Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
October 21, 2002
BASEBALL: THOUGHTS ON GAMES ONE & TWO
GAME ONE: WHY ON EARTH is Mike Scioscia batting Ben Molina 8th and Adam Kennedy, a .312 hitter in the regular season and the team's hottest bat entering the Series, 9th? Molina killed a rally with 2 outs in the second. He killed a rally with 2 outs in the fourth. He almost hit into an inning-ending DP in the sixth. Then he had to be pinch hit for with 2 outs in the 8th, with (as Tim McCarver astutely pointed out) the attendant risk that if the runner on first was caught stealing, the Angels would lose their top pinch hitter (Orlando Palmiero) AND be stuck with Molina's even weaker-hitting brother leading off the 9th trailing by a run. Four innings in which the Angels' offense was hobbled or their options restricted, in a 1-run game. Who says batting order never matters?
Is it just a coincidence that Mike Scioscia and his coaches - Mickey Hatcher, Alfredo Griffin, Ron Roenicke - were all guys who were tough to strike out, and so is Scioscia's team? Probably not. Note that the players, like the coaching staff, include some guys who are quite patient and others who are foolishly aggressive.
Hey, sitting there in the seats . . . it's the cast of "Fast Lane" on FOX! What a wacky coincidence!
One oddity about Barry Bonds' late-career resurgence is the contrast to his dad, a fine player who started strong but never improved from the day he entered the league, and basically just stopped hitting at 34. Do genes have an impact on a player's growth over time? People seem to expect that from Jeremy Giambi, who everyone keeps expecting to blossom like his big brother. One guy to watch on this question is David Bell - will Bell show the same broad-based development over time as his dad? He'll need it to stay in the league very long.
Man, Benito Santiago is in fantastic shape. The guy is just an amazing athlete, but he's learned next to nothing in all his years in the league. He still swings at nearly everything, and he still takes questionable chances in the field, like the play in Game 5 of the NLCS where he told Felix Rodriguez to throw to third base on a bunt play rather than get the easy out at first.
McCarver and Joe Buck were talking about Ted Williams bunting in the 1946 series to burn the shift. It's a great play to use every now and then to keep the shift honest, but it illustrates why you'd only use that extreme a shift against a guy with big-time power, especially home run power: it's only worth it to force the guy to bunt and hit the other way when doing so takes away his home run power.
GAME TWO: Game One was like an All-Star Game, at least in the early going, almost eerily calm despite the thunder sticks and the Rally Monkey; Game Two, by contrast, had that unmistakable World Series intensity. If you'd just woken up and turned on the TV, you'd have known right away this was a World Series game.
This time, FOX has Keifer Sutherland sitting in the seats. Note that Sutherland was unavailable for Game 1 - have you ever seen him and Jarrod Washburn in the same place at the same time. Hmmmmm......Ben Weber, on the other hand, looks kind of like Pete Townsend with that scraggly goattee - Weber's almost as ugly as his delivery. I first thought his eyes were crooked, but now I think it's just the goggles that are crooked.
It also cracked me up no end when Joe Buck repeatedly identified Disney Chairman, and therefore Angels/ABC/ESPN owner Michael Eisner, sitting in the stands, and completely ignored the fact that the anonymous fan sitting next to him was Gray Davis.
It was also pretty funny to see George Brett catch a foul ball, and without even standing up for it. Sign that kid up! I wonder if that's the first time he's caught a foul ball as a fan? He certainly didn't seem to be making any move to give it up.
One more thing on FOX: not once but twice they had to cut a promo off early because the inning had already started. This is Baseball Coverage 101, folks: don't show us promos for your crappy new serieses when there's a man in the batter's box.
I know a lot of people will be saying this this morning, but watching Francisco Rodriguez definitely takes me back to Mariano Rivera's emergence in the 1995 postseason, following a year when he was mostly an ineffective starting pitcher in the regular season.
Remember when they were writing Tim Salmon's obituary? "Now, it's too early to write Salmon off completely. As noted, his plate discipline remains intact, and that's a good sign. But the parallels to [Dale] Murphy's sudden collapse are clear, and as Salmon continues to ground weakly to shortstop and fly out to center field, it's going to be more and more difficult for the Angels to ignore the demise of their long-time lineup anchor." I know, the guys at Baseball Prospectus do fine work, and I've picked on them a bit much lately. Just keepin' 'em honest . . .