A couple seasonal notes

It's October, so the baseball playoffs are here.  Not too many people seem to be caring too loudly about thousands of Buddhist monks being slaughtered in Burma or about the latest pro-torture, accepting-and-living-in-the-Rethuglican-frame-while-making-it-your-very-own idiocy to be emitted from the mouth of a Democratic politician, or about Rudy Cue Ball (a) passing up debating at a traditionally black college in favor of going to a fundraiser with Bo Derek (NB - it's a nice YouTube and, um, Judi, you might soon find Rudy's changing his number...) or (b) following up that by going to a cheesesteak place in Philly (no fundraising involved) where the founder's descendant-in-charge has made himself an anti-immigrant spectacle (starting with English-only ordering).  Or even the still-undead Pat Buchanan explaining why, exactly, it's a better idea for Republicans to do fundraisers with whitey than to visit the black college debate.  Hint:  they know there is no black vote for Republicans, so they follow the money.  And, let's not care about Pelosi showing that, yes, her spine is indeed made from Jell-o. Imagine, not passing any appropriation that won't garner 60 Senate votes.  You know, you could guarantee 60 votes in a hurry by x-ing out those reluctant senators' earmarks.  But that might be, um, mean.

Nope.  We netroots people are supposed to just sit back, vote appropriately, and let our betters tell us what to think, eat, wear, do and speak.  After all, why castigate moveon.org and (maybe) Rush Limbaugh for exercising free speech, if we're not supposed to get the message that "it's all right to have rights, so long as you don't try to exercise them."

Nope.  It's baseball time, and that's all that anyone should care about, I guess.  So, this is a quick scorecard, if you will, for those of you who don't follow baseball to have a better idea of what's going on and facilitate your conversing with those of us who do.  I'm not going to go all linky here.  You can get official stat and roster information from mlb.com.  Here's the TV Schedule - hope you have cable because TBS/TNT will be preempting their "Law & Order" marathons for baseball this year.  If it's opinions and predictions you want, there are more sports blogs out there than you can shake a stick at, with every opinion you can imagine.

The playoffs are in three rounds - the Division series (best of 5 games), the league championship series (best of 7 games) and the World Series (also best of 7 games).  The National League and American League teams will play within their leagues until the World Series, when the National League Champion will play the American League Champion for all the marbles.  The American League champion will host games 1, 2, 6, and 7 of the World Series because the American League won the All-Star Game this year.

There is a one-game playoff with San Diego at Colorado, tonight, 7:30 ET, for the last spot in the NL.  Winner goes to Philadelphia, loser goes home.  (No Philly jokes, please.)  

The teams, players and things to watch.  

In the National League:  

Philadelphia Phillies.  They will host the winner of today's one-game playoff between Colorado and San Diego (see below).  They came in on a tear, blowing by the collapsing Mets in the last week of the season and look to be interesting.  Their starting pitching is a bit shaky and their bullpen can be too.  In terms of hitting, they are one of the better offensive teams and play in a hitter friendly ballpark.  Jimmy Rollins, their shortstop, is a strong candidate for MVP having had a superb year on the field and at bat and showing real leadership.  Ryan Howard, their mountainous first baseman, led the NL with 57 homers last year and was the MVP - this year he had 40 some and is a force to be reckoned with.

Chicago Cubs.  This team nearly imploded in May and June, culminating in (a) their manager, Lou Pinella, going on a spectacular rampage in front of a press conference deriding their lack of desire and professionalism and (b) their then-catcher Michael Barrett (later traded to San Diego) starting a dugout fistfight with their star pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, after something went wrong.  Somehow, Sweet Lou (so named for his fiery nature) has managed to get this team to buy into his program - he's won it all while managing the '90 Reds and playing for the 77-78 Yankees, and won an AL record 116 games with Seattle in 2001 (they got bounced from the playoffs by the Yankees).  Watch Alfonso Soriano - he's got phenomenal skills, but has been shunted from team to team (Yankees, Rangers, Nationals, Cubs) because he doesn't play up to them.  If he hits, the Cubs have a good chance of moving on. If not, not.  Besides, it's been something like 100 years since the Cubs have won the World Series.  Seriously.

Arizona Diamondbacks.  This team is full of what's-his-names - it's one of the two playoff teams that are too young to know how hard it is, what they are doing.  And, statistically, they lead the National League in only one category:  games won.  Of course, that's the one that counts.  And, they've won their season series with the rest of the NL teams.  Well, maybe two categories, the second being "best bullpen".  Which is why they lead in games won.  Names to watch - Brandon Webb is one of the hottest young starting pitchers around, and a good candidate for the Cy Young.  Veteran starter Livan Hernandez (who won with Florida in 97) and reliever Bob Wickman leaven the bunch with experience.  Former ace Randy Johnson blew out his back in mid-season and is out for the year. They'll host Chicago to start.

