody would ever want to ask Pujols about anything in the first place, since he is amazingly uninteresting even by the lofty standard of uninteresting set by professional athletes. He's a proselytizing evangelical who is sure as can be that "everything happens for a reason," which is all well and good for him, I suppose, except that it means that there is only really one answer to every single question the man has ever been asked, and at this point we've heard it. "Albert, talk about [thing that occurred in a baseball game]," he is invariably asked, to which he reliably replies, "Well, everything happens for a reason and [brushes off rest of question]." And that's fine. I don't care that he's a bad interview. I don't care that he espouses a worldview that I do not share or that he spoke at Glenn Beck's big stupid thing. None of that matters to me in the least for one simple reason, and that reason is dingers (or, if you prefer, taters); he hits them, and they are awesome. 

And last night, of course, Pujols dingers were in glorious abundance, but it is clear that we are not going to be allowed to just enjoy those dingers qua dingers, but instead as part of a narrative unfolding between Albert Pujols and the media, in which media members themselves now get to be part of the story, which seems to run like this: "Albert Pujols was silent after his decisive error in Game 2, but his big bat spoke volumes to us last night and answered many of the questions we had about him and so maybe he is indeed a leader of some kind even though we were sure a minute ago that he wasn't and that he was instead a fraud of some type PS this is still totally about us." Please note that in the previous sentence I am at once quoting both nobody and everybody. Even my main man (well, he is certainly among my mainest of men) Dan Shulman couldn't avoid this kind of nonsense last night on the ESPN Radio broadcast, which was a little dispiriting (though I will not hold it against him, and in fairness he did preface the matter a couple of times with words along the lines of "not everybody will care about any of this, but . . ."). Anyway, there's nothing interesting here, really. I don't know why I'm carrying on. Sportswriters have long been the worst; they continue to be the worst; here they are being the worst, etc. 

But hey, how about Albert Pujols! Before last night, nobody in World Series history had ever had four hits, two home runs, and five runs batted in the same game. Pujols, last night, went 5-6 with 3 HR and 6 RBI. The only other players to ever hit three home runs in a single World Series game are of course Babe Ruth, who did it twice, and Reggie Jackson with his cool glasses and earflapless batting helmet, as well you know. It was easily the most amazing single-game World Series performance by a batter in my lifetime, and it totally felt that way while it was going on. It was still totally a game until Pujol's three-run shot in the sixth, too: 8-6 is workable, whereas 11-6 is entirely not. So while this was not Jackson's three home runs on three pitches in a 4-3 game, it wasn't an utterly empty three-homer World Series game (if such a thing is even conceivable). And fourteen total bases? Totally a record (wordplay).

Hey, you know who had an awful night? Mike Napoli: a swipe tag at first that should have been a double play had Ron Kulpa not missed it (great call on the Kinsler slide in Game 2; horrible call here), a two-run throwing error, and thrown at the plate (click here to see that play, and watch the clip all the way through to see Ron Washington, like gallop in sympathy and anticipation). That sucks.   

Finally, tremendous propers to ESPN Radio's Bobby Valentine, who mentioned early on, when Pujols was hitting but lowly singles, that Albert looked totally dialed in and was right on the ball. Valentine was of the opinion that sooner or later, Pujols was probably going to hit one out last night. Good eye, Bobby V!


Friday, October 21, 2011

Rangers 2, Cardinals 1: While It Is Never Appropriate To Bite One's Nails, There Were Extenuating Circumstances Here In My View

You've got that right, second base umpire Ron Kulpa!
I loved this game, loved it. Good pitching and even better defense (especially up the middle by Kinsler and Andrus) kept things scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when the Cardinals eked out a run on an Allen Craig pinch hit off of Alexi Ogando (if this sounds familiar to you, this is with good reason). In the top of the ninth, the gloriously bearded Jason Motte came on in Scrabble's place, and got in trouble immediately: Ian Kinsler, who is in fact one hell of a player, singled on a ball barely pushed out of the infield. Kinsler then stole second despite a pretty much perfect throw by Yadier Molina, and I kind of can't believe Ron Kulpa got the call right: it was a tough one at a crucial moment in the game, and he was not swayed by the incredibly engaged crowd, so good for him. When Elvis Andrus singled up the middle, moving Kinsler to third, Andrus took second on a missed cutoff by Albert Pujols, who was charged with an error on the play, which I totally understand, because you have to account for that extra base, but yikes, that's a tough one. I must admit to having been a little surprised that La Russa pulled Motte and went to Arthur Rhodes at this point -- maybe leave Motte in and walk Josh Hamilton? I don't know. But what I should know is that Tony La Russa will take every opportunity to make a pitching change, so I should not have been surprised. Anyway, sac fly Hamilton, sac fly Micheal Young, and that was that. Neftali Feliz made things a bit worrisome with a leadoff walk in the bottom of the ninth, but it was, in the end, no trouble. 

