erik lundegaard

Baseball posts

Sunday October 27, 2013

Why I Missed One of the Oddest Finishes in World Series History

We had people over last night, a long-standing commitment, but that’s not why I missed the ending to Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, which will long be remembered as one of the oddest ends to a World Series game ever. Runner obstruction? Really? Well, it is in the rulebook. And it’s not based on intent, which is always tricky to judge. Even so ...

What ending compares? Maybe Babe Ruth caught stealing in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 of the 1926 World Series with the Yankees down 3-2? That was also against the Cardinals, by the way.

But runner obstruction is such a deflating end. It’s an NFL end. It feels like the umpires rather than the players deciding the outcome.

But I didn’t see it. By the time it happened our dinner party was beginning to dissipate and I—a few others—could’ve stolen away to watch the game. But we didn’t.

You have to go back to Thursday. I was coming home from work on a not-particularly-good day—health issues, etc.—and anticipating celebrating our friend Vince’s birthday at a bar in Capitol Hill. Figured I’d watch some of the game (Game 2), then head over. It would be a nice walk on a not-bad evening weatherwise.

But when I got home, Patricia, who had been sick all week, was up and about. There was a garbage bag by the door and a step ladder in the hallway. Sitting in bed, she’d decided it was time to repaint the bedroom, so this, I assumed, was prep work.

“By the way,” she said. “Our internet’s out.”

Really? I thought. We’d gone through this in September and it had been fixed. But I looked and, yes, the router’s light was yellow instead of green, and the modem was showing two blue lights instead of three (that’s the depth of my tech knowledge). Plus the cable TV wasn’t working. So I did what you do. I checked the connections. I rebooted the system. Then I called Comcast.

While I was on the phone, Patricia, who had just taken out the garbage, was standing abjectly in the hallway. “I don’t know if this has to do with it,” she began. “but I took out the cables up there.” Then she made an “u” motion above her head.

“Wait, what? What’s this?” I imitated her “u” motion.

“All those old cables we don’t need,” she said. That was what was in the garbage bag she’d just taken out: the old cables we don’t need.

“Yes, but why are you making a ‘u’ motion? It should just be there,” I said, indicating one side of the u. “Not both,” I said, sweeping my arms in the u motion again. “Where did you ...?”

But I knew. I knew then.

We live in a condo, built in 1909, which now has cable running throughout the building. Our unit, which we bought in 2007 (don’t ask), included a line of cable to the bedroom, where the previous owners used to watch TV. We don’t. That cable’s been unnecessary since at least 2007.

It splits at the top of the hallway—in the center of the “u”—and that splitter was the cause of our difficulties last month. But the tech came in, and, rather than replace the splitter, simply connected the outside cable line directly to the line that leads to our living room cable connection: modem, router, cable box, etc. Wah-lah. Perfect.

Patricia, in her enthusiasm, had removed not only the line of (unnecessary) cable leading to the bedroom but the line of (necessary) cable leading to the living room. She’d cut it in two places.

My heart sank. Or my stomach. Some part of me sank.

Comcast, when I got through, didn’t help with the sinking. Despite my protestations, the service rep, who I’m pretty sure was in Mexico, made me run through the diagonistic test; only only after that failure did we get down to an appointment.

He: We can have someone by on .... Wednesday, October 30th.
Me (long pause): You’re kidding.

He wasn’t. Anyway that’s why, for the end to Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, I was following it via ESPN.com’s pitch-by-pitch meter (our kind neighbors are letting us use their wifi). The pitch meter is a kind of 1920s throwback, isn’t it? Plus it can raise more questions than it answers. I mean, this is pretty straightforward:

A Craig doubled to left, Y Molina to third.

But this?

J Jay grounded into fielder's choice to second, Y Molina out at home. A Craig scored, J Jay to first on interference error by third baseman W Middlebrooks.

Wait, what?

I’ve since seen the play online, and while I know Jim Joyce made the right call, it’s still a disappointing end. I’m rooting for the Sox—after rooting against them in the ALCS—and it’ll be interesting to see to how they come back from this. Will they be deflated or fired up? And where will I watch it?

Either way, that was a helluva play by Dustin Pedroia.

Runner obstruction to end Game 3 of the 2013 World Series

Victory.

