So just before the playoffs started, I announced my intentions to do some recaps of the games and whatnot. Before doing so, I did not remember/calculate exactly how effin’ busy I’d be over those weeks. And so I was forced to not deliver on my promise for the first two rounds. I regret not being able to do this for the LDSes, all of which turned out to be pretty amazing, though I’m a bit relieved I couldn’t make it up in the LCSes, which, apart from a few games, were snooze fests.
Am I excited about this World Series matchup? Not exactly. Or not at all, actually. I’d hoped for a Detroit-Milwaukee series, for reasons that escape me now. Rust versus Cheese! Alas, t’was not to be, and so I have to decide between my generalized dislike for Texas (or maybe just the idea of Texas) and my specific dislike of Tony LaRussa. The Cardinals’ unlikely road to the Fall Classic has more annoyed me than intrigued me, even if they picked off the Phillies along the way, while the Rangers are one of those teams I was once happy to go years without thinking about.
But, since I went through the trouble of announcing this dumb feature and even made a blog category for it and everything, I present to you my in-time observations of this historic game one (in that it is technically part of history). All of the carnage after the jump.
PREGAME: Unlike what will surely follow, the pregame show is relatively inoffensive, save for a “rockin” cover of “Meet Me in St. Louis” and the news that Shane Victorino will be Fox’s “Twitter analyst” for the series. Fox wanted to go with A.J. Pierzynski but were afraid to pick somebody who might be too likable. Also, according to the ads I see during the pregame show, apparently The Cleveland Show is still a thing.
As the Cardinals take the field, they are waved out of the dugout by an odd looking woman who resembles an “intrepid girl reporter” of the Progressive Era: fur coat, bell-shaped hat obscuring her eyes. I had no idea the St. Louis media department employed Nellie Bly. One of baseball’s many problems: players run out onto the field to majestic The Natural-esque orchestral swelling. It is becoming the Werther’s Original of sports.
National Anthem sung by former American Idol winner with a robotically perfect “country” voice that sounds completely contrived to my ears. This person is extremely American Idol-y, a show that promotes singers who have studied pop conventions so laboriously that they’ve never developed any actual style or soul of their own. I also think, considering its plummeting ratings, the only reason the World Series still exists is to keep American Idol contestants employed.
Top 1st: Ian Kinsler leads things off with a single that just eludes the glove of the clutchtacular David Freese, then gets thrown out trying to steal second by Yadier Molina. Seeing this particular Molina brother playing baseball this late in the year reminds me of how much I fucking hate him and hope he never knows true happiness. (I was at Shea for game 7 in 2006. You’ll have to pry the bitterness from my cold, dead hands.) The second out comes on an Elvis Andrus groundout that Albert Pujols fields deep in the hole. He makes a bad toss to Chris Carpenter covering, but the pitcher redeems him by making a diving catch and somehow sliding over the bag, and also somehow getting stomped in the face and/or arm by Andrus’ cleats. It’s been that kinda month for the Cards, constantly slipping in poop and landing in gold.
Bottom 1st: C.J. Wilson takes the mound for the Rangers. I had a minor Twitter run-in with him a few weeks ago when the debate raged about Jose Reyes taking himself out of the last game of the year after one at bat in order to win a batting title. (Seems like a million years ago, dunnit?) Wilson made some snotty comments about Reyes’ hamstring, and I asked him if he rooted for all of his fellow athletes to get hurt or just Reyes. He basically dodged the question. I then received lovely rebuttals to my tweets from some of his admirers (the phrase “get the sand out of your vagina” being one of the nicer comments), and also made the terrible mistake of responding to them. This is all to say that I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Wilson, but the cause of anti-LaRussaism makes for strange bedfellows, and I am please to see that he sets down the Cards with little trouble.
Top 2nd: Michael Young leads things off. Joe Buck calls him “one of the classier guys in the big leagues,” blissfully oblivious to the fact that Young agitated for a trade several times after the Rangers acquired Adrian Beltre. My guess is, because Young does not play for either the Yankees or Red Sox, Buck has never heard of him before and is just teleprompting his way through this game. Young manages a truly classy groundout. With two men on, Chris Carpenter struggles to get strike calls on Mike Napoli and lets out a very loud GOD DAMMIT! that would make Bob Odenkirk proud, before finally inducing an inning-ending double play.
Bottom 2nd: First Nolan Ryan sighting. He looks well bundled. Cards get their first baserunner on a walk but squander him.
