I read the Cleveland papers and some of the national articles, and it seemed that Skinner got off lightly. As did Blake. You cannot deny that Skinner's gaffe completely changed the complexion of the game. Had Lofton scored, the momentum would have turned to the Indians. Maybe Hideki Okajima pitches differently to Blake. Maybe Blake takes a strike instead of swinging at that first pitch. Maybe Blake isn't so distraught over his 5-4-3 double play, that he has his head together and makes that routine play he booted to start the bottom of the seventh off of the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. If, If, If. Yeah, and if my grandma had balls, she'd be my grandpa. The bottom line is that the Red Sox are going on, the Indians are going home, and a city had to live through yet another in a series of misfortunes that we will not soon forget.
1. Nobody was talking about it today, but the Fox coverage last night was disgustingly pro-Boston. You can understand why. The Rockies/Diamondbacks series average a 2.3 TV rating. Last night's Indians/Red Sox game seven delivered over an 11 rating. Trust me, it wasn't because the Indians were playing. I don't know when it happened, but Boston has become America's team.
2. To that point, announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were brutal. I marked down three references that were painful:
-In the first inning, right after Manny Ramirez's ball hit the spot where the dirt meets the grass and skips over Jhonny Peralta's head, Buck and McCarver scoffed at it as if it were no big thing. Had the ball not hit the lip, its a tailor made double play ball to end the inning. McCarver made the statement two minutes later "another two out RBI by Ramirez." IT WAS A DOUBLE PLAY BALL!!!! They gave no credence to the fact that it was a fluky bounce.
-Kenny Lofton lines one off the wall in the fifth that Manny Ramirez played perfectly and threw to second base. Lofton was called out by umpire Brian Gorman. All replays showed he was clearly safe, as does the picture above (props to Brian Kuntz of the Plain Dealer). Yet after the Indians followed with two more hits, McCarver asked the rhetorical question "how big is the defensive play by Ramirez now?" How about "How big was the blown call by Brian Gorman now?" On three other occasions, Buck and McCarver mentioned the "great defensive play by Ramirez."
-When Victor Martinez took a 3-1 pitch from Okajima that was clearly high, it was called a strike. Buck and McCarver sat silent. The Fox Pitch Trax replay showed the ball a good 10-12 inches out of the strike zone, yet didn't comment.
3. The national media seemed overly giddy that the Red Sox pulled it out. I tried to avoid it at all costs, but I did see parts of Around The Horn and PTI on ESPN. Jay Mariotti of the Chicago Sun-Times, ever the negative nelly, brought up the Cleveland Curse and said Joel Skinner will go down with Earnest Byner, Craig Ehlo, and Jose Mesa in the pantheon of Cleveland sports goats. Worst of all, typically unknowledgeable Mariotti, said "Ryan Garko's quote before game six that 'the champagne tastes better on the road' was posted in every Red Sox locker and was a mistake to say." Guess what Jay - do your research - Garko made that statement AFTER THE YANKEES SERIES when the Tribe won game four on the road.
Michael Wilbon of PTI was one of the few who agreed with me that Skinner's blunder changed the entire complexity of the game. Colin Cowherd of ESPN Radio made this statement to start the show: "Yes, I picked the Indians to win the series, but I was rooting for the Red Sox, because they just are much more interesting." He also stated the obvious that MLB clearly wanted the Sox to win and that the Sox and Yankees are a must every year for ratings sake.
4. Lets talk about Paul Byrd - The Byrd saga was leaked Sunday morning. The San Francisco Chronicle showed credit card statements that Byrd spent over $25,000 on HGH from a Florida Pharmacy, which has had its license suspended for shady practices. Do you think it was a coincidence that this story happened to be leaked the day of game seven? The Former Senator George Mitchell-led steroid investigation is popping up new names almost weekly. Byrd says he had taken HGH under a doctor's supervision for a growth on his pituitary gland from 2002-2005. Whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but the point is that this story could have been printed next week or three weeks ago, yet it came out the day of game seven. FYI - George Mitchell is the listed on the Red Sox website in the front office as the "Director." He has also been in John Henry's owners box for every game.
5. If you want to play the blame game for the series, it must go to four men - Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Fausto Carmona, and C.C. Sabathia. Sizemore went 3-17 with two RBI. The straw that stirs the Indians drink was a complete non-factor. Pronk's horrible series was well chronicled; 4-27 with 12 K's. From Game Three on, he went 1-19 skid with 11 K's. His three pitch strike out to Jonathon Papelbon in the eighth inning representing the tying run said it all. He couldn't touch three straight fastballs. Carmona and Sabathia were supposed to be the X-factors in the series. Oh they were allright, but because of what they didn't do. Here's a chart for you to look at that says it all. C.C. and Fausto Regular Season vs. ALCS:
2007 - 38-15, 3.14 ERA, Hits per 9 innings 8.6, Walks per 9 innings 1.9
ALCS - 0-3, 12.67 ERA, Hits per 9 innings 14.9, Walks per 9 innings 8.8
That's four of your five best players who didn't show up when the lights were the brightest. Yet with all of that said, the Indians were just one win away from making it to the World Series. Pretty Amazing.
Skinner Explains Giving Lofton the Stop Sign - Joe Maxse, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Wait Continues for the Indians and Their Fans - Bud Shaw, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Walks Defined Starting Pitcher - Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer
Collossal Collapse - Sheldon Ocker, Akron Beacon-Journal
Game Seven Flukes Not the Problem - Patrick McManamon, Akron Beacon-Journal
Indians Finish Off a Complete Collapse - Howard Bryant, espn.com
They'll be Back - Joe Lemire, si.com
Indians Reflect on Series Gone Wrong - Albert Chen, si.com
Mitchell Denies he Leaker Byrd Story - Associated Press