Last night the Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers 5-2 in last night’s Game 6 of the ALCS, winning the series four games to two. Boston will face the storied St Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic, a rematch of the 2004 World Series when the Sox swept the Cards and broke 86 years of heartbreak to win their first title since 1918. Last night Victorino hit a grand slam in the seventh off Jose Veras, on a hanging curveball down the middle on an 0-2 count.
That 2004 Series was a surreal event, to be sure. I had just returned from Iraq, where, as the Sox made a charge to the AL East title (and traded their star shortstop in the middle of the season), then-Colonel Joe Dunford and I would prognosticate, half jokingly, that “this was the year”. Colonel Dunford, a Boston native, had as a kid delivered newspapers to Jerry Adair of the storied 1967 Sox team. Also with us at Blue Diamond was Major McNamara, the son of the Red Sox manager (John McNamara) of the 1986 team that lost to the Mets. Mike was less a Sox fan than we, as his old man was all but run out of town the next season. (Boston is a tough place to manage baseball!) After the crushing disappointment of 1986 (I couldn’t watch anything to do with that series until after the Sox won in 2004, for fear I would kick my television set in), and 1978, and 1975, and 1974, grasping that they finally had won a World Series in 2004 took a while. “What now?” was the overwhelming thought once the euphoria faded. And more than a few of us started looking around for other signs of the Apocalypse.
Boston had also matched up against St Louis in 1967, when the “Impossible Dream” Sox won the AL Pennant as 100:1 long shots, and in 1946, which was Ted Williams’ only Series appearance. In 1967 and in 1946, the Cardinals won in seven games. In 2004, Boston won 4-0. Now they are facing off again with St Louis. I love that. The Cards have a rich tradition of excellence. The Gas House Gang. Dean. Musial. Gibson. Brock. The Sox, of course, do, too. Ruth, Williams. Doerr. Pesky. Joe Wood. Yaz and Rice. Fisk. Yes, Clemens. And now Ortiz and Pedroia and Ellsbury. Should be a good and exciting series.
A couple of things I do lament about how the game is played today… This infatuation with “pitch counts” and “match-ups” is a very new thing. Time was a good pitcher could go nine innings more than half the time, and had pitches he could throw the third and fourth time through the line-up. Now, these pitchers are treated as fragile things, limited to 100 or 110 pitches while in their prime. Throw 200 innings, and you are a “work-horse”. Pitch into the seventh inning and it is a good start. Not long ago, pitchers threw 250-300 innings a year routinely. Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver and Don Sutton routinely exceeded 300 innings a year, with no effect on their arms or longevity. Even Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez threw 280-plus most years, and they retired only a few years ago. I remember watching Louis Tiant, at age 37 (supposedly), throw 168 pitches in a single game in the 1975 series. Managers should tell pitchers to be in shape for nine innings every time out, and the ones that can’t, don’t stay. And pitchers should be able to get out right-handed and left-handed hitters. This idea of “specialists” taking up a roster spot would have caused Earl Weaver’s head to explode. Either you can pitch in the majors or you can’t.
While I am bitching, I have just one more thing. Can someone invent a Tim McCarver mute button?