Monday, October 27, 2008

The 2008 Series

They’re not perfect, who is? But they’re very good, Dave O’Brian (?) and Rick Sutcliffe, the announcers for this 2008 World Series.

(Shane?) Utley came up to bat the other day, and O’Brian asked Sutcliffe how he’d handle this Philadelphia All-Star who had been treating the Rays very roughly throughout the series. “That’s a good question,” said Sut, “lots of guys have been trying to figure that out.” Modesty having been neatly disposed of, he went on, “first, I’d establish the fastball, something over the plate, somewhere on the outside would be best. Utley’s been reading the ball very well, picking up the spin on screwballs and breaking pitches, but the change-up has been giving him fits, so I’d go straight to off-speed pitches after that.”

O’Brian replied drolly, “You know, Sut, I enjoy working with you but sometimes I wish I could count on you for a well thought-out answer.”

Sure enough, the pitcher’s first serve was a fastball, very fast, which just missed outside. After that came a great change-up, for a strike, and the pitcher continued to follow Sutcliffe’s script exactly.

Nobody’s perfect, the logic thing falls apart sometimes. In game five, after a couple of innings of rain, the Rays pitcher was suffering and there were many breaks for discussions of strategy and inquiries into the pitchers ability to go on. O’Brian said something about the rain, and mentioned that the Rays had all the time in the world because they were behind 2-1. The game was past the fifth inning, though, so if it were called on account of rain it would go as a complete game and a win for the Phillies, so didn’t that mean that it was the Phillies who had all the time in the world to wait for the rain to do its work? I’m pretty sure it did.

This has been a good series, interesting in many ways and fun to watch. All of the games have been close. The Phillies have been held to a very low output of runs scored, but in almost every inning they have put men on base early and left lots of them hanging after the third out. That’s interesting in itself, but it also means that the Rays pitchers have spent all of their time pitching themselves out of trouble, which is always very, very interesting.

The powerful throw in from the outfield is a favorite play of mine. That ability is not valued in outfielders these days, not as much as it was long ago anyway. Guys like the DiMaggio brothers, as an exhibition, would stand with their backs to the wall in center field, take a step or two and throw a strike to the plate. It’s all mechanics. I’d like to see any of these modern players try it, except that I think B.J. Upton could do it. Early on, a couple of guys tried to run on him, they died trying. The Rays outfield is full of respectable arms.

I’ve always liked baseball as it is played by the Saint Louis Cardinals. They could never afford big team salaries, so they always put together teams of young, fast players who are drilled in the fundamentals. Tony LaRusa, who is a lawyer, by the way, won lots of games with this kind of Cardinal team. They are the Ninjas of baseball, the masters of the run built on junk: walks, stolen bases, infield hits, wild-pitches, bunts, sacrifice flies, hit batsmen. Get on base any way that you can, and see what you can make happen. The Rays play like that. They did hit a lot of home runs in the League Series, but I’m pretty sure that those balls were juiced.

We’re in a rain delay now, and it’s pouring and the field is soaked already so the delay will probably not end today. It’s 2-2; what’ll they do? Lots of interesting aspects to this series.

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