27 October 2005

White Sox 2005 Champs...

Well, since this is my first non-Red Sox World Series doing this blog, I guess I have to mention it. I'll call today bittersweet- it's the one year anniversary of me fiddling my swisscheese wiffle ball and Mike picking his foam pumpkin to the tune of Boston being the 2004 titleholders. But, today also marks the official end of that reign, as Chicago beat Houston last night in another tremendous game, 1-0 to finish off the sweep. They went 11-1 in the postseason (after sweeping the red hot Indians to finish the regular year) and tied the 04 Red Sox' record of 8 straight postseason victories.

Some background- in this decade, there have been six different winners- including the series featuring ten different teams (the Yankees the only repeat appearances in 2001, 2001 and 2003). The AL has won 4 of those 6, and is 21-12 in World Series games. The following players have been WS MVPs:

2000- Derek Jeter
2001- Randy Johnson/ Curt Schilling
2002- Troy Glaus
2003- Josh Beckett
2004- Manny Ramirez
2005- Jermaine Dye

With all the free-agent player movement in this era of baseball, of the champions in this century, only one player has been on TWO of the rosters. Curt Schilling (01, 04).

So now, with Boston and the White Sox cleared off the ledgers, here is the official monkey-on-back list:

  1. Chicago Cubs (97 years- 1908, 4-1 over Detroit)

  2. Cleveland Indians (57 years- 1948, 4-2 over Boston)

  3. New York/ San Francisco Giants (51 years- 1954, 4-0 over Cleveland)

  4. Washington Senators/ Texas Rangers (44 years- have never won)

  5. Houston Astros (43 years- have never won)

  6. San Diego Padres (36 years- have never won)

  7. Seattle Pilots/ Milwaukee Brewers (36 years- have never won)

  8. Seattle Mariners (28 years- have never won)

  9. Pittsburgh Pirates (26 years- 1979, 4-3 over Baltimore)

That popping noise you hear is the sound of the nearest Cubs fan's head exploding. Man, that's gotta suck. I mean, I wanted the Astros to win, but if it means Jim Belushi and Barbara Bush went home pissed last night- how can that be wrong? (Also worth noting- anyone notice the shot they had of the Bushes during the game's final out? Orlando Palmeiro made it REALLY close, and they thought he'd be safe, so they had their mouths agape, cheering, and then you can see the instant he's called out, and they just sort of freeze depressingly- I laughed out loud. I'll admit it.)

This was a lot more exciting a Series than the length or ratings would suggest- it was that odd grouping of games that came consistently down to the wire, but the same team came out on top every time. Game one was the most devoid of late(r) drama, but even it had the first-and-third no-out situation for Houston, down a run, that the White Sox bullpen managed to stymie, with Neil Cotts and Bobby Jenks striking out Morgan Ensberg, Mike Lamb (why wasn't he hit for again?) and Jeff Bagwell all in a row.

Game Two was the best of all- maybe one of the best World Series games I can remember, actually- with Houston battling to break a 2-2 tie with 2 more in the 5th, then Houston's bullpen loading the bases with 2 outs, and Konerko drilling the first pitch he sees for a grand slam. Down to their final outs, Houston scratches back against Jenks, as pinch hitter Luis Vizcaino drops a single into left, and with 2 outs and the game closing in on them, Chris Burke making an unbelievable slide to be safe on a ball that beat him home. Of course, finally, Brad Lidge, one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, against Scott Podsednik, one of the least likely regular players in the game to hit a HR. His walkoff finished off what was an incredible game.

Then there was the nearly-six-hour Game Three, in which Roy Oswalt couldn't protect a 3-run lead (he threw FORTY SIX pitches in the 5th; more on that later), the offense battled back to tie it in the 8th, and then the Chicago White Sox bullpen simply waited out the terrible Astros offense, and got two in the 14th for the win. Then Phil Garner showed amazingly poor instincts and decision making by throwing his team under the bus (ouch- I hate that phrase. Oh well) after HE'D made numerous terrible decisions in the series to that point. That was pretty embarassing- in fact, if I were running the team, coupled with the fact that Phil Garner isn't much of a manager... I wouldn't mind letting that make up my mind to fire him. But c'est la vie.

Finally, Game Four, a marvelous pitcher's duel between Freddy Garcia and Brandon Ritalin Backe, the latter of which had an absolutely filthy slider all night. The lone run came on a single up the middle off of Brad Lidge, who promptly went home, collapsed on his bed and will likely not be heard from for another week-and-a-half. He looked flat exhausted on the mound these last two weeks. Plus there were those two fantastic plays by Juan Uribe to end the Series- a diving catch into the stands and a HUGE play on a slow roller to get Orlando Palmeiro and secure the Series for Chicago. And consequently, I happened to name the young man AL SS Gold Glove at the end of the season. So, bully for me.

