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"Winter Has Come And I Do Wish Tampa Bay Had Hit A Little More" (corrected version) + Ups and Downs of Wisconsin Badger Football

The end of a baseball season, even one as short as this one, always brings melancholy. With Daylight Saving Time ending at Sun at 2AM, the days will grow short, too. For a half-filled-glass kinda guy, it will be suck-it-up, hope-for-better-days time.  

 

There is no doubt that the LA Dodgers deserved to win the Series. Smooth shortstop Corey Seager was a worthy MVP for his offensive production and fine defense.  

 

LA hit and pitched more consistently than the Rays whose lack of offense except for the rookie Randy Azorarena was disappointing if not appalling. Randy was also handled fairly easily with men on base.

 

For a season to end with shortstop Willy Adames taking the last two strikes in a three-pitch punchout from the nearly-flawless Julio Urias was tough to handle.  Highly touted prospect Wander Franco may be replacing Adames in 2021. I would have liked Willy to have gone down swinging. 

 

Or manager Kevin Cash use a pinch-hitter for him.  It was Cash's first World Series as a skipper and he didn't seem to manage with urgency. He could have pinch-hit more often for great defender/weak-hitting catcher Mike Zunino. 

 

I was glad Zunino got his first World Series hit in his last AB in the Series.  And gotta love a guy whose parents were both catchers - they met when father Greg, now a Cincinnati scout, was playing in Italy and his mother Paola was playing for the Italian national softball team.

 

Props to Mike for thanking his wife when interviewed after a big game earlier in the playoffs. But backup Michael Perez might have been used more.  I know during the regular season every time he came up against the Orioles he seemed to deliver a big hit.

 

The classic game was the fourth one, a back and forth affair that ended on a game-tying single by reserve Brett Phillips and two rare errors by Chris Taylor bobbling a single in center field and Will Smith muffing a relay throw not realizing that Arozarena had fallen down between third and home.

 

The real turning point int he Series came in game 5 when the Dodgers immediately scored two runs in the top of the first to wrest whatever momentum the Rays might have had from the previous night's victory.  

 

The old cliche came true again:  "Momentum in baseball is the next game's starting pitcher."

Tyler Glasnost simply did not rise to the occasion in game 5.  After Manuel Margot was caught stealing home to end the bottom of the 4th after the Rays scored two runs, it was up to Glasnow to pitch a shutdown top of 5th.

 

He couldn't do it. He gave up a solo home run to Max Muncy to give LA breathing room.

Props to the Dodgers for scoring so many runs with two outs. More than I've ever seen. 

 

Where Kevin Cash is really being roasted is for yanking Blake Snell in the final game after the 2018 Cy Young-winner had thrown only 73 pitches with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 superb innings.

 

Snell deserved to face Mookie Betts for a third time despite the infuriating "advanced metric" that said it is a no-no. Even Betts said after the game he was glad Snell was gone.

 

Somewhere in this land and in baseball-loving nations around the world, here's a hope that young pitchers are growing up dreaming of pitching in big games and embracing the challenge of going through an order three times or even more.  It is called pitching.

 

Lord knows what kind of season and what kind of country we face in the weeks and months ahead.  As a Wisconsin Badger fan, I first suffered the loss of a basketball season where Greg Gard's unheralded squad won the last eight games of the season and a share of Big Ten title when the pandemic hit.

 

Football got off to a flying start last Friday with Grahem Mertz's nearly-perfect five touchdown game against Illinois.  And then he tested positive for covid-19 as did his backup QB and coach Paul Chryst and several other players and staff.  The game against Nebraska has been canceled with no makeup planned and Mertz will be out for at least two more games.

 

I haven't even mentioned that the Dodgers' leader and big run-producer Justin Turner tested positive, a result known in the 2nd inning of the last game.  But he wasn't removed until the 8th inning. He was then allowed, unmasked, to join the post-game celebration.

 

In a country where our POTUS is behaving similarly, I worry about the validity of polls showing his likely defeat.  We've been through that before. "We're all in this together" doesn't apply for at least 40% of the country and probably a majority of athletes. 

 

So let me return to my half-filled-glass state and hope for the best in our country and also for some kind of satisfying regular season in 2021.  With also fewer minor league teams axed. Alas, there is no indication that any reasonable solution is at hand.

 

Nevertheless, always remember:  Take it easy but take it!       

 

 

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In Praise of Wisconsin Badger Basketball + No-Baseball Blues, Part II

Saturday April 4th would have been the start of the Final Four.  It is also the 27th birthday of the great Wisconsin Badger center Frank Kaminsky who five years ago on that night led my team to a stirring semi-final victory over previously undefeated Kentucky.  

 
It was sweet revenge for a loss to the Wildcats in the 2014 Final Four semi-final. 

It is too bad that Wisconsin couldn't hold a lead in the final against Duke - cunning Coach Mike Kryzewski successfully worked the refs in the second half and the Badgers didn't respond well enough. 

