Morgan calls right shots on TV

Phil Jackman

October 01, 1990|By Phil Jackman

Yesterday was a rough day for Joe Morgan.

Both Joe Morgans. The one who (mis)manages the Red Sox and the one up in the ESPN announcing booth sitting next to Jon Miller.

Morgan the analyst watched as a series of Boston pitchers fed first-pitch fastballs to Fred McGriff, a notorious first-pitch fastball hitter. The result was four straight singles.

Suddenly, Freddie, who has been known to go AWOL in September, is a presence again.

Toronto's Manny Lee slapped a single to leftfield and, with the play laid out before him, got tossed out by yards as he attempted to stretch it into a double. When the next batter hit a home run, Morgan groaned.

He and Miller giggled when Junior Felix, in rightfield for the Jays, fired a ball about 25 feet over a cutoff man's head.

Repeatedly and considering the situations, defensive players were caught out of position. Announcers have to talk about such things.

"I can't imagine what he's thinking," said Morgan of Tony Pena, the Boston catcher who seemed to be putting down all the wrong fingers for his pitchers.

The piece de resistance, though, was provided by Joe Morgan the manager.

The Red Sox were trailing, there was a run in with runners at second and third with one out and the manager ordered his infield to play in. This isn't a bad move; it borders on sedition.

With several innings to go in friendly Fenway Park, it's folly to worry about one run. The idea is to stay out of a big inning. The Jays had a big inning. Later, they had another as Morgan the manager again played his infield in, time after time. It was 10-5 in the eighth inning and Joe was still trying to cut off that run at the dish.

If one wasn't aware gambling is strictly prohibited in baseball, he might guess Maestro Morgan had bet the under.

It was an extremely sloppy game, both mentally and physically, for a contest of such importance late in the season.

Actually, as lamebrained as the proceedings were, it was a typical late-season struggle in the American League East. No one ever seems to sweat the means, figuring the end takes care of that.

For example, Morgan the manager, said afterward, "I'm just glad it was us that won two out of three [over the weekend], not them."

Meanwhile, Toronto's manager, Cito Gaston, was at peace with the world, too: "Our backs were against the wall and we played good baseball."

Obviously, a scoreboard reading 10 runs and 19 hits can make a guy forget about all the little mistakes almost instantaneously.

In fact, Morgan the manager is so inured with what's been going on as his club and Toronto stagger toward the wire, he gushes, "You couldn't ask for much more than baseball's giving you in these last few weeks."

Amen. And there's the added bonus of three more games, games transferred from the early season when the lads in the knickers were locked out and didn't get time to work on the fundamentals that were so lacking yesterday.

This assumes, of course, that the White Sox don't take two of three in Boston, the Blue Jays don't do likewise facing the Orioles here and the teams don't meet in a one-game playoff Thursday in Toronto. A good bet.

The last time Boston faced a situation similar to this one, it was 1972, another year of management-labor strife. There was a strike at the end of spring training, about a week of the season was lost and the owners said, "Heck with it, play the schedule as it lies."

The way it worked out, the Bosox ended with an 85-70 record and lost out by a half-game to the 86-70 Detroit Tigers. No telling what might have happened if television and the mammoth money involved today had been present then and the games had been rescheduled and played.

Earlier this year, asked to compare play in the AL and NL, analyst Joe Morgan, who spent about a century in the Senior Circuit performing in Hall of Fame fashion, said some of the things he has seen over here were bewildering.

A lot of what he and everyone else saw yesterday fits that description. He reviewed the plays, pointed out an alternative and added, "now that's how the game's supposed to be played."

Playing games the way they're "supposed" to be played doesn't lead to a spine-tingling finish featuring games referred to as "bamboozlers" by manager Joe Morgan, who adds, "I knew it wasn't going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination."

Long live the theater of the absurd, the undiscerning eye and the scary situation facing the combatants: One of them has to win. What pressure.

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