-The Eastern League in Baseball: A Statistical History, 1923-2005

-Baseball in the Classroom: Essays on Teaching the National Pastime

-Jews And Baseball: A History, 1871-1948

-Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero

-Pro Football Prospectus 2006

-Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game


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October 28 2006

And that's a wrap.  The last game has been played, the season is over and the St Louis Cardinals are baseball's champions.

I confess that the end of baseball season doesn't usually bother me right away.  There are so many games and they take so long and require such an investment of time that they come to be taken for granted as a part of daily life.  When the season ends it's a little hard to remember what it's like without it.  But it has to end sometime so it can begin again.  The feeling will start soon, though, probably sometime next week.  Maybe coming home from work in the cold and dark.  A tiny ache.  And it's amazing how it will have grown by the time April rolls around.

The Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers last night, winning 4-2 to take the World Series four games to one.  It was not a great post-season.  Everyone thought the AL was stronger -- whether they were right or not the Cards beat the only AL team they had to.  The playoffs did bring their share of memorable moments -- a Game 7 of the NLCS for the ages and a shocking upset of the Yankees in the ALDS. 

Baseball leaves us this year with a final reminder of what a wonderful sport it is.  In a World Series that featured hulking sluggers, guys that throw 102 miles per hour and former Cy Young and league MVP winners, the Most-Valuable Player of the World Series was a guy who's 5'7" and looks like he needs a cutoff man to get the ball from shortstop to first base.  After Game 3 of the World Series David Eckstein was 2-for-13 with two singles and no RBI.

History may not be kind to the Tigers, who fell to a St Louis team that won just 83 games this season.  A Detroit pitcher made an error in each of the five games.  Their outfield defense deserted them.  They scored just 11 runs in five games. 

Jeff Weaver had another outstanding outing for the Cardinals last night, holding Detroit to two runs on four hits over eight innings.  He struck out nine.  For the Tigers, Justin Verlander allowed three runs over six innings, only one of which was earned.

St Louis went up 1-0 in the bottom of the second on an infield single by Eckstein that scored Molina.  Sean Casey's two-run homer in the fourth put Detroit up 2-1, but the Tigers' defense abandoned them again in the fourth.  With runners on first and second and one out, Weaver bunted and Verlander tried to get Molina at third.  Inge couldn't handle the throw.  Molina scored on the play and the other runner would come home on a ground ball to short, putting St Louis up 3-2.  Scott Rolen would score Eckstein on a single in the seventh to extend the lead to 4-2. 

Of the four Tigers that got the most at-bats in the series, Granderson, Monroe, Ordonez and Rodriguez, none of them would hit above .200 in the five games.  Rodriguez led the group hitting .158 (3-for-19).  Sean Casey was one of the few guys who did hit, he was 9-for-17 (.529) with two home runs and five RBI.  Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge were both 6-for-17 (.353) for Detroit.  Verlander was 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA.  Detroit relievers allowed eight runs in 12 2/3 innings.  Eight of the 22 runs allowed by Detroit pitchers overall were unearned.

Of the four Cardinals who got the most at-bats in the series, Eckstein, Rolen, Edmonds and Molina, only one hit below .364.   Edmonds was 4-for-17 (.235).  Pujols was just 3-for-15 but drew five walks.  The case can be made for Rolen for series MVP -- he was 8-for-19 (.421) to Eckstein's 8-for-22 (.364) but Eckstein's hits came at critical times near the end of the series.  Belliard was 0-for-12 in the series.  The Cards allowed just 11 runs, 10 of which were earned.  Their pen allowed just one run on four hits and three walks in nine innings.

Here's Bart Giamatti's essay The Green Fields of the Mind.

Elsewhere, the Saguaros were idle yesterday as the day's only action in the Arizona Fall League was a showcase game that featured the AFL East (Desert Dogs, Scorpions and Solar Sox) "Rising Stars" squaring off against their counterparts from the AFL West (Rafters, Javelinas and Saguaros).

Gio Gonzalez started for the West and allowed an unearned run on a hit and a walk in two innings.  He struck out two.  JA Happ struck out three in a single frame.  The whole thing might have drawn a wider audience had it not been played on the night of the last game of the World Series.  Read all about it.

Ryan Howard prepares to head to Tokyo next week for the series between MLB players and their Japanese counterparts.

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