Everybody's already forgotten about the World Series by now, but I have some leftover material about it. Perhaps this will help assuage the pain caused by the end of Two Dolla Wednesday baseball in Oakland.
The right to choose
There was a great deal of fake controversy before Game 3 of the World Series. The games were moving back to Houston and Minute Maid Park (née Enron Field), the Astros' swanky new ballpark with a retractable roof. While the Astros feel they have an advantage playing with the roof shut, the commissioner's office chose to keep it open for Game 3, since the weather was nice. This decision did not go over well with Houston's players and fans.
Now, the Astros are one of the more notably Republican teams in the country. Former President Bush has tickets right behind home plate. Enron bought naming rights to the stadium, before its bankruptcy. The owner, Drayton McLane, is a Southern Baptist deacon, and the Astros are the only team to employ a full-time chaplain. And, like the Republican Party, the Astros do not have a single African-American on their team.
As a result, the rhetoric coming from Houston sounded like an NARAL rally. "How can the commissioner impose his beliefs on our team?" "The Astros should have the right to choose how they want the roof!" I expected to see signs in the stands proclaiming, "Keep Your Laws Off Our Ballpark!"
However, the roof was left open, and the game proceeded the way baseball was meant to be played: in the open air, in a ballpark named after a juice company, with a replica of a 19th-century locomotive running on a track behind left field, and a gigantic hill in center field with a flagpole stuck in the middle.
Back, and to the left
The most crucial play in the Series came in Game Two, when Paul Konerko hit a dramatic grand slam to put the White Sox ahead. Afterward, there were plenty of replays from the FOX broadcast team, but not of that home run. No, FOX chose to show replay after replay of the previous hitter, Jermaine Dye, and a missed call on a hit-by-pitch. They ran the tape forward and backwards, and even used CSI technology where they zoomed way in on one particular part of the replay to show that the pitch had likely hit Dye's bat, and not his arm. It felt less like watching a baseball game then like sitting in on the Warren Commission. Yes, the ump missed the call, but it was a 3-2 count - Dye could have easily ended up on first on the next pitch. The more significant play, the grand slam home run was mostly ignored.
Me and TiVo down by the schoolyard
Game Three was a marathon. I got home at 10:30, expecting to watch an accelerated, TiVo-ed version of the game with "Waffles" Keagy. Instead, the game was still on, and entering its 12th inning. Soon after that, Geoff Blum hit a home run, and the Sox went up three games to none. Being a dedicated baseball fan, I decided to watch our recording of the earlier innings, alone, since others can't really fathom the appeal of watching a sporting event when you already know the outcome, and it's five hours long.
I watched, trying to pay close attention, as the Astros jumped out to a lead and then blew it when their manager left in starter Roy Oswalt to throw a staggering 46 pitches in a single, five-run inning. I was doing my best to pick out the subtleties of the game, but what came through instead were glaring, obvious truths: when your pitcher gives up six hits, a walk, and hits a batter in one inning, maybe think about warming up a reliever. It was after this inning that I realized Chicago wouldn't be scoring the winning run for three more hours, and no amount of 30-second fast-forwarding was going to make it worthwhile. So I went to bed.
One thing I really enjoyed about the FOX broadcast was their embrace of Little League World Series broadcast elements. Normally, a baseball telecast is full of graphics showing statistics of questionable value, like "Record in night games versus left-handed pitching", or "Batting average with the roof open in post-season games taking places in odd-numbered years." Even standard measures like batting average are basically worthless when they're based on a sample of two or three games. Thankfully, in Game Three, FOX didn't bother, Instead, when Jason Lane stepped to the plate in the fourth inning, the graphic below his name informed us of his favorite movie.
This is what baseball needs more of. I've seen close to a thousand Giants games during his career, and I can't say that I have any idea what Barry Bonds's favorite food is. That is, if steroids don't count as a food.
There were multiple signs in Minute Maid Park exhorting the Astros to "Wash the Sox". Oooh, spin cycle. Very threatening, Houston. I wonder what missed the cut there: "Put The Sox In The Dryer! You Know, So One Of Them Gets Lost! Man, Why Is That, Anyway?"