Top 3rd: My daughter yells WORLD SERIOUS! in an almost mocking tone. I approve. The World Serious is brought to is in part by Happy Feet 2. Daughter asks if we can go see it. I do not approve. The first Happy Feet was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen, but not in a good ways. It’s like Glee but with animated penguins and Robin Williams, three bad tastes that go worse together.
Bottom 3rd: Let’s check in with Ken Rosenthal! He tells us Michelle Obama is neutral as far as this series is concerned, as opposed to her husband, who wore a White Sox jacket when he threw out the first pitch at the 2009 All Star Game and got some hearty boos for it. (And some oppressively stupid neocon blog trolling about his pitch not being very good.) Quality reporting, Ken. Cards get their first hit, a Nick Punto leadoff single, but see Carpenter fail to get down a sac bunt. Next two hitters go quietly.
Top 4th: There was a lot of grumbling about Joe Buck and Tim McCarver being Cardinals partisans. But the real sign Fox has it out for Texas is that they made the Rangers do a ridiculous dance segment in “tribute” to manager Ron Washington’s patented dugout moves, as a tie-in with Happy Feet 2 no less. (The film opens in “NOVEM-BURR”. Ha ha ha ha ha KILL. It is also not yet rated; the MPAA had some objections to the brutally graphic amputation scenes.) Speaking of Ron, he is the subject of our first mid-inning interview, which spares us the boring trial of watching Carpenter mow down the Rangers and strike out two batters in the process. Who wants to see that when we can hear Joe Buck berate Ron Washington for chewing sunflower seeds?
Bottom 4th: During the commercial break, we find out the MLB Fan Cave will return next year, a question that was surely on everyone’s mind. Crowd loudly boos Pujols getting hit by a pitch, which was obviously what C.J. Wilson wanted to do to lead off the inning. A Matt Holliday double into the corner moves him to third, and an almost Ecksteinian slap single over first base by Lance Berkman drives them both in. After two outs are recorded, because there haven’t been enough commercials, yet, we get a brief rundown of the sponsors by Buck, ending with Viagra. Buck intones the name of the boner pill with an air of resigned desperation.
Top 5th: Mid-inning interview with Tony LaRussa. Tim McCarver calls LaRussa “a modern-day John McGraw.” I agree, because John McGraw was, by all accounts, a huge piece of shit. Meanwhile, in the piddling matter of this World Series game, the Rangers tie things up on a bomb of a two-run homer by Napoli. In order to illustrate the Pujols HBP, Fox uses some bizarre infrared camera that looks kind of like Terminator Vision. I have never seen something like this on any sports broadcast. Why it is being busted out on this occasion is anyone’s guess, but I can guarantee that it cost an insane amount of money. It reminds Buck of Fox’s Australian cricket coverage (?) and McCarver of the remake of The Thing (double ?). When it comes to those two, sometimes you have to just sit back and let the stupid happen; trying to figure it all out will only drive you mad.
Bottom 5th: A leadoff walk to Rafael Furcal looks promising. Because LaRussa is a genius, he asks Jon Jay bunt him into scoring position and the announcers agree with this move, despite the fact that this basically begs the Rangers to intentionally walk Pujols, which of course they do. Holliday promptly bounces into a double play. BUNTZ.
Top 6th: There must be some grission in the water in St. Louis, because when Kinsler leads things off with a bloop single, Ron Washington displays symptoms of bunt fever and has Elvis Andrus lay one down. Both these teams slugged their way to the World Series, and yet they’re giving away outs like business cards. A long fly out and a good play at first by Pujols turn Texas aside. And while I’m sort of rooting for the Rangers, I’m also rooting against dumb plays like sac bunts in the sixth friggin inning. The terrible WRITTEN IN THE STARS song returns, in an ad for the World Series that we’re already watching. Good use of ad time, Fox. This commercial has many soundbites from previous series that aired on Fox, which reminds me that Joe Buck has called far more historic baseball events than he deserved to.
