Friday, November 03, 2006

Post-CARD Postscript

(Due to the weekend's high winds, a few unscheduled dinner dates, mild illnesses and technical difficulties, this Saturday blog got lost in a pile of damp leaves and ambivalence. Its timeless beauty makes it pertinent in the modern-day) ...

CAPTAIN'S LOG, Sat. 10-28-06 -- Any time there's a Major League Baseball Championship (didja forget already that Japan is the '06 world champion?) that's as undramatic and lifeless as this one was, the first things we Americans who reside outside of the St. Louis and Detroit city limits do is flock to The Temple of Arcane Minutae and open our hymnals to the page with the most-bizarre fact.
Most of the time, the wacky stats are provided by ESPN (working in conjunction with the Elias Sports Bureau) -- y'know, vital info such as what we learned following Game 4 when "Ravs" reported that David Eckstein became the first player with four hits in a game to get the game-winning hit in the 8th inning or later.
That's the sort of data which may (or may not) enrich our lives, but the only other enticing alternative came from Game 4 when Scott Rolen was legging out a double and beating the tag of Placido Polanco.
"This marks the first time in the history of the MLB Championship history when an ex-Phillie Gold Glover slid safely into second base while eluding the tag of the future ALCS MVP which the Phillies acquired in exchange for the ex-Phillie Gold Glover sliding into second base."

While it might be pleasing to envision that, somewhere, Ugueth Urbina smiled just knowing that he was one-half of the greatest-sounding baseball trade ever ("Placido Polanco for Ugueth Urbina"), for all any of us knows, Ugueth Urbina continues to waste away in his Venezuelan jail cell for crimes pertaining to alleged indiscretions with a machete, thus rendering him less inclined to smile.
And it just goes to show how ungratifying and messed up the '06 MLB Championship was -- mostly for the way it was unable to avenge the imprisonment of Ugueth Urbina. The list of disappointments begins with the ex-Cardinal/ex-Phillie (Polanco), the ALCS MVP who took an 0-for-17 collar while he and his teammates provided precious little basepath traffic for his first base coach, the ex-Cardinal/ex-Phillie named Andy Van Slump.
Speaking of 'Cido, did Elias ever inform us civilians if Polanco was the first ALCS MVP to wear one of those full-sized, entire-head skullcaps during a MLB Championship game (as Polanco did to provide warmth for his mishaped melon during the brisk temps of Game 2 in Detroit)?

To top off the lackluster proceedings, those "astute" baseball observers (the writers) gave Scott Rolen's 2006 MLB Championship MVP Award to Eckstein because, well ... because Eckstein is a scrapper and a gamer and he's gritty and pesky and because, ummm ... because Rolen is an ex-Phillie who wore #17 in Philadelphia, but was forced to switch to Todd Zeile's #27 in St. Loo because #17 is the retired uniform number of Dizzy Dean -- and, now that ya mention it ... does Ol' Diz belong in the Hall of Fame? Sure, he had those five spectacular seasons and everybody knows that his career was never the same after he took that line drive off his foot in the All-Star Game and, while that's a shame, shouldn't we at least re-visit Diz's accomplishments and perhaps put him on the list of the de-enshrinees (which this planet suggested a few months ago)?

Back to Eckstein ... those two doubles in Game 4 (Granderson falling down in CF; Monroe attempting to play LF) ... tainted. Very tainted.
Then again, maybe the writers felt a sense of betrayal from two years ago when Rolen went 0 for 12 vs. L.A. in the NLDS; 9 for 29 (with three HRs and two doubles) vs. Hou. in the NLCS; and then 0 for 15 vs. the Bosox in what was then the "World Series."
The writers' findings were consclusive: Rolen never decided if he wished to be enigmatically inconsistent or inconsistently enigmatic.