Colorado Rockies.  Another bunch of kids playing spectacularly.  They went 13-1 to finish the season, ending in a dead tie (89-73) with San Diego.  They will have to play the Padres today, in Colorado, in a one-game playoff to determine the wild card winner and go on to Philadelphia.  The Rockies are, in my opinion, the most dangerous team in the playoffs.  Highly motivated, they swept a three-game series from the Yankees during interleague play in June, and looked very tough doing it.  Watch shortstop Troy Tulowitzki - a strong contender for Rookie of the Year who will turn 23 next week - and  veteran first baseman Todd Helton - long one of the best hitters in the league.  How they managed to incorporate these kids with some veterans who are, charitably, castoffs from other teams into a winner is beyond me, but if they get past San Diego, they could go all the way.

San Diego Padres.  Becoming a perennial winner of late, they rely a bit more on pitching than the other NL teams in the playoffs this year.  Their staff has certain Hall-of-Famers Greg Maddux (347 career wins, 9th most all-time) and closer Trevor Hoffmann (524 career saves, holds the all-time record), along with All-star starter Jake Peavy.  Their offense will suffer some from the loss of outfielder Milton Bradley (who blew out his knee during an argument with an umpire a week ago), but they have plenty of others to take up the slack.

In the American League:

Boston Red Sox.  This is a team which should be proud of their winning the East for the first time since 1995 but seems more than a bit nervous to me.  They ran away with the division early and then the Yankees almost caught them (closing to one or two games out earlier in September).  While the Yankees played superb ball, the Sox were kind of maundering along not much over .500 since the All-Star break.  The Mets played that way, too, and look where it left them.  Leading the charge will be Manny Ramirez and David "Big Papi" Ortiz, perhaps the best hitting combination in baseball.  Their pitching is good, but Curt Schilling (of bloody sock fame) is on his way out and knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is showing his age, too.  Closer Jonathan Papelbon has been excellent but not invincible.

Cleveland Indians.  I should be surprised by their being here, but I'm not.  This is one of the better teams going.  After a run in the 1990s, they took some time off to rebuild and have brought along a nice crop of young players.  Leading them are starters C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Jake Westbrook, outfielder Grady Sizemore, and a bunch of other good players.  Their three starters make up perhaps the best such trio in the game.  While the Yankees went 6-0 against the Indians this year, the nature of the schedule was such that they never faced Sabathia.  They will, come game one, in Cleveland.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Another team turning into a perennial winner under the management of Mike Scioscia.  They played solid ball all season, and won the West handily.  Starter Jered Weaver and John Lackey and reliever Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) are all top-notch.  Outfielders Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson are both on the downside of their respective careers, but still very effective.  And, for whatever reason, Scioscia seems to work Jedi mind-tricks on opponents.  They've won before, and a lot of the players who were there in 2002 are still there today.

New York Yankees.  They have come back from being 14 ½ games out of first at the end of May and being written off by everyone, myself included.  Their comeback rests on the  shoulders of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and catcher Jorge Posada, as well as the timely infusion of young arms into their bullpen and pitching staff. Rodriguez, playing like a man possessed, had a year for the ages, batting in  156 runs, the most by a Yankee since Joe DiMaggio had 155 in 1948 and Lou Gehrig 159 in 1937.  When Jeter goes to the Hall of Fame, the nickname on his plaque should be "In Medias Res" - it fits.  And he has been showing even more leadership as the year progressed.  Posada not only handled the multitude of pitchers but hit .338 for the year, 4th in the league.  The new pitchers - Phil Hughes, Joba (pronounced "Jabba", like the Hut) Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Edwar Ramirez, Ross Ohlendorf and Jose Veras - are the fruit of a couple good years' drafts and, in Ohlendorf's case, trading veteran Randy Johnson back to Arizona.  Chamberlain and Kennedy started in the rookie-A level minor leagues this spring.  Hughes was in the minors last year. Ramirez (listed at 6'3" 150 lb.) throws slow stuff.  Chamberlain averages 96-98 with his fastball and has a devastating slider.  The Indians will be the first team (in the playoffs) he'll face twice - it will be interesting to see whether they've adjusted and, if so, how.  The Yankees led the majors in runs scored, but if their starting pitching is better than it was early in the year, it's still not that great.  It's their weak point.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Baseball is dead to me.... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Tue Oct 02, 2007 at 06:00:45 PM EST
    at least until spring training:)

    There is no joy in Metsville.