Results tagged ‘ World Series ’
Anyone who has listened to the radio, watched television or read a newspaper during an election year knows they’ll see or hear it at least once: the political ad that shows what an uncaring, mean so and so my opponent is because he or she supported or didn’t support this cause during this vote. Needless to say, if one takes some time to take a look at things more in context, they’ll find that maybe that mean uncaring so and so supported or didn’t support that cause because in doing so, they could also be voting for raising the debt ceiling by $5 trillion dollars or voting to downsize the military by three million soldiers.
Sometimes you have to train yourself to look at things in context. It’s easy to take things at face value but sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find what the story is.
This happens in baseball all the time. For players and management it happens when a contract goes to arbitration. Management says, “Yeah, he hit.320 for the year, but he only hit a buck-50 with runners on third and less than two outs. He’s a bum I tell ya!” Player’s agent counters with, “That buck-50 doesn’t count as much as the .400 OBP he had in the same situation because of all the intentional walks they gave him!” And on and on it goes.
Here’s a particular load of goods we baseball fans have been subjected to for years: Major League baseball is in decline. It’s only the third most popular professional sport. We buy into it completely, having discussions on sports talk radio about how to save baseball, how to get our kids playing baseball again, etc.
Today I read the headline I was expecting to read sooner or later. It called this year’s World Series between the Tigers and Giants the least-watched World Series and later referred to its “record-low rating.” These headlines have pervaded the conversation for years now.
Yes, the headline is accurate. This year’s World Series averaged a little under 13 million viewers per night. That’s the smallest audience since the folks at Nielsen started their People Meter service in 1987.
Let’s take this in context, though. Even with a record low rating, it turns out that four of the nation’s top twenty shows for the past week were either World Series games or the World Series pre-game show. Four of the top twenty shows. That’s pretty good.
What many in the media assume is because the ratings have sunk, the interest in baseball is down as well. Again this is not true.
If interest in baseball was so bad, why are record moneys being paid for the local rights to games? The Rangers start on a new $1 billion contract with Fox Sports Southwest in 2014. The Angels recently signed a huge extension with Fox Sports West.
Look at the stadiums. The year I graduated from college, 1978, a team that drew over 2 million fans was a big deal. Of the 26 teams in MLB that year, the LA Dodgers drew over 3 million fans. Another 5 teams drew over 2 million. Six teams didn’t even manage to get a million fans through the turnstiles on the season.
In 2012, every team in baseball drew at least 1.5 million fans. 23 out of 30 teams drew over 2 million fans. Nine teams drew over 3 million. Does that sound like diminishing interest to you?
The NFL’s Super Bowl gets monster ratings every year because it’s a one game do or die. It will always outrank the World Series, the NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup Finals for this reason alone. A one and done will beat a best of seven every time.
I can think of one other good reason for lower TV ratings for the World Series. Unlike the NFL, which has truly become national in the way every team is presented, baseball is very much a local market sport throughout the regular season. Just about every team has a TV contract that let the home fans view just about every game of the season. The “national” games on Fox aren’t really national. They show different games in different regions of the country. Unlike the NFL, baseball fans want to see “their” team. Once their team is out of contention, they often stop watching. I’ll even admit to not seeing more than three innings total of this year’s World Series myself.
Maybe ratings are in decline. But the Series is still one of television’s most-watched shows every year when it’s on. And the TV ratings do NOT correlate with a diminishing interest in the game. It just ain’t so.
Another game, another night without Mike Olt in the line-up for the Texas Rangers. When this occurred yesterday, I noticed a tweet which set out to prove, in 140 characters or less, that Rangers manager Ron Washington is biased against rookies and refuses to play them in favor of his veterans. The tweet stated that, in Wash’s tenure as manager of the Rangers, the only “first year” players to even get 200 at bats in a season have been Elvis Andrus, Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, Mitch Moreland and Justin Smoak.
Is it true? Does Wash favor his veterans at the expense of the rookies? I did a little digging. The answer? Compared to other managers in recent history, Wash actually has used those first year players even more than others!
The person who put forth the tweet merely said first year players. That’s different than players who are still technically rookies. First year simply means the first year they appeared in a Rangers uniform, even if it was a September call-up.
That being the parameter, I looked up the history of the following major league managers: Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia. In the case of Scioscia, I’ve gone through his entire managerial career. For Francona and Manuel, I’ve focused on five-year spans in which their teams were contenders to go to the World Series.
