As the Boston Red Sox look set to win the World Series, if not sweep the Colorado Rockies in four straight, it's time for a look at the roles played by major league pitchers in comparison to NHL goaltenders.
Success at both positions relies on controlling a small hard missile that the opposing team is trying to drive forward with sticks or bats.
While pitchers are hurling 100 mile per-hour plus fastballs past, and sometimes towards, hitters, goalies are the ones facing the onslaught of rockets in hockey. Yet both represent the defensive linchpins in their respective sports.
Individual pitchers play a far bigger role in terms of their impact on specific games. This is a fact demonstrated by the odds offered by book-makers on a team, which will vary a great deal depending on the starting pitcher. No doubt a goaltender can be the difference in many a game and outstanding performance at that position is often the key to a team winning the top prize. At the very least, solid play in the nets is necessary if a club hopes to go far into the playoffs.
But the entire flow of a baseball game hinges on the pitcher. He is the focal point and, while able to rest at the top or bottom of each inning, when on the mound his exertions are almost continual. A goalie goes in stops and starts and may stand idle for stretches at a time as his team-mates control play in the other end.
Pitchers hold more weight in terms of importance in the outcome of a game, but both they and hockey's puck stoppers carry a similar burden of responsibility to provide a solid foundation if their teams are to have a chance of winning.
Perhaps that's why the outward image of many goalies and pitchers is of the brooding individual, simmering at the constant flow of contempt served up to them. That is the very essence of the opposition. They are trying to show that they are better and capable of beating the defensive best the other side has to offer.
Pitchers and goalies often speak of the disrespect shown to them throughout the course of a game. It's natural that players on opposing teams consciously or otherwise degrade and/or set them up as enemies to be destroyed and dominated. However, the behaviour directed at both often goes beyond acceptable standards.
This is most noticeable in hockey where players will takes runs at the most vulnerable player on the ice. In the far subtler and less aggressive game of baseball, there is nonetheless accepted conduct related to the positioning of batters when standing at the plate. The flouting of this code is the manifestation of the underlying antipathy pitchers feel from opponents. When pushed too far, a pitcher may nail a batter and a net-minder may lash out with his stick or fists.
Hitters in baseball and goal scorers in hockey will openly flaunt their success in the faces of goalies and pitchers, showing them up with over-the-top celebrations. Though perhaps it's in the inherent low-key nature of prevention and defense that results in pitchers and keepers rarely celebrating a single stop or strike-out in an animated way, they would probably attribute it to professionalism.
The ultimate individual triumph for pitchers and goaltenders is in shutting out the other team in victory. Only then will they allow their satisfaction to boil over into open celebration. They will inevitably be swarmed by their team-mates in recognition of how just important they are to everyone's success.