Baseball is a regional sport: Take 47

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Just to continue a theme we’ve been beating into the ground for several weeks now. This time inspired by the observations of Rich Coutinho of CBS New York, found over at BTF:

You know we all say the New York baseball fan is smarter and more perceptive than any other fans in the country, but if the truth be told we’re as provincial as any of those other fans. When our baseball teams are out, we shut down and I guess what that means is we are really not baseball fans … The NY football fan still had interest in the Super Bowl after the Jets were bumped by the Steelers and the NY NBA fans were certainly mesmerized by Heat/Mavericks last year, but if we don’t see Yanks, Mets or Phils or Red Sox (only because we hate those last two teams) we shut down.

Being smart and/or perceptive has nothing to do with it.

Because there are so many games and because the vast majority of them we consume cover the local nine, baseball fandom is, almost by necessity, a local thing. Even the smartest, most perceptive baseball fans lose some degree — maybe a great degree — of interest when their team is out of it. Such is life given the dynamic of the sport. Maybe things were different when the vast majority of the country got nothing but the Game of the Week — and when baseball wasn’t rivaled by sports apart from horse racing and boxing — but those days are long gone.

Baseball fandom is not as wide as it used to be. But it is way deeper than it used to be. If I knew anything about business I’d say something about vertical markets or something.  But I’d probably just be talking out of my rear end.

Astros advance to the World Series with 4-0 finale against Yankees

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The Astros punched their ticket to the World Series on Saturday, shutting out the Yankees 4-0 to take their first Game 7 victory at home. Charlie Morton was nearly untouchable on the mound, holding the Yankees to two hits, a walk and five strikeouts en route to his first career postseason win.

Morton and Sabathia carried their duel through three solid innings. Morton struck out three batters and allowed just one baserunner. Sabathia worked in and out of jams in the second and third innings, supplying and stranding two runners in scoring position.

Evan Gattis was the first to strike. In the fourth inning, he punched a 2-2 slider from Sabathia into the left field wall, where it registered a projected 405 feet and broke a homer-less streak of 115 at-bats by designated hitters in the 2017 postseason. The home run signaled the beginning of the end for the Yankees’ starter. He induced a groundout from Marwin Gonzalez, then walked Brian McCann on six pitches and allowed Josh Reddick his first base hit of the playoffs. That was enough for Joe Girardi, who pulled Sabathia for righty Tommy Kahnle and an inning-ending double play to close out the fourth.

Even with Sabathia gone, there was still some hope that the middle of the order could bail the Yankees out. Greg Bird led off the fifth with a first pitch double and Aaron Hicks took a four-pitch walk. A wild pitch from Morton allowed Bird to reach third base, but Alex Bregman and Brian McCann weren’t about to let the Yankees spoil their starter’s shutout. Todd Frazier bounced a ball toward third base, where Bregman grabbed and fired it to home plate, catching Bird just as McCann put his glove down.

The bottom of the inning wasn’t any easier for Sabathia’s successors. Jose Altuve went oppo-taco on a 1-1 changeup from Kahnle, postmarking it 364 feet into the right field stands. Kahnle labored through the next four at-bats, handing out a pair of singles to Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel before sending Gattis down swinging. The next at-bat was even more troublesome. McCann roped a two-out, two-RBI double to the warning track in right field, clearing the bases and boosting the Astros’ to a cushy 4-0 lead.

The excitement fizzled a little over the next few innings. Brett Gardner muscled a leadoff single off of Lance McCullers, but was later caught at second on a force play to end the sixth. McCullers didn’t let go of the ball again. He was lights-out through the end of the game, scattering a walk and six strikeouts over four innings and clinching the pennant with a 1-2-3 performance in the ninth.

Whatever confidence the Astros had coming off of their three-game sweep in the Division Series was tested and tested again in their pennant run. They battled through three tough losses in Games 3 through 5, staved off elimination with a gem from Justin Verlander in Game 6, and finally emerged victorious tonight. Three days from now, when they enter Dodger Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series, they’ll have the chance to do it all again.