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October 23, 2006

World Series Prospectus

The I [Heart] New York Matchup

by Jay Jaffe

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7:30 EST: Two nights ago, I watched Game One of the World Series in a bar across the street from my apartment, a famous bar at that: 7B, a.k.a. Vazac's, a.k.a. Horseshoe Bar, as seen in The Godfather II (Frankie Pentangeli almost gets garroted there), Serpico, "Sex in the City," and a ton of other movies and TV shows. With the Buzzcocks and the New York Dolls blaring, I was spared the blathering of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck, but I didn't get a great look at the nuances of the game. I did get the impression that the Tigers were swinging the bat like they had a plane to catch, and sifting through the play-by-play logs, that's true.

From the second inning through the eighth, Anthony Reyes faced just one hitter over the minimum (a seventh-inning single by Carlos Guillen), retiring 17 batters in order and finishing the frame in 10 pitches or less five times. Ten of those 22 plate appearances ran just one or two pitches, and overall, Tiger hitters saw just 3.14 pitches per plate appearance against him. That's not a recipe for a productive approach at the plate. A simple matter of rust, or a reversion to the team's hacktastic regular-season approach? Tonight should provide us with more insight into that. It also, of course, provides us with an even more compelling storyline, what this Yankee fan will call the I [Heart] NY matchup between two Bronx busts, Kenny Rogers and Jeff Weaver.

7:40: The word of the day is "frigid." According to the Tigers' website, temperatures for the game will be down in the 30s, with winds of 15-20 mph. Weather.com has conditions at 42 degrees with a 40 percent chance of precipitation at 8:00. Earlier this afternoon, Neil deMause and I were chatting about postseason rainouts. With three under our belt thus far (Game Two of the Yanks-Tigers series, which I attended) and two NLCS games, we're apparently one thunderstorm away from equaling the total number of rainouts in the Wild Card era up until this year. Neil recalled that the Yanks had two in 1996, one in the ALCS against the Orioles, the other in the World Series against the Braves; the Yanks also had one apiece in the 2003 and 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox.

As MLB.com notes, this postseason has more rainouts than any single postseason since 1975, when the legendary Game Six (the Carlton Fisk game) was delayed for three straight days. The 1962 World Series between the Yankees and Giants featured four rainouts, which must have been maddening. And the 1911 Series, between the A's and Giants, had six straight days of rain, but there's no truth to the rumor that Connie Mack sold off his infield to finance the building of an ark.

7:50: From Detroit, Nate Silver reports that throughout the day the weather has gotten colder but dryer, and the buzz isn't just that the game will be played, but that it will start on time. Cool.

8:00: Checking the TiVo after my wife yields the TV, I discover that despite the fact that Fox had blocked out the 7:30-8:00 time slot for pregame baseball coverage, what has instead transpired is Terry Bradshaw and company continuing to talk about football. Apparently postgame for week seven of the NFL is a bigger draw than pregame for the World Series. How Fox-y.

8:02: Thirty seconds of Jeannie Zelasko's voice and I'm dying to hear what Terry Bradshaw had to say about the Carolina Panthers.

8:06: Via our internal e-mail list, Joe Sheehan has done the honor of throwing out the first rant, about how John Mellencamp's performance of "This is Our Country" song is "a Ford ad disguised as a mini-concert." Fast-forwarding through the song and the surrounding commercials takes me to live action.

On which subject, I'll pause for a moment. I'm a TiVo evangelist, or maybe a TiVo snob; frankly, any TV which doesn't have the kind of functionality that allows one to pause, buffer and fast-forward through commercials may as well be broken. The worse that televised sports (read: Fox) has gotten, the more I've come to depend on my TiVo to cut through the blather and keep me sane, all while saving me at least one hour per full game watched. Occasionally I have to be careful about firing up the laptop during a game so as not to get "a message from the future," but that's an easy sacrifice.

Tonight, though, I'm trying to stay in real time. And real time is a scary place when it's on Fox.

8:14: Anita Baker sings the National Anthem. Last night I complained about an American Idol contestant singing the anthem on behalf of a city with an incredibly rich musical history, one that rivals only Memphis and New Orleans, neither of which has a major-league baseball team. How about a Motown great like Steve Wonder, Smokey Robinson, or Martha Reeves doing the honors? Or Detroit's Dr. Funkenstein, George Clinton? Michigan native and punk icon Iggy Pop? Favorite sons and daughters the White Stripes? Hell, a shirtless Ted Nugent and his crossbow reading his own right-wing propaganda would have been preferable to an American Idol contestant.

