Yesterday, you had the most anticipated
game in baseball history.

Chris Burke

And you had some National League game.

So, maybe tonight — now that the Red Sox have completed
their Hell’s-frozen-over, pigs-are-flying comeback —
people will finally turn the television on and watch Houston play
St. Louis.

What? You forgot about that series?

Well, it’s time to pay attention because the “other
Game 7” is tonight, and the Astros and Cardinals have spun a
pretty intriguing web of their own — just the sixth National
League championship series to go the distance in 20 years, three
come-from-behind wins, two walk-off home runs and an extra-inning
game.

It’s been as entertaining of a series as you could
possibly ask for and no one’s even noticed.

Now, to be fair — and before every Yankee or Red Sox fan
starts writing furious e-mails to me — the American
League series was simply mesmerizing.

Obviously, when one of the greatest rivalries in sports history
plays a too-ridiculous-to-believe series, then it’s worth
taking note and watching.

But — and it’s possible that I just didn’t get
the memo — when did the National League become the
Godfather III of the sporting world?

Unless the Cubs or Mets are still alive, or Barry Bonds is
batting, no one gives a hoot about what happens in the N.L.

I mean, let’s just think about the situation that’s
happened with the Astros’ pitching rotation in this series.
Roger Clemens was slated to start Game 6 for Houston — a
game that could have clinched a World Series berth for the Astros
— but instead, the future Hall-of-Famer was benched and
Pete Munro (a four-game winner this year) took the mound to save
Clemens for Game 7.

Can you imagine the coverage that would have gotten if Clemens
was still pitching in Boston or New York?

What if the Yankees had benched Clemens in last year’s
playoffs and started, oh I don’t know, let’s say Jeff
Weaver? The New York papers would have published a special section
shredding manager Joe Torre. SportsCenter would have relocated to
the Yankees’ bullpen.

Not this year. This year, nobody outside of Houston or St. Louis
even blinked.

Clemens goes from New York to Houston and suddenly it’s
like that scene in “Back to the Future” when Michael J.
Fox starts disappearing — it’s as if Clemens
barely exists anymore.

It’s not just Clemens in this series either.

As a matter of fact, there are arguably three of the top five
players in all of baseball this season playing in the National
League series. It features Carlos Beltran (whom the Yanks wanted at
the trading deadline), Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols and plenty of
other talented players stacked up and down both lineups.

It’s not like 1998 when San Diego won the N.L. and was a
sacrificial lamb for the Yankees. The winner of tonight’s
game has a very legitimate shot of winning the World Series.

But I guess that’s the other thing these epic Red
Sox-Yankee playoff matchups do — eliminate any future
discussion of what actually happens in the World Series.

Do people remember that the Yankees had to rally from two games
down to beat L.A. in 1978? Of course not — they remember
Bucky Dent’s home run that eliminated the Red Sox.

Ten years from now, do you think people will be talking about
Josh Beckett’s World Series’ clinching performance for
Florida last year? Probably not — not when they could
remember Aaron Boone’s home run that, again, sent the Red Sox
home crying.

These playoffs battles between New York and Boston have become
so big that they’ve almost transcended anything else that
happens in baseball during those seasons. Case in point: this is a
column about how good the Astros-Cardinals series has been and I
just talked about the Yankees and Red Sox for three paragraphs.

Or take both series’ fifth games. While Boston and New
York battled for 14 innings on Fox, the Astros and Cardinals were
engaged in a spectacular pitcher’s duel — with two
one-hitters going into the ninth.

Except that game was on FX everywhere except for Houston and St.
Louis. That’s the same FX that shows reruns of
“Cops”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and
“Fear Factor.” We’re not exactly talking about
prime coverage here.

And so I’m stepping in, right now, to ensure that this
situation gets resolved tonight.

Chances are that the 2004 World Series won’t be as good as
either of the league championship series — I honestly
don’t know how it could be, unless they play a best-of-15
series or every game goes 25 innings. So tonight’s game seven
is the last chance to pay some attention to something other than
the Yankees-Red Sox series for at least one day.

Because — as good as that Yankees-Red Sox series was
— this other one has turned out to be pretty good, too. And
it’d be a shame if everyone missed it.

 

Chris Burke can be reached at
“mailto:chrisbur@umich.edu”>chrisbur@umich.edu.

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