A few thoughts after an exciting Game Six victory that opens the door to the 2013 World Series:
--I said in the last post that a commentator said the Tigers were a glorified softball team, and that I "sort of" knew what he meant. Now I definitely know what he meant. Great softball teams are usually big, slow sluggers who can't run or defend. They throw hard and they hit hard, and that's usually enough for softball tournaments.
But that's not enough for baseball's postseason. You have to be much more balanced. You have to hit, but more important in a series is that you pitch, run and defend. Though their starting pitching was perhaps the best ever in an ALCS, the relief pitching, the baserunning and the defending was terrible--perhaps the worst I've ever seen in an ALCS. All of that reared its ugly head in Game 6:
* Austin Jackson, usually a very good baserunner, gets picked off first base by rookie Brandon Workman. By a mile.
* Rather than get caught in a rundown so the (very fat and slow) runner from third can score, Victor Martinez--otherwise a very smart player--just stops in front of Dustin Pedroia. Perhaps he wanted to block Pedroia's view and throw home, but Pedroia simply stepped around him, saw that Fielder had inexplicably stopped running home, and tagged Martinez out. If V-Mart continues running, he at least makes it to second base, so there's one out and not two. Or he gets caught in a rundown, which is what he should've done (and which he was taught in Little League to do), and so he's out but the run scores. This is a common play, one he perhaps has done over a hundred times.
* Prince Fielder, one of the more seemingly-uncaring players I've ever heard and seen play in the ALCS (when told fans would get angry about his uncaring attitude, he said, "They don't play."), unforgivably stops halfway down the baseline and doesn't try to score on the aforementioned groundout. Why? If he's tagged out, again, there's just one out and runners are on first and second. He shouldn't have tried to score at all, of course, with the ball never leaving the infield and his, shall we say, lack of speed. Leaving third base is bad baserunning, but not continuing home to try to score is an unforgivable mistake that had his manager looking defeated and had Tim McCarver, who usually babbles incessantly about nothing, saying, "That's bad baserunning." Fielder's unstylish bellyflop back to third base, which he missed by a few feet, will be a Defense Exhibit A of poor baserunning for years to come. Adding insult to injury, he was signed last year to a 9-year / $215 million contract. And he hasn't driven in a run in 18 consecutive postseason games. No wonder why Detroit fans are booing him. He would've already been driven out of Boston, a la Carl Crawford.
The Tiger defense was okay, since Iglesias is usually a magician in the field, and he loaded the bases, but he didn't give up the grand slam. (And Pedroia booted an easy double-play ball earlier in the game.) But the Detroit relief pitching was the worst in memory, or can you name another relief corp that gave up two grand slams in the same series? The Tigers had the best starting pitching, and the worst relief pitching, in the same postseason series, at the same time. Amazing.
--Speaking of $200 million and no playoffs, wave goodbye to the Dodgers. I still don't get why they lost. Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, or Clayton Kershaw are each able to win a postseason series, just by himself. But they didn't, and Puig made more mistakes than even a rookie should make.
--The postseason brings out the worst in some players' personalities. See: Alex Rodriguez. Case Exhibit A was when he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand in the 2004 ALCS as the Yanks were blowing it. Players learn in Little League that they can't do that. And if they do it anyway, they don't have the nerve to look shocked, arms stretched out in surprise, while standing on second base.
--The two teams with the best record in each league are in the World Series for the first time since 1999.
--Stephen Drew doesn't get hits, but he does take them away. He helped save Game Six with his great play in the seventh. That's been heavily covered, but nobody remembers his athletic grab of John Lester's errant throw to second base to turn an important double play. Lester has Roger Clemens's illness: Neither can throw the ball to any base with accuracy.
--Ortiz hit .091 in the ALCS. Both hits were opposite extremes. A little blooper over second base. And a game-tying grand slam that woke up Boston in Game Two.
--Victorino hit .125, with just three hits. But, like Ortiz, he made the big one count.
--Drew went 1 for 20, with 10 strikeouts. But, again, the hits he didn't get aren't as important as the ones he took away.
--I'm okay with Drew at short and Bogaerts at third throughout the World Series. Middlebrooks can sit.
--Middlebrooks and Mike Carp will be important pinch-hitters in the World Series while in St. Louis. Though here's hoping the Sox don't need them.
--Good to see Uehara win the MVP of the series. If for no other reason than to show that I don't just pluck these predictions out of thin air.
--I don't remember a single game in which two different players on the same team lost homeruns by about half a foot--combined.
--The Sox relief was perhaps the best I've ever seen in one series. The whole bullpen deserved the MVP. Tazawa, especially, manhandled the best hitter (only less so when injured) in the majors.
--I wouldn't want Fielder on my team, even with his homers and RBIs. I just read that he's already over his offensive ineptitude--at the plate and on the basepaths--because he has two kids to raise, and he has to show them how to be men. Like he doesn't have his wife and some hired help raise them during the season?
--Note to Prince: Not caring is not being a man. Real men accept responsibility for their mistakes, internally if not externally. (He doesn't have to say it to the press, but it doesn't sound like he's saying it to himself, either.)
--I wouldn't let Buchholz throw more than 85 pitches in the World Series, unless he has a huge lead, and / or he's just breezing along.
--Ditto for Lester, who, like Buchholz, start walking everyone when they're losing it.
--Peavy gets the chance to redeem himself. He's the only one on the pitching staff who needs to.
--Like I said in the previous entry--Having come this far, let's go all the way.