The World Series

       Congratulations to Jim Leyland and the Florida Marlins … the 1997 World Series Champions!
       Bob, I know you agree that for many this was a no-name Series, and we read about the lack of interest and the low TV ratings, but I didn’t mind one bit.
       I thought it was great for the Edgar Renterias, Craig Counsells, Jaret Wrights, Chad Ogeas, and Livan Hernandezes of the world to have the spotlight and center stage of the baseball world. They didn’t disappoint.
       To watch the utter joy and elation of Edgar Renteria as he approached first base after his game-winning single in the bottom of the 11th! This kid is just as big a hero in his native Colombia as Hernandez is back home in Cuba. He had a great Series and the big hit, and wow, can he play shortstop!
       How about young Hernandez and his role in the Marlins’ title? What a thrill that must have been for Hernandez to finally have the chance to see his mom again, flown in from Cuba for a short visit, before the game, and then to be named the Series MVP after the game. What a day for this kid!
       How about Counsell, a 27-year-old rookie who played such a big role in Game 7, with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 2 in the bottom of the ninth? He would eventually have the thrill of scoring the winning run on Renteria’s single up the middle.
       How about the way 21-year-old Wright pitched for the Indians under the pressure of Game 7? The only run he gave up in his 6.1 innings pitched was a seventh-inning home run by Bobby Bonilla. Wright got a no decision instead, but this kid pitched his heart out.
       And don’t forget Chad Ogea and his big wins in Games 2 and 6. Ogea also proved he could hit, going 2-2 with 2 RBIs to win Game 6.
       When the dust finally settles from this year’s Series, I think that’s what I’m going to remember the most. How these kids really came through when it counted.
       I felt bad for the Indians, though, especially for a good friend, Omar Vizquel, who played so well throughout the Series. The Indians were just a few heartbeats away from giving their long-waiting fans their first World Series title since 1948. But, for now, it’s wait till next year.
       I know a lot has been written about the low TV ratings during the Series, but I don’t think the Indians or the Marlins have to apologize for making it to the World Series. These two teams deserved it by beating the teams they had to beat.
       It seemed like every day there was a story about how the previous night’s game had only drawn a 14-something rating and a 24 share of the audience. I thought it was ridiculous. I bet they were watching in Cleveland and Florida. If the fans in the rest of the country didn’t tune in, then it’s our fault as fans for being disinterested.
       I was also disappointed to read the comments of a network executive who said he hoped the Series would go 4-and-out due to the lack of interest and the way the games cut into the networks’ prime-time slots. Well, sometimes the major-market teams don’t make it.
       Baseball is about the teams who survive the season-long struggle to get to the World Series, and the players and the managers who write that wonderful script to get there. Sometimes, the “little guys” win too.
       I’m happy for Leyland, who spent all those years as a minor-league manager and finally got his chance at the brass ring. I was happy for Mike Hargrove, one of the class acts in the game, to get another try.
       I was glad to see the post-game interviews handled on the field in front of the fans for the first time. It’s always fun to be in a clubhouse with champagne flying around, but I think part of that celebration should be shared with the fans.
       As for the television coverage, I thought Costas, Uecker, and Morgan did a great job, but I think three guys in the booth is one too many. I’d like to see a two-man team with a third guy as a roving reporter. Jim Gray did a great job filing reports during the game. I especially enjoyed how analyst Joe Morgan related what it was like to play in a Game 7 and what Sparky Anderson told his Cincinnati Reds when they were down to their final 12 outs against the Boston Red Sox in the ‘75 Series.
       One thing I don’t want to see next year are the 8:20 p.m. starts out on the East Coast. We have to make sure that kids have a chance to watch an entire ballgame and that the men and women who have to get up early the next day for work can stay awake. Game 3 ended way past midnight in the Eastern time zone. And we wonder why kids are gravitating to other sports … duh! We can do a much better job of marketing our game.
       Another way is to shorten the season from 162 games down to 154. I know this would be a gutsy move on the part of the owners, who would lose four home games a year. But this would give us a chance to avoid playing a part of or all the World Series in a frozen winter wonderland like we did this year in Cleveland.
       Well, now we get ready for the off-season and the many questions that lie ahead.
       Will Wayne Huizenga sell his franchise after winning the World Series? Will the Twins stay in Minnesota with a new ballpark, or will they move to North Carolina? What will the two leagues look like after realignment? What will the two new expansion teams look like after the draft on Nov. 18? What free agents will sign with other ballclubs? Who’s going to win next year’s World Series?
       Well, for that last question, I’m going back to the first thing I wrote a week ago–you know, that pitching-and-defense theory. The team with the best pitching and defense usually wins, and it helps to keep doing it in October. The Marlins did, and they’re the 1997 champions of baseball!
       So Bob, it’s been an exciting year and I look forward to 1998. Have yourself a great off-season, and I’ll see you next spring. Hey, maybe the Mariners and the Braves will meet next year? As Joaquin Andujar once said, “You never know!”

Your friend,