Monday, October 31, 2011

Fall Classic Side Notes

I know full well that everyone's not a baseball fan. Still, I try to get myself in front of a TV when the World Series happens, because you can see and hear surprising things IF you're alert enough to notice. In August it certainly looked as though the Cardinals would have a long off season to consider how much to pay hitting monster and free agent to be Albert Pujols. Instead, the Cards made fools of all the analysts with a late summer run that ended in their being crowned champions for the 11th time in their long history.
The game-to-game record of hits, runs and errors is pretty easy to find and analyze, and others do it much better, so I'm honing in on little things that I noticed, most of which have nothing to do with the games themselves.

There was the contrast, for instance, between Cardinal manager Tony LaRusa and Texas Rangers' skipper Ron Washington. The former seems strictly analytical as he ponders his next move while the latter is more of an enthusiastic type. It just shows that there is more than one way to succeed in this assignment, because both managers (and LaRusa announced his retirement as manager today at age 66) are well-liked by their players. Ever notice that big league managers never punch each others' lights out or bicker the way NFL coaches do?

Nolan Ryan is a Hall of Fame pitcher who has become an executive for the Rangers. He's now 64, and is considered a big help to the team, but his body has gone to seed. He now looks a little like a slightly younger Dick Cheney.

Speaking of which, did you notice who was sitting next to Ryan at the games played in Arlington? Yes, it was George W. Bush and Laura, down in the first row near the on deck circle. Funny how the Fox people never made mention of the former first couple's presence. At least, I didn't hear any. Of course, being front man for the Rangers helped Bush become well enough known to run for governor in the 1990's. His own investment in the club was minimal, but the leverage of the deal also made him rich when he sold out. I thought Laura looked great, and I think they made the right choice to sit by the field instead of up in the luxury boxes.

Then there were the sponsors Fox lined up. Toyota isn't exactly American, but they are made here, and anyway Japan is a major baseball country, right?'Mazda had a commercial which featured a car tooling around the inside of an empty prison, which I thought was odd. But I liked the music they used - slide guitar sounds that we associate with early delta blues. Volkswagen? Not really a name we associate with baseball, but the ads were pretty good. I guess the male side of the audience was confirmed with both Viagra and Cialis as sponsors.

Fox shows plenty of baseball every year, but really only have one "A" broadcast team - Joe Buck and Tim McCarver. Fox has a tendency to think of the audience as old, I guess, or the network wouldn't keep feeding loads of mostly meaningless statistics from bygone days to McCarver, which he dutifully repeats. The man's playing career goes back to the 1960's and he was citing things from the 1940's for gosh sake! Oy. I thought the TBS guys did a much better job in the earlier playoff series that they broadcast of helping the viewers get inside the game.

If you saw a group of baseball players at a beach, you might not be too impressed. As a group, they're kind of - fleshy. But seeing them in these pressure packed situations makes you appreciate their skills IF you're paying attention. Pitching, fielding and hitting are all very difficult, especially at the big league level. Sure, they're overpaid and prone to outsize egos, but what are you going to do instead, watch triathlon?


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