Movin' On Up

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Pennant Bluster and Joe Morgan Chat Day on Wry

Ah, radio. It's a sound salvation. Radio, it's cleaning up the nation. I remember those halcyon days of my obviously misspent youth spent listening to my Phils on a little, bright blue, hand-held transistor radio with accompanying black leatherette case.

There was nothing better than listening to Harry Kalas and Richie Ashburn. Kalas's rich voice was unaffected, cool, and yet somehow still had a warmth to it. It’s a tool that Thom Brennamen would sell his father's soul for and apparently has tried. Ashburn's comments were laconic and his tone fraught with bemusement and irony. They were the perfect team to convey the enjoyment and excitement of the sport to a young novice such as myself back in the day. It's hard to believe Tim McCarver learned his trade under these two stellar gentlemen's tutelage. (And there were those innings that the dreaded Andy Musser would swap out one of the Hall-of-Famers. Musser's voice cut like a knife and his insights galled my 10-year-old sensibilities—like calling Garry Maddox Elliott Madox. And he looked like a taller, thinner, younger version of Bud Selig, not that there's anything wrong with that.)

Kalas and Ashburn did the television broadcasts back then, too. However, there were plenty of games that were broadcast only on the radio. I believe that all the West Coast games and most home games (other than Sundays) were radio-only back in the mid-Seventies. Anyway, they brought the game to life for me with just their voices. I remember one game in particular in which the Phils' biggest rival back then, the "Big Bad Bucs" as the Pirates were referred to, held on to a lead with the bullpen tandem of Enrique Romo and Kent Tekulve. I developed a hatred for Enrique Romo right away, on the radio, before I ever saw him pitch (he was an AL'er before that and watching them back then was like taking a trip to China, with the culture-shock it induced and the lack of exposure to NL towns).

However, I'm sorry to say that I haven't listened to a radio broadcast of a baseball game in a good twenty years. In my teens the Phils started to broadcast games on a local cable network called Prism. Now you can see just about every game the local team plays, home or away, East Coast or West, on either your local affiliate or some Comcast/Fox cable channel. If you aren't into the local team, cable has tons of packages and pay-per-view options. With all those options, radio just got squeezed out.

And why not when TV offers actual views of the plays and players with replays and if you're lucky enough to watch the McCarver network, super-duper slo-mo employing the same technology that they used in videos in the early Eighties (e.g., Golden Earring's "When the bullet hits the bone" effect in Twilight Zone). Super slo-mo is so grainy and meaningless that you'll think you are watching a rebroadcast from the early Sixties. What great technology! It's a time machine as well as the antithesis of HDTV. Fox will even deign to display the radar gun readings when they feel like it and even show an individual's stats after his first at-bat once in a blue moon—as if McCarver had to do the fancy ciphering with his own cally gulliver.

That brings me to Joe. Joe feels that radio is still superior to television as a media to broadcast baseball games. And that might be true if you are Vin Scully or Harry Kalas, but if you are Joe Morgan all it does is allow you to spread your propaganda without the annoying encumbrance of actual views of the game. Soriano is a good fielder, Dontrelle Willis is the best young pitcher in baseball, Billy Koch is a superior closer to Keith Foulke—it all must be true since Joe Morgan said it on the radio. Never mind the stats or even what the average baseball fan can see with his own eyes. In the land of the radio, the man with one eye is king, or words to that effect. It's kind of like a blog.

So I beckon you forth to put on blinders and listen to Joe's deep thoughts. So put in your earplugs,
Put on your eyeshades, You know where to put the cork:

the Good

Jeff, Indianapolis: Joe, what does McKeon do with his rotation now? We know the Series is going at least 6. Does he bring Beckett on 3 days rest or try someone like Dontrelle or Penny?

Well, I think a lot depends on what happens in today's game. If he wins, he'll probably send Dontrelle out on Saturday and save Penny. If he loses today the decision becomes a tough one.

[Mike: Or he'll win today and pitch Willis for no apparent reason thereby requiring Beckett to go on three days' rest.]

Colin (Bridgeport, CT): Joe! I have had it up to here with Aaron Boone. Yes, we Yankee fans are indebted to him for his walk-off job, but this is the WS!! All we needed was a productive out, and he could not even put the ball in play! Was that a turning point in this series, or do you see the Yanks coming back unphased this evening? Thanks!!!!

Well, the Yankees have to be phased by the missed opportunities. They had control of the series and couldn't finish. I wouldn't be surprised if Torre replaced Boone in the lineup today or Saturday. It is one of the few places that the does have an option (in Enrique Williams). But, I agree with you, you are indebted to the guy for life.

[Mike: First, Colin when you say "up to here" are you bragging or complaining. It's hard to convey gestures in the written language. That's why Harpo Marx never had any lines in the Marx Brothers' scripts.

Anyway, Joe makes more sense than the actual moves, leaving Boone in but swapping out Soriano for Wilson. Too bad Luis Sojo was available.

By the way, it's "unfazed". "Phased" means that they were completed in incremental steps. I don't thinkl that's the case for most of the Yankees unless you are speaking in a deeper, metaphorical sense.

ryan ( dubuque, ia): Do you think the yankees comeback was bigger than the loss since it showed the never die attitude. With the maturity and experience on the club do you believe this is a team that can come back from a dramatic loss to get it done on the road? Thanks a lot for you insite I truely enjoy it.

The Yankees had already proven that they never die with the Boston series. I don't think last night is as tough a loss for hte Yankees as it would have been for the Marlins. Tonight's game really holds the key to the rest of the Series. There is a lot hinging on it. If the Marlins win tonight, they have a shot with Beckett in Yankee Stadium. If New York pulls it out tonight, it will be tough deficit for Florida to overcome.

[Mike: Unless Torre overreacts and swaps out the starting lineup for replacement level scrubs. Maybe Joe watched The Bad News Bears recently and took Buttermaker's change of heart from a "win at any cost" Machiavelli to a kinder and gentler "Everybody plays" loser in the Bears' champion game literally. "Good job, Enrique. Don't worry—relay throws are hard. As long as you're having fun out there."]

The Bad

Crawford (atlanta, Ga): Hey Joe, I'm sad that you can't be on FOX commentating the WS....but my question is Florida's game tonight a must win if they are to beat the yankess in new york. It seems that the only team that wins in yankee stadium is the yankees.

It would be tough for anyone to win if you are down 3-2 and have the last two games at the oppositions field. To their credit, though, we know that they did beat the Yankees in Game 1 in the Bronx. So, it can be done.

[Mike: Actually, the Yankees had a better road record than home record this year (51-29 to 50-32). They were fifth in the AL in home won-lost record behind Oakland (57-24), Boston (53-28), Chicago (51-30), and Seattle (50-31). Florida had a better home record than the Yanks (53-28) as did three other NL clubs. By the way, Florida was just 38-43 on the road this year.

And in the playoffs, the Yankees lost at least one game at home in each round: 1 vs. Minnesota, 2 vs. Boston, and 1 so far with Florida (it ended up being two including game 6).]

David (Myrtle Beach, SC): Joe, do you think we will see another fire sale in Florida or is there a chance that the World Series run has convinced some to possibly stay?

Well, what I've read in the papers, it will be tough to keep the whole team together b/c they would have to add about 40 mill in payroll. I don't know that that they will be willing to do that, but at the same time I don't expect a total firesale. If they wanted to do that they would have done it this year before the deadline when they weren't even expected to make the playoffs. They could have dumped a lot of folks then if they had wanted to.

[Mike: Well, how can it be a "fire sale" when they don't own the players in the first place? This is a completely different situation than 1997. Then they had high-priced veterans, whom they did unload the next season. Now, they have a number of young players (e.g., Lowell and Lee) and veterans (Pudge, Castillo, Urbina) who are free agents this offseason. A number of the potential free agents have already said that they want to stay in Florida, and the team wants to re-sign them. It just comes down to money and choices.