A couple of other photographs before I take my leave of you. First, there is sad Jason Motte:

And a couple of images from Game One that I have been slow to attend to, both of which have come to me by way of the Getting Blanked blog. First, a closed caption for the ages:

Finally, we've got Wash throwing some BP.

I honestly had no idea what was going on under Ron Washington's cap and frankly I am frightened.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cardinals 3, Rangers 2: So I heard you liked pitching changes

Adrian Beltre feels that he fouled the ball of his foot in the ninth; home plate umpire Jerry Layne  is of the view that he grounded ineffectually to third.
A heck of a game! Admittedly, ten pitchers is kind of a lot, but I was feeling this one nevertheless, possibly because of a nasty case of World Series Fever that I seem to have contracted. Lots of little "well, that's baseball" moments in this one, not the least of which was Lance Berkman's two-run single in the fourth that chopped its way over first: he barely touched the thing, and yet, baseball. Mike Napoli got a little more of the two-run shot he hit to the opposite field in the next inning, and so we were knotted (as they say) at two when pinch hitter Allen Craig knocked in the go-ahead run off of Alexi Ogando in the sixth. The ball was just out of Nelson Cruz's sliding reach, and were it not for a kick-save-and-a-beauty stop with his left foot, that's probably a triple.

From there, it was bullpens bullpens bullpens, which, I mean, get used to it.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Collapse of the Red Sox, As Explained By Taiwanese News Animation

sooo fat
It would be a stretch to say that this is the best thing to come out of Boston's historically awesome September collapse: that title would probably go to Red Sox majority owner John Henry's completely ill-advised impromptu appearance on Boston's 98.5, The Sports Hub. Have you seen this, have you heard about this? Henry had been driving around listening to a couple of sports radio guys pore over the Boston Globe's impressively thorough muckraking account of Red Sox Activities Unbecoming of Sportsmen, basically, and he'd had enough. Henry showed up at the station, and took the hosts to task for over an hour. For the most part, he was as composed and articulate as you would expect John Henry to be, but he also managed to make a pretty enormous ass of himself when the radio guys (who arguably have names, but whatever) suggested that all the money spent on player contracts last off-season was more about public relations than baseball operations, that those decisions were directed by ownership, not by the recently departed Theo Epstein. Henry said that was a crazy idea -- and he's right, it totally is -- but to show just how crazy an idea that was, he said that he "personally opposed" the Carl Crawford signing, for example. To which one can only lol. One can only lol.

So yeah, that's the best thing to come out of all of this, but this is probably second best:


Washington, Washington

from left to right: cocaine, Ron Washington, Josh Hamilton
Because the medium through which we are communicating with one another is the internet, you are already well familiar with the original, and so why belabour it? Here is another one. Enjoy.

Furthermore . . .

In summation, if, when thinking about this year's World Series, you even for a second prefer Tony La Russa to Ron Washington, you are incorrect.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Cardinals 12, Brewers 6: Uecklear Holocaust

Everything in this picture other than Jason Motte's beard: contemptible.
Another brutal drubbing ends another League Championship Series with extreme prejudice. This is a shame. We all knew Shawn Marcum has been kind of awful for a while now, but I don't think anyone could have expected that he'd end his season with a four-run first and be replaced in the second. Nobody else really fared all that much better, so even though the Brewers managed to momentarily club their way back in it with two homers in a three-run second, this one started a laugher and finished a laugher. Unless you were Bob Uecker, in which case you sounded so sad.

I am with these guys.

