Since I'm a White Sox fan, I had no idea what it would be like to go to a World Series, but I have to admit that it hasn't felt as great as I would have expected. The Boston series was a little easier than I expected, but it was still thrilling, as the El Duque base-loaded, no-outs Houdini act was the most exciting moment of the AL playoffs. If you asked most White Sox fans, they would have told you that they wanted to play the Yankees in the ALCS, as much like Boston, there is nothing more that people in Chicago love to do than beat a team from the Big Apple. Playing the Angels was a letdown.
When discussing the Angels, it must be asked, how did this team ever get to the ALCS? The starting pitching seemed worn down, while their offense was pretty miserable, as it's best player, Vladimir Guerrero seemed to be a shell of his normal self. As I wrote before the playoffs, 2004's Yankees, Red Sox, and Twins were superior to all 2005 playoff clubs. It seems even more apparent after watching the mediocre play so far. (I also wrote that the Yankees would be World Series champs and that the Red would beat the White Sox in the first round, so this might be the only thing I've been right about, prior to the playoffs.)
The only team that has looked like a quality team has been the White Sox. I'm sorry, but this notion that some have that the umpires cost the Angels the World Series must have not been watching the same pathetic hitting lineup that I was. Let's go over the 7 mistaken calls that have occurred this post-season, in order of severity of blunder. Let's start with the toughest calls to make and work our way up to the easiest.
7. The catcher's interference call which happened between Pierzynski and Finley was a tough call to see, considering that Finley was able to hit the ball enough to seem like a normal swing, especially from the angle the home plate umpire had. Of all the calls that went against the Angels, I think this play was the most costly, though, as they lost a run and potentially more from this decision.
6. The infamous 3rd strike was caught by Josh Paul, but it was extremely close to a trap and I can see why Eddings and the other umpires missed it. The "mechanics" of Eddings were wrong and I'm sure that MLB will revise their rule book to try to cover this situation, but Josh Paul should have made sure. The idea though that this play cost the Angels a victory is very shaky, considering Buerhle was pitching so well, the Sox bullpen is deeper and the Angels hitting was abysmal.
5. The Figgins' hit that was caught by the Angels fan was closer to being a ground rule double than the announcing team gave it credit for. I think it would have bounced to the top of the wall, but it was possible it could have rolled over from where it was set to hit. The commentary that Figgins most-likely would have made it to third was even more questionable, as the umpire made the right call, by giving Figgins a double and letting the runner come home from third. Considering how all the close calls had went against the Angels, I was actually rooting for the umpires to give them the run.
4. The pick-off play on Podsednik was obviously a missed call, but if you see the angle that the 1st base umpire had, well you can see why he made the call he did.
3. While the NLCS has had less controversy, the third strike on Edmonds, before he was thrown out for arguing was a pathetic call. This wasn't even close to a strike and for Edmonds to get thrown out of the game, was one of the worst examples of an umpire forgetting that in the post-season, players deserve a little more of a leash.
2. The original missed call of Escobar's phantom tag was awful, as it's plain to see that he has the ball in his non-glove hand, then he makes it even more obvious by throwing the ball to first. I know many of you are thinking, but it was corrected. Right, but this list is based on ranking of how tough the play was for the umpires to make. Hopefully, all the umpires that were involved in these mistakes listed will rest up for the 2006 season, as MLB needs to bring in some fresh faces, as too many on these crews struggled during the League Championship series.
1. You might be wondering, well what bad call that has happened in the playoffs was more egregious than these 6. Simple, Fox's hiring of Kenny Lofton as a pre-game analyst. Terrible Call. I've never liked the concept of throwing a current player into the playoff booth, as they have little or no experience broadcasting. While I will admit that I thought Al Leiter was great and that Mike Piazza was pretty good this year, overall I think it's a mistake. (Lou Pinella has worked for a season in the broadcast booth in the past and being a manager, I think he offers some good insights.)
Just Lofton's poor speaking style and clichéd offerings would be bad enough, but that "suit-coat" he was wearing his first night was beyond ridiculous. It was so bad that I bet even Deion Sanders was at home thinking, "Damn, what the phuck is going on with my boy, Kenny! Yo, KeLo, I recognize that jacket. Chess King, circa 1994. I was waiting for Lofton to answer one of Zalesko's questions by jumping up on the desk, putting his hands on his hips and start singing "Can't touch this."
