Monday, October 05, 2009

A Distillation Of NLDS Press Coverage, In Advance

For the next 50-odd hours, you're going to see a lot of media press coverage about the Los Angeles Dodgers - St. Louis Cardinals NLDS matchup. And the coverage will go something like this:

  • St. Louis will win the NLDS, just as they won five of seven games against us this season;
  • St. Louis has better pitching, thanks to the 1-2 punch of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright; meanwhile, the Dodgers' starting pitching is a mess and the bullpen is fickle;
  • The Dodgers' bats are nowhere as strong as the inhuman strength of Albert Pujols, the finest active baseball player to not be mentioned in any steroid allegations to date;
  • The Dodgers' league-leading record is a farce and shouldn't be a factor.

The Dodgers' 2009 head-to-head record of 2-5 is a understandably concerning bellweather (although three of those games were 3-2 losses). And the star wattage of the three named Cardinal players is so brilliant, that one can easily be blinded to the facts that we've got a better team batting average (.270 (1st in the NL) to .263 (5th)), a better OBP (.346 (1st) to .332 (9th)), a better OPS (.758 (4th) to .747 (6th)), a better batting average against (.233 (1st) to .258 (7th)), a better ERA (3.41 (1st) to 3.67 (4th)), a better WHIP (1.26 (1st) to 1.29 (3rd)), and a better K/9 ratio (7.77 (3rd) to 6.55 (13th)).

But at core, you know what this matchup is all about.

St. Louis is the city of good hometown-cooking, great American values, and fine, solid, people who happen to be the best baseball fans on earth. And the press will pick this story up according to type. You know exactly what I'm talking about: a city and team "as steeped in tradition and respect for the game as no place else, [...] a small market able to get three-million-plus people out to the stadium and compete against richer teams in the league for over a century. Home to "the best fans in baseball," Cardinals All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols says. "As long as you play the game the right way, it doesn't matter what you're hitting, the fans are going to support you." Never mind the not-too-distant memory of Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire, and his own nation-captivating, now-that-it's-history-I'm-not-here-to-talk-about-the-past, steroid-filled hunt for 62 HRs. Just look at the dreadlocked cheater over on the other team!

"There's something that's instilled in you as a young person in St. Louis that you respect the game and you respect the opposition," says [Fox Sports' Joe] Buck. Unlike the other 27 major league baseball cities (not double-counting New York City or Chicago, but distinguishing Los Angeles from Anaheim), about whom it is implied must disrespect the game and their opposition at every turn.

Heck, even the Cardinals' optional workouts today got perfect attendance. Yep, this is how baseball should be; the only things missing are Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, that guy with the funny hat and the deep voice who says "this is CNN", and the cornfield. And America will be behind the Cardinals, as the unintuitively-shaded ESPN.com poll shows:

"Is Alaska neutral?" -Dusty Baker

And then, there's the Dodgers, affectionately named by a local columnist as the Choking Dogs. No one in the press, let alone the entire country, wants to see the Dodgers win. Our team represents fans who leave early, and is led by an offensive star who is a no-good cheat (again, see: McGwire). Because the rest of our sluggers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Casey Blake, and James Loney are the only other hitters with double-digit Dodger home runs, besides the dreadlocked one) fly under the radar and are relatively unknown commodities, everyone else wil default to the storyline of the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, and use this as the theme for why the Dodgers are toothless.

And though both teams limped down the stretch of the regular season, it is the Dodgers' offense which "has struggled mightily" (no hope for a turnaround), while the fact that the Cardinals' offense was equally impotent down the stretch is no "big deal about momentum entering the playoffs. [...] Any team with Pujols and Matt Holliday in the middle of the order is going to be formidable." Double standard, perhaps?

In the mainstream media's mind, this is a fight between all that is baseball good and all that is evil, tradition versus superficiality, substance versus style. Just like the nation abhors the Lakers' glamour and accomplishments and roots against them with fervor, the Dodgers' recent successes this year and last makes everyone else hate us even more.

The Cardinals are goodness and the smell of home-cooked chocolate chip cookies and upstanding midwestern work ethics and helping little old ladies cross the street and My Little Pony and rainbows and people dotting their lowercase i's with hearts. The Dodgers are ephemerality and novelty and shallowness and cockiness and conceit and cocaine binges and unkempt facial hair and the ogre who lives under the bridge and Yuck Mouth* and not using your turn signals and men you don't want your daughters to date.

