Random thoughts and stray observations while waiting for the Indians and Cubs to finish off what has been arguably the nicest Fall Classic of this era.
That would be “nice” in the sense that for most of us (save for the more extreme zealots in the contesting cities) it will be equally swell to see either team win, both having suffered sufficiently over the many decades. Nor in the end will either really be a “loser.”
And that’s a “nice” situation, especially in these notably grouchy times. Now, wouldn’t it be “dandy” if we could say the same for our politics.
But we digress.
If there’s been anything to complain about in this fine post-season festival it has been the dramatic evidence lent to the growing concern about baseball’s ponderous pace. Games were crawling throughout the playoffs whereupon the Series arrived with the issue threatening to become ridiculous as the first two games averaged a dumbfounding four hours, even though neither was loaded with offense. So, why?
Try, for openers, all the dilatory tactics in the batter’s box. Incoming millennials have seemingly perfected all the antics that stretch at-bats endlessly. Will someone please invent batting gloves that don’t have to be readjusted and re-fitted after every pitch. Of course, it would help if the umps enforced existing regulations aimed at keeping batters in the box while ignoring batters who call for “time” just as the pitcher begins winding up. And why are catchers allowed to make as many visits to the mound as they please? What are they discussing, the blonde in the front row? Catchers should be restricted to three visits a game, max. Cub catcher Contreras seemingly averages three an inning. Like managers, pitching coaches should be restricted to two visits a game and, on the second, the pitcher should get the hook.
Using many relievers who nibble through inherited jams is a huge factor, too. In Game Two, the Indians used seven pitchers who threw a total of 196 pitches. Yikes. Long counts, once the exception, are now the rule and the fine art of fouling off pitches is now preached and teached. At a late point in Game Three, it was revealed that 27 two-strike pitches had been fouled off. Remarkable! But nothing can be done about that, one supposes.
Then there are the replays, which are rapidly getting out of control. There was always the danger that once allowed they’d devour the game, and one senses that beginning to happen. Not only do replays add to pace problems but they increasingly diminish the game’s vital human feel and touch. Beware of neutering the umpires. You’ll regret it. It’s only a matter of time before the powers-that-be consider lasers to “perfect” the calling of balls and strikes. It’s coming. One fears the new commissioner is a meddler, keen on high-tech.
So there you have one laundry list that’s hardly complete. Good as this game is, there’s room for improvement.
There are complaints, and they’re worth noting that there’s something inappropriate about Fox TV having both Pete Rose and Alex Rodriguez as the star panelists on its lengthy pre and post game-shows, with A-Rod increasingly being used for drop-ins during the game. Both are excellent commentators, at least by the minimal standards of ex-jocks, and both have superior name-recognition, which is all that matters to the network and its grasping advertisers.
That they’re also two of the most controversial characters in the history of American sport is, not surprisingly, of no concern to Fox, which has never concerned itself much with portraying itself as classy. A rowdy outfit, Fox will gladly leave such mushy considerations to Public Television.
Anyway, this is the question: Is the man who willfully violated his game’s most fundamental commandment and the man whose consistently unethical behavior led to his year-long banishment deserving of playing such a role, no matter how sharply they perform it? Smart as they may be, do their comments have merit? After all, they sit in judgment of those who presumably play the game honestly.
No matter the end result, the Cubs’ merry moment should bring to an end the persecution of Steve Bartman after 13 years of outrageous nonsense.
Bartman, you should recall, is the poor soul and innocent Cubs’ fan who was charged with interfering with the flight of a foul ball in the 2003 playoffs that he rightly believed was about to land in his lap in the front row of the left-field grandstands. When the deflected ball eluded the Cubs left fielder, the Florida batter reached on the next pitch, and the Cubs promptly unraveled. It was classic Cubs’ folly, at which they’ve been historically expert. But all the blame landed on poor Bartman.
Conveniently overlooked is the fact that two batters later, the Cubs highly-paid shortstop booted a grounder that really opened the floodgates, leading to an eight- run Marlins rally that cost the Cubs their precious trip to the World Series. Hounded absurdly, Bartman became, by all accounts, a recluse, all in the name of a bloody game. He’s remained in hiding throughout the current proceedings.
If they have any sense of honor, the Cubs should vote Bartman a full World Series share. He deserves it. And they owe it to him!