I’m going for Texas, if for no other reason than because A-Rod taking a called third strike is one of the first things that happens when you get to heaven. The Rangers did so many things on Friday night that made me like them: striking out Rodriguez; nobody thanking God in their postgame interviews; and spraying ginger ale rather than champagne so that now-sober Josh Hamilton could be in the middle of it. It made them seem so kind.
Also they have Cliff Lee. Last year in game 1 of the World Series against the Yankees, Lee made a behind-the-back catch of a line drive by Robinson Cano, and then afterward gave this little smile like he just couldn’t help being delighted by how awesome that was. Then, in a postgame interview, he said—I’m paraphrasing here—something about knowing he could do it, and that that was what they paid him for. I have very deep feelings for Cliff; he reminds me of Gary Cooper.
It seems to me that the Rangers are all second chances. There’s Josh Hamilton and his erstwhile coke problem (one heck of a coke problem), and then there’s manager Ron Washington (who clearly has the best hair in baseball) and his own coke bust back in the spring. Colby Lewis, who pitched game 6 on Friday night, was working in Japan a year ago. And the face of new ownership, Nolan Ryan—the Ryan Express, who pitched in the majors for twenty-seven seasons, holds the record for career strikeouts, and is responsible for this—only pitched two-and-a-third innings in a World Series during his long career, and that was in relief. Granted, his team won that series, but still I feel this one qualifies as a second chance.
And both teams are not their original selves, they are their own second chances, the products of a kind of sporting Manifest Destiny that has led many organizations westward in the pursuit of market share. The San Francisco Giants were, of course, once the New York Giants but exchanged one cosmopolitan metropolis for another. And the Texas Rangers were the Washington Senators, until they left the seat of government and struck out on their own, leaving behind the big-city elites all together. It’s the “Tea Party versus Nancy Pelosi” series.
But, Louisa, when it is it OK to stop watching a game? When—and why—do the players realize and acknowledge that a game is lost or won? In game 6 on Friday, it seemed clear that, after their big run-scoring inning, the Rangers were just going through the motions. They seemed to be waiting to see if the Yankees offered anything offensively before deciding whether they would renew their effort. But the Yankee players knew it wasn’t their year. Was that because they knew Lewis was pretty much unhittable and therefore the players knew any effort was futile? Their resistance only seemed to flicker once the closer was brought in, and even that resistance ended after the first strikeout; certainly there has been no opprobrium for Rodriguez taking that strike at the end. Poor Met Carlos Beltran is still vilified for the one he let go by in 2006.
I’m looking forward to this World Series. It doesn’t look like it will be a big home-run series, instead it will be cagey and difficult, with lots of double switches and hit and runs and match-ups; all that arcane knowledge that makes it so tricky to watch if you don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. It should, I hope, be close. Having said that, Gumby against Gary Cooper—not a prayer.
All the best,