Francona won a World Series his first year with the Red Sox in 2004. That year, first-year Kevin Youklis got over 200 AB’s. In the ensuing four seasons, the only players to exceed the magic 200 AB plateau were Dustin Pedroia in 2007 and Jed Lowrie in 2008. Three players in five years.
For Manuel the results are even more striking. Starting in 2007, the year before the Phillies won the World Series, through 2011, there has not been one season in which a first year player received more than 200 at bats.
Finally, looking at Scioscia’s managerial career from 2000 to 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels, we find that first year players under Scioscia have only fared well in one season. In 2006, three first year players got more than 200 at bats: Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick. In not one of the other 11 seasons Scioscia has managed the Angels has a first year player accrued more than 200 at bats in a season.
Like the Rangers, all three of these other teams have been in what could be considered World Series “windows”, years in which they had a chance to go far in the playoffs or were just a year away from being there. In just six years of managing, Ron Washington has managed to give more playing time to first-year players than any other.
So does Wash favor his veterans? No more than any other manager in his situation. And maybe even a little less.
A saber-oriented writer for one of the Rangers fan sites I frequent recently took manager Ron Washington to task recently for some of the moves he made in Games 6 & 7 of the World Series. While his article made sure to point out its author actually likes Wash and thinks he’s a good fit for this team, he advances the same arguments about Wash doing things too much by feel and not enough by “The Book” (the publication that uses advance mathematics to show what the best percentage play is in certain situations).
My last post addressed the way I looked at the specific decisions Wash made that were brought up in the article. Today I want to look at the Game 7 “shortcomings”. There were two in Game 7:
1) The decision to have Elvis Andrus sacrifice Ian Kinsler to second with no outs and a 2-1 count in a 3-2 game in the top of the 5th; and
2) The decision to intentionally walk David Freese in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with two outs. Another walk and a hit by pitch later and the Cardinals were up 5-2, en route to a 6-2 win and the World Series Championship.
Again, I don’t fault Wash on either of these decisions.
I know “The Book” is not a fan of the sacrifice bunt. Under almost any circumstances. Apparently giving up an out to advance a runner is not the mathematically correct play. This decision, though, is one in which I think saberists and “The Book” can miss a point- While the sacrifice bunt isn’t the best move in the wide scheme of things, sometimes one has to look at specifically the game that is being played to guide your reasoning. I’ve seen Wash use this same reasoning before. I understand it and I agree with it.
Trailing 3-2, Ian Kinsler led off the top of the fifth with a ground ball single to left field. This was only the Rangers second hit since the first inning. Both of those hits were ground ball singles. In other words, they weren’t hit very hard, they were just placed very well. Other than that, Texas had one fly out, five groundouts and three strikeouts against Chris Carpenter (who also had a walk and a HBP in this time). In other words, the Rangers weren’t hitting the ball very well off Carpenter and Kinsler’s hit didn’t do anything to alter the manager’s thinking that Carpenter had any less stuff. Andrus came to bat with almost as many strikeouts as he had hits in the World Series (8 hits, 7 K’s) and only one extra base hit in the Series. When his team isn’t hitting well, Wash uses things like the sacrifice bunt to try to make something happen. He’ll also use the Rangers speed. In this case, speed wasn’t an option. Yadier Molina pretty much clamped down on the Rangers running game the entire Series, so Wash went with the sacrifice bunt. In this case, it didn’t work. Josh Hamilton proceeded to foul out and Michael Young struck out to end the “threat”.
The intentional walk came in the bottom of the fifth. Scott Feldman had relieved Matt Harrison. Following a groundout to open the frame, Feldman walked Allen Craig and hit Albert Pujols with a pitch. After a groundout put runners on second and third with two out, Wash had Feldman intentionally walk David Freese to load the bases. The rest is history. Yadier Molina walked on a pitch that looked like it was well within the lower part of the strike zone to be strike 3. Instead, a run came home. CJ Wilson relieved Feldman and hit Rafael Furcal, bringing home the 5th run of the game and the Series was essentially over at that point.