· I'm not surprised to see that many of the best pitchers in the NL playoffs have come from the AL. (Clemens, Carpenter, Hudson, Muldar, Suppan, Pettitte) The AL has just produced a lot better pitching over the past 10 years.
· The best performance of the post-season for me was watching Roy Oswalt pitch versus the Cardinals. I've never seen a ball explode out of a pitchers hand more than during that game. Oswalt was a pleasure to watch, as he proves that you don't have to be a big man to have an electric arm.
· I know they trample all over traditional baseball at times, but I really like how Fox produces their games. The tightness of the camera on the action and faces of the participants creates a tension that no other sports television can capture.
Baseball pre-game shows are hard to do, but Kevin Kennedy does a solid job in the short segments he's on. I like the cocky attitude Jeannie Zalesko offers. As a female sports studio host, you need that type of sass to survive. It did seem that her Southern Cal roots were exposed a bit in regards to her statements that the Angels were getting screwed. (paraphrased) It's pretty amazing that not much more than 10 years ago, Zalesko was doing radio traffic reports in San Diego.
Finally, one of my favorite Cub fans, Derek Smart over at the Toaster's Cub Town, has a piece entitled "Worst Case Scenario." In it, he discusses how he has come to hate the White Sox over the years, since moving to Chicago. Derek and Will Carroll are similar in that they were not raised in Chicago, but instead became Cub fans through WGN's superstation national cable reach. While this cable presence added knowledgeable fans like Derek and Will, it's been my experience that it added a lot more Cubbies fans. My experience with Cubbies fans began when my freshman year in college.
Dear Penthouse Forum,
I was attending a liberal arts university in the mid-west (Iowa) back, when the event happened. It was 1984, Prince and Jacko ruled the pop charts, while Bruce was busy dancing with Courtney Cox on MTV. This also was the year, the Chicago Cubs were oh so close to finally making it back to the World Series. The University of Iowa is one of those Big 10 schools where half of its students are from the greater Chicagoland area. I had grown up in Iowa, which up until this point had been pretty split between Royals, Twins, and Cubs fans, but with the adjunct of WGN this was starting to change. Never has a bandwagon been more jammed with less knowledgeable baseball fans, as the mix of newly found Cub fans from the Chicagoland and Iowa created a hatred in me for all things Cub. I had always disliked Steve Garvey and his phony image, but for one game, he became my favorite player. Garvey was the original Steve Bartman, only the dagger he used for Cub fans was a Louisville Slugger.
I moved to Chicago in 1989 to work for Marshall Fields and this was the year I really became indoctrinated in my hatred towards the Cubs. I would argue that 1984 was the year that the baseball balance of the city began to tilt very heavily towards the Cubs, as WGN was growing, Harry Carey was becoming the voice of the team and the Cubs were actually good. By 1989, Chicago had been transformed as a "Cubtown", as the bleachers became the yuppie party central that it is today. When you live in a city where only 20% of it roots for the team you follow, it becomes less of healthy rivalry. Add to this that the city's number 1 newspaper (Chicago Tribune) are also the owners of the Cubs and most White Sox fans have become an angry, paranoid group of people, much like how Derek described.
Are White Sox fans more dysfunctional than Cub fans on other subjects? I would guess not, but the second-class citizenship White Sox fans endure in the Windy City definitely makes them this way on the subject of baseball. So long-suffering baseball fans in Chicago have a team in the World Series, which should be a moment of bringing the city together, right? Uh, I believe I can speak for most White Sox fans in saying: If you weren't with us before, we don't want you now. We respect Cub fans who attend their park because you love the game, not just the party. We also respect the Cub fans who refuse to root for their city's other team (White Sox), as we would do the same, if you were about to break Chicago's baseball curse. Now for the other 50% of Cub fans, the bandwagoneers who are just looking to hang out with a winner for a change, watch the World Series and enjoy it, but next year, go back to your bleacher party and leave us alone.