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On Game 1 Of The World Series

You are so alone
You are so alone

There aren't a lot of upsides to rooting for a team that doesn't make the playoffs. Sure, most of the teams that make the playoffs fall short of winning the championship, and in this way we get to avoid the heart-rending devastation of watching our team get eliminated, but the playoffs and the pursuit of a title is kind of one of the main reasons we're fans in the first place. The playoffs are - well this is pathetic but the playoffs are where legends are made, and where you can make memories you'll never forget. The emotion is completely different. In that there is emotion, a lot of emotion, for every game, and for all the hours in between.

But among those few upsides, I count this one: at least we don't have to go through what the Rangers and their fans are going through with C.J. Wilson. I'll explain.

Tonight, C.J. Wilson started against the Cardinals. He lasted 5⅔ innings, allowing three runs while walking six and striking out four. One could argue he was lucky he didn't allow more runs than he did, although one could also argue the opposite, given the carefully placed run-scoring hits by Lance Berkman and Allen Craig.

It was an unimpressive start. It was an unimpressive start from a guy who's supposed to be the Rangers' ace. And it wasn't his first in the playoffs. No sir. Wilson has now started eight games in the playoffs over the last two years. He's thrown 45⅔ innings over those eight starts, allowing 30 runs. He has 38 strikeouts, 24 walks, and a hard-to-believe ten homers. In a word, he's scuffled.

And for that he's attracted attention. Wilson began his playoff career last October. His playoff career to date has not been very good. So now there's talk. I wanted to say there were whispers, but I don't know if they're whispers anymore. There's talk that Wilson is a wilter. A guy who can't handle the pressure of the playoffs, a guy who folds under the intensity.

It's not a new argument. We've heard this argument applied to a bunch of guys. The first one that comes to my mind is Barry Bonds. There's Alex Rodriguez, obviously. There was Roger Clemens. Wilson isn't a player about whom people are saying new things. Wilson is a new player about whom people are saying old things.

And it isn't really fair. So Wilson hasn't impressed in the playoffs over eight starts, of which three were pretty good. I don't need to tell you how small a sample that is. What usually happens is that the players who fail to impress in the playoffs end up looking a lot better if their samples get bigger. Alex Rodriguez batted 19-for-52 in the 2009 playoffs, with six home runs. Barry Bonds went 16-for-45 in the 2002 playoffs, with eight home runs. If C.J. Wilson got a bunch more playing time in October, things would probably balance out.

But because things aren't balanced now, Wilson becomes a target, because the playoffs make people crazy. Every single little thing takes on an enormous importance and sample size issues go out the window. Between 2010-2011, Koji Uehara posted a 2.56 ERA, with 140 strikeouts and 13 unintentional walks. The Rangers left him off the World Series roster because he allowed three home runs in three games. And that's the team. Fans can become even more irrational. Irrational and unforgiving.

I'm not saying that all Rangers fans have turned on Wilson as an unclutch starter. That obviously isn't true, and the guy has his defenders. But a lot of Rangers fans' opinions have soured, as they read deeply into the fact that Wilson hasn't been great in October. Wilson is a fantastic pitcher who made the leap to the rotation a year ago and took another leap forward this season, and now a segment of the fan base acts like it can't stand him.

Wilson's a free agent in a few weeks. He's probably not going to re-sign. There's a slim chance tonight was the last time he'll pitch as a Ranger. More likely, he'll get one more turn. And if he doesn't pitch well, and I mean very well, you have to wonder about how he'll be remembered. How people will feel when it's official that he's leaving. The "right" way to feel is, oh, bummer, that guy was really great for the Rangers, as a person and as a player. But there could be people who feel very differently. He was a choker anyway.

All because he hasn't pitched well in a few games, even though those games were preceded by him pitching well in many more games. The playoffs, man. They make people nuts, and they introduce these storylines and narratives that shouldn't exist. I'm disappointed that the Mariners haven't made the playoffs in a decade, but at least I don't have to hear people ripping on Felix because he lost a couple games to the Yankees. That would be crazy. Felix is amazing.

  • It seems like there are two particular things about this game that people want to talk about more than anything else. One of them came in the top of the seventh. Trailing the Cardinals 3-2, the Rangers had runners on first and second with two outs. The Cardinals had lefty Marc Rzepczynski on the mound and the pitcher's spot was due up, so Ron Washington needed a right-handed pinch-hitter. Most everybody suspected that he'd go with Yorvit Torrealba. Instead, he went with Esteban German, and German struck out to end the inning.

    Instantly, it was all over Twitter. People didn't understand. German has 79 Major League plate appearances over the past three years. He hadn't played and hit in a game since September 25th. Torrealba, meanwhile, was considered good enough to DH just a short while ago, against the Tigers. Why the first one over the second one? Why would Washington commit such a blunder?

