Sunday, October 30, 2022

Game 2: Well, Yeah...


I never said they were gonna win it in 4. In fact, I think you'll find that I said they were lucky to win 1.

The Astros are...clearly the better team, and of course there are gonna be games where they just outhit the Phils. They started Framber Valdez, who NOBODY has been able to hit this year. And then they had people on the mound afterwards that we couldn't get to either. So...this was kinda bound to happen. Also, Jose Altuve getting a ton of hits and being the hero after letting people like Tucker, Alvarez, Bregman and Gurriel take it for a lot of this year was also kinda bound to happen. At the end of the day, he's still Jose Altuve, he's still an exceptional player, and he's gonna just annihilate pitching.

I am a little saddened that Zack Wheeler, the Phils' best starter, got a little battered out there, because if they've gotten to both of our starters and we haven't even had to bring out Gibson or Suarez yet, it's not looking very good for this team in the first few innings. I'm just happy that the bullpen has somehow been efficient so far, and that we can bring out Alvarado and Hand and Dominguez and people aren't hiding behind the couch.

We're going back to Philly for 3 games. With a home crowd in Philly, it's gonna be very loud, and I don't care if you're Lance McCullers or Luis Garcia, it's gonna be hard to get shit done when all of Philly is raining down on ya. Plus, I'm not sure if the shitty umps from last night who robbed the Phils of a home run and nickeled-and-dimed the balls and strikes will be in attendance in South Philly tomorrow night. I certainly hope not. 

And we know now that Martin Maldonado's illegal Albert Pujols bats will not be in attendance either. Look, man, if you're using illegal bats and you're STILL the team's worst hitter, it's not the bats that we should be worried about. Machete was NOT LIKE THIS a couple years ago, and now he is entirely defense and losing playing time, rightfully, to Christian Vazquez. If Altuve, jackass that he is, cheats, I get it, because he can go undetected cause he's pretty incredible on the norm. But if you go from hitting .177 to randomly hitting for's gonna look pretty suspect. I don't care if you're Martin Maldonado or whoever. 

Look, as frustrating as last night was, this is still a very interesting World Series, and I am insanely invested. Game 3 is on Halloween night in Philadelphia. It has the makings to be a legendary game. All the Phillies' lineup needs to do is show up.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Game 1: What.


I....I really don't know what to say.

This series is gonna be weird because we've just got off of a playoff series where I was embarrassed to have a team lose to the Astros...and now with the Phils, I'm embarrassed when they win. This was genuinely not supposed to happen. The Astros had no trouble with cinderella teams like the Mariners, I have no idea how the Phils are actually winning games against them.

Though, in fairness, it was not an easy win.

I got in late last night. I was at a rock concert. Wait, no, we're being honest with ourselves. I was at a Weird Al concert. Yeah, that's the level of sophistication you all have been dealing with. Anyway I get home, and the concert was in Philly as well so you saw so many people trekking into the city in Phils garb to see what'd happen, go to bars and whatnot. I get home, the game's still tied 5-5. My dad's already gone to bed, he didn't even see the Phils come back and tie it. I figure, we're in extras, anything could happen, I'll indulge it.

...Guys, J.T. hit the home run while I was in the bathroom.

I literally left the couch to relieve myself, and as I'm in there I here my mom exclaim something from the other room, so now I've gotta rush through it. I finish up, I come back in, now it's 6-5. If anything, that means I should leave for a pee break during games more often.

Watching the end of that inning was tense as hell. We almost made it a deeper lead but Jean Segura gave 'em an easy one. Alex Bregman hit a scorching double that I worried was out. David Robertson, as efficient as he was striking out Alvarez and Tucker, put another man on and came close to putting Aledmys Diaz on base with a damn near HPB that he totally tried to get hit by. On one hand, the win looked palpable. On the other, this is the Philadelphia bullpen, and I could already hear the 'Robertson is trash' posts coming from my Facebook feed. 

But...Diaz hit an easy one, Stott made the play and we snuck out of there with a win. I was floored. I know, this is just the first game...but folks, I didn't think anybody was capable of beating the Astros this postseason. Nobody had done it yet. Not even the Yankees. And for the PHILLIES of ALL PEOPLE, with their snakebitten Aaron Nola starts and their outfielders who should probably be DHing, to get a win over them to start the World Series...I couldn't believe it.

