Play it Again, Bud

Play it Again, Bud

Thursday, November 12th

As Ive been laid up at the house for the last week, dont ask, Ive been able to watch even more sports on TV than usual. (I know what youre thinking, and yes, I have been contacted by the Guinness folks.(not the beer!)) One of the things that struck me, yes I said one of, is the incredible amount of instant replay use and its consequences.

Whether it be in hockey, basketball or football, its hard to watch a game without a controversial play being re-played over and over. And that is the point to fans. If we can see it, why cant everyone? Almost everyone Ive talked to at the bar wants instant replay to be used, in every sport.

As the powers to be of Major League Baseball met at an OHare hotel this week, fans, including yours truly, were hopeful that the expanded use of replay in baseball would be discussed. This past years post-season was exhibit one, and should have been fresh on everyones mind. There were almost as many frustrating calls as what I experience with my AT&T cell phone service. Thats right, almost! Those of you talk to me on the phone know how annoying it can be for a call to be dropped and its the same when youre watching a baseball game. Especially, a playoff game!

Im always amused by the archaic view that the replay process will take away from the flow and integrity of the game and most of all, take away the human element. What?! How does getting a call right take away from the game? The A-Rod home run call took about 2 minutes and it reversed ANOTHER wrong call by the umpires on the field.

There are several things that need to be considered here. First of all, the game is being played at a speed that seems to be too fast for the naked eye. Baseball is full of calls that are assumptions, most notably, when a ball beats a runner to a base, hes almost always automatically called out, whether the tag was applied, or not. Theres a reason for the expression. phantom tag.

As far as the integrity argument, are you kidding me? What can be more honest than what is? Getting the call right should be first and foremost. Mistakes will be made, but if its easily correctable, why not fix it? Just like say, finally admitting that drugs were an issue, and then banning them. Better late than never, right?

The main thing though is to understand the age in which we live. These are your fathers games but theyre being taken to a whole new level. So is the way in that they are watched. Hi-def TV with TiVo enables the home viewer an incredible experience, and soon enough it will be the norm. Folks at home dont have to wait for a replay from the network to see what they just saw. I know its hard to believe, but the technology is moving at light-speed. My 3 year old wakes up every morning and turns on our computer. (NO! She is not typing this for me!) In fact, she has a computer lab in her pre-school! The next wave of fans are going to find Don Dekingers blown call in the 85 World Series as a reminder of how antiquated things were in those times of Huey Lewis and in-dash cassette players.

In a game that has souped-up the ball, shrunk the dimensions of the field of play and made the strike zone the size of a grapefruit in an effort to increase scoring and increase its fan base, why does it not recognize that this fan base is more tech-savvy? The NFL has, and although still not as fast as all would like, understands that this is a new age and you have to think with it to keep up.

As a parent that watches kids who are borderline addicted to all of their electronic accompaniments, I understand that its a brave new world, whether I like it or not. I just wish that one of the games that I love would get its collective head out of the sand and realize that keeping up with the times is not necessarily a bad thing. It just might be the thing that allows the game to prosper in the century ahead.

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

In Game 1, Jon Lester doesn't quite live up to his World Series reputation: 'We got a long ways to go'

CLEVELAND – While the Cubs came into this World Series as the heavy favorites, the team with the global following and baseball’s best roster on paper, Jon Lester understood the challenge ahead. The Cleveland Indians would counter with their own Game 1 ace, a dynamic reliever changing the way we think about bullpens and a future Hall of Fame manager.

That’s how it played out in a 6-0 game that felt a lot closer, Corey Kluber pitching like a Cy Young Award winner, Andrew Miller handling the seventh and eighth innings and Terry Francona improving his record to 9-0 in World Series games.     

Welcome to “Believeland,” where the Fourth Street bars on Tuesday were buzzing more than seven hours before first pitch. That night, LeBron James and the Cavaliers would get their championship rings and watch the banner-raising ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena, just up the street from Progressive Field.

By the first inning – when pitching coach Chris Bosio had to walk out to the mound to talk to Lester – the red video ribbons lining the stadium said: “CLEVELAND AGAINST THE WORLD.” With the bases loaded, Lester had just drilled Brandon Guyer with a pitch, forcing in a second run, a sequence set in motion by walks to Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez’s soft infield single up the third-base line.

It didn’t matter that Lester would eventually settle down and pretty much control this Cleveland lineup. (Except for that rocket Roberto Perez launched off the left-field railing for a solo homer and a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning.) Or that the Indians didn’t run all over the bases, with Francisco Lindor going 1-for-2 in stolen bases. (“Whatever, it’s happened all year," Lester said.)

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This is Cleveland’s blueprint for October, maybe its only chance to win its first World Series since 1948.