8:20: First McCarver and Buck sighting of the night. Pass the Tums.

8:23: Official first pitch conditions: 40 degrees, 33 wind chill. Brrrrrrutal.

8:25: Odd lineup tonight for the Cardinals against Kenny Rogers, who as a lefty matches up well against them, since they were second-to-last in the NL in OPS versus southpaws. While it's no surprise that switch-hitter Scott Spiezio is at DH and righty Preston Wilson is in left field, it's odd to see Aaron Miles is in place of Ronnie Belliard. It's either a reaction to that tongue-wagging thing that Derek Jacques complained about last night, or Belliard's 2-for-22 lifetime performance against Rogers. Given that this doesn't seem to be a platoon-based decision, I'm going to go with the former. There you go, Cardinal fans, more evidence that I have it in for Tony La Russa.

David Eckstein hits Rogers' second pitch, a one-hopper to shortstop Ramon Santiago. As Fox shows the Tigers' defensive alignment, again we see Jim Leyland using Carlos Guillen instead of Sean Casey at first base and slotting a hitless wonder at short.

8:27: Does Spiezio have the worst facial hair ever for a playoff participant? Or simply the worst since 2003 Cub Matt Clement's pubic beard? Cub fans looking for a reason their team didn't reach the Series in 2003 know what I'm talking about. On a 2-2 pitch, Rogers sneaks a knee-high fastball on the outside corner by Spiezio (according to MLB.com's Enhanced Gameday, the release velocity was 88.7 MPH) for the backwards K.

8:29: Rogers walks Albert Pujols on four pitches, the last one more or less an intentional ball. Fox shows a shot of some brown gunk on the ball of Rogers' thumb, and while not explicitly accusing him of using pine tar to help grip the ball, essentially accuses him of using pine tar to help grip the ball. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this.

8:32: Scott Rolen slaps a ball to the left side. Brandon Inge dives ("over-dives," according to McCarver) and blocks the ball but can't come up with it. Infield hit, and there are now runners on first and second with Juan Encarnacion stepping in. Encarnacion falls behind 0-2, a count he's familiar with, and slaps a ball weakly back to Rogers to end the threat.

8:37: The Tigers return the same lineup as last night, with Sean Casey at DH. As Jeff Weaver takes the hill, Steve Goldman pipes in via instant message: "I think this is the first World Series game in which both starters have robbed George Steinbrenner. Wait... Maybe this is the 'Mel Stottlemyre Testimonial Bowl.'"

8:39: On a 2-2 pitch, Granderson lofts a ball to center. Edmonds starts back looking over left shoulder, switches to looking over right, does a 180, and then makes the catch. He made that look much harder than it seemed to be.

8:40: Craig Monroe hits a bomb on Weaver's first pitch over the left-centerfield wall. Having suffered through three and a half years--his tenure with the Yankees and the Dodgers, the two teams I root for--of a very different pitcher than the one we've seen this October, this is the Jeff Weaver I know. 1-0 Tigers.

Say what you will about Monroe's plate discipline (.301 OBP 126/37 K/BB ratio), the guy has power.

8:41: After a Polanco groundout, Magglio Ordonez bloops a ball over Eckstein for a base hit. A few minutes later he motors around to score on a Guillen double, that waterfall of hair flowing freely behind him, 2-0 Tigers. Steve chimes in: "Magglio hustled pretty well there. He took some heat during the season for poor conditioning, but all you have to do is stand him next to Ronnie Belliard and he looks like Gabe Kapler."

We proceed to bust on Belliard for several minutes, whereupon Steve estimates the chunky second baseman's weight to be 0.8(Wickman).

Meanwhile, here comes Neil deMause with an IM:

neil: Does "Man, Jeff Weaver sucks" count as a cogent comment? Or how about "Man, guess Jeff Weaver didn't read Joe's column today"?

8:51: Prior to the top of the second inning, Tony La Russa is talking to the umpires, and via a closeup from the TV cameras, it appears that whatever goop was on Rogers' thumb is now gone. McCarver's been handed something about the 1980 World Series, where in the eighth inning of Game Five, Royals manager Jim Frey forced Steve Carlton to wipe pine tar off of his hand. Carlton then supposedly left the game after walking two hitters on eight pitches.

