Red Sox: Afterthoughts on the concluded ALCS with Houston
Notes from watching the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS
The Boston Red Sox have concluded their series with the Houston Astros and now begins the process of dissecting the series. I have my observations and will share a few. The most important is to congratulate the Astros.
The record in baseball that will never be shattered is on the clock—a nine-inning game that lasted just 51 minutes—a game between the Phillis and Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1919. Baseball now drags on at a sloth-like pace. Adjustments have been implemented with minimal success.
To solve problems of the present, it is often best to look at the past. Willie Keeler had the solution to how to approach defensive shifts.
The game has migrated off that into a duel of bullpens where manager’s mix and match and a fourteen-man staff has becoming routine. The starting pitcher is now an afterthought with the continuing use of an opener, and the starter is often subjected to a quick hook with just a hint of a pending crisis.
The Red Sox are not unique in Major League Baseball in reliance on a bullpen. I am a proud traditionalist or dinosaur to some who yearn for the baseball days when the emphasis was on the starting pitcher—a matter of professional pride to take the ball and go as far as you can. Good things happen as it did with Nathan Eovaldi tossing 5.1 innings against Houston or Eduardo Rodriguez going a solid six. Bad happens when the other guys do it better.
I have a bad feeling about this department. The Chris Sale contract will emulate the one of David Price. I doubt Sale will use his post-2022 season opt-out. Sale does have all the items necessary to be an elite closer but at $32 million a year?
When umpires become the focal point in important games, the game itself loses something. Electronics have removed many a questionable call with the overturn percentage about 50%. Most calls in baseball are routine that just about anyone could make. That makes up most calls, but that percentage rate shows how fragile the decision-making process is when the difficulty is present.
The time is ripe for electronic calls for balls and strikes. Watching Laz Diaz is a condemnation of the traditional approach. A 2-1 count changed to 1-2, or visa versa, can alter the entire at-bat. The inconsistency drives the pitchers and hitters to an extreme frustration level.
Since it is now dumping upon the umpires for me, why not have the crew chief explain precisely what is going on with a call? Football does it. I don’t care if the umpire lacks the senatorial verbal splendor of a Shakesperian actor. Just let us know what is going on.
John Smoltz announced a great series. No over-reliance on gimmickry slang of Dennis Eckersley – enjoyable but overdone, Eck. Smoltz made points that the casual fan could understand. Also, I noticed a tinge of homerism by Smoltz regarding Boston.
Why a 162 game schedule other than greed? The season is excruciatingly long. Mid-October should do it for the World Series. If the magnates of baseball what the death march, how about more traditional doubleheaders? Certain holidays had that tradition – Memorial Day, July Fourth, Labor Day.
In another baseball age, the approach was one of reward. Good behavior is rewarded, and lousy behavior is not. Apply that to children and pitchers. If a reliever has a clean inning, then let him have another inning. And another if the pattern continues.
A magnificent back to the future moment would be a Braves-Red Sox series that could have transpired in 1948. The Red Sox lost a playoff game against the Indians (Re: Guardians) that cost a trolley series.
Weakness is most exposed as you get deeper into the playoffs. These are matchups of equals or near equals, and deficiencies become advantage points. Sometimes glaring can be minuscule, but enough to turn the tide.
Pitching is still the most critical ingredient in baking a playoff cake. Both teams seemed to take turns demonstrating that their staff could be abused. But eight strong innings by a starter is rare and, in this instance, a critical shift in direction.
Houston and Boston are creating quite a sports rivalry, especially in baseball. This is undoubtedly a pleasant situation now that the Yankees have disappeared.
Success is not ending your season with a loss. The Red Sox fans, management, and players should always have the ultimate goal of being a World Series title.