Leiter shines in ALCS commentary

Al Leiter has always seemed to save his best for October. It was little surprise, then, that seven of Leiter's finest outings of the year wound up coming in the postseason. <P> Serving as a dapper color analyst behind FOX's tag-team of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, Leiter was splendid in his work during the Red Sox-Yankees ALCS, offering a dimension of insight to a thrilling and memorable playoff series.

This was a return engagement for Leiter, who made his rookie debut in the 2003 NLCS behind FOX's second team of Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons.

Leiter's nervous performance in that Marlins – Cubs series wasn't flawless, but it was certainly a step up over the dead silence provided by the Mariners' Bret Boone, who offered very little aside from a congratulatory hug to his brother Aaron after Game 7.

Some may have regarded Leiter – who hasn't pitched in the AL since 1995 – as a strange and even possibly biased choice to serve as a commentator for the Boston – New York showdown, but Leiter overcame that with professionalism and a wealth of experience with this generation of players that neither Buck nor McCarver can offer.

Leiter, a cerebral pitcher to begin with, brought a stack of personal relics from his battles with the Yankees into the booth with him. Lefty-righty splits are made available to the media, but the homework Leiter did beyond those – breakdowns of batters against certain pitches – obviously came from deeper within.

The Mets did not face the Red Sox this season, but Leiter was able to add depth throughout the series by recalling battles with some Boston players, especially former Expos infielder Orlando Cabrera, a .366 career hitter against Leiter.

His pre-game analysis of Curt Schilling from the grounds of the rainy Red Sox bullpen before Game 6, in which Leiter analyzed the injured Schilling's leg power and proclaimed that the righthander looked ready to take on the Yankees, proved to be right on the money.

In brief, Leiter's mere presence in the booth was a positive for FOX, bringing the viewer deeper within the rhythm of the game. Leiter's post-game analysises of his own performances have tended to run long-winded in recent years, but reacting to action immediately and concisely proved to be a strong point this time around.

While wisely yielding to Buck and McCarver as the main men in a three-man booth, Leiter was still able to interject timely commentary and take some of the load off McCarver without getting in the way of the action at hand.

That was left to the high-pitched animated feature Scooter, who dipped and dashed across the screen in exhausting fashion to show just why a sinker sinks. Leiter tried his best to save the ship, supplementing Scooter's Game 1 soliloquy on the change-up with his own demonstration of how Mike Mussina was making Trot Nixon look downright foolish.

But by the time Derek Lowe was putting on a show with his own filthy dropping action in Game 7, FOX seemed to have packed Scooter into the can, realizing that Leiter was just about all the in-depth analysis they needed to squeeze from this team.

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