Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let's Watch the World Series!

Hey, everybody.  I suppose I'd be in Saint Lewis right now, freezing my ass off in one of those outfield seats they set aside for the press at an MLB Jewel Event--that's what Major League Baseball calls the Championship Series', the World Series and the All Star Game when you apply for credentials: "Jewel Events"--but I'm here all warm and dry in the rumpus room getting ready for the first pitch and that isn't all bad.

Just between you and me, and I know this is going to sound awful, but there is a part of me (a little, tiny part but a part nonetheless) that is not unhappy that the Tigers didn't advance.  The first two rounds of the playoffs flat-out wore me out.  I don't know what it is, but covering a playoff game is approximately a magnitude of difficulty greater than covering your run-of-the-mill Championship season game.  I was getting to the ballpark around 2pm for an 8:30 start and leaving around a quarter after two the following morning.  Then I'd be up and on the air talking about it at 6.  I can honestly tell you that last Friday, the day after Game 5 of the ALDS, I was as tired as I had ever been, professionally speaking.

On the other hand, I hate that I am not there to see history being made, which is what the Series is all about.  All in all, I would have preferred that the Tigers had advanced.  And you know what?  After Cabrera hit that ball off of third base to turn a for-sure double play into an RBI double, sparking Detroit's game-winning rally last Thursday to send the ALDS back to Texas, I was sure that what I had seen was an omen, something we'd look back on for as long as there was Tigers baseball and point to it as the exact moment the 2011 Detroit Tigers became a team of destiny.

But, not to be, and now the Tigers have gone from being a team of destiny to being a team in the half-off bin.  To wit...

WHAT:         Postseason Merchandise on Sale at The D Shop

WHEN:         Now – End of Month
                The D Shop Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

WHERE:         The D Shop - located at Comerica Park on the corner of Witherell Street and Montcalm Street
WHY:         Beginning today, all Tigers fans will receive fifty percent off all postseason merchandise at the D Shop. Items available for purchase include the 2011 AL Central Division Champions T-Shirts, AL Central Division Champions Caps, Official Clubhouse T-Shirts and Official Clubhouse Caps. Other items available include Comerica Park exclusive pennants and decals as well as commemorative baseballs and pins. The offer is only valid for postseason merchandise and while supplies last.

CONTACT:         The D Shop at (313) 471-2673.

Oh, well.  As least there's good deal to be had out of all of this.  

What I am going to do now is peruse tonight's game notes for interesting World Series tidbits, and then I'll be back to pass them along.  

DVR "Suburgatory" and "Modnern Family" and "Countdown" and all your other favorite shows, the World Series is about to begin!

This is the 107th World Series, did you know?  And there is this.  One of the two major leagues has a big lead in the all-time World Series, series.  Do you know which one? THE AMERICAN LEAGUE has the overall lead in the World Series, 62-44, but the National League has won three of the last five with wins by the Cardinals in 2006, the Phillies in 2008 and Giants in 2010. Since the Yankees won three straight World Championships from 1998-2000, the two leagues are knotted at 5-5 in the Fall Classic.  However, over a longer span in the World Series, the A.L. hastaken nine of 15 since 1996; 12 of 19 starting 1991; and 17 of 28 times beginning 1983. (Courtesy, Major League Baseball).

Also from MLB: Tonight’s Game 1 calls for a cool and cloudy forecast, with a  projected 47 degrees game-time temperature, according to as of 11:00 a.m. today.  The 47-degree start would be the second coldest game-time temperature for a Game 1 of the World  Series since temperature stats were kept starting in 1975. The coldest Game 1 was a recorded 41 degrees at game time in 1979 at Baltimore, October 10 against Pittsburgh. Update:  The official game time temperature is 49 degrees.

On this date (October 19):  In 2004, the Boston Red Sox force a Game 7 in the  ALCS against the Yankees, with Curt Schilling and his surgically repaired ankle guiding Boston to a 4-2 victory, their third straight win after being down 0-3 in the series;