Not so fast, McCarver. Damn right I looked it up: Retrosheet shows that John Wathan walked to start the eighth, then Jose Cardenal singled before Carlton got the hook. It didn't matter, as Tug McGraw (R.I.P) closed the Royals out and the Phillies clinched their only World Series title. Can't trust those Fox guys for a minute.

8:55: Rogers strikes out Edmonds on a full count with a curveball, then gets Wilson on a 2-2 comebacker, a slick play. Yadier Molina flys out to end the inning.

9:01: Jim Leyland is now out talking to umps before the start of the inning, but it's not clear what's going on. Casey golfs a 1-0 pitch to centerfield for an easy out. Inge singles on an 0-1 fastball and it certainly doesn't seem the Tiger hitters are any more patient than they were last night, just that they're making better contact. Which is surprising given the cold, but not surprising given that it's Jeff Weaver out there. Santiago bloops an 0-1 fastball to right for a single and there are now two on. Curtis Granderson bounces into a 4-6-3 doubleplay, with Miles fielding the ball mid-chest on a tough hop. If this were my scorebook, I'd be tempted to give him a star.

9:09: Miles comes to the plate to start the inning; at 2-2, Rogers fools him on an 85 MPH pitch for the K. Up steps David Eckstein, who Buck notes is 8-for-47 lifetime in the postseason. He pops up an 0-1 pitch and goes to 8-for-48. Who does he think he is, Alex Rodriguez? Spiezio slaps a 1-0 to Inge to end the inning. The Cardinals don't appear any more inclined to take pitches than the Tigers do. Perhaps because it's so cold?

9:15: Monroe again. Weaver puts him in an 0-2 hole, then two pitches later drops his arm angle down and puts him away with a slider on the outside corner. Beautiful. He uses the same pitch to put away Polanco, who's still wearing a ridiculous body sock on his head. Steve pipes in: "It always looks like, no matter how cold everyone else is, Placido is colder." To which I respond, "That, or he's going to try to qualify for the U.S. speedskating team between at-bats."

I continue to chat with the gang through IM about Polanco, the ALCS MVP, and his relative merits as a player:

steve: Like Monroe, he could easily come out of this postseason overrated.
jay: Polanco had a great 2005. Would have won a batting title in either league IIRC
steve: He's a good player, but he's all average and no walks or SLG. He's one random bad luck year away from hurting a team (or a lucky year away from hitting .350). But I've been hearing various pundits talking about how he's the hidden MVP of the Tigers or something and that's overstating things.
jay: no, but he got hot at the right time in the LCS
steve: Right, but a lot of players do that. I could show you Billy Martin's World Series stats and you would conclude he was the second Eddie Collins, not realizing that he wasn't half that hitter in the regular season. Every postseason we anoint a new star like this.
jay: Absolutely. no argument on that front. I'm just saying that this year was a down year for him, and the October performance is just a bit of a correction, albeit one that will, like you say, potentially inflate his rep
steve: I always think of that line in Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble:" "Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts." I bet we could name at least ten second basemen we'd rather have.

Meanwhile, back at Comerica Park, Magglio Ordonez singles through the right side to keep the inning alive, and I'm told that Carlos Guillen's favorite food is sushi. Shots of Comerica lights make it look as if there's a bit of precipitation (snow?), but on the field it doesn't seem to be happening. Guillen just misses plunking a double down the right field line, foul by about six inches. Weaver misses with a curveball for ball four, his first walk of the night.

Pudge now up, gets ahead 3-1, and suddenly it's Old Jeff Weaver again, futilely trying to get hitters to chase balls outside the zone when behind in the count. Pudge fouls one off to get to a full count, then grounds to first to end the threat.

9:32: Pujols chops a 2-1 pitch back to Rogers halfway between home and the mound. With his bad hamstring, Phat Albert has explicitly been instructed not to run hard, so he's meat here. Again, Rogers can field his position quite well.

Rolen flies to centerfield on an 0-1 pitch, Encarnacion grounds to short, and Rogers now has 19 straight scoreless innings. At the outset of this postseason, who'd have thunk it?

Cut to Fox sideline reporter Chris Myers: the Rogers mystery substance was cleaned off at the request of ump supervisor Steve Palermo and crew chief Randy Marsh. Gee, thanks, Chris. Stay warm.

