Friday, October 24, 2003
Diary of a Madman (World Series, Game Five)Well, so much for my "Yankees in six" prediction, huh?
Since my running diary of Game Four was so popular (at least according to all the emails I got yesterday), I figured I might as well do the same thing for Game Five.
The big story for tonight's game is that Joe Torre has benched Alfonso Soriano and replaced him at second base with Enrique Wilson. In addition to that, Jason Giambi is out of the lineup with a sore leg, and he will be replaced by Nick Johnson at first base. Considering the way Giambi has hit this post-season (.232/.348/.446 with 15 strikeouts in 56 at bats), and the fact that Johnson is a better defender at first, this isn't much of a drop-off. Of course, Nick the Stick isn't exactly lighting things up either (.226/.317/.340).
On the other hand, any time you take someone out of the lineup and replace him with Enrique Wilson, you are making a big downgrade. And that applies to Alfonso Soriano, even though he has struggled tremendously in the playoffs, and even though I have talked about his struggles several times in the last couple weeks, including in yesterday's Game Four diary.
In fact, here's exactly what I said about Soriano during Game Four: "There are no words to describe how lost he is at the plate right now."
Still, Enrique Wilson is Enrique Wilson. He is a career .253/.296/.358 hitter and has on-base percentages of .238, .239 and .276 over the last three years. I don't care if Alfonso Soriano is zero for his last 50, I'd have him in the lineup over Wilson.
FOX pre-game co-host Kevin Kennedy just informed me that, "Soriano is out of the lineup because he has struck out 40% of the time in the playoffs." Okay, I just looked it up. Soriano has 25 strikeouts in 67 at bats (37.3%), which is really awful. The Fons whiffed a ton in the regular-season (130 times in 156 games), but still managed to strikeout in just 19.1% of his at bats. I'm not against benching Soriano, because he has certainly looked completely lost at the plate of late, but he'd have to be Jimmy Hoffa-lost for me to bench him in favor of Enrique Wilson.
Last night we got the National Anthem by Nick Lachey (aka Mr. Jessica Simpson). Tonight? None other than "Ivan Rodriguez's favorite recording artist," the incredible, incomparable...Yanni.
I have to say, I don't think I have ever actually heard any of Yanni's music before. I just know what he looks like and that he does all instrumental stuff. Oh, and also the fact that he is always good for being the butt of a joke.
Okay, he just played a keyboard-version of the Star Spangled Banner. I'm not saying it wasn't good, but it was done on a keyboard. With no singing. By Yanni.
Honestly, Yanni, Nick Lachey, Shelby Lynn, David Cassidy. This is the World Series on national television, how about breaking out the "A-list" for at least one game. I'd take Marvin Gaye over any of them, and he's been dead for 20 years.
Tim McCarver, in his intro before the game: "Soriano struck out 36% of the time in the post-season."
Gee, ya think FOX had all the on-air talent study the stat-sheet for tonight's game? Also, it would be nice if Kennedy and McCarver could actually agree upon one percentage, although one saying "40% of the time" and the other saying "36% of the time" is a lot funnier.
Mr. Clutch starts things off with a single just over the leaping Luis Castillo and into right field. Jetes is just so dreamy. And Clutch. Did I mention he is Clutch?
Wow, what a mess. Enrique Wilson comes up after Jeter and lays down a bunt to the first base side. Brad Penny cuts in front of Derrek Lee to field it and he can't make a clean play on it. Lee comes in at the last second and tries to make a flip to Castillo, who is covering first. The ball goes past Castillo and into foul territory, allowing Mr. Clutch to scamper to third base. New York has first and third, with no outs.
The official scoring on that play is a hit and an error, even though there is absolutely no chance that Wilson would have been safe on that play if Penny had fielded the bunt even reasonably cleanly.
Jetes tags and scores on a Bernie Williams fly ball to right field. 1-0 Yankees.
Hideki Matsui comes to the plate and Tim McCarver tells us that the Japanese media have taken to calling Matsui "Mr. October." McCarver then laughs at this notion, despite having referred to Derek Jeter as "Mr. October," "Mr. Clutch" and about 100 other silly nicknames approximately 1,439,835 times during the last week. This is like David Wells laughing at Mo Vaughn for eating too much.
Speaking of Mr. Clutch, he is off to a much better start than last night. He singled and scored the first run of the game in the first inning and he just made a nice spinning throw to retire Luis Castillo on a ground ball up the middle.
Tim McCarver on the play: "My goodness."
Uh oh. Something must be wrong with Boomer Wells' back, because David Dellucci is in the on-deck circle and Jose Contreras is warming up in the bullpen.
If everyone prays really hard, I think we might be some more WEAVER TIME! at some point tonight.
Now that Wells is obviously unable to continue, it is pretty funny that just about three minutes ago McCarver and Joe Buck were joking about Wells mocking Roger Clemens' workout routine. I assume tonight's injury is related to Wells' bad back, which certainly isn't helped by that gut he's carrying around.
Okay, they just showed a clip from a press-conference, where Boomer jokes about the difference between Clemens' workout and his. He says something like "Roger is going to write a workout book about how to pitch for 20 years in the majors, and I'll write one about how to not work out and pitch 20 years in the majors." I love Boomer and I'm all for athletes showing their personality, but he's looking pretty stupid right about now.
So lemme get this straight. All that needs to happen for me to win a free 79-cent taco from Taco Bell is for someone to hit a home run into a small target approximately 400 feet from home plate? I don't know, it seems a little too easy, what's the catch?
Joe Buck just called Carl Pavano "John Mayer look-a-like Carl Pavano." I guess I can sort of see that, but don't think for a moment that Joe Buck is the first person to involve John Mayer in a baseball-discussion, because I beat him to that punch long ago.
