As bizarre as sports-talk radio has been in the past year in St. Louis, it is good to see Jim Holder has rejoined KMOX. The baseball show with Holder, Rob Rains and Dave Phillips is about as good as it gets.
As the trade deadline approached, and more National Leaguers (Bobby Abreu, and Carlos Lee most notably) are joining the recent mass exodus to the American League over the past few years (Gary Sheffield, Jim Thome, Kevin Millwood, Vladimir Guerrero, Randy Johnson, and Curt Schilling, just to name a few) this seemed like the perfect time to talk about the competitive advantage that the AL has developed over the past thirty years.
Since Abreu, Cory Lidle, David Bell, Rheal Cormier, Mike Schmidt, John Kruk, and Scott Rolen (well, admit it, sometimes it is nice to pilfer from the poor, Robin Hood be damned) aren't here tonight, this seemed like the perfect space to yammer on and on about how now more than ever because of the financial cajones of AL owners such as John Henry, George Steinbrenner and Tom Hicks that the old adage of "pitching and defense wins championships" may go the way of Astroturf, $4.00 beers at the ballpark, and baseball movies with original story lines.
But after turning on ESPN Classic on Sunday afternoon, I can't complain one bit about baseball. Sure, the Hall of Fame ceremonies are cheesy. Anytime Bud Selig is involved it will be either cheesy or a circus, and when it comes to Cooperstown, cheesy wins.
This is the greatest game. Baseball, "this game, this field" to quote Terrence Mann from Field of Dreams is still as good as it gets.
Football may have the Green Bay Packers for a team with tradition. The Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers and most recently the New England Patriots have all had dynasties. I'll take the dominance and tradition of the New York Yankees over all of them.
We've all played the game. We all know that when there are two out to run on anything. We know that on a grounder hit to the right side that we can advance to third. We know the feeling of hitting a two hopper right at the second baseman, and "lollygagging" down to first only to see him boot the ball but still get us by a step because we didn't David Eckstein it out of the box.
We've all said at one time or another, again to quote Field of Dreams, "see if you can hit my curve," and we've all seen it hit, hard. All of us have had days like Chris Carpenter did on Sunday. Everything feels great, everything seems normal, but he might as well have been throwing a basketball the way the Cubs were hitting it.
We can relate to players. We've all "slid" into second like John Rodriguez did. At one time or another, we've made plays like Rolen does, or Ozzie did. Theirs come while they are between the white lines. Ours usually come when we're in between our sheets in dreamland.
While we're all sure that a lefty should be brought in to face the other team's left handed slugger late in the game, we're not positive if Cover 2, Cover 3 or Man should be played on 3rd and 9 from the 40.
We can see Jose Oquendo flash signs to the batter. We can't see Scott Linehan radio plays to Marc Bulger. Oquendo may call for a hit and run. We all know what that is. If Linehan even explained to us what any of the plays in the Rams playbook meant, we still wouldn't have an idea.
This isn't meant as a knock on football, I can't wait for the games to start, but it's meant to take a minute to realize just how great of a game we have in front of us.
In his induction speech to the Hall last year, ailing ESPN columnist Peter Gammons said it best:
"People ask me, what was it like walking out there in the field when Aaron Boone hit that home run (in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS). To be honest, my first reaction was, I was ecstatic. I turned to my producer, and said, "look around here, you know what? I just got paid to cover the greatest game ever played in the greatest sporting venue in the world. I think I'm the luckiest man on earth."
Friends, from Buck O'Neill and Bruce Sutter's speeches this past weekend, to what might happen down this stretch run with Albert, Jimmy and the boys, we are the luckiest sports fans on earth. While it may have faults, and the way things are done may disappoint from time to time, I think we have all fallen in love with the perfect game.
But, had the Cardinals acquired Abreu, this column would have been completely different.
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