Wednesday, October 23, 2002
World Series diary: Game 4
By Rob Neyer
I tuned in just in time to learn that Mark McGwire's 62nd home run finished fourth in the voting for Major League Baseball's Most Memorable Moment.
As some of you might remember, I mocked this whole enterprise a few months ago, mostly because many of the "moments" weren't moments at all. In the back of my mind, I knew the results would be announced tonight, but it wasn't until I turned on the TV at 5:20 and saw video of McGwire's line drive skimming over the left-field fence -- I was in St. Louis that night, so it's certainly a memorable moment for me -- that I remembered that tonight's the night.
So I caught the last four moments: McGwire, Robinson, Aaron, and Ripken. The finale was predictable, of course. The media has spent so many years canonizing Ripken that he had to win. I was pretty surprised that The Shot Heard 'Round the World didn't even make the top 10, though. Especially after all the publicity it's received over the last couple of years. But if you look at the top 10, you'll see that the list is dominated by famous names. It's ridiculous to suggest that Nolan Ryan's seventh no-hitter was more memorable than Bobby Thomson's home run; does anybody even remember what year Ryan threw his last no-no? But most of the voting was done by casual fans, and casual fans know the name, Nolan Ryan. So that's where the votes went.
By the way, not to sound cynical or anything, but I hope you all noticed the heights of Commissioner Bud's hypocrisy. Pete Rose, as you'll recall, was not allowed to participate last month in the ceremonies attending the Cincinnati Reds' last game at Riverfront Stadium. Yet there he was, on the field before a World Series game, baseball's biggest stage. Why? Because MasterCard paid millions of dollars to Major League Baseball for the privilege of sponsoring this promotion. And in the twisted world that Bud Selig inhabits -- and let's be honest, it's the same world that most of the rest of us inhabit, too -- millions trump principle just about every time.
I'm happy to see Pete Rose on the field, wearing his Reds cap over his brown-dyed hair. But thinking about how Rose got there makes me want to take a long, hot shower. With plenty of soap.
Despite David Bell's error and Garret Anderson's grounder up the middle, Kirk Rueter escaped the first inning without giving up a run. What's the best thing that can happen to the Giants tonight? Rueter throws five or six shutout innings, as his pals in the lineup are building a big lead. This would allow Baker -- assuming of course that he's smart enough -- to lift Rueter with the idea of bringing him back to start Game 7, if there is a Game 7. Because the way things are set up right now, Livan Hernandez would pitch Game 7, and unless Eric Gregg is suddenly called out of his enforced retirement, that would mean big trouble for San Francisco.
Anybody out there who doesn't think that luck plays a big role in baseball? The Giants' first hitter of the game reached base on a dribbler that sneaked past the pitcher, and their second hitter reached base on a ducksnort down the right-field line, courtesy of a no-balls-and-two-strikes, swing-if-it's-close hack.
Wow, talk about your intentional walk "working." With runners on first and third, Scioscia put Bonds on base. You know, the Angels were supposedly going to pitch to Bonds, "depending on the situation." Perhaps, but the situations have changed since last week. After what Bonds did to Troy Percival's best fastball in Game 2, whatever macho impulse was in the Angels is now mostly gone when Mr. Bonds is holding a bat in his hands. There's macho, and there's (apparent) insanity.
So Bonds got his four balls, and then the Angels got their double play from Benito Santiago, who's certainly one of the worst No. 5 hitters in recent Series history.
Someday, John Lackey's at-bat may represent this World Series in a nutshell. As a professional baseball player, he's never swung a bat in anger before tonight. But he's an Angel, and so when he swings the bat, the ball winds up dropping into the outfield, untouched until it's too late.
Here's a question ... How many times is Kenny Lofton going to do something stupid in the 2002 World Series? With the bases loaded and one out, David Eckstein lifts a fly ball to left-center field, medium depth. Bonds has a better angle for a throw home, but Lofton calls him off to make the catch, then uncorks a weak throw to the plate and Benji Gil easily scores from third.
Lofton played fairly well for the Giants after coming over in the trade -- he's certainly better than Shinjo or Benard -- but with one thrilling exception he's been awful throughout the postseason, both at the plate and in the outfield.
We're not an hour into Game 4, and I'm wondering if this World Series might essentially be over. Rueter fell behind Troy Glaus, who hit his seventh home run in this postseason, and the Angels lead 3-0. Joe Sheehan thinks that Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz can win Games 5 and 6 for the Giants, and of course they can.
