By West Coast Craig

Geno’s Steaks— There was a full complement yesterday, with all four major sports participating, but at night it was all baseball. Through some strange sense of kindness, or a deal with Fox, the NFL didn’t schedule a Sunday Night game…a nice bone tossed to the MLB, when they could’ve squashed them with that big Ryan Longwell homecoming game. Nevertheless, despite the late nights, rain delays, and elitist northeast intellectuals, the series is getting the best ratings since 2004. Now there’s been a lot of chatter about why Met fans would want to choose aligning themselves with one group…
phillie fans

or another…

…but putting all that aside for now I figure it’s a good time to assess the action, since come next Monday the series will be long over and this is my last chance to write about the baseball season while it’s still going on. I’m calling this the “mid-series” report card because I still expect this thing to go seven. I wouldn’t wager against Cliff Lee today, and old man Pettite on three days rest doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence for game six, much less Chad Gaudin anywhere in there (but, with Cole Hamels lined up for game seven, I’m pretty happy with my Yankees in seven +400 bet). Still, any time Brad Lidge gets the ball, like lightning the Phillies can lose in the blink of an eye. Professor WCC is handing out grades, and may have to send some notes home for parents to sign:

CLIFF LEE: A. Stone cold pimp. Caught that pop fly one handed like he was playing catch with his kid, that one behind his back like a Harlem Globetrotter. So good that first game you got the feeling he could’ve called the defense off the field whenever he wanted and just taken care of business himself. No A+, however, no extra credit for not coming out on three days rest.

CC SABATHIA: B+. Gets the +, but Chase Utley keeps him from getting the A. A quality outing in game 1, then nuts up again last night with a virtually identical performance: Game 1—113 pitches, 7 inn, 4 hits, 2 er, 3 bb, 6 k, 2 Chase Utley HRs; Game 2—107 pitches, 6.2 inn. 7 hits, 3 er, 3 bb, 6 k, 1 Chase Utley HR.

CHARLIE MANUEL: C. Didn’t send those runners at the end of game two, and it resulted in a rally killing double play…but it’s easy to manage from the couch in that situation. Held Cliff Lee back for game five, the move of a man who doesn’t feel desperate, and he’ll be answering questions about it all winter if they don’t pull this out. Still, Charlie don’t mind. Phil Jackson is often credited for being this big Zen Master…but he’s the Tao of Pooh compared to Charlie’s Tripitaka…the dude just “is,” and his moves sometimes defy logic but then the universe amazingly complies. Unfortunately for him, he used up all of Brad Lidge’s karma last year, and now the universe is through doing favors for that guy, and it drags Ol’ Charlie’s grade down.

JOE GIRARDI: B. Loses some points because, hell, I could probably manage this team here (see the couch comment above). Be desperate but not crazy, start all your guys on three days rest, use Rivera for six out saves, and basically dance with the guys that brung ya. With his three ring binder, he’s definitely been guilty of some over managing during these playoffs, but sitting Swisher in game two for Hairston—who had a hit that led to an important run—and then bringing Swisher back for a beautiful rebound in game three really paid off. Plus, my wife who doesn’t know anything about him is happy because she thinks he looks like a cancer survivor.

MARIANO RIVERA: A+. Should the Yankees win this thing, he’s the MVP. Even if they don’t win, he should still get it.

BRAD LIDGE: F. He stinks. Proves that red heads shouldn’t grow beards. Even when he gets a save these days, the batters hit the ball hard (just at people). Any talk of him not throwing his slider because Damon was on third is garbage…if you can’t get it over the plate, or you’re afraid your catcher can’t catch it, it’s not your best pitch. Maybe he could share the series MVP if the Yanks win.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ: B+. Coming into the ninth inning last night, he had the big camera-seeking dinger in game 3, but not much else besides three hit-by-pitches, plus he’d been outplayed at third by Pedro Feliz (whose own clutch blast off Joba was looking even more important). The Phillies strategy was clear, throw down and away and make A-Rod chase, or simply throw at A-Rod’s back. Brad Lidge, however, didn’t get the memo.

JOHNNY DAMON: B. His noodle arm in left has been exploited all series…but that at-bat in the ninth, then taking third on that steal was brilliant. Big Tex is getting an “incomplete” for his work thus far, but the fact that the Phillies had that shift on for him opened that play up for Damon. But why did Pedro Feliz give up so quickly on trying to chase him down…he might not be faster than Damon, but run, dive, do something?

