Thursday, October 7, 2010

MLB Playoffs: Yankees/Twins ALDS Game 1

For earlier playoff games, please see MLB Playoffs: Rays ALDS Game 1 & Roy Halladay's Gem.


After filling time to end the broadcast of the Reds/Phillies game, we have to go back to the TBS studio to fill time before the Yankees/Twins game. Because one of the most amazing things that can ever happen in baseball just happened, everyone in the studio feels he has to stamp his wisdom on it and offer some announcing stab at immortality. David Wells tells us all about how he knew Roy Halladay when he first came up with the Toronto Blue Jays and showed so much promise; then Halladay went back down to the minors and came out to throw a perfect game and have this kind of performance.

This is a really interesting summary, because Wells has just made 1998 and 2010 sound like they happened a few weeks apart. It's kind of like Kirk Douglas saying, "Well, I knew my son Michael had determination because once I showed him how to walk, he just wouldn't stop walking. That's how he graduated high school and produced One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and now he's finished filming the new Wall Street movie." I know Shakespeare used to compress time like this in many of his plays, but in this case a really dumb Falstaff just poached Doc Brown's DeLorean and used it to park on Octavian to keep him from murdering Prince Hal.

Wells isn't even the worst offender in the studio. Dennis Eckersley is not only a total homer for the Red Sox but also completely incapable of explaining or understanding baseball through anything other than a narrow prism of pitching — which is to say, being a pitcher who is also Dennis Eckersley. He also cannot stop fucking shouting. I'm pretty sure this is his whole contribution:
It's like he's afraid you're going to notice that he doesn't have anything to say that isn't painfully stupid and obvious, so he's hoping to intimidate you into silence by saying it as ruthlessly obnoxiously as possible.


Here's something to make you want to vomit. Alex Rodriguez, a man who owns more than one picture of himself as a centaur and who is paid a quarter of a billion dollars to no longer take anabolic steroids before hitting a ball with a stick, thinks that the Yankees are underdogs:
Yeah that's right, the big, bad, New York Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins to the punch on Tuesday, swiping the underdog role right out from under their noses. Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez was the culprit, telling the New York Times: "I mean, for us to be David in this situation, I think, is great."
My God, I mean, just how far up your own ass do you have to be to make this claim? I'm trying to think of histrionic statements relating to sports status, and the only thing coming to me is football. Say what you will about the New England Patriots' invocation of "nobody respects us," but at least there was some faint reasoning there. In that first Super Bowl, many people dismissed the win as a freak occurrence ("nine times out of ten, they lose that game") while marginalizing their defense as a bunch of manhandling thugs. That knock on the defense recurred in their second and third Super Bowl wins, with the added element that safety Rodney Harrison was "the dirtiest player in the game." Then add the knocks on Brady as a weak "system" QB and the fact that they could only win by three points each time, while incidentally making Jake Delhomme look like one of the all-time greats at his position. Then, in 2007, you had the "cheaters" line undermining every victory. With all those negatives, you can make a case for the respect argument, and — even if I don't buy it — at the very least you're dealing with something amorphous and unquantifiable.

But the very idea of the Yankees playing David to anyone else's Goliath is contemptible. It's quantifiably wrong. There are MILLIONS OF PIECES OF PAPER THAT YOU CAN EXCHANGE FOR BATTERS AND PITCHERS PROVING THAT IT IS WRONG. And I know what you're going to say: it's possible that I'm overreacting. It's possible that this is a joke. In any other circumstance, you'd just imagine that the person making this claim was being really tongue-in-cheek. But this is A-Rod, a man who has paintings of himself as a centaur. There is pictorial evidence, worth thousands of words, proving that this man hasn't the faintest grasp of irony or self-awareness.

Craig Sager is calmly talking into a microphone and slowly disrobing before the game.

Your hosts are play-by-play man Ernie Johnson, who sounds like a boring Muppet trying not to fart audibly, color man Ron Darling who sounds nervous, and color man John Smoltz, who will intensely tell you something obvious as soon as someone has been quiet for more than a few seconds.
JOHNSON: It's always been painted as David and Goliath... but this time... David has homefield.
You can't hear it when he says this, but during the pauses he emits silent but prolonged smug farts.

Bobby Cox didn't raise no dummies:
SMOLTZ: The Twins buy into a theory you don't see very much: grinding out at-bats to get hits.
Well noted. Most teams just send men up there to wave the bat directly up and down to minimize the likelihood of contact and try to end the ordeal as quickly as possible.

Everybody in baseball should be forced to wear their socks and pantlegs like Jim Thome. In fact, if you don't like Jim Thome, just go fuck yourself.

Just as I think of that, CC Sabathia plunks Jim Thome. Go fuck yourself, you lumbering Fat Albert motherfucker.

This is fun:
SMOLTZ: This guy [Sabathia] loves to pitch every five days. He gets in a rhythm and—
Michael Cuddyer DESTROYS a ball to straightaway centerfield, which pretty much nobody does because it's not a hitter's park. Twins up 2-0.

Top of the 3rd: A-Rod MASSIVELY fans with runners in scoring position. It's a memorably huge, screwing-yourself-into-the-ground kind of whiff, ending the inning. It's followed immediately by an erectile dysfunction ad. God is great.

Bottom 3rd: on a tapper to first, Orlando Hudson runs from first base to third, because Sabathia is SO FUCKING FAT that he can't get over to cover first base, and Mark Teixeira has to dive headfirst at the bag to make an out, leaving him incapable of firing the ball back to third to stop Hudson and also maybe smudgy and less pretty than he would like to be. Next, Jorge Posada passes a ball (insert Beavis and Butthead laugh here), and Hudson scores from third.