“It’s always important (to get a lead), no matter what time of year it is,” Lester said. “It makes a manager’s job a lot easier. It makes your job a lot easier. When you give a guy like Kluber – who’s locked in from pitch one – two runs in the first, it makes his job a lot easier. I know the feeling on the other side. You’re just able to attack differently.

“With the bullpens and all that stuff that they’re setting up nowadays, all you got to do is get through six.”

Lester kept it a 3-0 game, but didn’t finish the sixth inning, a rare October night where he didn’t seem to be automatic. Until Tuesday night, he had gone 3-0 in three World Series starts, allowing only one earned run in 21 innings.

Lester won his two World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox, overlapping with Francona and Miller at different points. This is why the Cubs gave Lester a $155 million contract, to set the tone on the mound and within the clubhouse.

Near the end of a 103-win regular season – and even after winning the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years – Lester has offered colorful versions of: We haven’t done anything yet.

But Lester – the National League Championship Series co-MVP after putting up a 1.38 ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers and watching the Cubs win both of those starts – also doesn’t do overreactions to losses.

“We got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “If we win tomorrow, we’re right back in it. Just like LA – everybody counted us out after Game 3. They said we were the worst best team in baseball. We’re here. We’re not giving up.

“I know my guys. I know my team. And I know that nobody in this clubhouse is giving anything up.”

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

Andrew Miller's outstanding postseason continues with escape to beat Cubs

CLEVELAND — Andrew Miller added another impressive chapter to an already legendary postseason performance on Tuesday night.

The Cleveland Indians reliever pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning to preserve a three-run lead and help his team achieve a 6-0 victory over the Cubs in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 38,091 at Progressive Field.

Despite putting four men on base, Miller added two more scoreless innings to his 2016 playoff résumé. Miller also struck out more three batters, giving him 24 in 13 2/3 innings this postseason, the second most by any reliever in playoff history. Critical to the effort was the strikeout of Cubs veteran David Ross with a checked swing on a 3-2 slider to strand the bases loaded in the seventh.

“You’re just trying to see the ball as long as you can and stay up the middle,” Ross said. “The 3-1, that’s the one that kinda messed me up. It didn’t break as much, so now you’re like ‘OK, let’s protect and just battle.’ ... Looking back at it, I wish I just stood there and not swung at all. If I could rewind. If it were that easy. I wish it was. And then he’d throw one right down the middle and America hates me.”

Ross has had his share of success against Miller before, though it all came when the left-hander was still a struggling starting pitcher. The veteran catcher is 3-for-5 with a walk against Miller in his career. But that wasn’t the reason Cubs manager Joe Maddon opted to stay with Ross instead of pinch hit for him with either Jorge Soler or Albert Almora Jr. with two outs in the seventh inning and Miller struggling for the first time all postseason.

With a man on and nobody out, Miller took over for Corey Kluber and walked Kyle Schwarber — only Miller’s third free pass of the postseason. Javy Baez followed with a single to load the bases.

But Miller rebounded quickly and retired Willson Contreras on a fly out to shallow center before he struck out Addison Russell. Based on his experience, Maddon thought Ross was the right man for the spot.

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“I thought David could hit him or David would accept his walk more than the other guys,” Maddon said. “David works good at-bats in that moment. So I felt good about him, actually. I felt better about him.

“I think with Soler coming off the bench or Albert they had less of a chance than David because I thought there was a two-fold opportunity to either get the hit or draw the walk.”

Ross worked the count to his favor quickly as he took a fastball for a ball, and after swinging and missing a slider, took two more balls to get ahead 3-1. But Miller dropped a slider in for a called strike and then turned to it once again, getting Ross to commit just enough for the third strike. The strikeout improved the Indians’ chances of winning by 26.5 percent, up to 94.7, according to

“I was trying to throw a really good one because if he hits it, it goes a long way,” Miller said. “That’s David Ross. I think even he would say, you can pitch to him, but if you throw something in his wheelhouse it’s going to go a long way and do some damage. Fortunate that it worked out. I threw a good one that was in a spot that he went after in the situation.”

Miller struggled again in the eighth inning as he walked Kris Bryant and allowed a Ben Zobrist single with two outs. But Miller — who allowed two hits and two walks for the first time all season in 77 appearances — struck out Kyle Schwarber to strand the pair.

The Indians’ key acquisition before the July 31 trade deadline threw 46 pitches, the most he’s thrown in a game since Sept. 8, 2011, when he was still a starter.

Indians manager Terry Francona wouldn’t commit to whether or not he’d use Miller in Game 2 on Wednesday. Francona cited how Miller bounced back after throwing 40 pitches in a Game 1 victory over Boston in the American League Division Series and would have been ready if needed. But any number of factors could keep Miller from pitching, and Francona is happy to have a 1-0 series lead in his pocket.

“I don’t know,” Francona said. “He was ready to come back and pitch the next night. I just think there’s a lot that can happen.

“But we won tonight. I think when you have a lead, you try to win.”