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Red Smith once wrote, of Bobby Thompson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World", that "[t]he art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention." This year, fiction is very much alive and reality has strangled only the Twins. It turned from a World Series that only Hollywood could have imagined, to a World Series that anyone could imagine, being played in Hollywood. The Twins magical season is over.

But why such local rancor? Sure, the Twins made mistakes. Lots of them. Their offense was frozen against the Angels pitching: by now we all know that Torii Hunter drove in a total of zero runs, Jacque Jones' hit a resounding .100 (with but two RBIs), and Corey Koskie stood at the plate like some frightened first grader gaping at the t-ball. Doug Mientkiewicz tried to defend his team's meager output, suggesting that the Twins were good at "small ball", and we shouldn't expect big hits. Well, in our book, the "small ball" theory argues that you get by on stolen bases and bunts, neither of which the Twins had in abundance. And what about the glaring mistakes, the lack of fundamentals? We saw seven errors by the best defense in baseball. During game five, in the first inning, we watched in horror as David Ortiz whacked a fastball, hurled his bat aside and stood in the box to watch his ball sail way back... to the wall. He barely made it in for a double. Later, in the fifth, we were bewildered by A.J. Pierzynski's thrill over having been thrown out at second, having driven in but one run. Perhaps he knew they would lose by eight. Only God knows why the Twins heralded relief corps fell apart-maybe they were running on fumes, having held the team on their shoulders all year. Could that explain why Johan Santana, with an 0-2 count on Adam Kennedy, threw something other than junk? Did all the relievers have to look so frightened?

The Twins were outplayed, pure and simple. Maybe the pain of watching that ten-run seventh inning has made us so quick to assign blame. But more than anything else the Twins did wrong, the Angels did right. They're unstoppable. Bellying up to the buffet in the seventh, they respond to the Twins three runs by moving around the bases like Germans pouring across the Maginot Line. You could say that the Twins were afraid, nervous, terrified, and we'd agree-but fear alone didn't blow that inning apart. It wasn't fear that upset David Wells and the Yankees enough to rack eight runs in the fifth inning of deciding game of the Division Championship. The Angels are playing like a team bent on winning. They hit when they needed, and got the pitching that counts. When Mike Scioscia needs someone to rise up for the team, a line forms. Darin Erstad, Kennedy (who apparently doesn't realize that you can't pad your regular season HR totals in the playoffs), and newcomer Francisco Rodriguez stepped up their game, unlike most of the Twins, who shrank into theirs.

It is only with benefit of twenty-twenty hindsight that you can really question some of Gardenhire's decisions. From what we've heard, the backwards glances aren't very observant. Fans ask: What was he thinking with Rick Reed? Why stick with Ortiz? Why not more Mohr? For starters, statistics don't support some of the complaints. The last time Reed pitched against the Angels, he went the full nine, giving up three hits and one earned run. Against Oakland, Boston and Seattle (the three best teams he faced in the second half) he went 21.2 innings, with a 2.97 ERA. Had Gardenhire put Lohse in (as many suggested), and had Lohse-a rookie-got clocked (as was the case with Santana, the other alternative to that lousy Reed), we'd hear nothing but complaints about how the greenhorn manager ignored the above stats. Look, if there's one thing that Gardenhire has done all year, he's shown a remarkable loyalty to his players. Gardy stuck with Reed in the post-season because he's stuck with Reed through the whole year, period. As for everything else, well, at least he's consistent. Sacrifice bunts and stolen bases weren't his gig against the Angels earlier, so why now? You might question his strategies, but they're what got the team this far in the first place. Did we already forget that Gardenhire's wisdom helped an underdog Twins team capture a Central Division title against an overconfident-and hugely talented-Oakland team? Many have argued that Tom Kelly would have taken the Twins farther in the post season, and they might be right. But under the hypercritical eye of Kelly, would they have made it through their injury prone first half? With Kelly at helm, we might today be wondering why the White Sox consistently lose in the first round.

