10/19/2002 1:04 pm ET
Press Row: Setting the scene
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
It's all about your point of view. If you live in California, have waited a lifetime for the Giants or Angels to win it all or just love monkeys, this is your kind of World Series.
Here's how Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Daily News set the scene: "The bunting's been hung, the field painted with logos, the tickets scalped, the TV cameras situated, the stomachs knotted.
"Baseball's grand event is here. In Southern California for the first time in 16 years. In Anaheim for the first time ever.
"The World Series.
"It's an all-California affair, but the rest of the world gets to watch. The first World Series between two wild-card teams. Managed by two former Dodgers. Between two areas with L.A. inferiority complexes.
"Beginning this evening at 5, the 2002 World Series gets under way between the Anaheim Angels and the San Francisco Giants at Edison Field, two franchises long on suffering and short on world titles."
Of course, the view from the East might be a bit different, perhaps summed up by George King with his story in the New York Post: "The first World Series without the Yankees in five years opens tonight about as far from The Bronx as you can get. Instead of The Bombers being featured, it's Barry Bonds and the Giants against the favored Angels in a California dream of a Game 1 matchup at Edison Field.
"A popular question surrounding the 98th World Series is what the absence of the Yankees means. After all, most of America either loves or hates George Steinbrenner's team. And while the Yankees help TV ratings, the bottom line is this: The underachieving Bombers, who pitched terribly against the Angels in the ALDS, are deservedly home. That leaves baseball's biggest stage to the evenly matched Giants and Angels."
But Fox network executives are cautiously optimistic that the nation won't mind a World Series just because the Yankees aren't in it, as Bob Keisser of the Long Beach Press Telegram wrote: "Fox Sports is bullish on The Rally Monkey.
"Ed Goren, the network's Executive Producer, whose father was a sportswriter during the Golden Age of New York, admits he would have frowned a month ago at the suggestion of an All-California World Series matchup.
"These kind of regional World Series have not been ratings winners. The Mets- Yankees Subway Series posted an anemic 12.4 rating in 2000, and the 1989 Battle of the Bay between the A's and Giants also scored low, mostly because of the earthquake that rocked the area prior to Game3 and led to a postponement of the series for a week.
"But the surge of electricity behind the Angels, the novelty of the Rally Monkey and the presence of this generation's best player, Barry Bonds, has Goren believing this series will score in the national Nielsen ratings."
Bonds, of course, is the focal point. And to much of the baseball world, this series comes down to Bonds and what the Angels decide to do with him. That certainly is the case with Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, who took that theme to the extreme, as he has been known to do: "We keep thinking about this: Could a man actually go through an entire World Series and never get an official at-bat? Thirty trips to the plate, 30 walks?
"We know this is ludicrous. We know it makes no mathematical sense, no logical sense, no baseball sense.
"But this is how Barry Bonds has come to tower over the game. People actually debate this stuff. A bunch of guys from the Society for American Baseball Research have been blowing fuses on their calculators for about a month now, trying to figure out if Bonds' opponents would be better off if they never pitched to him. Ever.
"We don't know the right answer. There may be no right answer. So we surveyed men who have spent way too much time chomping on their fingernails pondering this question -- two NL West managers (the Dodgers' Jim Tracy and the Padres' Bruce Bochy) and an advance scout who had to write up a report on the Giants this year.
"We also asked two Giants pitchers -- [Kirk] Rueter and Tim Worrell -- just to get the perspective of pitchers thankful they never have to deal with that question in real life."
Space limitations prevent us from providing their answers, but it's interesting reading.
Although, as Mark Kreidler of the Sacramento Bee wrote, a short series does not do justice to Bonds' greatness: "You'd love to believe the fixation on Bonds is the result of an epic adventure into baseball strategy. Alas, it is instead lame East Coast bias. The only known entity out of this World Series is Bonds. There is no Roger Clemens, no A-Rod, no Ichiro, no Maddux or Glavine or Smoltz.
"In short, Bonds is the only available sizzle for the TV programmers and the on-standby myth-makers. And what is interesting about that angle, as all parties are about to find out, is that Barry Bonds is far more often about an amazing body of work than he is about a transcendent single-game performance."
For a most improbable series, it's the irreverent Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle who best put this series in perspective: "There will be plenty of Bonds and Kent, Anderson and Salmon, Nen and Percival, Washburn and Schmidt. Mostly, though, it'll be the games themselves that make the story, rather than the other way around. That is the beauty of national anonymity. The only thing any player needs to prove now is that he can play for an extra week, against players just like himself.
"Matchups? No, this isn't about matchups. We just do those because they make for good graphics. This World Series, with all the Rally Monkeys and four- figure ticket prices and Disneyland this and Golden Gate Bridge that, is going to end up as an ad for baseball as it ought to be played, under the thickest of atmospheres, with more people watching than any of these players has ever known."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.