Now...we've gotta do this 3 more times. But we're gonna have 2 or 3 opportunities to do so IN PHILLY, with all those damned fans screaming their heads off. If the Phils can win in Houston, and the home crowd is already gonna be tough for Houston........who knows. 

I am still keeping my expectations painfully low. They won A World Series game. That's honestly all I wanted from them. It'd be great if they won some more, but I'm still proud of these Phils. They outdid everyone's expectations. Maybe mine are next.

Monday, October 24, 2022

On This Absolutely Bizarre World Series Matchup

The Astros making it I kinda figured. 

You know, with all the teams in the AL race, I kinda figured the feel-good ones would eat themselves, the Yankees would collapse, and nobody would be able to stop the Astros, and they'd make it to another World Series by the strength of their unreprimanded core.

But the Phillies? The 2022 Phillies making it to a World Series over teams like the Braves, Dodgers, Padres and Cardinals? GOD no. I'm...still in shock. 

The Phillies, as I've discussed, have so many flaws that have prevented themselves from seeming great, and none of them have really been on display this postseason. I thought Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott were weak young infielders that made too many mistakes, they've been great in the playoffs and Bohm has looked more legitimate than ever. I thought the outfield defense was atrocious, Castellanos has made some amazing catches and Marsh has been a big step up from other options. I thought the bullpen was gonna fall apart like they usually do, and it turns out that Jose Alvarado, Andrew Bellatti, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson and Brad Hand have, for the most part, held their own.

So yeah...Astros are going against the Phillies in the World Series. I'm...floored. I had no idea this was an option. Here we are.

And it's great, because the sportswriters are gonna go 'HOW WILL IT GO WHEN THIS TITAN OF A TEAM TAKES ON THE LITTLE PHILLIES', and like, dude, we already know. They had a tense three game series before the playoff started, Aaron Nola allowed 2 hits against the toughest team in the majors, the 'Stros won the series but only barely due to a tight 3rd game. Yes, the Astros won 2 of 3, but they had to work a little harder for it.

Now, the Astros haven't lost a playoff game yet this season. The last loss the Astros had...was at the hand of the Philadelphia Phillies. So many of the Astros' playoff games were won on by 1 or 2 points. They've been undefeated, but they haven't been blowouts.

...2007 Patriots, meet the 2007 Giants. Good luck holding onto the win column.

And as we eulogize,

Man, the Padres got damn close. I genuinely thought they had the pennant down when they took out the Dodgers. I genuinely thought that, with Machado and Soto together, they could make a legendary World Series team. did the Phils have their number this week. It was a hell of a series, but they were just outmatched. It was awesome to see Austin Nola hit one out on his brother's pitch, though.

...[long sigh]

Money can buy a lot of things. It can buy contracts, and expensive seats behind home plate, and advertising deals, and incentive for the best prospects to come by. It cannot buy Championships. The Excess Spending Yankees have only won 1 Championship since 9/11, and since the true rise of the emphasis on capital in America. The teams that overspend and buy everybody don't really win as much anymore, and it's always the scrappy young teams that gain momentum late, as it should be, that take it. The Astros aren't exactly an over-spendy team, they're just extremely well built and know how to run their organization. The Yankees think that just paying for great players will work instead of actually building an organization, like Cashman and co. did in the 90s, and we're really not at that point anymore.

The Yankees probably won't win a World Series until they accept this. The answer is not paying too much money to sign Jacob deGrom, the answer is developing people who, with one swing of a bat, can make Jacob deGrom wish he was never born. We can no longer sign the best, we have to be the best. 

Let Judge go, bring up Volpe, trade the guys who only hit .220, and start over. Or else it's gonna be 3 more years to losing to the goddamned Astros.

Phils-Astros is gonna be fun. I hope the Phils can somehow win it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Intriguing Direction This Playoff Season Could Be Headed


Last night, the New York Yankees won Game 5 of the ALDS and advanced to a championship series, while the Philadelphia Phillies won the first game of the NLCS. And I am still immensely weirded out by it.

