October 20, 2004
EVENING UPDATE: Jim Edmonds just forced Game 7 in the NLCS with a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning. Just in time for this evening's Main Event to begin!!! Julian Tavares got so mad at himself for blowing Game 5 in Houston that he pulled a Kevin Brown masochism stunt, and I was amazed he was able to pitch with two broken fingers tonight. Interestingly, the Astros-Cardinals series is the first postseason series in at least a couple years in which all games have been won by the home team -- so far. The Red Sox jumped out to an early 6-run lead thanks to yet another homer by Ortiz, and a grand slam by Johnny Damon, who has been ice cold lately. In Game 7 of the ALCS last year, the Yanks came back from five runs down to win; can they somehow recover from a six-run deficit this year???
When I first saw Bronson Arroyo's failed tag on Alex Rodriguez in the 8th inning I had chilling memories of the similar game-ruining gaffe by Bill Buckner in 1986. But then the replays showed clearly that A-Rod had swatted the ball away from Arroyo's glove with his left hand, and the conferring umpires quickly made things right, after which the outraged fans started throwing balls onto the field. Things soon calmed down after riot police took up positions, averting a possible forfeit but spoiling the atmosphere nonetheless. Thanks for leaving a sour taste in our mouths, A-Rod! Let's not forget the incredibly brave pitching performance by Curt Schilling, who somehow lasted SEVEN full innings, in spite of his fragile ankle. The deciding game this evening will be extremely tense, which raises the ugly possibility of another brawl.
The Montreal Expos franchise is officially on the auction block. Do I hear $300 million? The ultimate price will be greatly inflated by virtue of the publicly-subsidized future stadium in D.C., the "extortionary" price of admission made necessary by the obstructionism of Peter Angelos. Interested parties should contact mlb.com. In Washington, opponents of city funding for a new stadium seem resigned to defeat, as no one has any better ideas on how to revitalize the South Capitol Street neighborhood. See the Washington Post.
I've just read a book that provides a lot of insight into the recent (and yet-unfinished) struggle over the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. It's Playing Hardball: The High Stakes Battle for Baseball's New Franchises (1993), by Donald Whitford. It focuses mainly on the long campaign by Denver (and Colorado) to land a big league franchise, either via relocation or expansion. Their long sojourn in the "wilderness" is similar to what Washington has been through, except that Denver never had big league ball, and the nearest alternative big league team for them was several hundred miles away. The other case was the Florida Marlins, whose original owner Wayne Huizenga emerged from the pack of franchise contenders quite suddenly, in contrast to Denver. This illustrates how modern baseball has increasingly come under control of flamboyant risk-taking tycoons whose ties to their local communities are often weak. Two other themes in the book are fascinating to me: the persistent role of politicians who get carried away trumpeting economic development spinoffs (such as then-Denver mayor Federico Peña, who later served as U.S. Secretary of Transportation), and the unique personal styles of the successive MLB commissioners who struggle to balance heavy pressure from owners while justifying baseball's special monopoly status as a matter of public interest. How would baseball have evolved in the 1990s if Bart Giamatti had lived a full life?
The 2002 Archives and 2003 Archives pages have been cleaned up, and there are now links enabling you to jump from one postseason "scoreboard" to another. (Pretty handy, huh?) Games won by the visiting team are now shaded olive, which reveals some interesting patterns. Another bit of odd trivia I've discovered: there were NO extra-inning games in the 2002 postseason.