Jose Contreras is all over the place, walking two straight batters after getting two quick outs in the bottom of the second inning. Last night's hero, Alex Gonzalez, hits a ground-rule double to deep right-center, scoring Mike Lowell to make it 1-1. Derrek Lee also would have scored from first if the ball hadn't hopped over the wall. This is a huge break for the Yankees, because Brad Penny is now up with two outs.
Or not. Penny singles through the infield and into right field, scoring Lee from third and Gonzalez from second. 3-1 Florida.
You know, it feels pretty good to be a Marlins fan right about now.
Derek Jeter just made a routine-play on a ground ball up the middle, while Joe Bucks says, "Jeter times it perfectly." There was nothing to "time" on that play. He moved like a foot to his left, fielded the ball and made a throw to first. There isn't a shortstop in the major leagues who wouldn't have made that play. And if I sound bitter, it is because I am.
For some reason I just got a mental image of Tim McCarver yelling at Jeter like "Mick" from Rocky. "You're gonna eat lightning and you're gonna crap thunder!" Yes, I am insane.
No shots of LL Cool J in the crowd tonight, although FOX just showed Danny Glover eating some french-fries. Joe Buck, always willing to state the obvious, says, "Danny Glover here tonight...eating fries."
Just saw a nice shot of Jeff Weaver chillin' in the bullpen. Joe Buck: "Last night's loser, Jeff Weaver." At this point Joe, I think he's every night's loser.
Looks like Contreras has settled down a bit, which may keep us from seeing more Weaver.
"Guess what? I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more Jeff Weaver!"
Contreras is due up second in the fifth inning, so I bet Torre will pinch-hit for him and then bring Chris Hammond into the game. Contreras has thrown 65 pitches tonight, so I wonder why Torre didn't leave him in a little longer in Game Four (he only threw 26 pitches). Perhaps Torre had a fever...
Like Weaver last night, Hammond will be working on 1,583 days rest, so he should be very fresh.
Oh boy. Buck and McCarver just had a little celebration in the booth because McCarver has now broadcast more World Series games than anyone, ever. He passed Curt Gowdy with tonight's game. Seriously, how f-ing sad is that?
Aaron Boone makes a nice play and gets Ivan Rodriguez in a run-down, but then Enrique Wilson throws the ball away. Wilson got the toss from Boone and was running Rodriguez back to third, but when he went to make the throw to the bag, no one was there. McCarver on the play: "Jeter couldn't get to third in time."
Mike Lowell bloops a single into center, scoring Rodriguez and Jeff Conine. 6-1 Florida.
From the commercial for the "encore-presentation" of the first episode of Skin: "If someone you know missed the series premiere of Skin..." Judging from the ratings, I think it is safe to say that everyone everyone knows missed the series premiere of Skin.
Another shot of Danny Glover and he's still eating. This time it's a hot dog.
Jack McKeon is apparently considering starting Josh Beckett on short-rest in Game Six, which would then likely mean he would go with Carl Pavano on short-rest in a potential Game Seven. To me this makes very little sense, particularly if the Marlins hold on to win this game.
If they head back to New York, up 3-2, they have two shots to win this thing. I would want one of those shots to involve Josh Beckett on full-rest, which he be on for Game Seven. Why juggle things to go with two guys on short-rest when you have a 3-2 lead and you can go with your best pitcher on full-rest?
Beckett going on full-rest for Game Seven would likely mean Dontrelle Willis would get the call in Game Six. Willis is now warming up in the bullpen, so that is probably out the window. They could still go with Mark Redman in Game Six and Beckett in Game Seven, but Redman has been knocked around lately, so I think if Willis enters the game tonight it means Beckett will go on Saturday.
Wow. Penny just threw a 99 MPH fastball by Ruben Sierra for strike three. Penny has been throwing some serious gas all night and he just dialed it up to 99 in the seventh inning.
Men on first and third with two outs and Mr. Clutch is at the plate. Jetes singles to center, scoring New York's second run of the game. Buck: "Jeter delivers again."
Penny goes 3-0 to Enrique Wilson. Wilson should be forced to take the next three pitches, no matter what. He takes on 3-0 and 3-1, and then checks his swing and walks on a 3-2 pitch that was up and away. Bases loaded for Bernie. McKeon stays with Penny and he gets Bernie to fly out to right field to get out of the jam and the inning.
Tonight's rendition of God Bless America is being performed by "Captain Orlando Dona." I suppose if they aren't going to get something good to sing this, they may as well go with someone in the military. Of course, this guy is no Shelby Lynn, that's for sure.
I am now at the point that each time FOX "sideline reporter" Chris Myers comes on screen I find myself turning the channel. At first I would listen until he said something dumb and then just mute the TV, but that isn't enough any more. It's very strange, and almost as if I am too embarrassed for him to even watch.
Okay, I take back everything I ever said about FOX's gratuitous shots of cast members of their shows in the crowd. They just showed the cast of The O.C., including the future Mrs. Aaron Gleeman, Mischa Barton. I think it is time for Mischa to be given the title of "Official Girl I Have a Massive Crush on of Aaron's Baseball Blog."
Seriously Mischa, drop me an email. I'll forget about all Carla Gugino, I swear.
Dontrelle Willis comes out to start the eighth and Joe Bucks calls him "a sweet young man." That sounds like something my grandmother would say.
Soriano pinch-hits and strikes out against Willis. He then stays in to play right field. I have a feeling The Fons may be playing his last few games in the infield this weekend.
The Florida crowd starts up a nice "Yankees Suck!" chant.
