From: Steve Perry
To: Brad Zellar
Subject: Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite
The night didn't do our fantasies of a Twins/Cardinals rematch any favors. Worse than that, they were dull games. But painful as the night may have been, friend, you in your aerie at the Metrodome pressbox did not have to endure the pontifications of Tim McCarver on Fox. Have you noticed the way he carefully belabors everything he says, as if his drooling listeners would not be quite up to understanding him otherwise? It's a terrible era for baseball announcers--I like Skip Caray et al. with the Braves, and that's about it--but McCarver is the guy I least want to hear speaking through my television.
Not that I could bear to watch much of that Cardinals game anyway. It started ugly and got worse. Matt Morris was shelled early, and assuming they don't come back tonight--they're down 9-5 as I write--they'll go with Woody Williams tomorrow night. I love Woody Williams; he's a fucking bulldog. But he's been on and off the disabled list for months with a nagging rib cage muscle pull, and if someone looks at him wrong tomorrow it'll be aggravated again. Which is to say, the Cardinals need a few breaks but quick or they could be down 2-0. (Can you imagine staring into the abyss of an Anaheim-San Francisco World Series? A West Coast matchup without even the cachet of the Bay rivalry? Honey, where's the Sleep button on this remote?)
Before I go, let's talk for a minute about your poster boy Boo Radke. Yesterday I tossed out a comparison of Radke and the old Cardinals starter Bob Forsch. He came to mind because he was a similar kind of finesse pitcher, the sort for whom timing and location are everything--guys who don't have much margin for error in any given start, in other words.
Forsch was strictly off the top of my head, though, so today I looked up their career numbers to see if there was anything to it. Radke's got a better strikeout/walk ratio than Forsch, who couldn't strike out Stephen Hawking, but they're scary close where it counts most: Radke's career WHIP (walks + hits/innings pitched) ratio is 1.29; Forsch's career number was 1.27. (Yeah, there should be some adjustment for their respective eras, but they'd still be close.)
I admit I don't know Radke as well as you, but I knew Bob Forsch and plenty of others like the both of them. And I can tell you this: Radke was never going to be Greg Maddux. He's like dozens of other guys through the years who learned to pitch smart because it was the only way they were going to get jobs and keep them.
Why am I ragging on Brad Radke? I'm not. I think he's a 1 or 2 starter on a bad team and a 3 or 4 starter on a good one--under normal circumstances. But what we're seeing is anything but normal. To see him step up this way and lead his team in October is a thing of real drama and beauty.
Matter of fact, I think I'm savoring the Twins' success *more* than some Twins' fans I know, because it seems so unlikely to me. Seeing Radke, seeing Joe Mays's gutsy start--I just think this is a much more unlikely spectacle than most Twins fans even realize. After all, they're calling this a "team of destiny," and what does that phrase really mean? Teams of destiny are the ones that catch all the breaks, and cash in on them.
It's always delicious to see underdogs biting people and getting into things they shouldn't. Especially this team, especially now after the winter of contraction--I'm sure there are a lot of people around the country rooting for the Twins strictly on the grounds of sticking one up Bud's ass.
It seems fitting to close with the world's funniest joke, as determined by the surveys of an English social scientist. (This was reported in The Guardian last week.)
A couple of guys are out hunting and there's an accident--hunter one blows a hole in his friend hunter two. Hunter one pulls out his cell phone and calls 911. He babbles to the operator that he's just killed his best friend, and what's he supposed to do now?
"Just calm down," the 911 operator tells him. "Are you sure your friend is dead? Before you get hysterical, let's first make sure your friend is dead." The line goes silent for a moment and there's a gunshot. Hunter one comes back on the line.
"Okay," he says, "now what?"
From: Brad Zellar
To: Steve Perry
Subject: re: Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite
I'll more than agree with you about McCarver. The sound of that smug jackass's voice sends me lunging for the mute button faster than you can say Van Lingle Mungo. The guy's supposed to be like a wine connoisseur and a Civil War historian and all sorts of other bogus stuff in keeping with his persona as a courtly creep, but I still say he's just a plain creep and a blowhard. I'm pretty sure I despise him more than you do, no matter how much you despise him. I can't believe that ornery bastard Bob Gibson never killed him when they were teammates in St. Louis.