For no reason in particular, in the top of the 4th we get this sudden disquisition on the transition between eras of baseball management, which is loosely related to Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, but which mostly sounds like sort of a thin excuse for John Smoltz to talk about his former manager with the Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox:
SMOLTZ: In a year where [Joe] Torre's going home, Bobby Cox is going home, LaRussa—you could call this almost the Golden Age of managers. And the NEXT WAVE is led by guys like Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire.
Torre played with house money in New York, then went to LA and promptly did brilliant shit like put Andre Ethier on the bench in favor of Juan Pierre for almost an entire year. Bobby Cox spent years with a starting pitching rotation consisting of three first-ballot Hall of Famers (including one of the five greatest pitchers in history), in a division with the only intermittently competent Marlins, the protractedly horrible Phillies and the chronically mismanaged Mets. And LaRussa's an overrated wank. But even if none of that is true, even if Smoltz is 100% right about the managers, the idea of this being a golden age seems pretty silly.

Part of that idea comes from the bias of familiarity — people really don't remember managers from ages in which they didn't live — and also from the absence of divisional and wild-card playoffs in the past that would burnish the postseason reputations of countless managers. In an era of pure pennant races, managers with consistent winning records but few World Series appearances impress themselves less on memory. The Cleveland Indians once won 111 regular season games and lost the World Series, and they finished second to the Yankees in the pennant race five times. Outside of Indians fans, readers of David Halberstam books and serious baseball wonks, how many people know who managed those Indians teams?

4th-7th innings: a couple of phone calls mercifully take me away from the commentary, but I watch the Twins lose the lead. This sucks.

Except for his at-bat face, every other image of Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira is his making these sensual pursed-lips expressions into space, at his bat, at the fact that he's sort of raising an eyebrow and being himself raising an eyebrow. It's like he's a thousand miles away, in a world where there is another Mark Teixeira, and Mark Teixeira is passionately making out with him. They see each other and instantly recognize that the most awesome and gorgeous person in the world is staring back at them. They run together. Two become one in Teixeiratude, finally knowing what it's like to be touched by one of God's chosen creatures.

At this moment, Teixeira hits a two-run homer, so I assume he just ejaculated in his pants at the idea of watching himself stroke a ball deep with that heavy lumber and then duckface and kissyface at himself around the bases.

The surreptitiously farting Muppet gets excited:
JOHNSON: Runner goes... annnnd A-Rod... has swiped second.
He says this really quickly, and it sounds like, "A-Rod, Asswipe Second," and I immediately think, "He sure is." First, he is a whiny bitch.

Joe Mauer gets a two-out single off Boone Logan by making him throw what I can only guess are 29 pitches. During that at-bat, Mr. Awesome IMs me out of the blue about Rick Sanchez and his apology for saying that Jews run the media:
MR. AWESOME: Sanchez Apologizes: My Comments 'Should Never Have Been Made'
MOBUTU: Surely not!
MR. AWESOME: Apologizing in the passive voice is such chickenshit.
MOBUTU: Those words happening outside of his mouth should not have eventuated.
MR. AWESOME: Why did his speaking do this to him?
MOBUTU: It's a good question, why his speech was done around him.
MR. AWESOME: At least his words had the courage to suggest they should not have been made by somebody.
I bring this up not because I hate Rick Sanchez but because baseball announcers use passive voice reflexively at this point. "And a ball hit by Teixeira... deep..." instead of, "And Teixeira hits it deep...." It makes baseball sound like a set of extenuating circumstances divorced from the control of people playing it. A ball "is caught" — like it was just sort of hanging out in flight and some moron stuck a glove up in the air and interrupted it. It robs players of their agency.

Real people hurl objects at nearly 100 miles per hour, and other real people hit the bejesus out of them, and other real people grab them from the air or ground and fling them back in specific directions. That's pretty awesome. Announcers should put the ball back in those guys' control. Passive voice can be really evocative, and it definitely has a place in sports, hardly a small one at that. But for the most part it gets used by pussies because they've learned to mimic a cowardly even-keeled delivery that refuses to assign blame to anything and thus also fails to assign much credit too. It makes baseball sound like an executives' meeting where everyone is trying to describe a colossal fuckup that is obviously the fault of the one boss in the room without assigning its cause to anything.

Bottom of the 8th: Jorge Posada starts his "let me walk to the fucking mound for every fucking pitch" routine. Dozens of catchers and pitchers manage to negotiate hundreds of high-leverage situations every season by training with each other extensively enough that they don't need to engage in some colloquy on the mound between every pitch. Here's an idea, Jorge: before each game, WHY DON'T YOU JUST BE BETTER AT YOUR FUCKING JOB? You might wind up passing fewer balls. Uh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh-huh.

Top of the 9th: There is a Facebook group called "Fuck You Mark Teixeira," but it appears as if nobody's updated it in ages.

Delmon Young reaches first on a fly-ball out that was called a "trap" and incorrectly ruled a base hit. This is about 1/100th the karmic payback that the Twins deserve for how badly the umpires jobbed them out last year. One at-bat later, and it doesn't matter.

Twins lose. The Yankees' superior scouting and farm system, as well as their elite coaching, once again allowed their lovable band of overmatched scamps who play for the love of the game to eke out a win over a cynically cobbled-together collection of nigh indomitable mercenaries. Good show, fellas!