Rockin' Rolen got his shit together in the '06 NLCS and the MLB Championship following a sluggish NLDS vs. the Pods (probably because he was reunited with his ol' batting coach from the Francona Phillie days ... Hal McRae).
Still, it wasn't enough to save this particular United States Baseball Title Series -- which was unable to equal the glory and the international intrigue of the World Baseball Classic of seven months earlier.
This Fall Un-Classic did little to move the needle on the thrill-o-meter, so, America was left to sift through the wreckage for nuggets and tidbits which were deemed salvagable.
Such as this tasty morsel:
St. Louis became the first team to clinch a World Series on a Friday.

Hopefully, the Pitchforkistas in Haystackeria procured this delicious crumb of obscurity before Elias did.
Seriously ... we NEED that Friday angle.
If we don't play the Friday angle to the hilt, then we're stuck with exploring topical matter such as "Is Cris Carpenter A Chris Carpenter Fan?"
Sometimes, people need reminding that Cris "No H" Carpenter was that Redbird middle reliever from the early '90s who was a Georgia Bulldog punter in the mid-'80s -- meaning that Cris "No H" Carpenter was a college teammate of not only Lars Tate, but also Tim Worley.
And Bill Goldberg.
When Chris Carpenter was 12 years old, St. Louis made Cris Carpenter a first-round draft pick.
It makes ya wonder if it was at that point that people began to predict that one day, a Little Leaguer named Chris Carpenter would grow up to become Cris Carpenter.
Just without the punting for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Anyway, back to the "Friday paradigm" ... the last time that the Cardinals and Tigers met in a U.S. championship (1968) was the last year before divisional playoffs, meaning that, for the previous 50 or 60 World Series-eses, Americans followed a Weds.-Thurs.-travel-Sat.-Sun.-Mon.-travel (if necessary) format.
With the advent of a best-of-5 playoff series to precede the World Series, our elementary/junior high days (1969-76) adhered to the World Series schedule of Sat.-Sun.-travel-Tues.-Weds.-Thurs.-travel (if necessary)-Sat.-Sun.
We were asked to change our lives again during high school/college ('77-'84) when the schedule was juggled -- divisional playoffs were Tues.-Weds.-travel-Fri.-Sat.-Sun. and the World Series was format of Tues.-Weds.-travel-Fri.-Sat.-Sun.-travel (if necessary)-Tues.-Weds.
Not until 1985 was it necessary to permanently calibrate our inner-calendars to the current format ... which is what it was in '69 thru '76.
Except for 1994.
Which is the reason why some of us don't give much of a crap about October baseball anymore.
Except for the purpose of mocking it.

Frankly, not too many of us can see the U.S.-champion Cardinals beating the World Champion Japanese.
Thankfully, the Columbus, GA Little League All-Stars brought a "world" title home to the states by defeating the all-stars from the Land of '05 MLB Champion Tadahito Iguchi and '06 MLB Champion So Taguchi.
If you know anything about the Iguchis and the Taguchis, Mrs. Iguchi and Mrs. Taguchi don't wear Gucci.

Either way, in four or five years, those Columbus, GA kids will be forgetting about past glories on "the diamond" and they'll be blowing off FOX coverage of the MLB Championships so that they can focus on Friday-night football and the chicks who dig the guys who dig Friday-night football.
For the record, the only time (before last night) since 1985 when a World Series game was played on a Friday night was one which La Russa managed -- Game 3 of the '89 World Series which was resumed following a 10-day layoff due to the Loma Prieta earthquake of Tues. Oct. 17.
Some of us, at that time, lived less than an hour from the epicenter of that quake.
That's the power of La Russa, though.
Neither earthquakes nor rainouts can deter him. If La Russa has to get it done on a Friday night and divert our attention away from the sport which made this nation great (heroic high-school gridiron glory), then, dadgummit, that's what he'll do.
Except in 1994.