Again, here’s what I don’t understand. Countless times in countless ballgames, you will see a similar situation come up. Sometimes they pitch to the guy with runners on second and third and sometimes they walk the guy, intentionally or unintentionally-intentionally, in order to set up a force at any base. Most of the time in the latter cases, it’s because the batter is a particularly dangerous one, capable of doing severe damage with one swing of the bat. David Freese would seem to qualify on that count, seeing as he was named the World Series MVP. Admittedly, I’ve never read “The Book”, so I don’t know why this is such a bad percentage play, but I think I’d much rather face Molina with the bases loaded than Freese with two on. Just as Wash did.
I’m under no illusions. I know Wash makes some real head-scratching decisions at times. It just seems to me some folks get way too nit-picky in pointing out flaws in a manager’s logic. It’s possible to disagree without going to extra lengths to “prove” someone wrong. All it does is make guys like me write lengthy posts to “prove” he was right!
If there’s one thing one can discern from visiting Texas Rangers fan sites, it is this: Ron Washington is not good at in-game management. Saberists on a daily basis are pretty quick to point out every case in which Wash didn’t do things by “The Book”. Not the Bible, not the Baseball Rule Book. “The Book” by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, in which the authors make eloquent saber-based arguments for the best percentage plays in certain game circumstances. Even if fans disregarded “The Book”, they would find plenty of other Wash sins of omission or commission during the course of a game. Sometimes, I think some of them are just making things up to let their distaste for the manager be known.
One can only imagine, then, the number of fans ready to pillory Washington for some of his moves during Games 6 & 7 of the World Series. I understand the feeling. These two losses rank up there as the most painful losses in Texas Rangers history. We as fans also like to look for scapegoats when losses occur, find someone to blame. The manager, of course, is first on the firing line.
I really didn’t want to revisit the last two games of the 2011 World Series. The wound is still pretty fresh to me. To some, this post might come too long after the fact to keep your interest. I understand that, too, but I feel the need to talk about it after reading one article on one of the sites I read on a regular basis.
The author, a saber-oriented guy who also says he likes Wash, wrote he was still bugged about the moves he made in Games 6 & 7. I don’t totally disagree with every single one of them, but feel strongly enough about the main ones that I wanted to put it out there and see what anyone else thought.
Here are the Wash criticisms he had in Game 6:
1) Not hitting for Colby Lewis with the bases loaded in the 5th inning.
2) Bringing in Alexi Ogando with the sacks jammed in the 6th.
3) Replacing Neftali Feliz with Darren Oliver in the 10th.
4) Pinch-hitting Esteban German for Scott Feldman in the 11th and bringing Mark Lowe in.
The first item is the biggest for me. Even Tim McCarver was saying the same thing on the national broadcast: you’ve GOT to pinch-hit for Lewis in this situation. And yet I disagree with the contention. In fact,I thought this non-move by Wash was what very nearly won the Rangers the World Series. At the time, Texas was up 4-3 on the Cards. The Cards had tied the game at 3 in the 4th, but this is what should also have been noted at the time: Lewis had not given up a hit since the 1st inning! The Cards went three up and three down in the 2nd and 3rd and scored their run in the 4th without benefit of a hit on an error, a walk and two groundouts. Lewis was hardly struggling massively at this time. By not pinch-hitting for Lewis, the Rangers may have lowered their scoring chances in the 5th, but they also ended up getting almost two more innings of work out of Lewis, including a 1-2-3 fifth. Looking at what the bullpen subsequently did, in retrospect it was the right move as well.
Item 2: I understand the contention about bringing Ogando in, only because Alexi did not have a good World Series. I don’t believe he even had one good game, except for his Game 7 one pitch outing.
Item 3: Again, I have no earthly idea why this was such a controversial decision on Wash’s part. Sure, Feliz is your closer, but he also had just finished giving up two runs to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. How many relievers get the chance to go out for another inning after they’d already blown the save once? Some could argue maybe this is so, but Wash should have brought in Mike Gonzalez instead of Darren Oliver because Gonzalez throws harder. I might agree, except this was potentially the clinching game of the World Series. I would want my most experienced guy out there, the one whose nerves are probably the least on edge. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong choice, as Oliver picked a terrible time to have a bad game.
Item 4: Lastly there was the decision to pinch-hit for Feldman in the top of the 11th. Geez, first they take Wash to task for not pinch-hitting for the pitcher, then he gets it for pinch-hitting for the pitcher! Actually, I’m pretty sure the only reason Wash pinch-hit for his long reliever was because Nelson Cruz’ groin injury was enough to take him out of the game. I think Wash was hoping German could provide some offense to help put Texas on top again and get it over with quickly because he really didn’t have a decent right fielder if the game were to go on for a lot of innings. It was a calculated gamble that failed. As for bringing Lowe in for the 11th, it was either him or Gonzalez. There was no one else left in the bullpen.
