October 24, 2011 [LINK / comment]
Rangers bounce back from crushing loss, take series lead
The unbelievable twists and turns of the 2011 baseball postseason continue unabated, with history being made over and over again. On Saturday night the awe-inspiring Albert Pujols hit three (3) home runs, only the third player ever to do so in a single World Series game. (The others, of course, were Reggie Jackson in 1977, and Babe Ruth in 1926 and 1928.) I'll be that neither Reggie nor The Babe hit their first home runs as late as the sixth inning, however! The first home was a titanic blast, pulled close to the left field pole and hitting the front of the second deck. That's about 385 feet from home plate according to my measurements, and various estimates put that ball as either 423 or 431 feet in (would-be) distance. The second homer came with one runner on base in the seventh inning, sailing into the deep left-center field bleachers. In the ninth inning, when the Cardinals already had an eight-run lead, I was thinking to myself, "Yes, I think he's going to do it again." And I was right: the ball landed several rows in back of the left field fence. Pujols went five for six and thus set a new World Series record, with 14 total bases. In the other four World Series games thus far, however, Pujols has failed to get a single hit or RBI. In Game 3, the Cardinals won by an overwhelming margin of 16-7. Spirits were low all across North Texas...
One unfortunate aspect of that game was when the first base umpire Ron Kulpa blew a call, failing to see that Mike Napoli had tagged Matt Holliday at least half a stride before Holliday stepped on first base. That set the stage for a four-run rally that turned the rest of the game into a slugfest -- quite unlike Games 1 and 2. Kulpa admitted the mistake after the game, and while it's hard to argue that it would have changed the outcome of the game, it will still lead to more calls for the use of instant-replay review of key plays. That would be a shame. If they do expand the use of instant replay, I hope it is only for postseason games.
On Sunday night, attended by former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush, Josh Hamilton doubled in a run in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. That proved to be extremely important: The Rangers have the highest winning percentage (.796) in game in which they scored first in the major leagues. Furthermore, "The Cardinals ... scored first in their previous 10 games, winning seven of them." (MLB.com) So that one run changed the whole complexion of the game. Another key factor: Mike Napoli moved from first base to catcher, replacing Yorvit Torrealba, and hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning to provide a nice cushion, as the Rangers won 4-0, to even the series, 2-2. Texas fans breathed a huge sigh of relief...
In tonight's game, the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the second inning, with one unearned run that stemmed from an error by left fielder David Murphy. He soon made up for it with a great diving catch to end the inning, however. The Rangers came back with solo home runs by Mitch Moreland in the third inning and by Adrian Beltre in the sixth inning, tying the game, 2-2. That at least ensured that starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, who was pulled in the top of the sixth after surviving multiple tight situations, would not get tagged for the loss. The Cardinals' starting pitcher, Chris Carptenter, lasted a full seven innings, but neither of them was credited with a decision. In the bottom of the eighth, the Rangers got the bases loaded and catcher Mike Napoli doubled into the right-center gap to take a 4-2 lead. He also contributed on defense, making two great throws to second base, thwarting stolen base attempts. See MLB.com. [The Cardinals failed to score in the top of the ninth inning, as Allen Craig (who had been hit by a pitch) was tagged out at second trying to steal base, after Albert Pujols struck out. It was a "mixup" according to manager Tony LaRussa, but he wouldn't say anything more. Thus, the Rangers took a 3-2 lead in the World Series.]
After the game, the jubilant 51,459-strong crowd was still chanting, "Na-po-li! Na-po-li! Na-po-li!" With nine RBIs in the World Series thus far, compared to ten for the rest of his team, he is a leading candidate for series MVP. But of course that depends on how things turn out in Game 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 in St. Louis...
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington update
Since this is the final game of the season in Arlington, I figured I ought to hurry up and update the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington diagram. Nothing really major, just more accuracy in the profile and more details such as the widened portions of the grandstand lateral walkways. One detail I noticed on TV: when the Rangers relief pitchers exit from the bullpen, they walk down several steps through a narrow gap between the outfield fence and the seats in right field. That gap is now shown in the diagram, and the gap in left field is a bit wider than before. (That is where the tragic accident in which a fan fell down while trying to catch a ball in July.) The stadium was originally (1994) called "The Ballpark in Arlington" and then "Ameriquest Field in Arlington" from 2004 to 2007. (The "in Arlington" part is important because the city paid for almost all of it.)
While researching that, I came across a Washington Post article from 1999 that explores "Bush's Move Up to the Majors," getting rich through public subsidies for the aforementioned stadium.
Epstein joins the Cubs
As had been widely rumored, the Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein did reach an agreement with the Chicago Cubs, but there are several nagging details to be ironed out, such as compensation. Negotiating such things are one of the main duties of a general manager, so I guess Epstein will be sitting across the bargaining table from himself. (?) See ESPN Commissioner Bud Selig says that he may have to intervene...
Beer and hot dog prices
Here's a cool Web site that lets you quickly compare how much it costs to buy tickets, beer, and a hot dog at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums: webstaurantstore.com. Apparently, Chase Field in Phoenix is cheapest, and Fenway Park in Boston is the most expensive. Lots of interesting data analysis, including average income levels for the cities in question, etc.
Memphis may sue NBA
Finally, I learned from Facebook friend Andrew Murphy that the City of Memphis is suing the National Basketaball Association, because they stand to lose a lot of money if the NBA season is cut short due to the strike. Why? Because they paid for the arena, and need ticket revenues to pay off the debt. See Yahoo Sports. It's another case of "stadium socialism," of which Arlington, Texas is well familiar. (See above.)
I've had a few other tips and inquiries lately, and I'll try hard and get to them tomorrow.