NLDS Game Three Preview: Chance and Charlie Manuel

Against all odds, my attempt Friday to predict not only the exact score, but also to provide a precise play-by-play rendering of Game Two in the Philadelphia-Cincinnati NLDS series — well, it wasn’t a rousing success. As it happened, Roy Oswalt didn’t strike out 15 batters, and Chase Utley didn’t hit the inside-the-park home run I was so sure he would. Nor was I able to account for the Reds’defensive woes.

With regard to my failure, all I can say is that, like a politician who’s recently been tied to a New York City-based call-girl ring, I am humbled.

On the subject of humility, however, there appears to be one resident of Philadelphia who’s not feeling too much of it presently — namely, Mr. Charlie Manuel. With Cole Hamels set to start Game Three this evening (at 8:07 ET), and Roys Halladay and Oswalt ready to pitch hypothetical Games Four and Five, Manuel’s feeling pretty confident, as evidenced by his comments in AP writer Jay Cohen’s game preview:

[W]hile Reds manager Dusty Baker is talking about faith, his time in the military and a self-help book he read earlier this year, Manuel feels comfortable enough to say he doesn’t like Cincinnati’s chances of advancing.

“It can happen,” the grinning manager said Saturday. “It ain’t goin’ to happen, but it can happen.”

I can’t say for sure what the proper response is to these comments. Does it demonstrate undue hubris? Is Manuel merely being realistic? Ought Jay Cohen be given a Pulitzer immediately for accurately rendering Charlie Manuel’s spoken English in print?

I don’t know.

In any case, here were this author’s reactions, one-by-one:

1. Wow, did he really say that?

2. [Re-reading] Yes, he appears to’ve said that.

3. [Thinking in My Brain] He maybe shouldn’t’ve said that. The payoff for being correct is much lower than the penalty for being incorrect. Unjustified or unfulilled or un-whatever hubris is generally taboo in the sporting world.

4. On the other hand, he’s probably right. Even if these two teams are evenly matched and only home-field advantage informs the resulting outcomes, that still gives Philadelphia about an 87% chance of winning the series [1 – (.542*.542*.458)].

5. I should note this in that frigging game preview I have to write.

Before I continue, let’s agree on one thing, please — that the subject of “guaranteed victories” is a tired one. Joe Namath’s was pretty excellent, I suppose, because it’s the oldest famous one. But subsequent guarantees — and, seriously, I refuse to spend even one second of my life cataloging them — ring hollow. By definition, one needs to speak in probabilities when it comes to victory.

In any case, this is what makes Manuel’s statements notable — both (a) his acknowledgement of the probabilities and (b) recognition that the Phils’ chances of winning their series are really high. Where usually a player or manager might say, “Yeah, we just gotta go out there and continue to play our game” and/or “That’s a good team in that other dugout,” Manuel’s basically like, “We’re at least as good as the other team, and we have a 2-0 games lead. You fill in the blanks, dogg.”

Is this making a mountain out of the proverbial mole hill? Perhaps, except for two things: (a) I, personally, haven’t ever seen a manager make comments of this nature precisely, and (b) because this is the playoffs, all such comments are necessarily magnified.



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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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