As Giants fans gather around the table for this year’s Thanksgiving feast, they are likely to offer thanks to family, friends and the Dodgers payroll. Without the Dodgers’ commitment to spend whatever it takes, would the Giants have tossed out big bucks to retain outfielder Hunter Pence and pitcher Tim Lincecum, add starter Tim Hudson, and still be willing to shell out more to finish off the rotation, lock up relief specialist Javier Lopez and maybe fix the left-field hole? Doubtful.
The Giants gambled after the 2012 World Series championship, and lost. They looked over the NL West for 2013, and didn’t see any powerhouse. There was no good argument to make that Arizona, Colorado or San Diego would be anything special. The Giants didn’t believe money could make the Dodgers mesh. Giants first baseman Brandon Belt carried the company line during a Fan Fest interview in February. When asked if the Giants were concerned about the Dodgers all-out spending, he replied, “Money doesn’t buy chemistry.” It seemed like a good answer at the time, for the Dodgers of 2012 couldn’t capitalize on the cash, playing unimpressive.500 ball after the blockbuster $250 million August trade with Boston. The Giants, as a result, built their off-season strategy on the premise that the NL West would be the Mild West, similar to the 2005 season when the Padres won the division with an 82-80 record. That’s why the Giants chose to bring back basically the same club that won the 2012 title, figuring the pitching would be enough despite a meager offense to outlast the mediocre competition. It looked like the fumble-and-stumble-to-the- goal-line business plan might work for a time. The Giants were just three games out of first on June 21 in the lackluster division, while the Dodgers were buried at 31-42, 9-1/2 games back. Even Dodgers fans liked the Giants conservative strategy better than their club’s liberal spending approach. A caller to Dodger Talk on AM570 in Los Angeles said it hurt to say so as a lifetime Dodgers fan, but that he thought the team needed to adopt the Giants’ Bochy-Ball brand of baseball.
Of course, everything changed when the Dodgers, ignited in part by the arrival of colorful rookie Yasiel Puig and the return of some injured players, went on a 46-10 streak.The Giants and the rest of the NL West, excluding the Dodgers, were mild. Whether the Dodgers found chemistry or were merely renting it, the Giants had to take notice that keeping up with their rivals was going to cost some money.
The Giants are reluctant to concede that a concern about Dodger dollars is influencing their spending, as was demonstrated by comments from club president Larry Baer on Yahoo Sports Talk Live. Asked if the Giants have to stay up with the Dodgers to be competitive in the West, Baer said, “I think it’s dangerous business to say, OK, we make this move, what’s the Dodgers counter move? So far, we’ve put $150 million into payroll if you take those three over the life of the signings, and the Dodgers have not made their moves yet. I think we’ve got to keep our eye on the ball on where do we want to be coming into Spring Training, where do we want to be as we go through the season, and maybe add during the season, and not be focused on what the Dodgers do or don’t do because we can’t control it.”
I wouldn’t expect Baer to spin that answer any other way, but the fact is that new Dodgers ownership has ratcheted up the rivalry so there’s a lot of ego and competitiveness not just on the field but in the front offices. AT&T is sold out every day, Giants merchandise is hot, and enthusiastic fans jump at any discussion about Giants roster moves to voice their strong opinions. Baer, general manager Brian Sabean and Giants ownership are being driven by the need to Beat L.A. because it doesn’t seem that the Dodgers are going to let up. Giants management deserves great credit for their incredible recent success. But there is a difference now: The Giants beat teams in the post season who thought they could slug their way to the championship. The Giants changed the game by proving that dominant pitching was the magic bullet. The Dodgers indeed are turning to a type of Bochy-Ball, intending to build an elite rotation with strong middle relief and a big-time closer. The fact that they seem to have the budget to re-sign ace Clayton Kershaw, and still possibly pursue someone like coveted Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka — who would likely cost $100 million-plus — keeps the pressure on the Giants. Baer said he is not focused on what the Dodgers are doing, but you know he’s paying attention.