At least with this St. Louis victory, we won't need future references to "when the Cardinals last won the World Series in 1982," specifically where we were and what we were doing on that Friday night 24 years ago when a rookie (a Yankee castoff) named Willie McGee was hitting two home runs and making a circus catch in CF to take away a homer while Howard Cosell was referring to him as "E.T."
Those were the days when the Cards had two ex-Phillies (Lonnie Smith and Dane Iorg) ripping up the Brewers' pitching staff which was chronicled by a frail, pencilneck announcer with beady eyes, a big schnozz and a weak toupee who was playfully mocking the appearance of a Redbird rookie.
The good news about the '82 world champs: Bruce Sutter was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.
The bad news about the '82 world champs: Whitey Herzog hasn't been inducted.
Is this oversight because Whitey had a Hall of Famer (Rollie Fingers) for four days before he dealt him to acquire Sixto Lezcano -- and then, a year later, traded Sixto Lezcano to acquire a Hall of Famer (Ozzie Smith)?
To reiterate: "Six Degrees of Sixto" is not to be trifled with.

Anyhow, when the dust finally settles from this St. Louis' celebration, the historians will recap this MLB Championship as the one in which Detroit pitchers were un-Emanski-esque in their throwing mechanics when it came to aiming the ball to first base or third base. They were chucking the pill all over the yard (a sprawling-in-vain Brandon Inge and his gravy-stained chin smudge sold separately).
Detroit hitters weren't much better, either, seeing how they didn't comprehend the Emanski video "Mechanics of the Big League Swing." In fact, after a lackluster Game 1, 2, 3, some of us (read: bitter Phillie fans, etc ...) welcomed the Wednesday rainout of Game 4 and embraced the postponement by firing up the DVD player to watch/hear the moment when Nurse Ratched refused to turn on the psychiatric ward's TV, thus prompting THE all-time greatest World Series play-by-play call.

McMURPHY: "Koufax ... Koufax kicks, he delivers, it's up the middle, IT'S A BASEHIT! Richardson is rounding first, he's going for second, the ball's in deep right-center, Davis over to cut the ball off, here comes the throw, Richardson is rounding first, he goes into second, he slides, he's in there, he's SAFE! It's a double! He's in there, Martini! Lookit Richardson, he's on second base! Koufax is in big, fucking trouble! Big trouble, baby!
"All right ... Tresh is the next batter, Tresh looks in, Koufax gets his sign from Roseboro, he kicks once, he pumps, he fires ... it's a strike! Koufax's curveball is snappin' off like a fuckin' firecracker! All right, here comes the next pitch, Tresh swings ... it's a long fly ball to deep left-center! It's going! It's going! It's gone! Somebody get me a fuckin' weiner before I die!
"Koufax looks down, he's looking at the great Mickey Mantle now ... here comes the pitch ... Mantle swings ... IT'S A FUCKIN' HOME RUN!"

True ... it was an unwritten rule that Weds. was supposed to be set aside as a day of observance for the 20th anniversary of Mookie's grounder through Billy Buck's wickets, but some of us relive R.P. McMurphy's made-up call of a make-believe '63 World Series game between the Yankees and the Dodgers a few times a year since we first heard it in 1975.
(For those of us who still own a homemade cassette of the radio broadcast of that '86 Game 6, Joe Buck's daddy saw Rich Gedman's passed ball which allowed Kevin Mitchell to score the tying run and Jack gruffly bellowed, "This is gonna be a tie game! Un-bee-LEEEE-vuhh-bull it's 5-5!")

But, back on the bridge which connects 1975 to 2006 ... some of us can picture Jim Leyland pulling a Charlie Cheswick during Wednesday's rainout and the moment when he shrieks, "I want MY cigarettes! MYYYY cigarettes!"
McMurphy? A little help?

Dialing the rewind machine to 1975 or 1982 or 1984 or 1986 was a more-appealing alternative than having to deal with the Detroit/Leyland lovefest. Actually, we'll find out more next year if Captain Cranky is a smoker who manages a baseball team or if he's a manager who is a smoker.
After all, he skippered the '97 World Champion Marlins to a 54-108 record in '98. (Note: If you don't like the term "skippered," try "piloted.")
Speaking of 100-loss disasters, the 119-loss Tigers of '03 were a lot of fun because they had Dmitri Young (a Redbird castoff) and Bobby Higginson swingin' for the fences and breakin' young girls' hearts.
Curtis Granderson? The dude stole EIGHT bases this year.
Not very disruptive for a so-called "leadoff" batter.