I'm not sure how they would all add up to the $40 M that Joe cites, but they'll be a chunk of change. There are a few veterans that the Marlins would be wise to let walk (Urbina, Castillo, Hollandsworth and the Foxes to name a few) because they are highly fungible commodities. Lowell and Lee are solid youngsters that should anchor the team for the foreseeable future. Pudge should stay in Florida. However, they should remember his not-too-distant health problems.

I think signing Lowell, Pudge, and Lee would be the best course of action for the team even though letting the rest go may be seen as a "fire sale". Look what happened to the Angels' misdirected desire to keep a championship team intact.]

Bryan (Jackson, NJ): Mr. Morgan, although I am extremely impressed with this Marlins team and their postseason run, I am like a lot of fans waiting to see if ownership will sign its key free agents (Pudge, Lowell, Castillo, Lee) in the offseason. Based on the Marlins poor attendance during the regular season, and their past history (destroying the team after the 97 WS) do you think the city of Miami will continue to support the Marlins next season, or is this just a bandwagon effort?

The fans were great down here last night. In fact, I think they helped the Marlins win. Even after they lost the lead in the ninth, all the fans stayed and continued to stay and sustain that energy. This could really be the start of a great thing here in Florida. The support is admirable. Whether the fans will keep this up in the future will probably depend heavily on the success of the team. But last night was great, I was very impressed.

[Mike: C'mon some of these people have been Marlins fans as far back as the Divisional Series. The Marlins drew the smallest crowds in baseball last year (they only passed the Expos because of some charity in the form of a 15K block seats purchased by an unknown benefactor). Yes, there was disillusionment after the 1997 dismantling, but the Expos were nearly contracted out of existence and the Marlins could not outdraw them?

Fans are great when teams are winning. Look at how great the Anaheim fans were last year.]

Ralph (Miami): I grew up in NY and now live in Miami which makes me rooting for both teams and just great baseball. I was very pleased with the way Marlin fans and players recognized Roger when he left the game. This was and continues to be baseball at it's best. What did you think of that scene Joe?

I thought the fan reaction was great. Roger Clemens is one of the greatest of this game and they acknowledged his accomplishment last night regardless of team affiliation. I believe the moment was started by the Yankee fans in attendance, but the spirit and sentiment was picked up by the Florida fans and players and it was just a great moment in baseball and in World Series history.

[Mike: It was nice, but if the Marlins fans really cared about the game, would they be so gung-ho to cheer Clemens? Would the Bronx faithful have been so kind if the situation were reversed? Jeez, I hope not. As Ralph illustrates, Marlins fans are not so invested in their team. Neither is their owner apparently since he has box seats at Yankee stadium.]

Scott Peterson-Crystal Harmony: Joe, love the work you and Jon do. Do you think Torre has to get Soriano out of the lead off spot and put a more disciplined hitter in there the rest of the series?

The question is -- who would that be. If you had a choice you probably would do it but who would you use? Jeter isn't discipled. Giambi is, Matsui, Nick Johnson -- they are disciplined hitters but they are not lead-off guys. The Marlins are in a similar position. Castillo has been striking out left and right but they don't have a better alternative. Neither one of these teams has the versatility they desire in a line-up.

[Mike: Discipline Schmiscipline. Jeter has a .393 on-base percentage this season and a .389 OBP for his career. Soriano was just .338 in 2003 and .322 for his career, poor for a leadoff hitter. Jeter is a good leadoff hitter. The problem for the Yankees becomes who bats second and what to do with Soriano.

Steve "Don't Call Me Bobby" Bonner points out that Joe says Jeter is not "discipled": "I mean I know there are a lot of people who claim that Jeter is a baseball god. But I wouldn't expect him to be discipled." Good catch, Steve. I missed it completely. I did say the other day that the media were ready to canonize Jeter after his performance in game 3. Maybe Joe took that idea literally. (By the way, Bobby Bonner was utility infielder with the O's in the early Eighties.)]

Duke (Dallas, TX): Can you explain Soriano's slump through game 3? Also, if he isn't hitting, why isn't he trying to bunt his way on or try to get a walk to help his team? Thanks.

One of the problems is that he is a free swinger. He doens't go up and take a lot of pitches. Jeter has a similar style. The problem is Soriano is striking out and Jeter is putting the ball in play. I personally think Soriano is physically tired. His bat looks slow to me and that is why we're seeing him strike out so much.

[Mike: Duke from Texas? Well, hello, pilgrim.

Well, Jeter and Soriano really don't have similar styles at all. As I said earlier Jeter has 60-70 point advantage in on-base percentage and that's due mostly to his ability to a walk on a regular basis. Jeter had 43 walks to go with his mere 482 at-bats this year. Soriano had just 38 walks to go with his 682 at-bats.
But an even bigger difference is in the approach of the two Yankees. Jeter has an idea of what type of pitch he is looking to hit and what type he is not. He has an idea of how the pitcher will try to get him out and will accept a pitch that he can't drive and will instead go the opposite way with it.

Soriano has the "see the ball, hit the ball" mentality. My friend Murray says that he's just plain dumb: " He doesn't have a plan, he doesn't stick to a plan when he's given marching orders about what to do at the plate, and he doesn't make adjustments based on his mistakes." He is a great bad ball hitter though. However, by not developing an eye and by not being willing to take a walk occasionally or even slap an opposite-field hit once in a while, he makes his slumps all the more pronounced. He seems either incapable or unwilling to keep a book on each pitcher and appears to forget within an at-bat what the pitcher has gotten him to miss. Beckett served him up three fastballs, then three curves, and then three strikeouts all for strikeouts in game 3. Maybe fatigue has exacerbated the issue, but everyone is tired in October and Soriano is only 25.

Also, Jeter is more of a slap hitter and Soriano an all-or-nothing power type though both are aggressive in the box. The all-or-nothing approach can lead more easily to a rut then a slump and then hanging out with Kevin Maas at the Gas-N-Sip. I do think, however, a move to center will cure all of Soriano's problems, just like it did for Juan Samuel.]

Matt (St. Paul,MN): What major leaguer past or present would you compare Cabrera to? He has been great all postseason but I was so impressed last night when he got brushed back by Clemens and ended up taking an outside pitch the other way for a home run.

I can't think of a 20 year old that has showed this kind of a toughness in World Series competition. Most 20 year olds do not get to the WS. He is much differnt than Andruw Jones was at 20. I can't compare the two, but they both his some World Series home runs. He is really in his own.

[Mike: In his own what? League? Element? Feces?

At the age of 19, Andruw Jones batted .400, hit 2 home runs, and had a 1.228 OPS in the 1996 World Series against the Yankees. That's pretty impressive and I hear Jones is pretty good with the glove.

Cabrera ended up hitting under .200, but did collect the home run off of a Hall-of-Famer. Looking at his Series stats, his meager totals look strikingly similar to a pretty goos player from the past though, Willie Mays. Here are the batting stats for all players under 21 in the World Series. There are quite a few Hall-of-Famers on the list:

1885Bug Holliday18400.
1887Silver King191401.
1888Elton Chamberlain201300.
1888Silver King201500.
1907Heinie Zimmerman20100.
1907Ty Cobb202000.200.200.300.500
1913Joe Bush20400.
1914Herb Pennock20100.
1914Les Mann20701.
1915Babe Ruth20100.
1923Travis Jackson19100.
1924Freddie Lindstrom183004.333.394.400.794
1924Travis Jackson202701.
1927Fred Brickell20200.
1935Phil Cavarretta192400.
1946Joe Garagiola201904.316.316.421.737
1951Mickey Mantle20500.200.429.200.629
1951Willie Mays202201.
1955Tom Carroll19000.
1956Don Drysdale20000.
1957Juan Pizarro20100.
1965Dave Boswell20000.
1965Willie Crawford19200.500.500.5001.000
1967Ken Brett19000.
1970Don Gullett19100.
1970Milt Wilcox20000.
1974Claudell Washington20700.571.625.5711.196
1981Fernando Valenzuela20300.
1996Andruw Jones192026.400.478.7501.228
2002Francisco Rodriguez20000.
2003Miguel Cabrera202413.