So Giants fans, enjoy the turkey, the gravy, and the biscuits at your Thanksgiving meal. And maybe even toss in a few Dodger Dogs as a symbol of thanks that L.A.’s riches are keeping your team cooking during the Hot Stove League.
After capturing the Penguin and the Riddler, and rescuing Lou Seal and a Damsel in Distress, Batkid sped away from San Francisco in the Batmobile, his mission accomplished. But he must be brought back for one more mission. Could there be a better time than April 8, to throw out the first pitch at the Giants home opener at AT&T Park? It would be a powerful way to start the year. It also would have the side benefit of easing security concerns for the big day, since any would-be villains would likely stay away once they realized Batkid was in the building.
The exploits of 5-year-old Miles Scott of Tulelake on Friday provided one of the most uplifting days for the city that this San Francisco native has ever seen. Miles has been battling leukemia since he was 20 months old, and now is in remission. The Make-A-Wish-Foundation, told of his love for super heroes, arranged an elaborate day with the help of the city of San Francisco and many volunteers. Miles, transformed into Batkid, and accompanied by his sidekick Batman, went on a crime-busting spree around the city as thousands of people watched with a mix of smiles and tears.
It got me to thinking: How did this five-year-old steal not only the hearts of San Franciscans, but those of millions around the world who followed the events through television reports and social media? The answer, I think, is how rare it is that a city, region or country can come together for something that is so pure and inspiring. We’re currently being inundated with stories of the JFK assassination as that tragedy nears its 50th anniversary, when the country was united in its grief and shock during that time of pain and loss. The country became united after 9/11, but again it was because of death and sadness. The presidential election is supposed to be a salute to our democracy, where Americans come together at one time to choose a leader, but the whole process has turned into a divisive process filled with hate and disrespect for the other side. Locally, on a more cheerful note, San Francisco has rallied as one with massive crowds to celebrate the World Series championships of the Giants in 2010 and 2012. But as fun as those two parties were, they were both cases of mostly common folk celebrating millionaire adults who play a game.
Enter Batkid, and Friday’s glorious day. It was so pure and innocent. Democrats and Republicans in the crowd together cheered on Batkid. For those who watched live or later in the media coverage, national, world or personal problems were put on hold. If there is a five-year-old in your life, be they a son or daughter, or in my case, a grandson, you said a prayer for Miles’ improving health and for the good health of your little one. I watched the coverage through watery eyes, remembering how my grandson likes to turn himself into Batman by lifting his arms to turn his jacket into a cape as he bolts down the sidewalk ready to defend Gotham.
Of course, there had to be someone who tried to rain on Batkid’s parade. The San Francisco Chronicle quoted San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar as wondering whether money spent on the Batkid could have been better used to aid a number of other needy kids. It’s almost too easy to label Mar as a knucklehead or The Grinch Who Stole Make-A-Wish Day, but because he has concern for the welfare of children who need help, I’ll forgive the reaction as an overreach of S.F. political correctness. And hey, maybe he reacted before getting the chance to think through the fact that this was one of the most heartwarming stories in his city that many of us who have been around for a while can recall.
Tony Bennett left his heart in San Francisco. Miles touched almost every heart in San Francisco. C’mon Giants, put the Batkid on the mound for the Opening Day ceremonial pitch. And invite Supervisor Mar to catch it. If Mr. Mar shows up, I’ll tip my cap to him.
We should have seen this coming.
The Cardinals were forced to sit in their plane at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport for about seven hours on Tuesday because of mechanical problems, waiting to take off for Boston. They didn’t arrive there until 11 p.m. The next day, their Game 6 nose dive began with a big hit by the Flyin’ Hawaiian.
