"I need to get a new life. I sat and watched the Weather Channel all day."
Commissioner Bud (10-Day Forecast) Selig
From Chicago to Houston to all other points of the baseball compass, the White Sox are now seen as a team blessed by fortune, touched by destiny and invincible to all the normal forces of the game. In other words, as the White Sox try to finish off a victory in this year's World Series, the whole sport is calling them just plain lucky.
After a franchise waits 88 years to win a World Series, is that fair?
Absolutely not. Before this Series ends, which may be soon, everybody needs to get a grip and give the White Sox their proper respect. After Tuesday night's 7-5 victory in Game 3, Chicago has won 10 of 11 postseason games -- not because Bartolo Colon and Roger Clemens got hurt or because umpires have missed at least three important calls that went the White Sox' way. Most of all, if they win this Series, it will not be because of the bizarre issue that surrounded Tuesday's Game 3. No, the White Sox are not going to win because Bud Selig ordered the Astros to open the roof of Minute Maid Park, where Houston was 40-17 this season indoors, including the playoffs, but 15-11 when exposed to fresh air.
All of the Sox' good luck has indisputably helped their cause. Why, without the breaks, Chicago might only be 10-3 this October, not 10-1. But let's not get hysterical. The White Sox swept the Red Sox. They blitzed the Angels in five games. And they won the first three games of this Series, including one of the sport's more dramatic walk-off wins in Game 2. They've had breaks. But this isn't a lucky world title we're watching.
However, in seeking full credit for their deeds, Tuesday's controversy du jour will not help the White Sox case. Before the game, every newspaper in both Houston and Chicago was full of stories about how the team had, in the words of pitcher Mark Buehrle: "Everything going our way. The balls are landing our way. The calls are going our way. . . . Everything you look at, how can't we win this thing?"
And now the sport's hand-wringing commissioner, despite all the good integrity-of-the-game intentions in the world, has added to the evidence of a conspiracy by the baseball gods.
Ever since the White Sox won Game 2 on Sunday night on Scott Podsednik's walk-off ninth-inning home run in the miserable South Side mist, the Astros did nothing but talk about how glad they'd be to get home to their indoor park, where they have learned to love the enormous volume of fan noise.
Normally, no team admits that it needs an oddball advantage to win. But the Astros fell right into that tar pit of psychological mischief, starting with Manager Phil Garner and including an extensive dissertation on the subject by normally monosyllabic starting pitcher Roy Oswalt. Talk about setting yourself up.
"We've played with it closed most of the year. I find it strange that somebody would say we have to have it open now," said Garner when the possibility of a open-roof MLB edict was mentioned. "Bottom line, it does generate a lot of noise and it's a lot of fun. We play for that excitement and noise. It helps us a little bit."
Translation: It helps us a lot. Like at least part of the astronomical difference between 40-17 and 15-11.
Oswalt, from Weir, Miss., where he is known for his modesty and restraint, made an entire news conference presentation on the subject, a doubly dangerous decision when you may have to start the game with the roof open.
"We've been playing with it closed all postseason," he said. "I don't see why we should open it now. It's our field and it works for our advantage with the loudness of the crowd. I don't think they should step in and tell us what to do in our field, because it's our home-field advantage now.
"I think Chicago had their advantage there -- cold, windy. They've been playing in it all year, we haven't. So let's bring it back home and give the advantage to us now."
In April and May, the Astros frequently kept their roof open because the weather was nice, rather than the normal Texas swelter that contaminates most of the season. As warm weather arrived, the dome was, quite logically, closed for the sake of comfort. That's why the word "retractable" was part of the $250 million price tag for Minute Maid Park. However, the more the Astros won, the more the Astros like the concept of thermostats, even though they had set a precedent of closing the roof only when it was more than 80 degrees before game time.
"This fits their criterion, not ours," said Selig, invoking the 80-degree rule. "Weather is the determining factor. Let me say again so there's no doubt: Weather is the determining factor."
Some, including Astros catcher Brad Ausmus, had said that the decision was motivated by baseball's desire for pretty aerial pictures of the Series. Unfortunately for this argument, Fox does not have a blimp, although it does have several tall cameramen.
"There isn't a cloud within 800 miles of here," fumed Selig after his day of Weather Channel study. "In 2001 Arizona wanted to close the roof and they were told they couldn't. It was quiet. They were very nice about it. They were tough. But they knew they had to keep the roof open. So there's precedence," said Selig, who presumably no longer thinks of the Astros as entirely nice or quiet.
This entire postseason has both conspired to help the White Sox, while simultaneously tending to deny them proper credit. True, Boston's Tony Graffanino let a ground ball go straight between his legs immediately before a three-run homer by the White Sox. But many infield errors are comical. Graffanino's drew attention because it was Buckneresque. True, A.J. Pierzynski reached base against the Angels on an umpire's mistake after he struck out. Then his pinch runner scored the winning run. But even if he'd been called out, the game would merely have gone into extra innings. And, true, Jermaine Dye reached base on Sunday when he wasn't really hit by a pitch. The pitch was a foul tip. Then Paul Konerko immediately hit a grand slam. But, if this had happened in June, every player on both teams would have focused on the home run, not the 75th replay of Dye.
As this Series comes to a conclusion, no matter what the outcome, we should stop enjoying our little controversies so much, stop indulging in the 100th discussion of the virtues of instant replay in baseball (none) and, instead, pay attention too -- oh, what is that team's name? Yes, that's it, the White Sox.
They're playing quite well, you know. So well, in fact, that if the Red Sox, Angels and Astros had gotten the breaks this October instead of the Sox, it's possible that Chicago might still have a well-deserved world title squarely in its sights.