Honestly, the Rangers didn’t lose Game 6 because of Wash. They lost it because in three distinct situations during the game, one of the Rangers made a poor decision in the field, a decision every single one of those players make correctly 999 times out of 1,000. Michael Young thought about going to second base instead of getting the sure out at first, bobbled the ball as a result of his indecision and failed to get anyone out; Elvis Andrus passed up a throw for a force-out at second to throw Matt Holliday out at first and Holliday beat the throw; and Nelson Cruz either misjudged the flight of the ball or where the wall was on David Freese’s game tying ninth inning triple. I don’t blame Wash at all for the Game 6 loss. I thought all in all, he managed the game pretty well.
Wash may not always make decisions by “The Book”, but I think he also has a much better grasp on what’s going on in the game than a lot of people give him credit for. I don’t agree with every decision Wash makes (for example, I would’ve let Mike Adams start the 9th inning. He pitched a solid 8th and it would’ve taken some of the pressure off Feliz), but I’ve also come to understand the whys of some of the decisions he does make and find myself agreeing with his reasons more often than not.
This post is getting extremely long, so I’ll give my follow-up on the Game 7 decisions this weekend.
Anger. Disappointment. Frustration.
I admit it. Mere minutes after watching my beloved Rangers drop Game 7 of the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, I can’t help but feel negative thoughts about this great group of 25 young men who came within an eyelash of being World Champions themselves. Anger at watching the offense once again fall victim to a finesse pitcher who looked very hittable in every one of the six plus innings he pitched. Disappointment in a pitching staff who looked more like they were trying to keep from losing than actually confidently going for a win. Frustration in knowing in my heart that my team was the better team but once again fell short of the prize they had worked all year for.
I’ve cited one Ron Washington before and I’ll cite him again. Wash always says it’s not about who has the best team but who plays the best baseball. In the case of this World Series, maybe that’s not even correct. The Cardinals didn’t play the best baseball, they played better baseball. Neither team played their best, really.
I hated seeing Chris Carpenter throw an assortment of junk and baffling the Rangers hitters, while at the same time thinking he probably deserves to be the Series MVP.
It’s hard watching a team celebrate their well-earned victory while knowing that, with the exception of the first baseman, I don’t know if they have any position players I’d rather have than their current Rangers counterpart (I really love Yadier Molina, though. Just wouldn’t swap him for Napoli considering the year he had this year.). I felt the same way about the Giants last year. Offensively, the Rangers have been the superior team going into the Series two years in a row. Two years in a row, the opposition’s offense found more ways to do the job, while their pitching staff figured out how to slow the Rangers down. Incredibly frustrating.
Nobody wants to believe this. I don’t want to believe it, but it’s time for American League folks to realize the National League has superior pitching. The Giants had it last year. The Cardinals had it this year. It sometimes seems baffling, because I see pitchers like Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson, who’ve been hit around when they were in the American League, resurrect their careers in the National League. In fact, four of the Cardinals pitchers were pitching in the American League earlier this season. One of them, Arthur Rhodes, pitched for the Rangers and did so poorly they had to release him. Naturally, he pitched well in the Series against Texas.
I had to watch a Game 6 in which both teams made really unnecessary and ugly errors, but it was the ones my team made that came at the most critical juncture of the game. I could live with the errors if they were honest ones. The ones Texas made late in the game came out of bad decisions, something I’ve rarely seen this team do: Elvis Andrus not throwing to second for a force-out, only to see Matt Holliday beat his throw to first; Michael Young thinking for a split second about throwing to second, then bobbling the ball and not even getting the out at first; Nelson Cruz apparently misjudging either how far away the wall was or where the ball was, resulting in David Freese’s game-tying triple in the 9th inning. I saw our starting pitchers, so good in the regular season, struggle night in and night out, with one glaring exception in Derek Holland. In Game 7, I could sense the fear in Matt Harrison’s eyes.
For two games, I got incredibly tired of the Cardinals scoring runs while hearing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver say “without a ball leaving the infield.” A World Series record number of walks. Not to mention the hit batters. Not pretty at all.
