Skip to content

Which ending was weirder: Game 3 or Game 4?

Oct 28, 2013, 1:13 PM EDT

World Series - Boston Red Sox v St Louis Cardinals - Game Three Getty Images

We sports fans will argue about anything. ANYTHING. Everyone knows that. We will not only argue about who the American League MVP should be, we will argue about the Dolphins’ new helmet (old one better), we will argue about Frank Caliendo’s best impression (Morgan Freeman), we will argue about the strongest arm in the NFL (Joe Flacco usually wins the day, but after Sunday night I’m more convinced that it’s actually Aaron Rodgers), we will argue about what horrible thing should happen to the Jeremy family in the T-Mobile commercials (stranded on desert island without power).

In many ways, we sports fans are like the parents in Woody Allen’s classic “Radio Days.”

Narrator: And then there were my father and mother … two people who could find an argument in any subject.
Father: Wait a minute. Are you telling me you think the Atlantic is a greater ocean than the Pacific?
Mother: No, have it your way. The Pacific is great.

When Sunday’s World Series Game 4 ended, I reflexively tweeted* that, in a way, the finish was even weirder than the already classic obstruction call that ended Game 3.

*New JoeWord: Twex, verb, to tweet something instantly, emotionally and with almost instant regret. Can also be used as a noun.

Several people almost instantly responded with a simple response: No way. And also: You are crazy. And I got a few emails that said: No way. And also: You are crazy. And then a friend of mine wanted to argue that there is NO WAY that Kolen Wong getting picked off to end Game 4 could be weirder than the whole Allen-Craig-Will-Middlebrooks-Jim-Joyce obstruction party that ended Game 3. He too mentioned that I was crazy.

Wait a minute. Are you telling me you think the Atlantic is a greater ocean than the Pacific?

Of course, it doesn’t matter — they’re both weird. They’re both unprecedented (no World Series had ever ended either way). They’re both keyed around colossal blunders that you would not expect Major League Baseball players to make. There’s a bit of controversy in the obstruction, I suppose, while I have not heard anyone say the umpire missed the call on Wong. It doesn’t really seem a subject worth arguing about.

So let’s argue about it anyway.

The thing about the obstruction call is that the only weird part WAS the obstruction. The rest of it was just good and bad baseball. St. Louis’ Jon Jay hit a ground ball that Boston’s Dustin Pedroia stabbed and threw home in time to get the runner. Good baseball. Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia then launched the ball somewhere toward third base in an utterly misguided effort to get a runner that was already there. Bad baseball. If third baseman Will Middlebrooks and runner Allen Craig don’t get tied up, Craig scores, the game’s over and nothing especially crazy happened. But they did get tied up, then the outfield throw beat Craig to the plate, and Jim Joyce called obstruction. Weird. No doubt.

But think now about Sunday night’s game. In the ninth inning, the Red Sox led the game by two runs. With one out, that man Allen Craig singleed off closer Koji Uehara and limped to first base. It would have been a double for just about anyone with two functional legs. Uehara is almost unhittable, except by Allen Craig — he must have some Kojinite or something. Anyway, Craig was replaced a pinch runner by Kolen Wong, a 23-year old rookie who was born in Hawaii. Wong had been in the big leagues long enough to get 62 plate appearances — he hit .153/.194/.169, so that wasn’t why he was on the World Series roster. He was there to pinch-run and play some late-inning defense.

Wong did not represent the tying run, of course, so he did not figure to be an important part of the story. The Cardinals were sending up two of their best hitters — Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran — so the focus was on home plate. Uehara had the lowest WHIP in baseball history (for pitchers with 50-plus innings pitched). Carpenter had a legitimate MVP season. Beltran has an amazing postseason history. This was going to be good.

But something really weird was happening in the background. The Red Sox were holding Wong on at first. This was hard to figure. It might have made just a little bit of sense when Matt Carpenter was hitting because there was only one out and pinning Wong at first base kept the double play in order. But let’s be real here: In that situation, almost any other team would concede the double play rather than give up the giant hole on the left side of the infield with a talented left-handed hitter like Matt Carpenter up there. Red Sox manager John Farrell has proven that he dances to his own tune. Anyway, when Carpenter hit an infield pop-up for the second out of the inning that double-play reason was gone.

