Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I have thoughts! ... On baseball

♦ I have to admit, I thought the Houston Astros were done after Albert Pujols' amazing ninth-inning three-run homer Monday night. How many postseason series have turned on a moment like that? A few immediately came to my mind. Kirk Gibson's home run against Oakland essentially decided the 1988 World Series. What about Boston's Dave Henderson against California's Donnie Moore in the '86 playoffs? Or the Yankees' Jim Leyritz against Atlanta in the 1996 World Series? Each of those series looked like they were going one way, and then BOOM! Pujols' home run looked like one of those moments to me. The Astros would surely crumble after letting a victory get away like that, right? Ah, what do I know?

♦ I'm struggling over who to root for in the World Series. Usually, I can find some reason, any reason to decide between two teams I don't really care about. (If not, I suppose I just don't watch. But I always watch.) Normally, the Astros would be a cinch. That franchise has never even been to the World Series, let alone won it. Yet it's been so long since the White Sox were there (1917) that it may as well be never, too. So I need to come up with some reasons before Saturday night. Let's see if I can work it out.

▪ ▪ Phil Garner. Former Tigers manager, and someone whose reputation was wrongly tainted after being screwed over when Mike Ilitch decided to cut payroll. Rooting point: Astros.

▪ ▪ The Cubs. I hate the Cubs. I hate Cubs fans, many of whom I had to listen to for two years in Iowa City - which is 200 miles away from Chicago. (You pick the nearest team when you're far away from everything, I guess. And the University of Iowa has a ton of students from suburban Chicago.) So I'd love to see Chicago's stepchild baseball team win, just to make it that much more painful for Cubs fans. Rooting point: White Sox.

▪ ▪ Richard Justice. Maybe my favorite current sports columnist. I read his blog faithfully. I love it - love it - when he's a guest on PTI. And I would love to see him get to write about a World Series champion. Plus, he has a superhero name. Rooting point: Astros.

▪ ▪ Ozzie Guillen. Okay, he might be batshit crazy. And he never shuts up. But you never hear "We just have to play hard and win one game at a time" from him. At one point this season, when it looked like the White Sox might lose the AL Central to the Indians, he said "We really flat-out stink." C'mon, how many managers do that? Don't you want to see this guy in the biggest of postseason spotlights? Rooting point: White Sox.

▪ ▪ Jay Mariotti. I don't get it. I don't get how this guy is such a darling at ESPN. His voice makes my temples throb, his inane observations make my teeth grind. And he picks fights with play-by-play announcers (though after hearing one more "Put it on the board... YES!" from Ken Harrelson, I'd like to clock him too.) I'd hate to see this guy get to write about a World Series champion, or boast about it on TV. Rooting point: Astros.

▪ ▪ Ken Harrelson. See above. He's already insufferable. Does anyone have more gimmicks (the White Sox are always "the good guys," if an opponent strikes out, "he gone!") in his announcing repertoire? Imagine how he'd be if he were calling play-by-play for a defending World Series champion. Rooting point: Astros.

Okay, that's Astros 4, White Sox 2. And I didn't even mention Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell finally getting a chance at a championship. No tie-breaker necessary. Looks like I'm rooting for the Astros. Glad I could work that out.

But let me warn you, Houston: I could be persuaded to go the other way if I see any more headlines paraphrasing "Houston, we have a problem." "Houston, we have a pennant"? Stop it. You had your moment. But stop it. Right now. Enough, already.

♦ Last night's loss meant the St. Louis Cardinals played their last game in Busch Stadium. And I'm glad I got to see a game at the old Busch before the Cardinals move into the new one. It was last June, the Cards were playing the Reds on a Saturday night (with Ken Griffey, Jr. one home run away from 500), and I was in the bleachers. This photo by J.B. Forbes of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch isn't an exact match to my view that day, but it's pretty close. And with a pair of binoculars, it was like watching the game on TV when I saw Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols hit home runs. (Griffey didn't get #500 that night.) How much better could it be for a first-time visitor to Busch Stadium?