RYAN HOWARD: C. That’s a bit generous, but his fielding has been pretty good, having made some great stops (that wrongly called short-hop the other night doesn’t count against him), and digging out some lousy throws. At the plate, however, he’s looked like A-Rod circa 2005, pressing and helping the pitchers out way too much, and he’s driven in as many runs as he has stolen bases—not exactly what you want from your cleanup hitter—and though he was credited with a run last night he still hasn’t touched home plate. He’s on pace (10) to blow past Willie Wilson’s 1980 WS record for strikeouts (12).

CHASE UTLEY: C. Those three dingers off of CC were impressive, but beyond them he hasn’t done much. Still, I’d raise him to a B if he’d actually pulled off that glove hand flip to Rollins last night—a play he sometimes makes—but he threw it straight up in the air instead.

JAYSON WERTH: A. Looks like an extra for Sons of Liberty, and swinging the bat like a tire iron at Altamont. Somehow in the entire history of the playoffs he’s the only guy to have multi-homer games in both the LCS and the WS. Werth is the right handed bat that’s been impossible to pitch around…pretty lame how the blue last night too quickly gave warnings after Blanton plunked A-Rod, cause this is the guy CC should’ve drilled the next inning. Hard to believe the Dodgers gave this guy so many chances in what feels like forever ago, only for one freak injury after another to befall him until they finally cut ties…and you could make the case that if Manny was a Phillie and Werth still a Dodger, it would be the Dodgers playing now (but then again, “For What It’s Werth” would be a terrible sit-com parody).

JOE BUCK & TIM MCCARVER: D-. What can I say, I’d fail them but then they’d repeat class next year and I’d rather them be somebody else’s problem. That’s the American education system, isn’t it? Oh wait, Fox is broadcasting the World Series next year too? Tile. I might find Buck slightly more tolerable than most, but his smug leaves an oily smear that blotches my HD screen. When he’s simply calling the game he’s not bad, but when he throws in his commentary he’s the consummate dork who’s never played sports in his life. His remark that A-Rod should’ve knocked down a hot shot that led to that first run in game two was ridiculous. McCarver, on the other hand, is the opposite, the former jock whose idea of the game passed by in the late seventies. Thanks for telling us what a four-seam fastball is, Tim, or how to slide into home, or how brilliant a “quick pitch” is…or how Victorino likes to go cliff diving like Elvis in Fun in Acapulco.

FOX PRODUCTION: B. The guys in the truck seem to be doing a great job, with quick and decisive replays, though I really wish there was a better look at that A-Rod home run coming right at the camera…a million to one shot, and it was just an instantaneous blur in the top corner. The best part of the Fox Production so far, there’ve been no chyrons of Wanda Sykes or Seth McFarlane stumbling across the screen and obscuring ground balls (by the way, I like McFarlane as much as the next guy, but a happy fun time variety show? Is this for real, or is it April Fools day already?). As for the pre- and post-game coverage, can somebody tell Eric Karros that the camera that’s on has a red light aglow on it?

ESPN COVERAGE: C+. To balance out John Kruk’s unabashed favoritism for the Phils, they bring in…Dave Winfield? I’m not sure Winfield has the fondest memories of the Bronx, especially around World Series time, but that dude sure is tall. They get the + for having Bobby Valentine sitting in between them.

MLB NETWORK COVERAGE: A: Well, it is their Superbowl, they better get it right.

BUD SELIG: F. Sorry, Bud, I’m the teacher who just doesn’t like you.

There it is…these are of course just mid-term grades, and subject to change by the end of the Series, or whenever I feel like it. Now here’s a little Flyin’ Hawaiian for ya.

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About West Coast Craig 226 Articles
West Coast Craig reports from Hollywood with an endearingly laid back style. A happily married father of two little boys, WCC has an avocado tree in his yard, plays the hot corner in a "Valley" hardball league and always manages to take cool sports-related mini road-trips, often with his immediate clan. He hails from Oneonta, NY but has been "So very L.A." for twenty years, so his sports teams are the Yankees AND the Dodgers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the L.A. Lakers and the Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques. WCC loves bacon-wrapped hotdogs and can touch his heel and his ear... with his hand.