Posted at 08:53 AM on Oct 27, 2013 in category Baseball
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Saturday October 12, 2013

The 2013 World Series Possibles: And Then There Were Four ...

We're down to four teams, each one of the original 16, three still playing in their original cities.

2013 World Series possibles: And then there were four

For the Series itself, we'll either get ...

  • Cardinals vs. Tigers: a rematch of 1934, 1968 and 2006.
  • Cardinals vs. Red Sox: a rematch of 1946, 1967 and 2004.
  • Dodgers vs. Red Sox: a rematch of 1916, when LA was in Brooklyn and Brooklyn was called the Robins.
  • Dodgers vs. Tigers: WS newbies.

Interesting tidbit from the Cardinals: against both possible A.L. opponents, they had memorable series in '34, '46, '67 and '68, all of which went 7 games. Then in the 2000s, blpppthh, four and out each time. At least they turned that around in 2011 against Texas.

BTW: if either the Cards or Red Sox win it all, they will be, in terms of titles, the winningest team of the 21st century. Suck on it, Yankees.

Posted at 02:48 PM on Oct 12, 2013 in category Baseball
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Monday October 07, 2013

What's a Level Playing Field?

Here’s a quick quote from Tyler Kepner’s piece yesterday defending Major League Baseball from the likes of, I assume, Jonathan Mahler, who, in the Times last week, wrote about how baseball was no longer central to the culture. One of Kepner's talking points is how MLB has leveled its playing field:

Twenty-six of the 30 teams—all but Kansas City, Miami, Seattle and Toronto—have reached the playoffs in the last eight seasons.

Fans in Seattle: *heavy sigh*

Not sure why Kepner limited it to eight seasons, though. Two years earlier, Miami, then Florida, won its second World Series title, so he could've eliminated them by making it an even 10. Toronto has its two titles, of course (’92 and ’93), while KC its one (’85). Which leaves our Seattle Mariners as the worst of the worst. No trips to the postseason in eight years; no trips to the World Series ever. Despite the talent that came through here in the 1990s. Despite “Refuse to Lose.” Ever since, it’s been “Stallin’ to Win.” They’re good at that. I’m talking the front office. I’m talking Lincoln and Armstrong.

Kepner’s math is also a bit off. Does he mean the last eight seasons including this one? That’s the only way you include the Pirates. Or does he mean 2005, too? That's the only way you include Houston. In eight seasons you can't have both, yet he includes both. So he obviously means eight-plus seasons. Nearly nine.

What does Kepner's level playing field look like anyway? Here's a chart of the post-season trips, etc, dating back to 2005, and including 2013 thus far:

TEAMS Postseasons LCSes Pennants Titles
NY Yankees 7 3 1 1
St. Louis 6 3 2 2
Philadelphia 5 3 2 1
Boston 5 2 1 1
Detroit 4 3 2
LA Angels 4 2

LA Dodgers 4 2

Tampa Bay 4 1 1
Atlanta 4


Texas 3 2 2
Oakland 3 1

Minnesota 3


Cincinnati 3


San Francisco 2 2 2 2
Cleveland 2 1

Chicago Sox 2 1 1 1
Milwaukee 2 1

Colorado 2 1 1
Chicago Cubs 2


Arizona 2


San Diego 2


Houston 1 1 1
NY Mets 1 1

Baltimore 1


Washington 1


Pittsburgh 1


Toronto



Kansas City



Miami



Seattle



Not that level. A few teams still dominate, and titles are won by those few teams: Yankees, Cards, Phillies, Red Sox. The ChiSox and especially the San Francisco Giants are the exceptions to this latter rule. Generally the more often you get to the post-season, the better your chance of winning it all. The Braves, Twins and Reds are exceptions. Numerous trips, not even a championship series, let alone a pennant, let alone a title.

At the least, though, these eight-plus years are more level than the previous 10, 1995-2004, when the Yankees won four titles and six pennants. That's the sad thing about this unlevel playing field. It's comparatively level.

SF Giants celebrate their 2010 World Series title

The Giants  are 2 for 2 in recent postseasons.

Posted at 06:34 AM on Oct 07, 2013 in category Baseball
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Tuesday October 01, 2013

Why Baseball is No Longer Central to the Culture

Sunday there was an interesting piece in The New York Times by Jonathan Mahler (“The Bronx is Burning”) on the whys and hows of the waning popularity of Major League Baseball.

