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Watching "Laura" During Astros-Yankees Playoff & Other Thoughts on October Baseball

You learn something new from a classic noir film every time you see it - it's like finding a new harmony in a great piece of music. During Game Two of the long-awaited Houston Astros-New York Yankees American League championship series, I switched during the interminable commercial breaks to TCM's (Turner Classic Movies) showing of Otto Preminger's classic 1944 film noir "Laura". 

 
I had seen the film at least a few times, but the dialogue never seemed fresher. I had long remembered early on when detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) is fiddling with a hand-held ball-bearing puzzle game called "Baseball".

 
This time I picked up something else. When supercilious Hollywood gossip columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) gets annoyed at detective Andrews for doodling with that game, Webb snaps: "Where do you get that? Something you confiscated in a raid on a kindergarten?"

"It calms me down," Andrews coolly replies.

 
I must admit, unlike Dana Andrews' detective Mark McPherson, baseball rarely calms me down. It stimulates me greatly, especially when the Orioles are playing. But in a post-season where I only really care that the Yankees' 10-year World Series-drought continues, I have enjoyed a lot of the games.

 
I am drawn in by the evident tension on the faces of the players.  This is not a time of year when "tomorrow is your best friend," a phrase I first heard from Bobby Valentine.  Every pitch is important in the post-season, and the best managers plan every game as if it is the seventh game of the World Series.

 
Obviously Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts hasn't learned that lesson.  He will return in 2020 and probably beyond because his LAD have won the NLWest division seven years in a row. But the Nats knocked out his Dodgers in the first round in a memorable climactic game in Los Angeles. 

 
Back-to-back homers by free agent-to-be Anthony Rendon and 20-year-old sensation Juan Soto tied it in the top of 8th off Clayton Kershaw, a great pitcher who is not used to being a reliever and is becoming a poster boy for October failure. 

 
Then in the top of the 10th veteran Howie Kendrick sent fair weather Dodger fans scurrying for the exits with a grand slam home run to dead center to cement a 7-3 victory.  I know it was a long game and LA fans always scurry to their cars at the first opportunity. It still struck me that the mass exit was extremely bush and insulting to the home team. 


Perhaps because I'm not emotionally involved with the Mets, I am happy for the Nats.  They exorcised their playoff ghosts by winning their first post-season series ever by beating LA.

 As I file this post, the Nats are one game away from their first World Series ever. 

 

By leading the Cardinals 3-0 in games, they are avenging their crushing loss to St. Louis seven years ago - when they couldn't hold a four-run lead in the 9th inning of the deciding game.

 
I'm someone who likes good starting pitching and Washington is loaded with great arms:  Former Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer, former number one overall draft pick Stephen Strasburg, the newly-signed free agent southpaw Patrick Corbin (who grew up a Yankee fan but wasn't offered enough $$$$ by Yankees), and the crafty veteran Anibal Sanchez.

 
If the Houston Astros can beat the Yankees in the ALCS - currently tied at one game apiece -  they also have big ticket starters in Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole (another onetime Yankee fan who chose to play at UCLA and later sign as free agent with Houston), and Zack Greinke. (Greinke suffers from a social anxiety disorder and it is painful to watch him do the required TV interviews with the press - I wish there were a way that he could respond in writing to questions from the probing scribes.) 

 

I'd rather take my chances with strong starting pitching and a couple of good relievers than using several pitchers just waiting for someone to not to have their best stuff that day. I am not a fan of "The Opener," a reliever who pitches an inning or two at the beginning and the rest of the bullpen completes the rest of the game.

 

The Yankees may do that in at least one of the upcoming games. They have not recently invested mega-bucks in starting pitchers.  It will certainly be interesting to see which philosophy wins out - the aces prepared for the long haul versus the ever-revolving door for relievers. 

 

It could be that the veteran Masahiro Tanaka and the young Luis Severino provide the innings that the Yanks will need to make their first World Series since 2009. Whatever, the old canard will still apply:  "Anything can happen in a short series."

 
Before I close, here's a tip of the cap to the Israeli Olympic baseball team that made the Tokyo 2020 competition by winning the European-African elimination tournament last month.  They beat out such amateur powers as Italy and the Netherlands.  

 

Danny Valencia, the former infielder with Twins-A's-Orioles, was perhaps the most recognizable member on the scrappy Israeli team.  I am proud to add that outfielder/DH Robb Paller, a mainstay on my alma mater Columbia Lions three-peat Ivy League champions of 2013-15, was also a key contributor to the victory. 

 
That's all for now but remember as always:  Take it easy but take it.

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"Tomorrow Is Your Best Friend" and Other Tips On How To Deal With A Looooong Baseball Season

The drama of the major league baseball season is enfolding before us in all its glory and agony. And the best advice for dealing with the inevitable peaks and valleys remains: "Tomorrow is your best friend." I heard the phrase first when Bobby Valentine managed the Mets at the turn of the 21st century.

Of course, it helps to get off to good starts as the Orioles and Yankees have done in the AL East and the Astros in the AL West. On the other hand, the road will be very difficult for those who have stumbled mightily in the early going, esp. the Giants in the NL West and the Blue Jays in the AL East.

Yet unlike football and even basketball, baseball plays by far the most games. There are still well over 120 to play. In a very impatient society, the best advice is to chip away day-by-day, inning-by-inning, pitch-by-pitch and perhaps the winning feeling will return.

Remembering the late relief pitcher Tug McGraw's mantra, "You Gotta Believe," never hurts. Yet for most of us I'm afraid the late great Oriole reserve outfielder and scout Curt Motton said it more realistically: "You're never as good as you look when you are winning, but you could be as bad as you look when you are losing."

Inclement weather continues to plague the Northeast. I don't recall a spring that feels more like fall and even winter. Impressive Houston's Saturday afternoon game against the Yankees was postponed early, and Derek Jeter Retirement of Number Day will now actually be part of a single-admission Sunday doubleheader.

Weather has impacted the Ivy League baseball playoff between defending Rolfe division champion Yale and Penn champions of the Gehrig division. These games won't be played until Tues May 16 and if necessary Wed May 17.

Penn eliminated Columbia, 6-3 in a single play-in game last Sunday May 7. Senior right-hander Jake Cousins pitched six solid innings and slugging senior outfielder Tim Graul did what all visiting teams must do on the road, contribute to a first-inning lead by slugging a two-run homer.

If forecasters are right, almost summery weather will finally bless us during the week of May 15 and I hope beyond. It is a very exciting time for baseball followers.
College and high school tournaments are starting in about a week. More on that in next installment of this blog.

Before I close, a special tip of the cap to Mark Melancon, the SF Giants new closer who really cares about the history of his team. On Monday May 8 before the start of the Giants' 3-game series against the Mets, Mark treated over 30 members of the New York Giants Preservation Society to a pizza lunch on Monday May 8.

We gathered at the foot of the John Brush steps below Edgecombe Ave. in Harlem just above where the Polo Grounds stood. Mark and his agent, John Fuller, listened with obvious sincerity to all of our stories about how we fell in love with the Giants as youngsters and how we sustained those memories even though the team left for San Francisco after the 1957 season.

For now, always remember: Take it easy but take it!  Read More 
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