No, not another commentary on relief pitching, although the relievers in the 2008 World Series have been stellar.
Nah, I’m basking in the personal relief that this series has provided to me and, hopefully, to true baseball fans across our country.
Relief from the constant worry about “The Economy.”
Relief from the relentless campaigning and electioneering from the right and left. (This, accomplished despite having the Obama Show as prequel to Game Five.)
Relief from the day-to-day concerns that seem to be so much more pressing this year than they have been in years past.
And to what do we owe this relief?
The nuances and sweet rhythms of the game.
The consummate test of a 162-game season.
And the fair and final contest between the last men standing—The World Series.
This year we have the Phillies and the Rays. Two teams that offer hope for the future of the game. These teams give us a glimpse of what a post-steroid-era MLB will look like. And this World Series smashes to bits the concept that a team has to have a huge payroll to succeed. In these days when our 401k looks like a 201k, seeing a smaller payroll team rise to the top feels good. It feels VERY good!
Make no mistake, I’m an unabashed Rays fan. But this commentary is not so much about me and “my” Rays. It is about baseball and the relationship between the game and the country. It hasn’t always been a love affair, has it?
When we watched with awe as Sammy and Mark slugged it out we were soaking it up...and loving it...until we found out that they were cheating.
By the time Barry shattered Hammerin’ Hank’s record, we were wise to the impact of steroids on the game, and so Bonds’ accomplishments didn’t generate much enthusiasm.
So this year, we have the underdog overachievers—the small-market champions—the Seabiscuit of MLB. This year, we have a team that all of America (except maybe New York, Chicago, Boston and Philly) can embrace—we have the Tampa Bay Rays!
Yeah, that’s right, Seabiscuit = Tampa Bay Rays.
Do you remember the story?
The little horse that could.
During the Great Depression.
Up against the established insiders.
Up against the highly-touted, highly compensated “vastly superior” competition—the little horse that shocked the establishment and gave the country an underdog they could love.
With the Rays you have a team that started the season as a 250-to-1 longshot to win the World Series—a $100 wager in April could still pay off $25,000 in October! A team in the same Division as the Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox—arguably the toughest Division in MLB.
The Rays, using home-grown talent, along with key players who were essentially cast-offs from other teams, still have a chance to become the World Champions because Joe Maddon convinced this team that 9=8. Nine players putting in a 100 percent effort for nine innings equals being among the eight teams that get to play in the postseason. Sounds simple because it is simple.
And standing between the Rays and their date with destiny? A team with a long and storied past from a city that is at the center of every American History lesson plan of every elementary school in the United States.
According to MLB.com, founded in 1883, “the Phillies are the oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional sports.” Over the past 125 years of Phillies baseball they made five trips to the World Series and won one World Series Championship…no wonder the Phillie Phans are so frustrated!
Well tonight might be the night they lock up their second Championship. The Phillies have a decided advantage. They get four at-bats, while the Rays have three remaining. 12 outs vs. nine; the Phillies should put it away. But I hope not. Regardless of who wins, I really hope this series goes seven games.
I need it and, except for Philadelphia, I think WE need it. The sweet diversion of baseball played at the highest level under the intense pressure of the World Series atmosphere.
We can all cast our ballots next week, cross our fingers, and hope and pray that whoever wins that contest will be able to lead our country in a good direction.
But it would be nice to enjoy a little more baseball before we become glued to our TVs watching the election returns roll in.
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