The Ugly

Scott (Lebanon, NH): Watching the venom spewing from Boston writers' pens is discouraging regarding Grady Little. I think that giving Pedro the choice was the right thing to do. Had he brought Embree in, and Embree ended up the loser, Grady would have been vilified even moreso for not staying with Pedro. Little's decision was the right one, Pedro's his best pitcher.

It was not the right thing to do. Pedro was not his best pitcher after 120 pitches. Pedro had been limited to around 100 pitches or so during the regular season and he had also struggled to get out of that previous inning. Timlin and Williamson had pitched great and I think they could have held a three-run lead. Pedro was out of gas. A manager should make the decision -- not the pitcher. If you're a manager, you don't ask, you must make the decision and take the ball.

[Mike: No wonder Dan Shaughnessy is such a horrific, one-subject writer. His pen is full of venom. What, is ink hard to come by in Boston? Is it cursed?

Joe's right. Had Little left Martinez in without having asked him, he wouldn't have been in trouble. But didn't everyone know that Manny Ramirez's and Pedro Martinez's egos drive the Sox by now? Didn't the beanball game put that on full display?

This is in the "Ugly" section due to the following…]

Sugar (Sacramento): Hi Joe, thank you for taking my question today. I am interested in knowing what you think about the management/coaching abilities of Torre and McKeon, and their performances thus far in the World Series. Have they made the right moves thus far? PS: I miss seeing you on televison, however do enjoy watching the games on mute and listening to the radio.

Thanks for the compliment. I think both of them have managed well. The only decision I would question would be McKeon pulling Pavano last night after he had retired 11 straight batters to bring in Urbina. Urbina is not Mariano Rivera. I had to question that decision. But other than that I think they have both done a great job getting their teams here and so far this Series.

[Mike: How can this response follow (there was one question in between) the one above? Pavano had thrown 115 pitches, I believe. Why should Little pull Martinez after 120, but McKeon should stay with the estimable Pavano at 115? Maybe it’s just because the results dictated the second-guessing. Nice, Joe.]

Paul Radetsky (Longwood, FL): Hi Joe. There have been rumors that the Yankees will be moving Soriano to the outfield for next season. Do you think that this is a wise decision, and whom do you think out of the available free agents or Yankee Farm Club players would be a "best fit"? Thanks.

I don't know anyone who would be able to take his place at second base. I personally would like him to stay there and learn the position. I think he needs to develop but he has it in him. I don't know of anyone who could step in there and best Soriano.

[Mike: Paul, are you related to Scott? Never mind. Soriano will "learn the position". That's what Joe always says. That's what he said about Juan Samuel when he succeeded Joe in Philly.

Look, Soriano is a hitter or maybe just an athlete playing the field. If he is passable at second and is a 40-40 man fine. I would be more concerned about his learning to take a walk or slap the ball the other way once in a while.

Why hide a guy who has problems with either his mechanics or his attention span in center field, where problems in either area could prove catastrophic? How often does a second baseman miss a ball and have it go for a triple? How about a center fielder?

His problem is to remain effective enough at the plate to compensate for his shortcomings in the field. So far in the Series that has not been the case. I don't know maybe he should just be pawned off to some poor rune of a team. Where are the KC A's when you need them?]

Tony (Manchester, CT): Far be it for me to question a Joe Torre decision after all the success he has had, however I found it curious that Jeff Weaver was called upon in extra innings of last nights game when there were many fresh arms in the pen. Why do you think he went with Weaver who Torre has said publically was a guy he did not trust to get big outs?????

Well part of the problem was that the Marlins are really a right-handed hitting line-up. Joe did not want to bring a left hander in against these guys. I think Torre also felt that Looper was throwing so well that it would be a while before the Yankees scored so he wanted to hold off on bringing in Mariano. It was a tough situation for Weaver and a tough decision for Joe. Jeff has not pitched since September. But, if you are not going to use a guy, then he should not be on your roster. Jeff Weaver is on Joe Torre's roster for a reason. Joe took a chance last night and while it could have gone either way the Marlins were the winners of that. Tough call.

[Mike: This is a self-parody of a response. Now go away or I shall taunt you another time.]

Ali (Bethesda, MD): Joe, these late games have afforded me a unique opportunity to listen to the games on the radio in bed (thanks, by the way). Why is it that baseball tranfers into radio waves so much better then any other sport?

I think radio offers you more time to explain what is happening in the game. TV has many things imposing on your viewership -- cut ins, replays, fan shots -- all of this kind of intrudes on your thought process of just watching the game. When you listen you can picture things in your mind as they are explained to you rather than what they are showing to you. It is a great medium. Thanks for listening.

[Mike: Joe not only has Super Analyst Sight, he now has Super Analyst Explantory powers. TV "imposes" upon us, the viewers? That's true, I felt quite put upon, but that was due to having to endure Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, not replays. Besides, am I the only one or did everyone notice that Fox's replays show every conceivable angle but never really a decisive one. They either show you the runner without the bag or the bag without the tag being applied or there is an ump right in the middle of the frame or they show you from 500 feet above.

But on the radio there is no need for replays of what actually happened. Joe knows all and tells all. Joe controls the audio. Joe controls the video. And it was good…]


Retro Rocket?

Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT has a comparison of Josh Beckett's and Roger Clemens career through the age of 23. Rich feels that next year Beckett could have a year similar to Clemens breakout year of 1986. As for me, I'm not convinced. He looked great in the Series but with the failingly flailing Yankee hitters as a guide, he could end up Clemens, Booby Witt, or Joyce DeWitt for all I know.

It's interesting to compare their minor-league stats though. There is one major distinction between the two at the age of 23 however. Clemens was just two years removed from college whereas Beckett never attended college. Beckett's career started at 19.

Beckett may have a breakout year in 2004, but as of now he has .500 career and has never thrown over 150 innings in parts of three major-league seasons. Even if Beckett has the ability, he has yet to show that he can put it all together for an entire season. One thing is certain, however: he won't be a surprise to anyone next year like Clemens was in 1986.


Rabbit Season! Mighty Ducks Season!

See her picture in a thousand places
'cause she's this year's girl.
You think you all own little pieces
of this year's girl.
Forget your fancy manners,
forget your English grammar,
'cause you don't really give a damn
about this year's girl.

—Elvis Costello, This year's Girl

It's appropriate that in October hockey season is just getting underway. In October baseball the playoffs have now turned into a crapshoot reminiscent of the annual hard-fought struggle for Lord Stanley's cup, in which fourth-place teams often have vied for conference finals.

All of which brings me to the Marlins, who beat the Yankees 2-0 behind the brilliant pitching of Josh Beckett to snare the World Series title in six mostly anticlimactic games. This is the third in a string of meaningless teams winning meaningless titles. In 2001, the Diamondbacks rode the arms of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to win the Series in just their fourth year. The team was in third place in 2000 and has since been overhauled. In 2002, the Anaheim Rally Monkeys started the season 6-14 and then went on to win 99 en route to the wild card and then the World Series. In the process David Eckstein became everyone's favorite player and then was quickly forgotten, Gene Autry was eulogized ad nauseam, and the Anaheim fans were called the greatest in the world. Prior to 2001, the team had been playing out a streak of mediocre seasons that culminated with a 12-games-below-.500 2000 season. This season, the Angels returned to the obscurity from whence they sprang, finishing third, 19 games out, and 8 games under .500.

And then here come the Florida Marlins. The Marlins have no history: They do have the blight that was the 1997-98 World Champions cum 108-game losers team. Since then they have been a mediocre team at best.

They have no fan base. Last year they drew the second worst in the majors, barely above 10,000 fannies per home game and only slightly above (13 fans per game) the nearly contracted Montreal Expos. The only reason that they even finished ahead of Montreal was that a benefactor purchased a block of 15,000 tickets in the final weekend of the season to ensure that they would. Besides they have an owner who ran his previous team in the ground and was rewarded with a new franchise in Bud Selig's orchestrated ring-a-round-the-roses shuffling of the Red Sox, Marlins, and Expos ownership groups.