Style cannot win out over substance. Superficiality has no place in a tradition as grand and hallowed as baseball. Evil cannot prevail.

And so, everyone will be against us throughout this NLDS series. And that will give Chris Carpenter's fastball a little more zip when he takes the mound in Chavez Ravine in Game 1. And that will cause the Dodgers to be a little bit more tight when they step up to bat in the bottom of the first. And that will cause Dodger fans to hold their hearts a little bit higher in their throats as the first game begins.

But all it takes is one swing to quiet a crowd of doubters, to quell a nation of people rooting against us and loudly, bombastically, hoping that we fail.

Let's go, Dodgers!

Note: The Yuck Mouth PSA actually has a baseball reference in it, so it's doubly-relevant.

51 comments:

QuadSevens said...

After checking out that "one swing" link, I see that the Cubs had won 5 or 7 from us last year too. Each game we lost was by 2 runs or less. Things are looking very similar this year.

QuadSevens said...

5 of 7 is what I meant to say.

Josh S. said...

Dang Sax, between this and the BLS piece, you're firing on all cylinders!

More proof ESPN is comprised of idiots: The color key on that map. Dodgers red and Cardinals blue?

Josh S. said...

Oops. I missed your "unintuitively-shaded" line.

rbnlaw said...

Are you trying to give DB a coronary?

I can't help but feel that there is a nastier undertone to the anti-Dodger sentiment in the national and some local media. I don't want to come out and say it, but I certainly feel it, especially when we face St. Louis. It's ugly and has nothing to do with baseball.

Even Randy Youngman in yesterday's OC Rag said the Dodgers slid into the post-season and that it doesn't bode well for them. Meanwhile, his precious Angels can't find a pitcher to go 6 innings.

Eff all of 'em. Play Ball!

Dusty Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dusty Baker said...

Sort of (well, mostly) OT:

I'm going to be up in San Francisco on Friday night. I know we don't have a game that night but I want to catch whatever playoff games are on.

Anyone have suggestions for a bar that will have baseball but not be too Jint-centric for a man of my admittedly low tolerance for other baseball teams to stomach?

To re-cap, my criteria are:

1) Baseball on the telly.
2) Not overly Jint-centric.
3) Lots and lots of beer. Good beer.

In the reverse order.

Josh S. said...

I just read that Kurkjian piece in the "struggled mightly" link and HOLY SHIT is it a fountain of misinformation.

Some gems:

-"What is the Dodgers' rotation?
From Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, Vicente Padilla, Jon Garland and Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers will have to pick three, then decide who goes in Game 1."


Uh, they picked Randy to start game 1 like a WEEK ago. And Kershaw was picked for game 2 a couple days ago. Speaking of Kershaw...

-"His six-inning, no-run, 10-strikeout performance Saturday night -- his first win since July 18 -- in the NL West clincher against the Rockies gave the Dodgers hope for the postseason."

Yeah, no. Clay got a no-decision.

-"What has happened to the Dodgers' offense? They have struggled mightily in the second half. They scored only seven runs in their last four games entering the postseason."

-I can't make the math work on this one. This was published Sunday, so even if you don't count Sunday's game, they scored 9 runs. If you do count Sunday's game, they scored 14 runs.

Dusty Baker said...

Wait, I noticed that "local" was italicized. Is this a clue for another puzzle? Want me to draw a shitty map? Want me to teach EK which way SE is?

JuanLove said...

Cubs were the heavy heavy favorites too

Josh S. said...

Sorry. 13 runs if you count Sunday's game.

QuadSevens said...

@ Josh S

I also love how "seven runs in the last four games" equates to "struggled mightily in the second half." Must be that new math I keep hearing about. 4=81.

Steve Sax said...

@DB 3:01p: No hidden message intended on the italicized local. I just wanted to make the point that if that's what a local columnist thinks, god forbid what anyone else might think of the Dodgers (to be fair, that's part of Simers' shtick, but still).

Hong Like a Chih Kuo said...

Juan Love! Juan Swing! Lets get together and kick some ass!

Hong Like a Chih Kuo said...

Sayin', give thanks and praise to Lasord(a), and I will feel alright!

Dusty Baker said...

@ Sax-

Right-o. And a fine point it was.

I'm just trigger happy these days with anything bolded or italicized. And don't even get me started on some larger font sizes.

Dusty Baker said...