Paging Mystique and Aura...Paging Mystique and Aura...
Hmm...it worked! Jason Giambi pinch-hits for Jeff Nelson and smacks a solo homer. Unfortunately for Giambi, that made the score 6-3. Unfortunately for me, it somehow managed to not hit the miniscule Taco Bell sign 400 feet away.
Giambi's homer leads to perhaps the best Tim McCarver quote of all-time: "Well, it was 'Catch me if you can' starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Giambi did."
Amen Tim, amen.
Jetes gets on base yet again. He is 3-4 with a walk tonight. Does it count as "Clutch Hitting" if you get on base four times and your team loses?
Enrique Wilson makes up for his fielding and the fact that he is a horrible baseball player by lacing a double down the right field line. Jeter scores, it's 6-4, and suddenly the tying-run is coming to the plate in Bernie Williams.
This is not a real good outing by Braden Looper. McKeon yanks him and brings in U.U.U. to face Bernie.
With one out and a runner on second, Urbina starts Williams out with two low fastballs, out of the zone. Bernie fouls off a 2-0 fastball right over the plate. With the count 2-1, I say the following in the Baseball Primer chatroom: "Bernie goes deep right here."
Wow, he came close! Bernie blasts one to deeeeeep right-center, but Juan Encarnacion runs under it and makes the catch on the warning-track. Two outs.
Matsui hits the first pitch from Urbina hard down the first base line, but Derrek Lee makes a nice scoop and runs to the bag for the final out.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, October 23, 2003
Diary of a Madman (World Series, Game Four)As any good blogger would have done, I watched last night's game while taking notes throughout.
No names have been changed to protect the innocent and nothing has been added after the fact, although some stuff that was simply too stupid to include on a website that actual people read was edited out.
Hmm...I wonder if someone at FOX is reading my blog. After I complained yesterday about the way they opened the Game Three broadcast, FOX actually managed to not completely screw things up tonight. Instead of an ad for a Russell Crowe movie, they showed some cool clips of Roger Clemens in his younger days.
The main storyline for tonight is definitely that it is possibly Clemens' last game. Clemens has said throughout this season that this is it, but I really would like to see him keep playing. He's still a top-level starting pitcher and I see no signs of a major dropoff in the near future. He's one of the greatest of all-time and I would like to see him keep going.
Nick Lachey is our National Anthem singer tonight. For those of you unfamiliar with Nick, he is the co-star of MTV's reality-show, Newlyweds. In other words, he's the guy married to Jessica Simpson, who is quite possibly both the most attractive and dumbest human-being in the history of mankind. I heard they were supposed to do a duet tonight, but Jessica locked herself in the car.
I just saw the first of what will almost certainly be dozens of commercials for The O.C., which loyal readers will remember as a favorite show of mine this Summer. Knowing that baseball going off the air next week means The O.C. will be coming back on is almost worth no more baseball. I'm kidding of course. I think.
Okay, I just figured out why David Cassidy was chosen to sing God Bless America last night. He is going to be on Malcolm in the Middle next week. Another example of FOX cramming their product down our throats. I mean, for god's sakes, David Cassidy?!
"The New Mr. October" is off to a rough start tonight. Alfonso Soriano singles to lead things off and then Jeter (who will hereby be referred to as "Jetes" and/or "Mr. Clutch") hits a weak little pop up in the infield. The ball drops, but Jeter just stands at home plate, allowing Luis Castillo and Alex Gonzalez to turn the double-play.
Tim McCarver, who I believe is in love with Jetes in the same manner little girls are in love with Justin Timberlake, has the following reaction to the double-play: "It is weird to see Jeter not running on that play."
Wow Tim, thanks. For a minute there I thought you would be afraid to criticize Mr. Clutch. Can you imagine if Manny Ramirez had done something like this during the ALCS? McCarver would have spent the entire game ripping him a new one.
Now, as if that weren't enough, McCarver is giving Mr. Clutch credit for keeping Roger Clemens under control during the whole mess during Game Four of the ALCS. I wonder sometimes if McCarver stalks Jetes during the off-season, and if Mr. Clutch has ever had to get a restraining order against him. At some point in this game I fully expect to hear McCarver say that "Derek Jeter sure is dreamy."
Clemens just threw one way up and way in on Miguel Cabrera. That ball was about as close to Cabrera's head as Pedro Martinez's pitch was to Karim Garcia's in the ALCS. I wonder if Don Zimmer will take a run at Clemens between innings.
Goodbye baseball! Cabrera gets the best kind of revenge against Clemens, taking him deeeep the opposite way to give Florida a 2-0 first inning lead. If you haven't noticed already, Miguel Cabrera is going to be a very special baseball player.
Jeff Conine follows Cabrera's homer with a single to left and Clemens is looking very vulnerable. Somebody better go wake Jeff Weaver up and tell him to start throwing.
Mike Lowell singles to left and the Marlins have first and third, with two outs. Seriously, someone may want to tell Weaver to put the bong down and get to the bullpen. Another two-out base hit and it is 3-0 Marlins. At this point I think someone should insist that Weaver put the Cheetos down and get throwing.
HA! Jeff Weaver really is warming up, I just saw it with my own two eyes! I was just kidding around...
Clemens gets out of the first, down 3-0, with 42 pitches thrown. Probably not exactly how he envisioned his last start going.
FOX just showed Bud Selig in the crowd, wearing a pair of giant headphones and obviously listening to the FOX broadcast (he flashed that repulsive smile after Buck and McCarver started talking about him). After showing Bud, FOX gives us a shot of LL Cool J and only then shows us the all-time major league home run champion, Hank Aaron. Is there any possible reason for showing LL Cool J before Hank Aaron at a World Series game? As a matter of fact, if this were a televised tribute to LL Cool J, I think I would show Hank Aaron first.