I don't have two MLB allegiances for this outcome specifically. As I've said, I'm a Yankee fan because I come from a long line of Yankee fans, and I'm a Philly fan because I live right outside of Philadelphia. I just assume that one is gonna do well and the other won't, and for the last 10 or so years the Yankees have done pretty well while the Phillies have been poopoo. Going into this fall, I just assumed the Yankees would do their usual 'lose a crucial playoff series' schtick and the Phils would squander the golden opportunity handed to them, but the latter didn't happen and the former probably won't happen til the weekend. 

And so here we are. We have reached the championship series stage of the playoffs, and the Yankees and Phillies are still on the board. This has not happened since 2010. I shouldn't have to remind you all how well it went in 2010, but we had a Giants-Rangers World Series that year that, let's be clear, was still really good, but...y'know...coulda been better. And then before that it hadn't happened since 2009, which was a monumental World Series that had a full emotional arc, heroes and villains, and an amazing finish. I went to Game 2 of that World Series, and my god was it incredible. 

Now...a lot has to happen for us to get back there. And by that, I mean the Yankees have to actually beat the Astros in a playoff series. may sound like a hyperbole, but it literally has never happened before. Three times in the past 8 seasons, the Yankees have needed to play the Astros in order to advance or to make a World Series. It has never happened. It didn't happen in 2015, it didn't happen in 2017, and it didn't happen in 2019. And I am firm in my belief that if the Yankees had gotten to a World Series in 2019, those Nats wouldn't have stood a chance. No matter the means, the Astros have always just been better than us in playoff competition. Sometimes they are, in fact, using illegal means, and sometimes they are still excellent as a result of those illegal means. And the thing is, that 2017 ALCS was close, and had the Astros not been cheating, we would be looking at a completely different narrative.

The trick with this Astros team will be stopping that rascal Yordan Alvarez. I am sick of nobody getting hits, and then him suddenly hitting a home run. If you were gonna do that the whole time, why didn't you do that to begin with? Infuriating man. The other object involves making sure that this simpler rotation has its cracks, and that Justin Verlander, Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers can be exploited. Honestly, though, the Yankees just need to get hits off these guys. There's a rumor Benintendi might be back today, that'd be a welcome presence. I think we're also gonna call up somebody like Florial for outfield help. Lord knows we need it if Hicks is done. 

The bottom line is that some of the Yankees' mistakes made it closer than it needed to be in Cleveland. And if we're having trouble against Cleveland, we need to make sure those problems don't fester in this Houston series. Because as much as people don't want the Yankees to advance, they also reeeeeally don't want the Astros to advance. The Yankees might, in fact, be baseball's last hope of a non-boring series.

...I mean, I say that, but at the same time, look at this Phils-Padres NLCS! Isn't this fun? Look, Machado and Harper are trading hits, this is great! 

Obviously I'd love it if the Phillies won, and after last night, we're looking really good. How the hell do we hold a team like the Padres to only a couple hits? Most of the hits/extra bases were caused by infield errors. Zack Wheeler legitimately kept down one of the toughest offenses in the game, and got nothing out of Soto, Machado or Bell. I am in AWE. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it very nearly did when Alvarado was on, but...we're up 1 on the Padres. 

I mean, at the same time, the Dodgers were up 1 on the Padres too, but...not IN San Diego. 

There's two more games today, including the first taste of what this damned Yanks-Astros series is gonna look like. I sincerely hope it looks different than all the other ones.

Also, since I've been eulogizing the fallen this year,

The Cleveland Guardians outdid my, and everyone else's, expectations. I thought they were headed for last this year. They lapped the White Sox and Twins and came alive in September, driving opposing teams away with their excellent contact ball, and laying waste to a decent Rays team through 15 innings. So many fun contact guys I wanna see more of. I wanna see if Gabriel Arias is the answer at 1st going forward, or if Will Brennan and Tyler Freeman have legs as members of this team. It's gonna be cool to see how this squad develops, for sure.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Thinking About the Yankees Critically


The Yankees are looking at a do-or-die Game 5 against the Cleveland Guardians in order to advance and play the Houston Astros...AGAIN...for the ALCS.

I...I dunno, guys, I kinda hoped this wouldn't be the year the Yankees wouldn't be checkmated halfway through the postseason.

