Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Some Final Thoughts on the World Series [J. Mark English]

Here are what some of the writers are saying around the internet before the 'wild rumpus starts':
  • Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post: When the World Series starts Wednesday, the proud, confident defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies will face the New York Yankees, baseball's biggest chokers for the last eight years. What happened? Did these two cities, after a century, decide to swap identities? Live long enough, you really will see everything....Go to Philadelphia this month and you'll see stories about how the Phillies have reversed the town's ancient inferiority complex about its pro sports teams. You are no longer a sucker if you dare to believe in a Philly team's chance for a positively ridiculous comeback win. It's now the Phillies' trademark, especially in the playoffs. Ask the Rockies and Dodgers. Both are still numb. Go to New York this month and you are met by the opposite mood. Before Game 6 of the ALCS against the Angels, a Page 1 tabloid headline on the Yankees blared, "We Ain't Chokin'.
  • Christina Red of the New York Daily News: By the time Ryan Howard was drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round in June 2001, Alex Rodriguez was two months into his record $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers, already a bona fide star with several playoff trips under his belt with the Mariners. When the lefty-hitting Howard made his major league debut at home against the Braves three years later - Sept. 1, 2004 - it was an inauspicious outing. Pinch-hitting for pitcher Vicente Padilla, Howard struck out looking against Jaret Wright. Rodriguez was by then five months into his debut season in pinstripes, the star Yankee third baseman on a team littered with All-Stars. A-Rod already had one MVP award (2003), and was en route to a historic playoff series against the Red Sox.
  • Frank Deford of Sports Illustrated: Someone once asked Fred Zinnemann, the director, what a certain famous movie star was like. "What makes you think," Zinnemann replied, "that she's like anything?" In the same way, the more we learned about Alex Rodriguez, the more I've always asked myself: is he like anything? Ever? Certainly there's never been anyone quite like him in sports -- the best at his game, the world at his feet ... but yet, also incorporated within such majesty: insecurity ... jealousy ... and untrustworthiness. He could be so gauche he could make you cringe. Remember the magazine photograph of A-Rod kissing himself in the mirror? Good grief, even Narcissus was content merely to stare at his own reflection.
  • Tim Marchman of To play in the NFL, you have to make a show of going to college. To play in the NBA, you have to get through high school. To sign a contract with a major league baseball team, all you have to do is convince someone you're 16, provided you weren't born in a country with inconvenient labor laws....Perhaps this goes some way toward explaining both the high reverence in which the intellectual is held in baseball and the low standards necessary to qualify as one. Mike Mussina's crossword puzzle habit was the telling detail that led a thousand profiles during his long career, limning him as a man apart from the rabble surrounding him in the clubhouse. The Chicago Cubs alone have multiple lousy relievers suspected of harboring deep thoughts because they went to Notre Dame. And Tony La Russa leveraged a never-used J.D. from Florida State University into book-length fawning from both George Will and Buzz Bissinger....Yankees manager Joe Girardi fits neatly in this line. If you don't know that he has an engineering degree from Northwestern, a team broadcaster will be happy to tell you. Often caught by television cameras modeling taciturn expressions while consulting thick binders full of arcane statistics, Girardi looks like an engineer, runs a game like one, and even talks like one. (How are the playoffs different from the regular season, Joe? "You have your parts, and you understand what you need to do with your parts, and you just go from there.") And in this year's playoffs, Girardi has done a fantastic job illustrating why baseball is a game for delinquents, not engineers.
  • Kristen A. Graham and Jeff Gammage of the Philadelphia Inquirer: On a stool at the Yankee Tavern, tucked under the subway tracks a block from Yankee Stadium, Steve LoPresti was the portrait of a lifelong Yankees fan..."You have two world championships," LoPresti lectured a visitor from Philadelphia. "It took you a hundred years to win the first. We only have 26."...See why Phillies fans love these guys?...And why local fans say that while it was fun to whip Tampa Bay in last year's World Series, this year's matchup offers a rare opportunity:...A chance for Philadelphia to put a beatdown on its northern big brother - on the city that thinks it stands at the center of the known universe, on the team that epitomizes arrogance, overspending and entitlement...."I hate that team. I hate 'em!" said Anthony Longo, who works at Harry Ochs Meats at the Reading Terminal Market....New York is Alex Rodriguez dating Kate Hudson, hounded by paparazzi. Philadelphia is Chase Utley marrying Jennifer Cooper, caring for hounds. New York is over-the-top George Steinbrenner. Philadelphia is under-the-radar David Montgomery....The Yankees have loads of history and tradition and championships....The Phillies have loads of history and tradition...."It seems like they have more of everything than we do," said Temple University assistant professor Emily Sparvero, who studies the business of sports. "They have the bigger media market. They have the new billion-dollar stadium. They have the stars in the stands."

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