And the Marlins may not have a future with potential free agents Pudge Rodriguez, Mike Lowell, Derrek Lee, Luis Castillo, Ugueth Urbina, etc. The management may not have the money to hold the team together, and even if they could they could return to mediocrity next season.

The young pitching staff is highly touted but has not really produced for a full season. World Series MVP Josh Beckett was just 9-8 this season in about two-thirds of a season, though with a 3.04 ERA. He is a hard thrower how may be the next Roger Clemens or the next Bobby Witt. Dontrelle Willis had an ERA close to 5.00 in the second half and pitched poorly in the postseason. Beckett, Mark Redman, Willis, and Brad Penny may be the next Smoltz, Avery, and Glavine or they might be the next Pat Combs, Tommy Greene, and Jason Grimsley.

Pudge Rodriguez is a great player but he had had three injury-plagued seasons before 2003. That's why he couldn't land a better deal than the one-year contract he signed with Florida.

Alex Gonzalez has had a rollercoaster career and he is only 26. After an encouraging rookie season (.277 BA, 14 HR, 59 RBI), he had a miserable sophomore year (.200 BA, .548 OPS, 7 HR, 42 RBI in 385 ABs). It took him two more seasons to return to health and productivity. This year he hit 18 homers and had 77 runs batted in.

Juan Pierre may be a budding Willie Wilson or he may be a one-year wonder like Alan Wiggins. He is impatient at the plate. He seemed to learn how to take a walk at least once or twice a week this year (55 in total), but will that last? He has no power and he is caught stealing a large percentage of the time (65 stolen bases and 20 caught stealing for a 76% success rate, good but not great, in 2003). In his favor are the speed and the ability to make contact (only 35 K's in 2003). However, if he doesn’t keep his average over .300 and his on-base percentage over .350, he's a liability to the offense. He proved that in Colorado last year. That's why the Rockies were willing to trade centerfield problemw with the Marlins with Colorado receiving Preston Wilson.

The same can be said of Luis Castillo (.300 BA and .350 OBP). Encarnacion is at best an average player in right. Lee and Lowell are solid but one or both are likely gone. Cabrera looks like a budding star, but it's way too early to tell. Besides he doesn't seem to have a position except left field and he has a lot to learn about playing the outfield. They have a poor bullpen—their 4.31 bullpen ERA was tenth in the NL—with two closers, neither of which is an enviable option.

Indeed, their present belies the World Series victory. They are a good team, however little credit I give them, but not a truly great one. They have no glaring holes—other than left-handed relief, which the Yankees miraculously managed to avoid exposing in the Series. As I said before, Florida is one of only 8 teams to win 91 games or fewer and win the World Series. They are also one of 13 teams to have a losing record one season and win the Series in the next—the Marlins were 79-83 last year. Here they are with their records in the season the won the World Series (WS Yr), the year prior to the World Series win (Yr 1), and the year after (Yr 3):

1914Boston Braves9459.6146982.4578369.546
1924Washington Senators9262.5977578.4909655.636
1933New York Giants9161.5997282.4689360.608
1954New York Giants9757.6307084.4558074.519
1959Los Angeles Dodgers8868.5647183.4618272.532
1965Los Angeles Dodgers9765.5998082.4949567.586
1969New York Mets10062.6177389.4518379.512
1987Minnesota Twins8577.5257191.4389171.562
1988Los Angeles Dodgers9467.5847389.4517783.481
1990Cincinnati Reds9171.5627587.4637488.457
1991Minnesota Twins9567.5867488.4579072.556
1997Florida Marlins9270.5688082.49454108.333

Note that those teams returned on average to mediocrity. They were about ten games better, but a .526 winning percentage was basically where the Phils, Jays, Dodgers, and White Sox were this year, OK but not great. Only three of the twelve improved the next season but then again only three returned to sub-.500 in the third year, including the Marlins 1997-98 cautionary tale of a team. Given that the average year-after World Series champ has a record of 89-64 for .579 winning percentage, which was only reached by three teams on the list, that's not very encouraging. It's no wonder that the two "Miracle" teams ('14 Braves and '69 Mets) appear on the list.

The Marlins will be in a competitive division next year with maybe four of the five teams vying for the title. They may be able to remain mediocre—say, win 90 games—and win the division next year. However, with four fifths of their infield perhaps in free agency flux and a bunch of young players who have yet to produce for an entire season, mediocrity may be tough to achieve.

However, the Marlins did win the World Series. The Yankees have to go home licking their wounds with the knowledge that they had a winnable title in their grasps and let it slip away, or to be fair, let the Marlins take it away. And this year they can't blame the pitching. They registered a 2.13 team ERA in the Series, the lowest ever for a losing team. Even in a game in which they were dominated by Josh Beckett, the opportunities were there for the Yankees. They just did not execute.

In game six, the Yankees had the leadoff man on base in the third, fifth, seventh, and eighth innings. In only two of those instances did the Yankees successfully move the runner into scoring position, and both times cost them an out (Jeter's grounder to the right side in the third and Boone's bunt in the fifth). In the seventh Jason Giambi was unable to pull the ball to advance Jorge Posada, who had led off with a double. He grounded to third. In the eighth, Soriano led off with a poke single to left. Derek Jeter had a 2-0 count, Wayne Rosenthal visited the mound, and Dontrelle Willis was up in the pen. If Jeter reached base, Beckett was likely down for the night. After going up 3-1, Jeter flied out mildly to Pierre. In two instances the Yankees grounded into a doubleplay to erase the leadoff baserunner.

One note on Jeter, just as he was being prepared for canonization for his heroics against Beckett in game 3, which enabled the Yankees to go up two games to one, his Series hit some major bumps in the road. He abruptly set the tone for game 4 after he failed to run out an arching liner to second that turned into an inning-killing doubleplay. The play itself was bad, but even worse may have been that he had a 3-0 count to start the at-bat and failed so badly. He hit into a doubleplay again in the fifth inning, after Roger Clemens collected a single on an 0-2 count, and in the process he almost got Clemens decapitated on the relay from second.

In game 5, he went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a run batted in. He made a key mis(non)play in the fifth. With the Yankees trailing, 4-1, and Pudge Rodriguez on second with one out, Aaron Boone snared a hard grounder by Jeff Conine and seemed to pick Gonzalez off of second. He relayed to Enrique Wilson, but Wilson quickly threw the ball to an empty third base and what ended up being the winning runs eventually scored. So how can I blame Jeter? Jeter should have been at third. The play enfolded before him. Boone threw to Wilson and rotated out expecting someone to replace him in the rundown just as the practice it. Jeter should have been that man. Wilson's throw was ill-advised and much too quick, but Jeter made no effort to get to third.

Jeter, who went 3-for-4 against Beckett in game 3 with two doubles, the second of which ushered Beckett out of the game, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in game 6. His best at-bat was the productive out in the third. He struck out on three pitches to lead off the game and on five in the fifth. In the sixth, Jeter's error on a Jeff Conine ball allowed the Marlins to score their second run, a huge mistake with the way that Beckett was pitching.

Maybe George was right, Jeter had been partying too much. Maybe he started sniffing the champagne a bit too early.

In addition to the Jeter misplay, a throw to the left side of the plate by Karim Garcia would have had Gonzalez at the plate easily. Andy Pettitte pitched a great game and deserved better.

So we baseball fans are left with the another Mighty Ducks of a world champion. I feel bad for teams like the A's, Red Sox, and Mariners, who have been building competitive teams for years and have nothing to show for it. The Marlins catch lightning in a bottle and like a fourth-place Smyth Division qualifier eke out series win after series win.

Well, the Marlins were the best team in baseball since May 23, you say. Joe Buck has been repeating it on a regular basis since the playoffs started (he also keeps saying that Karim Garcia started the season in Triple-A Buffalo, a patented ridiculous statement given the fact that Garcia was Cleveland's starting right fielder coming out of camp after hitting .299 with 16 home runs in 202 at-bats last year and the fact that Garcia only played in Buffalo for two weeks in June during a rehab stint). The Marlins were in fifth place in the NL East with a 19-29 record (.396 wining percentage) after losing six straight. The Marlins were never 10 games within first-place Atlanta from that point on.