I was hooked as soon as I walked into the ballpark and saw those arches lining the outer ring of the stadium. And almost immediately, I understood why St. Louis is considered one of the best, if not the best, baseball cities in the country. I've never been to Fenway Park (which I hope to remedy within the next year or two), and I was only a kid when I visited Wrigley Field, so my memory's a bit hazy. Busch Stadium doesn't have any bars and restaurants surrounding it, so that part of the ballpark experience is lacking. But I can't imagine a more exciting atmosphere anywhere else.

Everyone was wearing red on the way to the ballpark. (And yes, the Cards were playing the Reds, but I didn't see any Reds t-shirts, bucko.) And they were all excited about the game. The closest comparison I can make is to a college football game. I've never seen anything like that at a baseball game. ("Atmosphere" surrounding Comerica Park usually means "traffic.") And those fans were there to watch the game. "How's Scotty [Rolen] gonna do tonight?" "Pujols hits Acevedo well." "Who's catching tonight?" I was in awe of "Cardinal Nation" that night. And they'll make the new Busch Stadium just as special as the old one. Knowing how much the Cardinals mean to those fans makes me a little sad when they lose in the postseason.

♦ One more thought on the Cardinals: Tony LaRussa - brilliant manager or seriously overrated? I haven't seen that column yet, but I'm sure it's coming. With all the good teams this guy has had, he only has one World Series championship to show for it. And several of those didn't even make it to the World Series. Does LaRussa do something wrong during the postseason or is this an indication of how unpredictable baseball can be?

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  • At October 20, 2005 8:54 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Ian, I'm rooting for Houston, too. The Bagwell/Biggio story is more than enough for me. The fact the franchise hasn't even been to a Series before doesn't hinder my support, either.

    As for the Sox, I can't stand Guillen. He's just way too off the deep end for my taste. I get the feeling he's the type of guy that's going to burn out fast.

    His act is tolerable when his team is terrific, but his personal attacks will eventually get him in plenty of hot water. It will get him canned if his team isn't on top.

    I'm also tired of the Sox in general. How many times have Tigers fan suffered through a series with the southsiders?

    I'm happy for the White Sox fans, without question, but I cannot root for their team.

  • At October 24, 2005 2:20 AM, Blogger mayday said…

    Tired of the Sox? This is by and large a very different team than the one that has traditionally had its way with the Tigers. Aside from Konerko, Buerhle, and Frank Thomas on the injured list, there aren't many common links. I like the White Sox fans for their dedication through all the blah seasons and national media invisibility. I like Guillen too; sports needs more genuine personalities like him (and not over determined, overpackaged ESPN sluts like Joe Horn and Terrell Owens). I admire how the White Sox play the game. A very visceral emotional reason I'm rooting for the Sox, however, is Roger Clemens. He is a fat toad who is probably on steroids although he will NEVER get called on it. He routinely fails to log significant innings in his playoff starts and never gets called on it. (Possibly a function of steroid use, like how McGwire started to break down after a couple years in St. Louis?)
    He screwed over the Yankees (the consequences of which I approve of, but still) by insisting he was retiring to watch his son's senior year on the HS baseball team, then doing a 180 as soon as they renounced his rights. (Sorry, Junior, I'll once again attempt to compensate with a grotesquely extravagant birthday present! Plus, don't worry, I'll watch the videos of the game someday, hopefully before you're 20!) He threw a bat at Mike Piazza and tried to claim he thought it was the ball (an excuse that ranks up there with Thomas Jones saying he broke his hand on the counter trying to answer the phone). No matter how much I like Bagwell, Ensberg, Ausmus, Garner, Pettitie, etc., I can't feel warm and fuzzy about that prick Clemens winning another ring.

  • At October 24, 2005 6:46 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Whether or not Clemens wins another World Series championship might be a moot point. Can a team have a more "team of destiny" look to it when Scott Podsednik is hitting game-winning home runs in the World Series?

    It'll be interesting to see what Houston does at home, but how can you bet against the White Sox? They've been dominant this postseason.


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