It's all about the money

added 11/11/2005 by Kevin Garrett

The White Sox completed the sweep of Houston to claim their first title since 1917. Chicago pitched better, fielded better, ran the bases better and hit much better than Houston. Still, the Astros had a chance. In games three and four, just one timely hit in each would’ve brought Houston victories. Even in games one and two, a play or two could have made the difference.

The Astros’ hitting in the second half of game three and throughout game four spelled doom. The total collapse of the hitting came as no surprise to one who watched most of their games this year. In fact, had that kind of non-hitting been present in the first round, I would not have been surprised.

Houston won 89 games during the regular season that included being shutout 17 times; more than 10% of the season. The Astros were shutout eight or nine times when Clemens pitched, while he gave up more than 2 runs only once in those games. The Astros pitching was so good, with just a little more consistency from the hitters, they could have won well over 100 games.

I don’t mean to slight the Sox in any way; they went 11-1 in the post-season and played better baseball than anyone in October. After being burned by Lance Berkman in the first two games, Chicago wised up and refused to pitch to him in run-producing situations, gambling (correctly) that no one else in the Houston lineup could deliver.

In game three, the Sox battled back against Roy Oswalt after Houston had taken a 4-0 lead. The Sox totally frustrated the Houston batters in extra innings and managed to win the war of attrition.

Game four was largely an extension of game three. Chicago managed a single up the middle in the eighth to drive home the lone run of the game and pop the top on the bubbly.

Be sure of one thing, the World Series is about money. Big money. We obtained tickets at face value via winning a ticket-purchasing lottery on the Astros’ web site. A search through ebay indicated a lot of folks paid many times the face value for tickets.

In what proved to be the best cost-saving measure of the trip, Angela, Ryane, Rhianna and I decided to sacrifice some comfort and pack into the Civic (42 MPG) for the trip. Three hours on the internet and telephone yielded one available room-a Super-8 near Hobby, at twice the price we usually pay for the downtown Hyatt. This development forced us to be sure the firearm was packed.

Our $10 parking lot adjacent to the stadium was now $50 due to the big show being in town. Its location between Minute Maid and Irma’s Southwest Grill made it almost a necessity, even at such a premium. As we left Irma’s, a street vendor was selling plastic ticket holders for $10. Now I really wanted those to keep our tickets in good condition for the scrapbook, but still reeling from the parking lot cost, I thought, “what’s a little fold or crease gonna hurt?”

As we entered the stadium, the ushers were handing out free ticket holders, courtesy of our good friends at Taco Bell. For the difference in price, I felt I could put up with a chalupa logo on one side of the holder. Programs were a modest fifteen bucks. At $20, “Official World Series” t-shirts were actually cheaper than the regular Astros shirts.

Guess who threw out the first pitch? The president! But I’m not talking about W, or even George I. No doubt in recognition of the plastic ticket holders and who knows how much cash to boot, the president of Taco Bell threw out the first pitch.

Now that did irritate me a little. You’ve got Nolan Ryan on the payroll, and the best you can come up with for the first pitch is to sell it to the president of Taco Bell? Patience, patience; following a few more ceremonies and announcements, we had another first pitch and I felt a little better about things as Nolan Ryan delivered the Express. Selected by Major League Baseball, fake Doobie Brother Michael McDonald sang the National Anthem, and we were almost ready to go.

A lot was made about MLB dictating that the roof be open for the games. I suppose the TV folks (who pay a lot of money) wanted the overhead view of the stadium and the downtown skyline showing over left field. It was downright cold in Minute Maid Park, and my sinus headache on the following day provided me with one more reason to consider Commissioner Bud Selig a joke.

Our seats were in right-center, just under the giant scoreboard. I now know why those seats sell for only $5 during the regular season. It was almost impossible to see the scoreboard, which I now realize adds a lot to the game. But as far as viewing the action, it wasn’t that bad. Certainly it would have been nice to be closer, but it was still a decent view of the game. Besides, if having the best view of the action was paramount, we would have stayed home and watched the game on TV. We were in the house! The game (and series) didn’t turn out as we wished, but overall, the experience was just as fun as it was costly. And a non-anticipated by-product may prove to be more important to me as time goes by. Each year when the playoffs roll around, my children can remember the year their fat, gray-headed, silly daddy (along with their mama) took them to the World Series.

Kevin Garrett is a columnist for The Lawrence County Press, Monticello, MS.