 

Yet the 2014-15 Badgers remain close to most of us alums' hearts. Frank Kaminsky was the poster boy for the Badger way of patient player development.

 

After needing the first two seasons to get used to the relentless toughness of Big Ten competition, Kaminsky exploded on the scene as a junior and in his senior year was named National Player of the Year, a first-of-its-kind honor for a Badger.

 

Kaminsky is currently recovering from knee surgery and hopes to resume his journeyman's pro career with the Phoenix Suns next season (whenever next season starts).  He's been the most successful pro from a team that included forwards Sam Dekker and Nigel Hayes and point guard Bronson Koenig - all have played more in Europe than in either the NBA or its developmental league.

 

The line from Kaminsky went first to Ethan Happ who gave Kaminsky fits in practice when red-shirting. If only Happ, whose first cousin BTW is Yankees southpaw J. Happ, could shoot fouls and anything outside the paint.  (Last I heard Happ was playing in Europe before the pandemic ended his season.) 

 

It's a shame that this year's Badgers never got a chance to play in the post-season tournament.  The surprise #1 seed in the never-played Big Ten Tournament roared down the stretch with a eight-game winning streak.  

 

Big men Nate Reuvers and Micah Potter showed they were worthy successors to Kaminsky, Dekker, and Happ; gritty guards Brad Davison and D'Mitrik Trice brought back memories of the Ben Brust-Josh Gasser-Traevon Jackson trio; and swing men Aleem Ford and Brevin Pritzl, the only senior on the team, had great moments as well.   

 
The pain of losing basketball at a crucial time was bad enough even if an ESPN simulation predicted the Badgers would have gone all the way. Since coach Greg Gard, a worthy successor to his former boss Bo Ryan, gave crucial minutes to only six men makes me wonder if these Badgers would have gone all the way. Alas, they never had a chance so we'll never know.

 
No March Madness, and now we are dealing with the ongoing no-baseball blues. There are so many movies one can watch on TCM before one lusts for outdoor activity and seeing live sports again.  

 

I did catch a lot of TCM's late March baseball films.  Never had seen "Pride of the Yankees" straight through and Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright as Lou and Eleanor Gehrig made for a very endearing couple.  

 

I hadn't realized that Yankee catcher Bill Dickey plays a role in the 1942 film as a defender of Gehrig, slugging a teammate who criticizes the Iron Horse as his career tragically declines.  Babe Ruth also plays himself in the film and brings a lot of Ruthian energy to the role. 

 

Alex Mankiewicz, the daughter of co-screenwriter Joe Mankiewicz, made the pertinent observation in pre-film commentary that her father did love baseball and had been a pretty decent player.

 

MLBTV, of course, is another baseball outlet for me these days. I caught on April Fool's Day the replay of Game 7 of the 1991 World Series with the Twins beating the Braves in a 1-0 10 inning thriller.   

 
I remembered it as the Jack Morris Show with the Series-winning pinch hit delivered by Columbia's Gene Larkin.  I had forgotten that it was Dan Gladden's hustle leading off the bottom of the 10th inning that set up the winning run. 

 

Gladden never stopped running on a bloop single to left center and just got into second in the nick of time. Then Chuck Knoblauch did when the analytic geniuses of today pooh-pooh, gave himself up with a 4-3 grounder that sent Gladden to third base with the winning run. 

 

After intentional walks to Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek, pinch-hitter Gene Larkin ended the drama with a first pitch single over the head of left fielder Lonnie Smith

for the World Series-winning RBI. I felt bad for reliever Alejandro Pena who had pitched two innings in Game 6 and had worked this game since the 8th. 

 

I had forgotten that the Twins had great chances to score in the 6th, 8th, and 9th innings before Gladden and Larkin delivered in the 10th.  Of course, Game 7 is most remembered for Lonnie Smith's inexplicable stopping at second base on Terry Pendleton's drive over Gladden's head in left field.

 

On a play in front of him, Smith somehow got deked by the Twins' adroit DP combo of future Yankee Knoblauch and former Yankee farmhand Greg Gagne.

Of course, Jack Morris deserves full credit for pitching out of the second and third and no out situation on his way to a stirring complete game victory.

 

I had forgotten that Sid Bream, whose slide into home on Francisco Cabrera's single beat the Pirates in the NLCS to get Braves into the Series, hit into a 3-2-3 DP that got Morris out of the 8th inning jam.  How like capricious baseball to turn a hero into a goat in a matter of days.  

 
Announcer Jack Buck annoyingly wouldn't let Smith forget the booboo for the rest of the broadcast. But to Buck's credit, he did realize that the scoreless battle was a classic in the making.  After one half-inning, he invited viewers to return after a commercial break for more "torture and pleasure". 

 
I'm sure MLB will fill the void with more great games from the past.   It is a pale substitute for the real thing, but I do believe that patience is a virtue.  It looks like we'll have a chance to be very virtuous in the weeks ahead because I cannot see a baseball season starting before summer if then. 

 
Nonetheless, as always take it easy but take it!

 

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