Roger Clemens leads off the fifth inning with a base hit on an 0-2 count (yes, you read that correctly). Two batters later Mr. Clutch continues his rough night, hitting into his second double-play of the game. He has now made four of New York's first 14 outs, all in just two trips to the plate. Tim McCarver is rendered speechless, which is actually a really good thing.
I was flipping channels during a commercial and landed on ABC, where I caught a glimpse of the actress who plays Karen Sisco wearing a skin-tight, sleeveless Ricky Williams jersey. Like McCarver, I am rendered speechless.
Okay, I am not done ripping on FOX yet. They spent the entire pre-game and the first six innings or so constantly hyping this as Clemens' last start. And then, when the game gets into the late innings (as soon as their need to convince people to watch this game is over) they immediately start hyping the fact that this may not be his last game, that he may end up pitching in Game Seven, which means they can hype that game as his last one.
Lost in all this Clemens stuff is the fact that Carl Pavano is pitching a helluva game. Who woulda thunk it?
Okay, I just flipped over to Karen Sisco on ABC again and I am now in love with...hold on, lemme look up her name...Carla Gugino. I would like to take this opportunity to officially propose marriage to Ms. Gugino. I do so here because I am sure she will see this, what with her being such a big fan of Aaron's Baseball Blog and all. Drop me an email Carla and we'll work out the details.
Speaking of beautiful women, FOX just interviewed Roger Clemens' "wife of 18 years," Debbie Clemens. I proclaim Mrs. Clemens a MILF of the first-order. Congratulations Roger! Oh, and good career too.
Okay, last night we got David Cassidy singing God Bless America, and tonight we get...Shelby Lynn? I can honestly say that I have never seen or heard of this person before in my entire life.
I will say that Shelby doesn't look real good tonight. I mean, she's not unattractive, but she looks like she's a bit hungover and working on about an hour's worth of sleep for the entire week. She is also wearing a blue jogging-suit for her appearance on national TV, and FOX's super-duper closeups aren't helping her any either. I'll give her credit though, she sang it fast!
I think it is safe to say any potential Yankee comeback can be attributed to Shelby Lynn rushing through God Bless America.
Roger Clemens leaves his final game (at least until this weekend) with a strikeout and a big standing-ovation. I think I'll remember watching this moment for the rest of my life. Clemens is one of the greatest handful of pitchers in the history of baseball and it's been a real pleasure watching him.
Mr. Clutch's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day continues, with a called third strike to end the top of the eighth. In Jetes' defense, I thought the ball was low and outside, but the umps have been horrible this entire post-season, so...
Paging Mystique and Aura...Paging Mystique and Aura...
U.U.U. comes on to close things out. He'll be up against Giambi, Williams, Matsui and then Posada, if someone reaches (and they almost certainly will).
Ugie gets Giambi for the first out and then gives up a single to Bernie and a walk to Matsui. Posada hits a ground ball to Luis Castillo, but he can only get the force out at second base, putting runners at the corners with two outs. So, I guess it all comes down to...Ruben Sierra!
Urbina gets behind 3-0 and gets a courtesy strike from the ump on a 3-0 pitch that was outside. Then he gets the same call on the same pitch to make it 3-2. After two fouls balls on 3-2, Sierra rips a liner down the right field line. The ball rolls around in the corner for a while, both runners come in to score, Sierra winds up at third base with a triple and it's a tie game!
Looks like Mystique and Aura got here just in time. Sure, they were almost late, but in their defense I think they were busy hanging out with Jeff Weaver in the bullpen.
3-3 game, bottom of the ninth. You know what this means, right?
Take my hand
Off to never never land
Okay, I spoke (and sang) too soon. Joe Torre goes with Jose Contreras in the bottom of the ninth. Mariano Rivera did throw 23 pitches last night, but I saw him warming up in the bullpen, so I'm not sure what's going on.
There isn't going to be a point in tonight's game that is any more important than a tie-game in the bottom of the ninth, so this is the spot to use Rivera, if you are going to use him at all.
Apparently Contreras knows how to pitch a little bit too, getting Florida 1-2-3 in the ninth.
Hey, look at that, a John Flaherty sighting! Geez, Flaherty was almost the hero, driving a deep fly ball to right-center. But Juan Pierre can run just about anything down and he did, grabbing it right at the wall.
Soriano strikes out on a hanging curveball right over the middle of the plate. There are no words to describe how lost he is at the plate right now.
Mr. Clutch comes up with two outs and lines a double down the right field line. I have to say, I am shocked. I thought for sure Jetes would go with the double-fist-pump, but he threw me a curve and went with the hand-clap instead. That's why he's Mr. October and I'm stuck here writing sarcastic comments about him.
Before this actually unfolds, I would like to say, for the record, that I would not walk Giambi to pitch to Williams. Giambi can be pitched to of late and Bernie is very hot. Let's see what happens...
Chad Fox gets ahead of Giambi 1-2 on a slider down and in and then gets him swinging on the exact same pitch for strike three. And we're headed to the bottom of the 10th...
C'mon, Rivera has to come in now, I have Metallica all cranked up and ready to go! Nope, Contreras stays in to pitch to Juan Pierre to lead things off.
Okay, here's what I want to see: Pierre bunt single, Pierre steals second, Pierre steals third, Pierre scores the winning-run on a Castillo bunt, Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver make messes in their pants, and statheads (and Yankee fans) everywhere cry themselves to sleep.