9:37: Bottom of the fourth, Casey at the bat... and there's some sort joy in Mudville, although he deprives me of my Ernest Thayer moment when he's hit on the elbow by a pitch and jogs to first. Meanwhile, writhing in pain is catcher Yadier Molina. Casey does appear to have leaned into the pitch, but the umps let it stand. However, the rebound gave Yadier a cup check. In this cold, that must be mortifying. No joy in Mudville for him.

During the between-inning interview, La Russa refuses to discuss the Rogers substance issue during the game. Now there's a surprise. Credit TLR; he's thus far the only manager I've seen who stands up to Fox's midgame interrogations with comments that he basically isn't going to tip his hand while the game is in progress.

Inge singles just past Eckstein's glove as he dives towards second base, and the Tigers have something going with two on and nobody out. Santiago up, but with a gimpy Casey on second, the bunt would seem to be a moot point.

But no! After ripping one way down into foul territory in right, Santiago gets one down just in front of the mound, and Pujols stumbles while trying to barehand it. Sacrifice for Santiago, error for Pujols, and everybody's safe, with the bases loaded and nobody out.

A big chance for the Tigers to break the game open here... except Jeff Weaver suddenly turns into Super Wevo again. He recovers to strike out Granderson with a beautiful 12-6 curveball, then gets the dangerous Monroe to pop up the second pitch for the second out. On 1-0, Polanco grounds to short, puncturing the clutch myth he's been nurturing. A golden opportunity for the Tigers to blow the doors off of this thing, but they missed out.

Here comes Steve: "Torre must be kicking the TV, or the cat or something. Two pitchers he washed out with, pitching great games in the Series. Weaver pitching out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. That didn't happen on Torre's watch." Agreed. But then he probably didn't feel too differently watching Jose Contreras last fall either.

9:51: Top of the fifth, Rogers walks Edmonds to lead off the inning and Wilson comes up. Fox cuts to an audio clip of him saying, "I don't think I've seen this many people with painted cat faces on since Cats in New York. Good gracious!"

New marketing slogan for Fox: "The World Series: I loved it. It was much better than Cats." No? It can't be that hard.

Wilson sends one deep into right center, but Granderson makes a beautiful catch and slides several yards on his knees. Now that was much better than Cats, or any damned Andrew Lloyd Webber musical for that matter. Molina hits one that looks like it might be a gapper, but it hangs up there and Ordonez gets under it. Cut to Yadier gabbing with Pudge prior to first pitch, golly those catchers do like to chatter. Rogers snags a low liner by Miles and his 20th shutout frame is in the books.

10:00: Bottom of the fifth and my hand is already cramping from typing. I've fallen about eight minutes behind on the TiVO despite my best efforts; accurately quoting Steven Goldman and Preston Wilson is hard. I'm not sure I'm cut out for real time, especially as Steve starts offering me those messages from the future.

Ordonez grounds a ball deep into the hole between shortstop and third base. Eckstein comes up with a gem and throws a strike to Pujols to beat him. Helluva play. "He takes a bigger windup than Early Wynn," says professor Goldman from five minutes ahead of me. Guillen, the irresistible force of the Tiger offense, rips one down the rightfield line. Instead of a sharp ricochet which Encarnacion was apparently expecting, the ball rattles around in the corner and Guillen winds up with a triple. Pujols was nowhere near the line, prompting Steve to ask, "Where the hell was Pujols playing on that ball?"

My answer: "Pujols was playing in the old Tiger Stadium." Which gives me the chance to mention that in 1999 my friend Nick and I trekked to the midwest on a mini-stadium tour of sorts, the primary purpose of which was to see Tiger Stadium just before it closed. We started in Cleveland a couple days before, saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Yanks-Indians at Jacobs Field, drove to Detroit where we dodged the rain and saw Indians-Tigers. We sat right down the leftfield line, where I taunted Wil Cordero with have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife comments. The players being so close to the fans, Nick is genuinely concerned for my safety, and while I'm willing to bet Cordero doesn't have the stones to jump me, I'm also willing to take a punch for the cause (big of me, I know) because it will be the last time that schmuck walks on a field. Nothing transpires, however, and we proceed to enjoy the game. Playing left field for the Tigers, if I recall, was the same Juan Encaranacion as we've got tonight, a guy who's still wildly undisciplined at the plate. Nick scores an awesome smoked turkey leg and we find a chatty beer vendor named J.D. who sells Fosters oil cans. "Just call for J.D. when you need another!" he tells us. We do, several times. Funny, I can't remember who won the game.

