This blog has been silent through the September wild card chases, and it took the Indians’ disheartening performance last night to stir me to write again.
Although their pitching ranged from acceptable to excellent, the Indians failed utterly at the plate. I credit a gutty performance by the Rays’ starter for much of that, but the Tribe’s inability to drive in runs was largely their own doing.
The worst was Nick Swisher striking out late in the game with two men on and a great chance to score. Swisher took three vicious, aim-for-Lake-Erie cuts. The first? OK. Why not take a chance. But the second and third roundhouse swings were inexcusable when solid contact putting the ball in play would have brought something good. Every kid in Cleveland who ever played sandlot ball knows that. But Buckeye native Swisher evidently forgot. The Indians’ hopes for a comeback evaporated as he headed back to the bench.
The one-game wild card playoff is just another tease to lure Indians’ fans into another round of false hope. I imagine in a year or two, Major League Baseball will, in an effort to squeeze out even more TV revenue, propose another pre-qualifying round of playoffs, maybe with five-inning games, all to tantalize and taunt Cleveland fans (increasingly few who remain alive or in memory of the last champions from 1948). For 2013, we’re stuck with the memory of watching the Rays — an expansion team that plays in a dome — celebrate at Jacobs Field while our guys sat glumly in the dugout.
Realistically, the Indians were lucky even to get a shot in the post-season, which lasted a measly three-plus hours. During the season, they beat up on the weaklings (many in their own hapless AL Central Division) and struggled against the elite teams, most shamefully against Detroit.
No, this was not a championship-caliber team, and we Tribe fans will endure another gray winter needled by a bitter wind off Lake Erie, waiting for a new season to begin. On this sad, predictable morning, it’s tough to find hope amid the pain.
I’m looking back on the 2012 season and realizing that this is one of those rare years in which I didn’t see a major league baseball game in person.
Having switched jobs and coasts in May, I left California before having a chance to see the Giants or Athletics play at home. My two cross-country drives to get our cars out east were too hurried to route by way of a big-league stadium. And once I got east for good, I never found the time to run down to Philadelphia or head up to New York to catch the Phillies, Yankees or Mets.
I managed to catch plenty of games on TV, radio and especially on the MLB app on my iPhone. I did get to see one minor league game on each coast, the Nuts in Modesto and the Thunder in Trenton. Thank goodness for that.
Also on the plus side, we finally got ourselves high-definition TV this summer, and it’s been great to see those major league parks come alive on the screen in our family room.
But as for seeing a game live and in person, I’ll have to invoke the eternal cry of Cubs fans: Wait ’til next year!
[Note: This post was composed during the baseball playoffs but I never posted it until now.]
Who was the best manager in baseball in 2012? I’m going with Bob Melvin of the Oakland Athletics.
My criteria are twofold: I go with the skipper whose team is a winner and whose team achieved its success in disproportion to its expectations and talent.
By those standards, Melvin is a slam dunk (and I apologize for using a basketball term).
Think about it. Did anyone seriously believe as the season started that the Oakland Athletics could make a serious run at the America League West title given the powerhouse teams assembled by the defending champs in Texas and the Pujols-improved Angels?
Did anyone seriously think after the first two months of the season that the A’s could turn it around and contend for the division title?
Did anyone seriously think with about a month to go that Oakland — improbably staying afloat in the wild card race — would be able to overtake the Rangers and emerge as division champions?
No siree, Bob.
So here’s my ballot for the BBA Connie Mack Award:
1. Bob Melvin, Oakland
2. Buck Showalter, Baltimore (You can make a case for him as No 1, certainly, but I give Melvin the edge for overcoming even lower expectations than the birds had)
3. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco (I know, I know. I’m a Giants fan. But look how the Giants responded when Melky Cabrera went away for steroids and the Dodgers spent their way to a title except they ended up eating the G-men’s dust.)
Honorable mention: Joe Girardi, who probably was a contender for the Nobel Prize in medicine this year, given all the Yankees’ injuries; Davey Johnson, because he brought the Nationals to the playoffs and the best record in the NL.
On these posts I’ve complained, whined and kvetched about how America’s major television networks and the media overall are obsessed with the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Super Bowl XLVI is upon us, and we have another Boston-New York matchup with the Patriots and Giants. The network executives must be mighty pleased that those two big northeastern markets are reprented, but NFL execs are always pleased with whatever teams are playing.
The Super Bowl is the biggest thing in sports – in this country, anyway – and it will draw monster ratings even if Tennessee is playing Tampa Bay. The big game rules regardless of the market size of the competing teams.
In the NFL, talent is dispersed, dynasties are rare and most teams have at least a strong hope every few years at getting a shot at glory. Except maybe the Cleveland Browns.
There’s a lesson for Major League Baseball in the NFL’s universal success. Football has unified national appeal. Baseball, while enjoying broad appeal nationwide, is at heart a region-by-region, market-by-market affair. And the game pays a price for that.
Posted in Baseball, Football, TV
Tagged broadcasting, Cleveland Browns, Major League Baseball, MLB, National Football League, New England Patriots, New York Giants, NFL, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVI, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, television, Tennessee Titans, TV
Anyone reading my blog knows I’ll buy a baseball cap at, well, at the drop of a hat. But the All-Star game caps just don’t do it for me, this year or any year.
The design is actually not bad. But I just can’t get excited about a batting practice cap. It’s so manufactured, not authentic like a real MLB cap.
If I were at the game and all its sideshows, I might feel differently.
Of all the surprises in this first full month of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, the most stunning has to be the improbable success of the Cleveland Indians. Winning 9-5 on a walk-off grand slam last night by Carlos Santana, the Tribe improved to 17-8, the most April victories in franchise history.
The Indians will try for No. 18 tonight. It would be their 12th straight home win.
Even at a distance of 2,500 miles from my hometown, I can feel the excitement.
As a lifelong Tribe fan, I know this streak likely won’t last. But I’ll enjoy it for all it’s worth.
I turned on the car radio this afternoon hoping to catch a baseball game only to find a couple of NBA playoff games. I found that a bit depressing – not because I don’t like the NBA, but because it’s April 16 and these are just the first games of the first round.
The hockey playoffs got started earlier in the week – again, I like the NHL a lot – but they’ll drag on until June, skating parallel with the NBA.
For fans, there should be a couple of golden months each year when the sports overlap. September, say, when the NFL cranks up and the baseball races tighten up. And I’m OK with April sharing the glory with the new baseball season and the hockey and basketball playoffs.
But late May? June? No. That’s time for baseball. And November? Save it for football.
Posted in Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey
Tagged Baseball, baseball season, MLB, NBA, NBA playoffs, NFL, NHL, NHL playoffs