This is not a team for which the wild card was originally proposed. It was meant as a refuge for those teams that vied for a division title all year but failed to garner one. The 2003 Marlins were never in any sort of division title hunt. They were barely in a wild card race until the Phillies floundered in the second half. Their admittance to the postseason was the hanging chad of the season.

I know that all of that, to quote Nigel Tufnel, "Is nitpicking, isn't it?" However, I argue that we deserve better as fans. After a great postseason, the World Series showed great promise but ultimately fizzled and we awake to the vision of the Marlins as champs, whose flaws will become clearer next season as the World Series beer goggles wear off. But by then we will have next year's one-year wonder to gawk at as it cantors through a World Series title.


Down the Wells

You know, Joe Torre is an all-or-nothing sort. Last year the Yankees squeezed every regular-season out of Jorge Posada's body leaving him enervated for the playoffs. They overworked a basically four-man bullpen with only one lefty (Rivera, Mike Stanton, Steve Karsay, and Ramiro Mendoza). In the process they overworked an old starting rotation, working Clemens, Wells, Mussina, Pettitte, and El Duque Hernandez deeper into games than any other major-league staff. The starters ended up breaking down in the first round of the 2002 playoffs.

This year was different. He used a caste of thousands in the bullpen and in right-field. He still leaned on the starting players but they responded and the overworked Jorge Posada has been playing well even into the playoffs. In the playoffs, Torre was making deft moves like triple-switches and seemed to be two steps ahead of McKeon throughout most of the first four games.

However, everything changed abruptly when Torre turned to Jeff Weaver in the eleventh inning of game four. Then Torre played yesterday's game like the Yankees were on the brink of elimination, and now guess where they are.

Soriano had been killing them at the top of the order. Giambi has had his problems and he's injured. Soriano had a .209 batting average, a .254 on-base percentage, a .284 slugging average, and a .537 OPS in the playoffs prior to yesterday's game. Since batting .368 with a .789 OPS in the first round, his numbers look especially poor: .143 BA, .208 OBP, .224 Slug, and .432 OPS (including yesterday's AB). And of course, he continues to establish a postseason strikeout record nearly every time he bats. Giambi didn't look much better: .246 BA, .358 OBP, .509 Slug, and .867 OPS (including yesterday's homer). OK.

But so has Aaron Boone, both offensively and defensively (5 errors in the playoffs), and yet he was in the game yesterday. Boone's numbers in the playoffs through last night's game: .173 BA, .200 OBP, .308 Slug, and .508 OPS. Well, Boone had to be in because of the cascading dominoes that resulted after Torre decided to bench Soriano and Giambi.

Well, maybe that's not fair. Torre probably decided that he needed more production in the top three spots. He could have moved Jeter to leadoff, but then what does he do with Soriano and who fills in behind Jeter? Well, Johnson had batted second a few times in the postseason, but Torre did not seem enamored of that move either. And if he put Soriano in the 7th or 8th spot, then the bottom of the order would be Boone, Soriano, and the pitcher, an unenviable threesome right now.

So he landed upon backup Enrique Wilson, who makes decent contact and has decent speed, as his second baseman and #2 hitter. The rest flowed. Wilson is the only backup infielder on the roster (Luis Sojo is apparently just a team mascot) along with a glut of rightfielders and useless left-handed relievers, so Boone had to play.

Giambi was as gimpy going into game 5 as he was in the first game without the DH. However, Torre was heckbent on resting him, too, of course in the same game. Who cares that Giambi and Soriano had almost 80 home runs together this season? Never mind that Giambi was 2-for-6 in the previous game and that he has had a .367 on-base percentage, a .561slugging percentage, and a .928 OPS in the last two rounds (including the homer yesterday).

The game seemed like an exercise in futility. It was like the scene in "Hooisers" (a film I am incapable of turning off once I happen upon it) when Gene Hackman asserts his hegemony over the high-schoolers by continuing to bench a star player who disobeyed orders earlier in the game, even after another player fouls out and the team is short one player. After the game he says something like:

"Those of you who were left on the floor at the end, I'm proud of you. You played your hearts out. All of you have the weekend. Decide whether or not you want to be a part of this team or not, under the following condition. What I say when it comes to this basketball team is the law, absolutely and without discussion."

OK, Joe. You're in charge. Entrust the Series to Jeff Weaver's and Enrique Wilson's trusty hands.

And even so, the Yankees could very easily won it if it weren't for Wells' back and a silly rundown mishap in which Wilson thought they were instead playing "hot potato". The Yankees out-hit the Marlins in game 5. The bulk of the Marlins runs came when Contreras hurriedly entered the game after Wells was forced to leave and after the Wilson error. Oh, sorry, David, you had to actually slog off the mound and evade your girth in order to field a bunt. Take the World Series off and go get drunk. I felt sorry for Contreras, who was asked to do something he probably never did before in his career, pitch an extremely long relief stint a day after pitching the ninth and tenth innings of a then tied ballgame. He was very wild and almost hit two Marlins in the head.

But even after Contreras exited the Yankees were just trailing 4-1 leading off the fifth. Then Torre went to Chris Hammond, who hasn't pitched the entire postseason, but, hey, at least it justified Hammond's pointless activation just before the Series. Then Hammond gets into a little trouble and is seemingly rescued by a great play by Boone getting Pudge Rodriguez caught between second and third. That is, until Enrique Wilson, in the ensuing rundown, throws to an empty base leading to two unearned runs. By the way, why are both runs unearned or even one? Had Wilson not made the ill-advised throw, it was unlikely that he would get Pudge given that Boone had rotated off the play and Jeter had not yet gotten into it. (Where was Jeter anyway?) Let's say, Wilson holds onto the ball, Pudge would then scurry off to third, and Conine would likely advance to second. Even if Jeter had been able to get into the play and they got Pudge, wouldn't Conine have been at second anyway? When Lowell singles at least Conine would have scored if not both of the runners.

Anyway, the Yankees then leave the bases loaded in the seventh but at least score one and stage an obligatory ninth-inning rally after Giambi's po'ed, pinch-hit home run. The ninth could be the Yankees' season in microcosm: trailing by two with a runner at second and one out, the tying run in Bernie Williams hits a ball to deep right-center that is caught by Juan Pierre (the third time in the series and he has just one HR to show for it). The Hideki Matsui hits a bullet that Derrek Lee one-hops guarding the line at first. End of game.

The Yankees have Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina while the Marlins are still cobbling a rotation together as the Series proceeds. They decided that Dontelle Willis won't be the game 6 starter after inserting him in relief in game 5. But then again, the Cubs had Prior and Wood going and were 5 outs from clinching before the Marlins won both games to advance to the Series. These Marlins have more lives than Freddy, Chuckie, and Jason all rolled into one.

I still think the Yankees will win it, but then again I thought the Giants would take the Marlins in 5, so what do I know. The Marlins at 91-71 would not be the worst team to win a world championship (my Phils in 1980 had the same record), but they're up there. The Yankees had just 87 wins in 2000 when they won it all, but the all-time worst is the '87 Twins at 85-77. In total there are just 7 World Series champs with a winning percentage no better that the '03 Marlins ('59 Dodgers, '74 A's, '80 Phils, '85 Royals. '87 Twins, '90 Reds, and 2000 Yankees).

What kind of staff do the Yankees have now anyway? Pettitte and Mussina will start. They have the three lefties in pen, two of whom Torre has ignored the entire Series and the third, Hammond, gave up two unearned runs yesterday, so he retreats back to the doghouse. Then there are the three righties in the pen, Rivera, Nelson, and Contreras, who probably gets excused for yesterday's bad outing due to being rushed into action. Then there's Weaver who may as well take a flight home instead of to the Bronx today. Wells could be available because he only pitched one inning, but who knows if his back will respond in time. Clemens is a possibility.

So that leaves the two starters and basically an all-righty four man bullpen including Clemens and maybe a situational lefty or two. I hope that Aaron Boone's "ghosts" have learned to pitch in the last week.