Now they've got Tommy Lasorda tweeting. His latest:

"I had lunch with a federal judge today. I tried to talk him into extraditing a few of the players on the Cardinals!"

I wonder how much trouble he'll get himself in with this new-found technology?

Dr. Geek said...

Thanks for your support . . . Montana?

Dusty Baker said...

Was Alaska neutral?

Mr. Customer said...

Isn't Dusto Magnifico Alaskan? I blame him for the lack of response from the great white north.

I can't believe HI sold us out, though. Apparently losing Victorino to the rule 5 draft cut deep.

Dusty Baker said...

We need a Southern strategy.

rbnlaw said...

Dat's right! Montana in the hizze and on board wit da Blue!

They are so gangster up in the MT.

DB,
Where are you staying in SF? Most bars will have the game on. If you're close to the Embarcadero, sit at the bar at Gordon Birsch. They had a schwartzenbier on tap back in August that was this side of Heaven.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

Damn you ESPN. After hearing Tim Kurkjian's logic behind naming the Yankees' bullpen as the best in the playoffs, I gave up on the entire network.

Steve Sax said...

@DB 2:34p: I used to frequent a Noe Valley bar called The Rat and the Raven. I think it's gone and since renamed now, but it might be worth a peek.

If you're near SoMa, there are regular haunts like Thirsty Bear, besides Biersch.

Acc. to citysearch, Greens Sports Bar is the city's best; note that their web page publicizes "Greens is one of the few sports bars to offer HDTV". Which makes San Francisco sports bars about as updated as Bentonville, Arkansas.

rbnlaw said...

We went to Zeke's Sports Bar which is actually a big Kentucky basketball bar. The food looked OK; the beer prices were steep because it's two blocks from Big Phone.

Mr. Customer said...

The bars I frequent in SF are more the "Den-of-Inquity" variety than the "Sports Bar" variety, due to my desire to avoid unnecessary contact with Giants fans in their natural habitat. If you're just interested in ending up on the floor, then I can help you out. Otherwise, I got nothing.

Steve Sax said...

Yeah, my favorite bar in the bay area was a haunt called Lucky 13, on Market (link to what I wrote about it earlier this year). Den of iniquity, indeed.

Dusty Baker said...

You had me at Colt 45! There's not a "45" in my email address for no reason...

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

I hit a sports bar in 'Frisco a while back called Lefty O'Doul's. Pretty nice place. You can get to it easily by cable car.

Dusty Baker said...

Oh, I also should have added as another criteria that Mrs. Dusty can't be too scared to set foot in there. That may narrow my search considerably.

Staying here at this foofy-ass place: http://tinyurl.com/yetdky2

Steve Sax said...

Oh, Hotel Triton! I know it well, every floor is different and the furniture is really quirky. It's a cross between a W and a Standard (The W SF sucks, btw; horrible location near Moscone Center). You're staying right by the southern gate of Chinatown.

I'd recommend E&O Trading Company for appetizers, which is like a block away. Also see if you can have dinner or lunch in the Ferry Building; I'd recommend Hog Island Oyster Company. Park in the Sutter/Stockton Garage rather than paying Hotel Triton's $38/day valet parking charge.

Make sure to get your Kimpton Rewards acct so you can get free wi-fi.

SoSG Sax, here to help!

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

Sax, can you help me with my itinerary for my trip to Vegas this winter? :)

Mr. Customer said...

@Sax

I've been to lucky 13 a few times. Your earlier description was right on the mark. I really dig Specs up on Columbus, but it gets a little too busy and hip on the weekends for my liking.

Steve Sax said...

@Mr. LA SF, happy to help. Maybe I should change this to a travel blog!

I unfortunately don't know Vegas as well as I did about four years ago, when I was at a job that had be go there 3-4 times a year.

For hotels, I've stayed at TheHotel at Mandalay a number of times and like the suite and the exclusiveness, especially if you eat or drink at Alain Ducasse's Mixx. I've in fact stayed there the first weekend of March Madness along with Orel and Pedro Guerrero. Mandalay has a great sportsbook so we liked it. Lately, though, I've gotten word that the less-expensive but decent way to go is Planet Hollywood (the old Aladdin), as it allows you to accrue/redeem Starwood SPG points.

For dinners, I like Aureole (though not as good as NYC's), and I've had one of the best steaks of my life at Delmonico's. I've had many a drink at Rum Jungle and Red Square. Craftsteak is totally overrated and nothing like the NYC Craft. And the Japanese place in the Wynn is not worth the money.

