Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Murder by Baseball

I wrote a longer piece explaining my absence from this space over the past week, which isn't ready yet, and will run later. Right now, I'm just trying to survive.

The Red Sox and Yankees are trying to kill me.

I pretty much missed game 1 of the ALCS, and was there at the Stadium for Game 2. More on those later. We had 35 innings of baseball at Fenway, over a weekend extended by a rainout on Friday. Saturday’s massacre was a 9-inning regulation contest, putting Boston in the thus-far unwinnable 0-3 hole. Sunday, the potential sweep was averted in Boston at a monumentally leisurely pace – 12 innings, a finish well past 1:00 AM. They started Monday’s game, a make-up for the rained out contest on Friday, at 5:00, to make for an "early" get-away day game. No luck. More than five and a half hours later, we still weren't finished at the rat-infested shanty -- er, unique old ballpark -- in Boston.

That was a cheap shot, 'cause I actually like Fenway quite a bit, when you don't have an obstructed view or a giant speaker aiming 500 decibels of sound right at your ears. But spending all that time there over the weekend was brutal. It felt like FOX's fan cam had enough time to make a personal set of head shots for each person in attendance. I'll ask Brother T's significant other, who actually was at the Sunday game, whether she's gotten a personalized video portrait from FOX yet.

With the consecutive extra-inning losses at Fenway, the series comes back to Yankee Stadium with the Yanks up 3-2, and needing only a single win to get to the World Series. If we hadn't had the exuberance of being up 3-0, and two really tight, frustrating losses on Sunday and Monday, I think Yankee fans would be really happy with this position.

Fans of both teams can come away smiling so long as the Yankees win this series tonight. There's a similarity between this series and the 2004 season. The Yanks got off to an early and apparently-insurmountable lead, carried by some moribund Red Sox performances. The Red Sox came back after their fans gave up on them, to mount a Serious Challenge behind some awesome pitching.

Hopefully, tonight is the part where the Yanks set things straight, and condemn the Sox effort to the "too little, too late" bin of baseball history.

One reason I want this to end tonight is simple practicality. The Yanks suffered heavy bullpen usage in Fenway, and two more games of similar treatment could leave them with nothing for the World Series. Win it tonight, and you can spend the rest of the week charging up Mariano's cyborg arm for Houston or St. Louis.

The other thing is that, if it ends tonight, both teams can come away from this series with some consolation. The Red Sox don't get swept, don't lose at home, and give it their darn-tootin' best against all odds after dropping the first 3 games. The Yanks win at the Stadium, close out a dangerous team with some time to watch NLCS games on TV, and their fans don't die of the agita which would inevitably accompany a Game 7.

Because a Game 7 would be awful, for everyone involved. Win or lose, the town of Boston isn't still standing after a Game 7. The Yanks win, and the Charles is choked with the corpses of suicide divers. The Yanks lose, and the World Series is canceled because the Red Sox fans would burn their own park down. It wouldn't be intentional, mind you, it's just difficult to control the fires you set when you're rioting and looting in celebration.

[The funny thing is, as I ran through the "Yankees lose" scenario above, I realized that some idiot at FOX would come up with the bright idea "Why don't we use Yankee Stadium as the Red Sox home park? I mean, it's the closest ballpark, right?" This would be followed by bloodshed in the Bronx, which ends only after George Steinbrenner holds a press conference to ask "Can't we all just get along?"]

So let's do this tonight. For everybody's sake. Think of the children!


Every writer has their best time of the year, their specialty. Brother Joe, over at Baseball Prospectus, rules the postseason. BP's been kind enough to put some of his work in the non-subscriber pile, which you can read here (today's) and here (from last week, a nutshell ALCS preview).

Just how scary the Red Sox lineup is didn't really hit me until the extra inning games. Each time the Yankees failed to score in the top of the inning, I thought "Oh crap, that's six more outs we have to get." They bring two of the most dangerous bats in the American League to the plate every other inning, so whenever the Yankees failed to score, they practically guaranteed Manny and David Ortiz another at bat.

It officially crossed the line when Scooter -- FOX's animated talking baseball -- started explaining the brushback pitch to me.

I mean, the only explanation for this Scooter idiocy is that kids might like it, and now it's telling kids that they should put Hideki Matsui on his ass if he lights up their team in the playoffs. What a kid-friendly message!

Everyone complains about the FOX broadcast, and it's a little over-the-top. McCarver's bad -- I especially like it when he insists on calling a player by the wrong name, and completely blows off any subtle corrections by his partners in the booth -- but about once a series he gives a bit of analysis that's prescient. Buck's OK, Leiter's OK. That dirt cam view is pretty interesting, although a bit overused. The speakers in the bases are fun.

I try to narrow down my complaints about these guys to just the basics. Why don't they have some strike-zone tracking ability? YES and ESPN both do, why not baseball's broadcast partner? Why do their cameramen have ADD? They cram so many shots into each pitch I fear they're going to trigger an epileptic fit.

But my biggest problem is, I wish they could find another way to do their advertising. I remember late in the season YES presented one of the Yanks/Red Sox games under a single sponsor model. Couldn't FOX experiment with that, have one advertiser sponsor each World Series game and limit the commercial interruptions?

I know it's unlikely, but I can dream, can't I?

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