And so, today, the city of Boston is flying high after its worst-to-first Red Sox won the World Series with a convincing 6-1 victory. Shane Victorino, who once appeared on an episode of Hawaii Five-O, and became the first Hawaiian-born positional player named to the All-Star team in 2009, banged a three-run double off the Green Monster in the third inning. It was early, but the Cardinals went quietly the rest of the game. The Cardinals arrived in Boston for Game 1 carrying the Spirit of St. Louis. but left after Game 6 looking liked jet-lagged travelers. The night of frustration for the Cardinals was best summed up by a botched rundown in the fifth with the Red Sox leading 6-0. Cardinals pitcher Kevin Siegrist’s throw to first baseman Matt Adams caught Boston base runner Jacoby Ellsbury leaning too far off first base. Adams chased Ellsbury to second, and tossed the ball to shortstop Daniel Descalso. Ellsbury broke back to first and Descalso threw back to Adams. Adams then ran Ellsbury back to second and threw to Matt Carpenter. The wily Ellsbury saw his chance and sprinted to first, where Siegrist got the ball too late and missed a swipe tag. Catcher Yadier Molina, who should have been at first base by then, was more of a spectator than participant, arriving too late to help. The play was not a determining factor in the game, since the Red Sox were firmly in control, but it was a symbolic moment in showing that the Cardinals had lost their way.
WORLD SERIES NOTES:
* Baseball statistics can be an interesting method to grade teams, but they often don’t tell the real story. The Cardinals batted .224 for the series, the Red Sox hit .211. The difference in this series was that Boston’s David Ortiz ruined the curve. The MVP was the series-changer, going a remarkable 11 for 16 for a .688 average, and reached base on 19 of 25 plate appearances. In one of the most mind-boggling strategies in recent World Series memory, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny insisted on pitching to the one guy who was destroying them through the first five games. Matheny finally got wise in Game 6 by walking Ortiz four times — three intentionally. Of course, even that didn’t work for the reeling Cardinals, as Ortiz ended up scoring two runs.
* The clubs are now all square in World Series wins. The Cardinals won it four games to three in 1946 and 1967, and the Red Sox swept in 2004. Which now raises the question: which team has the best chance to win the World Series in 2014? While much can be made of the low batting averages for this series, welcome to baseball in this era. Championships are won with dominant pitching – not just starters and closers – but with a non-stop parade of almost unhittable relievers. The Giants discovered the formula, and parlayed it into two World Series titles in three years. They shut down offensive machines in every post-season matchup — the Braves, Phillies and Rangers in 2010; and the Reds, Cardinals and Tigers in 2012. The Cardinals might have the edge in their young, promising bullpen. Both teams seem evenly matched offensively. In fact, if Cardinals sluggers Matt Holliday or David Freese had Ortiz’s series, maybe St. Louis wins. Sensational rookie pitcher Michael Wacha finally met failure in Game 6, but the rest of the National League has been put on notice after his late 2013 magic. Still, you can’t ignore the most signifcant numbers: the Red Sox have won three championships in 10 years. The Red Sox Way can’t be denied.
* The Red Sox brought out their secret weapon for the Game 6 national anthem. Dropkick Murphys, whose signature “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” is the unofficial anthem for Boston teams, performed the song in the Game 6 clincher for the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. The group provided a spirited, upbeat rendition on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t enough to take top honors in my World Series Star Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show. The distinguished panel of judges carefully weighed the six series anthems, and selected Game 5 performer Harry Connick Jr. as the winner of the coveted Lou Rawls Award. The award was named for Mr. Rawls, who delivered the best anthem I’ve ever heard, back in the 1970s.
Boston Strong. A lot of powerful images come up when you hear those words. There’s the shock and tragedy of the carnage from that devastating day at the Boston Marathon, and the fear in the following days as the wounded city wondered whether more attacks were coming. Those days of darkness where brightened by the stories of heroism of emergency professionals, as well as some ordinary citizens, who ran to the bombing site, not away from it, to help the victims immediately after the explosions. Powerful, incredibly touching moments have come just months later as we saw some of the severely injured battling back. The resiliency of Boston in not giving in to the terror has been inspirational for the country. At times like these, I always wonder if we go too far in tying these tragedies to our sports teams. They say 9/11 united the country, and that resumption of baseball in New York was part of the healing process. Yet the country today seems as divided as ever. After the deadly quake in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 that forced a temporary stoppage of the World Series, it was said that the resumption of the games was important to show how the region was recovering.