I’ve just heard David Freese announced as the MVP. Just as deserving as Carpenter, I suppose, but my goodness, that boy needs to work on his defense.
The good news for Texas is most of this team will be back in 2012. CJ Wilson may or may not be back, but he’s about the only critical piece. I just read today that pitching coach Mike Maddux may be considered for the Red Sox managing job. I hope that doesn’t happen. He’s been the best pitching coach in the history of the franchise.
One year ago, it was good to be there. Losing to the Giants in 5 games wasn’t fun, but for fans like me who’d never experienced it before, we were proud of our boys. This year, there were real expectations, and they almost came to fruition. One strike away. Twice. Like every other fan, and like every Rangers player, I’ll get over it soon enough. When late February comes around, I’ll have that same sense of optimism when the boys head to Surprise, Arizona for Spring Training. I also fully expect the Texas Rangers to be right back in the World Series hunt and maybe this time, they’ll get that final strike to put it away.
At this moment in time, though, this hurts. This hurts a lot. As much as it pains me to do so, in all sincerity I say congratulations St. Louis Cardinals. You deserved it. You really did.
One strike away. Twice.
Disappointment reigns. All the signs pointed to the Rangers walking off the field as World Champions tonight yet, in the end, it was an exuberant Cardinals crowd cheering an extra innings victory on a David Freese home run.
Early on, it was a game nobody seemed to want to win. With fielding straight out of Little League, the unearned runs piled up as leads changed hands and ties were attained. The Rangers started out on top. The Cards would come back. The Rangers would retake the lead. The Cardinals would come back. First the runs scored on miscues by fielders. Then they started scoring on longballs. There was Adrian Beltre going yard. The Nelson Cruz made it back to back jacks. But here came the Cardinals, down to their last strike in the 9th, getting a 2-run triple when Cruz thought he was closer to the right field wall than he was and missed the catch, plating the tying runs.
An inning later, there was Josh Hamilton, going yard for the first time in the entire playoffs and putting the Rangers back up by two. But then there was Lance Berkman, tying the game with a single on a two-out, two-strike pitch, sending it to yet another extra frame and frustrating the Texas faithful.
Finally it was Freese, hitting a lead-off walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th to tie the Series at 3 games apiece and sending a drained Rangers fandom to bed with dreams of “What If’ dancing in their heads.
There were victims on both sides as well. Matt Holliday left the game with a severely jammed finger. Nelson Cruz looks like he tweaked his ever-problematic hamstring in the last inning, which probably accounted for Ron Washington’s strange decision to pinch-hit for Scott Feldman, his only long reliever. Mike Napoli almost went down when he twisted his ankle badly early in the game.
All night long, I felt confident this was the night. It kept looking that way. 18-Year-Ranger-Fan chastised me for starting a countdown in the 7th inning of outs needed to win it all. I was not deterred. Fans have their own superstitions. The countdown has usually been one of mine, but I trusted it was going to happen and I know this loss had nothing to do with my tweeting a countdown. Hey, I was wearing the same Rangers shirt I’ve worn for every win this Series tonight (now THAT was a superstition) and it didn’t work like a charm the way it did in games 2, 4 and 5. So, in a further slap int he face of superstitions, I’ll wear a different Rangers shirt for the decisive game Friday night.
More power to the Cards. They refused to die, just as the Rangers refused to die. I drink the Wash Kool-Aid now. I know exactly what he’s going to say at the post-game press conference. “We didn’t do it tonight. We’ll put it behind us, get a good night’s sleep and go do it again tomorrow and see if it works out better for us.”
The Rangers to a man believe that. I still believe it will, too.
This is a feeling I’ve had only once before. It was over thirty years ago. My first child was on its way. A trip to the hospital. Everything running smoothly. It looks to be just another hour or so and then…the labor stopped. Completely. No more contractions. No more nothing. About four hours later, the doctors decided it was time to medically re-induce labor. Finally, the child known to you through this blog as 18-Year-Ranger-Fan said hello to the world.
Over thirty years later, the same feeling has hit me. The first event carried more importance, certainly, and does to this very day. This latest event, though, has been 42 years in the making for this fan. With just a single victory to go for my favorite team to claim their first World Series title (and yes, I know it still isn’t assured), the baseball Gods stopped labor. Game 6 called due to rain. Like 30 years ago, I’ll probably start pacing by mid-afternoon tomorrow before labor is re-induced Thursday night at 7:05 CDT. So close, so anticipated, then nothing. And there’s nothing I can do to change things.