Saturday, October 15, 2011

At the Big Michigan (ugh) Michigan State Football Game

Dawn is breaking over the altogether lovely in all of its fall splendor Michigan State University as we join you this morning Live, sort of, from the MSU Union, hard by the West Circle dorms, one of which was my home for several years many, many years ago.  It is overcast and it is chilly.  It is also windy.  Very, very windy.  The forecast says we can expect gusts of 50mph as the Spartans host the Wolverines in about three and a half hours.
We had a reader complaint the other day as I was forced to suspend by Twitter/FB coverage of that amazing Tigers win over the Rangers in Game 5 of the American Leauge Championship Series.  The gripe was that I had bailed out in the 8th inning, before the game was over, with the outcome still in some measure of doubt.  I'll get to the reasons for that in a moment, but I wanted to talk for a moment about that phrase, "some measure of doubt."  The Tigers, as you recall, scored four in the 6th in that game to snap a 2-2 tie and added another in the 7th for a seemingly safe 7-2 lead.  I had an usher standing next to me (we get kicked out of the Press Box in the post season and watch from an auxiliary press area which normally is the right-field bleachers so fans and ushers and God only knows who else are elbow to elbow with us) and this guy saw Tigers Manager Jim Leyland grimacing on the TV monitor next to me.  "What's he worried about?" asked the usher.  "He's worried," I replied, "because he knows that in five pitches he could be tied."  Which is how baseball works.  Every pitch could be hit out of the park, which means that every pitch represents a potential run.  People, and I fall into this category myself at times, forget this.
This particular game provided an Outstanding Example. I haven't got my scorecard on me (you travel light when you come to MSU because you have to walk a relatively long way from your car to Spartan Stadium and back) but I think my memory will suffice.  In the top of the 6th, game tied at 2, Texas had the bases loaded with only one out.  You could feel the entire Tigers season slipping away.  Then, as quick as can be, Justin Verlander induced a grounder to third.  Brandon Inge stepped on the bag and fired across the diamond.  Double play and the inning and threat were over, just like that. And it was still a 2-2 ballgame.
About ten minutes later, the Tigers had not only escaped a potentially series-ending rally, they had scored 4 runs.  Ryan Raburn led off with a single.  Miguel Cabrera then hit a grounder of his own to third.  Given his speed, it was a dead-solid lock that Texas was going to turn an around-the horn rally-killing double play of their own.  At least that was my thought as soon as the ball was hit.  Watching through my binoculars, I saw the ball shoot straight into the air, over the head of the waiting Rangers third baseman and begin to roll towards the left field corner.  "Total bad hop," I either said aloud or thought.  Rayburn came all the way around to score and instead of two outs and nobody in a game still tied 2-2, Detroit had the tie breaking run in with a man in scoring position and nobody out.  On the replay I saw the reason for the bad hop.  Cabrera's routine-as-could-be grounder hit the third base bag.  Total luck, but that's the game and that's sometimes what you need.  It sometimes what kills you.  At any rate, six pitches later, Victor Martinez tripled down the line in right, notable because it turned out to be the first triple he had hit all season (in came his 636th Plate Appearance) and now it was 4-2 Detroit.  Two pitches later, Delmon Young homered and Detroit had hit the first natural cycle in all of baseball postseason history--a single, double, triple, and homer by consecutive batters--and the lead was 6-2.  It took 16 pitches.  So in that span, again, only ten minutes or so, the game had turned completely from what looked like a season-ending loss by the Tigers to a game Detroit was now in a great position to win.  Which, although there were still some exciting moments to come, they did.
I would have loved to have been there for all of you right to the thrilling end, but when the games ends, my work begins.  In the regular season, I can stay to the end as all I have to do is walk a hundred feet or so to an elevator which takes me down to the dugouts.  In the playoffs though, I have get from the right field seats all the way to a room under the stands behind home plate.  And to get there, I have to go against the flow.  At the same time 45,000 people are leaving the stadium, I am circling it going in the opposite direction.  If  I don't leave a little early, I'll never get there in time.  I'll miss the interviews, and the interviews are the reason I'm there.  If I miss them, I miss my moment on the national stage.  I miss my chance to ask my question.  Here's what I mean.  I had the chance, because I left in time to get there, to ask Verlander for his thoughts on Phil Coke, the Tigers pitcher who came out of the bullpen and got a gutty five-out save which he had to get all by himself because the Tigers top relievers had been overworked in each of the two previous games and were, because of that, unavailable to appear in Game 5...

So, that is why I sometimes have to leave you hanging at the tail end of games.  I have to go to work.

Which is what I have to do right about now.  The Press Box at Spartan Stadium is open, so I think I'll take my stroll across campus and get set up for the game.  I like to drop off my gear (set up the computer, scan the Game Notes, etc.) and then spend an hour or so walking around near the stadium.  This is my school.  I have friends here.  You never know who you'll bump into, but without fail, I come across somebody I know.  It's always fun.