I was skeptical that a baseball game had those powers. Once the players step onto the field, there is no time for thinking about what it all means. The game requires too much focus for anyone to be contemplating the big picture of baseball’s role in society. So I might have been skeptical when Boston Strong became such a dominant storyline for the Red Sox season. I don’t know if the Boston Marathon attack made the Red Sox play harder or better. But I liked hearing how the club truly had helped lift the community with the respect it showed for all who were affected. The Red Sox paid public tribute by having “Boston Strong” logos placed on the uniform sleeves, erecting a large emblem on the Green Monster and mowing a “B Strong” in the center-field grass. But the tribute I liked best was reading how Red Sox players had privately and quietly visited the hospitals to talk to the victims without anyone knowing it. When David Ortiz was interviewed on the field after the game he held the trophy high and told the crowd, “This is for you Boston. You guys deserve it. We’ve been a through a lot this year and this is for all of you and all those families who struggled.”
Now millions will gather in Boston to celebrate. It will be a great baseball party. But it will also be a day of symbolism — a day when the citizens of Boston officially and spiritually took back their streets.
If the Cardinals win the 2013 World Series, they will have gone 3-1 at Fenway Park and 1-2 at Busch Stadium. Is there a script writer who could present that scenario to a Hollywood studio and not be laughed out of town? Playing before their passionate fans in Busch Stadium Monday night, the Cardinals were not up for the challenge in the battle of aces, losing 3-1 in Game 5 to give Boston two chances at home to clinch the title. Red Sox ace John Lester has allowed one run in 15-1/3 innings in the series and is 2-0. The Cardinals Adam Wainwright has a 4.50 ERA and is 0-2. To be fair, Wainwright was more effective in Game 5 than Game 1, even striking out seven of the first nine batters, and finishing with 10 Ks overall. But it was his aggressive, macho approach to all-world David Ortiz that doomed him. During a tense Dodgers-Giants pennant race in 2004, the Dodgers decided they were not going to let the man with the biggest bat beat them. In the last six games between the clubs, Barry Bonds had only 10 official bats, and was walked 14 times. The strategy worked, as the Dodgers edged the Giants to win the NL West. In this series, Ortiz is batting a ridiculous .733, going 11 for 15 with two homers, two doubles and six RBIs. Ortiz came up in the first inning with Dustin Pedroia on second after a double, but Wainwright went right after Ortiz. The result: a 1-0 deficit as Ortiz doubled. Afterward, Wainwright said, “That was my call before the game. I said I’m not pitching around Ortiz today.” My call? Shouldn’t manager Mike Matheny be the decision-maker on what has become one of the biggest keys in this World Series? Ortiz finished the night going 3 for 4. The Boston Red Sox turnaround from a ninth-place team in 1966 to a pennant winner in 1967 became known as the impossible dream. The Cardinals ended that dream by defeating them in seven games in the World Series. The business plan of stubbornly pitching to Ortiz, and the daunting task of dominating the Red Sox at Fenway in this World Series now appears to be an impossible dream for the Cardinals.
WORLD SERIES NOTES:
* Putting aside the Ortiz non-strategy, the Cardinals are dead if they can’t pick up the offense. St. Louis is batting .218 with 13 runs in five games. They struck out nine times in Game 5. Matt Carpenter, who they rely on as an offensive spark, is hitting .227. Of course, the Red Sox as a team aren’t doing any better, batting just .205. But, Ortiz’s bat makes a comparison of those statistics irrelevant as he hammers away at Cardinals pitching.
* Could a player on the losing side be named MVP of this World Series? Even if the Cardinals rally to win Games 6 and 7, they would need someone to break out to overtake Ortiz, especially if the Red Sox DH continues to put up such gaudy numbers. Maybe someone like a Matt Holliday could hit three homers in two days to grab the headlines away from Ortiz and give MVP voters a Cardinal option. Ortiz could face one other threat from within even if the Red Sox win if his bat cooled and Lester pitched and won Game 7.
* Harry Connick Jr., a veteran singer of the national anthem on the big stage, didn’t disappoint with his Game 5 performance. My distinguished panel of judges will officially determine the winner in the Star Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show, but I can only imagine how fellow contestants Mary Blige, James Taylor, Colbie Collait and Rascal Flatts are feeling after hearing Connick’s smooth delivery.