    Of course, whenever a whole bunch of people are arguing one thing, my immediate response is to want to argue the other. Yorvit Torrealba is not good. He is not a good hitter. German is not a good hitter, either, but he has better numbers than Torrealba does, even though most of them were posted between 2006-2008. And though German hadn't faced a pitcher in a game since September 25th, he'd surely been taking batting practice. Torrealba hadn't faced a pitcher in a game since last Thursday. Isn't that also a long wait? Couldn't he have just as easily "forgotten" what it's like?

    But honestly, I'm not wedded to any position here. The pro-Torrealba argument isn't convincing, but neither is the pro-German argument. I would wager that German and Torrealba had very similar odds of success in that situation, and that Washington's only catching flak because he went the unfamiliar route, and German whiffed. But pinch-hitting is hard. Pinch-hitting is especially hard when you aren't very good. Chances are, Torrealba would've made some kind of out. Maybe an identical out.

    It's such a weird topic of discussion. "I can't believe Ron Washington pinch-hit with this one not-good player instead of this other not-good player!"

  • The other thing people want to talk about is the Adrian Beltre incident in the top of the ninth. The Rangers were still down 3-2. Beltre was batting against Jason Motte with one out and nobody on. Beltre swung at the first pitch and hit a grounder to third, where David Freese scooped the ball up and threw Beltre out.

    Except Beltre protested, arguing that he hit the ball off of his toe. Immediately after he swung he started hopping around in pain, which would've been unbelievably quick thinking if he were trying to act. And FOX had been trying out these new military grade infrared cameras that show heat from friction when the ball strikes a surface, and the camera backed up Beltre's story:

    Nevertheless, Beltre was called out, and the Rangers were down to their final batter. Beltre argued, and Ron Washington argued, but to no avail. There was nothing they could do to prove the contact.

    Which, of course, is just so dumb. It's so dumb that we can know the truth sitting at home, and that we can know the truth in 30 seconds, but that the umpires can't know the truth, and that they have to try to piece things together based on their flawed eyes and their flawed ears. Okay, baseball, so you don't want to adopt expanded, thorough instant replay review? Fine. Whatever. It's your game, you do what you want. But if you're not going to use expanded instant replay, then stop allowing networks to use instant replay. Just eliminate all instant replay, altogether. Keep your viewers in the dark, because shit like this doesn't do anything to help the game. Shit like this makes people mad. Adrian Beltre should've been behind in the count 0-1. Instead he was assigned an out he didn't make in Game 1 of the World Series. How is that not total bullshit?

  • One of my favorite little FOX graphics of the night showed up early in the game, when a stat box told us that Rangers pitchers walked 22 batters during the ALCS, and that none of those batters wound up scoring. I loved it because you have to figure that some of those walks were leadoff walks, and you know what they say about leadoff walks. Suck it, platitude!

    None of the six batters Wilson walked tonight would score. Albert Pujols did score after getting hit in the leg, though, so that deserves an asterisk.

  • From the scouting report graphic on Chris Carpenter: "Has never lost in the postseason at home." I know this isn't a new thing, but it struck me again tonight: at what point did TV scouting reports cease to be scouting reports? A scouting report isn't supposed to just tell you facts about the player. It's supposed to tell you specific things about that player's ability and talent level. A scouting report is what a scout fills out when he's watching an amateur player. If a scout were watching an amateur player and he wrote down "has never lost in the postseason at home," and that was one of only two things he wrote down, and that was the whole report, the scout would be fired. Or he'd be sent on assignment in a really shitty place, like...well like most scouts, really. You probably do not want to be a scout.

  • The mother of all the Molina brothers was in attendance, watching Yadier keep the Rangers' running game in control. My first thought was, "man, get her and Rob Johnson really drunk, and in 18 years you'll have a catcher," but then no, see, that's a trick. The Molinas are all already catchers who can play defense. You want her to get together with somebody like Pujols or Jose Bautista. Then you'll really have something. I don't know why I'm not a scientist anymore, this stuff is easy.

  • In the top of the first inning, Elvis Andrus hit a grounder to Pujols, and Pujols tossed the ball to a covering Chris Carpenter, who went down and basically wound up sliding to first base with the ball in his glove. Carpenter got there first and Andrus was out, but Carpenter was left in a very vulnerable position with his arms out over the bag. Fortunately, Andrus did not step on him, and so Carpenter escaped unscathed.

    You wonder, though. If Andrus had stepped on Carpenter, he easily could've said it was an accident, since it all happened so fast, and then Carpenter might have to come out of the game. It would give the Rangers a boost. I'm not saying that Andrus should have stepped on Carpenter but I wonder if there are players who would have. Shane Victorino, probably. Chase Utley, probably. Ryan Howard, probably not, but only because he'd be crumpled in a heap by the batter's box with a torn Achilles' tendon. That's funny now, right?