Just a Bit Outside
Political and news journalists weigh in on the national pastime.


Todd: Forgive the sap for a minute but this will be an important season in my memory bank simply because it’s the season my five-year old son got the baseball bug. He greets me with score updates (yes, he reads the ESPN app on my phone). This is a long intro to get to what will be a memory I’ll remind my boy of watching: Felix Hernandez’s perfect game in August. Okay, so the last three innings of it for me (came home early from work). He was already watching the game with his babysitter (the MLB package is popular in my house) but didn’t quite realize how important this “perfect game” deal was. I’m still not sure I did the best job of explaining it but we cheered every pitch and then I did say after the game was over, “next year, he’ll probably be a Yankee and we can never cheer for him again . . . ever.”

So again, not all my responses will be sap like this, it’s the most important memory of the season for me as I continue watching my son become addicted to this game (I mean, as I continue the brainwashing of him about baseball).

By the way, if the Nationals do win the Series, I agree, Harper’s steal will be the iconic tone setter.

Mollie, I suspect that someone who describes herself as a “Cardinals fan and couldn’t care about the American League” is no fan of interleague play. Do you believe that the World Series and All-Star Game have lost a bit of luster as a result?

Hemingway: The 2002 All Star game ended in a 7–7 tie. Any remaining luster it had up to that point has not been recovered.

Epstein: The Phillies didn’t make the postseason — in spite of the injuries to Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, Karen, did you have high expectations on Opening Day? (I realized that the club was aging, but figured there was still enough gas in the tank to get them to one more World Series appearance.) And how have your Nats-fan colleagues, friends, and neighbors handled the two teams’ sudden reversals of fortune?

Travers: Right to the gut Jason!

There were definitely high expectations in Philly at the start of the season. Last year’s playoff elimination was a brutal pill to swallow. I still think about that one Utley hit that was deep to center that would have changed the final game and given us life . . . 

Going into Opening Day there were concerns about injuries — how long would Howard be out? Would Utley be able to field balls at second without sitting on a stool? But the Phillies hung in there for a time. The turning point for me was when Roy Halladay got hurt. The stretch without three stars on the field seemed to not just hurt in the team’s production but there was something missing in the attitude.

Given the hole the Phillies were in back at the All Star break, it’s amazing that we even cared about baseball in September in the City of Brotherly Love . . . especially when the Eagles started 2–0!

As for Nats fans and their surge this season, I will admit it hasn’t been easy to live in D.C. for it. Especially when we Philly fans are a) used to stomping on the Nats and b) always giddy when the Redskins start strong and then have their predictable meltdown. I will concede it’s great for the city to have that energy around the team and hope it really sparks the neighborhood around the ballpark. But I also hope it’s a one-year success story and the regular order returns next year with the Phillies on top.

Adam, how does this year’s Giants different from the club that won the World Series in 2010? And will Melky Cabrera’s absence markedly impact their chances?

Housley: Kind of like the Giants season after Melky was suspended. It was one of those hope-for-the-best scenarios. A lot of folks believe that’s why the Giants went out and got Hunter Pence: They had an idea Melky could be in trouble. It had been rumored and my friends in the clubhouse said it was floating around.

Having said that, they have played better without him. He was a great bat, but I think his absence forced other guys to step up, and the addition of Marco Scutaro has been huge.

This team of course is similar to 2010 in many ways. The big-three pitching staff no less and a bunch of guys who give their all. Having said that, there are some differences. This team hits better and has better defense. The bull pen isn’t as strong without a true closer, but they have more depth and more guys who switch hit and can play other bases.

It really will come down to how well Timmy [Lincecum] pitches. You know Cain and Madbum [Madison Baumgarner] are going to give you strong outings, but which Timmy will show up? That has to be the question . . . and also who will be the No. 4? Great to see Zito back at it . . . but [Ryan] Vogelsong was great for most of the year.

Chuck, I remember sneaking a radio into my bed to hear games that had gone past 9:30 p.m. But as a kid . . . so much better to grow up with sports out here . . . West coast games start so much earlier. And MLBTV is a godsend.

Todd: As a Dodgers fan growing up in Miami (we had nothing but spring training and UMiami college baseball), my dad kept our afternoon-paper subscription (the Miami News) simply so we could get a Dodger box score . . . 

Epstein: Thank heavens for MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network! My parents only subscribed to the New York Times, which never provided information on the late games, meaning that any time the Mets were playing weeknight games on the West Coast, I needed to walk down to the candy store and pick up a copy of the Post or the Daily News.

Steve, you are a diehard Angels fan so I expect you to provide a completely dispassionate perspective on 21-year old Mike Trout. Bryce Harper may be emerging as the beast in the East, but three time zones away Trout might be having the greatest rookie season ever for a position player. (For example, he is the youngest player in history to post a 30-home-run, 30-stolen-base season.) In addition to his prowess at the plate, no one disputes that he is an outstanding defender and excellent baserunner. With all due respect to Miguel Cabrera and his quest for the Triple Crown, isn’t Trout the AL MVP?

Futterman: He seems too good to be true. I am transfixed by his magical season. It is as if he has been sent by Central Casting. 

Many have said it, but, he does that boyish freshness that we always associate with Mickey Mantle in 1951 or the fictional Joe Hardy. 

His freshness is captivating, his talent is inspiring and his potential, most people feel, is close to limitless.

My favorite Mike Trout moments have been when he has willed himself to win a game.

There was one game (late in the season during a critical game) that the Angels were trailing in the ninth and he recklessly but wisely (can you do both?) tried to stretch a single into a double. 

He did it. 

I was watching by myself on TV and still audibly gasped. 

The Angels won. 

Unless the Angels make the playoffs (very doubtful), I give MVP to Miguel Cabrera. 

How good will he be? You have to wait a few years. But right I am glad he is on my favorite team. 

Todd: By the way, on a whim, while in Chicago for work, decided to catch a Sox game. The Angels were visiting. And I thought, “Let’s see what Trout’s all about.” So I see him in person once and all he did was his usual: hit a home run and make an absurd defensive play. You know, just a routine day for this kid. I’m a believer. I know it’s heresy to say this in D.C., home of Bryce, but Trout’s the most exciting player in baseball right now. We’re lucky in D.C. to have the second-most exciting.