But, to the Garner point- apparently Peter Gammons went ballistic criticizing him on SportsCenter (which I'm sorry I missed), and Tom Verducci wrote this great article about this situation, making a great point about how crappy an idea it was. Not only is it a little ridiculous to be whining frustratedly about a team that was days off of winning the NL Championship, and not only was it pointless to bemoan an offense that hasn't scored all season- Garner himself should have shouldered a lot of the blame for the losses, and simply decided to pass it off. Here are some interesting points from the article:

Beautiful. Mind you, the guy says nothing to his team after the game. But he does march into the official interview room and drop these bombs for the media:

"Absolute rotten hitting."
"It's embarrassing to play like this in front of our hometown."

"I'm really ticked off."

Way to bail on your team, Mr. Manager.
Not once did the manager accept any blame or responsibility himself.
You know your team can't hit, but what did you do when Chris Burke reached third base with one out in the ninth inning? Nothing. No squeeze play. Not with Craig Biggio batting and then not with Willy Taveras batting -- both of whom are excellent bunters. If you are having so much trouble getting a run home with a hit, if you are really so "ticked off" waiting for a hit, why not make something happen with a squeeze attempt?

Where was the manager in the fifth inning when Roy Oswalt was allowed to throw a career-high 46 pitches and blow a 4-0 lead? Not once did the manager even come out of the dugout to give the pitcher a breather. Not once did he get the pitcher out of the inning as batter after batter reached base.

Pretty damning stuff. I just don't see what he thought he was accomplishing, and if it was simply a case of "I was really upset and I let my emotions get the better of me," well, then maybe he shouldn't be managing a big league team (and this doesn't even consider having his ass handed to him tactically by Ozzie Guillen). The level in which Guillen outmanaged Garner reminds me of Francona running circles around Torre in last year's ALCS. Of course, it doesn't help when your main advantage- your pitching- gets tired, injured or ineffective when it counts, but Garner can count himself among the factors that may have lead to that.

The other thing Garner failed to acknowledge, of course, was the fact that Chicago was almost literally flawless as a baseball team from about September 28th on. After that late-season slump that nearly let Cleveland into the playoffs ahead of them, Chicago bore down and simply willed themselves to victory night after night. I don't think I can recall a playoff team taking advantage of as many breaks as they have- though the umpiring was atrocious through the entire playoffs, the reason it became such a prevailing issue is because, nearly every time the opportunity was given to them, the White Sox took it. Reminds me of Boston's bevy of 2-out runs in the Series last year.

The thing that was kind of cool about the White Sox was that they weren't excellent at anything- they were just very, very good at everything. Everyone calls them a small-ball team, but to my view, they weren't- they may bunt more often than they probably should and with guys they should let swing, but they're almost always on the board first, run the bases well, have some guys that can hit for power, and when it counted, hit 'em where they ain't. Now, they likely screwed themselves out of a few big innings by sacrificing a blue streak, but they had incredibly stifling pitching to keep them in it, and a deep, solid bullpen to hold it over. Plus, with guys like Crede, Uribe, Rowand, Iguchi and, to a lesser extent, Dye and Podsednik, they had a tremendous defense. They weren't necessarily a "team for the ages," they were simply a really good team that was better and hotter than everyone else when they needed to be. Interesting point as well- only TWO players for Chicago (Dye, Konerko) had an OPS over 800.

For the record though, the fact that AJ Pierzynski and Hawk Harrelson have this one in their back pocket does get under my skin. For what it's worth.

OK, White Sox- keep it warm for us.

Here's something fun. Go here and type in your name. Thanks to the good people at Flickr.

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Back to last night- a while ago I picked my Latino Legends Team online, and last night MLB announced the roster for the all-time team. The ceremony was awesome, and while Manny, Pujols and Rivera weren't present, Pedro was right there, next to his forebear Juan Marichal, and that, for me, was awesome. At the end of the day, among Marichal, Valenzuela and Martinez, who's the best pitcher? I know I mention it a lot, but it's pretty amazing that he is the greatest foreign born pitcher of all time. Marichal's leg kick for the first pitch was pretty sweet too. Here is MLB's team (with my original selection in parentheses):

C- Ivan Rodriguez, Puerto Rico (Ivan Rodriguez)
1B- Albert Pujols, Dominican Republic (Albert Pujols)
2B- Rod Carew, Panama (Roberto Alomar, Puerto Rico)
3B- Edgar Martinez, Puerto Rico (Edgar Martinez)
SS- Alex Rodriguez, Dominican Republic (Alex Rodriguez)
LF- Manny Ramirez, Dominican Republic (Manny Ramirez)
CF- Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rico (Bernie Williams, Puerto Rico)
RF- Vladimir Guerrero, Dominican Republic (Roberto Clemente)

SP- Pedro Martinez, Dominican Republic (Pedro Martinez)
SP- Juan Marichal, Dominican Republic (Juan Marichal)
SP- Fernando Valenzuela, Mexico (Luis Tiant, Cuba)
SP- Camilo Pascual, CUBA
SP- Dennis Martinez, NICARAGUA
SP- Lefty Gomez, MEXICO

RP- Mariano Rivera, Panama (Mariano Rivera)

I thought the fans did a good job with the selections, with the exception of choosing Valenzuela over El Tiante. Terrible job there. I'd also give, career-wise, the nod to Bernie Williams over Vlad at this point, but you can see where someone's coming from choosing Guerrero, I guess.

