Wouldn’t it be fun to see Manny Ramirez run out to his position in front of Fenway Park’s Green Monster at the start of the 2008 World Series-today?
Before the dream matchup between the Dodgers and Red Sox can be realized-to the delight of most of the country’s baseball fans and the entire sports/entertainment establishment-there are some obstacles to be cleared. The Dodgers have to take care of the Phillies and the Red Sox must fight off the Rays in their respective league championship series. The World Series will not begin until Wednesday, October 22.
That’s too late for the Fall Classic. It should be happening right now, when the days still have a golden glow. In two or three more weeks, much of the country may be in the chilly grip of football weather.
The problem is not the major leagues’ three-phased postseason playoffs. They have proven to be a dramatic invention worthy of a month’s attention. But the 162-game regular season demands reconsideration. Were it to return to 154 games-the duration that prevailed for the better part of a century-the playoffs could commence in mid September, and we would be enjoying the ultimate series now.
“That would be great,” said Bill Pintard, the manager of the Santa Barbara Foresters, a semipro club that takes the summer game literally-they wound up their season in August with a National Baseball Congress championship. “But you don’t hear the players complain [about the long season]. They want those huge salaries.”
More dates mean more revenues for the major leagues. But at this time of financial crisis, when Americans want to rein in corporate greed, it would be a good idea for professional sports to temper their own exorbitance.
Yet I’d be in favor of expanding the first round of the baseball playoffs, the divisional series, to a best-of-seven format. Surely the Angels and the Cubs-the teams with the best regular-season records-would have benefitted from extra playoff games this year. Each fell into an 0-2 hole. The Cubs never did loosen up and start breathing against the Dodgers. The Angels fought back to win Game 3 in 12 gritty innings against Boston, but their hopes died in the ninth inning of Game 4 on Monday night.
“Oh, God,” said Pintard, an amateur scout for the Angels, after watching their attempted squeeze bunt turn into a suicidal mess. “Baseball is a beautiful game, but it just kills you.”
Gary Woods, one of the Foresters’ coaches, played on some heartbroken major-league teams: the 1981 Astros and 1984 Cubs, both beaten in five-game postseason series that they had led 2-0. “We had ace pitchers on the mound, Nolan Ryan and Rick Sutcliffe, and suffered unimaginable outcomes,” Woods said. “I don’t know what it is. It’s not strategy, it’s not the stars : it’s just baseball.”
Woods is a scout for the Chicago White Sox, another team that went down in the first round of this year’s playoffs to Tampa Bay. It would not surprise me to see the upstart Rays dethrone the Red Sox. That’s my prediction: Tampa Bay to reach the World Series against the Dodgers, who will outlast Philadelphia in a sizzling series.
Pintard is pulling for the Rays. Two of their starting pitchers, James Shields and Matt Garza, played for the Foresters. They are young and eager. Joe Maddon, their manager, is an old Angels bench coach.
ATHLETES OF THE WEEK: Santa Barbara High’s senior quarterback John Uribe surpassed all passers in the county’s prep football history when he threw for 581 yards and seven touchdowns in the Dons’ 51-21 victory over San Luis Obispo. SBCC’s first-year goalkeeper Meghan Maiwald helped the Vaqueros remain unbeaten in women’s soccer by posting five consecutive shutouts. Jenny Ann Martinez, a junior soccer player and cross-country runner at San Marcos High, received the monthly Phil Womble Ethics in Sports Award at the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table luncheon.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Santa Barbara High girls volleyball coach John Gannon recently said, “The level of volleyball in this town has never been higher.” His team will try to rise to the occasion tonight (October 9), when the Dons play a cross-town league match at Dos Pueblos. Starting time is 6:30 p.m. Both teams reached the finals of prestigious tournaments last month: Dos Pueblos at the Dave Mohs Orange County Championships and Santa Barbara at the Archbishop Mitty Tournament in San Jose.
Top Sporting Events: October 9-19
Thursday, October 9
High school girls volleyball Santa Barbara at Dos Pueblos, 6:30 p.m.
High school boys water polo Cabrillo at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.
Friday, October 10
High school cross country Dos Pueblos Invitational, Shoreline Park, 2:45 p.m. Open race, 5:30 p.m.
High school football Arroyo Grande at San Marcos, 7 p.m.; Santa Barbara at Oxnard Pacifica, 7 p.m.; Dos Pueblos at Rio Mesa, 7 p.m.; Bishop Diego at Grace Brethren, Moorpark College, 7:30 p.m.
College women’s soccer Cal State Northridge at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.; Oxnard at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 11
College men’s soccer UC Davis at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.
College women’s volleyball UCSB at Long Beach State, 7 p.m.
High school football (eight man) Faith Baptist at Laguna Blanca, 1 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Huntington Beach at San Marcos, 3 p.m.
Sunday, October 12
Running/Cycling Santa Barbara Duathlon, East Beach, 8 a.m.; Outfooters 12K/5K Fun Run/Walk, Dos Pueblos High, 8:30 a.m.
Monday, October 13
Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table press luncheon, Harry’s Plaza Cafe, 12 p.m.
Tuesday, October 14
High school boys water polo Dos Pueblos at San Marcos, 3:15 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Malibu at Bishop Diego, 6 p.m.; Ventura at Dos Pueblos, 6:30 p.m.
College women’s volleyball Biola at Westmont, 7 p.m.
College men’s soccer Fresno Pacific at Westmont, 3 p.m.; UC Riverside at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.
College women’s soccer Cuesta at SBCC, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, October 15
College women’s soccer Fresno Pacific at Westmont, 3 p.m.
Thursday, October 16
High school girls golf San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, Glen Annie GC, 3 p.m.
High school girls tennis San Marcos at Dos Pueblos, 3 p.m.
High school boys water polo San Marcos at Santa Barbara, 3:15 p.m.
High school girls volleyball Oaks Christian at Carpinteria, 6 p.m.
College women’s volleyball UCSB at Cal Poly, 7 p.m.
Friday, October 17
High school football Santa Barbara vs. Dos Pueblos at San Marcos stadium, 7 p.m.; San Marcos at Ventura, 7 p.m.; Oaks Christian at Bishop Diego, La Playa Stadium, 7:30 p.m.; Carpinteria at Oak Park, 7:30 p.m.
College women’s soccer Pacific at UCSB, Harder Stadium, 7 p.m.
College men’s soccer UCSB at Cal Poly, 8 p.m.
Saturday, October 18
College cross country SBCC Invitational, Shoreline Park, 10 a.m.
College men’s water polo UC Irvine at UCSB, 12 p.m.; UCSB alumni game, 2 p.m.
High school football (eight man) Laguna Blanca at Cate, 2 p.m.
College football SBCC at Santa Monica, 7 p.m.
Sunday, October 19
Running Cancer Center of Santa Barbara 5K Walk/Run and 10K Run, Montecito Union School 8 a.m.
College women’s soccer UCSB at Cal Poly, 5 p.m.