Anyway, Pudge up with man on third, and one out. Weaver blows him away with that dropdown slider. Nasty. Casey picks up the run however, drilling a hanging breaking ball into right field for the RBI. Weaver comes back to whiff Inge--a 90 mph fastball this time--but the damage is done, 3-0 Tigers.

10:11: Rogers retires Eckstein on a grounder to Inge, and at 20.1 consecutive scoreless postseason innings, he's now sixth all time:

1. Christy Mathewson, 1905, 27 innings
2. Lew Burdette, 1957, 24
3. Jerry Reuss, 1981, 23
4. George Earnshaw, 1930 22
5. Orel Hershiser, 1988, 21.1
6. Kenny Rogers, 2006, 20.1

A fun list, that, representing the two Dodger World Championships of my lifetime. Everybody remembers Hershiser in 1988, coming off of that record-breaking 59-inning scoreless streak; after being touched up by the Mets in his first LCS appearance, he went right back to shutout ball, and over a span of 101.2 innings between the regular season and post, he allowed just four earned runs. Reuss, on the other hand, is somewhat forgotten. In the strike-induced Division Series against the Astros, he tossed nine innings of shutout ball in Game Two, but the Dodgers didn't score for him, and the 'Stros won 1-0 in 11 innings. Undaunted, Reuss came back in Game Five against Nolan Ryan and threw up nine more zeroes, while the Dodgers scrapped for four runs and advanced. In Game Three of the LCS, Reuss then blanked the Expos for five before allowing four runs in the sixth, three on a Jerry White homer... wait a second. There were two outs before any of the runs scored, so that total should be 23.2. Damn it, Fox, I WILL LOOK IT UP! Don't trust those totals, kids.

In his mid-inning interview, which was done just after the Tigers failed to score in the fourth, in response to a question about Rogers' hand gunk, Leyland says that Cardinal hitters were complaining ball was doing funny things but "it turned out to be nothing." Or something like that. Meanwhile via our internal e-mail, Will Carroll chimes in that the gunk is the spray that trainers put under tape. "Sticky. He got some dirt on it. Not exactly sneaky," says Will.

After a seven-pitch at-bat, Rogers walks Spiezio to face Pujols, and this could be trouble. He falls behind 2-0, then Pujols zips a sharp liner right to Monroe in right field, not enough loft to be dangerous. Rolen strikes out on a 2-2 fastball, a held foul tip that registers at 91. Wow. Somewhere in there we learn from the Foxies that Rogers is no relation to the singer of the same name (or as my friend called him the night before, "the chicken guy"), and that his family business was strawberry farming. Luckily, somebody resists making a joke about getting out of a jam.

10:24: Bottom of six, and speaking of eponymous pitchers, celebrities, and potential ball-doctoring, Fox enters by showing a shot of a spiky-haired cast member of the show "Prison Break" with the same name as a former MLB pitcher, Robert Knepper. Knepper was the born-again Astro who was troubled by teammate Mike Scott's alleged dabbling in the black arts and made a stink years later. Uncool.

Weaver is done for the night after throwing 85 pitches, 59 for strikes, while facing 26 hitters--3.27 per plate appearance, slightly up from last night but not exactly Bobby Abreu-esque. He bore a much closer resemblance to the Weaver of old, but as those five strikeouts attest, he still pitched pretty well. Figuring that it doesn't matter whether he has the platoon advantage against .225-hitting Ramon Santiago, La Russa has called in lefty Tyler Johnson, who comes back from a 2-1 count to punch out Santiago looking. Platoon advantage in hand, he gets Granderson to ground out, and then yields to Josh Kinney, whose name sounds like he should be a heartthrob from the cast of "Dawson's Hill" or "Evercreek" or another one of those silly teen shows my wife likes to watch.

Kinney walks Monroe on four pitches, which takes some doing, then plunks Polanco on his second pitch. He settles down to get Ordonez to fly to left, and the Tigers have now left ten men on base according to the broadcast. Still, they lead 3-0.

