It’s Over, But … Game 6, Game 7

As it stands now, I’m understanding of the Cardinals’ victory in Game 7. They deserve it. Texas did not, not with the way their offense and pitching (and managing) failed in the final two games.

I’m avoiding coverage of the Cardinals at the moment. It might be a few days until I return to reading about baseball! I assume Freese was named MVP of the World Series. He certainly deserves it.

So in the meantime, enjoy what I wrote after the rollercoaster ride of Game 6.

* * *

If I live to be 100, I doubt I will ever see such an up-the-wall-and-around-the-bend baseball game as I did last night. Errors, clutch hits, terrible pitching, brilliant pitching, several game-tying and go-ahead hits, heart-stopping two-out/two-strike hits, managerial mistakes, silly defensive strategies, a bases-loaded pickoff at third, three — count’em — THREE BLOWN SAVES IN ONE GAME by Rangers’ pitching, and one disgusting turn of Mike Napoli’s ankle. (Yuck.)

I went to bed a sweaty, deranged mess.

People who say baseball is boring should be forced to watch this game over and over again. As it is, this game will stand for the ages, especially if the Cardinals go on to win Game 7. If they do, Freese’s triple will stand alongside such memorable plays as The Shot Heard ‘Round The World, The Catch, Kirk Gibson’s ’88 home run, The One that Got Through Buckner’s Legs, Bucky Dent’s 1978 home run, the Bloody Sock, and Luis Gonzalez’s Bloop Single. Even clutch plays that ultimately end in a series loss — such as Jeter’s 2001 home run — can end up as part of storied baseball lore.

That Freese is a St. Louis native only adds to the cachet. He can go the way of Aaron Boone in 2003 and still never have to pay for a beer in this city again.

However, if the Rangers win it, they will have done so despite the horrendous, inept, by-the-book, situationally-unaware managing of Ron Washington. One of my favorite baseball tirades is that “the manager doesn’t matter much.” That’s true over the long haul of the regular season, when the players’ talents on the field tend to outweigh chance. However, in the context of a single game, with all its reliance on chance and luck, and especially in the win-or-go-home World Series, the importance of managers’ decisions is magnified greatly.

Washington showed us that last night:

  • See his refusal to remove Colby Lewis with a one-run lead, the bases loaded, and two outs earlier in the game. Colby had been pitching well, but not well enough to justify staying in the game in that situation, especially not with the Rangers’ (normally lockdown) bulllpen. He struck out swinging as AL pitchers are wont to do.
  • See his stubborn reliance on Ogando, who has clearly lost what skill he had after starting games for most of the season. Ogando walked two and forced in a run.
  • See his removal of Feldman, absolutely his best pitcher remaining, in favor of … Esteban German … with Napoli at first, to play for one measly base, forcing Lowe into the game.
  • See his stubborn refusal to bat his best hitter (NAP-OH-LEE) higher in the order.

Yes, it still comes down to the players. Ogando, Feliz, and Feldman were not up to their tasks. Mark Lowe is who he is. Cruz dropped a key fly ball, and let’s not even talk about the errors Michael Young made at first.

But this is Washington’s deal. Either he felt Game 6 was not necessary due to some confidence in Matt Harrison for Game 7 or he just cannot manage in NL ballparks. Maybe he has some secret knowledge of Chris Carpenter that we do not, some kryptonite weakpoint that he feels will be Carp’s undoing. More than likely, he is just who he is, a manager who gets by on the strength of his players, so when they falter or go through slumps as sometimes happens, he has no recourse for victory.

The nail in his coffin is that, to the media at least, he absolved himself of any blame, saying things like “It just wasn’t meant to be.” Notice the passive voice in that statement, rivaling the infamous “mistakes were made.” Um, that’s bullshit dude. No higher power or force of fate is controlling this game (despite Hamilton’s insistence that God told him he’d hit that home run). Nothing is meaning this game to be anything. You are in control. Man the fuck up and take some responsibility for your actions. If you can’t recognize your own weak points, especially in situations like these, you are doomed, just doomed.

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