Tuesday, October 23, 2007
November-A Baseball Month
For most of us, there will be a World Series. It will not be the most popular World Series in history. Granted, the Boston Red Sox snuck by the Cleveland Indians; therefore, many fans along the Eastern Seaboard will be tuning in to the games. The Rockies from Colorado surprised most of the baseball nation with their run to the title.
The Rockies won 21 of their last 22 games to get to the finals. They will be the Cinderella team in this final, and all New York fans will be cheering for them. Mets fans because the Rockies are a National League team, and Yankees fans because they could never bring themselves to cheering for the Red Sox. Not now, not ever.
Yankees fans have more than enough to think about at this time as they may be saying good bye to their beloved manager, Joe Torre.
In a series of conversations, meetings, discussions, and lies, the management team said that they had offered Joe a certain number of dollars to return to the team. Joe indicated that the terms were not acceptable.
It almost brings to mind the number of times that George Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner, hired and fired Billy Martin. It became such a joke that beer companies hired the pair of them to do commercials.
The Steinbrenner family is still involved in the operation of the Yankees. It appears that they wanted to show Joe Torre that they were in charge, and that no one individual is larger than the team. We are not talking about chump change here. Joe Torre made seven million dollars (American!) last year, as the manager. No runs, no hits, maybe a few errors, no strikeouts, no complete games. Just watching the game from the bench, hoping and praying that he could manipulate his players into positions to win games.
He surrounded himself with some of the finest retired Yankee players-young, bright, talented leaders from the recent past. Coaches are critical to a manager’s success. Don Mattingly as a batter and Ron Guidry as a pitcher dominated the game as players. They sat on the bench this season with the Yankee skipper. But for Torre, it wasn’t enough to get them past the Indians in the American League playoffs. And it wasn’t enough for the Steinbrenners.
All Canadian eyes should be on the Rockies’ starter in the first game-Jeff Francis. Born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1981, the Colorado ace will take the mound for his first World Series game on Wednesday. The lanky Canuck stands at 6’ 5”, and tips the scales at 205 pounds, soaking wet. He is a crafty hurler, and rarely gets more than half a dozen strikeouts in a game.
He also is not expected to go the distance. He had one complete game this year, a shutout. But he is among the National League leaders in winning percentage at 17-9. His ERA stands at 4.22 which seems a bit high for a premier pitcher; however, he toils at home at Coors Field.
The air is a little thin in Denver, and the ball is known to fly out of Coors. So most pitching statistics are taken with a grain of salt.
For the most part, the Rockies are a mystery to the casual baseball fan. They are expecting big things from Yorvit Torrealba, Manuel Corpas, Garrett Atkins, Kaz Matsui, Todd Helton, and Matt Holiday. There is power and speed in their lineup. They will rely on their impressive defence as well.
The Red Sox have no surprises for baseball fans. Manny will be Manny, Big Papi will watch a few monstrous home runs fly into the Colorado night. Wakefield will try to hypnotize Rockies’ batters with his knucler, and “Dice K” will offer some interesting stuff from the Red Sox mound.
The outcome is anybody’s guess. Too many variables. Plenty of talent on both benches.
Pitching, pitching, pitching. That’s what wins World Series Games. If Francis starts well, wins the first game, and comes back to win again, the Rockies might be doling out World Series rings in April at Coors Field.
Belleville’s Brad Richardson also plays in Denver, but for the hockey Avalanche. With a little luck, he will score a couple of tickets for the baseball finals. Jeff Francis has a hockey connection. His nick name is “Boomer”, given to him by his parents with a nod to “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, legendary Montreal Canadien Hall of Famer.
If the Series goes seven games, the last game will be played in Boston on the first of November. Sounds a little ridiculous for baseball. A long way from the dog days of summer. But it is all about the money, to some extent anyway. Just ask the Steinbrenners and Mister Torre.
Never mind that nonsense. Get the popcorn out of the microwave. Crack open a cold one. Watch the game.
October 23, 2007