Something else which ruined Detroit's chances: The lack of a theme song, a la the Red Sox and White Sox, which broke curses dating back to 1918 and 1917.
Anthems about "belief."
And what it means to believe.
And the belief of believing.

Chowd Nation rode the wave of that homemade "We Believe!" song in '04 and the Pale Hose moved n' grooved to that hunk-o'-junk Journey song "Don't Stop Believing" last year.
Couldn't Kid Rock whip up something for the Motown Nine?
Has KISS's "Detroit Rock City" become too passe?
Maybe next year for the Tigers from Detroit ... right now, the nation needs to shift its focus (justifiably so) toward Tigers from LSU, Auburn and Clemson.

When the ESPN roundtable offered a quickie capsule of "What does Detroit need most for '07?" Gammons couldn't offer anything more substantive than the times when Berman was allowed to sit in Ravs' captain's chair and provide nuthin' more than schtick, more schtick and super-schtick.
Gammons indicated that TigerTown needs a big stick ... "a 40-45 home run guy."

Is Pete dreaming of a New Hank Greenberg or a Modern-Day Rocky Colavito to pack some punch for the Motor City Kitties?
Or was he thinking of the 41 homers that Bobby Abreu hit at Comerica in the '05 All-Star Game Home Run Derby competition?
It's funny: If Krukker says something that idiotic, it's "What does that fatso Kruk know? He pours gravy on his corn flakes."
When it's Gammons, most people get all reverential and whisper, "Shhhhh ... Pete had an aneurysm."

If The Gamm Man is going to get all abstract and refer to 40-45 home run guys which aren't exactly in abundance, he should amp it up and go WAYYYYY outlandish.
Y'know, saying stuff like, "Detroit will be unstoppable once Craig Monroe wins the first of his five consecutive batting titles" or "It wouldn't surprise me if Justin Verlander won the next three Cy Young Awards."
As it stands, The Gamm Man is three clicks south of becoming baseball's Beano Cook and predicting that Ron Powlus will win two Heisman Trophies.

Sometimes ESPN gets confusing once the network pulls away its mask of "Bonds & Bonds' Steroids Are Ruining This Game (And It's The Children Who Suffer)."
Which is why The MLB set another record at the turnstiles.
Because Bonds is killing the game.
Sure, he's a jerk-off -- but The MLB and ESPN ain't got nuthin' on him, so, tough tarts, said the Queen of Hearts.

We fans need more important questions addressed, such as "Is the Luis Pujols who managed the Tigers after Phil Garner was fired seven games into the 2002 season related to Albert Pujols?"
And, "Is the Rafael Belliard who TV cameras often spotted in the Tigers' dugout related to Ronnie Belliard and Ronnie Belliard's Roseanne Roseannadanna 'fro?"
More important, is New Busch's right field Old Busch's left field or is New Busch's left field Old Busch's right field?

Funny thing about New Busch: If Trevor Hoffman hadn't blown the save in the 9th inning of the All-Star Game, the Cards woulda been celebrating their victory-in-five-games in Comerica, not New Busch.
But, because of Hell's Bells, the Cards got to clinch with the middle three in Gateway Town.
So much for "home-field advantage," which, by the way, is a figment of many people's imaginations.

For the Phillies, the St. Louis-Detroit series will serve as a blueprint for their run to the '07 MLB Championship.
The Phils didn't even wait for the postseason to end to get cookin' in the hot-stove league, announcing early last week that Davey Lopes, Art Howe and Jimy Williams had been hired as coaches.
Once 44-year-old Jamie Moyer (6-12 w/ Seattle before 5-2 w/ Philly) was signed, the wheels were in motion.

In the interim, some of us will spend the winter circulating the petition that the 85-77 Phillies of '06 were better than the 83-78 Cardinals of '06.

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