I was certainly glad to hear it was misting heavily at Busch Stadium just two hours before Game 6 would have started. When the postponement was announced, it was not raining at the stadium. The tarp wasn’t even down on the infield. Still, the possibility remains the hard rain will never fall. If that were to occur, the Rangers would hold the newest record in the books: Most Post-Season Games Postponed Due To Rain That Never Fell. It happened once already in the ALCS. Why not the World Series too?
I have no doubt the postponement was strictly because the Commissioner’s Office was afraid Game 6 would have multiple rain delays were they to decide to play on. Not good for ratings, especially if this becomes the clinching game. Again, before I go further, let me reiterate: I DON’T BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES SURROUNDING THIS POSTPONEMENT!!!
Now that I’ve been unequivocal about this, let me tell you what I heard on MLB Radio on the way home from work today. They played an interview done by Jim Bowden, a former MLB General Manager, in which he asked Allen Craig of the Cardinals, “Do you think this is about Carpenter pitching Game 7?”
Why in the blue blazes would anyone even allow that question to hit the airwaves? There’s not a bit of evidence out there indicating the Cardinals were pushing for the postponement to allow for Chris Carpenter to pitch on three days rest in a Game 7 scenario. This was creating a conspiracy theory out of thin air and is totally irresponsible.
To be sure, if something like that should be the case, an investigation should be held immediately because that would be messing with the integrity of the game. But again, I do not believe this to be the case. I also don’t believe Bowden asked the question with any kind of evidence to back it up. The question was just totally uncalled for.
I want the Rangers to win. I have a strong feeling they’ll win it in Game 6 and, if not, they’ll take Game 7 no matter who the Cards throw at them. But I don’t want the Cardinals taking flak for something they didn’t do, either. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say they don’t deserve to have their own integrity questioned like this, even if it was just a throwaway question directed at a player.
Let’s just play some baseball.
Saturday night, the Rangers had their worst pitching performance in their brief World Series history. Sunday night, they had their best.
Derek Holland came within two outs of becoming the first AL pitcher in 20 years to pitch a World Series shutout, tossing 8 1/3 innings of 2-hit ball in totally shutting down the same Cardinals attack that scored 16 runs just the night before, tying the Series up at two games apiece.
For awhile, I was afraid this was going to be a game in which the Rangers missed opportunities were going to haunt them. Texas had baserunners against Edwin Jackson every inning of the game, but through six innings, they had just a single first inning run to show for it on an Elvis Andrus single and Josh Hamilton double. Jackson wasn’t fooling many hitters. The Rangers sent countless balls deep into the outfield, but none of them had quite enough carry to make any difference. Jackson was even working his way around five walks through the first six innings.
The dam finally broke in the 7th, when Jackson walked his sixth and seventh batters of the night, finally forcing a pitching change. Mike Napoli proceeded to deposit Mitchell Boggs’ first pitch over the left field wall, in what looked like a home run that was a few feet higher than Albert Pujols’ second home run of the night Saturday night, making it 4-0.
Holland and Neftali Feliz did the rest.
It was easily the best pitching performance in the Rangers brief nine games worth of World Series history. Dutch allowed only two hits to Lance Berkman, walked two, struck out seven and was throwing harder in the 8th and 9th innings than he was in the first and second.
There were omens for me before the game even started. One year ago, on Halloween night, I attended Game 4 of the Series against the Giants. The Cowboys lost earlier in the day and so did the Rangers. In fact, they were shut out 4-0. A year later, the Cowboys won their home game in the afternoon (against St. Louis, no less). Good omen #1.
Good omen #2 was my first-born, 18-year-Ranger-Fan, who was in the stands for this one. The term stands is literal. He had a standing room only ticket. He plans to write a post for this space tomorrow. 18-Year has been to more Rangers games than I this year and he entered tonight’s game having witnessed six consecutive Rangers wins in his trips to the ballpark, the most recent with me at the next to last home game of the regular season. He now has a seven game winning streak. Could someone please get him a ticket for Monday night’s game???
This has been one outstanding World Series. The narrative changes after every game. Everything I heard from the time Saturday night’s game ended to the start of Sunday’s game was about the Cardinals outstanding offense and how it would be very tough for Texas to get back into the Series now that the Cards’ offense had been let out of the bottle.