Well, it's not a bunt single, but Pierre walks. If he doesn't run here, Joe Morgan and everyone else who babbles on and on about Florida's team-speed being the key to their success should be forced to shut up for good. Contreras is so slow to the plate that I think they time his delivery with a sun-dial, and having Castillo bunt in this situation is a complete waste of an out and an even bigger waste of Pierre's speed.
Contreras makes a few tosses over to first base and then, sure enough, Castillo is bunting. It was a good bunt, but I thought the ability to steal bases was supposed to be their big asset? Why do they need to bunt him over and waste an out? Oh well, I'm sure Joe Morgan will explain things tomorrow.
Contreras is nasty tonight. He gets Pudge Rodriguez swinging on a 97 MPH fastball up in the zone and then gets Cabrera swinging on another 97 MPH heater up and over the plate.
Anyone else think it is time to give Jack Bauer some vacation time? He looks more worn-down than Shelby Lynn at this point.
Uh oh, Jeff Weaver is warming up in the bullpen again. Why would Torre have Rivera warm up and then not bring him into a tie-game in extra-innings?
Okay, the world is right again. The Sandman is warming up in the pen again, alongside Weaver.
Bernie doubles and the Marlins walk Matsui. David Dellucci sacrifices the runners over and the Yankees have men on second and third with one out.
Wow, Jack McKeon has decided to load the bases by walking Juan Rivera, so he can pitch to Aaron Boone and try for a double-play. And now he's bringing Braden Looper into the game in what is a very tough spot, throwing his first pitch with the bases loaded in extra innings.
Okay, now I'm confused. Florida walked the bases loaded to pitch to Boone and now they are playing the infield in? Is it possible McKeon went completely senile sometime during the seventh inning stretch? I have heard Shelby Lynn sometimes has that effect on people.
Weaver is now alone warming in New York's bullpen again. Joe Buck says, "if the Yankees take the lead, Rivera will pop up." How exactly is a lead in extra-innings more important than a tie-game? I swear, I will never understand this "closer" thing.
Looper strikes Boone out with a high, inside fastball. Two outs. John Flaherty pops out to third base and the threat is over. McKeon's moves worked out. Shows what I know.
Weaver is now in the game, which means it is soon to be over. Meanwhile, Mariano Rivera, perhaps the greatest pitcher in post-season history, has warmed up several times tonight and is now sitting in the bullpen, watching the game.
The good news is that Weaver is working on 1,583 days rest, so he should be nice and fresh. Shockingly, his first pitch is a ball.
Amazingly, Weaver gets Florida 1-2-3, showing a nice assortment of curveballs that got Conine and Lowell to hit weak fly balls and got Derrek Lee to end the inning with a grounder to Mr. Clutch.
Jeff Weaver has a 0.00 career ERA in the post-season.
Soriano, Jetes and Giambi to start the 12th. Soriano gets ahead 2-0 and then hacks at a couple of fastballs, grounding out to first base. Jetes comes up and Joe Bucks says, "and now Mr. Clutch steps in." To quote the great Bill Simmons: I just threw up in my mouth.
Mr. Clutch pops out to second base.
After a Giambi single, Bernie Williams grounds out to second base for the third out of the inning. And we're heading to the bottom of the 12th.
Chances of a Florida victory at this point? I'd say about 60%. Chances of Aaron Gleeman waking up when his alarm-clock goes off in about eight hours? I'd say about 7%.
Another great job by the FOX broadcasting team. They came back late from the commercial break, so the audience was just barely able to see the first pitch of THE BOTTOM OF THE 12TH INNING OF A WORLD SERIES GAME cross the plate. It's not like this stuff is important or anything. I obviously wouldn't want to miss the 23rd airing of the Tru Calling commercial.
Weaver is inexplicably still in the game, pitching to Alex Gonzalez. He goes 3-2 to AGon, who then fouls off a couple of pitches.
GAME OVER! Gonzalez yanks Weaver's third 3-2 offering down the left field line, barely clearing the fence for the game-winning homer.
Weaver is the loser. Looper is the winner. And Mariano Rivera did nothing all night but warm up twice and watch the game from the bullpen.
Four hours and three minutes of great baseball. Goodnight!
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Deep Thoughts, by Aaron GleemanHere are some random thoughts I had while wondering if FOX's new show, Skin, will have the highest ratio of commercials to actual episodes in the history of television...
I've tried to keep my mouth shut about the way FOX broadcasts these games, but I just can't take it any longer. Last night's broadcast began with clips from Russell Crowe's new movie, which I assume is a FOX product. They tried to tie-in clips from the film, which appears to be about pirates, into the World Series, and the whole thing made me want to change the channel.
It really is pathetic that FOX takes the most important games the sport has to offer and decides to begin them with a lame attempt at fooling us into thinking tying a soon-to-released movie into the third game of the World Series is anything but a blatant commercial. And that's not all they are guilty of.
They also show cast members of FOX TV shows in the audience during just about every game. I saw the cast of Skin in the audience for a game last week and they all looked like they were being held hostage. Then they showed the guy from The Next Joe Millionaire at the game the other night. Seeing Joe Millionaire Jr. was particularly pathetic, because they showed the guy before the show had even aired, which meant the only possible way anyone would have any clue who he was is from the commercials for the show. I mean, at least with Ron Silver someone might see him on camera and say "hey, that's that guy with the beard from those movies" or something.
And, of course, those Joe Millionaire commercials run about 50 times per game, along with about 300 Skin commercials. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have heard "His father is the District Attorney!" and "He's filthy rich!" during the last several weeks. At least we can all take pleasure in knowing that both shows bombed horribly.
It's bad enough that they show the same few commercials over and over and over and over again, but the commercials are constantly running into the actual game, causing the viewer to be sent back to the game in the middle of the inning's first pitch being delivered and, in a few instances, causing the viewer to completely miss a pitch.
