The Fox File
But if it's a big game -- say, the World Series for example -- then crunch time often demands the audio, if only because crowd noise is so integral to such an event. I watched the classic Steve Bartman game in 2003, saw the whole eighth inning develop right before my eyes, even immediately predicted to my friend Paul that the Cubs were doomed to blow the game, and the NLCS after that, now that this idiot fan has robbed Moises Alou of an easy out. And I was right! But I felt no personal connection to that experience, still don't, never really did, all because we were listening to Toots and the Maytals instead.
So when it's a big game, I pretty much have to tune in and pay at least cursory attention to the broadcast. Assuming I need pictures to go along with the audio, I have nowhere to turn but to Fox, and neither do you, and Fox knows it.
Fox's trangressions against fans of baseball are myriad and well-documented. If you are reading this then you're probably a baseball fan, and if you're a baseball fan then I don't have to list for you the ways Fox besmirches the sport with its vapid coverage, nor do I have to list the members of the commentariat -- certified or self-appointed -- who have called Fox out on it...but here's a primer. Call it the Fox File:
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10
11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19 - 20
21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28 - 29 - 30
This is pretty comprehensive, not in terms of the sheer amount of criticism (impossible task, that) but in terms of the variety of complaints. While compiling the Fox File, I should note, I did run across the occasional mildly positive review of Fox's coverage, or at least certain aspects of their coverage, but a) not very often, and b) never any four-star, two-thumbs up, raving endorsements.
And yet Fox's contract with baseball rolls on. To paraphrase the immortal Bobby Knight, if it's inevitable we might as well relax and try to enjoy it.
From Draft Day to the Bigs, Quicker Than Before
Is it just me or are drafted players, especially those drafted out of college, making the majors quicker than ever before? As this 2005 season got underway the pre-eminent example was the 40th pick of the 2004 Draft, one Mr. Huston Street, from the University of Texas. Drafted 40th overall in the 2004 Draft as a so-called "sandwich pick," Mr. Street appeared in 67 games for the A's this season, first as Octavio Dotel's setup man and ultimately as the A's closer. Mr. Street put up better numbers than most closers in the league (5-1, 78.1 IP, 72 K, 23 SV, 1.72 ERA, 1.01 WHIP). If teams that drafted ahead of the A's—the White Sox for instance—knew that a legitimate MLB closer was out there for the taking, they probably would have snapped him up with a first round pick instead of letting him fall to the supplemental round. (Interestingly, neither the Red Sox nor the Braves had a pick until the second round in 2004). At any rate, Mr. Street will be a closer in the major leagues for years to come. And for the next few years, his price tag will be quite manageable: in 2005 he made $316,000. That said, he did get an $800,000 signing bonus from Oakland, but all in all, it's still not a bad deal for the Athletics. In fact, he was the lowest-paid player on their team.
Mr. Street is not the only pick from the 2004 Draft to have broken into the big league ranks this season. There's also J.P. Howell, again a four-year graduate of the University of Texas. The Kansas City Royals drafted Howell 31st overall in the 2004 Draft and dropped him right into their starting rotation about a year later. Howell didn't pitch that well for the Royals. In 15 starts he went 72.2 innings and was 3-5 with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP. He did have one excellent outing however, when he no-hit the Twins over five innings on September 26th. Howell got a $1 million bonus when he signed with the Royals. That makes his league-minimum salary of $316,000 look a little steeper as it's averaged out over his first three years, but that's still only $649,333 per year. As a rookie right out of college, he has shown some promise, and his club was willing to give him 15 starts despite the fact that he did not make his way to the big league club via A, AA, AAA. If he wins ten games next year, he is a bargain at $650k.
Likewise Jason Vargas, the 68thpick of the 2004 Draft, who went 5-5 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP in 17 games (15 starts) for the Marlins in 2005. Mr. Vargas received a $525,000 signing bonus but made onlythe league minimum despite locking up a spot in the Marlin rotation as that team contended for the Wild Card in August and September. Mr. Vargas fits the Street/Howell mold: a four-year college player, graduating from a college baseball powerhouse (Long Beach St.) and started three games for Florida's Single A Affiliate in Greensboro before being called up to pitch for the Big Club.