Yankees' Heel—Weaver Breakdown Had To Happen Osuna or Later

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle.

—Bible, Job 7:6.

Here lies.... You know, Weaver, I’ve forgotten who we just buried.

—William "Bee" Holden in The Bridge On the River Kwai

As of the start of game four of the World Series, Joe Torre bestrode the battlefield apparently impregnable. The Yankees game three victory had been a minor key masterpiece by Torre. Every move worked to perfection. While Torre was pulling triple-switches, Jack McKeon was blundering his way through late-inning missteps. It was like Bobby Fisher challenging Fisher Stevens to a game of chess.

Game four seemed headed in the same direction even as the Yankees feel behind in the first inning, 3-0. The game started with a misstep by game three hero, Derek Jeter. With Soriano on first and none out in the first, Jeter failed to run out an arching pop up that ended up dropping, allowing the Marlins to double him up. Yankee woes continued as Roger Clemens, in theoretically the final start of his career, gave up five straight two-out hits, including a Miguel Cabrera home run, to fall behind the Marlins, 3-0. Ironically, the inning-ender was an outfield fly by Alex Gonzalez.

Torre showed great confidence in Clemens, allowing him to work out of the early jam and keeping him in for an additional six innings. He was rewarded with six shutout innings in which the Marlins collected just three hits while Clemens walked none, struck out five, and threw just 64 pitches. He threw 42 in the three-run first inning.

Torre then turned to Jeff Nelson and Jose Contreras for three shutout innings with only one hit and one walk between them. Contreras struck out four in his two innings of work.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Marlin starter Carl Pavano was pitching the game of his life. Pavano survived a bases loaded, none-out jam in the first surrendering just one run. He then allowed just three hits and no walks over his final six innings of work. He faced the minimum number of batters from the fourth to the eighth innings.

The Yankees entered the ninth still trailing 3-1, but McKeon had gone to erratic closer Ugueth Urbina. The Yankees made the most of the opening. Bernie Williams got a one-out hit. Hideki Matsui followed with a six-pitch walk after falling behind 1-2 at one point. Jorge Posada hit a fielder's choice to second that erased Matsui. The Marlins did not attempt to get Posada at first even though it seemed that they had time.

With men at the corners and two outs, Torre inserted pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra, batting left for fellow lefty bat Karim Garcia. For the second time in the Series, Sierra faced his former teammate Urbina. Both had started the season in Texas and took much different routes to get to the Fall Classic. It was an unconventional move, inserting a switch-hitter batting left for a lefty bat, but perhaps as my friend Murray suggests Torre prefers Sierra's bat in power-hitting situations over Garcia's and wanted to ensure against the Marlins dipping into their bullpen with for a lefty. Whatever the rationale, the move worked beautifully.

Urbina started with two changeups off the outside corner and then a borderline outside changeup brought the count to 3 balls and no strikes. Then Urbina went to fastballs on the outside corner. He got two in a row to run the count to 3-2. Actually home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg's strike zone was nebulous the entire evening and was even more so in this at-bat. Borderline outside and low pitches were being adjudicated apparently by some random ball-strike generator.

Urbina continued with two more outside fastballs that Sierra fouled off. The fifth straight fastball got a little more plate than the rest and Sierra deposited it deep in the right field corner. After it rattled around there while inexperienced rightfielder Miguel Cabrera tried to get a handle, both runners had scored tying the game and Sierra had rumbled to third.

With the go-ahead run at third, Aaron Boone grounded meekly to short. Boone helped kill off the second-inning rally hitting a sac fly to center with one out and the bases loaded. His sac fly did score the only Yankke run in the first 8.2 innings, but it also ensured that the second-inning rally, that started with three straight singles, would end with just one run.

The Yankees had tied the Marlins in a remarkable comeback, but Torre had pinch-ran for his catcher and used three right fielders in the process. In a play similar to game three's, Torre used the pinch-runner David Dellucci to turn a double-switch. As the pitcher's spot batted leadoff in the tenth, Torre put backup catcher in the game as the number-nine hitter. He then replaced pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra in the order with Jose Contrearas. To complete the switch, Dellucci had stayed in the game as the right fielder.

The move seemed even more prescient as Flaherty lead off the tenth by sending a 2-1 offering to the wall in right-center. However, Juan Pierre made a tremendous play to reach the ball robbing Flaherty.

To lead off the eleventh Bernie Williams started another rally, doubling to left on a 1-2 pitch. Williams was 4-for-6 on the night and scored the first two Yankee runs. Like in the ninth, Mastui followed the Williams hit with a walk and again the Yankees had men at first and second. David Dellucci was then ordered to lay down a bunt, moving the runners to second and third.

Frankly, I do not see the point in bunting here. The pitcher's spot was up and Juan Rivera was in the on-deck circle. Dellucci is a fast runner and shouldn't be easy to double up. But let's say he hits into a doubleplay. The Yankees would have Williams at third and two outs with Rivera at the plate. Even though Dellucci is a good bunter, a bunt in no way assures that the runners will advance. A popup, falling behind 0-2 in the count, and nailing a lead runner are not unexpected results of a bunt. Besides even a successful one means that Rivera will be walked intentionally, as he was, and leaves the game in the shaky hands of Aaron Boone.

Boone had been up with the bases loaded and one out in the second and with a runner at third and one out in the ninth, and all he could muster was one sac fly RBI. He had the bases loaded and one out here. The infield was virtually eliminating the doubleplay. Boone fell behind 0-1 and then fouled off four of the next five pitches. He stood at 1-2 and then struck out on high heat. Then Flaherty popped out to third.

It seemed that the strategic tide had turned in this inning as McKeon pulled off his first double-switch perhaps in the entire postseason. Bringing in Looper and Encarnacion for Fox and Cabrera. The successful double-switch and the ill-conceived bunt were bon mots leading to the game's denouement. Looper's appearance was nothing short of miraculous. He entered with the bases loaded and one out in a tie ballgame, a ballgame that would put them down 3-1 in the Series basically if the Yankees scored. He exited with the tie intact.

Though Torre seemed to have been dipped in the River Styx and made impervious a la Achilles with his moves in the previous 19 innings, he was about to make a move that exposed the Yankee's Achilles heel in the person of Jeff Weaver.

After Contreras had been pinch-hit for, Torre made an ill-fated call to the bullpen. The Yankees had three left-handers (Felix Heredia, Gabe White, and Chris Hammond) and two right-handers, Jeff Weaver and Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. Rivera had been getting up in the pen from time to time ever since the Yankees tied the score in the top of the ninth. Weaver had not pitched in the playoffs. His last appearance was September 24. Torre apparently wanted the platoon advantage and since the Florida lineup featured righties, that narrowed it to Weaver and Rivera. Rivera had pitched three innings in the Yankees game seven victory over the Red Sox, but Torre apparently did not want to insert Rivera for more than an inning and then only after the Yankees had taken a lead.

That is how Torre arrived at inserting Jeff Weaver in the eleventh inning of a tie ballgame, which if the Yankees won would leave them one win short of another title. He chose Weaver as confidently as Neville Chamberlain had declared that a piece of paper guaranteed "peace in our time" to an English populace that would be bombed close to extinction.

Weaver served up a 1-2-3 eleventh inning on just 8 pitches. That brief success may have been the Yankees undoing. After the Yankees went quickly in the 12th, instead of patting Weaver on the tush, counting his lucky stars, and informing the pitcher that his next role would be as Louie Sojo's benchmate, Torre, perhaps influenced by his success in the eleventh, called on Weaver again. The last time that Weaver had pitched more than one inning was more than a month ago, on September 13 in a game that he started and in which he surrendered three runs in five innings to the lowly Devil Rays.

After a called strike one, Weaver fell behind to Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez entered the box in the twelfth having gone 0-for-4 on the day with two strikeouts and hitting under .100 in the postseason. After going 3-2, Weaver got Weaver to foul off two pitches. Gonzalez later said that he rightly guessed sinker on the next pitch, and he was greeted with a meaty, non-sinking one, which he deposited over the wall in left directly above the "330" mark like a bullet from a gun.