Our Twins made mistakes, failed to execute, and got spooked by than the toughest team in both leagues. Anaheim came ready to play, and the Twins were not quite there yet. Credit is owed to the Angels more than ire is due to the Twins. The future isn't quite now. Maybe it's next year.


Our childhood ended officially on September 29 of this year, as Ernie Harwell retired as broadcaster of the Detroit Tigers. More than anyone else, Harwell was baseball in Michigan, and we've enjoyed more games filtered through his voice than any other medium.

Is there anything we could write that could truly capture the beauty of this man's work? Harwell wasn't a cheerleader, nor a harsh critic, but he did have that voice, and it captured baseball like nothing else. Writing about a man like Harwell, there's not much to go on. A study of his biography shows him to be a good man, with a few interesting quirks (he's a songwriter), and a wealth of fascinating baseball stories, many of which are collected in his books (though he's not a great writer). No, his success rests on his ability to take you to the game without the intrusion of his personality. Harwell never called attention to himself, and never overstated his quips, as many broadcasters do today. Ernie used our favorite-"He stood there like the barn by the side of the road!" for a called strike-but once a game, if that. With Harwell, the Tigers were wherever you could haul a radio. Ernie's voice could be heard throughout the state every summer, when the Tigers won and when they lost. Between blasts of the rivet guns in the crushing factories of Detroit and Saginaw, to the porches of the rickety cabins by the reedy lakes, and even echoing from the cells of Jackson Prison, Ernie took you away from the rough times, or added another layer of joy to the good ones.

Ernie Harwell opened every spring training broadcast with this verse from The Song of Solomon: "For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come; and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land." Now he's gone. Who will tell us that the winter is past, that the song of the turtle is heard again?


Congratulations are due to Bud Selig and the Lords of Baseball in this year's labor fight. Make no mistake, the Owners were the clear winners here. With the interests of baseball in mind, they agreed to put off contraction until 2006 in exchange for ushering in the luxury tax. Nothing for something... that's quite a deal. We'll say it again: we do not believe the owners were going to contract. This dry piece of lint served just fine as a bargaining chip, and the players, knowing that a strike would damage the industry beyond belief, caved in. Look for the contraction threat to rear its ugly head in 2006, when the "deadline" approaches, and the Twins still don't have a new stadium (the agreement also conveniently states that the owners don't have to tell anyone which teams will be killed).

Good Mr. Selig stands to reap great benefits personally. His Milwaukee Brewers stand to gain considerable million dollars from the luxury tax. This is the same team that USA Today recently reported is cutting an additional $18 million in salary by slicing away many of their (admittedly mediocre) marquee players. This little compromise brings in over $30 million bucks for the Selig clan alone. This extra profit-without bettering the teams-is precisely what the players warned us against.

You may say, relax, pay attention to baseball, we've got a good postseason coming. Well, we're concerned, you see. Like to look at the long term as well, what, what. Wouldn't it be better to try and figure out ways to avoid labor strife down the line? To create real competitive balance?

While we don't have any magic bullet, but we do believe that, in many ways, the players ideas were valid, and in the best interest of the sport. However, only Michael Dukakis could have communicated them in a more unappealing manner.

We believe it's time for an alternative commissioner. Right now, the players have only Don Fehr as their mouthpiece, and he's not so camera-friendly, if you know what we mean. But rather than have some pro-labor puppet standing at the podium, wouldn't it behoove the players to hire some alternative? A shadow Commish? One that the union chose, but, like the owners with Landis, one who was independent from them, whose decisions the players would abide, regardless of whether they agreed. Don't believe that Selig's ever going to step down, despite all the pundits calling for his hide. True, it's fat chance that this'll happen. Still, you have to dream, and it's time someone thought of solutions for baseball without having to rely solely on Selig or Fehr.


Montreal to Washington? No? Well, maybe Montreal to North Carolina, where the Twins were supposed to go? Not that good, either, huh? Maybe, as our close personal friend, Seal, used to sing, it's time we got a little crazy.

