This weekend offered a pretty good view of what the 2003 World Series figures to be all about. In Game 1 Saturday the Marlins used speed, guile, timely hitting, defense and relief pitching to squeeze out a 3-2 win. In Game 2 Sunday the Yankees pounded the Marlins 6-1, beating them in just about every way you can beat a team short of clubbing them over the head with lead pipes.
If the Marlins can get enough decent pitching, take enough extra bases, turn enough slick double-plays, they might be able to overcome the Yankees' All-Star team of starters, their big bats and their near-automatic closer, Mariano Rivera. The next three games are in Miami, where 65,000 people will show up, and if the Marlins' National League Championship Series against the Cubs was any indication, a little over half of them will be Marlins fans. Chicagoans made the trip down. Think there are any Yankees fans living in South Florida?
There haven't been any signature moments, plays that happen in a World Series and make you think, "That's one I'll be seeing replayed for the next 50 years or so." There was Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone's relay decision in Game 1, when he didn't throw home to try to get a runner he might have had a play on, instead throwing behind the batter, Juan Pierre, rounding first. That run, the Marlins' third, proved to be the winner. That was interesting.
There were two throws by Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez. He picked Nick Johnson off third in Game 1, and in Game 2 he threw a laser to second from his knees -- and over an interfering Boone, who stepped in front of Rodriguez after swinging and missing -- to catch Jorge Posada stealing. Those were nice.
But nothing for the ages so far. Just some pretty good baseball. That's about what you'd expect in the first two games. Things are just beginning to heat up.
And I get the feeling you don't really care. Game 1 got a 10.9 rating, meaning about 11.8 million people watched, and a 20 share, meaning four out of five people watching TV were watching something else and not getting this message: His father is the district attorney! That rating was up 16 percent from last year, but remember that last year's Game 1 between the Giants and Angels had the most pitiful viewership in World Series history, a 9.4. Saturday's was still the third-lowest-rated World Series opener ever, beating only 2002 and the Yankees-Diamondbacks opener in 2001, a 9-1 Arizona romp that drew a 10.4.
My in box has cooled off considerably too. When the Cubs and Red Sox were still alive last week, fans and non-fans alike bombarded me with their thoughts on those teams' histories, personalities and exciting League Championship Series against the Marlins and Yankees. Someday I'm going to collect all of the anguished e-mails I got in the hours after Chicago and Boston were eliminated into a book called "Dying is Easy, Rooting for the Cubs or Red Sox Is Hard."
Now all is quiet except for people saying they don't care about the same-old Yankees against the Marlins, who are either a bunch of nobodies or a team owned by Satan incarnate, Jeffrey Loria, depending on who's doing the grumbling. The Cubs and Red Sox, or even the Cubs or Red Sox, would have been romantic, thrilling, special, the thinking goes. The Yanks and Marlins are none of the above.
The TV ratings bear that out. After all, while the World Series ratings are up a blip-ish 16 percent from the worst year ever, the League Championship Series ratings, fueled by the Cubs and Sox, were up 65 percent over last year.
When the Cubs and Red Sox were in the process of going down, reader Jack Sparks wrote that he felt sorry for me because "you're the guy who might have to explain why anyone would want to watch a World Series between the Yankees and Marlins."
I suppose that's true, but really it's no skin off my nose if you don't watch and I'm not going to try to convince you to tune in. I just think that baseball fans who are giving the World Series a pass because the Cubs and Red Sox are absent are cheating themselves because those signature plays probably will happen, those memorable games, if the baseball played in the remarkable first three weeks of this month set any kind of precedent, will materialize. It stinks to miss those. I didn't get to see much of the great '91 World Series between the Twins and the Braves and I'm still kicking myself over it.
The Series is off Monday and resumes Tuesday in Florida, Mike Mussina against Josh Beckett. Should be a good one.
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