The World Series Is Running Out Of Time To Get Weird
8:49 AM EDT on October 24, 2020
The only interesting thing to come out of Game 3 of the World Series, other than the fact that I decided to keep a scorecard in a failed attempt to maintain personal interest in a 22-strikeout game that was over in the third inning, was Twitter's reaction to Fox's Tampa Bay Rays arm angles graphic, a headless sea urchin of human limbs that was supposed to represent an advancement in physiology so baffling to opposing hitters that any team would collectively wet itself just thinking about it.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, on the other hand, remained dry and comfortable throughout the entire evening, winning 6-2 in a game that aggressively failed to bring the dramatic. For the third consecutive game, the arm tree didn't really figure into the result, which means that yet again the attempt to make Tampa Bay seem like the weirdest good team in all of modern sports told roughly zero percent of the story.
For a series that was going to parade baseball's wackiest new innovations in an attempt to change the game from dismissively old-timey to quaintly antiquarian, Dodgers-Rays has been about the butter churn of modern analytics: starting pitching. The Dodgers got it in Games 1 and 3, and the Rays got it in Game 2. There isn't a lot else to say about it so far. Clayton Kershaw did good, then Blake Snell did good, then Walker Buehler did good. And Mookie Betts has done good all the time.
And this is not what America has asked for, to the extent that America has asked for anything from the lowest-rated World Series since the advent of television. They were okay with Betts, to be sure. He is easily more fun than any football player this year. But the Rays were supposed to be the arm tree, and the Dodgers were supposed to be the Bugs Bunny conga line around the diamond.
Instead, the three games to date have been pretty ordinary stuff, which is why in an attempt to pot-commit myself to the game I hauled out a previously unopened 1992 Baltimore Orioles scorebook from the first year at Camden Yards (courtesy former P.R. manager Rick Vaughn, who is now working for a baseball charity in Florida) and tried to see if the games could be made more compelling by recording every event.
It failed. Miserably. Nobody even says, "For those of you scoring at home" anymore, because nobody would even think of doing it. The only way it could have been a compelling act is if Rays manager Kevin Cash had decided to go full bullpen and make the scorecard bleed, the way the Rays could a year ago before commissioner Rob Manfred decided to include hall monitor with all his other half-assed duties and introduce the three-batter minimum.
But no, orthodoxy won out (albeit understandably, given that Tampa might well have to bullpen Game 4), and keeping score just to see if it would hydrate an otherwise dry game ended up as just another abjectly ridiculous fraud. The most radical thing that happened all night was Austin Barnes's safety squeeze in the fourth inning, which almost caused Buck to ouija board his dad on air and ask, "What the hell was that?"
This is not what we signed up for, kids. We want the weirdest strategies the Rays can give us, and the most haunted Dodgers we can get. Hell, not even Kershaw is playing to either type or hype this postseason; he's been good three of his four starts, which has dampened a lot of people's schadenfreudal instincts.
We're getting baseball. Solid, basic, uncomplimentary baseball. And maybe that's what we're supposed to get. But if that's the Series we're being given, don't be selling us Tampa's arm cactus. Only one guy can pitch at a time, after all. If you promise arm cactus, let all 13 guys pitch at once. Let's see more than CGI trickery. Let's see Dodger hitters trying to pick out one good pitch to hit out of a dozen possibilities. It'll be a carnival on psilocybin, and let's be honest here, baseball can sell that.
Plus, we'll all be hallucinating too hard to even consider keeping a scorecard again.
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