FOX spends several moments during the early portion of each and every playoff game showing the announcers using Sprint cell-phones in the booth. Recently they have taken that a step further, using celebrities like Robin Williams and Simon Cowell in the in-game Sprint commercials.
They also have this annoying America Online icon/logo thing appearing throughout each game. Sometimes it's at the bottom of the screen, sometimes it's at the top, sometimes the icon is throwing a computerized pitch before a replay. It's incredibly distracting and just plain tacky.
And then there is the "Pepsi Fan Cam," which is incredibly annoying, very stupid and another obvious commercial being "hidden" by FOX.
I understand the need for FOX to make money. After all, they are paying a ton for the rights to broadcast the World Series. But my god, have a little class and respect for what is a fairly important sporting-event and something that has a long and storied history. It's one thing to do a "Toyota Game Summary" or "Pepsi Fan Cam," but it is a totally different level of tastelessness to interrupt the broadcast of the actual game by showing Joe Buck and Tim McCarver doing a Sprint commercial with Simon Cowell.
Okay, now that I have all that off my chest, here are some thoughts on the actual game that was played last night...
How in the world can a team with a payroll of $165 million have Karim Garcia as their starting right fielder? Such things boggle the mind.
By far the funniest moment of the night was when the following graphic was shown:
Ivan Rodriguez's favorite recording artist: Yanni
And then, wouldn't you know it, FOX immediately flashed to a shot of Yanni sitting in the front-row. There are so many jokes to potentially be made here that I don't even know where to begin, so I'll leave it alone.
I know this seems like a simple point, but it is still worth mentioning. There is absolutely no way Hideki Matsui was able to hit 50 home runs in Japan while maintaining a ground ball/fly ball ratio like he has this year. You simply can't hit that many homers when everything is on the ground. I wonder exactly what he is doing differently and, perhaps more interestingly, why he is doing it differently.
As if seeing Yanni in the crowd weren't enough, FOX's cameras also showed us Mike Tyson. I have a strange feeling Tyson might be kind of fun to sit next to at a baseball game, but how shocked would you be if you were sitting there eating a hot dog before the game and he sat down next to you? I say it's 10-1 odds Mike buys you a few beers and you end up getting your faced tattooed together after the game.
The umps this post-season have been, in my opinion, incredibly inconsistent. I rarely have a problem with an ump making bad calls, but I do have a major problem when they are making bad calls and not being consistent with their strike zone. In the bottom of the 3rd, Mike Mussina struck Miguel Cabrera out with a pitch low and away that the ump called a strike. Then, in the top of the 4th, Josh Beckett threw the exact same pitch on 3-2 and the ump called it a ball.
It just seems like it's been that way throughout the playoffs, in both leagues. One minute a pitch is a ball, the next minute it is a strike and then all of a sudden it's a ball again. I wonder if Questec is being used in the playoffs?
Rain delays in playoff games are always bad news. The good news? Juan Pierre avoided the same fate as Vince Coleman.
This isn't a particularly insightful note, but Josh Beckett's curve ball is absolutely disgusting.
I know all of you are extremely curious as to what goes on in a Baseball Primer chatroom during a rain delay like last night's. Well, we played what is very unimaginatively called "The Two Team Game."
Here's how it works:
One person says two teams and everyone else races to see who can name a player who played for both teams the fastest. Here, let's try it...
Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Florida Marlins.
(Insert Jeopardy music)
Got an answer yet? The one that immediately came to mind for me was Gerald "Ice" Williams. That game may seem easy, but try playing it with a couple dozen baseball geeks during a 40-minute rain delay sometime.
Is the phrase "just beyond the outstretched glove of Derek Jeter" the most said in the history of the world?
Is there really a need for a "sideline reporter" during a baseball game? FOX used Chris Myers last night and his title for the game could have been "Pretend Weatherman in Charge of Telling the Audience Incredibly Obvious Things." He was on the broadcast maybe three or four times and each time he would say something like "The rain appears to be back here in Florida" or "They say the rain will be back."
The latter comment might have been at least remotely informative, if Myers wasn't being hit by a torrential downpour as he said it. I also particularly enjoyed the moment when Myers was on camera, talking about the rain, and decided to ad-lib. He took his umbrella down and then leaned over to a man wearing a poncho sitting next to him and said, "hey buddy, mind if I borrow your coat." To quote the great Howard Stern, I got some serious "douche chills" on that one.
Okay, remember when I said Pudge Rodriguez proclaiming his love for Yanni was the funniest moment of the night? I was wrong. David Cassidy singing (or trying to, at least) "God Bless America" has that beat, and it isn't even particularly close. What happened, Greg Brady was busy? I never thought anything could make me long for the days of Ronan Tynan, but I was wrong.
Alfonso Soriano looks completely clueless at the plate. He is having problems catching up to fastballs of late, which is his specialty. And when he gets down in the count, you can basically just flip a breaking-ball somewhere in the vicinity of home plate and he'll swing at it.
Soriano is an amazing player with some remarkable skills, but I am shocked he is able to hit as well as he does with the complete lack of discipline he has. I keep waiting for teams to simply stop throwing him strikes, and maybe his performance this post-season will lead to more of that.
Dontrelle Willis comes in to relieve Josh Beckett and Joe Buck informs us that "Dontrelle Willis was named NL Rookie Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News." What a joke. Anyone who thinks Dontrelle Willis was the best rookie pitcher in the NL this season should have their head examined. The fact that a relatively respected publication like The Sporting News would give him that honor is simply ridiculous. And if you don't believe me, click here to read more.
