Cross-posted at my weblog. As a recent transplant to the East Coast from St. Louis, I miss watching my Cardinals! Plus, if you think the East Coast teams bias drowns out Cardinals news in the Midwest, try getting non-Yankees/Sox news out here! Anyway, I thought I'd share my thoughts.
Are the YES Network and NESN really necessary? It seems to me that the Yankees and Red Sox dominate Fox and ESPN baseball coverage so much that only a handful of games would need to be televised on the local New York and New England networks. This weekend, both Fox Saturday Baseball and ESPN Sunday Night Baseball televised the Sox-Yankees game at Fenway. Now, I'm sure from a business standpoint (albeit a short-term inspired standpoint) this makes a great deal of sense in terms of ratings. Still, I'm becoming increasingly annoyed with the idea that all of America's baseball fans are expected to care about the two richest, most expensively staffed franchises in major league baseball history engaged in a rivalry whose epic pose conflates its essential provinciality.
Baseball fans would better have been served on Sunday if ESPN had televised the Houston Astros vs. the St. Louis Cardinals. For starters, it was the Astros' ageless wonder (and last season's NL All-Star starter) Roger Clemens vs. the Cardinals' lights-out ace (and this year's NL All-Star starter) Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals and Astros met each other last year for the National League Pennant in a series just as nail-bitingly close and dramatic as the Yankees-Red Sox Series that Fall. While the Astros had a horrible start this season, they had lately been resurgent, grinding their way into playoff contention at mid-season just as they had done the year before.
Add to all of this a ready-made backstory: Carpenter, who grew up in New Hampshire, also grew up idolizing then Red Sox phenom Roger Clemens. When rookie Chris Carpenter joined the staff of the Toronto Blue Jays, who but the recently-signed Blue Jay Roger Clemens was there to take Carpenter under his tutelage? Now, Chris Carpenter, ace in his own right as a St. Louis Cardinal, would face his old mentor.
The game was a pitching gem. Both hurlers combined for one earned-run, two walks, 8 hits, and 10 strike-outs. Carpenter pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up just three singles. Both pitchers were so dominant, the game lasted only 1 hour and 59 minutes.
And the former apprentice had defeated his former master. "He just did a number on us,'' Clemens said. "I don't think we really posed a threat to him.'' Other than perhaps a costly two-run throwing error by Astro's first baseman Mike Lamb, it was what Tony LaRussa would call beautiful baseball.
Too bad most baseball fans didn't get to see it.