To borrow a line from Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again” – for the second October in a row one of our two big league baseball teams went down in flames in post season competition following THE BIG PLAY. This year was a real zinger. Early in Game One, the Dodgers had two base runners tagged out at home on the same play – whoops! Kudos to the L.A. Times for the best next-day headline: “Don’t Try This at Home.” You may recall that last year the Angels had a goofy play early in their AL championship series with the White Sox when journeyman catcher Josh Paul failed to put a simple tag on a batter after a strike three ball in the dirt – the batter advanced to first base keeping the inning alive. The White Sox eventually won the game. The Angels never seemed to recover from THE BIG PLAY, while the White Sox went on to win the World Series. It all points out just how tough baseball is. To borrow again from Mr. Berra, “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.”
Speaking of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, few seem to notice that the Boys of Orange County finished the regular season with a better record than that of the Dodgers. After a horrific start (which I blame primarily on their off-season trade of catcher and team anchor Benji Molina), the Angels regrouped and actually had the best record in baseball from July 1 to the end of the regular season. Manager Mike Scioscia gets my vote for AL Manager or the Year. “Class Act of the Year” goes to Angel player Tim Salmon, all-time Angel home run hitter who retired at season’s end while still able to hit the long ball – he hit #299 on the next to last day of the season.
A couple of additional thoughts as we enter the World Series. First is more déjà vu: I vaguely recall another Dodger base running goof where two players ended on second base and were in fact arguing with each other early in the first game of a post season series. I think it was Game One of the 1959 World Series with the White Sox? (Perhaps a reader can hit my refresh memory button?) Second, too many rounds of playoffs have diluted post season play, which explains the mediocre baseball we watched in division playoffs, such as two players out at home on the same play, or last year, when the Padres made the playoffs barely over .500. Third, the World Series was a bigger cultural event when I was a kid. It was played in the daytime, not night games, and all of America found covert ways to follow the action. I remember sneaking my transistor radio into class to listen at school – it was a real challenge. Fourth, all the extra playoffs have so delayed the World Series to late October that it is just a matter of time before an early blizzard shuts down a stadium for the winter, and the Series will have to be completed at a neutral indoor venue.