Monday, October 23, 2006

Burning Questions: World Series Game 2

World Series Game 2
Burning Questions

How long can Kenny Rogers keep doing this?

The way the Tigers have been struggling to drive runners in against the Cardinals, he might have to do it one more time, or something close. You just keep waiting for him to cave and finally give up some runs, but it doesn't happen.

One thing's for sure: I've never seen him so impassioned and fired up on the mound. He's like an evil Mark Fidrych out there. The way he gets so animated after throwing a ball, I'm almost afraid to see what he'll do if he ever does give up a run. He might implode.

What was the key moment, in your mind?

Without a doubt, the top of the fifth inning.

The Tigers had just blown a bases-loaded, nobody out situation in their half of the fourth, and were holding on to a slim 2-0 lead. They had Jeff Weaver on the ropes, and coudn't finish him off. It could have, should have, been a big inning for them. But Weaver wriggled out of it, and I felt that if the Cardinals scored even one run in their half of the fifth, the momentum would have shifted dramatically. And Rogers certainly was due for some damage. But the Professor did his thing, and the Tigers tacked on another huge run in the bottom of the fifth.

Your thoughts on bringing Todd Jones in the game in the ninth inning?

I'm almost always an advocate of letting a starter begin the ninth inning with a lead of three runs or more, especially when he's throwing a shutout. Last night was no exception. Granted, Todd Jones got the first two hitters out in the ninth, and nobody really hit a ball hard, but the Cardinals nonetheless ended up with the bases loaded. And yes, he got the necessary out when he needed it.

Ahh, but one of the reasons the bases ended up loaded was because Jones misplayed a comebacker to the mound. And guess who's one of the best fielding pitchers in baseball? Kenny Rogers. Even if the Cardinals just tied the game instead of going ahead, it would have been a backbreaker for the Tigers and would have put enormous pressure on them to win in the bottom of the ninth.

I said it at the time, and I'll say it again: manager Jim Leyland should have trotted Rogers out there to start the ninth.

Did Sean Casey lean into the ball to get hit in the fourth inning?

Well, he certainly didn't do a whole lot to get out of the way. But I don't know that I've ever seen an umpire make that call, and it would have been very gutsy to make it in the World Series.

Back to Rogers. What about all this nonsense re: his hand and what was on it?

It's almost laughable to watch the media stumbling all over themselves chasing this "story." MCS Magazine's Marketing Director Chris Okroy says that the substance was probably pine tar, and not a combination of dirt, moisture, and rosin, as the umpires were satisfied in believing. But Okroy also says that the pine tar isn't to doctor the ball; rather, it's for, in Chris's word, "gription." Whatever.

Regardless, whatever was on Rogers' hand was only present in the first inning, so you can't say that he had his game-long success because of it. But we're far from hearing the end of this, unfortunately.

So what's going on with Pudge Rodriguez?

Yeah, I know. Pudge is 0 for his last 19, and looks bad at the plate. He's just going through a bad spell now, and at the worst possible time. But unlike Frank Thomas, who got virtually no support from his Oakland teammates in the ALCS, Rodriguez at least is surrounded by a lineup that has been pretty reliable in the postseason. Other than Pudge, the team as a whole hasn't been lighting it up in the World Series, and is leaving runners in scoring position again, but you get the feeling it's only temporary; maybe it's due to the cold weather in Detroit and the one week layoff. Look for the bats to warm up in St. Louis.

As for Pudge, you just gotta hope that the law of averages will be on his side, and he'll break through. In fact, I'll predict it here: the Tigers will win a game in St. Louis directly because of something Pudge does at the plate.

Which player scares you the most on the Cardinals?

Believe it or not, it's not Albert Pujols. For some reason, Scott Rolen is giving me the creeps. Maybe it's because he struggled so mightily in the 2004 World Series, and is off to a pretty good start in the '06 Fall Classic. There's just something about him that makes me think that he's going to punish the Tigers in this series.

What did you think of the Tigers' decision to bring Alan Trammell and Sparky Anderson back for pregame festivities?

Wonderful, classy move, especially in regards to Trammell. Bringing Sparky back is almost a no-brainer, although he didn't have too much to say about the Ilitch ownership in his 1998 book, They Call Me Sparky.

It's practically unheard of for a team in any professional sport to bring back the fired coach/manager one year later for such pomp and circumstance. Usually, when you're gone, you're gone. But Alan Trammell will always be a Tiger, and last night proved it.

Speaking of Trammell, there are reports that he will soon be named as Lou Piniella's bench coach with the Cubs. Thoughts?

Alan Trammell in a Cubs uniform?

THOSE are my thoughts.


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