Derek Jeter doubled down the right field line, past a diving Derrek Lee with one out in the eighth inning. Why wasn't Lee guarding the line in that situation? Tie game, top of the eighth inning? I don't get it.
Matsui then singled Jeter in with the go-ahead run and the CD player in my brain (yes, I have a CD player in my brain) immediately cranked this up:
Say your prayers little one
--- Metallica, "Enter Sandman"And, sure enough, The Sandman entered and it was lights out for the Marlins.
I flipped over to David Letterman during a commercial and saw "Dr. Phil" talking to Dave about his new weight-loss book. The book is called "Ultimate Weight Loss Solutions" and apparently includes seven steps for losing weight. There is, of course, one very large (and bald) problem with this, which is that Dr. Phil is fat!
Can you imagine the cojones a "husky" person has to have to write a book telling people how to lose weight? That's like Neifi Perez writing a book on hitting or Aaron Gleeman writing a book about how to pick up women!
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Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Mailbag (World Series Edition)For the first time a long time, there wasn't a playoff game last night for me to write about today. So, in place of that, I thought it would be a good time to dip into the ol' mailbag...
In response to my "The Curse of Grady Little" entry from last Friday, in which I lay much of the blame for Boston's ALCS loss on their manager, "Ernie G." writes:
"Your argument is only half true, because if you blame Grady Little then you have to also blame Pedro Martinez for wanting to stay in the game when Grady came out and talked to him. Therefore he is also a 'curse.'I actually got a few emails similar to this and I also read some articles expressing similar feelings. I disagree completely.
If you go out to the mound in the seventh game on a playoff series and ask the starting pitcher if he thinks he should come out of the game, I would be willing to bet that there aren't five pitchers in the entire world who would say "sure skip, bring someone else in."
Grady Little is the manager of the Boston Red Sox (at least for a little while longer), which means it is his job to make decisions like this. Pedro Martinez is paid to pitch, not to decide when he comes out and who replaces him from the bullpen.
The bottom line is that Grady Little screwed up what I believe to be a fairly obvious decision, and that wrong decision likely cost the Red Sox a trip to the World Series.
In regard to my entry from last Wednesday ("Cubs Win! Cubs Win! Wait...what?") in which I half-jokingly blame comedian Bernie Mac for jinxing the Chicago Cubs during his rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame", "Michael" writes:
"Just wanted to let you know that I thought the exact same thing during the seventh inning stretch of Game 6 and have been trying to find someone else who noticed it. Worse than Bernie Mac saying "Champs" (and trying to be heard saying it over a crowd of obviously bothered Cubs Fans yelling back the appropriate "Cubbies") is that Bernie Mac was only there so that Fox could promote his show. Sacrilege!!!Just to be very clear, this will be called "The Curse of Bernie Mac" from now on, and I envision HBO doing a documentary on it very soon. I'd be willing to appear in and/or narrate the film for a small fee, or possibly a Sopranos DVD box set.
I did wonder at the time why exactly Bernie Mac was singing in such an important game. I mean, they get a different person to do the honors during every home game for the entire year, so I would understand seeing Bernie Mac singing during an afternoon game in mid-June. But in the NLCS? It just seems like they could have gotten any number of more famous actors/comedians/singers, not to mention former Cub greats.
After hearing a Grady Little press conference during the ALCS, I wrote last Tuesday ("Zimmer, Yankees subdued by fluttering baseball") that I was very intrigued by his unique accent, saying "That is perhaps the strangest and most disturbing way of speaking that I have ever heard. It's like a cross between the guy from Sling Blade and Forrest Gump, except not as intelligent sounding."
A couple readers had some other suggestions for similar sounding accents...
"He's Milton from Office Space, only slightly more intelligible. I heard him this morning on the radio and I thought for sure he would mention his stapler."I'm not exactly sure how many of you have had the pleasure of watching Office Space, but if you have, that's spot-on. Office Space is, in case you're wondering, an awesome movie, one of the funniest and most underrated I have ever seen.
Here's a picture of the aforementioned "Milton" and his famous stapler...
"Just thought I'd let you know that the accent I've always felt was closest to Grady's is Boomhauer's, from King of the Hill. Of course, he's fictitious, so maybe that contributes to Grady's image as a cartoon figure."Here's a picture of "Boomhauer"...
So, we've got him compared to the guy from Sling Blade, Forrest Gump, Milton from Office Space and "Boomhauer" from King of the Hill. Some very good company, for sure. And what do they all have in common with Grady Little? None of them will be managing a major league team this time next month either.
One final note...
A lot of people have emailed asking about the final tally for all of my "Today's Picks" during the regular-season. For those of you unfamiliar, I made hypothetical bets each day during the regular season at the end of each blog entry, using the real betting-lines, and tracked my winnings all year.
Throughout the year, I gradually built up my "bankroll" and I had my total winnings at $2,995 going into my final day of picking games. In an effort to jump over the $3,000 mark, I went with the Red Sox and Pedro Martinez -200 over the Devil Rays, and Pedro came through with the big win.
So, I ended the season with a 242-238 record and $3,095 in purely hypothetical winnings.
As you can probably tell by the record that is barely above .500 despite more than $3,000 in winnings, my strategy for betting on baseball games is to go primarily with underdogs. I rarely go with a heavy favorite and almost always take a chance on a heavy underdog. And, for this season at least, my strategy proved to be a good one.
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Monday, October 20, 2003
The world's newest Marlins fanI had the weirdest feeling while watching the first game of the World Series on Saturday night. For the first time I can remember, I came into an important sporting-event not knowing which team I wanted to win.
