Sorry, We're Closed

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Long Night

A few notes on Game Three, the longest World Series game ever…

*John Thorn's comment: "The Blum is off the 'stros."

*Houston really should have won. The Sox got very little done offensively in 12 of the 14 innings, and the Astros left 15 men on base. I still don’t know quite how Orlando Hernandez escaped that ninth-inning jam, when Houston had Burke on third and Biggio on first with only one out.

I thought it was a tactical mistake on Houston’s part to not have Willy Taveras, who we are constantly reminded is a good bunter, lay down at least one squeeze attempt. Taveras is only in the majors because he’s a littleball guy—bunt, slap, and steal—and while he tried to slap the ball the other way to get the run home, he wasn’t able to hit Hernandez’ outstanding assortment of twisting breaking balls. The Sox saw what Taveras was trying to do and adjusted accordingly, throwing him nothing he could hit.

*Despite using nine pitchers last night, the White Sox’ bullpen is in fairly good shape. Bobby Jenks threw two innings, but Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said after the game that even Jenks could pitch tonight if necessary. Neil Cotts, Cliff Politte, and Luis Vizcaino combined to throw just 33 pitches.

Of a bit more concern are the injuries to Dustin Hermanson (back) and Orlando Hernandez (neck). Hermanson’s back limits his ability to follow through on his delivery, and Hernandez had to come out after walking four men in an inning plus. Tough to say if either one can pitch again in the series.

The biggest X-factor in this game for the Sox was the performance of Damaso Marte. Prior to the series, Gary Gillette and I thought that Marte could come up big if the team would only call on him, and the lefty—the last man in the bullpen—threw 1.2 scoreless innings and would have finished the game if Juan Uribe hadn’t kicked a two-out, last of the 14th ground ball. As it is, Marte got the win, casting off some of his reputation as a choker with a major league performance.

*Morgan Ensberg’s double play in the 14th inning was one of the finest clutch defensive plays I’ve seen. Ensberg doesn’t get a lot of ink for his glovework, but his range is a bit above average and he has decent footwork.

Ensberg’s almost ridiculously open batting stance, which he adopted this year, drew comparisons to that of Andres Galarraga from Buck and McCarver, but Ensberg is different either from Galarraga or Tony Batista, the former Expos and Orioles infielder who spent 2005 in Japan, who also has a freakishly open stance. Ensberg walked 85 times this past season as well as slamming 36 homers, and neither Batista nor Galarraga ever showed that kind of batting eye.

*You know, one of the things that people say (and I’ve been guilty of this) about Japanese players who come to the United States is that they’re well schooled in the fundamentals. Japan is supposed to be famous for its drills and exercises to make sure that players don’t miss signs, make mental mistakes, etc., etc.

But watching Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi this season, and especially in the postseason, I've seen a guy who makes a LOT of mental mistakes. Last night he didn’t tag up on a fly ball despite Astros center fielder Willy Taveras giving him third base. He’s had other high-profile goofs this postseason, including bad throws on double plays and that neighborhood-play screw-up in the ALCS, and Iguchi also showed this season that despite being touted as a contact hitter, he strikes out an awful lot.

*Fox’ tendency to show faces—celebrity faces, beautiful faces, faces seemingly deep in thought—between every pitch gets more irritating all the time. It’s as if Fox’ directors refuse to show the field when “nothing is going on,” i.e. between pitches.

And, as any baseball fan over the age of seven knows, between pitches is when things are really happening; fielders are moving into position, baserunners are taking their leads, pitchers and catchers are engaging in their wordless dialogue. But as far as Fox is concerned, it’s more important to show close-up shots of fans intently staring at the field rather than allow US, the viewers, to stare intently at the field.

*Was that Shrub sitting with Barbara Bitch, er, Bush, last night? I couldn't tell if that was George's trademark smirk or possibly Jeb's, or someone else's. How about that reaction shot of Barbara when MLB did its short salute to the late Rosa Parks? Does anyone really think Barbara Bush gives a good goddamn about the legacy of Rosa Parks?? What an insult.

One thing you notice about games in Houston is that Astros owner Drayton McLane and the Bushes tend to sit in high-profile, high-visibility, behind-the-plate seats. At Comiskey, Jerry Reinsdorf sits in an owner's box. Take from that what you will, but I'm glad not to have to see the Sox owner every time the center-field camera focuses on home plate. And that nice behind-the-plate seat taken up by a secret service agent assigned to guard Barbara? I'm sure a fan would have loved a chance to sit there.

*While not a generally a fan of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, I have to give them credit for their job last night. Buck was able to retain his level of intensity for what was an extremely LONG broadcast, and McCarver didn’t let loose with a string of inappropriate, hamhanded pseudo-punning references.