Here we go again. Runners on second and third, one out. Four balls to Bonds.
Last night in Jim Baker's chat on ESPN.com, somebody suggested that intentional walks be outlawed.
My first reaction was, "Huh? That's crazy talk."
My second reaction was, "Gee, the more I think about it, the more it doesn't seem like such a terrible idea. Yes, the intentional walk does increase a manager's options, and there's something interesting about that. But isn't it more interesting to actually see the hitters hit?"
My third reaction was, "Even if you wanted to outlaw intentional walks, how would you do it? Baseball tried this once, by forcing catchers to have their feet in the catcher's box when the pitch was delivered. That didn't work, though, because of course the catcher can just jump outside after the pitch is delivered. Like it or not, pitchers will always be able to throw four unhittable pitches if that's what they're trying to do."
And my fourth reaction was, "Fine, but penalize them for it. If you really wanted to eliminate intentional walks, you could make a simple rule: If a pitcher doesn't throw one strike before he throws four balls, the batter proceeds all the way to second base, and all runners advance as many bases as necessary. It's radical, but it would spell the end of the intentional walk. And it's probably the only way."
Anyway, Santiago -- remember when he was everybody's darling? -- killed the inning with yet another double play. Just goes to show (again) that anybody can have a big week or two. But the longer you play, the greater the chance he'll hit like he's supposed to. And Santiago's supposed to hit like a 37-year-old catcher with a 720 career OPS.
Youneverknow. Dusty Baker, hamstrung by his horrible bench, lets Rueter hit for himself to lead off the bottom of the fifth. And somehow, Rueter "hits" a little tapper that Lackey can't handle in time.
Never seen that one before. Kenny Lofton just laid down a bunt that was fair, then foul, then fair again. So thanks to two very unlikely singles, the Giants have a great chance to get right back in this game.
Which they did, thanks to Aurilia's RBI single. Kent and Bonds coming up. Well, and Santiago, too. Giants better hope there's not a man on first when that happens ...
Youneverknow, part two. Bonds got walked again -- and he must now own the record for intentional walks in a World Series game -- but this time Santiago came through with an RBI single to tie the game. As a baseball fan, I suddenly feel like the world is right again.
David Bell just got thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Thrown out by quite a few feet, by Garret Anderson. And you know that if he'd been safe, everybody would be raving about what a great play that was. About how Bell is so smart, always hustling, etc. But going for second base with nobody out in the sixth inning of a tie game is pretty stupid unless you know you can make it.
Bell's gaffe looks all the more gaffish now that pinch-hitter Tom Goodwin has walked (youneverknow, part three).
Talking to my colleague Jim Baker on the phone, and Jim says, "OK, here's where the Francisco Rodriguez train derails."
Jeff Kent's leading off the seventh, and of course a man named Bonds is on deck.
Jim was wrong. Both Kent and Bonds were helpless against K-Rod's various sliders, and I'm left to wonder for the two-dozenth time if Rodriguez is really only 20 years old. Right now, though, that doesn't matter a whole lot. What matters right now is that Barry Bonds probably won't bat again until the 10th inning.
It's Reggie Sanders' time to shine, but Dusty's making him bunt. There's a runner on second base, thanks to single and a passed ball, and nobody out.
I don't think this is the worst spot in the world for a bunt -- 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth -- but it's always risky to ask a player to do something he's not often asked to do. Reggie Sanders didn't lay down a sacrifice bunt all season, and he's got only four sacrifice hits over the last four seasons.
Sanders fouled out to a diving Scott Spiezio while attempting to bunt. Great move, Dusty.
Baker was right, but an inning too early. David Bell -- see, I told you the Mariners never should have let him get away -- came through with a single to plate J.T. Snow, who nearly dislocated both of his legs while unnecessarily "sliding" home. Francisco Rodriguez was bound to give up a couple of hits eventually, but you wonder if maybe he's a little weary, as much as he's pitched lately.
6-3 double play, the Series is all tied up, and it seems the Angels can't score whenever they feel like it, after all.
Before the Series, I thought the Giants had a slight edge. I guess there's no reason to change that prediction now, but there's really no good reason to favor one team over the other. If the Angels can win just one of the next two games, they get to face a Game 7 lineup that includes a DH batting ninth and Livan Hernandez pitching.