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World Series wasn't helped by Fox.

It was a great World Series, no matter the winner. The Mets-Yankees rivalry gave the televised action extra electricity, extra fireworks, and Major League Baseball won its gamble with the weather. Proven once again is the old truth--good pitching stops good hitting, and the Yankees had the pitching. Starters Roger Clemens, Orlando Hernandez and Andy Pettitte were brilliant, and Joe Torre's three-man relief corps of Mike Stanton, Jeff Nelson and Mariano Rivera was even better.

Torre seemed to make just about all the right moves, showing more advanced managerial ability than Bobby Valentine, and watching the various post-season games, I'm convinced that the best manager won the Series.

Torre's decision to pull Denny Neagle in Game 4, even though he was ahead and strong, was the pinnacle of his good judgment.

Mike Piazza was the next hitter. He already had a homer and another hit, and he pounds on Neagle as if the pitcher were a red-headed stepchild.

Torre went to David Cone, and Cone did the job. Ironically that was the only appearance of the Series for Cone, who, through the years, had been the ace of the pitching staffs of both teams.

Tight, low-scoring games are often won by managerial decisions, and Torre made all the right ones. Valentine had a high percentage, but his players' base-running mishaps and fielding problems undid him, and the Mets faded like a cheap suit in the sunlight.

I cannot condone Clemens' bat-throwing antics, nor much of his work from the mound, and an area in which I fault Torre is in protecting his cowardly lion by saving him for games in the American League parks, where pitchers don't have to get into the batter's box. It's another demerit for the designated hitter, which permits this nonsense to continue.

Derek Jeter, who hit .409, with two homers for the Yankees, and played his usual brilliant shortstop, was a well-deserved MVP, though cases could be made for Paul O'Neill and Rivera. Jeter is closing in on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's John Michael McGuire as the all-time favorite former resident of Paw Paw and Kalamazoo, Mich.

Speaking of the Post, Rick Hummel, one of the finest baseball writers in the land, did his usual superior work, but I was shocked to note that the Post did not send a second writer to the Series. Dan O'Neill wrote some good stuff on the American League Championship Series, and both Mike Eisenbath and Stu Durando, who covered baseball during the regular season and into the playoffs, appeared to be available.

Traditionally, the sports columnist also has gone to the World Series, but Bernie Miklasz of the Post didn't bother. Is he so in love with the Rams that he would not miss a single game by covering the World Series, still the nation's premier sporting event? Or has his radio work assumed more importance than the newspaper job that opened the doors to the studio for him? Kevin Horrigan could tell him about the media business and the understanding of the word "loyalty."

My only major quibble with the Post was the fact that on the day after Rick Ankiel's meltdowns, it seemed that every member of the sports department had to write about it, practically on a pitch-by-pitch basis.

Turning to television, I was deeply saddened, maybe offended, by the philosophy of the Fox coverage, and the idea that this is the style we will get for the next generation or so is frightening.

This is not to knock Joe Buck, who keeps growing as an announcer and who was excellent. He tells you what is happening in a clear, concise style, and makes the players and the action the most important part of the broadcast, a refreshing idea when you consider some of his colleagues. Tim McCarver gets better and better; his analysis is delivered quickly, and is right on the money. He notices things and is not afraid to make a comment about someone playing badly, usually anathema to radio and TV broadcast types. For example, he was quick to place blame on Timo Perez for loafing on the basepaths when he was thrown out at the plate after Todd Zeile's blast high off the left field wall at Shea Stadium, and the Fox folks had the video to prove it. McCarver also explained why the rookie did what he did, but his youth is not an excuse. Interestingly, McCarver also pointed out several occasions where managers and players were unfamiliar with the rules.

Unfortunately, someone at Fox is in love with the tight closeup, and we had little except that for the entire Series. I got amazingly tired of looking at acne scars, freckles, bad facial hair, an occasional pimple and flying spittle and pumpkin seed shells. When I go to a game (or when you go to a game), I sit and look at the entire field. I watch the players move around, shift defensive alignments, even stare off into space. But Fox directors kept the camera so tightly upon faces that it became very tedious. And the network spent far too much time on Billy Crystal and on the stars of its own shows.

There was marvelous work on some other aspects, like historical shots of Jackie Robinson at Ebbets Field, Joe DiMaggio; Al Gionfriddo and others in Yankee Stadium. Those clips were a treat, and the archivists should be commended.

I tried to count closeups one night, but dozed off at another shower of saliva from a pitcher or from someone in the dugout. However, Richard Sandomir of The New York Times counted, or got someone else to do so. He noted 805 closeups in Game 3, along with 219 replays. These totals included 73 closeups of the Mets in their half of the sixth inning.

Oh, yes. Also 37 closeups of Joe Torre. Now I've said I think Joe is a fine manager, and I also consider him a nice, stylish, classy man, but during a game, the statues at Mount Rushmore are more animated than he is.

This is a very busy time in Toyland, the world of sports. We have Larry Smith's final season at Mizzou, and the Rams' return to the early days of the American Football League when it comes to offensive style. For a change, however, the Rams are on the leading edge of a football cycle, and it has been fun to watch, but like bratwurst at a game, enjoy it while it's hot. And we have coverage of Kevin Carter, who got free space for his tantrum.

Can't Miklasz or Jim Thomas take a stand and tell us who's right--the coach or the player? If the team wont let them look at videotape to make a judgment, or have an outside expert make a judgment, then the Post should tell the reader so. Miklasz went to Kansas City instead of to the World Series, and he could tell us. Anyway, we'll look more deeply at that next month.
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Author:Pollack, Joe
Publication:St. Louis Journalism Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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