Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"The Game Saves 'The Game'"

I could talk about the “Game Two” comeback, where bold strategizing, steady nerves and textbook execution turned a 1-0 Texas Rangers deficit into a ninth inning 2-1 victory, keeping the Cardinals from taking a daunting two-games-to-nothing lead in the Series.

I could talk about the Cardinals then going into enemy territory and massacring the Rangers on their home field, 16-7, a trouncing that included the Cardinals first baseman walloping a World Series record-tying three home runs in a single game.

I could talk about the Rangers, now in danger of going down three-games-to-one, shaking off the day before’s debacle and shutting out the Cardinals ­4-0 in “Game Four”, knotting the Series at two-games-to-two, courtesy of a gutsy pitcher who masterfully closed the door on a team that had plated sixteen runs the game before.

Baseball, boring? Give me a break!

Consider a small but significant moment from “Game Two.”

The Rangers come to bat in the bottom of the ninth, trailing 1-0. This is their final at-bat, their last chance to score one run and tie, thus continuing the game, or score at least two runs, and finish it then and there. It’s do-or-die. “Game Four”, and a swing in the momentum of the series, is unquestionably on the line.

The first Rangers batter hits a single. He’s on first base. As the Cardinals pitcher fires one in to the next batter standing at the plate, the runner on first takes off for second. With the Rangers three outs from oblivion, their manager has decided to gamble on a steal, placing the runner in scoring position at second base if he makes it, but sacrificing a precious out if he fails.

I am salivating just thinking about it.

As the pitched ball rockets towards the plate, the base runner starts his dash towards second. The catcher, emerging from his crouch, fires a pellet towards the bag, aiming the ball low and on the first base side of second base, the easier to tag out the runner, sliding in.

The runner propels himself “head first” towards the base. Simultaneously – or as close to simultaneous as is chronologically possible – the ball arrives, and is caught by the infielder covering second. The infielder sweeps his glove towards the “head first”-diving runner…

The umpire calls the runner safe. He has successfully stolen second, keeping the Rangers hopes alive. (In a game they ultimately pulled out.)

Television “Instant Replay” accentuates the achievement, and how breathtakingly close it came to going the other way.

The replay, repeated in slow motion, reveals the base runner touching second base milliseconds before the infielder tags him with the ball.

The play was that close.

Think about it, exhorts the unashamed booster of baseball. Think about how many spectacular things happened in that one play?

The Rangers manager made the right call. The runner executed the steal to absolute perfection. The catcher could not have delivered a better throw. The umpire made the correct call. And the cameraman, also a participant, clarifyingly captured the moment.

That’s baseball.

Off the field, the geniuses in charge – as described yesterday – make embarrassing “money-first” decisions, tarnishing the dignity, integrity and exquisiteness of the game. But time after time, the game saves “The Game” with its eye-poppingly unbelievable on-field display.

I was thinking about this on my way into the gym this morning. I knew I was going to follow up yesterday’s “The Pastime In Eclipse” by reporting how, despite rampant executive incompetence, baseball, through the efforts of its highly skillful practitioners, continues to prevail. And I thought to myself, “What does this remind me of?”

I love baseball, and I will trumpet it as the greatest game of all – with the exception, perhaps, of Stanley Cup Finals hockey. So my enthusiasm for the players and my antipathy towards the people who run things goes significantly beyond metaphor.

But what fuels my passions in these matters is the realization that this is precisely the same dynamic that I experienced when I was working in television.

What’s apparent is this: The “suits” can royally screw things up, and they invariably do. But be it television, or be it baseball,

The players

Will inevitably

Save the game.


Citol Gassed In said...

A-men, nicely put.

Zaraya said...

Dear Mr. Pomerantz; loving the game and the players, and hating the owners is a time honoured tradition. You explain it so well.