He says a lot of what I say. Yes, attendance is up, yes, revenue is up. But TV ratings for national games are down and the sport is no longer central to the culture in the way it once was. People rarely talk baseball the way they talk football. If they talk baseball, it's local. If they talk football it can be the playoffs or the Super Bowl or the Super Bowl commercials. If they talk basketball it can be March Madness. The World Series? Is that on?

So Mahler goes into why this is so.

Here's a key paragraph:

The N.F.L. has certain structural advantages over Major League Baseball: teams play only once a week, and when the postseason arrives, every game is an elimination game. But its real advantage is that it’s louder, faster and more violent — which is to say, better in tune with our cultural moment. “We are a shouting culture now, shouting connotes excitement and engenders excitement,” says Daniel Okrent, who is considered the founding father of fantasy baseball. “Baseball is quiet and slow.”

We're a more loutish country so we have a more loutish national sport.

Here's another:

It’s telling that professional football has been around for about 100 years, but that it didn’t find cultural traction until the age of television.

If baseball was a game you followed, football was one you watched. Beneath the surface, it was an enormously complicated sport. But the passing, the running, the tackling? This was great television. And under the lights, on Monday nights, with Howard Cosell making you feel like the country’s fate hung in the balance of even the most meaningless game? Forget about it.

But he stops there. He doesn't go far enough.

Why has TV been kinder to football and basketball and hockey? Think of those sports. Think of the shape of the football field or basketball court or hockey rink. What is that shape?

Now what is the shape of your TV screen?

Exactly.

Put those sports on your TV and they fit right in. Baseball? Not so much.

Those other sports are two-dimensional. You follow the ball. Wherever the ball is, that's where the action is. Baseball? Well, the ball's in the right-field corner, the runner is rounding second with the tying run. Can he make it in time? Where's the right fielder? Where's the cut-off man? Where's the base-runner now? Around third? Here comes the ball! We want to be watching several things at once. It's requires three-dimensionality but TV flattens everything.

Final thought: If baseball is less central because of TV and because we're more loutish, are these things related? That is, are we more loutish because of TV?

Harmon Killebrew at Met Stadium

Watching Harmon Killebrew at Met Stadium in the 1960s, I didn't know the sport's centrality was already waning.

Posted at 06:26 AM on Oct 01, 2013 in category Baseball
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Tuesday September 24, 2013

Five A.L. Teams with Six Games to Go

Two weeks ago, Sept. 9, I wrote about the final wild card spot in the American League, adding:

Assuming the first wild card spot goes to Texas, which is 1.5 games behind Oakland but 3 games ahead of Tampa ...

Turns out that was a big assumption. Starting that very day, Texas lost seven in a row and 10 of 14. They're now a game back of Cleveland, who is a game behind Tampa.

Here's where we stand. I didn't include Baltimore, who has lost five in a row, and Manny Machado (to the ghost of Earl Webb?), and is now five out with six to go:

Tampa Bay 87 69 .558 - 51-30 36-39 664 622 +42 Won 4 7-3
Cleveland 86 70 .551 - 49-30 37-40 705 643 +62 Won 4 8-2
Texas 85 71 .545 1 40-35 45-36 694 612 +82 Won 1 4-6
Kansas City 83 73 .532 3 44-37 39-36 630 581 +49 Won 2 6-4
NY Yankees 82 74 .526 4 46-32 36-42 637 648 -11 Lost 1 4-6

Remaining schedules:

  • Tampa Bay: @ Yankees (3); @ Toronto (3)
  • Cleveland: vs. ChiSox (2); @ Minnesota (4)
  • Texas: vs. Houston (2); vs. Angels (4)
  • Kansas City: @ Seattle (2); @ ChiSox (4)
  • Yankees: vs. Tampa (3); @ Houston (3)

I'm rooting for Kansas City, forever bottom-dwellers, who has the easiest schedule. I'm waiting yet again on the death of the Yankees (Start spreading the news ...). I'm assuming the one-game playoff is Tampa vs. Cleveland. But you know what my assumptions are worth.

Ideal situation? The Yankees ending their season on the road in meaningless games against the worst team in baseball.

Posted at 07:47 AM on Sep 24, 2013 in category Baseball
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