On Game 3 Of The World Series

I mean, God damn

I know that Albert Pujols hit three home runs tonight. Obviously, I know that, because I watched the whole game - all 244 minutes of it - and Pujols' achievement was impossible to miss. His first home run felt like it drove the final nail in the Rangers' coffin, and then the next two were like he was just showing off. Pujols is Game 3's biggest story.

But I'm not going to talk about Albert Pujols right here. I'm not going to talk any more about him, anyway. Because something else happened that I think makes for a much better lead, and I'm not going to run two separate leads. You can't have two leads! I don't want anybody to interpret this as me saying that the Cardinals didn't clobber the Rangers, because they did, but they got some help, and I'm going to talk about the help.

If you watched, you know. If you didn't watch, but if you've been on the internet, you know. The Cardinals were leading 1-0 in the top of the fourth. They had a runner on first base and nobody out. Matt Holliday stepped in against Matt Harrison and hit a grounder to short. Elvis Andrus tossed the ball to Ian Kinsler at second for one out, and then Kinsler threw to first to try to complete the double play. His throw sailed wide, but Mike Napoli hauled it in and swung his arm around to tag Holliday on the back. The tag was applied before Holliday stepped on the base, but umpire Ron Kulpa determined that they happened simultaneously, so he called Holliday safe. The Cardinals would go on to score four runs in the inning, and the rest of the stuff that happened happened.

Now - well, I'm not a football fan. Not much of one. I like the Seahawks when I watch them, but I don't go out of my way to watch them, and I don't care at all about what happens in college. It's just not my thing anymore. But tonight when I was browsing on Yahoo!, I accidentally clicked on the college football tab instead of the NHL tab. The lead story was a last-second Hail Mary touchdown that Michigan State scored to beat higher-ranked Wisconsin. I'm a sucker for last-second heroics, so I immediately went to YouTube to see if there was a highlight posted yet. Drama and loud crowds and everything. Irresistible.

There was a highlight. The highlight:


If you watch that, you'll notice that it's not a clean touchdown. The guy makes the catch, struggles, and then gets tackled near the goal line. The call on the field was that he was down just shy of paydirt. It was only after a subsequent review that the ref called it a touchdown, and Michigan State got to celebrate a win.

It's a little bit of a bummer to have to wait to celebrate until after a review, but that's not what's important. What's important is that the player didn't score a touchdown, then the ref decided to take a closer look, and then the player did score a touchdown, and the game was over. The system worked, and nobody complained.

Of course, that's not the first time an instant replay review has made a huge difference in a game. It's just the most current and convenient example. I've seen tons of significant reversals in football. I've seen tons of significant reversals in hockey. I see these happen, and I watch that highlight above, and I just can't believe that baseball is still where it is, with people talking about expanded replay, but with no expanded replay system presently in place.

I've seen the point made by replay proponents that, eventually, a blown call is going to cost some team a championship. I don't know if a blown call has cost a team a championship yet, but we've obviously seen blown calls in the playoffs, and tonight we had one in Game 3 of the World Series. Yes, the Cardinals wound up winning by nine runs, so it sounds weird to talk about one play at first base, but if that one play at first base is reversed, so much changes. Everything changes. Harrison pitches differently. The Cardinals' batting order shifts. Different relievers might be used. And so on.

Maybe the Rangers don't win. The odds were slightly against them at the time. But maybe the Rangers do win. Or maybe they lose, but Harrison lasts a while longer and spares much of the bullpen. It's this big cascading effect, and we'll never know how the series could be, if Kulpa makes the right call. We'll only know how the series is, and we'll wonder.

I'm not mad at or disappointed in Ron Kulpa. Rangers fans shouldn't be, either. It's not Kulpa's fault that it's impossible for humans to be 100% accurate on bang-bang plays. We're limited by our eyes and our ears, which kind of suck, relative to much of the animal kingdom, and which completely suck, relative to a slow-motion camera. The blame here lies with Kulpa's superiors - the people who, by way of their stubbornness, sometimes end up leaving umpires out to dry. I just don't think there's any excuse for why we should be able to see something clearly at home, when the umpires on the field are in the dark.

You want to protect the human element? What about the human element in football? There are humans refereeing those games, and they look at a bunch of replays. By looking at replays, they get more calls right. How is it not a priority to get more calls right?

I feel shitty going on and on about a tired subject, especially after a game that featured 23 runs and three dingers from one living legend. The internet doesn't need another pro-replay blog post. But despite those 23 runs, and despite those three Pujols dingers, it's the play at first base that I still have on my mind. Get that call right and the game goes down a different path, a path that probably doesn't lead to a 16-7 final score. That's the path it should've followed, and it sucks that it didn't.

  • One of the funny things about this game is that, while Pujols is a huge story on account of his three home runs, just going by the final score, the Cardinals didn't need any of them. They were already ahead 8-6 when Pujols ripped Alexi Ogando, and the Rangers wound up scoring seven. The game might work out differently if Pujols doesn't homer, but it's a curiosity is all.

    It was Pujols' first home run that grabbed the audience by its collective ballsack. It was one of those home runs where your immediate thought isn't "is that going out?", but "in which level will that land?" It was such an emphatic, forceful home run that in the few seconds it took the ball to get out, one sensed that the Rangers were done. They'd staged three-run rallies the two innings previous, but Pujols seemed to make a statement that yeah, no, this game is over.

    Alexi Ogando probably regrets the pitch that he threw:

    Ogandopujols1_medium


    Ogandopujols2_medium

    In case you haven't figured it out, what you're looking at above are (A) intended target, and (B) result. Yorvit Torrealba set up for a fastball down and away. Ogando threw a fastball up and in, and paid the price. I don't want to say that a pitcher can't afford to miss his spots against Pujols, because realistically Pujols can hit anything in and around the strike zone, but missing your spots against Pujols probably isn't a good habit to get into.

  • I have no recollection of how or why the broadcast started talking about Scott Brosius - remember, there were 244 minutes of baseball - but I made a note of Tim McCarver saying that Brosius cleared 100 RBI "a couple times." That got my attention when I heard it, because I had no memory of Brosius being that productive. It turns out that's because he wasn't. Brosius topped out at 98 RBI, which is close, but then his next-highest total was 71.

  • Pujols, regular season: .299/.366/.541
    Pujols, total inc. playoffs: .309/.377/.565

    Maybe that doesn't seem like a huge difference, but Pujols came to the plate 651 times during the year. That's a big sample size. In 14 playoff games, he's lifted his OPS by 35 points. That's the kind of thing that can happen when you amass 45 total bases in 55 postseason at bats.

  • Ken Rosenthal to Matt Holliday after the game:

    Did you think you'd ever see a night like this from a player like Pujols?

    I don't mean to be critical of Rosenthal because all he was trying to do was get Holliday to talk about Pujols' performance, but doesn't that question work better if it had been like Skip Schumaker or Jon Jay? Wouldn't Albert Pujols be literally the first player you'd expect to have a night like this?

  • The TV cropping didn't do Rosenthal any favors:

    Rosenthalpujols_medium

  • And while I'm sitting here posting images, they showed the Cardinals' batboy sitting in the dugout a few times. I assume it was the Cardinals' batboy. It could have been the Cardinals' orphan son Damien.

    Batboy_medium

  • I'm trying to put together in my head a list of things that are always funny. My current list is incomplete and not ready for sharing, but as a sneak peek, in the bottom of the first inning tonight Elvis Andrus took a 3-2 pitch and started trotting to first when he was called out on strikes. That is always funny. 
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