World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Four

The Red Sox tear up the script, tie the World Series at two games a piece


ST. LOUIS — A start from a broken pitcher that went way better than anyone might have guessed. A three-run homer from the most unlikely of men.  On a night when the smart money was lining up against the Boston Red Sox, the storylines didn’t go the way they were supposed to go, resulting in a 4-2 Red Sox win and a series that is now tied at two games a piece.

About those pesky storylines:

  • Clay Buchholz’s arm was supposed to be 87% Nutella and jelly swirl — and maybe it was given his decreased velocity — but he somehow made it through four innings allowing only a single unearned run. The over/under on columns describing his performance as “gutsy” tomorrow morning is approximately six gabillion. And I’m taking the over.
  • The ground ball specialist Seth Maness was called in to bail out Lance Lynn with two out and runners on in the sixth inning, on a night when home plate umpire Paul Emmel was calling low, low strikes. He’s supposed to induce a worm burner but he left a sinker high. Oops.
  • That high sinker was delivered to The Totally Ineffective Jonny Gomes, who was supposed to be pumping one of the handles on the two-man handcar bound for oblivion with Jarrod Saltalamacchia as Game 4 commenced. But thanks to back tightness Shane Victorino was pulled, forcing Gomes into the game. Naturally, he hit a three-run homer.

But more than anything, The Red Sox, who walked off the field with their heads hanging low after Saturday night’s crazy loss, were supposed to be demoralized and broken. So much for that storyline too. And make that strike 937 against the idea that momentum is a thing in baseball.

What is a thing? David Ortiz knocking three hits and a walk, putting him at 8 for 11 this World Series and at .430+ in World Series play over his career. He didn’t knock in any runs tonight but he scored two and, Jonny Gomes’ heroics notwithstanding, is carrying this Red Sox team offensively.

Also a thing: John Farrell learning from his mistakes from Saturday night and not sticking with guys too long. Pulling Buchholz when he did. Pinch running for Ortiz when he got on base for the fourth time and using Mike Napoli as his defensive replacement. Not that he went fully conventional. He brought John Lackey in to pitch relief in the eighth. It was his first work from the pen in nine years. The performance was a bit shaky thanks to some bad defense behind him, but it ended up not killing him.

Those were just details, though. The important thing is that, on a night when a loss would have likely killed the Sox’ hope at winning this World Series, they gathered themselves together in businesslike fashion and delivered the sort of win that teams who aren’t upset, rattled or demoralized deliver. “We haven’t lost four games in a row all year,” their actions seemed to say tonight, “so we certainly weren’t going to lose four straight in the World Series.” A World Series that is now tied 2-2. And that is now guaranteed to head back to Fenway Park for a Game 6 on Wednesday night.

But first a Game 5 in St. Louis on Monday. In a series that refuses to follow a script.

The Days of Chief Wahoo are numbered

Fox Entertainment

One of the more common responses to what I’ve posted about Chief Wahoo lately is “it’s just a cartoon character! Nobody cares!”

Well, looking at that guy in the photo above and many others dressed like him at Progressive Field the past two days is evidence that it is not just a cartoon character. A certain swath of Indians fans think that, because of their team’s name and mascot, it’s totally acceptable to show up in public looking like this. Wahoo as an official trademark of a Major League Baseball club gives people license to dress up in redface — or in this case, red and blackface — with headdresses on, turning a real people and a real culture into a degrading caricature. It’s not just a cartoon character by a long shot. To many it’s a get-out-being-called-a-racist-free card.

As for “nobody cares,” well, yes, someone does. Go read this from Sterling HolyWhiteMountain over at ESPN, talking about both Chief Wahoo as a symbol and America’s treatment and conception of Native Americans as a whole. It’s moving stuff that puts lie to the idea that “nobody cares.” It likewise puts lie to the false choice so many Chief Wahoo defenders reference in which they argue that people should care more about actual injustices visited upon Native Americans and not mascots. One can and should care about those injustices. And one can do that while simultaneously finding Chief Wahoo to be an odious symbol that serves to dehumanize people. Once people are dehumanized, it’s far easier to treat them as something less-than-human, of course.

But it’s not just Native Americans or anti-Wahoo folks like me who care. While I have been critical of Major League Baseball for not taking its own stand against Wahoo publicly, it seems pretty clear at this point that the league is weary of Wahoo and is looking to pressure the Indians to eliminate it. Last night, at the Hank Aaron Award ceremony, Manfred spoke more expansively about Wahoo than he did the day before. Manfred is a lawyer and he does not choose his words carelessly. Read this and parse it carefully:

“I know that that particular logo is offensive to some people, and all of us at Major League Baseball understand why. Logos are, however, primarily a local matter. The local club makes decisions about its logos. Fans get attached to logos. They become part of a team’s history. So it’s not easy as coming to the conclusion and realizing that the logo is offensive to some segment.

“I’ve talked to Mr. [Indians owner and CEO Paul] Dolan about this issue. We’ve agreed away from the World Series at an appropriate time we will have a conversation about this. I want to understand fully what his view is, and we’ll go from there. At this point in this context, I’m just not prepared to say more.”

Yes, he’s still trying to be diplomatic, but note how he (a) acknowledges that Wahoo is offensive to some people; (b) that “all of us at Major League Baseball understand why” and (c) does not validate the views of those who do not find it offensive. He acknowledges that they feel that way due to history, but he does not say, as I inferred from his previous comments the day before, that both sides have merit. Indeed, he says he’d like to hear Paul Dolan’s side, suggesting that while he’ll listen to argument, he doesn’t buy the argument as it has yet to be put.

I still wish that MLB would come out hard and strong against Wahoo publicly, but the more I listen to Manfred on this and read between the lines, the more I suspect that Major League Baseball is finally fed up with Wahoo and that it wants to do something to get rid of it. That it’s not just the hobby horse of pinko liberals like me. I believe Manfred realizes that, in 2016, Chief Wahoo is an embarrassment to an organization like Major League Baseball. Maybe, because of p.r. and political considerations, he doesn’t want to stand on a soapbox about it at the World Series, but I believe he wants to put an end to it all the same.

You can call me names for being against Wahoo all you want. But you can’t say it’s a non-issue. You can’t say that it’s just a cartoon character and you can’t say that nobody cares. To do that is an exercise in denial. I have come to believe that Major League Baseball cares and that it’s going to push hard to make the 2016 World Series the last time it is embarrassed by anachronistic racism on its biggest stage ever again.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty Images

In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will be the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played for four hours and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.