Regardless of politics, you have to get the chills watching this.
The guy in the middle is the one who caught it. The guy on the left is obviously Freese. And the guy on the right is my new hero.
What a game. What a sport. There is of course nothing I can write this morning to perfectly describe that game. Being that I live in Dallas I can tell you that it was a quiet, lonely morning where you could just kind of feel the energy of the city being sucked out. Given that I have no dog in this fight though, let me be the one of the millions to say how much fun that game was last night. Call it hyperbole, say I’m over-exaggerating, I don’t care. That was the single greatest baseball game I’ve ever witnessed. It follows one of the most entertaining playoffs I’ve ever seen as well as the single greatest day of baseball I’ve ever seen on the last day of the regular season. And the best part is we get to come back tonight and do it all again. Such a pleasure. Let’s play a little mythbusters this morning instead of the usual column.
Myth: The losing team tonight should blame their manager. You have two very contrasting styles going head-to-head here with Ron Washington’s “don’t mess with a good thing, trust the guys that got you here” philosophy battling Tony La Russa’s “I must constantly tweak everything possible in order to gain some sort of competitive advantage” theory. Look, both of them work about 50% of the time and that’s all you can ask out of your manager. It’s stupid to blame TLR for game five or Wash for game six. I know hindsight is 20/20, but at their respective times of failure, both managers were acting in the best interests of their teams. It’s impossible in baseball to make the correct managerial decision every single time. There’s too much chance, luck, fate, and low probability involved. It’s essentially gambling.
Fact: The losing team tonight should blame their defense. It’s been awful. Just unforgivable. Both teams made fools of themselves throughout the series, and in particular the Rangers. There’s been way too many errant throws, failed scoops, dropped flyballs (I’m looking at you Nelson Cruz), etc. In an era where great fielding was seen as the latest trend in Moneyball, it’s astonishing that this is what we’re seeing in the World freaking Series.
Myth: Any of the multiple players who were injured last night will miss the game this evening. I know a lot of Rangers fans are probably waking to the news of Napoli’s injury and Cruz’s hamstring injury this morning. Curt Schilling said it best last night. There’s no way any of them miss time tonight. No way. You never know when you’ll get the chance to be back in the World Series, much less a winner takes all situation like game seven. How could you ever live with yourself as an athlete if you skipped tonight? There’s no possible way either of them or Matt Holliday skip out. Take your shots, take your pills, make this game a classic. You have the rest of the offseason to heal. For God’s sake Josh Hamilton is playing this entire playoffs with either (and possibly both) a groin tear or a sports hernia. That didn’t stop him from going H.A.M.ilton (copyright Gen Y Sports, 2011) in extra innings last night for what should have been the game-winning homer.
Truth: A majority of the Rangers bullpen guys are incapable of throwing strikes. If I was Tony La Russa I would be telling my guys that they’re not allowed to lift the bat off their shoulder against the Rangers bullpen until they have two strikes in the count. I’m being 100% serious. Consider the disasters of Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz last night. The reason they found themselves in their respective scenarios was because neither of them have the ability to throw first pitch strikes. Ogando has been particularly awful. Look I get that having 99-mph heat goes a long way in this league. I understand that Feliz is probably intentionally wild to give the hitters an even slimmer chance of ever catching up to one of his fastballs. But still, my strategy wouldn’t change. Let the Rangers pitchers beat themselves. I swear to God they’ll load the bases with walks because they can’t come close to the strike zone.
Myth: The Cardinals have all the momentum. It’s a game seven. All bets are off. Anything is possible. There is nobody out there who could possibly predict what’s going to happen next. The Red Sox didn’t win the World Series after Carlton Fisk’s game-six walk off. For all we know, the Rangers might show up tonight and win by ten runs. No seriously, look at their lineup again if you think I’m crazy. It’s quite possible that momentum is the most made up false idea in all of sports.
Truth: Don’t tell any of the Cardinals players that. This is why I love sports. The athletes in reality are usually very simple men, a majority of whom likely didn’t receive higher education. They believe in ideas like “never giving up,” that their “character” is what got them here, that they “refused to lose.” And you know what? They might just be right.