Bottom 6th: The infrared camera appears again during a Lance Berkman at bat and shows absolutely nothing. I expect to see it many more times throughout the series displaying nothing except Fox Sports’ gullibility. (“People will love watching baseball through night vision goggles!”) McCarver tells us that the Rangers starters are underrated because five of them won 13 games. I realize you’re never going to convince some people what a poor metric Wins are when you want to demonstrate a pitcher’s worth, but I still which announcers who do this would get tased. David Freese doubles into the gap and moves to third on a wild pitch. This prompts the Rangers to play the infield in, and prompts McCarver to quote Ralph Kiner, who allegedly said, “playing the infield in makes a race horse out of a mule.” I have heard Ralph Kiner call baseball games almost my entire life, and I don’t believe for one second he ever said that. Yes, I’m calling you a liar, Tim McCarver After Wilson fans Molina, he walks the fearsome Nick Punto–who already has one hit in this game!–unintentionally on purpose, and his night is done. Alexei Ogando gets Allen Craig in a two-strike hole, but gives up a flare single that Nelson Cruz tries to catch with his foot for some reason, putting the Cards back on top. It is the kind of preternatural occurance that has surrounded the Cards over the last few weeks, the kind that makes me fear Oh fuck, they’re gonna win, aren’t they?
Top 7th: After this game began as a somewhat unexpected pitchers’ duel, LaRussa finally gets a chance to put his fingerprints all over it. This is often called a chess match, but to me it more resembles a yard sale, and LaRussa is the guy who keeps picking up something he wants and remarking on the price, hoping the owner will wear down and give it up for nothing. Reliever Fernando Salas gives up a one-out single and walk and is forced to give way to the Mark Rzepczynski, The Human Eyechart. He fans pinch hitters Craig Gentry and Esteban German. Fox breathlessly notes that German hit .455 in the regular season, deemphasizing the fact that he did so in 11 at bats. Ron Washington falls right into the LaRussa trap–“He’s doing a bunch of crazy stuff, so I have to out-crazy him and send up a terrible hitter to pinch hit!” Riffing on Rzepczynski’s nickname–Scrabble–McCarver tells us that “strike” is a five-letter word, spells it out, and realizes his mistake. The last “e” is silent and invisible! That’s why you get the big bucks, Tim.
Bottom 7th: Clearly afraid of not being LaRussa enough, Ron Washington uses Mike Gonzalez to get one out, then turns to Scott Feldman, who retires the next two with ease. Fox shows us the mist streaming in front of the stadium lights and a few well-bundled Cards fans, all of whom look like they’ve gone through an Antarctic expedition. Hey, it’s the World Series and it’s only 40 degrees out. Suck it up, Best Fans In Baseball (TM).
Top 8th: Octavio Dotel enters the game. I will always remember Dotel as young’un way back in 1999, when he was the last man standing in game 5 of the NLCS (aka The Grand Slam Single Game). It was such a weird game that a trainer who came out to help him clear the mud from his spikes in the 13th inning received a standing ovation. Dotel dispatches two batters without breaking a sweat, so of course LaRussa takes him out. At least he does so in favor of Arthur Rhodes, who is finally making his first World Series appearance after pitching in the big leagues for 79 years, give or take. He induces a harmless fly out from Josh Hamilton and will be inking a development deal for his life story any second now.
Bottom 8th: The only pitcher to make more appearances than Rhodes before playing in a World Series: John Franco. The revelation of this trivia tidbit causes Buck and McCarver to briefly reminisce about the 2000 World Series, and amazingly, they don’t get any major details wrong. Although Buck asks his partner the curious question, regarding Luis Sojo’s go-ahead single in game five, “Where were you when that happened?” Right next to you, Buck, you moron. After a leadoff infield single, we are treated to another sac bunt, because the kids love it. The Cards fail to score, which is exactly what happened during every other inning where a team sac bunted. Moneyball wins.
Top 9th: With closer Jason Motte on the mound, Cards fans engage in the ancient ritual of waving towels in order to evoke the spirits of good fortune. The first out is recorded on a comebacker. The second comes when Adrian Beltre bounces a foul off his foot, yet the umps call it a fair ball and he is thrown out. Fox’s infrared camera almost proves itself useful by showing a spark, or something, on Beltre’s cleat. The more conventional replay definitely shows it was a foul ball. Ron Washington’s pleas fall on deaf ears. It’s too bad there’s no kind of technology that could quickly and definitively resolve this dispute in the sport’s biggest games, but I’m sure we’re still years away from that being available to us. We’ll probably have to meet some benevolent alien civilization and hope they gift it to us in order to speed along the evolution of the species!
Nelson Cruz flies out and the Cards win, 3-2. All the weird things happening in St. Louis’s favor are already giving this series the air of inevitability. If LaRussa wins another series, I may just give up on baseball altogether. No game should be this cruel, or stupid.