One day after the St. Louis Cardinals hammered holes in the walls of the ballpark in Arlington, Texas while scoring 16 runs, they scored 0 runs.
Same two teams on the same field, but instead of St. Louis winning 16-7 because it also pounded holes in the Texas Rangers’ pitching staff’s psyche, it lost 4-0 because it couldn’t figure out how to dent Derek Holland at all. In 8 1/3 innings, the southpaw gave up two hits and no runs. Instead of being more or less doomed, trailing 3-1 in the World Series, the Rangers are tied 2-2 in games.
At the same time the baseball game was being offered to viewers on one TV channel, the NFL game between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints was being shown on another channel. The Saints pulled out that cliffhanger 62-7.
As part of his comedic repetoire the late George Carlin delivered a routine about the differences between baseball and football. A summation of those differences would essentially be this: Baseball was a gentler, more pastoral game, meandering towards its conclusion, while football was rougher, tougher, edgier, and played out under the tyranny of a clock.
Here’s another difference. The Cardinals and the Rangers were scheduled to play 24 hours later, Monday night, with no one able to remotely able to guess with authority who might win. If the Colts and the Saints played every night from now till Doomsday with the same lineups, the results would never change. The Colts would go through a Groundhog Day of anguish, being pummeled every single time.
Baseball can throw the same lineups out on the field day after day, with the exception of the pitcher, and teams of lesser talent on some occasions will neutralize their opponents. The most important player in football is the quarterback. The most important player in hockey is the goalie. That may be the toughest individual position to play in team sports and can arguably be said to be the most important of all. But in my mind the pitcher has the goalie beat when it comes to flat-out determining the result.
One day the Cardinals score 16 runs, the next day they score 0. Cardinals position players are otherwise the same. Rangers position players are otherwise the same. Good pitching beats good hitting and did. It is the nature of this game unlike any other. In a seven-game NBA playoff series the players won’t change. Someone may have a hotter shooting night and that could affect the outcome. In football, where it’s one and done in the playoffs instead of a series, pure talent usually prevails.
If the Colts and Saints get together for another skirmish any time soon New Orleans might not play a perfect game again and the Colts may not play as atrociously, but the Saints will still probably win by 40. The biggest surprise would be if a couple of weeks following such a shellacking the Colts beat the Saints. But no one who follows baseball was particularly surprised that the Rangers beat the Cardinals in their next match-up after giving up those 16 runs. It’s all part of the beauty of baseball.