A while back, toward the beginning of the baseball season when every team except the Pirates, Rockies, and Orioles thought they might have a chance to make it to the playoffs, I wrote two articles.
Article Uno was the before the season really got underway and I explained how this year might – note the word might – be one of the easiest on record to predict regarding who will make it to the World Series. I said the Yankees and the Dodgers. The Dodgers, were 5 games back as of last week and are now one-and-a-half games back, and are still the NL favorite as well as the only team sitting at a whopping 23% chance to win the whole she-bang. Oh, gross.
Let’s take a long look at that – in spite of the surprising Giants, the Dodgers are catching up quickly. Mostly it’s a strength-of-schedule issue. The Giants simply have a harder schedule down the stretch. The Giants have the desperate Padres 7x in the next month. The Padres have completely drained their ‘sure bet’ playoff appearance by completely sucking in July and August. July they went 11-14 and for August they are sitting at 8-10 with three games against the Dodgers coming up this week. I hope they pound the Dodgers but odds aren’t good. Plus, they have 3 more versus the Dodgers in September and a whopping 7 against the Giants.
They are so bad they picked up Jake Arrieta. That’s a sign things won’t be going well for them for the next 5 weeks. Naturally, Arrieta’s first game may be his only one. We all knew he’d suck, he did, and suddenly got a hamstring issue. I fixed the headline for MLB.
First off, I am a San Francisco Giants fan. Ergo while I will love this series, it’s Giants first for me. Have been since the mid ‘80s when I moved to Los Angeles and found the Dodger faithful about as lackadaisical a fan base as I have ever witnessed. Show up in the 3rd inning, leave in the 7th. Loved Dodger stadium, Dodger dogs, and the game. But the fans? Not so much. When I was able to go to the NLCS in 1985 and watched as Jack Clark cranked out a 3-run homer so the Cardinals could advance and leave the Dodgers at home and watch Pedro Guerrero throw his mitt up in the air in disgust, I smiled. The team may not have deserved this fate, but the fans did. The Dodger were up 2 games to nil and had lost 4 straight, with the last two being losses in the top of the 9th behind their closer Tom Niedenfeur, who was then dubbed Tom Need-in-fewer-games.
So, I jumped onto the Giants bandwagon and have been a fan ever since. After all, they were the Dodgers main rival no matter how far behind them that season they were as the Giants ended up an awful 62-100 in 1985. By 1987 I had moved from Los Angeles to northern California and the Giants were a team on the come. The rivalry grew more intense, intense enough that on April 21, 1987 in Candlestick Park, someone threw a battery (along with beer) at Dodgers first basemen Mike Marshall who made an ass of himself rounding the bases after hitting a 3-run homer. It wasn’t a car battery, don’t be ridiculous. I think it was a D and I’m pretty sure it didn’t hit him plus other small hard objects were tossed as well (and more beer). Hence, we started calling every Giants home game when they Dodgers came into town “Spark Plug & Battery Night.” Needless to say, security got beefed up a bit more.
The Giants fans were far more rabid. They had to be. Before the jewel the Giants play in now – Oracle Park – Candlestick Park was their home and was one of the worst stadiums ever. When you went to a game in July and sat in the cheap seats, you didn’t just bring a jacket, you brought a sleeping bag. The fog coming in off the bay was so cold it could turn a mild California summer day into a Midwestern winter one. 1988 saw the Dodgers get to the World Series and they upset the favored A’s led by a blindered Tony Larussa who just couldn’t see how his two main hitters went from normal big men to ginormous hulks. By 1989, the Giants had caught up and got to the World Series the summer I moved to Chicago. I intensely watched and cried. Not because they were swept by the A’s, but because of the devastating earthquake that hit during the beginning of Game 2.
I could go on and on about the Giants, Dusty Baker pulling the same crap Larussa did except this time it was one player rather than two, and the three World Series victories they captured in the ‘10s once they got a far better manager in Bruce Bochy… who came from the Padres. But this is not about the Giants, it’s about the current rivalry between the Dodgers and the Padres.
I have been looking forward to this day since it was announced. I wasn’t sure it would happen, but here we are. EIGHT PLAYOFF GAMES. It may never happen again, folks. So today, we’re going to do something stupid. A live blog from first pitch to last pitch of the eight game slate. Four teams, including two of our World Series champion picks… are on the chopping block. So, here is the plan, according to Indianapolis Coastal Time (aka Eastern time).
Game 1- Reds @ Braves 12pm Game 2- Astros @ Twins 1pm Game 1- Marlins @ Cubs 2pm Game 2- White Sox @ Athletics 3pm Game 2- Blue Jays @ Rays 4pm Game 1- Cardinals @ Padres 5pm Game 2- Yankees @ Indians 7pm Game 1- Brewers @ Dodgers 10pm
So last week I was in Tampa on a work trip. Not that I didn’t have access to any news or sports or news on sports, most of Florida does – even if a lot of Florida can’t access anything but Fox News judging by the billboards in Tampa – I did. I was tired.
But Wednesday I was in the hotel lobby waiting for my work comrades when one of them came up to me and said the Astros had fired their manager and general manager. Whoa… and whoa. In my best Montreal Expos accent I said ‘pourquoi?’
Cheating. Spying. Stealing signs.
Rob Manfred is having none of it.
Now Rob is the baseball commissioner, so he has the right to do what he thinks is best for baseball. He’s drawing a hard line – there will be no cheating in baseball. What you may ask? What? Of course, there should be no cheating in baseball, right?
I’ve never really thought much about a bucket list. Perhaps I should. Sure, when I was invincible in my 20s and life was forever, it was easier to put it off until later. Now, however, I am in my 30s and life is almost over, so it’s time to start spending my time more effectively. There’s still no solid bucket list item, except for one: I want to see a baseball game in all thirty Major League ballparks within my adult life.
I’m going to sprint through the baseball playoffs and sprinkle some ‘Maddon Moments’ in to explain, in my mind, what happened to Maddon and the Cubs, while using Ditka like he used Bears fans.
By the time you read this, the wild card games – October 1 and October 2 – may be over, or at least started. It doesn’t really matter much. Those four teams can douse themselves in all the champagne they want, but it’s pretty much a cheap victory. Put it this way, it’s the same kind of victory you get when you visit your elderly grandmother at her assisted living facility and win their corn hole tournament.
But before we dig into the wild card teams, let’s just take a look at the 2016-2019 Cubs vs the 1984-1987 Bears. If you look at their timelines, they are a tad similar. And you can argue both Maddon and Ditka can only deal with the hands they are dealt. True. Think of this like Texas Holdem. Ditka was holding the king and queen of hearts and staring at the ten, jack and ace of hearts face up on the table… and threw out the king ‘aka’ Wilbur Marshall. Maddon’s hand, while good, was an ace and a ten. Still a potentially winning hand, but could have been better. Cubs management bet high on a good, but ultimately bad hand.
OK, now let’s place a hand on the wild card teams – The Rays, the A’s, the Brewers, the Nats.
To start, baseball still is “America’s Best Pastime.” Football is “America’s Biggest Obsession.” Now that I have you sports fanatics all in a lather, especially those of you who prefer to crush heads over crushing baseballs, I’m going to drag you deep into the depths of my MVP opinions, ones that I hold as close to my person as a pitcher does his glove when he’s talking to his catcher.