Wednesday, October 26, 2005

5 hours, 41 minutes ...

Due to work issues tonight was the only World Series game I knew I would see in its entirety. So I decided to go ahead with something I'd been kicking around in the back of my mind for a while. I decided to grab a tape recorder and announce the game. I'd always been annoyed by most announcers (especially FOX announcers) and just wanted to see what it was like. 14 innings, 5 hours and 41 minutes later, the game was over, and I felt like I'd just fought World War II.
It was the longest World Series game in history. Game 3 of the 2005 World Series was one for the ages, and I have myself on tape (3 full tapes, to be exact) calling the whole thing. I did the whole routine, reading up on the press info (handily available online) and keeping it all handy for quick reference. I had some interesting things to say and some clever commentary. But the most important thing I learned was that it's a whole lot harder than it looks. I fancy myself a good talker, and I sounded like a complete nincompoop on more than one occasion. That anyone could talk for 3 hours (let alone 5) without saying at least 15 completely stupid things is amazing. Think baseball is a slow game? Try announcing it, and it's never felt so fast in your life. Particularly in the late innings, with all the switches, double-switches and new pitchers.
My scorecard looks like Pencil's Last Stand. I somehow made it all 14 innings (due to some imaginative adaptations to the card itself) without giving up. But I'm a Whitehead, and a Whitehead doesn't admit defeat. I always enjoyed keeping score, because of the organizational satisfaction one gets from it. Well, this card isn't quite as organized as I had hoped, as I had to write players into margins, and my list of pitchers ran down into the rosters listed at the bottom of the page. But I made it.
Here's a tally of the game, most of which I'm sure are World Series records: 17 pitchers used (9 for Chicago, 8 for Houston), 43 players used overall, 100 ABs (which is a month for 1 player), 21 walks (12 for Chicago, 9 for Houston) and 24 K. The first pitch was at 8:39 PM Eastern time, and the last out was recorded at 2:20 AM Eastern. In between, I was running the recorder, keeping score, and swimming amongst the paperwork, while constantly checking the webcast on my laptop to make sure I didn't miss anything.
So what were my observations of the game?
1. Houston fans are committed. Some of them probably had to be at work 5 or 6 hours after the game, but there was still a huge crowd there.
2. Roy Oswalt finally short-circuited. During my time "on air," I noticed that this was Oswalt's worst start since the All-Star break. I have no earthly idea (and said so) why Phil Garner left Oswalt in so long. I guess it was because Oswalt is a "hoss" who "goes the distance." Which is fine, but silly me, I thought winning ballgames was more important. Oswalt was shaky from the start, but was obviously done in the 5th inning. By the time I was talking about taking Oswalt out, Garner didn't even have anyone warming up in the bullpen. Oswalt faced 11 batters in the 5th and threw 46 pitches, and he shouldn't have listed past the 7th or 8th. Then, to compound absolute stupidity, Garner left Oswalt in the game after the 5th inning of doom. He did well in the 6th, but Garner sent him out for the 7th inning, after 107 pitches where he displayed that he wasn't good enough to beat Chicago. Garner finally took him out after he walked Paul Konerko to lead off the inning. Garner has an excellent bullpen; what was he smoking? Luckily, Russ Springer came in and set down the White Sox. But damn!
3. The Astros have a really, really good bullpen. Before Ezequiel Astacio came in (I'll get to him later), the Houston bullpen threw 7 innings, allowing just 2 hits and 0 runs, striking out 7 and walking 2. It was a dominant performance that kept the Astros in the game much longer than they deserved. If the Astros had won, I would have called Chad Qualls the player of the game. He pitched 3 scoreless innings, allowing the Sox only 1 hit.
4. The Astros had every opportunity in the world to score the winning run (both Houston and Chicago stranded 15 baserunners in Game 3). They had the winning run in scoring position in 5 of the 7 innings after the game was tied. But it never scored. Ozzie Guillen brought in Orlando Hernandez in the 9th (and everyone, including Ozzie, has a far-too-generous opinion of Orlando's abilities), and Hernandez walked 3 batters. But he was able to strike out Taveras with 2 on, and after walking Berkman, was able to strike out Morgan Ensberg with the winning run at third. El Duque walked the first batter in the 10th, but Luis Vizcaino came in and retired the next 2 batters. But after walking Adam Everett (?), Chris Burke grounded out with the winning run at second. In the 11th, Bobby Jenks hit a batter and gave up a walk with 1 out. But Ensberg popped out and Palmeiro grounded out. Then, in the 14th, Houston had runners at the corners with 2 out. But Everett grounded out, and the White Sox won.
5. Why in the world so many hitters were walked, I don't know. But it's bad enough that so many hitters were walked (and so many bad hitters who would have made outs anyway), but no one was able to take advantage of them. Of the 21 hitters walked in this game, only one came around to score. Some people would call this clutch hitting. I'd say that the Astros don't have enough power in their lineup. And when forced to string 3 or 4 hits together to score a run, the Astros always seemed one hit short. And by the time they got runners in position, they were down to the Death Valley known as the bottom of the order. But even Morgan Ensberg, who has to hit homers, because only he and Berkman can, was a dud in this game. The White Sox just didn't really do anything well, the 5th inning notwithstanding. Yes, Geoff Blum homered, but something was bound to happen eventually; you can't keep 2 teams scoreless forever, no matter how disappointing their offense.
6. Ezequiel Astacio? This guy isn't even a good pitcher (5.61 regular season), what's he doing in there with the game on the line? It was time to get desperate and use a starter. Garner sent Backe out to the bullpen when the Astros were trying to rally in the 14th, but that was oh, say, A WEE BIT LATE? How about Clemens? Yeah, he's supposed to start Game 5, but I got news for ya -- IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE THERE'S GOING TO BE A GAME 5! The White Sox got it right by sending in Buehrle. Yeah, he's supposed to start Game 6, but is there really going to be a Game 6? You have to worry about Game 3 long before you start worrying about Games 5 and 6. Garner was just outmanaged tonight. He was cursing and throwing things, but had no one but himself (and his offense) to blame.
7. Will the White Sox sweep? I don't see how they won't. It's Freddy Garcia .vs. Brandon Backe tomor-- er, tonight. And if that ain't a mismatch, what is? Garcia is one of the 10 or 15 best starters in the AL, whereas Backe doesn't make the top 30 in the NL. Both bullpens are savaged, but then the White Sox bullpen was at least well-rested. The Astros are doomed. And if it doesn't happen in Game 4, it will probably happen in Game 5, with an old and injured Roger Clemens against Jose Contreras. And if by some miracle the Astros can force the Series back to Chicago, Buehrle will put out their lights in Game 6.

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