Also this guy.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rangers 15, Tigers 5: Neil I Am So Sorry

Clearly there's no good way to lose game six of the American League Championship Series and end your season, but taking an early two-run lead only to go behind for good after a fourteen-batter, nine-run raging, vengeful butt of a third inning has got to be among the worst possible ways. Let it be said that I have absolutely nothing against the Texas Rangers: Jon Daniels has put together an impressive roster of largely non-contemptible guys who can hit, pitch, and catch the ball. The Rangers have gone long enough in their history as winners of absolutely nothing that it is entirely acceptable that they are now a team with back-to-back pennants and a great shot against whoever emerges from the NLCS (almost certainly the loathsome Cardinals, regrettably). Nelson Cruz hit six home runs in this series, which is bananas, and is rightly rewarded with victory. 

But it is really hard not to like the Tigers, even in the abstract, when all you're thinking about is that beautiful park, or those truly classic uniforms, or your childhood memories of Detroit being the great natural rival to your beloved Blue Jays (clearly I am writing in the mode in which "you" equates to "me" and either you are in or you are out, baby). That's a lot of affection before you even get to the particulars of, say, Miguel Cabrera, greatest baseball drunk of his generation, or Justin Verlander, game fireballer struggling to recover his unstoppable midseason form, or Jim Leyland, oldest and smokiest man to ever live. 

I will miss these 2011 Tigers of Detroit. With regard to their thrilling dispatching of the New York Yankees, I thank them for their service. With regard to Neil, let us pray for him in this time of loss and sorrow.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cardinals 7, Brewers 1: A Butt

You and me both Zack Greinke; you and me both.
Let's be real here: this game was a butt. Greinke didn't have it, and neither did anybody behind him, really -- I am thinking here of the four fielding errors on the night -- and the end result was a slow, methodical drubbing. The St. Louis starters continue to be ungreat, but the bullpen has been lights-out, so the Brewers have derived little benefit of late from this ungreatness. I don't know, man, this one feels over. Yes, we're headed back to Milwaukee, where the Brewers have been utterly ridiculous all year, but they've got Shawn Marcum on the hill tomorrow night, and he's been brutal for more than a month now. I heard him on the radio a few minutes ago being asked about getting knocked around pretty good of late, and whether or not that was something that was particularly on his mind as he gets ready to pitch tomorrow night. He answered that getting knocked around is nothing new to him, since he pitched in the AL East (I can verify that what Shawn Marcum described totally happened).

Just . . . I don't know.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Brewers 4, Cardinals 2: He Truly Was a Randy Wolf Out There

In there, imo.
Hands up, everybody who expected Randy Wolf to pitch seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball last night? The observant reader will note that my hand is not currently up. But good job, Randy Wolf! You were totally the most important of guys last night. The most exciting of guys, however, was Jerry Hairston, who was the lucky recipient of many of my wife's All-Star votes over the years based solely on what she rightly deemed his funny name, and who last night proved himself capable of pretty tremendous slides.  

Also, I don't think we've made enough of John Axford's tremendous look around here. I mean: 

Simcoe, Ontario's own!
And finally, the whole "Beast Mode" thing is probably a little less than awesome, to be perfectly honest, but what if it were a message expressed to you by a brassy lady in classic Brewers pinstripes with a homemade sign amid a sea of sad Cardinals fans?

This lady is like "Eat it, Cards," and I respect that
It would be at least a little better, right?


Tigers 7, Rangers 5: Baseball Is The Weirdest

Home Run King Delmon Young
If Adrian Beltre had gotten around on Justin Verlander's 102 MPH fastball the merest fraction of a second earlier with two on and two out in the fifth inning, and curled it just inside the foul pole down the right field line rather than just outside it, the Tigers are probably finished for the season. If, in the bottom of the sixth, Miguel Cabrera's tailor-made (like, we are talking bespoke) double play grounder hadn't bounced off of third base itself and hopped over the head of the sure-handed Beltre, the Tigers would not have hit for the first natural cycle in postseason history, capped by Delmon Young (of all people)'s second home run of the day. But all of these things happened, because baseball is the weirdest. And also the best! 

Jim Leyland came into the game saying there would be no Benoit and no Valverde, so it was going to be almost entirely up to Justin Verlander, who had not yet been sharp in this postseason. But Verlander lasted a borderline heroic 133 pitches, packing it in midway through the eighth inning, after Nelson Cruz hit a two-run shot, his record fifth home run of the ALCS. Phil Coke made things somewhat ticklish in relief, but nevertheless sealed the deal, which is all that can be asked of Phil Coke in my view.