* Red Sox fans have been waiting quite a while to watch their team win a World Series at Fenway Park. In fact, the date was Sept. 11, 1918, as the Red Sox defeated the Chicago Cubs 2-1 in Game 7 before the home crowd. The season had been cut short at about 130 games as the country turned its attention to getting ready for war, resulting in the early September series schedule. Weak hitting also was part of the 1918 series. The Red Sox were outscored 10 to 9, and batted just .186 to the Cubs .210. Babe Ruth starred for the Red Sox, winning Games 1 and 4 as he threw 16 consecutive scoreless innings until the Cubs finally got to him for two runs in the eighth inning of his second outing. Ruth, primarily a pitcher at this point, helped his own cause with an RBI triple in a 3-2 win in Game 4. Maybe they should have walked him.
As if Giants spiritual leader Hunter Pence didn’t get enough air time in the Giants post-season run of 2012, there he was again getting his name brought up in Game 4 of the 2013 World Series. Pence became known nationally for both his pre-game pep talk in the division series against Cincinnati when the Giants were a game away from elimination, and his subsequent dugout rah-rah sessions. What gets lost in the story is that Pence’s initial pep talk didn’t exactly inspire the offense. The Giants struck out 16 times in 10 innings, and it took a key error to help them pull out a 2-1 win. On Sunday night, in the Red Sox 4-2 victory to even the series at 2-2, it was David Ortiz who became the inspirational leader. After Ortiz doubled in the sixth with the Red Sox trailing 1-0, he hollered at his teammates in the dugout to get going. Ortiz took matters in his own hands, eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly, his legs chugging down the third base line. Ortiz continued his rallying cry In the top of the sixth, doing his best Hunter Pence impression as he gave a verbal push to the players gathered around him in the dugout. Maybe Pence should take note. While Pence’s original speech failed to awaken the Giants bats, Big Papi’s pep talk got instant results as Jonny Gomes drilled a game-deciding three-run homer moments later. Ortiz brought much credibility to his words through his play in the first four games, where is 8 for 11.
WORLD SERIES NOTES:
* Pitchers and catchers don’t report until about 110 days from now, but both World Series managers already have some fundamentals heading their list when spring training drills get under way. John Farrell of the Red Sox will no doubt have his troops working on what has apparently become one of the most difficult plays in baseball — the throw from home plate to third. Boston has produced a how-not-to-do-it video that must be kept out of the hands of all little leaguers seeking professional guidance. Mike Matheny of the Cardinals is certain to have his players assemble around first base where they will be lectured on the art of taking a lead. Matheny’s tutorial became necessary Sunday night when pinch-runner Kolten Wong got picked off to end the game. Wong’s inexplicable gaffe came a day after the obstruction call, the first time series games ever ended on such plays. Two things made the pickoff hard to understand. First, with the Cardinals down 4-2 and home run threat Carlos Beltran up, there was nothing required of Wong other than a safe lead. Two, how could he possibly be caught leaning to second base, since he certainly wasn’t going to stealing? Afterward, there was much excuse-making over Wong’s debacle. I was waiting for someone to say he lost the first base bag in the lights. Don’t they teach base-running 101 as part of the Cardinal Way?
* Ortiz glove watch: The Red Sox have not been burned by putting the DH slugger at first base for Games 3 and 4. All but one of the plays involving Ortiz have been routine, and even that was marginal. Shortstop Xavier Bogaerts threw off line to first after fielding a grounder and Ortiz couldn’t grab it. The play was a questionable base hit, but it didn’t cost the Red Sox in any event.
* If the Cardinals lose the World Series, the blame might come down to the first four innings of Game 4 and their inability to pounce on a vulnerable Clay Buchholz. A right shoulder injury drastically altered the effectiveness of Buchholz, who was 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA when healthy in the regular season. He velocity was down, and the Cardinals had two men on base in every inning but the first, yet they could only score one run against him before Buchholz was removed after four frames.
