By: Chris Dagonas
As any fan of the film “Field of Dreams” can well testify, baseball is the sport of supernatural phenomena. With the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals set to meet tonight for Game 1 of the World Series, the Same Page decided to get some help for its preview from former players for both teams. This is nothing new, but since we wanted the BEST former players, we called upon Ted Williams and Stan Musial. That’s correct: Welcome to the world’s first baseball SÉANCE.
DAGONAS: OK, this is my first time trying this, so I want to make sure I have everything I need. Triscuits, check. Beer, check. Sunflower seeds, check. Glove oil, check.
REYNOLDS: This will never work. I don’t know why I agreed to this.
CD: Have faith, Daniel. I was in the oldest, dustiest part of the library the other day when I stumbled upon this old, dusty book…
DR: Really? That old canard?
DR: Never mind.
CD: Anyway, here goes. You sticking around for this?
DR: Hell no!
DR: No! I’m not scared! I just – I have a movie to go see, that’s all. It won’t work anyway! This is stupid!
(Reynolds runs out the door, shrieking)
(The room takes on a sudden chill. A puff of smoke appears, then slowly dissipates. When the smoke is gone, two hazy figures appear to be floating in the corner)
CD: I have called upon thee, Theodore Williams and Stanley Musial. Identify yourselves, spirits.
TED WILLIAMS: What is this idiot’s problem?
STAN MUSIAL: I was finishing off a round of golf with The Babe, this better be good.
CD: (Reading from a script) Spirits, do not be startled. You will return to your celestial form soon. I have some very important questions I must ask you.
TW: Talk normal, moron.
SM: Now, Ted. He said he has important questions. Try to be nice. How can we help you, young man?
CD: I have summoned you to help me understand the signs. Tell me, who shall win the 2013 World Series?
TW: You called me here for that? I’m going to get my bat…
SM: Easy, Ted. Remember what Saint Peter said. Any more acts of violence, and you’re out.
TW: Besides, idiot, the Red Sox are going to wipe the floor with those namby-pamby Cardinals!
SM: Well, Ted, I must say I have to disagree with you there. My beloved Cardinals appear to be the better team.
CD: Gentlemen, it sounds like you’re ready for some lively baseball debate! Triscuit, anyone? No? OK, let’s DO IT!
Boston’s lineup projects to look something like this:
Jacoby Ellsbury – CF
Shane Victorino – RF
Dustin Pedroia – 2B
David Ortiz – DH
Mike Napoli – 1B
Jarrod Saltalamacchia – C
Daniel Nava/Jonny Gomes – LF
Stephen Drew – SS
Xander Bogaerts – 3B
CD: Ted, what do you think of that?
TW: A bunch of sissies with communist beards! In my day, a man shaved every day with a straight razor! And what the hell is a designated hitter anyway? If you don’t pick up a glove, you don’t pick up a bat!
CD: Um, OK, but in terms of skill…
TW: They’re fine, I guess. The kid Ellsbury has speed and causes a lot of problems for pitchers when he gets on base. Pedroia and Ortiz, despite their ethnic names, are great hitters. And when did so many Italians start playing baseball? Napoli, Saltala-whatever. In my day, Italians worked construction and played soccer.
CD: Ellsbury does have a .467 OBP in the postseason –
(Williams and Musial scratch their heads in unison, while Dagonas keeps talking)
– which combined with his 6 stolen bases is absolutely dynamite to lead off. Ortiz looks reborn this season, and his heavy hitting continues to drive in runs. I’d say the offense has a solid 1-6, with some questionable 7-9 hitters, especially when St. Louis is hosting.
TW: (Whispering to Musial) What the hell is OBP?
SM: No idea. Must be one of them new-fangled stats.
CD: OBP is short of On-Base Percentage, and describes how often a hitter gets on base out of 1000 attempts. It’s like batting average, but it adds in walks.
TW: Sounds stupid. Old stats work fine.
CD: Well, Ted, you may be interested to know that in 1941, that same year you hit a .406 batting average, you had a ridiculous .553 OBP, a figure that was only beaten in 2004 by the infamous Barry Bonds. You also continue to hold the world’s highest career on-base percentage, at .481.
TW: You don’t say. Well, maybe there is some value to these science-boy stats.
St. Louis will counter with some variation of this lineup:
Matt Carpenter – 2B
Carlos Beltran – RF
Matt Holliday – LF
Yadier Molina – C
Allen Craig – DH
Matt Adams – 1B
David Freese – 3B
Jon Jay – CF
Pete Kozma – SS
CD: Stan the Man, what say you about that?
SM: Gosh, these guys are just great. Carlos Beltran could be the best hitter in the series, and he and I went to high school together! And Molina-
TW: Cough *Spanish* Cough
SM: (Rolls his eyes) -Molina is the league’s best catcher. And Matt Holliday just looks like a monster. I wouldn’t want to pitch to him.
CD: Beltran is definitely the postseason’s hottest hitter, carrying a .383 OBP and 12 RBI into the series. But beyond him, I don’t see much offense to celebrate. Aside from the 9-0 drubbing in game 6 of the NLCS, they averaged just 2.4 runs per game against the Dodgers. Both League Championship Series found runs hard to come by, but I feel more confident in Boston’s spread-out offensive abilities, than the feast-or-famine Cardinals. One point to Ted’s Red Sox.