Derek Holland shut the bottle back up tonight. It’s now a best of three series. Fasten your seat belts and enjoy the ride!
It took 17 2/3 innings for the Texas Rangers to take their first lead in the World Series. With an offense even more tepid in Game 2 than it had been in Game 1, Texas entered the ninth inning of play three puts away from going down 0-2 in their second consecutive World Series.
Those who follow my musings in the Twitter-verse and a good friend of mine sure knew where my mind-set was after eight innings of play. Plain and simple, I probably wouldn’t qualify to be part of a Ron Washington team. They never give up, they believe they can come back and just keep working, having confidence everything will work out in the end.
I, on the other hand, mentioned I had no fingernails left, that I was feeling like the e-Trade Baby (“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”) and how much I hate being so pessimistic about my team.
The Rangers, though, kept working. Waiting for their chance. They finally got it in the ninth inning.
Trailing 1-0, with only three outs to work with, Ian Kinsler opened the inning with a little flair off Cardinals closer Jason Motte that just managed to find the right place in the outfield to drop in for a single. Elvis Andrus, who had an incredible night defensively tonight but has not been very good offensively in the post-season, came to the plate. I was just asking myself, “Will Wash give up an out in the 9th to get Ian to 2nd?” when it appeared that’s exactly what Wash was planning on doing. Elvis squared, but took ball one.
What followed was a prime example of both guts and how inches and split seconds can determine a ball game. Kinsler took off with the pitch, Andrus waved at it. Yadier Molina gunned it to second. And Kinsler got in just ahead of the throw. I’m willing to bet the difference was less than half a second between the time Kinsler’s hand hit the bag and the tag hit him. Safe he was, though. All of a sudden, there was no need for Andrus to bunt.
Fox analyst Tim McCarver then became prescient, predicting Andrus would go to right to try to move Kinsler over. Five seconds later, Elvis was smacking a pitch into right for a single, sending Kinsler to third. Third base coach Dave Anderson threw the stop sign up. The throw from right glanced off Albert Pujols’ glove on its way to Molina. That gave Andrus the split second he needed to take off for second. Molina’s throw to second once again came a hair too late. Runners on 2nd and 3rd, nobody out, bringing up the incredible hurting groin, aka Josh Hamilton.
Tony La Russa aka “The Infallible Genius” decided it was time to bring in Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. Rhodes succeeded in that role in Game 1. I just prayed that Hamilton, whose groin injury has sapped him of much of his power, would be able to get just enough oomph on the ball to send a medium depth fly ball to the outfield. On Rhodes’ first pitch (not surprising for Hamilton), Josh complied with my wish, sending one out deep enough to right to score Kinsler with the tying run. More importantly, it was just deep enough for Elvis to tag at second and make it to 3rd base with one out.
Goodbye, Arthur Rhodes. Hello Lance Lynn. At that point, I almost didn’t care if the top of the 9th ended in a 1-1 tie. The odds now solidly favored the Rangers. Texas had burned through most of the Cardinals bullpen while only using two bullpen pieces themselves. Michael Young, however, decided it was time to complete the comeback, lofting another medium depth fly to score Andrus with the go-ahead run. 2-1 Rangers going into the bottom of the 9th.
Neftali Feliz didn’t make it easy, walking Yadier Molina on five pitches to start the inning. Feliz’ fastball got Nick Punto to foul off two bunt attempts before striking him out for the first out. Feliz got a second strikeout before Rafael Furcal flied to right to end the game.
What an incredible finish and what a disappoint for both Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia, both of whom pitched well enough to win. I was discouraged from the start when the Rangers went down in order each of the first three innings. I mentioned in a post a couple days ago that Garcia is just the type of pitcher the Rangers have a hard time with if they’ve never faced him before. Sure enough, Garcia was poison to the Rangers bats all night. On the other hand, Colby Lewis was nails for the Rangers and finally gave Texas a quality start, their first since Lewis did it in the ALDS against Tampa Bay. It was a start the Rangers very badly needed and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Here we are, tied at one game apiece after two games. Tied at four runs apiece after two games. It’s now a best of five series with three of the five games in Texas.
Texas was staring at the abyss and found their way out of it. Game 2 was drama at its best.