We take our promotional cues from Bill Veeck, and thus give you the following oddball suggestion: why not, for one year, make the Expos a barnstorming team? Six different locales for the six different months? The National League Barnstormers (just a suggestion) open the season in Washington, D.C., where President George W. Quayle throws out the first pitch in the grand old tradition of the Senators of old. May sees the squad tearing it up in... New Orleans? In June, our wanderers go internacionale, heading to Mexico City, Monterrey or even Puerto Rico. In July, it's West, to Las Vegas, or Salt Lake City. Cooling off, August is for Portland (whose sportswriters keep trying to plug that ville as Major League material). September sees them... where? Vancouver or Edmonton? Sacramento? North Carolina? Perhaps even Hawaii.

You'd be right to say that the stadiums in many of those burgs wouldn't be much more than minor league venues, but so what? They'd draw better than Montreal (home average 10,025 per). Plus, it's only one year. It might help MLB determine the best place (and it's not Montreal) for this team to perch the following season. Nothing like it has ever been seen before, at least in the Majors. Evoking the somewhat forgotten history of the barnstormers, it would, above all else, be great fun.


Fox is trying their damnedest to make the Angels out like some kind of incredible underdog, having lost the rights to make the most of the Twins Phoenix-like rise from the so-called contraction ashes. Then again, perhaps more movers and shakers read Mudville than we realize. Readers may recall that it was our suggestion back in July to put the Angels on the chopping block ("Where Angels Fear to Tread", May issue). Since it's unlikely that the muckitymucks at Fox are readers, we have to point out that the Angels aren't much more Cinderella than San Francisco, what with Dusty Baker & Co making the Giants overachievers of the year (again). True, the Angels have never been in a World Series, but the Giants haven't won since they moved West over forty four years ago.

Is it any mistake that the two remaining teams are those which played in the toughest divisions? New York feasted on Tampa and Toronto, while St. Louie and Atlanta consistently play the likes of Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, and, for this year, the Mets. 'Seems pretty even to us-although the Angels fire doesn't look to be extinguished any time soon. Our prediction: Anaheim in five over San Francisco (two wins, one loss, two wins).


Three articles stick out in this month's Baseball Digest: "Never Say Die Guys", about teams that don't give up (like this year's Angels). Since we're keen on catchers, "Sustaining a Long Career", which highlights the careers of weak-hitting catchers who endure (like Minnesota's Tom Prince), is also given the nod. Last but not least, thanks are given to the fans whose letters to Baseball Digest are amongst the most enlightening pieces on baseball as can be found anywhere. That the editors publish so many is also worthy of praise. Keep up the good work.

The September 23rd New Yorker (find it at the library) has an intriguing article on Billy Beane of the Oakland A's. "The Buffett of Baseball" (as in Warren not Jimmy), it suggests that Beane's SABRmetrics approach to training ballplayers is paying off. However, this question is left unanswered: is it interesting? With few stolen bases and sacrifice bunts (which we believe are successful and exciting), are the A's fun to watch? Is this lack of a flexible offense the reason they can't move past the first round? Or why they never attract great crowds (with an average not much better than the Metrodome)? Perhaps it is no mistake that the accompanying illustration shows a ballplayer smacking an abacus.

Last but not least-and not about baseball whatsoever-check out the September edition of Britain's Sight and Sound magazine (still at bookstores). "The Ten Best Films of All Time" is intriguing in much the same way that the Modern Library's mishandled 100 best books of the century is not: its results are not from some Star Chamber of fuddy-duddies, but collected from a poll of critics and filmmakers around the world, including Camille Paglia, David Denby, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, and many others. Considering it comes with a free paperback copy of Pauline Kael's analysis of "Citizen Kane", and is published but once a decade, it is essential reading. That is, unless you're hoping to see "Bull Durham" listed.

As usual, keep us posted with your favorite scribes.

Movie of the Week

Red Smith on Baseball

By Red Smith
Ed. by Ira Berkow

© 2002 Loafer's Magazine. All Rights Reserved.