During the 2005 season, the Red Sox sent John Olerud to the minors. This nixed Olerud from a famed exclusive trio of players who were the only three players since the inception of the amateur draft in 1965 to have made their professional debut in the Major Leagues and completely avoid the minors thereafter. The other two are Dave Winfield and Bob Horner. But perhaps Winfield and Horner will have more and more company as major league teams rely more and more on four-year college players ripe from the most recent Amateur Draft.
Take for instance, Ryan Zimmerman of the Washington Nationals and Joey Devine of the Atlanta Braves. Mr. Zimmerman was the 4th pick of the 2005 Amateur Draft on June 7, 2005 and was promoted to the major leagues so fast (Sept. 1, 2005) he wasn't even around to accept the MVP Award his minor league club, the AA Harrisburg Senators, wished to bestow on him. I mean, is Major League baseball going to need three tiers of minor league development if this trend continues?
Look at Mr. Devine, who by this point of the season is best known for giving up the 18th inning homer to Chris Burke in Game 4 of the NLDS, which sent Houston to St. Louis and sent the Braves home for the offseason. But before Devine found himself in that situation, he was the 27th overall pick in the 2005 Amateur Draft. Msrs. Zimmerman and Devine are both 4-yr college players, Zimmerman out of the University of Virginia and Devine from North Carolina St.
Zimmerman, though, is no cheapie. He signed a deal with the Nats worth almost $3m, not including an $800k signing bonus. I am presuming that this deal spans Zimmerman's first three years, at which point he would become arbitration eligible. Averaging the signing bonus out over three years, Zimmerman makes $1.27m per year for three years. That's no league minimum but the Nats will pay him far less than they're paying Vinny Castilla, who made $3m in 2005 and will make $3.2m in 2006. Castilla hit .253 in 2005 with 12 HR, 66 RBI, and a .722 OPS. Zimmerman, in limited time, hit .397 with 6 RBI and a .922 OPS in 58 at-bats. This should have the Nats wondering who gets pinched from the left side of their infield next year: Castilla or Guzman? Zimmerman can also play short, it seems. In the 2005-06 offseason, Mr. Zimmerman will play in the Arizona Fall League.
Mr. Devine, meanwhile, got a $1.3m bonus, although it's not clear what kind of contract he's got underlying that. It might just be a minor league contract, which is worth $52k when purchased by a major league team. The Braves were perhaps in dire bullpen straits as October rolled around but nonetheless had some reason for adding Mr. Devine to their playoff roster. However, his 12.60 ERA over 5 IP in the regular season leads you to believe the Braves simply had no other options. Mr. Devine struggled in three appearances in the posteason, finishing with a 10.80 ERA over 1.2 IP.
Then there's Craig Hansen, a rare young arm on the Boston staff. The Sox took Mr. Hansen 26th overall in the 2005 Draft. He pitched three innings during the regular season, with an ERA of 6.00, 3 K's and 1 BB. He didn't make the postseason roster. But he can reach the mid- to upper-nineties and I wouldn't be surprised to see him closing games for the Red Sox next year. He was, after all, the closer at St. John's. Like the A's with Mr. Street, the Red Sox might have plucked a ready-made-closer from the college ranks. He has signed a four-year contract with the Sox that will pay him $4m over four seasons.
The speed with which these college players are making the major leagues is unprecedented. The dynamics of baseball, including its free agency market, must take note. MLB franchises can now draft MLB-ready players, most of whom have played four years in the college ranks, instead of paying larger salaries to veteran players who might or might not be effective. Major league owners are happy to let the NCAA take over player development for them. Why take a chance that Tom Gordon might be a decent closer next year when you could have drafted one in June the year before?
According to one of the farmworkers, Urbina started asking about a firearm that had disappeared. The worker, 21-year-old Ricardo Osal, told police that Urbina and others rounded up the workers, beat them, attacked them with a machete, then splattered gasoline and paint thinner on them and burned them.
Now, we at MLBeat are categorically opposed to setting human beings on fire. This is not a new stance for us. But what really makes this story interesting, what really gives it that extra oomph, is the involvement of a machete.
For anyone who hasn't foraged through undiscovered jungle territory or seen Hotel Rwanda, a machete is like an oversized knife. If we replace "machete" in the story with "knife," then this story becomes a lot more run-of-the-mill, just another depiction of yet another athlete's thuggery and brutality off the field. But there's something about a machete, presumably the exaggerated size, that apparently gives the story a humorous edge, bringing out the snark in everyone, and giving rise to Photoshop efforts like this one (cribbed from the700level.com).
