- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

The baseball postseason is an acquired viewing habit, appreciated best by those who can recite who does what against left-handers under a full moon.

There is the windup and the pitch, sometimes followed by a meeting of the minds at the mound. A certain persistence is necessary around all the lulls in the action, if the infield fly rule qualifies as action.

This is baseball's burden in the age of the Internet, the X Games and Tony Soprano. Baseball dares to lament the move of the Brooklyn Dodgers still, as if this is intended to foster a new generation of fandom. Relocation is an old concept, although that probably comes as news to the three or four fans who follow the Expos and who expect their support to keep the team in Montreal.

Baseball works in mysterious ways, no doubt. Take it from an old baseball hand, a recovering pitcher who sustained several cases of whiplash in college, one of the unremarkable consequences of turning too quickly to follow the path of a well-hit ball.

Byung-Hyun Kim takes about a half-hour to deliver a pitch. That is after he has received his sign from the catcher, contemplated his awful fate in the 2001 postseason and initiated his windup. It is said that Kim throws the ball around 90 mph. That is hard to believe. The radar gun must clock his pitches on a sliding scale. Or have an extra-credit question at the end.

Kim appears to have two pitches, slow and slower, to go with a deceptive release. He throws the ball either submarine style or between his legs with his eyes closed. There is a lot going on there. Kim has Stu Miller's lack of velocity, some of Luis Tiant's trickery and even a dash of Ron Kline's quirkiness in him.

Kline was a journeyman reliever with the Senators in the '60s who adhered to a ritualistic delivery form, touching his cap, belt and shirt before each pitch. Kline, who died in June, led the American League in saves with 29 in 1965, no easy feat with the win-starved Senators.

Maybe baseball's devotion to ritual is Kline's fault in part.

All baseball players seem to have a background in choreography nowadays.

Before Jose Canseco decided he wanted to be a tell-all author, he appeared to have a severe form of Tourette's syndrome. No one blinked and twitched and worked out a crick in the neck as much as he did between pitches. The poor guy. His at-bats almost were painful.

Baseball's ordeal between pitches is in full swing, with an appearance in the World Series at stake. There is so much pent-up anxiety to resolve between pitches, plus the lefty-righty thing to consider.

Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa claim to be almost best friends, except in the fifth inning of Game1 of the NLCS, when the two teams cleared the benches to discuss the improbable absence of both the Yankees and Diamondbacks and Baker and La Russa exchanged angry greetings. It all takes time, 3 hours and 31 minutes to be accurate.

In a positive development, Barry Bonds is finally exorcising his postseason demons, the pet phrase that goes with past failures, in his case when there was so much less of him in Pittsburgh. Bonds appears to have adopted Mark McGwire's body at an advanced baseball age, the conclusion implied for both parties. Sammy Sosa, too.

It beats being one of the potheads with the Mets, the charge distinct from the news of Mike Piazza's raging heterosexuality. Not that there is anything wrong with being a raging heterosexual, Shawn Kemp excluded.

Baseball cried most of the summer, contrary to the philosophy of one-time manager Tom Hanks. The crying broke the labor tedium and the long trip from the bullpen. That is a long trip. It gets longer by the season. Nothing strains a water department like a pitching change, the result of toilets flushing in unison.

The Angels and the Twins are still around, odd as that is, considering the mood of Mickey Mouse and Bud Selig last winter. The mouse wanted to sell the Angels, the former interim commissioner for life wanted to contract the Twins. The Angels have tried a lot of different first names, from Los Angeles to California to Anaheim, plus Danny Glover as manager. The Twins have tried to coexist in the same playpen as Randy Moss.

Baseball promises to be done with its business by November, so long as the players are able to manage the psoriasis that provokes so much scratching.

The scratching complements their hyperactive salivary glands, the one-two focus interrupted by the occasional long drive.

And there it goes. Going, going, gone.

Neck brace, please.


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