It ain’t over…

September 30, 2011

 

till it’s over.”  Never was Yogi more accurate than last night.  One strike left in the season? That was enough for Dan Johnson and the Rays.  One strike to go to escape making the worst kind of baseball history?  Still too many for these Red Sox.

Looking back on my observations below made just two weeks ago, I was clearly right in my predicted #1 storyline: Meltdown in Beantown.  However, if Detroit drives on to a pennant or the D-Backs create some Gibson-like post-season magic, we may soon forget that the reputed “best team ever” didn’t even make the playoffs.

I was only partly right in presuming that few of the races would go down to the wire.  There were only two, but they involved four games on 3 consecutive nights that we will all remember for a long, long time, especially the last night.

Now that we know all eight playoff teams, here are the standings for our panel of experts – certainly not great, but not terrible, either. Eight of us selected at least half the playoff teams, but predicting where they would finish proved a bit elusive. Only Leo G., Tony L. and Bill C. have both of their World Series picks alive (mostly thanks to BOS).  Four of us, including me, don’t have either of these selections even in the playoffs (not very expert).

Leo G. and Gus P. lead the standings by virtue of the 10 points they get for correctly selecting Miguel Cabrera as the AL Batting Champ.  Fortunately, no one correctly selected the NL batting leader because as commissioner, in the best interests of our sport, I would have refused to recognize the title now claimed by Jose Reyes. If Roger Maris’ HR record still gets an asterisk, then Reyes’ batting title should forever be categorized under “bush league.”

Stay tuned for more exciting and, I hope, honorable performances in the playoffs.

Leo G. – STL (1), PHI, TEX, DET,  NYY(1), Cabrera  – 21  points

Gus P. – PHI, TEX, NYY (1), Cabrera – 17  points

Pete H. – MIL, PHI, STL, TEX,  NYY (1)  – 13 points

Eric H. – STL (1), PHI, TEX, DET, NYY (1) – 11 points

Bill C. – STL (1), PHI, TEX, NYY – 10 points

Rip L. – MIL, PHI, TEX, NYY (1) – 10 points

Marc W. -  MIL, PHI, DET, NYY (1) – 10 points

Rocky W. – PHI, TEX, TBR – 9 points

Jed M. -  STL (1) PHI, TEX, NYY (1)  – 8 points

Scott R.    -  STL( 1), PHI, TEX, NYY (1) – 8 points

Wade C.- TEX, DET, NYY (1)  – 7 points

Tony L.  – PHI, DET, NYY (1) – 7 points

Tom M.  – PHI, MIL (1) NYY (1) – 5 points

Steve J. – PHI,  NYY (1)  4 points

Rob C.  – MIL – 3 points

Rick G. – PHI (1), NYY (1)  – 2 points

© JSR 2011

“I don’t believe what I just saw!”

September 29, 2011

Somewhere, Jack Buck must be repeating himself.

In what may have been the most exciting 60 minutes in MLB regular season history, the following amazing events occurred:

– Chris Carpenter, who started the season losing 8 of his first 9 decisions, closes out the Astros with a 2-hit shut-out, capping the Cards’ 23-8 finish to come back from 10.5 games behind the Braves and assuring his team of at least a tie and 1 game play-off.

– Craig Kimbrell, having saved a MLB rookie record 46 games, blows a save with two outs in the 9th to force the Braves to go extra innings against the Phillies just to get into the playoff game with the Cards.

– Dan Johnson, hitting .108 (!) hits a two-out, two- strike pinch hit HR in the bottom of the 9th for the Rays to tie the Yankees after trailing 7-0 in the 8th. It’s the first time NYY has blown a 7-run lead in the 8th inning in 53 years! That’s over 8,000 games!

– Hunter Pence (now batting 3rd for the team with 102 wins rather than for the team with 106 losses) has his bat shattered but manages to push the ball into right field for an RBI single in the top of the 13th, giving PHI a 4-3 lead and essentially putting a fork in the Braves. That would officially happen about 10 minutes later when Dave Herndon (who?) records his first MLB save. ATL finished 5-18 in September, including losses in its last 5 games, to become the first team in history not to make the playoffs when leading by as many as 8 games in September. (On a positive note, they won’t have to wait long to have that dubious distinction erased. See below.)

– Jonathan Papelbon, the only closer in history to save 30 or more games in his first 6 MLB seasons, needs only one strike to complete a 1-2-3 save that would ensure the Red Sox of at least a 1 game play-off with the Rays. He proceeds to give up a double to BAL’s Chris Davis, a double to Nathan Reimold (blown save) and a single to Robert Andino (blown season!) (Davis, Reimold, Andino – Murderer’s Row!). The loss is BOS’s 20th in September, the most in ANY of its 110 years as a franchise.

– 3 minutes (!) later, 880.4 miles south of Baltimore in St. Petersburg, FL, Evan Longoria yanks his second HR of the game down the left field line to – as he described it afterward – “the only spot in the park where that ball clears the wall.” The Amazing Rays are in the playoffs again! Carl Crawford is laying in the left field grass in Camden Yards – having failed to catch Andino’s liner and keep BOS in the game – wondering why in Heaven’s name he didn’t just stay with the Rays since BOS just became the first team ever to miss the playoffs when leading by as many as 9 games in September! (See, ATL, records are made to be broken.)

WHEW! How can the playoffs top this? I am so excited I can’t get to sleep, but I also can’t bring myself to look at our standings since I know I’m toast like the Braves and Red Sox – two teams I picked to be in the playoffs, one of which was supposed to win the WS. I’ll report on that tomorrow – or actually later today.

Go ahead, all you NYY fans, enjoy your Nemesis’ nightmare. Maybe Girardi planned it all with that line-up he had on the field in the 8th. (And where was Rivera in the 9th?) But just remember this happy feeling if you have to face the Rays in the ALCS. That pain might not be worth this pleasure.

© JSR 2011

Two weeks to go in the hunt for October baseball

September 15, 2011

Well, the standings look a lot different today than they did at the All-Star break (as does our level of intelligence).  Not sure which is the biggest story at the moment:

1) collapse in Bean Town?

2) overdrive in MoTown!

3) miracle in the desert…

The next two weeks, or perhaps 6 weeks, will decide that question as well as which of us is the “expert.”  Unfortunately none of us looks as smart today as we did back in July.

While most teams have a dozen games left, it doesn’t look like many of the races will go down to the wire.  Maybe the final weekend series in Anaheim (3 with TEX) or the even the last 9 games for NYY (6 with TBR and BOS at home, then 3 at TBR), will provide some excitement, but if all races stay as they are today the leading point total would have dropped from 21 at the Break (see below for recap) to only 14:

Marc W. – 14 (MIL, PHI, ATL, DET, BOS (1), NYY(1)

Bill C.- 12 (PHI, TEX, NYY, BOS)

7 of us tied with 11 points

On the bright side, barring a TOTAL collapse in Bean Town (BOS has 6 games left with BAL!), all of us but one should have his WS champ in the playoffs (sorry, Robert, but the Cubbies will have to “wait till next year” for the 104th consecutive year).  The rest of us should stay tuned.