10:37: Top of seven, Rogers faces Encarnacion and strikes him out on a 2-2 breaking ball, his fifth punchout of the night. Here's Steve: "Relative to a real OF, Encarnacion is a joke. Compared to a Cardinals outfielder, he's Al Simmons. Everything is relative." He's been doing some deep thinking, too:

steve: New theory: Rogers has sold his soul to the Devil.
jay: ooh, I like that one
steve: Or the Republicans. He has made a corrupt bargain with infernal powers. Or an infernal bargain with corrupt powers.
jay: he did play on George W. Bush's team [the Rangers, whom he owned from 1988 to 1998] for a long time
steve: Aha! The smoking gun!

From the field, Ken Rosenthal pipes in with an anecdote about Rogers leading by example via working on his fielding after workouts were over. The other Tigers pitchers were embarrased that a 41-year-old was outworking them, flopping around in the hot sun after groundballs. True or not, it shows--Rogers is a fifth infielder out there.

However, he doesn't need his glove here. Edmonds pops out to center and Wilson grounds weakly to Santiago at shortstop; he bobbles the ball but still has time to make the play. Seven innings for Rogers, and just one hit, an infield hit at that. Unbelievable. My prediction that he might win World Series MVP is still in play.

10:44: Another American Idol contestant is on to do "God Bless America," and I'm grateful that I have enough in the spool to fast-forward through and catch up, nearing real time again. In the eyes of this administration, skipping the song probably makes me a terrorist sympathizer or an enemy combatant or something, but the door is locked, and I don't think any jackbooted thugs have time to drag me away tonight.

10:49: Another lefty, Randy Flores, is on in place of Kinney, facing Carlos Guillen, whom the Cards haven't retired all night. He singles again, and Steve pipes in.

steve: Carlos Guillen... Once traded for Randy Johnson. The Yankees should see if that's something [Tigers GM Dave] Dombrowski wants to reenact.
jay: No kidding. His bat really could carry 1B right now
steve: No idea if he's a better fielder than Jeter.
jay: as if.
steve: lol
jay: Moving Jeter off shortstop is one of those topics I've just decided it's no longer worth bapping my gums about.
steve: The metrics are so messed up that it's impossible to even construct a rational argument.
jay: More to the point, this is a topic on which the Yankee position would appear intractable.
steve: Much like moving DiMaggio out of CF, it has become something more important than wins and losses.
jay: If you're wondering whether that sacred cow would make for a great cheeseburger, think again

As we're discussing this, Pudge Rodriguez grounds into a 5-4-3 double play, extending his slump to 0-for-19 . I honestly had no idea he was so cold, but there it is. Casey goes to full count against Flores... please strike out, please strike out... and flies out to centerfield. Again, no joy in my Mudville.

10:59: Yadier Molina, who my friend Nick thinks has the eyebrows of a drag queen, and at the very least doesn't have the same broken-in mitt quality about his face that his older brothers, Bengie and Jose, share, singles to lead off the eighth and end the notion of a one-hitter. Damn, because at this point that would have been cool. Miles grounds into a fielder's choice, 6-4, and Eckstein, who apparently can't buy a hit even with that nifty fake ID that says he's over 18, grounds into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. As the music fades out to the commercial, I notice we're getting a bit of Detroit flavor via the White Stripes' "The Hardest Button to Button." Earlier we had Iggy's "Lust for Life" underneath a Kenny Rogers montage. At least somebody in the Fox production department appreciates Detroit music.

11:04: Returning from the commercial break, the camera cuts to the Tiger dugout, where Rogers appears to be accepting job-well-done congrats. Those 23 scoreless innings, we're told, tie him with Reuss, but I know better.

The appearance of Hershiser and Reuss on that scoreless list has prompted an ongoing background discussion between Steve and myself about Rogers' place in history.

steve: There are so many pitchers in that 200-250 win zone they're in, where you have to take them seriously historically, but they're not quite all-timers. Orel [204 wins] is on the high side of that zone, Reuss [220 wins] on the low...
jay: agreed on the 200-250. I mean, David Cone and Dwight Gooden [both with 194 wins, oddly enough] didn't get there, but at their peaks were better than a lot of those guys
steve: A shame Cone tapped out so fast. He might have made it.
jay: that missed year [2002] at the end cost him
steve: At 207 wins, Rogers is in that group too, though to this point I would have said he was disqualified by cowardice under fire.
jay: he's closer to David Wells than David Cone or some of those other guys, but with poorer surroundings.
steve: That's probably right. Cone won a Cy... Rogers has never been mentioned on a ballot. If you look at Baseball-Reference.com, btw, David Wells is high on the list of Rogers comps.
jay: Wells-Rogers makes sense. Was Boomer ever on a Cy ballot?
steve: Twice. 1998 and 2000. Distantly.
steve: And Orel... and... Charlie Root? Did Rogers give up a called shot to anyone?
jay: No, but he punched a camera man.