The best part was seeing the ceremony (save Jon Secada's PCP-inflected Star Spangled Banner rendition) headed by Edward James Olmos. You KNOW that meeting was awkward- "Uhm so... who should emcee this thing?" "Well, I mean... it'd be best, I think if... well, if we used a Latin star to do it." "So- who's available?" "It's gotta be Olmos."

I like EJ Olmos. Pockmarks and all. Stand and Deliver's a good movie.

So over on 82nd & 3rd, a 7-11 has FINALLY been put in my neighborhood (just over a month until I leave it, obviously), and I can't kick my Taquito habit. They're really fuckin' good, and really fuckin' cheap. Plus, they have GOOD Slurpee flavors (please see: any other Slurpee rant from this blog) and, obviously, are open late.

But the Taquito thing- I mean, they're so great for a snack- not enough to sub as a meal, but literally perfect for, "fuck, I feel like spending the next few hours playing The Warriors, and I need something absolutely terrible for me to chew on whilst I do it." BOOM- put on the Chuck's run over to Sev Elev. It's like a 5 minute walk, but it's worth it. I prefer the Philly Steak and Cheese ones, but the Pizza ones will do the trick fine.

In fact, the other night I had a huge hankerin' for some Taquitos (or, as I call 'em, "GoGos"), and I went over to 7-11. I go in and notice there are only FIVE left on the rotator. So I go grab a soda, walk back over, and Johnny Birkenstocksandgranola asks for two of them. "Fine," I think. The requisite number to get is three. But then the cashier guy starts insisting he take three to take advantage of the deal- 3 for $3.00, which I had planned on myself. The guy balks, but the cashier keeps insisting- "no, you get three!" Finally the kid shook his head and says, "yea, whatever, fine- three."

Playing dumb, I go to the counter, ask for three, and the guy looks me square in the eye and says, "I'm sorry, there's only two left- that guy ordered three." UGH. Terrible job, Sev Elev.

Altogether though, good job Sev Elev.

Here's a problem I have. Often times when I'm watching one of those panel debate shows, and the argument starts to skirt around but never directly address what is the central and most important point of the argument.

Case in point- last night I was watching that boring catch-all show Bob Costas does- CostasNOW, where he has a few Real Sports story castoffs and sees how many big words he can toss out and how many times he can make his crew laugh out loud (answer: often, they're obviously encouraged to do so). His first segment is where he interviewed Torre just after his agreeing to come back to the Yankees (sidenote- is any athletic figure in the entire WORLD as pussified as Joe Torre? Every time he talks about Steinbrenner or his players or colleagues or coaches, it's all about their "relationship" and his "needing Steinbrenner's approval" and how these things relate to "[his] relationship with [his] dad," and gosh, how'd that make him feel? I'm not against these things in principle, I just don't for the life of me understand what Joe Torre thinks people care about this stuff for. Oh right- his audience is Yankee fans. Anything but the actual baseball games. I forgot).

Then he held a roundtable with Jim Palmer, John McEnroe (again) and Pete Rose. The conversation inevitably turned to "should Pete be in the Hall of Fame?" a question Palmer got put RIGHT on the spot with. Eventually Rose was making the argument that, in fact, players with drug problems get a second chance, as do ones with alcohol and other criminal behavior... but not him. Very true. But no one really fended off the ridiculous nature of that argument, because, well, they seemed to understandably not want to make the panel acrimonious. So I'll do it.

Gambling, specifically on the sport (and no, no one watching believed you bet for your team "every single game"), is absolutely worse than drugs, alcohol, spousal abuse- you name it- in this context. Because in the context of it's effect on baseball, the act of gambling is far worse than the PR hit of off-the-field player activity, no matter how embarassing. If gambling on the game in ANY way is allowed, it compromises, in the paying audience, the integrity of the results. And once you compromise the integrity of the results and the contests, it becomes WWF Wrestling which, while profitable, is about 500 steps down financially from what baseball is. Gambling kills baseball dead. Rose gambled on baseball- one mistake is enough; he should stay banned from baseball.

Now, of course, the Hall of Fame is different- it's an historical organization that does not document infractions on the game. Punishment levied out there is counter-intuitive and counterproductive. He did what he did on the field, so you have to recognize it. Simple as that.

Then they showed, for levity, some ads Palmer and Rose did in the 70s for men's underwear, and you sort of got a look at "Off-Air" Pete- he was one of those guys- laughed a little TOO hard and pounded the desk a little TOO loud. Made everyone a little uncomfortable. He's just that kind of guy, you know?

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