The Marlins won the game and tied the Series. In the process, they rehabilitated this year's Byung-Hyun Kim, Ugueth Urbina, and perhaps ended Jeff Weaver's career as a Yankee. The game and Alex Gonzalez's abrupt turnaround was reminiscent of Aaron Boone's game-seven, eleventh-inning, walk-off homer in the ALCS.

The Yankees are left with the knowledge that they very easily could have won both the games that lost. They have a well-rested Mariano Rivera, but if he goes unused in game 5 the Weaver move will seem all the more curious. Indeed, Weaver's mere presence on the postseason roster is an oddity in itself. The Yankees had a right-handed reliever who had pitched fairly well during the season, Antonio Osuna. With Florida predominantly right-handed (just Pierre, left, and Castillo, switch-hitter, are the exceptions among the regulars), the Yankees chose to add Chris Hammond to the active playoff roster for the Series, giving them three left-handed relievers who have pitched a grand total of zero innings, bubkis, in the Series. If they had instead added Osuna, perhaps Torre does call on Weaver or if he does, not for two innings.

For us baseball fans the game left us with an honest-to-goodness series, with the chance for further seventh-game heroics, instead of a 5-game lopsided cakewalk. It's appropriate that tonight's game is a rematch of game one with Brad Penny facing Davod Wells because the Series in essence has been reborn like a 3-game phoenix from the charred remains of Jeff Weaver's career as a Yankee.

Fitting To Be Tied

Wow! The Marlins tied up the Series tonight on a twelfth-inning walk-off home run by Alex Gonzalez, 4-3. There were plenty of stories and heroes from Roger Clemens, who battled back from a 3-inning first in his farewell start, to Carl Pavano, who fought Clemens tough all night, to Ruben Sierra, who tied the game with a triple in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, to Gonzalez.

All I can say is if you didn't like this one you are not a baseball fan. And if you missed the lat-inning heroics because of something as mundane as sleep, then shame on you.

I predicted that the Yankees would take the next two games after going up 2-1, and boy, am I ever glad I was wrong. Now, it's a series. I can empathize with my Yankee fan friends, but I have to admit that it was an extremely enjoyable game, perhaps one that will be remembered for a long time.

It's a rematch of game one (Wells and Penny) tomorrow and then back to the Bronx for at least one more. Now, I've got to get some sleep.


Just Your Average Joe Morgan Chat Day

I know that I pick on the Joe Morgan, but I have to say that this postseason has made me appreciate the halcyon summer daze of Joe. Sure, Joe says some of the jaw-droppingest, double-takingest, dad-burn-it-est statements that you have ever heard. He eschews these new-fangled statistical do-hickeys like the leading-edge ERA and on-base percentage. He looks down on any player who came to the majors after the Big Red Machine's reign. He can waffle on a subject so severely that over the course of an individual sentence one cannot tell which side of the fence he is favoring. And if he ever does say something, don't worry he'll deny it if not immediately within the course of a week or two.

But that's Joe. I read the last Joe Morgan chat session and it seemed like attending my high school prom after being in the Big Chill of Fox's postseason coverage. Ah, those woebegone Joe chat's of yore. Times were simpler then.

Now we are burdened with commercials for Fox programs and ads for cell phones, soft drinks, beer, etc. being passed off as a baseball broadcast. We have a 45-minute pregame show that features mockumentaries on the so-called history of the sport. Jeannie Zelasko's Clutch Cargo expressions and Speed Racer cadences as well as Kevin Kennedy's pudgy pores menace us, the viewers, well after the game is done. They bookend the playoff games as horrendously as the present-time scenes bookended the actual film in Saving Private Ryan. Broadcasts are interrupted with interviews of Shecky Greene and shots of the casts of various Fox shows—what a coincidence! Mid-inning, NexTel asks us managerial questions that aren't really questions and don't involve a manger. Discuss! It gives me schpilkas in the ganetikazook.

So without further ado here's a kinder and gentler Joe Morgan Chat Day—Don't worry, it can't last:

The Good

Dave (Wadsworth, OH): Do you think Clemens will have enough left in the tank to get it done in game seven?

The only one that knows is Roger Clemens. Maybe Pedro doesn't have enough gas. We'll find that out tonight. People are trying to predict and asking for predicitions -- no one knows. That's why they play the game.

[Mike: Right you are, Joe. Besides, "gas" and performance are two different things.]

Tim(Illinois): Hi Joe. Do you think the cubs choked? They lost two straight at home with their two best pitchers on the mound.

Well first of all, what does choke really mean? The series started 0-0 and the Cubs lost 4-3. I just think Florida outplayed the Cubs, that's all there is to it.

[Mike: Right, Joe. Why do people have to boil the playoffs down to heroes and goats and curses? Teams win. Teams lose. Yeah, Little probably trusted in Martinez too long and Baker would still have Prior out there pitching if he could. However, no one choked. They tried their best and lost. Fans seem to have a tough time living with that.]

Tony (Manchester, CT): If Clemens comes up big tonight and has success in the World Series do you think he would reconsider his decision to retire????

From what I've heard and read, he is completely set on his decision to retire. I don't think a couple great games here in October could change his mind.

[Mike: Right, besides he was 17-8 this year. It's not like he was Steve Carlton touring the majors in his last season.]

Darren, Hartford, CT: Joe: Do you think that the Sox are planning to use Wakefield in relief tonight, given his ALCS magic?

Well I expect they will use him in relief tonight if the situation warrants it. He was warming up last night,

[Mike: It's game 7. You use everything but the kitchen sink.

And oh boy, did the Red Sox ever use him! He got used and abuse by Aaron Boone, and obviously he did not have his best stuff.]

Bill - Ny, Ny: Joe the great, I have to believe there is a lot of pressure on this Yankees lineup tonight due to the fact that if they dont produce there going to send Roger out on a losing note, and I understand Boone is in and Enrique is out, what do you think of this?

Well, first of all, I don't think they are thinking about Roger at this point. Personal and individual concerns are not very pressing right now as they face elimination. They want the team -- the Yankees -- to advance, not just Roger Clemens. They are one team in one direction right now. As far as Boone goes, he has not looked very good lately but I don't know that Joe Torre has too many options over there.

[Mike: What a difference a game makes.

Joe's right: no one was concerned necessarily about Roger. And that was a good thing for the Yankees and for Clemens as each survived to play in the next round.

Wilson actually did start at third but Boone replaced him later in the game and ended up hitting the dramatic eleventh-inning home run. But how could Joe be expected to have known that?]

Matt Vermont: Joe there has been a lot of criticism of Grady Little despite the fact that he has gotten the sox within 1 game of the World Series what are your opinions of Grady

I think he's done a good job to get him to this point. It's unfortunate that one game will decide whether a lot of people think he's done a good job or not. IF they win he's a hero, if not, he is a disapointment. It's unfortuante but that's the way the game is.

[Mike: See the above answer. Joe's right, Little may not be the next Earl Weaver, but he did get his team to the seventh game of the ALCS. He may have left Martinez in for one extra batter and batter Gabe Kapler leadoff in game two, but no one's perfect. It seems that he will be the scapegoat though. The funny thing is that if Posada's bloop was caught and the Sox won, Little's sticking with Martinez would have been lauded.]

Katie (Arizona): Joe, what is the Yankees biggest weakness? What makes them most vulnerable?

Their middle relief is obviously a problem. But their lack of consistant hitting and disciplined at bats in key situations are really hurting them right now.

[Mike: Actually, it's Don Zimmer's left-right combination that needs the most work.]

The Less Good

Bill Ohio: Mr. Morgan, The Marlins are truly one of the most amazing stories in baseball over the past couple years. Could you imagine just how good this team could have been if AJ Burnett had not gotten hurt! Anyway, what do you think the current Marlins pitchers chances are of stopping the yankees or red sox bats?