Far be it from us to jump atop the pile. A machete probably doesn't look so funny if the business end of it is being pointed in your direction. Yes, a foot-long blade might seem more vicious than any normal set of circumstances might demand, but it bears repeating that we already knew Urbina's security needs in Venezuela probably go beyond normal. And the more I think about it, especially in conjunction with the questionable mental stability of those around us...maybe I should get me one of those.
Atop the Badass Meter
I already know one thing, though: that was probably the most badass home run I have ever seen. The towering arc and the distance of the shot, not to mention the way such a shot looks in a tiny park like the Juice Box, helped to increase the badass factor, and so did the circumstances.
- Brad Lidge had been Cooperstown-caliber, both this year and last, right up until the moment Pujols strode to the plate.
- The Cardinals were facing playoff elimination with two outs.
- The Houston crowd, on the verge of its first World Series ever, had been growing quite spirited in that ninth inning. So had the home dugout. Even a disinterested viewer like me had to admit that was pretty cool to see, especially the way they immediately went silent like that.
- As one former cohort pointed out to me, it was awfully close to a re-enactment of Casey at the Bat, right down to the score standing four to two with but one inning to play. "But Eckstein let drive a single, to the wonderment of all...." And of course, Pujols rewrote the ending.
- The rest of the Cardinals had looked pretty frail at the plate all through the series, especially in this game, especially against Lidge.
- The way it served as the most forceful response imaginable to Lance Berkman's seventh-inning homer, which had been cheaply served into the short porch.
- The way everyone knew immediately, from Pujols to Lidge to the crowd to the announcers.
Let's try to gather together the homers in baseball history that have ranked highest on the Badass Meter. (For the sake of simplicity we shall only consider homers, not overall performances.) The criteria for a high rating on the Meter will remain subjective and mysterious to all but yours truly, so Pujols' shot was about a 9.6, with the .4 coming off because a) it was a hanging slider instead of a fastball, and b) it didn't end the series right then and there, although many have argued prematurely that it did.Hendu in '86. Not bad, and perhaps the most apt comparison drawn, but it came off Donnie Moore, who was nowhere near Lidge's class. Also, the fact that Moore later committed suicide makes this less badass, not more, though some might disagree. Score it a 9.2.
Bobby Thomson. This was indeed pretty badass -- one-game playoff, heated rivals, a Sayonara that served as a direct rejection of a managerial pitching choice (Ralph Branca) for this specific batter. Points off, though, for the fact that the supposed Shot Heard 'Round the World was actually only a Berkman-esque liner that snuck over the 279-foot wall in left. Plus, Branca already had a history of failure against Thomson. Plus, 'badass' wasn't a word yet in '51. Score it an 8.6.
Bonds vs. K-Rod. This was Game 6 of the '02 World Series, but the stakes weren't quite that high at the time (a 3-0 lead became 4-0 in the sixth). True badassery though: K-Rod had attained true phenom status by that point, a heretofore unknown who had just blown away his October opposition (28 K in 18.2 IP), and Bonds turned on that fastball like he was facing John Wasdin. Score it a 9.0.
Kirk Gibson. A pinch-hit job to win a World Series game: plus. He had fallen behind 0-2: plus. He then worked the count full before homering: slight minus. The rather weak-looking nature of the homer versus Gibson's leg injury: push. Eckersley was MLB's best reliever at the time: big plus. Gibson capitalizing on his previously-established clutch reputation: plus. This is a tough call. Score it a 9.5.
Bill Mazeroski. Not quite. Maz didn't look the part, for one, and nothing was at stake if he had (say) grounded to third. First ever Series-winning sayonara, though. Score it a 6.8.
McGwire vs. Randy Johnson. Now we're talking. This was a relatively meaningless regular-season game, but in terms of the reputations at stake it was anything but. This was the Bonds vs. K-Rod of '97. According to Mariner broadcaster Dave Niehaus, "We have often wondered if McGwire got ahold of a Randy Johnson fastball how far he could hit it, and I think we just saw it." Sure, 538 feet may have been an overstatement, but it didn't feel like it at the time. Adding to the drama was that Johnson struck out 19 batters in the same game. Score it an 8.7, making it the most badass regular-season homer yet.