I said this on the last day of the regular season and I’ll reiterate it again. Last night was one of those rare occasions where all of the time invested/wasted on sports paid off. Who could have ever envisioned that game? Who could have possibly said with any hint of sanity last night that the Cardinals were going to win that game? At one point I was almost positive Disney was conspiring with Bud Selig to film the sequel to Angels in the Outfield. It was one of those once in a generation “miracle” games. And god damnit if that wasn’t one of the most enjoyable nights of sports watching I’ve ever been a part of. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I often take a bunch of flack for how much time I devote to sports. I understand why. But then there’s games like last night where I can point and say “See! This is why it’s worth it.” That kind of magic what you pray for every time you tune in, and somehow, somehow, last night was even better than that.
Generation Y, where we’d like to add Case Keenum to our fantasy team.
Wait for it at around the 1:22 mark. He definitely says “No Jose” instead of “oh say.” Wow.
Baseball is a funny game with a dry sense of humor. A day after the media deified Tony LaRussa for a game that will likely be the episode he submits to the Emmy’s for best actor in a drama series, TLR then went out and over-managed his team out of a victory and a commanding 2-0 lead in the World Series. How awesome was that implosion last night? How does momentum change that abruptly? Consider the series of events that led us to this moment.
First you had Rangers managers Ron Washington admitting before the thing even started that he hoped that it didn’t come down to a battle of the minds because he submitted that he is no match for LaRussa’s intellect. And in typical tragic fashion, Washington went out and tried to play LaRussa’s game in the series opener by sending up a guy to bat who we all agree probably shouldn’t even be on the roster at this point. Advantage Cardinals. They took the first game. That then led to game two where it appeared we were headed in that same direction.
The Cardinals staff had combined for an eight inning shut out and had just turned over the ball to the flame-throwing Jason Motte, who up until last night had retired 27 of the 28 hitters he had faced in the postseason. And then, one of those funny baseball things happened. Ian Kinsler barely got his hands through a Motte fastball and on any other night, it likely would have been caught. Instead a nice combination of cold, wind, and luck led to a flare that barely dropped over the glove of the short stop. Washington then predictably called for the steal and Kinsler beat the throw by what seemed like .000001 seconds. A “bang-bang” play if there ever was one. After Elvis Andrus reached second base on a throwing error in the next at bat, it was time for LaRussa to make a decision.
LaRussa obviously then pulled Motte for left-handed pitcher Arthur Rhodes and what seemed like a favorable matchup against lefty Josh Hamilton. That is until Hamilton took all of one pitches to hit a sacrifice, tie the game, and send LaRussa back to the mound to call for yet another pitcher. It was a classic TLR over-management job and that type of performance that has driven Cardinals fans crazy during his entire tenure in St. Louis. It’s admittedly hard to watch. He’s like the Andy Reid of MLB managers. Yeah he might get you to the playoffs every year, but it never comes easy, it’s never pretty, and it makes you want to hit the ejector button about five times along the way.
What I find so interesting though is the manner in which the viewing public scrutinizes every move a manager makes during a game. In fact I have no doubt that LaRussa is going to get killed for what he did last night. Obviously he should have kept Motte in, called for the intentional walk on Hamilton, and then played for a double play ball with Michael Young, right??
How are we supposed to know any of that? Hindsight is 20/20, but in that moment, who is to truly say what the correct decision is? That very same strategy that lost Tony LaRussa the game last night is the strategy that led the Cardinals to win the NL pennant. Their bullpen has been better than outstanding thus far. Why should LaRussa have then suddenly changed the strategy?
I guess what I’m saying is that I hope you don’t blast LaRussa this morning in much the same way I hoped you didn’t view him as a genius after game one. Baseball is an extremely fickle sport. No matter how long a person has been in the game, no matter how much you might increase your win probability by playing the numbers of sabermetrics, the game never fails to create moments that are unique unto themselves. It’s like sports gambling for all you people out there who have ever placed a bet. You’re winning if you hit 51% of your decisions. But that still means 49% of them are wrong.
Last night Tony LaRussa got it wrong. But the beauty of the game is that he still has the rest of the Series to do just the opposite.
Generation Y, where no seriously you guys, the Epstein deal is almost done this time. For reals.