And so now it's back to Texas, and while I've kind of got a bad feeling about this, I also kind of can't wait.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rangers 7, Tigers 3 (F/11): Rangers Cruz to Another Eleven-Inning Win Amirite?

Bless you and your two-RBI double Miguel Cabrera but it was not enough :(
To begin, let us all acknowledge that Rick Porcello did a great job, as did Alburquerque and Benoit in relief. And let's hear it for Brandon Inge, whose solo shot tied the game in the seventh. But man, Nelson Cruz; what can you say. Between throwing out Cabrera by a mile to end the eighth, and hitting the three-run home run that put the game out of reach in the eleventh -- his second eleventh-inning home run in as many nights -- that's just a hell of a game. Sure, nobody wants to get picked off first to end the top of the ninth in a tie game, but I am reasonably confident that nobody will remember that or care at all. 

And now a couple of pictures from the rain delay.


Cardinals 4, Brewers 3: I Do Not Want These St. Louis Cardinals To Win However I Fear They Will

Time to get paid / Blow up like the World Trade
A four-run first -- everybody loves doubles! -- was all the Cardinals needed last night, even though Chris Carpenter was not quite in three-hit-the-Phillies form. The St. Louis bullpen pitched four no-hit innings and didn't even so much as allow at dang walk the rest of the way, and the whole game kind of had this aspect about it:

Why does this series feel like it's over even though the Cards are only up 2-1? I hate that it feels that way.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011


He will no doubt do a fine job.

Hasn't this Red Sox collapse been the best, though? The Boston Globe has a thoroughly indignant piece about it all as you might expect. In recent weeks there have in fact be several! However, what really makes this one is the following:

Boston’s three elite starters went soft, their pitching as anemic as their work ethic. The indifference of Beckett, Lester, and Lackey in a time of crisis can be seen in what team sources say became their habit of drinking beer, eating fast-food fried chicken, and playing video games in the clubhouse during games while their teammates tried to salvage a once-promising season.
Which is awesome.


Tigers 5, Rangers 2: Miguel Cabrera Continues To Be The Best

Pickin' machine
It's not that he's the only one who had a great night for Detroit: Doug Fister pitched an admirable and vital seven-and-a-third; swift Ajax struck three hits in the leadoff spot; Victor Martinez homered on a swing that clearly injured him; and Jhonny Peralta overcame the handicap of a perplexingly spelled name to add a solo shot of his own. But Miguel Cabrera, with his RBI double, towering home run, and fine diving stop in the ninth, was the man of the hour, because he is the man of every hour, because he is the finest fat drunk to play the game in at least a generation. Neil has already told you everything you need to know, think, and feel about Miguel Cabrera, so I won't belabour the point, but we love him. You should too, if you don't already. Love him more because of his failings, not less. Miguel Cabrera. Love him. 

Also, here is a rad picture of Yoshinori Tateyama sidewinding one in there! 

Ty Cobb predates both (i) numbers and (ii) not hating all races. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cardinals 12, Brewers 3: Albert Pujols, Ladies and Gentlemen

Albert Pujols seen here looking insufficiently pleased with himself
Albert Pujols probably thinks it's cute that Ryan Braun is hitting .500 in the playoffs, but Pujols is hitting .556 now after last night's 4-5 with a home run and three fucking doubles. Poor Shaun Marcum, who just looks worn out, totally out of gas. I don't even know, man, this game was brutal. Let's just spend the off-day thinking about sausage races and reconvene tomorrow.



Rangers 7, Tigers 3 (F/11): I Don't Know, Nelson Cruz

Exciting, but somewhat gauche.
Really, Nelson Cruz? A walk-off grand slam? Not a seeing-eyed ground ball, or a little flare the other way? A crisp single to left, a lined shot into the corner, or even a ball to the gap would have been perfectly acceptable, but a walk-off grand slam, the first officially recorded in the history of postseason baseball, there is a certain muchness to it that is almost indecorous, unseemly. It is more than the moment demanded; I guess that is the nature of my grievance. Also I kind of want the Tigers to win this thing, so that is another aspect of my grievance.

