Thursday, October 06, 2005

Baby, I'm a lost cause

History will remember them as a resilient crew, not only for their historic comeback against the Chokin' Yankees last year, but their escape from an 0-2 hole against Oakland in the ALDS a year previous. But I have a hard time believing the defending World Champs are up to the task again, for one reason more than any other: Pitching, duh. They simply don't match up well with the well-armed White Sox, and shame on us for ever suggesting this series would be a breeze. Never have I missed Pedro and D-Lowe more than I did suffering through Matt Clement-Scarlatti first inning on Monday, and while I appreciate Tim Wakefield's versatility and team spirit, I'm not thrilled about the notion of relying on a knuckleballer when the season hangs in the balance. Hell, the White Sox left a kid off their playoff roster, future ace Brandon McCarthy, who's as good or better as anything Boston can wheel out to the mound right now. The sad reality is, the better team is winning this series, and the better team will win the series. It's been a hell of a reign, and I'll forever respect Tito Francine ballclub for winning 95 games with a staff of No. 3 starters, a flammable bullpen, and a first baseman suffering from rigamortis. But unlike '03 and '04, when I believe Our Guys were the best team in baseball both seasons, they are no longer good enough, and certainly not capable of winning three straight against a superior foe. There's nothing wrong with that; if there's anything we've learned the last two years, it's that the superior team deserves to win.

* Those who are eager to compare Tony Graffanino's error last night to Buckner's blunder in the '86 series are the same miserable souls who never quite came to grips with the fact that the so-called curse came to a screeching, irrefutable, permananent halt last October. Cut the guy some slack and get some perspective, people; this is Game 2 of the ALDS the year after a World Series championship, not Game 6 of the World Series with a 68-year drought on the line. Oh, right - it rolled through his legs! Now I get it. My bad.

* My cousin Kris the White Sox fan, appropriately giddy to the point that he is now forgoing wearing pants at all times, likes to needle me that the Red Sox play "Nintendo" ball while the alleged Go-Go White Sox play the game the way it is supposed to be played. He is wildly wrong, of course - one look at Small Ball poster boy Scott Podsednik's puny on-base percentage tells you that - and the truth is being revealed further in this series: The White Sox are at their best when they are mashing the ball, not when Ozzie Guillen is foolishly sacrifice bunting with one out in the first inning. (Their usual stellar pitching doesn't hurt, either.) Fact is, they're beating the Red Sox at what's perceived as their own game, even though one crucial statistic suggests a different conclusion: Chicago hit 200 homers this season, one more than Boston. Hey, who knew it was their game too?

* Which reminds us of a larger point: The vaunted Boston offense has devolved into Manny, Papi, and a bunch of guys who aren't pulling their weight, and haven't for some time now. I appreciate Bill Mueller as much as the next citizen of the Nation, but I'd like him a lot better if he'd had a meaningful hit or two since July. If Tito made any glaring mistake at all this season, it was not working Kevin Youkilis into the lineup on a semi-regular basis. Mueller's creaky 35-year-old knees would have surely appreciated the rest, and Youks should have been given Kevin Millar's at-bats beginning three months ago.

* Aaron Rowand is a hell of a center fielder and a tough out, and it's about time he's finally getting some recognition on the national stage. Still, every time I see the guy, I picture him behind the wheel of some souped-up pickup truck with a fancy gun rack and one of those Calvin-peeing-on-Jeff-Gordon's-No. 24 stickers on the window. He looks like such a redneck, I bet even Trot Nixon makes "Deliverance" jokes about him.

* And while we're mocking the appearance of White Sox players - hey, something about this series has to bring us joy - Bobby Jenks looks like the illegitimate spawn of Sidney Ponson and Butterbean.

* John Dennis and his 'EEI partner, Gerry Callahan (who used to be one of my favorite columnists until I realized he's either a wretched lout of a human being or plays one all too well on the radio), spent the morning absolving Graffanino of any wrongdoing while trying to pin blame for the loss on Manny Ramirez (who drove in the first two runs but, in their eyes if no one else's, dogged it and turned double into a single) and Edgar Renteria (no coherent explanation why, though if you know D&C's history, you have your suspicions). Before I could slam my car into the nearest telephone poll in a desperate attempt to make the noise stop, Karl Ravech of "Baseball Tonight" came on and shut them the hell up, noting that Albert Pujols - yes, the sainted Albert Pujols, Gammo's Exhibit A on how The Game Should Be Played during his anti-Manny rants - lollygagged to first himself recently. Ravech added that Manny had no better than a 50-50 shot of getting to second anyway, and suggested they were hassling Manny for the sake of hassling Manny. Dennis was, perhaps for the first time since he was hatched, silent. Callahan responded with a witty "Right," then changed the subject. Karl Ravech, we salute you.

* Is it me, or does Mark Buehrle look like he could be Derek Jeter's big, goofy, pasty, uncool older brother? He has the same "calm eyes." Tim McCarver is going to be smitten.

* Does Chris Berman get paid per word or what? Good heavens, man, pause for breath, and maybe you'll deflate enough that your suit jacket actually fits. I'm pretty sure that the baseball telecasts on the Hell Broadcasting Network feature Berman is doing the play-by-play, calling everyone by fifth-grade humor-level nicknames and hollering BACKBACKBACKBACK!, while trusty HBN analyst Joe Morgan drones on semi-coherently about the '75 Reds and cutters and sliders and his favorite kind of Fig Newtons. (Obviously, Jerry Trupiano and McCarver handle the later game.)

* As for today's Completely Random Baseball card:

Maybe Mike Piazza wasn't the worst defensive catcher in the Dodgers' system a decade ago after all.