* I keep watching replays of the sacrifice fly that scored Ortiz, and I can’t shake the opinion that catcher Yadier Molina didn’t handle the play properly. The throw from Matt Holliday beat Ortiz, but Molina seemed to be too far in front of the plate. The angle of the throw down the left-field line forced Molina to step out to the left of home, but he might have gotten himself in a bad position to cleanly field the ball. While Ortiz was a menacing figure heading to home plate, it was taking him time to get there, giving Molina an opportunity to better locate himself.
* Unless you are a Cardinals fan, it was good news that the Red Sox took Game 4 to assure that the World Series will go back to Boston. This is a good, entertaining matchup with good ball players, and while some of the play has been erratic, the series is on track to have some memorable drama at Fenway.
* The distinguished panel of judges in the Star Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show are still considering the Game 4 performance of Rascal Flatts. The talented trio did fine, but when it comes to groups, I’m spoiled by the national anthem rendition of Huey Lewis and the News. None of the four performers so far have run away with the competition, leaving the Lou Rawls Award for best World Series anthem up for grabs for the Game 5 and 6 contestants (Game 7 if necessary).
* In the office pool, I’ve got Game 5 ending on a catcher’s interference. Other choices for final play of game: a balk; Cardinal runner gets feet tangled in a beard; fan interference on ball hit down line; a triple play; batted ball hits runner; and a “Canseco homer” (ball bounces off outfielder’s head and goes over fence. Hope Game 5 doesn’t end on a pop up or strikeout. Boring!!!
Since Cy Young and the Boston Pilgrims met Honus Wagner and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series in 1903, there had never been a finish to a Fall Classic game quite like Game 3 of the 2013 version. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some quirky endings.
The Philadelphia Athletics defeated the New York Giants four games to two in the 1911 World Series, but the odd moment came in Game 5 when Larry Doyle scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly in the 10th for a 4-3 victory. Umpire Bill Klem said he never touched home, but the Athletics didn’t appeal, so the run stood. If only there was instant replay in 1911.
Game 3 of the 1914 World Series between the Boston Braves and Philadelphia Athletics ended with a dramatic 5-4 Boston victory in the 12th. Herbie Moran bunted back to pitcher Joe Bush with runners on first and second, but Bush’s wild throw to third (sound familiar?) allowed the winning run to score. Maybe Bush was just exhausted. It was the first-ever three-hour-plus post-season game, lasting 3:06. The Braves swept the series.
The St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees were tied three games apiece, and game seven had come down to the bottom of the 9th with New York batting and St. Louis leading 3-2. Babe Ruth was at first after drawing a walk from 39-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander, who was pitching in relief after having already thrown two complete games. Ruth tried to steal second, but Cardinals catcher Bob O’Farrell gunned him down to give the series to St. Louis.
The 1927 New York Yankees are known for their lumber, but they didn’t need to even take a swing to win Game 4 and sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates. With the scored tied 3-3 in the last of the ninth, Pirates reliever Johnny Miljus uncorked a wild pitch while facing Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded, allowing Earle Combs to streak home with the World Series winning run.
The phantom sacrifice fly, the wild throw, the caught stealing and the wild pitch were odd walk-off moments in those early years of the World Series, but the Cardinals and Red Sox topped them all Saturday night as St. Louis took a 2-1 series lead with a 5-4 win in Game 3.
To recap: Yadier Molina singled off Brandon Workman with one out in the ninth and the score tied 4-4. The Red Sox brought in Koji Uehara to face pinch hitter Allen Craig. Craig lined the first pitch to left for a double, setting up runners at second and third. John Jay, facing a drawn-in infield, hit a sharp grounder that was snared by second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Molina, thinking the ball was going through, was easily thrown out at the plate after he broke for home as catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia made the tag. Craig dashed to third, and Saltalamacchia’s throw was wild, forcing third baseman Will Middlebrook to lunge for the ball. With the ball rolling down the left-field line, Craig tried to take off for home, but got tripped up by Middlebrook’s raised legs. Third base umpire James Joyce ruled obstruction, a violation clearly spelled out in the rule book, allowing Craig to come home with the winning run.