Good for Cruz and everything, with his second home run of the night to win it (his first drew the Rangers even in the seventh after Ryan Raburn's three-run shot had put Detroit ahead in the early going). But what really stands out about last night's game for me was the pretty incredible ninth, in which both teams loaded the bases, but neither scored. There's a great video recap of the inning here (I apologize for linking you to so much Joe Buck, but my hands are tied on this one). Do you think Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont wishes he'd sent Ramon Santiago home on Don Kelly's double with two away? With two outs, the general rule would be to send the runner from first on that ball, but Nelson Cruz got to it quick and got it in even quicker, so what can you do? After a cowardly (not really) intentional walk to Cabrera, Victor Martinez, who has been money all year, popped up to very shallow centre. It nearly dropped in, and then really nearly dropped in as Elvis Andrus bobbled the ball. He jogged off the field grinning, fully aware that he'd just gotten away with one. 

Then Valverde came out and kind Valverde'd around a little: a lead-off double to Beltre that was smoked high off the wall; an intentional walk to Napoli; and an extremely hit batsman in the person of Nelson Cruz to load the bases with nobody out. After David Murphy's shallow fly ball to left for the first out, Cabrera and Alex Avila turned Mitch Moreland's broken bat grounder to first into a beautiful 3-2-3 double play to end the inning, the kind of unlikely play that everybody would be talking about today if the Tigers had gone on to win it, but they totally didn't, so . . .


Monday, October 10, 2011

Brewers 9, Cardinals 6: That Six-Run Fifth Was Bananas

As hard as baseballs get hit, ever.
Much is rightly made of the Milwaukee crowd. They're crazy loud, for starters, and there are a lot of them, and both of those things are excellent, but what gets me is, who tailgates baseball at all, let alone with the single-minded intensity of Brewers fans? "The grills were smokin'," Bob Uecker reported about yesterday's pregame festivities. I bet! Sausages are the best.

I'll tell you who was not the best, at least not yesterday, was Zack Greinke, who recently denounced Chris Carpenter as "phony," which is pretty cold: six runs on eight hits and couple of walks in six innings is rarely going to get it done. Fortunately for him, though, Ryan Braun hit one out in the first -- Jaime Garcia responded by putting Prince Fielder on his considerable ass, although I can totally buy that it wasn't intentional, given that he was wild that entire inning -- and then the fifth inning was, as I may have already mentioned, bananas. If you haven't seen it, or if you have seen it, but without the accompaniment of Bob Uecker, you really should click here. Our highlight joins the inning already well under way, after a Cory Hart single and a double from Jerry Hairston; you'll see and hear the TBS call of Ryan Braun's ground rule double (what a crazy bounce!). Then you will hear Bob Uecker call Prince Fielder's two-run, Delgado-esque lined shot that leaves the ballpark as quickly as a baseball can do anything at all, really, and what I really love about the clip is not just how worked up Uecker gets, nor how worked up Fielder is as he crosses the plate and plays to the crowd and his teammates; the best part is just after that, when he's walking towards the end of the dugout, nobody else around him, and he's still completely riled up, as though all that other stuff he's done was for show, and now that he's alone he can really let go. Also stay tuned for Ueck's call of Yuniesky Betancourt's two run dinger: "HERE COMES YUNI BEEEEEEEEEE!" You will note that the mighty wallop was struck off of the hangingest breaking ball anyone has ever seen not just from Octavio "Don't Ask" Dotel, but, like, ever, as in ever ever.    

Despite the bananity of all of that, it could very well have been for naught, as Albert Pujols came up with two on and nobody out in the seventh. That he grounded into a classic, around-the-horn 5-4-3 double play to plate a run but end the threat of the big inning, was legitimately surprising to me, as I figured he would have launched one, you know? Since he is arguably the greatest right-handed hitter since Hank Greenberg? But double play ground balls happen, man, they just happen. What can be done? Here's a photograph of Albert Pujols from yesterday that I like -- it's not the double play ball; it's his single in the first, but here it is all the same:

I am all about pictures at the plate where you see the batter, catcher, and umpire all looking in exactly the same direction for a second. I can't say why. Also I am all about yesterday's game, and in this case I can say why: it is because it was so awesome and exciting.


Oh Right, Japan

#3140 in your program, #1 in your heart
Maybe you, like me, are not getting through every issue of The Economist lately (even though you really should), and so you are not as up on how things are going in Japan these days as you might otherwise be. If that is the case, you might enjoy the lead story on the Globe and Mail webpage on this Thanksgiving Monday, aka No-News-in-Canada Day. "The hometown Rakuten Eagles are lagging in the standings this year, but it doesn’t matter," we are told. "The fact that there’s baseball being played at all in Sendai this year is a triumph." Well, sure. Absolutely. 