Off the top of my head, after three glasses of wine tonight, that's what I've got.

Steve Sax said...

@Mr C: Specs looks like my kind of place. I've also spent tons of nights cleaning up at trivia night at Mad Dog in the Fog over on Haight Street, but you've gotta bring your A game to win pitchers of beer.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

Thanks for the advice, Sax. I was joking, but I will definitely take some of that info into consideration. It's my second go-around in Vegas, and I know a little bit. I found a great hole-in-the-wall called the Golden Steer. It's in a strip mall, and you would not notice it without looking for it. Great prime rib and ceasar salad.

Dusty Baker said...

Sax, my man, thanks for these tips. I get up to SF on biz or pleasure with some frequency, but not enough to have this level of detail. Especially like the valet tip as I will be driving and not wanting to get ganked on the overnight parking.

Funny you said that re Kimpton rewards acct. I'm a loyal Kimpton guy and I actually have this night free since I had some reward certificates from staying so many times in the chain. Mainly I stay at Hotel Rouge in Washington, DC every other month (at least) with work. They know me by name there.

And this Oyster Company you speak of sounds intriguing, especially the oyster part. I think I'll try it!

Steve Sax said...

I can't stop tinkering with this article; I apologize. Added another paragraph near the end.

Steve Sax said...

@DB: I'm pretty familiar with SF; I get up there a lot. Definitely recommend the Ferry Building, even though it's packed on weekends. Hog Island Oyster Company (which was recommended to me) shouldn't disappoint.

Funny that you're a Kimpton guy. I have mixed feelings on them dating back almost a decade, not that I'm one to hold grudges. Okay, maybe I am.

Dusty Baker said...

Don't stop the rockin', Sax. Loved this post. Eases the pain [of not having any baseball to watch tonight].

Mr. Customer said...

@Sax

Stop, or you'll go blind.

Dusty Baker said...

I'm mainly a Kimpton guy b/c I don't like stale hotels with no character, so when Kimpton came on the scene with their boutique joints I started using them. There are other, probably better ones, but they are pricier. Kimpton always honors the gub'ment rate and are cool about it. They also keep good booze in their mini bars, which goes a long way with me. At Hotel Rouge, they have Red Hook ESB, for instance. It ain't cheap but after a business dinner and you come back to the room and want a nightcap or two it hits the spot. Especially when I fire up the computer to watch the Dodger game that starts at 10:10 PM Eastern time, not that I'd ever make such a poor decision that I would regret the next morning during meetings.

Mr. Customer said...

@db

The minibar is a siren that will lure you in , then steal your lunch money AND post compromising pictures of you on the internet!

Resist, man! Lash yourself to the mast, if you must.

Dusty Baker said...

Resistance is futile, Mr. C.

Dusty Baker said...

Sax, are you still working on this post?

Watching MLB Network special tonight "Path to the Pennant" or some such. In one segment, guys at the desk went through all the playoff teams' defense. Spent most of it on - wait for it - Yankees and Red Sox. Got to the Dodgers, which they raced through quickly, and all Harold Reynolds could come up with for our OF (after somewhat of a compliment for Manny not totally sucking with the leather) was "Kemp has come a long ways, and so has Ethier." End of discussion, go to commercial.

That's all the fuck you can say re: Kemp, Reynolds? Did you miss your own network's highlight reels that nightly showed how well this guy plays the position? The balls he ran down, the catches at the wall, the over the shoulder catches...did none of that sink in? The assists?

Need another Two Minutes Hate now.

berkowit28 said...

Very well written. Really gives it to the fuckers. Well done, Sax.

Steve Sax said...

@berk, I don't think I've ever seen you curse! Wow!

LLCoolL said...

Bravo, Sax. I was waiting for someone to call out St. Louis on their McGwire hypocrisy.

Steve said...

Okay, love the article, then I checked out the link on the Loney hit from the game 1 against the Cubs and saw this little gem:

The Cubs don't want to panic, but 85 percent of the teams that win Game 1 of the NLDS capture the series.

Oh crap, now we HAVE to win game 1. C'mon Wolfy, bring it!

Dusty Baker said...

@Sax

http://tinyurl.com/ydwptmm

^ Hog Island Oyster Company menu. Now I'm really psyched. I've always wanted to see where they make all the oysters, and how they get them into the shells.

Steve Sax said...

Dusty, I added your comment as a picture caption... Thanks!