|One more step.
That's all Cleveland left fielder Marty Cordova needed to prevent what turned out to be the decisive hit in the Cleveland-Seattle American League Division Series. Indians fans will see Mark McLemore's two-run, second-inning single to left in their nightmares all winter. Should it have happened?
The FOX Sports team of Josh Lewin and Rex Hudler said no.
At issue: Why was Cordova stationed so deep with McLemore at the plate?
The FOX team came back after the fact and questioned whether Cordova had messed up with his positioning.
"Check out where Cordova is playing in left field," Lewin said as FOX went to the replay.
"Look how deep he is. He's way deep there. He should have been shallower," Hudler responded.
Lewin continued to hammer away at the point. "McLemore -- one home run all year, right-handed," he said. "And not at this [Seattle] ballpark, which punishes a power-hitting right-hander."
It would have been better had the FOX team had pointed out Cordova's positioning before the play. First-guessing always beats second-guessing. But Lewin noted the timing, with McLemore getting his big hit on the first pitch from Chuck Finley.
"McLemore didn't exactly give the Indians a chance to help Cordova adjust," Lewin said. "If, indeed, they wanted to scootch him in a little, McLemore went after the first offering."
Once Seattle took a 2-0 lead, starter Jamie Moyer and the Mariners bullpen had the outcome firmly in their hands. That left the media to salute the Mariners and question what will become of a gallant Cleveland team, which was but nine outs away from winning the series in Game 4.
Steve Kelley, columnist for the Seattle Times, focused on the Seattle bullpen unit of Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes and Kazuhiro Sasaki. That trio has been relentlessly splendid all season long.
"They're out there," Kelley wrote. "You know they're out there. Lurking like the night. Watching you. Preparing for you. Waiting for their chance at you."
Nelson, Rhodes, Sasaki. Easy as 1, 2, 3.
"They make the game short, like a six-inning Little League game," Kelley wrote. "The Mariners have the best short game this side of David Duval."
Of course, some offense is required or the Mariners' bullpen is rendered moot. That insurance run courtesy of Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez in the seventh was huge. Suzuki beats out one of his patented infield hits, moves to second on a sacrifice and scores on a Martinez single. It was the old and the new, noted Seattle Times baseball writer Larry Stone.
"The old master and the young wizard coveraged on the Cleveland Indians, and the magic they performed was an astounding sleight of bat that defies age or cultural boundaries," Stone wrote.
While the Mariners took the bows, media coverage extended to Cleveland's latest postseason heartbreaker.
"So this is how a season ends," wrote Akron Beacon Journal columnist Terry Pluto. "John Hart standing in the middle of the Tribe clubhouse that's so quiet, you could almost hear a heart break as he talked about his final day as the team's general manager. Kenny Lofton in front of his locker, taking off his Wahoo uniform probably for the last time in his career.
"Charlie Manuel sitting in his office, skin a pasty white, eyes a little blood-shot red. He rubs his weary face. His future as manager probably will be determined by a physical at the end of the season. ... Juan Gonzalez is nowhere to be found. Like Lofton, he's a free agent who probably will be gone next year. ...
"The Indians still should be favored to win the AL Central Division in 2002. They still will be a respected playoff contender. They still will have a great infield with Jim Thome, Robbie Alomar, Omar Vizquel and [Travis] Fryman. And there are some terrific young players, led by C.C. Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, David Riske, Danys Baez and Ryan Drese. But the old bash-and-mash Tribe is changing. And maybe that's not so bad," Pluto wrote.
FOX Sports had it right. Because Cordova didn't take a step in, the Mariners were poised to make a giant leap forward.
Robert Falkoff, a writer for MLB.com based in Kansas City, is watching media coverage of the Seattle-Cleveland Division Series.