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baseball On The Radio In These Important Times

May I ask how, exactly, you are going about these League Championship Series, friends? As I have previously mentioned, I'm an all-audio guy right now with thoroughly cancelled cable and a humble Gameday subscription. I am not bemoaning this situation; it is entirely my preference. But if you are watching the games on TBS and Fox, is it possible for you to enjoy them with the sound up?

With the NLCS, the TBS clips that are coming up on reveal a certain not-greatness to the broadcasts, and if we are going to be straight with one another one of the first things we would have to talk about in that spirit of straightness would be the fact that any station that would employ Buck Martinez in any capacity for any series ever is questionable, so whether he is working any one particular series or not, he casts a long shadow. Fortunately, the sound-down options are pretty good for the NLCS: Jon Sciambi and Bobby Valentine aren't going to do you any harm at all on ESPN Radio (stream it live from! I dare you!), and Bob Uecker is of course relentlessly, almost antagonistically awesome on WTMJ. On a recent episode of FanGraphs Audio, poet, hipster, and baseball ironist Carson Cistulli determined (with the help of Dave Cameron) that while Vin Scully is arguably superior in terms of actually telling you things that are happening during a baseball game, Scully is like a wonderful grandfather, whereas Uecker is like an amazing uncle, which gets it exactly right, and makes me even gladder than ever that they are both still in our lives despite being astoundingly old. Really, it's almost unthinkable to me that anyone would willingly opt for anything but Uecker for this NLCS, but you're entirely OK if you have to go with ESPN (I have no idea about the St. Louis broadcast, because they mostly talk about the Cardinals, which is an understandable but unfortunate situation).

Over in the American League, you can put aside the perfectly fine WXYT Detroit and KESN Dallas local crews because you've got Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser on ESPN Radio. The secretly Canadian Dan Shulman is by far the best of the guys who are not ancient, and Orel Hershiser is awkward but extremely knowledgeable (also the baseball glove I use to this day is an Orel Hershiser model, though I am considering a new glove for next spring, to be honest). This is basically the sweetest possible relief from the annual Joe Buck horror show on Fox, whether it is with his usual partner Tim McCarver (whom we at Baseball Feelings wish a speedy recovery from heart surgery) or, because he is making news in recent days, I guess, Terry Francona this time around. It doesn't matter who you pair with Joe Buck; he's still the worst. The choice between Dan Shulman and Joe Buck is like if you had a skin condition, or something, and you had to decide between a soothing balm and fire ants: I would literally never take the ants.

Your thoughts?


Rangers 3, Tigers 2: Maybe Justin Verlander's Arm is An Affront to God

if you do not enjoy a brick backdrop behind home plate then we are very different people
What if Justin Verlander is like a quilt without a flawed stitch, and comes too close to perfection, which offends Him, and so He, in His infinite wisdom, makes it rain as though He were Jim Jones featuring Lil' Wayne, and compels Tim Welke to squeeze him (as opposed to Him) on the corners? Am I wrong? Almost certainly, yes. I admit that I went to bed at the beginning of the second rain delay, and so was not witness to the remaining several innings in which no runs were scored, and so I am just a guy with a box score and a video highlight package from MLB Advanced Media, so rather than attempting any kind of analysis here I would instead like to show you pictures of both managers from last night's game that kind of capture the essence of the respective dudes, in my view:

Not pictured: cigarettes between every finger on either hand.

. . . high five high five high five high five high five high five high five high five high . . .
And here's a picture of Leyland and Washington hanging out at the cage:

Ron Washington: Oh yeah, you saw it?
Jim Leyland: Yeah man I really liked that one scene where you were at Hatteberg's house and Brad Pitt was like "it's not that hard; tell 'em, Wash" and you were like "it's incredibly hard" and I was like lol
This one is maybe even better:

Above: baseball managers
I also really like these two of Cabrera and Josh Hamilton -- imagine, if you dare, the shenanigan/monkey shine potential of this pairing--about to head in at the start of the second rain delay:

rainin' hard or hardly rainin' lol

seriously though let's get together
Something I am always on the lookout for is photographs of pitcher's follow-throughs -- I can't explain why -- and this game did not disappoint:

Anyway, I could spend all morning showing you photos from a baseball game I didn't watch all the way through, but eventually you just have to start your day, you know? Even Sundays.