Robin Ventura vs. Kevin McGlinchy. An extra-inning playoff game-winning no-doubter grand slam is pretty sweet. Tack on two-tenths because it only went down in the books as a single. On the other hand, who's Kevin McGlinchy? Score it a 7.8.
Joe Carter vs. Mitch Williams. It won a World Series, it was a decent-looking shot, it involved two marquee names, and it ruined Wild Thing's career. Not too shabby. But wasn't it a rather foregone conclusion that the Phillies were going to find a way to lose? I'm also docking .2 due to the Canada factor. Score it an 8.4.
**Update 4:49pm: It has been brought to my attention that the Pujols homer did more than merely turn around Game 5 and potentially save a team's season. It has also allowed the world at least one more look at the soon-to-be-imploded Busch Stadium. That's an extra tenth of a point in my book, giving Pujols a 9.7 on the Badassometer.
**Update 10/20 9:25am: Well, now St. Louis has been eliminated, thanks to the selfish Astros who showed no respect whatsoever for the potential historical value of Pujols' blast. John argues that in this context we have to adjust our score out of respect for Gibson, whose team took home a ring in '88 thanks in part to that homer. I'm a little leery of docking points as a direct result of the efforts of Mulder and Oswalt, but he's right, even the most badass feats don't happen in a vacuum. John wants Pujols down to 9.4, but I'll make a compromise and say Pujols gets a 9.5, with Kirk upgraded to 9.6.
The Air Just Went Out of the Balloon Here
It is the top of the ninth in last night's Game Five in Houston.
Tying runners aboard, for one of the most dangerous hitters in the game: Pujols. This was certainly the scenario you didn't want to deal with. Garner comes out to say, "I don't care if you walk Pujols. We're not gonna walk him intentionally, but you go ahead and throw what you want where you want, and if you walk him so be it." [But why not walk him intentionally? Pitch to Larry Sanders!]
Garner heads back to the dugout, Ausmus back to to the plate.
Pujols swings at the first pitch, a slider in the dirt, and misses.
And then Astros announcers Milo Hamilton and Alan Ashby, speaking with monotone voices, as if they were talking about the weather:
Strike one count to Albert Pujols...ready for an oh-one, Brad Lidge ready...delivers...fly ball...it's a long home run...it's clear up on the railroad tracks.... And the air just went out of the balloon here. The thing you talked about, Alan.... And none of us can believe what's just happened. Five-four Cardinals. This hit the glass up above the railroad tracks, just a bomb. Runs three, four, and five. So lights-out Lidge gets lit up. Four hundred and twelve feet? If that ball ever came down, it would be way beyond that.
You Like Happy Update?
For the sake of accuracy, let's call the new guy John Randall. John is a highly contemplative individual, and he's battle-tested in the blog world. The selection process for a Sain to my Spahn was long and involved, but in the end it came down to the fact that he should be easily confirmable -- so said the focus groups anyway -- and besides, y'know, I know his heart. He'll trot out that first post of his any minute now; just set your browser to auto-refresh every 60 seconds or so.
The second update is equally warm and fuzzy, if not even more so: The Cardinals have purchased the contract of one Rick Ankiel, adding him to the 40-man roster and paving the way for him to make the big-league club next year. That's right: Ankiel put together a semi-promising year in the low minors with 21 jacks, including ten (not to mention 30 RBI) in the final 28 games in AA Springfield, and now he's got a clear shot with St. Louis, the perennial NL powerhouse, next year as an outfielder. Loyal MLBeat readers know of my particular affinity for Ankiel, so I'll cut it short lest this turn into the Official Rick Ankiel Fan Site and just close with a hearty "Woohoo!"
Good day all around. And to think I very nearly went the other way by waxing sorrowful about the Cards and their NLCS debacle-in-progress. Perhaps next time.
Give It a Rest
Apparently going 2-1 over this stretch was a feat of superhuman proportions.
From MLB.com: "So a journey that may have floored a number of teams, and certainly spawned great criticism that the schedule in the postseason is flawed, only seemed to fill this Angels team with great resolve and an unlikely source of energy."
From ESPN: "The last time this many American males bonded through sleep deprivation, Otter Stratton was taking his Delta House buddies on a road trip."
From Baseball Prospectus (the day before): "The White Sox are so much more rested that it will likely prove decisive."
From CBS Sportsline (Headline: "Big W, No Z's"): "Given their alarming lack of pillow time, incidentally, wouldn't you think that a reliever named Cotts (Neal) would be working out of the Angels' pen instead of Chicago's?"