And still the Red Sox held on Kolten Wong at first base — even with dead-pull hitter Carlos Beltran up next.

Everyone, these days, seems to be talking a lot about the difference between process and results. The discussion is based around the superficially simple idea that you really want to focus on how you do things rather than how they turn out. This can be frustrating, though. Sometimes, a thing done well ends up badly. You might leave an hour early for an important meeting, buy your client’s favorite coffee on the way, then have someone carelessly sideswipe your car, delaying you so long that you show up late with the coffee cold enough to make the client spit it out. You lose the contract. You get demoted. The process was right — leaving an hour early, buying the coffee. But the result was bad.

And, just as frustrating, you might do things COMPLETELY wrong and have them turn out well. You might leave 20 minutes late for that same meeting, catch every light, have the client and your boss stuck in traffic, and have a friendly co-worker give you the client’s favorite coffee at the last possible second, which wins you the contract.

The temptation, of course, is to judge things by the results — and we usually do. The boss in the first scenario might be angry enough to demote you and to give you a giant raise in the second. In reality, the first process is much better than the second and should work much more often. But it’s hard to judge things that way. You wouldn’t give the first guy a raise for losing the client. You would demote the second guy for winning the contract. This is luck. This is randomness. This is life.

The process of holding on Kolen Wong on first base seems to me hopelessly flawed. It seems exponentially more likely that Carlos Beltran would whack a hit through the gaping hole in the infield than anything good happening because you held the runner.

But … the result was shockingly good for Boston. Wong blundered in a way that, sadly, will always attach itself to his name. He learned a bit and Uehara unexpectedly threw to first. Wong’s right foot slipped a bit as he tried to dive back to the bag, and he was out. You can give a million reasons why Wong should not have been picked off. His run wasn’t the important one. There was no need for him to get to second base. His sole purpose out there was to make sure Carlos Beltran got his chance at the plate.

But reasons don’t matter here — nobody was more aware of the situation than Wong. He made a combo physical/mental mistake — a mesical mistake — and he was out.

And I would put that whole series of events — the fact that the Red Sox held on Wong in the first place, the fact that Uehara actually threw over there, the fact that Wong would do the one thing he was out there not to do — as being an even weirder series of events than the Saturday night craziness.

In percentage form, I would put it like this:

Game 3 ending:

Percent chance that Salty would throw the ball (and throw it away): 2%
Percent chance that Middlebrooks and Craig would tangle up: 1%
Percent chance that umpire would call interference: 60%

Total percentage: .012% (1 in 8,333)

Game 4 ending:
Percent chance that the Red Sox would hold on Wong: 5%
Percent chance that Uehara would throw over: 20%
Percent chance that Wong would get picked off: 1%

Total percentage: .01% (1 in 10,000).

So the Game 4 ending was inarguably weirder.*

*These percentages have been verified by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers or someone like them and therefore cannot be argued with, rescinded, not even questioned. Also, the Pacific Ocean is better than the Atlantic.

Latest Posts
  1. Cubs designate Mike Olt for assignment

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 05:  Mike Olt #20 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the St. Louis Cardinals during the Opening Night game at Wrigley Field on April 5, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 3-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Olt was designated for assignment after the Cubs acquired Austin Jackson from the Mariners.

  2. Dodgers place Enrique Hernandez on disabled list with hamstring injury

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Kike Hernandez can't get to a ball hit for a single by Cincinnati Reds' Brayan Pena during the sixth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) AP

    Enrique Hernandez has begun to take away playing time from the struggling Joc Pederson in recent days, but now the Dodgers will have to make due without him for a while.

  3. Royals pick up Jonny Gomes from Braves

    Aug 31, 2015, 9:43 PM EDT

    Atlanta Braves outfielder Jonny Gomes, who was pitching in relief, tips his cap as New York Yankees' Chris Young rounds the bases after a solo home run in the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, Aug. 28, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) AP

    Gomes, 34, is batting .221/.325/.364 with seven home runs and 22 RBI over 83 games this season.

