Saturday, October 15, 2005
Allegiences Part I: ALCS
The sentimental pull for the casual observer had belonged - without question, until two nights ago - to the Chicago White Sox. The media has been selling their story - and indeed it is an easy one to sell. Much like our own Sox a year ago, the breaks are falling their way at every turn, adding a touch of magic to the quest...
But ah, emotion is fickle, sympathy a delicate balance for sports fans. One call has turned the tide. We all know it's not their fault... yet we can pull for them no longer; A gift game cannot be overlooked. As I realized the game was starting last night, I thought about how I would feel regarding either outcome: Angels win, series 2-1* huh. could've been 3-0. Nobody knows what it should be. White Sox win, series 2-1 in their favor... could've been the Angels with the edge still. It's easy to feel like that's how it should be, but let's face it: NOBODY KNOWS. Truth is, with a tie game going into extra frames, Chicago still had an advantage. Chances were good for them to win this game... we will never know.
I think I pissed some people off on Thursday by "defending" this call in a couple of places. There are quite a few areas of contention - it's not a simple situation here of "what does the replay show?" So let's go through the elements:
- Did the ball touch the dirt? Replays are somewhat inconclusive... the ball changed direction, but we don't see any dirt fly. Theory is that the ball hit the webbing of the glove before rolling up into the pocket. "Catcher's code," Jay kept repeating, when I discussed the situation with some new friends over beers on Thursday night. "He knew he had caught it cleanly, that's why he didn't tag." Well sure, I buy that. Trouble is, we all know from staring at that replay eighteen times or more that clean or not, it was CLOSE, too close to expect the ump to know for sure.
- Did the ump call him out? By now we've seen footage of calls made of other strike threes, and others that were in the dirt. Some say this is what he does on every strike three, some say this is what he does to call an out. I think one thing we can all agree on is that we need a more established code of signs to avoid this kind of confusion. I have heard many people say that the out call is equivilant to blowing the whistle in football; the play is dead. I don't agree. Thing is, baseball is not a timed game; it's all about the outs. When the whistle blows in football, nothing can be done. The play is dead, no matter what. In baseball, the call can be overturned, and far more easily than in other sports. An out is not overturned often, but it does happen occasionally, and heads-up players continue to play if there's any doubt. Josh Paul took what he perceived to be an out call for granted. Whether it was called an out or not, it could have been overturned. A good acting job often wins out over a quick call.
Josh Paul made a rookie mistake, and he will tag with every strike three for the rest of his career, no matter where he catches the ball. Given the high profile of this event, we just might not see this happen in MLB for another hundred years. But the damage has been done. As I watch tonight's game 4 of the ALCS, the White Sox lead 5-2 in the 4th, and look to take a 3-1 lead in the series by the end of the night. Another plate call has been missed in this game at the halo's cost, and people are frustrated.
I have reasons to like both teams. Before "the call" I was leaning toward the white sox. The "break the curse" sentiment had me a little, but mostly I think they are the better team. Both have pitching staffs that I salivate over, but the pale-ho's can score more runs; the Angels can struggle at the plate. The White Sox fully admit to have gotten lucky in game two, but since that time have had the momentum. And I whimper... like many, I just can't bear to see the white sox win anymore. I don't think it's their fault, I don't blame the ump, I don't begrudge the base...
but GO HALOS.
*I should also state that I did not see the crazy mixed up call that everyone's been talking about. Baseball's pretty much over for me and I just check the scores to see what happened... so feel free to discount my baseball comments. I'm in full-on Patriots (and Bruins during the week) mode now.