This summer when I was out traveling around I had occasion to watch the TV broadcasts of a half dozen different teams, and every one of them was pretty much as insufferable as the rest. I think it's mainly a TV problem, and maybe it's just a difficult thing to do well. What the hell do I know? I have to imagine that there are still some terrific folks working in radio, but I don't have much evidence to corroborate that. Is Dave Niehaus still working out in Seattle, for instance?
I hung around the ballpark until far too late and got drenched walking back downtown to my car and it's now almost 3 o'clock in the morning. Tonight was just the latest installment of the Good News, Bad News Bears. There was a banner hanging down the left field line that said, "Ravishing Rick Reed," and I hope like hell somebody was making fun of the guy and not actually trying to adopt him as a hero. Ravishing? Rick Reed?
I was happy Reed didn't get the nod to start game one of the divisional series, and I'll be glad when he's gone. The guy makes $7 million a year and he's about as gutless as they come. I honestly don't know what happens with pitchers like Reed, how they can go from dominating to essentially pitching batting practice from one start to the next. Face it, people: Reed spent the last half of the season padding his record against the dregs of the Central Division. Good teams just kick his fat ass all over the park.
He wasn't just bad tonight, he was unconscionably bad. Scott Klingenbeck bad. It was even more terrible than his last start against Oakland. In Reed's two playoff starts he's lasted just over ten innings and given up six home runs, a triple, a couple doubles, five singles, and two walks. Clearly the cagey old veteran has been a godsend to the young Twins.
Jacque Jones would look mighty good in another uniform right now too. The way he's been swinging, he couldn't hit Rick Reed. And Ron Gardenhire? The guy couldn't manage a Happy Chef. Screw 'em all. They're gonna tear out my heart and spit on it, and then they're all going to go fishing for three months. Screw the Cardinals and Tony LaRussa while you're at it. Woody Williams is a bulldog? Since when are bulldogs such pussies? When's the last time he pitched, a month ago? And LaRussa's going to start him in game two against San Francisco? As Tom Kelly would say, *oh my.*
As for the argument about Radke, Forsch, and Maddux--well, it's too damn late and I'm not about to run down stairs again to muck around in the Total Baseball, but a few things: Radke was in the majors and pitching 200 innings a year at an earlier age that Forsch; I'm virtually certain he not only had better control, but *much* better control; and I'm also virtually certain that for most of his career Forsch played for much, much better teams. And in the National League. I always liked Forsch, by the way.
I mentioned that early in his career I thought Radke had a chance to be Greg Maddux--I did. I honestly did. Compare the trajectory of his numbers his first three years with Maddux's. Radke drastically improved his strikeout totals, without inflating his walk totals, in each of his first three years. That third year, when he was 24, he had a K to BB ratio of something like 4-1; he also won 20 games for a horseshit team and had an ERA well beneath the league average. His strikeouts then preceded to fall off drastically the next couple years, which is never a good sign from a young pitcher. Still, I've seen him pitch probably at least 50 games, and his performance in the decisive game of the Oakland series was pretty typical of what I've seen him do over the years. Now *there* is a bulldog.
I don't think there's anything unlikely at all about how this team has played in the postseason, except for the times when they've been shittier than they have any right to be. I was frustrated all season by the fact that the Twins never seemed to be able to get it all going at once. There were all those injuries, and slumps, and the lousy division and the huge, early lead. There was never any pressure on these guys. They didn't have any big games. If anything I think that has cost them in the postseason. They've choked a lot in defense and fundamentals, aspects of the game that should be automatic by now. In their bad games they've been pressing consistently.
And Jesus, they keep running into that Anaheim bullpen, which is just making them look sick. Last night I figured the Twins had the series in the bag. They rocked Ortiz earlier this year and he looked terrible against the Yankees. Now, I don't know. I'm badly shaken, Steve, very badly shaken.
And badly in need of sleep. And thirsty as the devil himself for a can of Coca-Cola. I have no idea what's going to happen, but I do know--and I can assure you--that that is not the world's funniest joke. Why should I trust an English social scientist on something so important? These people think Benny Hill is funny. I'll have to think about it and get back to you... the world's funniest joke, I mean.