Well, if last night's win doesn't demolish the fatigue angle, let me take a crack at it: To make excuses for a team based on travel schedule and/or general lack of sleep is to pretend that amphetamine use is not common in baseball. Or, as Jim Bouton might have said, how fabulous are greenies?
"There's No Latent Homoeroticism in Baseball!"
Nope. None whatsoever.
Nice picture though. With any luck this will be the cover photo that captures the '05 Yankees in all their glory. We here at MLBeat normally abstain from gloating, piling on, beating a dead horse, or any other form of schadenfreude. However, we here at MLBeat cannot be expected to act like robots all the time either.
One Break to Cut
A graphic comes up illustrating Jeter’s postseason success: 38 multi-hit games, reaching base in 99 of 114 total games, and 135 hits, tops all-time. As we come back to the ongoing at-bat Buck says (this may not be verbatim), “It's stats like that and reciting them that leads Ben Affleck, the Red Sox fan, to believe that you and I are in love with Derek Jeter. But we’re just showing you what the guy’s done.”
Fair point. I would counter that the stats their producers chose were arbitrary. Specifically, they favored career-based numbers, which is a lot less interesting when you realize that a guy who plays on eight consecutive playoff teams is going to rack up some counting stats. Just check out this page and scroll down to see all the appearances he's had in postseason. For a glimpse of perspective, the person who held many of these cumulative playoff records prior to Jeter was David Justice, a merely decent player who had the good fortune to play on a long string of consecutive playoff teams.
But Jeter has obviously had some success in the postseason, and anyway I digress. Later in the inning, when Buck gives an uncalled-for sermon on the feats of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb -- we can almost hear Fox executives drooling over the cross-promotion of an NFC star -- McCarver gets even more gratuitous: "I obviously don't know Donovan McNabb, but he appears to be a first-class individual in every way." To which Buck replies, "You would love him. [pause] You wouldn't love him like you love Jeter...." This gets laughs all around.
Setting aside their facade of supposed impartiality, I for one am heartened by their willingness to address the critics. Buck and McCarver may disagree with us, they may even make snide and sarcastic comments to get their point across, but at least we know that it's in their heads, this specter of a Jeter-loving stigma, and they saw fit to respond. That's called a dialogue, ladies and gentlemen, and that's the first step towards that elusive goal we call progress.
I know it may sound like a little thing, but it is most definitely a thing, and sometimes a little thing like the ability to acknowledge criticism is all it takes to separate Buck and McCarver from the likes of The Abominable Joe Morgan. Everyone bashes Buck, McCarver, and the rest of their announcing brethren, but at least one drop of perspective might be in order here.
Introducing Our Contestants....
We can't move on yet though; there's still a playoff string to be carried out. The teams still standing do all have at least some potential, so they deserve some mention.
Atlanta Braves -- Nobody knows what to expect. There are too many wild variables, too many unknowns. Rookies everywhere, scouting reports being hastily scribbled on the backs of programs, surprised baserunners stopping halfway to third when they realize Jeff Francoeur's throw has already arrived. A good time to be a Braves fan: second-best team in the league, loaded with local boys made good, success affirmed for at least five more years or so. But a strong-looking playoff team is what would really hit the spot; it would be the first one in six years after all.
Two problems with this plan, though. First, Andruw Jones has an evil twin, an infuriatingly infantile alter ego who has a tendency to swing at too many bad pitches, possibly in attempt to end the game quickly so he can get back to the Gold Club. Good Andruw has kept Bad Andruw suppressed long enough this year to put together that long-awaited MVP-caliber season, but Bad Andruw is still lurking down there somewhere, I'm telling you. Second, nobody knows what the bullpen is supposed to look like after Kyle Farnsworth and (gulp) Chris Reitsma. There is no consensus on which pitchers to take among the assortment of Kyle Davies, Blaine Boyer, Macay McBride, Jim Brower, Dan Kolb, Joey Devine, and Anthony Lerew. The list goes on, and nobody knows the answer. This story never has a happy ending. Verdict: NLCS at best.
St. Louis Cardinals -- Never has a team been such a shoo-in from start to finish in a division. Their healthy season-long cushion in the standings has allowed them to absorb the injury to Scott Rolen, experiment with various drugs on Larry Walker to see what will keep him upright and alert throughout October, compile and send out catchily-sloganed pamphlets as part of their "Chris Carpenter for Cy Young" campaign, run through prospects like Scott Seabol and John Rodriguez to see who sticks, and even allow So "Very" Taguchi to nurture that rare treasure known as a 400-AB season.
