This World Series has offered a little bit for everyone.
Boston dominated the first game. The Cardinals rebounded to take Game 2 on the road. The next two served up endings never before seen in the World Series.
Baseball can be a tedious sport to watch. Long periods of virtually nothing happening followed by brief periods of intensity that rival any other sport. As a former sports editor, baseball was always the hardest one to photograph. Planning and a bit of luck were better than even lightning fast reflexes. If you don’t have the camera already focused and aimed at the hot corner, there is no way you’re going to get the shot of the third baseman diving for a ripper in the gap.
So I watched with anxious ardor as Game 3 entered the bottom of the ninth. A long-time Cardinal fan, we used to make yearly journeys up I-55 to the old Busch Stadium, when the final play unfolded, I knew what was happening instantly. When Allen Craig stumbled over Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks, I immediately extended my right arm parallel to the ground and waited to see what happened. I was not surprised when Craig was ruled safe, even though he was tagged. What surprised me was that the official near third base was not making the same signal as me.
In baseball, there are certain infractions that don’t stop play immediately. Obstruction calls fall in that category. Yes Craig was obstructed, but he had to make the effort to run home in order to get the benefit of the call. If he just sat there at third, the officials would not award him the extra base. And the signal that the remainder of the play could be challenged is the official holding one arm out horizontal for the remainder of the play. The official held his arm out briefly, but it looked like he dropped it so he could pay attention to the action about to unfold 90 feet away.
I felt sorry for the Red Sox fans but as soon as Craig got up and attempted to run home, the Cardinals had won the game. It didn’t matter if he was thrown out by 10 feet.
The Irony gods took over for the finale of Game 4. St. Louis was down by two but had one of its best hitters at the plate and a fleet-footed rookie on first base. But in a move so quick that it caught nearly everyone in the stadium (including all but one television camera man) off guard, Kolten Wong was picked off at first for the final out of the game.
A World Series game had never ended on an obstruction call or a pickoff before, but on back-to-back nights in Missouri, that’s exactly what happened.
I find most professional sports hard to watch because of (the bending of) rules designed to increase scoring and attract fans/viewers. The biggest offender is the continuation rule in the NBA. Don’t even get me started.
What’s wrong with baseball? In my opinion, it is the strike zone, home runs, designated hitters, hit batsmen and collisions at the plate.
I would LOVE to see umpires call the strike zone the way it is described in the rule book – from the knees to the letters, basically the nipples. But batters prefer pitches from the waist to the shins, so that’s where the ‘strike zone’ has migrated. If pitchers had that upper realm above the waist called as a strike, batters would never see those low, butter zone fastballs that are often tattooed over the fence.
That brings up home runs. The Cardinals had about a quarter of their runs come off homers this year, the lowest percentage in the majors. Home runs are boring, unless they are the inside-the-park variety, which is without a doubt the most exciting play in baseball. I think the MLB should mandate bigger stadiums. Most high school fields have a left field fence farther away than Fenway Park.
Designated hitter. It’s fine for high school kids with limited abilities. If you are being paid a bajillion dollars to play the game, you need to learn how to swing a bat. Enough said.
Nothing is more annoying than watching a batter just stand there and let a pitch hit them. The rule book says you have to make an effort to get out of the way. If I was behind the plate and a batter didn’t move, he wouldn’t get first base. Television icon Joe Buck Jr. wondered if the elbow pads pro players wear made them oblivious. If you have a bare elbow, you’re not going to just stand there and let a 100-mph fastball hit it. I know I would move.
That leaves one issue. In Little League, junior high, high school and even college, base runners are told they have to slide and catchers are told they can’t block the plate without the ball. All that changes when you get to The Show. If I want to see two players collide at full speed, I will watch football. They have the padding to protect them. The idea of watching unprotected players to collide at full speed only seems to beg for a catastrophic injury.
Just ask Ray Fosse. He was playing catcher in the 1970 All-Star game. Then Pete Rose lowered the boom. As Fosse waited to field the ball in what was no more than an exhibition game, Charlie Hustle mowed him down, ruining Fosse’s left shoulder.
If Rose had slid, Fosse would have escaped the injury that hampered him for the next nine years in the majors. Instead, Rose used the play to foster his Charlie Hustle persona.
William Moore is the Senior Editor at Gulf Coast Newspapers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org