If you're one of the literally hundreds of people outside of Michigan and Missouri who are following the World Series, you already know that the St. Louis Cardinals now lead the Detroit Tigers three games to one. Weather permitting, Game five will be played in St. Louis tonight.
Now, if you're managing the Tigers and your back is to the wall, you need to do anything you can to win tonight and get the series back to you home ballpark. Sure, the odds aren't good, but they were in exactly the same position in 1968 against the Cardinals and came back to win the series in seven games.
Knowing all of that, you logical move would, of course, be to throw your best pitcher at the Redbirds tonight. For the Tigers, that's unquestionably been Kenny Rogers. He's had one of the most amazing streaks in playoff history, throwing 23+ scoreless innings going back to the Yankee series. So it's a no-brainer decision to put him on the mound tonight, right?
Well, um, no. See, Kenny's the same guy who made national headlines on Sunday by starting the game with a "big clump of dirt" (wink, wink) on his pitching hand. This clump was big enough to have been seen by people in the bleachers at Comerica Park. It seems Kenny's pitching hand is so dirt-prone, that when ESPN and others reviewed tape of ol' Kenny going back as far as July, they found the same clump in the same place. Guess Kenny's got something of a hygiene problem. Maybe he should think about cleaning out that locker. (Photo at left is from the AL Championship Series, photo at right is from World Series game 2)
As you might imagine, St. Louis fans didn't take too kindly to Kenny being given a pass by the umpires. You see, rather than being tossed from the game and suspended as the rulebook dictates, the home plate umpire merely asked Ken to wash that
dirt from his hand.
Tiger Manager Jim Leyland had originally set his pitching rotation such that dirty Kenny would pitch games two and six, both scheduled for Detroit. After the dirty-hand incident, that decision looked downright prescient, given the heaps of abuse sure to be hurled at Rogers by the Cardinal faithful if he were to pitch at Busch Stadium. Only now, with the Tigers at death's door, Leyland's original schedule calls for a rookie, Justin Verlander to pitch game five. While Verlander was the Tigers' best pitcher during the season, he hasn't been exactly overpowering in the last month. On top of all that, Verlander's a righty and Rogers a lefty. The Cardinals are infamous for making even the most average left-handed pitcher look like Cy Young with their inability to hit them.
Given all of that, the press asked manager Leyland if there was a chance he'd move Kenny, his best (albeit most sanitarily challenged) pitcher, up a game to pitch game five. Leyland's answer? "Absolutely none," he said. "I'm not going to pitch him in this atmosphere."
See, in addition to his slovenly personal habits, Kenny's also a bit of a psycho. He famously attacked a cameraman who was twice his age a couple of years ago. So, that puts Leyland on the horns of a dilemma. He'd like to start his best pitcher, veteran and a lefty, against the Cardinals tonight in a do-or-die game. He can't, though, because after being exposed to all the world as a
messy person, Rogers will be the target of massive abuse by the red-clad St. Louis fans. Not to mention scrutiny by cameras and (one would hope) umpires that would make Terrell Owens blanch. No, instead, Leyland will have to start a rookie who the Cardinals knocked around in game one. That flapping sound Kenny's hearing are all of those chickens coming home to roost.