11 July 2007

The 78th Midsummer Matchup

My earliest distinct baseball memories are from the 1967 World Series. They still played day games then. I remember coming home from school and being disappointed to learn that the St. Louis Cardinals had beaten my Mom's team, the Boston Red Sox, in the deciding 7th game. "Lonborg didn't have it today" was Mom's explanation for the end of 'Impossible Dream' season. I remember vividly Willie McCovey's MVP season in 1969, and Dad taking us to Candlestick Park to see the Giants (featuring slugging leadoff hitter Bobby Bonds) beat the eventual World Series winners Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1 of the 1971 NL playoffs. This was the era of National League dominance in the All-Star Game. From 1959 (my birth year) until 1987 the AL only won 5 times. The NL piled up 27 wins during that span (2 games were played from '59-'62), including streaks of 8 in a row and 11 in a row (there was one tie). Being a Giants--and hence NL--fan, I was convinced in my youthful ignorance that NL players were simply better. These days of course, the AL routinely whips the NL. After the NL's win in 1987 (a playoff year for the Giants, 1st since '71), the AL won the next six. The NL won three in a row, from 1994-1996, when the Giants were the worst team in the league. From 1997 on it has been all AL, with one tie. The shift of talent to the AL is obvious, and the "junior circuit" is clearly superior, much like the NL in the 60's and 70's. Last night's game showed the clear imbalance: the AL starting lineup had their league's leading hitter, Magglio Ordonez, batting in the 6th spot! The 3rd-string catcher, Victor Martinez, hit a home run. The winner, Boston ace Josh Beckett, won a World Series MVP with the NL Florida Marlins before jumping leagues. Ultimately the game is meaningless. It is, and should be, an exhibition, nothing more. The misguided attempt by Bud Selig to "make it count" by deciding the World Series home-field advantage is silly. Home-field should be given to the team with the best record, period. The old method of alternating was at least fair, though a bit dull. The NBA and NHL run vastly more complex playoff schedules, and manage to reward winning teams with home-field, so what is your problem, Bud? If it was up to me, each team would send 5 players, and we'd get a complete roster change every inning. The game would go 9 innings and all players would be required to get an appearance. The home run derby is absurdly long and terribly dull, and TV's attempts to make it interesting reek of desperation. Face it, the game is lousy on TV, much like football (i.e., 'soccer'). These are games of wide open spaces--the closeups TV loves so much take away all that is beautiful to the serious fan. Ichiro's inside-the-park homer had no drama because you couldn't see him running! We had to follow the camera follow Ken Giffey, Jr., and never (except in replay) got to see Suzuki's speed on the basepaths. I usually skip Bud's Fiasco, but had to watch Barry and my beloved ballpark. Even then, the game did not hold my interest. I'll admit it is mostly because the Giants stink, I mean really stink, and the season is a long bitter pull at this point. At least tomorrow we will have some REAL baseball again.
a.d. V Id.Iul.


Dave Bacon said...

I've often wished TV would go to a multiple split screen for baseball. There are at least two points of action in pretty much every event in the game, and often there are even more.

Perhaps this is also why baseball is so much better on the radio: you get to hear the story of what happened, not an instant replay focused on soley on the baseball.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Yeah, I love the radio, that is how I my Mom introduced me to the game. Lon Simmons and the KSFO jingle will always be in my head!