WORLD SERIES NOTES:
* The bizarre ending was redemption for Joyce and home plate umpire Dana DeMuth. Joyce has been forever haunted by a call he admits was wrong in 2010 that denied a perfect game to Detroit’s Armando Galarraga. DeMuth badly missed a call at second in Game 2 that had to be reversed after a huddle by his fellow umpires. After all the second-guessing and criticism umpires get these days as TV replays become more sophisticated, Joyce and DeMuth were at the top of their game on baseball’s biggest stage. Joyce saw the obstruction, and DeMuth alertly picked up the call as Craig slid home. Demuth made no call on the close play at the plate, but immediately signaled that Craig was automatically safe because of Joyce’s call. There would be no need for the umpires to huddle. They nailed the call in the spur of a wild, pressure-filled moment.
* The professionalism of Joyce and Demuth was a contrast to the unprofessional and embarrassing reaction of others. Famed baseball pundit Lil Wayne tweeted “How can u make a call like that in the World Series.” Lil Wayne, I suggest u stick to rapping. While it’s understandable that celebrities and most baseball fans are unfamiliar with Rule 2.00 and 7.06, which clearly covers obstruction, how could players and managers not be up to speed with rules for their own game? Carlos Beltran said 75 percent of the players didn’t know what happened. Middlebrook, who all but put one of those figure-four leg lock wrestling holds on Craig, was puzzled why they called him safe. Red Sox manager John Farrell, who should know better, came out to argue. But the worst reaction came from Red Sox pitcher Jake Peavy, who called it a joke. Some Boston fans might have been using that word after Peavy put his club down 2-0 in the first inning. He was coming off an outing in the ALCS where he gave up seven runs in three innings. Peavy entered Saturday’s game 0-3 with a 10.31 ERA in four post-season starts. Peavy won the Cy Young Award in 2007, so you’d think he would be able to recognize and appreciated the kind of baseball excellence Joyce and DeMuth exhibited.
* Get ready for more crazed endings to baseball games. When the broader replay system takes effect, we can count on confusing endings as everyone is put on hold on a final dramatic play while the league and umpires review a play. One can see a walk-off, World Series winning double down the line overturned as a foul ball, sending emotions of players and fans into a frenzy. Can’t wait to see what Lil Wayne and Big Jake have to say about that.
* Somehow, Farrell found a way to keep slugger Mike Napoli out of a game his team lost 5-4. Napoli was forced to sit because red-hot David Ortiz had to play first base because there is no designated hitter in the NL park. What happened? The DH removes some of the game management and strategizing skills, so an AL manager like Farrell isn’t as savvy about how to juggle the roster as one of his NL counterparts.
* We have now heard from three contestants in the competition for the coveted Lou Rawls Award, which will be presented to the best anthem singer of the World Series. Colbie Caillat appeared to put herself in the running Saturday night, at least by my untrained ear, but the real test will be how she fared with the distinguished panel of judges who will decide the winner of the Star Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show.
I fondly remember Sport Magazine growing up. I couldn’t wait until the next edition of the monthly publication came out and I’d read it cover to cover. I still recall an article in the 1960s titled “World Series Pressure is Unbearable,” based on the thoughts of Yogi Berra, who played in 14 Fall Classics and won 10 of them. The title might have been a rarity: a Yogi quote that made perfect sense. The Cardinals gave credibility to that theme in Game One with a defensive meltdown that opened the door to the Red Sox batters to score an early knockout. In Game Two, it was the Red Sox who cracked as the Cardinals took advantage for a 4-2 win to even the World Series as the teams headed for St. Louis. Game Two came down to who handled the pressure and who didn’t. The Cardinals youthful pitching trio of starter Michael Wacha, and relievers Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal — none older than 23 — handled it well. They held the Red Sox to two runs and four hits and struck out 12. Wacha made only one mistake, a changeup to David Ortiz that just came down on the other side of the Green Monster. But you can’t blame that serving on pressure. Wacha entered the game having allowed one run in 29-2/3 innings in his last four starts.