Throughout the first inning or so on Saturday, I tried to think everything through. Normally, I root for whomever is playing the Yankees. This year that's been easy - my beloved Twinkies in round one and the Red Sox in round two.
But the Florida Marlins are that rare team that I have almost zero positive feelings about. I chronicled the horrible way in which they abused A.J. Burnett's arm last season and this season, before his elbow finally couldn't take it anymore. I also wrote about the - pardon the pun - fishy goings on with the Marlins trying to send Kevin Millar to Japan during the off-season. And I think most baseball fans are aware of the fact that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria may not be among the best human-beings in sports today.
It is a World Series between the team I always root against and the team I couldn't really see myself rooting for.
And then something interesting happened. With Game One tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth inning, Juan Pierre drove in Jeff Conine and Juan Encarnacion with a single to left field. As Encarnacion round third, the throw from Hideki Matsui was cutoff by Aaron Boone, allowing Encarnacion to score. If Boone doesn't cut it off, or if he cuts it off and throws home, I think Encarnacion is dead meat.
In the middle of that play, while Conine crossed home plate and Encarnacion rounded third, I heard myself whisper a little "Go! Go!" almost hesitantly. And when Boone cut the throw off and Encarnacion came home to make it 3-1 Florida, I saw myself give a little fist-pump.
And just like, I was rooting for the Florida Marlins.
Of course, I became a fan just in time to see them get beat 6-1 in Game Two, but I guess a big part of being a fan is suffering with your team, right?
So far, the World Series has looked a whole lot like New York's first two playoff series. Just like against Minnesota and Boston, the Yankees dropped Game One, at Yankee Stadium. And, just like against Minnesota and Boston, the Yankees bounced back and won Game Two - all three times behind Andy Pettitte.
The Marlins, like the Twins and Red Sox before them, have taken homefield advantage from the Yankees. This is now a best-of-five, with three of the five games in Florida. Of course, losing homefield didn't hurt the Yankees in the first two rounds and the teams with homefield are actually 2-4 this post-season.
Besides being the guy whose throw was cutoff by Aaron Boone in Game One, Hideki Matsui also drove in the first runs of last night's game with a three-run homer off Mark Redman in the bottom of the first inning. Matsui is now 4-8 with a homer and three RBIs in the World Series.
There are all kinds of sample-size issues at work here, so I don't think making a big deal out of a good two games is worth doing. However, my good buddy Larry Mahnken, of Replacement-Level Yankees Weblog fame, brought up an interesting point last night, which is that Matsui did exceptionally well against National League pitching during the regular-season.
Matsui played against five NL teams this year: Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New York and St. Louis.
Here are his numbers in those games:
AVG OBP SLGThat is some serious hitting. Of the 18 teams Matsui faced this season, he had an OPS (on-base % + slugging %) of at least 1.000 against four of them - all NL teams.
In 67 total at bats against the National League, Matsui hit .492 with six homers. That's really amazing, considering he hit just 10 homers in 556 at bats against the AL.
Hideki MatsuiIt could just be a fluke, but when someone has about 55 at bats for every homer against the AL and then hits six homers in 67 at bats (or seven in 75 if you count the World Series) against the NL, I think it's a huge enough difference that it probably goes beyond simply being flukish.
Do the National League pitchers pitch differently to Matsui? I know the general consensus is, or at least was, that pitchers throw more fastballs in the National League. But with free agency and interleague play and all that, I don't know if that's still the case at all.
Another possibility is that NL teams don't have the same type or quality of scouting reports on Matsui. They haven't had a chance to see him that much and they haven't had as much reason to assign their scouts to cover the Yankees as thoroughly.
Of course, if that were the case, then the first few AL teams Matsui faced this season would also lack quality scouting reports on him, what with him being a rookie and all. Matsui hit just .255 with two homers in 110 at bats during the first month of the year, so that sort of shoots a hole in that theory.
I don't know exactly why Matsui has hit NL pitchers so much better than he has AL pitchers and I don't know if it really means all that much, but it's interesting and certainly worth keeping an eye on during the rest of the World Series.
In other, far less surprising news, Jack McKeon used another one of his starting pitchers as a reliever last night, letting Carl Pavano pitch the seventh inning, while throwing 21 pitches.
Of McKeon's five "starting" pitchers, four of them have appeared as a reliever at least once this post-season. Mark Redman is the only one of the five who hasn't come in from the bullpen, and the other four guys have appeared as a reliever a total of 13 times.
Of Florida's 120 innings pitched during the post-season, their five starters have combined to throw 82 of them, or 68.3%. I don't want to seem like I am picking on McKeon, because I actually think using starters in relief is a smart move in the post-season. After all, if starting pitchers really do all throw on the side between starts, why couldn't they throw an inning or two out of the bullpen? Still, I do wonder if having Pavano and Willis and Beckett and Penny constantly doing something in the post-season that they aren't used to doing is going to end up hurting Florida at some point, if it hasn't already.
In a somewhat related note, it appears as though Carl Pavano, and not Dontrelle Willis, will get the Game Four start. The reason is that McKeon wants to be able to have a lefty in the bullpen. Some of you may feel like pointing out the fact that he does have a lefty in the bullpen already in Michael Tejera. While that is technically true, Tejera may as well be a righty, because lefties hit .392/.442/.595 off him this season. I suspect, like me and any other sane person with access to ESPN.com's stats page, Jack McKeon wouldn't let Michael Tejera anywhere near a lefty in an important game.
How many times Dontrelle can come in and pitch multiple innings out of the pen, like he did in Game One, could have a huge impact on the rest of this series.
Oh, and if you missed it, I previewed the series over the weekend:
2003 World Series Preview: Marlins - Yankees (October 18, 2003)
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