July 29, 2002
The Daily Prospectus
A Late Pick-Me-Up
It's 11:49 p.m. EDT, and I'm sitting here staring slack-jawed at a 13-inch television set. In St. Louis, the remnants of what was a crowd of 47,000 people are going nuts, and the Cardinals are jumping around as if they've won the World Series. Edgar Renteria has just hit a three-run home run to cap a six-run ninth inning, giving the Cards a 10-9 victory.
To be honest, I was only half watching ESPN's Sunday night telecast. I saw the first few innings, in which the Cubs' Matt Clement looked very impressive and the team jumped out to a 6-0 lead. In the fifth inning, I left the room to hang out with my family for a bit. When I came back around 11 p.m., I expected "SportsCenter" to be on, but the game was in the seventh.
I started working, with the game in the background, and only really turned my attention to it after Tom Gordon allowed three straight hits to open the ninth. Antonio Alfonseca relieved him, only to be similarly ineffective. Four batters later, Renteria had his biggest hit since he won the 1997 World Series with a single up the middle.
There's something about great comebacks...I know MLB is doing this "great moments" thing with a credit-card company, but how many of the games we actually remember are on that list? The ones that stick out in my mind are ones like the Phillies' nine-run ninth inning against the Dodgers in 1990, which turned 11-3 into 12-11; last year's Indians/Mariners game in which the Tribe came back from a 12-run deficit; or a Yankee game I attended as a kid in which they spotted the Royals four runs--I think Frank White hit an early home run--before coming back to win on a Don Mattingly single in the ninth.
Big comebacks are great because you just don't expect them. I'll leave it to Keith Woolner to run the numbers, but once a team falls behind by five or six runs, a game is generally over. It's especially true of the late innings, when you're hitting off of good relievers and, sometimes, your best hitters are in the showers. That Indians comeback was largely the work of the bench, as were the Phillies' heroics.
Last night was just a great baseball moment, and I sure needed one. See, I was pretty frustrated and angry after reading a column Phil Rogers wrote for Sunday's Chicago Tribune, another in his long series of economically illiterate pieces on the current CBA negotiations. Rogers is probably the most openly pro-owner shill out there, and this article fit right in with the rest of his work: Bud Selig is a heroic figure who only wants to do the right thing for baseball, and if the greedy players would just do what their NFL and NBA brethren have done, everybody would be a lot happier.
I'm guessing Rogers gets a lifetime pass to the front of the press-box buffet line for this piece, but any resemblance to this or any other reality is entirely coincidental.
The coverage of baseball's economics by the nation's largest media companies would be an embarrassment if said companies actually cared. But because so many of them have an active interest in baseball's anti-marketing campaign--how many of you have consumed information this morning from Disney, Fox, the Tribune Company or AOL/Time Warner?--the work they do on the back page or in Section C is held to a standard so low you can't see it without a shovel and a miner's hat.
It's frustrating to read a Phil Rogers, or a Hal Bodley, or a Dave Kindred and know that their message of jealousy and their counter-factual argumentation reaches so many people and drives so much of the discussion. The cacophony of pro-establishment media drowns out reasoned voices, ones that acknowledge the complexity of the issues and the forces involved. It's hard for a Doug Pappas or an Allan Barra to reach enough people to counteract that.
I, and many others here at BP, take a lot of grief for our "pro-player" stances. The point I try to make, over and over, is that I'm not necessarily pro-player as much as I'm pro-honesty, pro-not-having-my-intelligence-insulted. When Don Fehr stands in front of a microphone and tells me Alex Rodriguez made $6.45 an hour last year, then I'll equate him with the people who still insist Wayne Huizenga lost money in 1997.
In the middle of this mess, surrounded by liars and thieves, it's easy to forget just how great a game this is.
But it's also easy to remember.