The World Series was still undecided when I last posted. Looking back on an interesting Fall Classic, there were too many strikeouts and not enough action-filled games to make it a real classic.
It remains very annoying that starting pitchers are not encouraged to go deep into games. Every game now seems to be determined by which bullpen arm screws up.
The Houston-Philadelphia Series certainly had great moments, especially in the crucial Game 5 with the
Series even at 2 games apiece. As the bottom of the 8th began with the Astros holding onto to a precarious 3-1 lead, I said to myself, "This is a very good game but it needs some great defense to make it truly great."
Voila! With the lead cut to 3-2, former Oriole Trey Mancini, an emergency replacement for injured first baseman Yuli Gurriel (whose aging knee gave out in a rundown between third and home), flashed a quick glove over the baseline and came up with Kyle Schwarber's hard grounder to squash a rally and kept Houston in the lead.
Then in the bottom of the 9th with 1 out and Houston leading by only 1 run, Phillies impressive catcher JT Realmuto hit a long drive into the right center field alley that looked like a home run or at least extra bases.
Out of the night came center fielder Chas McCormick sprinting 90 feet to leap at the wall to snare the ball. He landed spread-eagled on his back with the ball in his glove.
Total silence enveloped the once-frenzied ballpark. Only McCormick knew he made the out. It was an
unforgettable moment for the unheralded center fielder, a 21st round draft pick who grew up a Phillies fan and attended the 2008 World Series that Philadelphia won over the Tampa Bay Rays.
I've said many times that you don't win pennants and World Series without grinders like McCormick. Earlier in Game 5, Chas hesitated on a fly ball to right center that right fielder Kyle Tucker caught at the
After the game McCormick said that he vowed to be aggressive from then on and it sure paid dividends for the Astros.
After giving up a record-tying 5 home runs to the Phillies in Game 3 that gave the Phils their 2nd
1-run victory, the exceptional Astros pitchers shut them out. Led by Cristian Javier's six innings, Houston no-hit the Phillies in Game 4 and held them to 3 runs total in the last 3 games.
Rookie Jeremy Pena, son of former Cardinals infilelder Geromino Pena, was the MVP of the World Series
and won the same prize during Houston's 4-game sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS. What a testimony to the scouting and player development departments of the Astros!
They judged correctly that Chas McCormick provided more overalll ability than the traded Miles Straw,
an outstanding defender for Cleveland, and Jose Siri, who has since played for Seattle and Tampa Bay showing flashes of brilliance but not consistency.
And three cheers for manager Dusty Baker who has cemented his place as a future Baseball Hall of Famer. For some reason, the Hall of Fame refuses to allow player stats to count in a manager's resume.
Dusty amassed nearly 2000 hits in his 19-year MLB career in which he never was on the disabled list and won a World Series with the 1981 Dodgers. Just as important, he remains a vital and positive force in the baseball and larger world.
As for the upcoming season, one of my favorite lines about baseball (that probably applies to most sports) is "Every season is different." As an Oriole fan, I was pleasantly surprised that we rose from the lower depths of the tough AL East to finish four games over .500 at 83-79.
However, obvious holes remain in the lineup offensively and the starting rotation has many spots to fill. The farm system is improved but I hope that the front office doesn't forget - I repeat myself on purpose - that no team truly contends without veteran grinders who come to play hard every day.
To me, that means Jorge Mateo at shortstop should be in the picture with the hope that his streaky
offense becomes less streaky. Maybe Ramon Urias finds a home as a utilty player - ironically he was named Gold Glove third baseman in 2022 but played less than 100 games there. The early analysis suggests that the position is promising Gunnar Henderson's to lose.
I wouldn't be opposed to a return of Roughned Odor who brought pizzazz to the team but I doubt he'd accept an utility role even smaller than Urias whose brother Luis incidentally plays mainly 3rd base for the Brewers. Spring training starting early February should certainly provide many clues.