  4. The Yankees intend to bring CC Sabathia back as a starting pitcher

    Aug 31, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT

    NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 23:  CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees is taken out of the game in the third inning against the Cleveland Indians during their game at Yankee Stadium on August 23, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

    CC Sabathia was shut down earlier this month due to an arthritic condition in his right knee.

  5. Video: Kevin Kiermaier takes to the sky to rob Manny Machado of a home run

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:53 PM EDT

    kiermaier 1

    Kiermaier makes a leaping catch to rob Manny Machado of a home run.

  6. Cardinals skipping Carlos Martinez’s next start due to back issue

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT

    SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 22:  Carlos Martinez #18 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park August 22, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Marco Gonzales is expected to start in his place Tuesday.

  7. Report: Giants talking to Red Sox about trade for Alejandro De Aza

    Aug 31, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 15:  Alejandro De Aza #31 of the Boston Red Sox rounds the bases on a home run in the third inning against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park on August 15, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

    De Aza is batting .292 with 18 extra-base hits (including four home runs), 25 RBI, and an .831 OPS in 60 games since joining the Red Sox in June.

  8. Cubs acquire Austin Jackson from Mariners

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT

    Seattle Mariners' Austin Jackson celebrates after scoring the go-ahead run on a single by Mike Zunino during the 12th inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015. The Mariners won 10-8. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) AP

    Jackson, an impending free agent, is batting .272/.312/.387 with eight home runs, 38 RBI, and 15 stolen bases over 107 games this season.

  9. Carlos Correa back in Astros’ lineup after missing four games with hamstring injury

    Aug 31, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT

    Houston Astros' Carlos Correa throws before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox Monday, June 8, 2015 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) AP

    The Astros will have their young phenom back at shortstop tonight against the Mariners.

  10. Mark Teixeira sent back to New York, will not play in Red Sox series

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:25 PM EDT

    Mark Teixeira Mark Teixeira

    He hasn’t played since last Wednesday and now will miss at least the next three games.

  11. The Mets won’t discuss Terry Collins’ status until after the season is over

    Aug 31, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    New York Mets manager Terry Collins, back, watches from the dugout in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) AP

    He was on the hot seat back in June. What a difference a couple of months make.

  12. Wanna see “El Paso’s fastest wiener?”

    Aug 31, 2015, 3:10 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 3.09.51 PM

    Actually, the fastest wiener is boring. You want to see the wiener which runs free.

  13. Coaching third base in the AL East is no easy job

    Aug 31, 2015, 1:13 PM EDT

    Pesky's Pole AP

    And Buck Showalter is uniquely unimpressed with Fenway Parks dimensions.

  14. Unknown Cuban ballplayer sleeps outside of Dodger Stadium, hoping for a tryout

    Aug 31, 2015, 12:28 PM EDT

    dodger stadium getty Getty Images

    Thats one way to do it. Not a way likely to bring success, but certainly one way to do it.

  15. What’s wrong with Jeff Samardzija?

    Aug 31, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT

    samardzija getty Getty Images

    He’s struggling with free agency right around the corner.

  16. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos accuses Steve Tolleson of quitting on his team

    Aug 31, 2015, 11:25 AM EDT

    Steve Tolleson AP

    The Blue Jays GM said “Steve Tolleson just decided he didn’t want to play anymore.” Tolleson takes strong issue with that.

  17. Mets won’t use Steven Matz as a reliever

    Aug 31, 2015, 10:21 AM EDT

    Steven Matz AP

    Terry Collins says it wouldn’t be fair.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. G. Stanton (2802)
  2. B. Crawford (2728)
  3. Y. Puig (2467)
  4. G. Springer (2408)
  5. C. Correa (2311)
  1. H. Ramirez (2280)
  2. H. Pence (2254)
  3. J. Hamilton (2206)
  4. J. Fernandez (2148)
  5. D. Wright (2130)