Tuesday, November 01, 2016


World Series 2016

The World Series may have concluded last night. That is, if the Cleveland Indians were to defeat the Chicago Cubs in the sixth game of their best of seven series. However, if the Cubs won last night, the final game will be played this evening in Cleveland. In either case, the game will likely be close. Most of the other games in the Series have been close, determined at the end of the ninth inning.

There is one thing I would like to see at the end of the Series, after the final out is made. I would like to see the teams line up, on the infield, and graciously shake hands, as is done after every major hockey championship. Well, maybe not graciously. Many of these players are friends off the field; many have played for both teams; many come from the same cities in Latin America. It would give a brief moment for the losers to say, “Great job,” and the winners to acknowledge that.

The one thing I do not want to see is little minions scampering around the victors trying to place goofy hats on their heads, and ridiculous shirts on their backs. “Hey!” they shout to the players, “I know you have the name of your team on your shirt, and your team logo on your hat, but Major League Baseball wants to sell tons of these goofy hats and shirts, and we want you to promote this”. Most of them will be soaked in champagne after the game, and will end up in the laundry bins. The players are obligated to do this, and they look uncomfortable doing so. But I imagine there is money involved. Therein lies the motivation.

One of the ingredients in this Series, perhaps moreso than any previous Series, is that managers are constantly replacing players with other players, especially pitchers. The Indians like to get five innings out of starting pitchers, then revert to their strong bullpen to seal the deal. Andrew Miler is almost unhitable when he takes over in the middle innings. Allen mops up at the end of the game. The Cubs use the same approach, and rely on Aroldis Chapman and his hundred-mile-an-hour fastball to finish games.

Both managers move around other players as well, especially in the late innings, for defensive purposes. In a recent game, the Indians brought in Yan Gomes to catch. Blue Jay fans may remember Gomes, as he broke into the major leagues with the Jays in 2012. He was the first Brazilian to play major league baseball. He was traded to the Indians after that season. Gomes did not play baseball until he was 12 years old, having refined his athletic skills on the soccer pitch. In 2014, he won the Silver Slugger Award for catchers in the American League.

As is always the case, there has been a fair amount of controversy about the “Strike Zone”, and the calls made by the home plate umpire. It has been a bone of contention since the game began. If a batter has three balls and no strikes, how good does a pitch really have to be in order to be rung up as a strike? An inch or two off the plate? Steeeerike! Six inches too low? Steeerike! It got so bad in the late 1960s that Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox led the American League in hitting with a .301 batting average. Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals won the ERA title with a 1.12 ERA, unheard of in today's game.

No one likes to strike out, especially looking at a third strike that may be out of the strike zone. Many catchers are adept at “framing pitches”. After they catch the ball, the move their glove slightly into the strike zone to help the umpire make the call. If I were behind the plate, I might gently put my size ten into the catcher's rump and remind him not to attempt to affect my opinion.

I believe baseball did the right thing by involving replays and challenges for many of the calls made by umpires. Even the foul poles have been enlarged to get rid of the guess work. But when it comes to balls and strikes, those decisions should be left to the umpires. With the game on the line, in the ninth inning, with tying and winning runs on base, an umpire must have the wherewithall to make the call. That should never be left to a machine.

May the best team win!!

James Hurst
November 1, 2016

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