I don't bet, but I would be very surprised if Aaron Judge did not return to the Yankees. His eventual signing might be drawn out because he is a member of the Players Association executive board though
as of early 2022, one of only three members of the board not a client of Scott Boras.
So maybe Judge won't ask for every dollar or every additional year. As for the other free agent drama in
NYC pro baseball, I don't think Jacob DeGrom returns to the Mets. He has been injured so much
in recent years that I think his long-term health raises serious questions.
Whatever happens in all these free agent signings, always remember another wise old adage:
LET THE BUYER BEWARE.
As for my teams playing winter sports, Wisconsin football limped to a 6-6 record, firing its coach Paul Chryst after a 2-3 start punctuated by a rout at home against Illinois coached by former coach Brett Bielema.
Jim Leonhard, the home-grown defensive coordinator and former NFL standout, finished the year 4-3, but in a Sunday afternoon Nov 27 shocker, Luke Fickell, former Ohio State and current University of Cincinnati coach, was named the full-time head coach.
Badger basketball took a big hit when breakout guard Johnny Davis turned pro after last year's
emergence. I said at the time that he wasn't ready for the pros, and the Washington Wizards' 10th
overall draft pick has not started his pro career very well.
He even was briefly sent down to the developmental league. But I guess the money these days is too good for athletes to turn down. Even if they could use more seasoning at the collegiate level.
Greg Gard's Badger cagers have started 2022-2023 with some gritty play in pre-league contests. They
took defending national champion Kansas to overtime before falling when they couldn't corral a vital
defensive rebound in the final second.
The lack of scoring and grit in the frontcourt remains an issue except for senior Tyler Wahl who it has been a pleasure to see emerge as an all-around player, an especially adept passer and driver to the hoop.
First-year guard Connor Essegian from Fort Wayne, indiana looks like a comer. His lineage stands out: grandson of Chuck Essegian, former LA Dodger 1959 world champion and 1952 Stanford Rose Bowl player. And on his mother's side, Connor is related to Hall of Famer Robin Yount. Most importantly, he
exudes a scrappy confidence indicating a desire to make his own name.
As for the Columbia Lions, the football team finished a respectable 6-4, winning its last three games after being routed earlier by Penn and eventual co-league champions Princeton and Yale.
Unfortunately men's basketball has now picked up the unfortunate mantle of chronic loser. Happily, the Columbia women's team is becoming a regular contender. They are playing a tough pre-league schedule
and then hope to slay the formidable Princeton dragon in league competition.
And now before I sign off, here are some TCM tips for the coming weeks:
Tu Nov 29 8p EDT - Charlie Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux" (1947) - his last American film before the
Cold War Red scare precipitated his return to England. Have only seen it once and want to see
again how Martha Raye hilariously avoids his murderous advances.
Thursdays in December except for Dec 22 Ava Gardner is Star of Night, starting usually at 8p EDT
Highlights include Th Dec 1 "The Killers" an early noir with Burt Lancaster based on Hemingway story
Th Dec 8 "Barefoot Contessa" with Bogart
F Dec 9 at 6:15A - "Showboat" (1951) with Ava as "mulatto" Julie and Joe E. Brown as Capn Andy
Th Dec 15 "Angel Wore Red" followed by Tennessee Williams' "Night of the Iguana"
Th Dec 29 Gregory Peck with Ava including "The Great Sinner" (1949),
"On The Beach" (1959) Nevil Shute's dystopia after nuclear war
"Snows of Kilimanjaro" (1952) based on another Hemingway story
Sa Dec 10 primetime salute to Ray Liotta with two TCM debuts from the 1980s
"Dominic and Eugene" and "Something Wild"
Tu Dec 13 features five classic noirs in primetime starting with:
"Murder, My Sweet" (1944) - Dick Powell definitively leaves his bobby-soxer past in the dust
"The Big Sleep" (1946) and "Lady in the Lake" (1947) followed by two later films:
"Farewell My Lovely" (1975) and "Marlowe" (1969)
That's all for now. Stay positive, test negative and take it easy but take it!