Wednesday, October 26
Editor's note: Now that the White Sox have been crowned champions, David Schoenfield and Eric Neel reflect on this year's Fall Classic.
David Schoenfield: We watched a lot of baseball this October, Eric. In fact, by my count, we watched 8,694 pitches; we watched 129 blown umpire calls; we watched Juan Uribe's absolute gun from shortstop; we watched Albert Pujols hit one awesome home run; we watched Roy Oswalt pitch one awesome game; we watched the Rocket pitch in relief in an 18-inning game; we saw Scott Podsednik hit one of the most improbable home runs in World Series history; we saw somebody named Ezequiel lose Game 3 of the World Series in the 14th inning; we watched Phil Garner throw a chair in disgust; we watched the White Sox -- the White Sox -- win the World Series.
But I'm afraid we also watched a lot of bad baseball, especially in the World Series. Yes, the games were close, but they weren't exciting. I'm calling it the third-worst World Series of the ESPN era (since 1979), behind the completely and utterly forgettable affair between the Orioles and Phillies in 1983 and the disastrous Earthquake Series in 1989 between the A's and Giants.
Eric Neel: I know what you're getting at, D. Only two innings of Roger Clemens? Yikes. A well-behaved Ozzie Guillen? What's that about? No big basestealing moment from two clubs poised and inclined to run? Yawn. Not a single A.J.-related bit of weirdness? That ain't right. It's not been a pretty Series in many ways. But still, it's been better than Tigers-Padres, Yankees-Padres, A's-Giants, Reds-A's, and, for my money, Yanks-Mets, which was interesting if you lived in Gotham and pretty rank if you lived anywhere else on planet earth.
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I see this Series as worthy of some credit because the White Sox just got off an 88-year schneid, trumping their whining North Side brothers and providing a welcome antidote to all the Red Sox logorrhea we've been subject to these last 11 months, and doing it with a bunch of pretty likable and unlikely heroes. I further give this series, regardless of the level of play, some credit because it's got heartache at its heart. What's happened to the Astros here -- the return to form of their offense after a brief period of productivity, the injury to Clemens, the struggles of Brad Lidge, their one "sure bet," the repeated closeup shots of those terrible Chuck Norris beards -- added up to another chapter in the star-crossed history of the franchise. The week began so promisingly, and it's ending so familiarly. It's sad. And there's a kind of pathetic greatness in that. This club that's waited 40-plus years for a shot is shooting nothing but blanks. I know that's not entertaining, but it is strangely gripping, I think.
Plus, this series has that catch Uribe made in the bottom of the ninth, and that's a bit of greatness right there.
David: You're right; that Uribe catch -- where was the Astros fan interfering with the play, by the way? Talk about someone who needs to be second-guessed -- elevates this one past A's-Reds, which was memorable only for Eric Davis lacerating his kidney on a diving catch and Marge Schott making him pay for his own ambulance ride to the hospital. I know the 88-year drought thing is cool, but on the heels of the Red Sox, it's lost its luster; curses are boring now.
Three reasons this World Series won't see Jay Mariotti writing his opus, "Now I Can Quit Yelling In Peace": (1) The White Sox won Game 2 despite four major baserunning blunders -- Aaron Rowand's brainlock; Uribe caught in a rundown; Carl Everett, who runs like a Brontosaurus, trying to steal second; and Tad Iguchi getting picked off. They won that game in large part due to Craig Biggio dropping a routine pop fly; (2) Game 3 reminded me of a bad Little League game from fifth grade where the pitchers keep walking everybody, nobody can hit, and the mothers lose interest and start reading their "romance" novels as they sit in their lawn chairs; the Astros drew 12 walks and lost. Even Garner called it an embarrassment; (3) I had to keep hearing that "buzzzzzzzzz" sound in the background from games in Houston; seriously, the Killer B's thing was a cool nickname back in 1999 when BAGWELL AND BIGGIO WERE ACTUALLY LETHAL at the plate. All they did in this Series was swing and miss at bad sliders.
Oh, and as much it pains me to say this, you're wrong on that New York-New York series. Check the play-by-play, especially Game 1. And it had Piazza-Clemens.
Eric: I hear you; it's been ragged. But I don't buy for a second that the beat-back-the-hounds-of-history thing is played out. That's tired, East Coast-bias talk is what that is. This is genuine redemption after wandering the desert for generations. It's every bit as legit as the Red Sox claim to our heartstrings. And maybe more so, because White Sox fans don't annoy us within an inch of our lives with self-pity, and White Sox players don't make us want to throw rocks through the screen by being so full of themselves and their mystique every time they go in front of a mike.
Plus, this series has a rookie closer saving the first and the fourth, a Cy Young-caliber starter getting a W and a save, yet another great play from Juan Uribe to end the whole thing, a guy hitting .430 to win the MVP, contributions for the winning team from up and down the lineup, deliverance for Harold Baines, Tim Raines, Dick Allen, Bo Jackson, the great Frank Thomas, and the great, great Bill Veeck. This is a good bad series, brother. Don't slam it.
Oh, and by the way, the '94 Series is the worst of all time.
Plus, and this is a little thing, but I think it's worth mentioning: This sweep ended on a night when the losers were done proud by young Brandon Backe who (along with his one-hit performance in last year's NLCS) pitched one of the games of his life. Backe didn't pay any attention to the 0-3 status of the series. He just pitched his butt off, just to make a stand, even a futile stand. It wasn't enough, but it was entertaining and impressive -- much more entertaining and impressive than anything the Giants of '89 or Padres of '98 mustered.
David: You're comparing the plight of White Sox fans (where were they six weeks ago) to the plight of Red Sox fans? There's a reason we aren't annoyed by White Sox fans -- very few of them exist. Deliverance for Dick Allen? Now, that's just crazy talk. You want deliverance for Chick Gandil and Swede Risberg as well? You going to be writing your local Congressman to sign the "Put Shoeless Joe in the Hall" petition now? I will, however, give you the nod on Uribe; if Jeter made those two plays to end a World Series, there would four Insta-Books by mid-November. Of course, you're forgetting the two errors Uribe made in Game 3 that nearly cost the Sox the game. And I'll give you Bobby Jenks -- in a postgame interview he compared his story to something that only happens in a Fantastic Four comic book.
But it still ranks as a stinker. I mean, who didn't predict the Astros would get shut out tonight? I should have called Shoeless Joe to put some money on that one.
Eric: That's nice, D. A gambling joke about Shoeless Joe on the night the White Sox win the Series. That's original. And classy, too.
Nah, listen, it wasn't pretty, but there were subtexts, and they were rich, even if they weren't familiar to most folks on the coasts.
Oh, and here's another thing in its favor: Four two or one-run games. That ain't too bad.
David: I think the bottom line is we're coming off an amazing run of October baseball, baseball that reinvogated the sport: We had the 2001 World Series, one of the top three or four ever played; you had a thrilling and underrated seven-game Series in 2002 between the Angels and Giants (two star-crossed teams, mind you); you had the great postseason of 2003, with the Red Sox and Cubs gagging in the league championship series and Josh Beckett showing up the Yankees in the World Series; and then you had last year's never-been-before 0-3 comeback from the Red Sox and their World Series triumph. We can't top a four-year run like that.
Previous Second Guesses
• Oct. 25: Where was Clemens or Backe?