Like any good team should do, the Cardinals put the pressure on the Red Sox. Trailing 2-1 in the seventh, and with runners at first and second, the Cardinals pulled off a double steal. It was a sneak attack. The Cardinals were last in the National League in stolen bases with 45, and it was obvious that neither Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow or catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia were ready for the base path surprise. The Red Sox meltdown came one batter later and again featured the Boston battery. After Daniel Descalso walked to load the bases, Matt Carpenter lofted a fly to Jonny Gomes in left. Then the pressure took hold. The throw was to the first base side of home and the runner on third, David Freese, was going to score easily. But Saltalamacchia still thought he could snag the ball, spin around to the plate and make a sweep tag. There was never a chance that could happen. The ball got away from Saltalamacchia, and John Jay, who was on second, dashed for third. Breslow, who was backing up the play behind home, then tried to nail Jay. But he never had a chance either. His direct path to third was slightly blocked by Saltalamacchia and the umpire, so he had to move around them before making the throw. The correct play was to eat the ball and keep the game tied at 2-2. Breslow tried to do too much and his wild throw to third turned into a World Series souvenir for a paying customer down the left field line. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 7 to 2 to 1 to fan. Suddenly it was 3-2, and the hurting Carlos Beltran added to the Red Sox pain by singling home Carpenter for the 4-2 lead.
WORLD SERIES NOTES:
* The Cardinals have home-field advantage for the next three games, not only because they are playing in the friendly confines of Busch Stadium, but because the DH disappears. My stand on the designated hitter has never been built on simple opposition to the concept, although I still prefer the game without it. I just don’t understand how baseball allowed a situation where the two leagues play by dramatically different rules. This is has become an even bigger gaffe because interleague play is now a daily part of the regular season schedule. The Red Sox have two choices for games three-four-five. Keep DH Ortiz’s lethal bat in the game and compromise the defense by playing him at first base or use Ortiz as a pinch-hitter and keep Mike Napoli at first to maintain the defense. Either way, the Red Sox lose offense by having to sit Ortiz or Napoli. Ortiz has five home runs in the post season, so manager John Farrell really has no choice, but this is the kind of series where defense has determined the first two games.
* Closer Trevor Rosenthal’s ninth inning: 11 pitches, three strikeouts, with the final strikes coming on pitches of 98, 98 and 99 mph.
* Too much information department: Red Sox starter Jon Lester sweats. A lot. That’s what we learned in between games one and two. A Cardinals minor league pitcher posted a screen shot on Twitter showing a green coloring on the glove of Lester from Game One, when he threw 7-2/3 scoreless innings. The implication was that Lester was using some unauthorized substance on the ball. Lester explained it was rosin, which he needs to keep a firm grip on the ball because he sweats profusely. Any reporter knows you need a second source for any story, so the journalists covering the World Series were able to fulfill their Woodward-and-Bernstein obligation by checking with manager Farrell, who confirmed, “He sweats like a pig.” MLB didn’t seem in any hurry to check out Lester’s claim, and can you blame them?
* In my Star-Spangled Banner Star Search Reality Show, which will determine the best anthem singer of the World Series, it was the great James Taylor’s turn at the mic. I told my panel of distinguished judges that I love James Taylor, but they couldn’t ignore the fact that Taylor got mixed up and started singing “America the Beautiful.” They noted it was the earliest anyone ever screwed up the words to the anthem, but I wrote it off as World Series pressure. Taylor went on to produce a wonderful low-key anthem accompanied by his guitar, besting Mary Blige’s rather frenetic performance in Game One. Serious note: Taylor did sing “America the Beautiful” in the seventh inning break in a poignant salute to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing. Taylor was perfect in bringing dignity to that moving moment.
* Best part about Game Two: Everybody, including me, got through the night with hardly a reference to the Cardinals Way or Boston Beards. We don’t need that to hype this matchup. These are good teams, and the potential of a dramatic Game Seven seems realistic. Anything can happen. Or as Yogi might say, “It ain’t over till the Big Papi swings.”