It’s hard to keep an even temper going into the World Series. Everywhere you turn, people spout their opinions on the Cardinals and the Rangers as the official “narrative” for the series shapes up.
Up to now, most of the discussion, since the end of March, as it applies to my team, the Rangers, has been done on the local and regional scale. What national talk there was focused mostly on how the Division race was shaping up and how an injury might affect the team. Very general in nature, not much in the specifics.
Now the sports talk stations and networks are focused on just two teams and it is irritating to hear these national guys when they are just flat-out wrong about things they’re saying about the Rangers or bring up a negative about the Rangers while neglecting to mention the same could be said about the Cardinals. Cardinal fans, you’ve probably noticed some of those things as well as it applies to your team. Upset as it can make me, I know what’s really going on. Every single one of these people is doing their darndest to … make good radio.
The Vegas oddsmakers apparently have made the Rangers heavy favorites to win it all. You can report that, but it does nothing to make the World Series compelling. Even odds from Vegas would make it compelling. Since it isn’t, new narratives need to occur.
Folks like MLB Network, ESPN Radio et al need people to be interested, involved and invested in the World Series because, if they’re not, the airwaves will be boring for the next week and a half. The only way to get there sometimes is to manufacture controversy. Thus we have “important” discussions like “Since Nolan Ryan picked the Rangers to win in 6, will that become bulletin board material for the Cardinals?” and “How do you think the Rangers will take (ex-Ranger) Arthur Rhodes saying he wanted to sign with the Cardinals because they were a team with heart?” Non-stories both of them, but all they need is for one of those stories to resonate and they’ve got hours of broadcast drama. Keeping the ratings and interest up requires an equal mix of Rangers and Cardinals fans and detractors. Hear from nothing but Rangers fans and Cardinals fans will tune out and vice versa. Thus, I’m certain you have “experts” on the airwaves who don’t think the Cardinals have a chance who are publicly picking the Cardinals. Got to get those Rangers fans riled up.
I mean no disrespect to Cardinals fans. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be the underdog. I’ve followed my team for 41 years now with almost nothing to show for it until the past two years. I’ve been a part of broadcasting and I know how it works. The narrative Monday morning was the Rangers are heavy favorites. The narrative had to change to keep the interest and the phones lighting up. Solution: Make it sound like the tide of opinion is turning the Cardinals way.
Look, the Cardinals may indeed win it all. As Ron Washington says, the World Series is not about who has the best team. It’s about who plays the best baseball over the next 4-7 games. It could be St. Louis. It could be Texas.
I can handle an even mix of opinions. What I hate is a broadcaster on a national level saying “definitive” things that only show their ignorance of the team they’re talking about. I heard one guy today talk about how the Cardinals special chemistry was what was going to take them over the top. Inference: the Rangers have no real chemistry as a team. He didn’t seem to have a clue that anyone who has followed the Rangers the past two years invariably will talk about how tight the Rangers clubhouse is as well.
Another took CJ Wilson to task for his 8+ post-season ERA and talked as if Wilson was an abject failure in all three of his post-season starts. Not quite true. Wilson indeed stunk it up in the opening game of the ALDS. In the ALCS opener, however, he was outpitching Justin Verlander when the first rain delay came. He tried to come back after the 45 minute layoff and probably shouldn’t have. In fact, most starting pitchers would’ve been pulled at that point. When the second rain delay came he was gone. Not really a miserable outing, just an unfortunate one. In his last start, he matched Verlander through five innings, going into the sixth with a 2-2 tie. He lost his focus after a double play grounder instead hit at just the wrong spot at the third base bag and took a bad hop into left field. I’ll fault him for losing focus after that but he’d turned in a pretty credible performance up ’til then. Wilson hasn’t been great this post-season, but he hasn’t exactly sucked his last two starts either.
Lastly, two different announcers spotlighted how poorly the Rangers starting pitchers have done as a whole. Inference: Cardinals starting pitchers have been outstanding. Again, they failed to mention the Cardinals starting pitching hasn’t exactly been lights out in the playoffs either. Their starters’ ERA’s and the Rangers starters’ ERA have been pretty close and both teams have struggled to get six innings out of their starter.
I hate hearing these things. It makes me want to call them up and call them out on the air. Which is exactly what they want me to do. That’s what makes good radio. And good ratings.
In other words, don’t believe everything you hear. Even when it comes from an “expert”.