Well during the playoffs, Josh Beckett was the only consistant starter they had. But they are an amazing team whose offense never quits and they've certainly proven that they can beat anybody ... we'll just have to wait and see who they're up against.

[Mike: Joe, uh, that's why Bill here is pointing out that they would have been even better with Burnett. Swap Pavano for Burnett and you have a great, young staff. Although teams could do a lot worse than Pavano as a number-five starter.]

Ryan, Fargo ND: Hi Joe, You and John do a great job on ESPN Radio. I look forward to listening to tonight's game. What do you think is going on with the Yankees bullpen? Contreras has looked great until yesterday, and I don't think Joe Torre has much confidence in Heredia or White.

I thought that Torre had confindence in Rivera and Contreras -- those two guys, that's really it. He will now have to entrust somebody else, it's a tough choice between Nelson or Heredia, he'll have to choose somebody tonight.

[Mike: Fargo? Say "Hi" to Margie.

Actually, he chose Mussina who held the fort enabling the late-innings heroics. Not a readily apparent move, but Joe should have mentioned that any and old pitchers would be used in game 7.]

Mike: Boston: Baseball is a kids game. It supposed to be fun. Is it me, or does it look like the Red Sox & Florida look like they're having the most fun? The Yankees just don't look like a loose club. Are the expectations to win EVERY year to much to bear? The feeling of winning it all must be incredible, but the champagne must taste better when most people thought you wouldn't be drinking it. Thoughts?

Mike, go back and read my column from two weeks ago about the Yankees and the pressure they face.

[Mike: Gee, it's funny that you are from Boston and you say that. I know Yankee fans who enjoy the heck out of watching them play. It seemed to me that Martinez and Ramirez weren't too happy-go-lucky in game 3. It's all a matter of perception. As for me, I don't really care—my fun's on the field.

Oh, and Joe, You think that the Red Sox with every fan in the Nation holding his or her breath on every out and dying a thousand deaths with each misstep by the team. Ask Grady Little if he doesn't feel the pressure. You'll have to loosen the noose that the lynch mob, er, fans tightened around his throat first.]

Brian, Rockville MD: Joe, you've been around baseball long enough to weigh in on this one: where do these current playoffs rank in your eyes among some of the greatest (86, 91)? You can tell I am 24, I have had limited experience, but I haven't seen too many postseasons like this! Thanks Joe!

Every year playoffs are different, each one has its own character and point of excitement. We have two 7-game LCS -- that is always full of excitement. This certainly feels like the best in recent memory but it is also what we're watching right now so of course it is going to feel like the most important -- and it is, it's the present. Every year is different. But this is certainly exciting, can't argue with you there.

[Mike: Brian, don't go back to Rockville and waste another year. I beg of you.

What does R.E.M. have against Rockville anyway? And what happened to Elvis Costello in Chelsea? I know Russell Zizky got his A's kicked in Wisconsin once, but I digress.

"[I]t's the present"—very astute and existential statement. So is it the present now? Are you Squidward now? If Achilles and a turtle have a race, and one train leaves the station at 12:45, what has four wheels and flies?]

I have a preference for 1980 since my team won for the only time. But they get no sympathy since they just stink and are not cursed. I have been researching close playoffs and hope to have something soon.]

kevin (boston): Does Pedros antics in Game 3 hurt him or help him tonight. Personally I don;t think the Yankees are intimidated or afraid to go against him a t all.

No one knows anything about what is going to happen today. If Pedro has his best stuff, the Yankees won't hit him. If Roger brings his best stuff, the Sox won't touch him. So it depends on who brings their best stuff and which club responds best to the pressure.

[Mike: Well, it helped him in game three. He seems to thrive on it. That seems to be one of the reasons he pulled the stunt in the first place. Maybe he'll run over an old lady on the way to the game and become unhittable.]

Chris -- Michigan: Do think the viewer ratings will drop significantly for a Yankees / Marlins World Series? As a kid I loved watching your Reds, the Red Sox, Phillies, Royals, Dodgers, and even the Yanks. It's hard to identify with the current players so the Cubs / Red Sox stories were what compelled me to watch. I think I'm like a lot of other people in this. What do you think?

I think the ratings will drop. The Cubs were the draw in this post-season. If Boston wins it will keep some of the Cubs fan interested. If the Yankees win it's kind of that "same old story" disinterest. Either way I think the ratings will drop off. The Cubs were a huge draw.

[Mike: That's because MLB and Fox could only sell the facile "curse" angle. The Yanks/Marlins is a great David and Goliath story. That should play in Peoria if baseball had any idea how to market itself.

P.S., Early returns have the World Series ratings up 16% from last year.]

Brian - Boston: Joe, thanks for your time and expertise, I have seen Pedro Martinez pitch numerous times both on the road and at Fenway Park, in my opinion the guy thrives on the road much more than Fenway, and especially in Yankee Stadium, how do you feel about that?

I agree from a mental standpoint that he will be well prepared to pitch this ballgame in the Bronx tonight. The only question mark is whether or not his is physically able to match that.

[Mike: Great, Joe, but that's not the question. Is there any basis for Brian's opinions? Let's find out. Mr. Owl?

Actually Martinez's home-road splits support the assertions. Here's 2003:


Now for the last four years:


Now Fenway vs. Yankee Stadium (keep in mind that he only pitched 13 innings in the Bronx in 2003 and 50.1 in the last four years):

Fenway Park3.1382.2411.174.269.446.43
Yankee Stadium1.3910.1910.7720.0013.856.50

Fenway Park3.932971.405.2214.394.83
Yankee Stadium2.50320.996.7313.236.29

Well, he does seem to like the road in general. But I don't think you can say that he's significantly more successful in the Bronx than off of Mass Ave. Joe you can now continue blathering.]

Andrew (Green Bay): In your mind what was the best World Series ever? In my opinion it was the Brave/Twins series in 1991.

Everything is a matter of choice, me, I was in 1975's. I played in it so of course, first-hand, I've got to go with that one. That was exciting to me.

[Mike: Thanks, Joe. To quote Billy Ray Valentine, thanks, you've been halpful. I'd like to offer three that no one ever mentions: 1924 (Senators 4- Giants 3), 1972 (A's 4-Reds 3), and 1912 (Red Sox 4-Giants 3, one tie—the 8-game World Series to which yutz Robin Williams inadvertently referred).

These are the only three series in baseball history that went the distance and had an average margin of victory under two. Basically, the average game was won by one or two runs. Also all of the game 7's in these series were won by one run. 1924's game 7 was won in the 12th, and 1910's in the 10th. Also, 1924 featured two extra-inning games with six total extra innings and 1912's featured two as well with three extra innings in total.]

Ratan: (Dhaka, Bangladesh): If the Yankees lose tonight do you think Joe Torre will still be manager next year. I get the feeling Mr Steinbrenner is losing patience and maybe a tense loss to their arch rivals might push his patience one step too far. Whatever happens I hope Torre remains in the same seat next year.

I think he deserves to be there. George made a statement last week saying no matter what happens Torre will be retained as manager. I think he'll be there ... and I think he should be. He deserves the spot.

[Mike: Ratan, I have some of your furniture.

Yeah, if you believe a vote of confidence before the playoffs are done. And if you believe that Torre will want to be there next year.]

The Much Far Less Good So Much As To Be Tremendously Ugly

Mike Washington, DC: What do you think of Mike Mussina's performance in the postseason? He is supposed to be the ace of this ballclub and now he is sitting at 0-3 and the Yankees are on the brink of being bounced from the playoffs. The Moose has zero 20 win seasons, zero Cy Youngs and zero championships. Does he have what it takes to be the man in the big city?

I dont' know who said Moose was was the ace of the Yankees staff -- Andy Pettitte won 21 games -- I wouldn't say Mike is the ace ... but sure, they are definitely counting on him. He is 0-3 right now but It's not like he has been horrible. The defense behind him wasn't perfect and the offense didn't produce so you can't blame Mike completely, but you're right, he has not been up to his full potential, certainly a little dissapointing.

[Mike: Me got dumber by reading dat interchange. How 'bout u? Now I know why tigers eat their young.]