Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bizzaro-World Playoff Play

I'm listening to the Dodgers-Cubs game last night when this happens: Dodgers are leading 5-1 at the time. With a man, on Dodgers outfielder Jim Edmonds comes to the plate. Before he became a great hitter with St. Louis, Edmonds was primarily known for his spectacular outfield play with the Angels, often, in fact, injuring himself by running into walls and such. In other words, he's known for playing the game hard.

Well, Edmonds, a lefty, hits a slicing fly ball down the left field line. Assuming it's foul, he doesn't bother to run it out. (Note: running out hits until you're absolutely sure they're called foul is something we stressed to 8-9 year-old players on our Little League team this year.) Well, the wind being what it is Chicago this time of year, the ball's slice is held up and it nearly drops fair. Manny Ramirez, yes, that Manny Ramirez who was traded by the Red Sox this year pretty much for loafing, hustles over, makes a nice play on the ball off the wall and gets it back into the infield quickly.

Now, the ball was foul so it really didn't matter, but my point is, that on this play, in a hugely important playoff contest for both teams, Manny was huslting, and Edmonds, who was quite willing to break his butt for fifth-place Angels teams back in the day, was not. Oh yes, the Dodgers won 7-2, with Manny getting two hits, scoring twice, and taking one out of the park.

No matter what you want to say negative about Manny, and most of it is probably true, he's a pro. No doubt about it. When the chips are down, he's not scared to step it up. (an alternative cliche: He really knows how to take the bull by the horns.) This is one of the things that makes him so great. He may eschew responsibility for many things, but when it comes to baseball, Manny's not afraid of the big moment. (Maybe we should put him in charge of Congress until we get this bailout thing passed.)

On a related note: Jason Bay, who has always been one of my favorite players because of the way he played and handled himself when he was with that awful Pirates franchise, had a homer to push the Red Sox past the Angels last night. Bay, whose personality is practically a polar opposite of Manny's, was the main piece the Red Sox got in return when they traded Manny. He's been solid. And his personality fits in much more with what the new Red Sox management (since the team was sold in 2003) is trying to achieve. Could this be one of those trades in which both teams benefit? It sure will be interesting if the Dodgers and Red Sox meet in the World Series.



DrD said...

I didn't watch much baseball last night, but I did see the play you referred to. I don't know why professional players don't run hard in playoff games.

My little league coach would have had his foot up my ass if I didn't run hard on a play like that.

Maybe the extraordinary wealth of baseball players makes them indifferent...he'll still get paid whether or not he hauls his ass down to first base.

By the way, I noticed that you called the Pirates "awful". Fair enough.

However, you also mentioned, in a previous entry, that the Pirates set somne kind of attendance record this year.

So, here's my question: If the fine people of Pittsburgh are filling the seats at PNC Park, then why can't the Pirates hold on to talented players?

It is money-related, or is Pirate owership/management just piss-poor?

What's the deal?

Ralph said...

I didn't mean to indicate the Pirates set an attendance record, but they did draw 1.6 million fans, which is more than they drew in any year during the 1970s, when they won two World Series, and finished in first or second place every year, except for one when they finished third.

That said, that 1.6 million left them 15th out of 16 teams in attendance ranking in the N.L. And I'm guessing their ticket prices are considerably lower than the Mets who led the league with 4 million fans this year. So, the Buccos are starting out with a working capital deficit vs. the majority of the league, based on attendance alone.

This deficit is compounded by the fact that the Pirates local TV rights are worth a lot less than those of bigger city teams like the Mets, Dodgers, and Cubs.

However, with good management, smaller market teams like the Brewers, Twins, and A's have proven you can be competitive. How about Tampa Bay? Up until this year, the Rays were last in the A.L. in attendance for seven straight years. This year, with a team that beat out big market, big spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox for first place, the Rays were still 12 out of 14 A.L. teams in attendance.

One thing designed to help these smaller market teams is a luxury tax that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox have to pay for going over a specified salary threshold. The previous Pirates ownership was notorious for pocketing this dividend instead of reinvesting it in the team.

Say what you want about George Steinbrenner and the Yankees, but he invests in his team. (At least historically. We'll see if his sons continue this trend.) In fact, he invests to the point at which he is giving money to the Pirates owners so they can pocket it. Steinbrenner and GM Cashman have maintained that over the past couple years the Yankees have barely broke even or even lost money with the salaries and luxary tax, but they continue to spend nonetheless.

Of course, Steinbrenner has taken an asset he bought for$10 million in 1973 and made it worth more than $1 billion. Now, that's good business. Unfortunately, I don't think we can say the Pirates owners have been as savvy over the years.