McCarver did point out that Jason Lane of the Astros is an oddity in baseball in that he bats righthanded and throws left—not many players do this. McCarver also noted that one of his own former St. Louis teammates, Carl Warwick, was also a BR/TL, and additionally pointed out that Warwick got three pinch-hits in the 1964 World Series.

*Just below the surface of Buck and McCarver’s commentary was a strong level of dissatisfaction with the job done by plate umpire Jerry Layne, whose strike zone was inconsistent, especially during the early innings. Umpires have one of the toughest jobs in sports, but a series of high-profile mistakes in several series this post-season have led to the usual calls for the use of instant replay in “key situations.”

I truly hope that instant replay isn’t adopted, not because “human error” is part of baseball but rather because the use of replay will delay the game and remove fans from the process. Four umpires staring at a TV screen isn’t my idea of fun, and the number of games that are truly lost by “bad calls” isn’t nearly enough to make baseball into hockey or football.

*Phil Garner used to be a real red-ass when he managed the Brewers, ordering his pitchers to knock down hitters, running wild on the bases, and overusing his starters. He’s mellowed a bit since coming to Houston, but last night threw a chair after Ezequiel Astacio allowed Geoff Blum’s 14th inning homer on a 2-0 pitch and engaged in a shouting match with Guillen and White Sox outfielder Carl Everett, both of whom questioned Roy Oswalt’s plunking of Joe Crede in the fifth. Garner losing his cool is totally understandable—it’s the World Series, and his team HAD to have that game—but it does indicate that the Astros may be beat.


Blogger Tom said...

Damn, fool, when did you find time to write all this? That game just ended about an hour ago. I think it might have been Neil Bush with Mama back there. They didn't show her all that much, I don't think.

And yes, the constant cut-aways to the crowd totally bite. I don't know how many times they cut to shots of good Texans "praying," because, you see, Bush is from Texas (by way of Connecticut) and he's a good Christian, and Illinois is a liberal sinbed. So it's only right we should blow the red-state viewers a little by showing their Texan brethren with hands locked, praying that God favors them and their team. Fuck Fox(Fux?).

10:24 AM, October 26, 2005

Anonymous Jonathan said...

The night before it was endless promos for "Prison Break" (I like the show but one more drop-in promo and I'd have gladly seen it cancelled...). Too bad Fox couldn't have asked Mama Bush if she was worried Aaron Neville might not leave Houston after he finished "God Bless America". Speaking of Red States and Steve Perry, if you've never seen this before, it's a hoot:

12:50 PM, October 26, 2005

Blogger Larry Epke said...

A few thoughts of my own:

With your team down 2 games to none in the World Series, wouldn't you take out a starting pitcher who was struggling? I would have. The fifth inning for the White Sox began with a home run, and most of the hits in that inning weren’t cheapies. Houston’s bullpen is highly regarded; why not use them at that point? None of the TV analysts made any comment along these lines, for what it’s worth. But I think the game could have been won for the Astros there.

I realized what I like about Tim McCarver – he explains what he’s talking about. Too many sports talkers on TV and radio make references to things or persons and presume that the audience knows what they're talking about. McCarver may sound like an elementary teacher at times (especially to the hardcore fans), but he makes it clear what he's referring to. And in the postseason, a lot of very casual fans will be watching and listening and his clarity is refreshing.

Fox TV’s shots of famous people are bad enough, but nearly all are stars on Fox shows! And they often seem to wish they were elsewhere.

“The Blum is off the 'stros” isn't bad, but I’ll give the competition to one of the local headlines: “Late Blummer”.

There is one possibility I could see for instant replay in baseball; replace the Official Scorers (who too often are accused of being homers) with umpires, senior ones, and let them make any replay calls they feel would be appropriate. Not balls and strikes, but let them override glaring errors when such errors can be overturned quickly and with certainty.

Is Ezequiel Astacio the ugliest person on earth? (If not, I don't want to see the competition.)

1:14 PM, October 26, 2005

Blogger Doug said...

I agree, it was Houston's game to lose, and they did. I also vote for Neil with Bar. Both George and Jeb are a bit busy now. I understand that seats are at a premium, but it seemed odd to me that it was just the two of them in their entourage. Surely the other Bushes didn't have to sit in the cheap seats.

Ensberg's double play was excellent. Even at that late hour it made me sit up and pay attention. Too bad it was all for naught.

Normally I'd agree with you about the Fox directors, but I know a number of people in Houston and kept wondering if I'd see a familiar face. I normally wouldn't pay nearly as much attention, but I did notice that they kept showing the same dozen or so people. Are the camera operators truly that lazy that they can't mix it up a bit? It did feel a bit odd that Joe Buck paid quite so much attention to the sleeping toddler in the extra innings.