I hope this explains why I may have to leave you hanging again today.  The Media leaves the Press Box with about 5 minutes left in every MSU game and we watch the finish from the sidelines so we are close to the postgame interview area, and again, that's why I'm here.  To collect to record for posterity the deep thoughts which are sure to follow in the wake of today's Epic Battle.

Ok. in Press Box.  Have posted TweetPic here.

I'm going off in search of food.  No Press Box freebies in Spartan Stadium, which is okay, but I will note the spreads at Ohio Stadium and Notre Dame Stadium were terrific.  Just sayin.  But, with the governor of this state cutting funding for colleges (he wants to eliminate all state funding for both of the schools playing here this afternoon--effectively rendering each a private school)--you have to cut back. So I can live with it.

For a noon game, I must say that many attending today's contest are impressively faced.

MSU has taken the field in their new-look uniform.  The referee just referred to MSU has the "gold" side.  I think they look awful, but the kids like 'em so let's see if it helps them play better.  The Spartans have the #1 defense in all of college football, including the #1 defense against the run.  Which is important.  The team with the most rush yards has won 38 of the last 41 UM/MSU games.

TD UM. Robinson-should hve been tack in backfld got away for 15y TD run. M ran for 65 y on 10p/80y drive, lead 7-0. 8:50 1st qtr.

UM went right down the field and ran for 65 yards on 8 rush attempts against that #1 in the nation rush defense of MSU.  On the TD, Denard Robinson should have been tackled for a loss, but he got away and when that happens, look out.  I think he's the finest open-field man in the game today.  The Wolverines drove directly into the wind which is coming right out of the north and which has all the flags stiff this afternoon.

TD MSU! Drive: 9p/63y in 3:37. 5:08 1st. Edwin Baker 2y TD run.  MSU ran for 55 on drive, passed for 8. 5 firsts.  7-7  Baker ran for 49 of the 55 rush yards amassed by MSU on their scoring drive.
END 1st QTR. 7-7. Tot y 102-85 UM. Rush 7 69-63 MSU. 1st dwns 6-5 UM. MSU had two huge drops, def gave up 29 and 26y plays 
MSU winds up punting into wind and UM has it at own 32.  Last MSU poss began at own 10, so you get an idea of field pos battle 

And, halftime.  7-7 is the score.  MSU made mistake after mistake after mistake, world without end.  What jumps out at you is the 8 penalties for -67 on Sparty, as many penalties as they had first downs. They had t 2 big pass drops--Keyshawn Martin on a for sure TD and BJ Cunningham to cost MSU and first down and an extended drive. (MSU did go on to score after the Martin drop.)  Both teams scored on their first possession and both made it look rather easy, although MSU sure helped the Wolverines out by committing their first 2 penalties of the day on the drive.  In fact, the Spartans were called for offside on the game's first snap, perhaps setting the tone for the day. Since those first drives, neither side has gotten even close enough to attempt a field goal.   MSU got to the UM 46 later in the first quarter..their deepest penetration since the score, and failed to advance beyond their own 44 in the second quarter.  Michigan's deepest penetration since they scored was to the MSU 36.

It's been a game of field position and, as you would expect, it has been harder on the team trying to advance the ball into today's big wind.  It is blowing at around 30 mph right out of the north (the team moving from right to left as you watch on TV is the team going into the wind).  

Everybody up here is talking about what a crummy game this is.  I don't see it that way.  I see the #1 defense in the country holding down a UM team which scored 35 on Notre Dame and an MSU team trying to overcome the weather conditions--and their own mistakes.  The team that wins the rushing battle wins the UM/MSu game (38 of the last 41, at any rate) and in that key stat at the half, well, it's a push, basically: 100 for MSU, 95 for UM.  On to the second half...

Spartans up 14-7 on 10y Cousins to Martin TD pass.  MSU drive 9play/56 yards in 3:49. 11:07 left in 3rd.  Score comes on MSU first possession of second half.

Not gonna lie to you. Thought UM was going to tie game in 4th. Why'd they try to pass when they needed half a yard at MSU 9 trailing by 7? A great day at MSU! The great Stadium is empty now and from up here on level 8 I can see the traffic is clearing nicely. I can cut up the post-game interviews when I get home, and I should be home in plenty of time for Game 6. Will blog a little more about this game--and about that game--at that place, at that time. Until then, WE BEAT MICHIGAN!