Since I was raised in Chicago, I still have a susceptibility to lapse into Storyline Sportswriting every now and then. You know what I mean. Where you make your analysis based on what would make the best screenplay and not how the actual play on the field is likely to go. You would think that 1984, 1989, and 2003 would have cured me of this, but the tendency still lingers. Since I take my responsibilities as blogwriter very seriously, I try and work out all of my inclinations to work postseason straw into Storyline Gold through another outlet. I talk to my father.
My dad is a great baseball fan, but the statistical revolution has completely passed him by. His impressions of players are formed entirely based on what they have done in the recent past against the Cubs, which is why he thinks that Brad Ausmus is a Hall of Famer. He believes in Tony La Russa, perhaps because he used to manage the White Sox, and perhaps because they are both lawyers. "Never underestimate La Russa in the World Series," he says. "Dad, if you leave out 1989, La Russa is 1-12 in World Series games." "Yes, but don't underestimate him."
So, anyway, in our pregame discussion yesterday, I let loose with the Storyline stuff. I couldn't help it. It's not like my dad is going to remember if everything I say turns out to be wrong. (So Taguchi for MVP, baby.) There are two storylines I like very much with regards to the Cardinals' chances of pulling off the upset. Neither makes much logical sense, but I think I have adequately constructed my disclaimer by this point so let's push ahead. First: the Tigers celebrated winning the ALCS and even the division series as if they had just won the war in Europe. I read way too many columns about those special moments, celebrating with the city of Detroit, bringing joy back to the depressed city. To which I respond, gee, what about the Red Wings and Pistons? And also, whatever happened to that beautiful old axiom, "Act like you've been there before?" I love that axiom. I think the Tigers have angered the baseball gods by excessively celebrating the mostly unremarkable accomplishments of winning a division series and trampling over the crippled A's. Who remembers World Series losers, let alone who won a given division series? That has to bring on some kind of bad karma.
Here's the other one. Until last night, nobody had punched the Tigers in the face yet in this postseason. We don't know yet how they will react to a good, solid, square-shouldered face punch. The Yankees punched themselves in the stomach after Game 1, and the A's came to a boxing match with fuzzy mittens in the ALCS. I had my doubts that the Cardinals would leave the ring without delivering at least one solid blow to the face. Honestly, I didn't think it would be the first game, I figured it would be Chris Carpenter's start, but here you have it. The Tigers' free-swinging approach works beautifully when they jump out to an early lead. Their great bullpen gives them a huge advantage when it's close and late. But what happens when they get behind early? As you saw last night, they press something awful, swinging at first and second pitches and not only giving the Cardinals Game 1 but also allowing their biggest disadvantage for Game 2 (tired relief arms) to mostly fade away. So forget being a team of destiny, now we get to see what the Tigers are really made of. You know what? I'd like to see them storm right back and win Game 2. It's been too long since we've seen as real classic punch-counterpunch World Series. I realize with these teams Fox would just as soon see the series end in a sweep so they can go back to airing World's Funniest Pornography Bloopers, but for us remaining baseball fans, it'd be nice to see a real barnburner. The NLCS had its moments but didn't really count.
Well, easy one today. For pitching to Albert Pujols with a man on, first base open, and two outs...YOU SUCK, JIM LEYLAND!
Oh yeah: You can hear me make fun of Jim Leyland with my speaking voice tonight around 9 (Mountain time) on the Artificial Turf show on KNUS radio, 710 AM in Denver. There is a hi-tech internet feed here.