1:50 PM, October 26, 2005

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

Most of the crowd shots appeared to be of people with lanyards around their necks--i.e. people with "VIP" passes who were sitting in the first few rows. You may know some VIPs down there, huh? :)

Feels pretty good today to be able to wake up and know that the Sox won the World Series. It's pretty surreal.

And we don't have to see any more Prison Break promos, explanations of split-finger fastballs from "Scooter" (I think that's the talking baseball's name), no more bad puns from McTurkeyCarver, and no more pictures of Ezquiel Astacio. God, it looks like his face caught fire and somebody put it out with a pair of cleats.

9:02 AM, October 27, 2005

Blogger Larry Epke said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:48 PM, October 27, 2005

Blogger Larry Epke said...

One other note, courtesy of the Tribune:

Wednesday was Roland Hemond's 76th birthday! Hemond is Executive Advisor to General Manager Ken Williams and one of the fine gentlemen of baseball, or any other profession, for that matter.

12:49 PM, October 27, 2005

Blogger Larry Epke said...

OK, just ONE MORE thing about the World Series coverage on Fox:

You will want to note the letter by Rob Breymaier on the Altercation blog here:

The letter makes a point that had occurred to me when I heard Joe Buck make his talk about the Chicago neighborhoods and ethnic groups: he’s talking about the South Side, and not once did he say anything about African-Americans. The White Sox are exemplary in having a racial mix on the field and in the office. (By contrast, the Astros are nearly all white; I see no African-Americans on their lineup and they could easily play an entire game without using any Hispanics.) Why does Buck just assume they have no Black, Hispanic or Asian fans?

10:03 AM, October 28, 2005

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

That's a salient point. Cecilia and I were listening to Buck talk about all those "neighborhoods" that he's probably never visted and wondered where was the talk of Bronzeville, Pilsen, Back of the Yards, Armour Square, South Shore, etc.? No blacks in Joe's world, and no Latinos, either, which is weird--the Sox have TONS of Latino fans. Signs reading "Orgullo Sox" (Sox Pride) are all over the damn city.
Ah well. They're broadcasters. Expecting them to give a damn may be asking too much.

10:18 AM, October 28, 2005

Blogger Bob Purse said...

I heard the same comment, and was astonished to note that he seemed to be deliberately mentioning only the primarily white communities of the south side, and when he mentioned the nationalities present on the south side, they were all of European origin.

I work on the south side, and my job carries me out into the community most days. Aside from about half the people I work with in the office, more days than not (by perhaps a 2-1 margin) I find myself interacting entirely with brown and black people, who, if they were watching Fox at that moment, must have wondered what South Side he was talking about.

11:06 AM, October 28, 2005

Anonymous James Finn Garner said...

Re: the Ethnic Neighborhoods, it always seems to me that phrase is used to mean white nationalities, i.e., the Irish, Greek, Polish, Slovak, etc., populations that have lived in the same hoods for a few generations. Stetches back to Jimmy Carter's phrase about a neighborhood's "ethnic purity." I found it insulting when the broadcasters omitted the black and Hispanic fans, deliberately or not.

3:05 PM, October 28, 2005

Anonymous Doug said...

I agree that Buck's neglect of minority neighborhoods was shameful, but his mention of the stockyards workers who live on the South Side just made me assume that somebody at FOX had picked up a press release from the beginning of the first Daley administration from 50 years ago and handed it to him. It's just more typical clued out FOX reporting.

9:30 AM, November 02, 2005

Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now back to the game of baseball. I thought that this was about the game. Mr.& Mrs. Bush are two retired peole watching baseball in Houston. Give them a break. Anyway, I was a bit confused when they said that Chicago was the city for Jazz. What about Blues, and Rock. And I agree with you about not mentioning hispanics, when they did a tribute to them, before the game. I think that the Soxs are good players and it was their time to win this series. But they are have nothing to say. They are the most boring interviews ever. Ozzy is good if I knew what he was saying. But I do think he is more of a thinker than a talker and I like him. I agree with Bob Purse's comments.

6:02 PM, November 03, 2005

Blogger Stuart Shea said...

hey, anon...Let me know if when you retire you can get those behind-the-plate seats down in houston! I'm sure that the Bush family name had nothing to do with it.

2:58 PM, November 04, 2005

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think that will drive you some extra traffic?

8:28 AM, November 06, 2005

Anonymous capt.blood said...

everyone talks about the longest game in history...but what about game 4? that had to be the longest 1-0 9 inning game in history (3:20!?#!!^?!)

12:10 PM, November 06, 2005

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11:40 AM, November 19, 2005


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