Meanwhile, Brad Thompson is on, the fifth Cardinal pitcher for the night. Like Leyland last night, La Russa appears to be tipping his hand by exposing all of these relievers to the Tiger hitters. He gets Inge looking, the 47th straight time Inge has gone down on strikes this October, I think. Santiago grounds out and then we have ANOTHER FREAKIN' PITCHING CHANGE, with two outs in the eighth. Tony La Russa, you're the reason I bought a TiVO.

Adam Wainwright comes on, and Granderson swings at strike three, but Molina can't hold on. He picks up the dropped ball and gets him at first base.

11:14: Todd Jones, one of my least favorite humans among ballplayers, is on in relief of Rogers. Meanwhile, my discussion with Steve has turned to those Tommy Lasorda commercials, one of which aired during the break:

steve: These Lasorda commercials smack of desperation. I've been meaning to write something about them. "We're going to try to shame you into caring."
jay: I actually find them hilarious. There's a Dangerfield-esque obnoxiousness that amuses me.
steve: Baseball fans, those who will watch any game between any two teams, are always going to be a small minority compared to fans who are only interested in a particular team, and both of those groups are a small fraction of those who are only interested in a particular team provided they can get drunk while watching it.
jay: I just think the commercials are funny. The Cubs fan in a tree and Lasorda's "Eyew" response when he finds out what team the poor sap is rooting for. The Cleveland fans in the kitchen cabinet... nice visual non sequitur
steve: To give those Lasorda commercials credit, if you haven't been watching, you've missed two great pitching performances (Reyes and Rogers)... Both, to my mind, from unlikely sources.
jay: Indeed. but more to the point about the commercials, any baseball fan who ditches the postseason just because their team lost is a pussy. And deserves to be called that by a belligerent, obnoxious guy like Lasorda.
steve: I'd like to see one in which the fan answers back, "Why should I trust you? You traded Paul Konerko and Pedro Martinez!"
jay: "Pedro never would have survived my torture regimen!"

Spiezio lines Jones' pitch to right field for the first out. Pujols, hitless on the night, grounds to third, where Inge bobbles the ball but stays with it and makes the play, a good lesson for all of those Little Leaguers still up at this hour, eh Fox? Down to the Cardinals' last out. Rolen, whose shoulder must be feeling a lot better these days, rips a ball to rightfield for a single, and the Cards are still very much alive.

On Jones' first pitch to Encarnacion, Rolen advances to second on defensive indifference. Encarnacion then hits a grounder that short-hops Jones, deflecting off of his leg. Polanco, halfway between first and second, falls down trying to reach the ricochet, and tries to sweep the ball over to Guillen--not even close. Encarnacion is safe, bringing the tying run to the plate in the form of Jim Edmonds. Suddenly, this is getting adventurous. Steve and I do a point-counterpoint on whether Joel Zumaya should be closing; while I think it's a credible idea, I think it's even better that Leyland uses ostensibly his best reliever in high-leverage spots before the ninth. But no Zoom-By-You tonight, alas.

On Jones' next pitch, Edmonds flares a double down the leftfield line, scoring Rolen to put the Cards on the board. Wilson is drilled by the next pitch to load the bases and--are you kidding me?--it's Yadier Molina. Cut to his pennant-winning home run, of course, which ensures he'll be thought of as a clutch hitter for life despite the fact that he can't hit his way out of a paper sack under most circumstances, and should probably yield to Chris Duncan or John Rodriguez right here, right now.

But no. Molina promptly grounds into a forceout, 6-4, and that's the ballgame for the Tigers. The Series is tied at one game apiece. At Comerica, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas' Motown classic "Dancing in the Streets" pipes up in the background, and yeah, that's more like it.

Meanwhile, I feel as though I've played an entire game myself with this diary thing. My back aches, my hands are cramping, and my shirt is soaked with sweat. I'm in real time, and it's real time for a cold one.

Thanks to Steven Goldman for riding shotgun tonight.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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