TW: Haha! Take that, Boris!
SM: Ted, I was born in America, and I’m Polish, not Russian.
TW: Whatever, Stan-ski. Stat boy, what’s Musial got to show for his career?
CD: Well, he’s widely considered one of the 10 best hitters of all time. He boasts a .331 career batting average, and a .417 on-base percentage. He was a 20-time All-Star and 3-time MVP. He was also a vastly better fielder than you were, Ted, with all due respect.
TW: (Glaring angrily) Fine.
CD: So gentlemen, how has pitching changed since your playing days?
TW: Pitchers used to stand on mounds so high, we’d have to crane our necks just to see them!
SM: Pitches would come in at such extreme angles. Lowering the mound really made the hitters’ lives easier. Too bad we were both retired by then, eh, Teddy?
TW: Speak for yourself, Polack. I hit .406 in 1941, then went to fight Hitler!
SM: Hey, I served in the army too.
TW: (Unimpressed) Yeah. In Hawaii. In 1945.
CD: If I could just step in here, gentlemen, the pitching…
BOSTON’S STARTING ROTATION
Ryan Dempster (CANADIAN!)
CD: Ted, any thoughts?
TW: Are those… Japanese pitchers?
CD: Yeah, those guys are awesome.
TW: On my Red Sox?!
SM: Easy, Ted.
TW: Well, I’ll be damned. Never thought I’d see it. We taught baseball to Japan! And now those guys are playing in America! Progress!
CD: Wait, you’re… happy about that?
TW: Absolutely! I make some jokes, but baseball is meant for everyone. Who do you think I am, Ty Cobb?
SM: (Nodding) That guy’s a fuckin’ asshole.
TW: When Polska Pete (thumbs towards Musial) over here doesn’t like someone, you know he’s a jerk. We don’t even let Cobb play poker with us.
CD: Man, keeping you two on track is like herding cats. What do you think about Boston’s pitching?
TW: I can’t say I’m excited about that starting rotation. By the way, what the hell is a starting rotation? When I broke into the league in 1939, Bob Feller pitched 300 innings! Teams had 4 pitchers, and all those boys had to know how to play the field, too! Anyway, just give me a chance against any of those guys, I’d have slammed the ball right down their throats. I love my Red Sox, don’t get me wrong, but something about these starting pitchers gives me the willies.
CD: Well, the stats agree with you there. Lackey and Lester have been average, hovering around a 1.20 WHIP –
(Williams and Musial shrug at each other, while Dagonas yammers on)
– while Peavy and Buchholz have been downright untrustworthy. Granted, the Tigers hitters were tougher opposition than the Cardinals figure to be and the Sox survived that series. On the other hand, the Cardinals just beat out their toughest tests in Los Angeles with pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
TW: (Putting on reading glasses) Now, you say that a low WHIP is good, right?
SM: (Squinting) What is that?
CD: Correct. So WHIP means Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched, so it measures how often hitters get on base against a pitcher. The best possible WHIP is 0.00, meaning no one ever gets on base. Of course, that never happens, but-
TW: Holy crow! That Jap – er, I mean, that Oriental? That Uehara guy, his WHIP is 0.56. That’s good, right?
CD: That’s sickeningly good. Koji is in the debate for the league’s best closer.
CD: That’s the guy who pitches at the end of a game when his team is winning by three runs or less, to get a save.
CD: Never mind, it’s stupid. The point is that Uehara is amazing, and they should use him as often as possible. Boston has a great bullpen, but remember what we said about WHIP.
ST. LOUIS STARTING ROTATION
ST. LOUIS BULLPEN
John Axford (CANADIAN!)
CD: Any thoughts on this group, Stan?
SM: I’ve known Wainwright for a few seasons, and he’s fantastic. Give him a higher mound, and he’d be trouble for the best of us. But this Wacha kid… I mean, I’ve been watching baseball for a long time, and a 22-year-old kid pitching like this in the playoffs is pretty rare.
CD: Notice anything in the WHIP column for these guys?
SM: (Squinting) These numbers are really low!
CD: Lowest starting pitching WHIP in the postseason. Wacha and Wainwright are both under 1. That means that for five or six innings, opposing teams can hardly get one guy on base, let alone enough to score any runs.
TW: Pfft! Five or six innings! In my day, starting pitchers would pitch all nine…
SM: Hush, Ted. It’s my turn.
TW: (Crosses arms, grumbles to himself)
SM: So, our pitchers are better?
CD: Better than Boston’s? Uh, yeah, that’s a pretty universal sentiment. Starting pitching for sure, though the bullpen is sort of a toss-up. On the whole, I’d have to give the pitching edge to St. Louis.
CD: But that puts us at 1-1 on both sides of the ball. I’d really like to end this with some closure, and a prediction. Based on the old adage that good pitching beats good hitting, and my dislike of Boston’s manager John Farrell, I’m going to have to throw my support behind Stan Musial and his St. Louis Cardinals to win in 7 games.
SM: (Arms raised) Cheers! Let’s celebrate with a Zywiec!
TW: (Slamming his fist into the palm of his hand) You filthy, oily Greek!
CD: Thanks for coming, guys!
The figures disappear into haze, and the room temperature returns to normal. Chris settles into his seat, with a big can of Zywiec and a box of Triscuits, and turns on the TV to watch Game 1.