To be sure, the only thing warm tonight in Cleveland will be the reception that the Indians receive when they take the field! Snow flurries? I thought this was the Fall Classic! Somewhere, Bowie Kuhn is smiling.
But the weather will have an impact on tonight's game. Cold weather usually means low scoring, as the hitters struggle to get loose.
And it's tough on the pitchers, also. Florida's Al Leiter may be a little better off because he is a power pitcher. He doesn't rely on the feel of the ball in his hand to be successful. Meanwhile, Cleveland's Charles Nagy is a sinker/slider pitcher, so the cold weather may have a detrimental effect on his stuff.
Rick, you mentioned that Florida series in Chicago in April. Well, Al Leiter won one of those games! The Marlins went from 80-degree weather at home to Wrigley Field and a wind chill of 1 degree for their April 8 meeting. Leiter pitched six innings and won, 5-3.
But that was one of the few road wins for the New Jersey native this season. Leiter was 5-7 with a 6.37 ERA away from Pro Player Stadium. He needs to have a big game tonight. Al is 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA in the postseason.
One of the major keys to winning in the playoffs is to secure the odd-numbered game. So far, the Marlins are a perfect 6-0 in '97 (2-0 vs. the Giants; 3-0 vs. the Braves; 1-0 vs. the Indians). Jumping off to the early lead puts all the pressure immediately on the opposition. And getting to use the designated hitter for the next three games is bound to help. The Marlins are hitting only .238 in the Series, after batting under .200 against the Braves.
So many times we tend to shrug off the exhibition season as meaningless. But I really believe that is where this Florida ballclub came together. They went 26-5 during the Grapefruit League season to set the tone for the year.
I recall, during the Braves' spring training in West Palm Beach last March, how focused this Marlins team was on winning and challenging Atlanta. And even though the Braves won the division by a wide margin, the Marlins proved to be the superior team in October.
The Marlins are also proving that the only way to compete in the '90s is with deep pockets. It's no coincidence that, of baseball's Final Four, Florida, Atlanta, and Baltimore have three of the top payrolls in the game. I know there is a lot of soul-searching going on here in Atlanta about the best use of those dollars. Atlanta made a commitment to keep baseball's best rotation intact, but they seemed to sacrifice two great leaders in Marquis Grissom and David Justice (a combined 8-14 so far in the Series). One thing is for sure, it's going to be a lot of fun tonight!
By the way, Rick, make sure you order the pizza tonight so it gets here before the game!