By Jim Caple
Page 2

ST. LOUIS -- OK, let's get the formalities out of the way first.

Congratulations, Cardinals. You're the world champions. No one gave you a chance and you proved everyone wrong. And Tony La Russa, take a bow for joining Sparky Anderson as the only managers with World Series championships in both leagues. As for you, David Eckstein? Way to go, man. You give hope to everyone in the real world that if you work hard and always hustle you can become a World Series hero even if you're only 5-foot-7, weigh 165 pounds and the commissioner doesn't know how to pronounce your name.

That about cover it all? Good. Now let's get to the heart of the issue.

World Series cartoon
Kurt Snibbe

That was one of the worst World Series ever and probably the worst postseason of the expanded playoffs era. It set baseball back further than the script to "Major League II."

I'm sorry, but baseball's championship and premiere event should be about aching guys coming off the bench to hit walk-off home runs and aging pitchers throwing 10 shutout innings and fleet outfielders crashing into fences and acrobatic infielders diving for line drives. It should not be about pitchers repeatedly throwing balls into the outfield and a center fielder falling down on the wet ground and a third baseman who can't even get out of the way of a baserunner.

Is it any wonder that people would rather watch "Grey's Anatomy"?

And it wasn't just the World Series that disappointed. The Tigers-Yankees Division Series was compelling enough and the Cardinals-Mets NLCS went the distance with a terrific Game 7. But the other postseason series not only were sweeps (or seemed like it) but also were marked more by the terrible play of the losing team than the stellar play of the winner.

The payoff to all this? A World Series between two teams that each had a losing record after July 31 -- including their postseason victories -- and a world champion with 83 regular-season victories, the lowest ever.

That's a byproduct of the expanded playoffs. Anything can happen in a short series, which is what makes October so exciting. It would be pretty dull to simply hand out a bunch of rings to the team with the best record at the end of the regular season. But in a sport in which even the best teams lose 40 percent of the time while the worst teams win 40 percent of the time, it stands to reason that the more teams you allow into the postseason, the greater the odds that lesser teams will occasionally reach the World Series.

We've seen this borne out in recent years -- more wild-card teams have played in the past five World Series (six) than division champions (four).

Should that lessen our enjoyment of the postseason? Not necessarily. There have been terrifically entertaining postseasons in recent Octobers (2003 especially). But it did have an effect this postseason and it will again. And when it does, baseball should respond by jazzing up the World Series coverage. Here's how:

1. Run even less believable radar gun readings. I've written this before, but I find it interesting how people who never believe a state trooper's radar gun ("There's no way I was going 82!") accept the readings at baseball games without question. We saw ridiculously high radar guns throughout the postseason, to the point that even Kenny Rogers and Brad Radke were in the 90s while everyone else was in the upper 90s to the low 100s. If the Phillies had somehow reached the postseason we would have seen Jamie Moyer cracking 100.

But if they're going to try to impress us with inflated numbers that bear no resemblance to reality, they should really go for it and post some Sidd Finch-like readings.

"Joel Zumaya cracked 168 miles per hour with that pitch, Tim."

"And that just was his changeup, Joe."

2. Replace "God Bless America" with "Our Country." Because at least then we would have the comedy of listening to Ronan Tynan sing about the Dixie Highway.

What is supposed to be the message to that commercial anyway? That our country is mostly about natural disasters, crooked politicians and soldiers dying in unnecessary wars? Or does it mean that the best way to honor Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks is to buy a truck that gets 15 miles to the gallon? Or merely that John Mellencamp is really, really desperate for money? If there has ever been a stranger, more crass and more ambiguous marketing campaign, I don't want to see it.

3. Use more intrusive cameras. The biggest lesson of DirtGate is that with the increase and advances in TV cameras, you can't hide anything on the field anymore. And thank God the Fox cameras picked up on Rogers' dirty hand or we wouldn't have had anything interesting to talk about this World Series.

That's why they should go one step further and start using cameras with the same technology that allow screeners to see underneath your clothes. That way, instead of just seeing what a pitcher has on his hand, we would be able to tell what he has on under his cap and pants.

"As you can see, Tim, he's wearing a garter belt."

"Must be for luck, Joe, like Nuke LaLoosh in 'Bull Durham.'"

"No, he told me before the game he just likes wearing women's underwear."

"Well, that certainly increases the possible endorsement deals."

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at jimcaple.com, which is temporarily down but should be back up soon. Sound off to Page 2 here.




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SPICING UP OCTOBER