World Series notes: Fox can't tell Venezuela from Panama, Day 2. Plus: Philly's right-handed problem.
Unexpressed thoughts? Perish the very notion. Further cogitations on Game 2 of the World Series.
• Don’t they read this column over at Fox? Don’t they get Baseball-Reference.com?
In Game 1 Tim McCarver had talked about how the two starting catchers in the World Series, Dioner Navarro of Tampa Bay and Carlos Ruiz of Philadelphia, are both from Venezuela. Which is true, except that Ruiz is from Panama. Dang, only missed it by two countries.
It’s not some obscure secret or technicality that Ruiz is from Panama. He wasn’t born in Panama and grew up in Venezuela. Nothing like that. He’s just plain not from Venezuela. He has played winter ball in Venezuela, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t make him Venezuelan. He played for Panama in the World Baseball Classic. He’s Panamanian.
And while Ruiz is no star, he’s been the starting catcher for the Phillies for two seasons, both of them playoff years for his team. Of course, he doesn’t play for the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Mets or Dodgers, so Fox might not have heard of him.
McCarver’s error Wednesday was serious and prominent enough that not only should someone at Fox have noticed, but McCarver should have acknowledged it on the air Thursday. Instead, the first time Ruiz came to bat in Game 2, right after having tagged out Rocco Baldelli in a home-plate collision, Joe Buck went on at some length about how Ruiz and Navarro could now talk about how they’d both been in a collision at home during the Series.
“The Venezuelan-born catchers both survived the hit,” Buck said.
Don’t they hand out media guides to the Fox people?
• I’m awfully glad that Ryan Howard seems to have broken out of his slump, because if I’d heard one more time that hitting coach Milt Thompson and manager Charlie Manuel thought Howard had to hit the ball to left field, I was going to take a hostage.
• I’m still shaking my head over the lack of right-handed hitting on the Phillies bench. Eric Bruntlett may have been a decent choice to pinch-hit in Game 2 when he hit his preposterous home run, but only as the least of all evils, aside from Chris Coste, who as the backup catcher is dangerous to use as a pinch- or designated hitter, though Manuel is willing to do so.
Bruntlett’s .254/.361/.380 line against left-handed pitching would look OK overall for a utilityman, but for a right-handed batter against lefty hurlers, it’s pathetic. Phillies general manager Pat Gillick has been rightly praised for making the small moves that have improved the Phillies over the last couple of years, but it’s really a failure that he wasn’t able to acquire a right-handed bat down the stretch.
He picked up Matt Stairs from Toronto in August to hit righties, but Stairs made Geoff Jenkins redundant, except that Jenkins can play the outfield. Only he doesn’t. Bruntlett does. The aging So Taguchi, who doesn’t hit anybody, is also superfluous.
Putting aside a Manny Ramirez-type blockbuster, Casey Blake and Xavier Nady were both traded to contenders at the trading deadline, though both were expensive, fetching a steep price in prospects. I don’t know if the price was too high for, say, Emil Brown of Oakland, who ended up hitting .295/.337/.474 against lefties, or for Rich Aurilia of San Francisco, who hit .321/.377/.526. They were both free agents-to-be playing for teams going nowhere.
Maybe Gillick tried to land such a player. Maybe the Giants were asking the moon for Aurilia. But in any event, it didn’t happen, and it looks like the Phillies are going to pay for that all Series long. Big-league benches tend to skew to the left because most closers are right-handed. But the Rays appear ready to give a prominent late-inning role to David Price, and J.P. Howell is already a dynamite set-up man.
So yes, that’s my argument: Failure to procure Emil Brown might cost the Phillies the championship.
• One of the cool things about the postseason is that after a while, you’ve really gotten to know some of the more obscure players from teams you don’t normally follow. Well, not the Fox announcers, evidently, but some of us.
On Thursday it dawned on me that I would now not only be able to recognize Phillies relievers Chad Durbin and Scott Eyre if I saw them out of uniform, I could tell them apart. That wasn’t true two weeks ago.
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