♦ 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?
Labels: Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Jay Mariotti, MLB