This has been an extremely tense October so far with a pandemic raging, more and more evidence of global warming plus, on a personal level, my new job. I probably should have just turned it down, but with things going the way they are economically I just couldn’t refuse. Representatives of the sovereign state of Bulgaria approached me about helping them with a problem. They were quite frank. International relations are important to them, they said, and they hoped to assist their country and its government in understanding better the culture here in the United States. Normal diplomatic channels have been sending mixed and confusing messages for the last four years, they said, so perhaps I could help them by reporting on some aspect of the American culture that I was comfortable with and thereby help make life more understandable for all of us. Plus, they would pay me.
It just so happened that the major league baseball season was coming to a close with an unprecedented 16 team playoff schedule that promised to be a great source of information for my new friends. The fact that I would not be able to attend any game in person but would need to rely on television only enhanced the opportunity. I was able to report that the things that Americans seem to be most interested in are eating food that they don’t have to cook themselves (especially if it contains canned “cheese” sauce and pickle slices), shopping for automobile insurance, drinking alcoholic beverages, driving new cars that easily slide sideways through all sorts of obstacles, and gambling their paychecks on all manner of sporting events so that other people can get really rich really fast. There were other things of note as well, such as the white man in a white suit with white hair and a white beard who seemed to like dripping brown gravy on top of pearly white mashed potatoes, which seemed a bit Freudian or something.
The games were a lot better than the incessant advertising, though, even when Joe Buck was working. It must be said that, despite lots of genuine excitement and loads of talented stars, the quality of play was not up to usual MLB standards. This was noticeable all season, and much of it had to do with the shortened schedule of both preparation and actual games. Base running gaffes were common and fielding errors as well as mental mistakes definitely marred things a bit, but what fun it was to have some ball to watch! It was, after all, the best we could do in 2020 considering the tragedy of Covid 19.
Oh, those Rays! Tampa Bay versus Atlanta was our personal wish but those damned Dodgers had to go and ruin things. At least we have a clear choice to root for in the World Series. That would be the Rays, a winning team assembled by intelligence, hard work, and bold thinking. Now we all know them. Did you know who Mike Brosseau was a couple of weeks ago? Neither did I, but Rays fans sure did. Last year, Randy Arozarena was just an interesting name to many of us. Now we know better. The list goes on: Nick Anderson, Willie Adames, Ji-Man Choi, Brandon Lowe, Joey Wendle. Others, like Hunter Renfroe. Tyler Glasnow, Kevin Kiermaier, and Charlie Morton we may already have been familiar with. What has become evident is that this is a very good team with sensational defense, tough pitching, and good situational hitting. Watch out, you West Coast launch anglers with the left handed tire salesman. Here’s a side note about Justin Turner: one wished that the ghost of the dearly departed Bob Gibson could have appeared on the mound for the Braves on Turner’s next at bat after he played footsie with a pitched ball and got awarded first base.
Out of all the beautiful plays so far, the one that had me applauding in my Bulgarian spy armchair was the gorgeous sacrifice bunt put down by Houston’s Martin Maldonaldo that led to two runs when George Springer did the right thing. And kudos to Dusty Baker for his managing job too. The vilified Astros got caught doing something just about every other team might try and, yes, that was wrong, but for people to condemn that team while selecting the Cheater of Cheats to reside in the White House comes across as lame indeed.
A Bulgarian salute also goes out to TBS, the network vastly superior in covering baseball to the one we are stuck with now. Pedro Martinez, Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson and Ernie Johnson were superb.
We are witnessing death too, and I refer not only to the many outstanding players we have recently lost but also to certain baseball traditions that are fading away: pitchers batting, sacrifice bunts, choking up and taking what is given and, sadly, starting pitching period.
Some of us are also wishing death to certain things: microphones on the field, gold chains, fake crowd noise, and incessant advertisements. Happy World Series!