St. Louis is the one Contestant that hasn't played a game that mattered in months. That means nothing come Tuesday of course, at least not as much as the fact that Carpenter might be fading, that Rolen is gone until 2006, and that they're still probably the NL's best hope by a safe margin anyway. This is because of Albert Pujols, who has only led the Cardinals in runs, RBI, homers, hits, doubles, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and stolen bases. Something tells me he is going to play a role. Verdict: Series bound, Pujols wins NL MVP, Carpenter wins Cy Young. Not a bad year overall.
San Diego Padres -- As weak stepsisters go, the Padres are weaker than weak; in fact they just plain suck. They're the worst team ever to make the playoffs in baseball history outside of the strike-ravaged 1981 season. But this has all been well-documented. We all know this ends with the Padres as a mere footnote to the 2005 season. What we need to be ready for is the moment when Jake Peavy comes up big and stakes his team to a 1-0 lead over the Cardinals. We need to take a deep breath now, in preparation for when that moment happens. Let's not freak out, people! Verdict: Down in four.
Houston Astros -- In every sport's postseason there is a "Team that Nobody Wants to Face," and the Astros are now baseball's TtNWtF for the second year in a row. This does not entail much more than having stellar starting pitching, but there's no denying Houston has the, um, stellarest of the stellar. In a series that runs seven games or fewer, the troika of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt should be all the aces you need. Additional good news is that Houston faces the Braves, whom they've finally been able to handle in the playoffs in recent years. The bad news is, the Braves can tell you all about how far a top-notch rotation and little else will get you in October. Verdict: Outside shot at a Series run.
Anahellhole Angels -- In many ways they are the same Angels team that won it all in 2002. Except they have Vladimir Guerrero now, and that and as a result the rest of the offense has apparently decided not to even bother. Vladimir has the only OPS above .900, Casey Kotchman has the only OPS above .800, and after that you get into names like Bengie Molina and the now-decrepit Orlando Cabrera and Adam Kennedy. But like the '02 squad they still have the great equalizer in Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez, and the pitching rotation has been a solid group effort from Jarrod Washburn, John Lackey, Paul Byrd and Bartolo Colon, who cracked twenty wins again and is a Cy Young darkhorse. This is when it begins to dawn on us that Bartolo Colon is going to hang around for a long time and probably end up in Cooperstown based on career totals. Verdict: World Series loser.
Chicago White Sox -- It was a fun run, but seriously you guys. No more kidding around. We'll look back on your run with great fondness, more so than the '93-'94 Frank Thomas-Jack McDowell run. It was the year 2005. Kids everywhere were grooving to Katrina benefit songs, supermodel Kate Moss did cocaine during the Super Bowl halftime show, it was revealed that the old NES game Contra had been part of a subtle propaganda campaign by portraying the scary foreigners as aliens [this is scheduled for next month], and Scott Podsednik was stealing bases by the dozen. Ah yes, sweet memories those were. But they're not really going to run Jon Garland out there in a playoff game, are they? Verdict: Down in five.
New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox -- Okay, stop. Let's just not even go here. Other people do these two teams better than I do. Better to just move on to--oh, screw it. Why do we have to suffer through more of this Yankees-Red Sox sludge every stinking fall now? There needs to be a sweeping movement of overall fan sentiment that diverts some of that collective good ol' Yankee hatred over to Boston as well. Major League Baseball had arguably the best running subplot of any major sport: Perennial losers, eighty years without a title, perpetually the Yankees' bitch, so many near misses, and so on. Now it's gone, ruined. Without it the Red Sox are not one iota more likable than the Yankees: same mammoth budget, same super-saturated media coverage, same annoying propensity to acquire (pick one) John Olerud, Matt Lawton, or Shawn Chacon with surprisingly little fanfare after the trading deadline has passed and every other team is trying to make do with what they have. At the risk of going all Bill Simmons, this is like a sitcom where the two romantic leads have gotten together. There's nowhere to go from here. Now we have to come up with some big new thing. Hey, I've got an idea: let's make a big deal out of steroids for a while! Verdict: Yankees down in four, Red Sox bow out in ALCS.