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October 3, 2003

6-4-3

Fluffy Goodness

by Gary Huckabay

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I really have nothing particularly substantive today; just a bunch of barely-connected observations, ranging from trivial to really frigging trivial. If you're looking for bizarre third-order models of performance within the framework of the postseason, I'm afraid you're out of luck. This is more like channeling Andy Rooney's evil twin--the one considering doing his own "Girls Gone Wild" video, and trying to convince a shapely co-ed that tumbleweedish, bushy eyebrows are, in fact, a sign of prodigious sexual capabilities.

The postseason's about tactics rather than strategy, and most of it's pretty obvious, so hopefully you'll find something in here entertaining.

What the hell is up with the ads for this cell phone company? Can you imagine the meetings between the marketing people at MCI, Motown/PGD, and the ad agency?

"You know what'll sell cell phone service, and help us retain our current customer base? How about if we get some aged white dude who's rapidly starting to resemble Kenny Rogers to remake a bunch of Motown classics?"

"That's a hell of an idea. Any way you can leach out every ounce of soul and life from the songs, and make them about as mushy as a typical British dinner?"

"Consider it done. We'll take the edge off."

"The ads'll be great. We can have Michael dressed like Johnny Cash, and doing a mournful, castrated rendition of something. It'll be supermarket friendly. And non-threatening."

"Tremendous. I smell big sales!"

"When I think Motown, I think Michael McDonald. And when I think Michael McDonald, it causes me to link a particular brand of phone service with positive emotions. I must sign up for The Neighborhood® today!!"

"Hello, Clio!"

Ugh. It makes me long for the "Hey! Let's talk with the stars of this new Fox show who just happen to be at the game!" pieces that we no doubt have in front of us.

---

Some random e-mails and responses over the past 48 hours:

"Why didn't Mueller just fire the ball to first? He looked home, where he had no chance whatsoever, and if he threw to first, he had a shot at Hernandez. I'm not saying he would have gotten him for sure, but he had a chance, and that was his only chance." - R.Y.

I agree. I think you're probably right. My thought when he dropped it down was "It's gonna be close...", but when Mueller set his body to look and throw home, it was all over. I don't have any explanation for it, but no matter what, it was a great tactical move, and a good gamble. Mueller was extremely deep, and Hernandez is a pretty good bunter.

"My stupid question is this - you picked the Red Sox to win the series in 4, and you're an A's fan. Do you find yourself rooting for the Sox?" - R.M.

Any short series is really not much more than a coin flip. Predicting them is largely folly and entertainment, and something entertaining to lose bets on, so people can ride each other over beers after rounds of golf. I'm rooting for the A's, and in fact roused my dogs from a deep slumber with my raised-fist screams on Wednesday night when Mueller ate that ball. I may have to agree to spring for sandwiches from Saul's for the A's front office folks as atonement if the A's win, but that's a tab I will gleefully pick up if the A's can close out the Sox and eventually beat the Giants for another ring.

Also, Red Sox fans are irritating martyr wannabes now, and they might well become insufferable if the Sox actually win the World Series. I'm not ready for a world where Keith Woolner gloats. I can deal with the obnoxious, preening, unwarranted arrogance that is Yankee Fandom, but I think Sox fans, who already use the term "Rem-Dog" to describe Jerry Remy, would become insufferable. I'm not as worried about Cub fans; most of them are alcoholics and felons who can barely hold a job as it is, so maybe the boost of happiness will keep them from crawling into the bottle in yet another horrific spiral of self-destruction. At heart, I'm a humanitarian.

"What are the best and worst things about the broadcasts so far?" - M.T.

So far, it's been pretty grisly from a fan's perspective, I think. The 10 p.m. EDT start for the Hudson/Martinez matchup was unconscionable. Then, to add unbelievable insult to injury, ESPN adds David Justice to the broadcast booth in violation of the Geneva Convention. I know that everyone watching the game has probably done something during their lives that warrants strict and painful punishment, but inflicting Justice and his commentary on an unsuspecting public was beyond the pale. It's also possible, if the game was broadcast outside the U.S., that ESPN may have committed an act of war against a number of sovereign nations. But now that they've done that, they might as well finish us off with a healthy dose of Chris Berman and his old-10-years-ago nicknames. Should Justice return to the booth, I will personally make an appeal to Amnesty International to begin a letter-writing campaign. I'm pretty sure that if we work together, we can get Bono to make a mission of conscience to Bristol.

On the good side, there's not a lot to report. ESPN's coverage has been pretty conservative. Fox does some really stupid stuff, but some of their camera angles are interesting, and occasionally, something's novel. Jon Miller's always good to listen to as well, and Steve Lyons hasn't reared his head yet. That's a good thing.

"How bad of an idea was it to leave Pedro Martinez in for 130 pitches in Game 1?" - E.H.

I think it was catastrophic. Martinez's velocity was way off in Game 1. It's also clear, over the course of his career, that he has some durability issues. He really can't be used like a normal starting pitcher. To get the most out of him, you have to be very aggressive in getting him out of the game. Personally, I'd simply never let him go over 105 pitches under any circumstances, no matter how adamant he is about staying in the game. I think that if the Sox survive, Pedro will be ineffective in a potential Game 4 or 5, and the A's will close him out. Right now, it looks like the A's are going to go up 2-0, which means that if there's a Game 4, Grady Little will probably run him out there. The A's will probably knock him out, and it may be a question of which pitcher, Hudson or Martinez, feels more healthy. The Sox offense is good enough to win a game even if Pedro gets knocked out early.

And finally, some bullet points:

  • How come the Red Sox outfielders are playing at such extreme positions in terms of depth? Half the time, Manny Ramirez's ass was up against the left field wall in Oakland, and then, against Eric Byrnes, he's breathing down Nomar's neck.

  • This "Shannon Stewart for MVP" stuff is a joke by all of you just to get me to bite, right? You're not really serious, right? C'mon...let me in on the gag, or at least pick someone who might, in the far reaches of the mind, be deserving.

  • Is there anything out there more self-defeating than ESPN's miserable K-Zone? The implication is that they're showing you where the ball is in the strike zone, but it uses the spot of the ball in the catcher's mitt to show pitch location, which defeats the purpose. Using two offset cameras and combining the images might be of interest, but simply using the single picture and adding the hi-res graphic to add credibility to the location is lame. Spring for Questec.

  • How bad is the Yankee defense up the middle? And how come the commentators aren't all over it? If a team with a rep for bad defense had put on that kind of show over the season, or even in the one game against the Twins, you'd have every mouth breather from Maine to California bleating about "postseason experience," "character," and "not knowing how to win as a team."

  • When should a team actually pitch to Barry Bonds? Seriously. If you intentionally walk him every time, you knock a couple hundred points off his OPS. Unless there's some sort of absolutely compelling reason, let him go down to first. Eventually, I think McKeon et al. will overcome the emotional scars of being booed by Giants fans holding up signs reading "No Balls." Now that's clever. Right up there with the hundreds of softball teams around the country named "Hard Bats, Soft Balls." God, I hate the Giants. Or, more accurately, I hate the f%%^ing Giants.

  • Is it too early to talk about the death penalty for people who buy tickets behind home plate, come to the game, then get on their cell phones and wave to their buddies? I try to wash my pain away by imagining that their best friend on the other end of the line is actively cuckolding him during the call. From behind.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

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