Honestly, I think that the way the league has developed since the 2000s, where dynasties don't exist as much because of wild card series' and budget conservation, has affected the Yankees' hold on the league. In the past few years, a lot of the teams who've won a World Series have been teams that have had lower budgets, like the Nationals, Red Sox, and even pre-fame squads like the 2017 Astros and the 2021 Braves. At the same time, the moneymakers, like the Dodgers, the Yankees, the Angels and ultimately the current incarnation of the Astros, always sink in playoff opportunities because the current playoff model lasts long enough to allow other teams to gain momentum. As always, the fans love an underdog story, and the wild card round has allowed those underdog stories to at times eclipse the moneymakers.

So...the Yankees' hands are tied. Either they're gonna lose to an underdog, or they're gonna lose to the Astros and lose to an underdog. OR, SOMEHOW, they could BEAT the Astros and lose to an underdog. But the most upsetting part of this is that, in the grand scheme of the baseball season, I don't think I can routinely expect the Yankees to win World Series' anymore.

I mean, look what happened to the Dodgers. 100+ wins, clobbered everybody, then once they get to October they can't sustain it. And suddenly the narrative isn't theirs anymore. And that's what's kind of already happened to the Yankees. Through July they were one of the best teams in baseball, and then they fell off, mellowed out and the narrative wasn't theirs anymore. And they didn't even get to be an underdog for any time, they got good again, got a top seed, skipped a week and are now in firing squad position thanks to a Cleveland Guardians team who has built momentum naturally, without money.

The odd part is, the people who are leading this Yankee team right now are the seriously unconventional ones. Yes, Gerrit Cole had a killer start last night, but Harrison Bader had a 2-run bomb that cemented the lead, and has been excellent since being activated. Oswaldo Cabrera has been in for IKF and has been a massive improvement, with a bomb of his own the other night. Nestor Cortes might still be our best pitcher. And one of the main pieces potentially coming back if we [somehow] make it to the ALCS is Rob Marinaccio, a Toms River relief product who's been one of our main assets in the pen this year. 

So...we're playing like a lower-budget team, but at the same time we still have Cole, Judge, Rizzo and Stanton just showing off sometimes. So there's much less of a through line and story compared to Cleveland, or even San Diego or Philly.

I dunno. I still want the Yankees to win, just out of tradition, cause it's my team. But the narrative of this year doesn't include them anymore. I'd rather them advance to a World Series than someone like Houston, but I don't even know if we'd ever be able to beat Houston, and most of the MLB audience would rather put on something else for that ALCS anyway. 

If the Yankees win, I hope that means they have enough to finally take down Houston. If the Guardians win, I reeeeeallly hope they can take out Houston and make for a run World Series. Hell, if it's Guardians-Padres, then somebody who's either never won or hasn't won since the 40s could take it, and that'd be rad. Or...alternatively, a 2009 rematch. All of this is wishful thinking if nobody can beat the Astros, so I really hope whoever wins this ALDS can.

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Division Series Update: Immense Joy and Creeping Terror


I think I've talked at length on here about how ridiculous it is sometimes being a Philadelphia sports fan. It's different from being the usual kind of long suffering sports fan, because sometimes you do win, and when you do win you expect to keep winning, and never do. It's like the world's weirdest psychological conditioning. Like, consistently getting punished for believing good things were going to happen, and then keeping expectations so low that when good things do happen, you're in disbelief.

I did not think the Phillies would beat the Cardinals. And I certainly did not think the Phillies would beat the Braves. And here we are. Phils are going to the NLCS. In 2011, they had the team that SHOULD have gone to the NLCS, they didn't, and now THIS TEAM, with Bryce Harper not at 100%, Nick Castellanos hitting essentially when he feels like it, and only a slight improvement on the whole bullpen issue, is within 4 games of a World Series. 

I'm overjoyed. I'm so glad people like Brandon Marsh, Alec Bohm, Jose Alvarado and, yes, Bryce Harper, can be postseason performers for this Phillies team. It just was never a possibility because the narrative of this season was driven by teams like the Braves and Cardinals, and Dodgers honestly. And now the Phillies are going to an NLCS. 

...and the Dodgers aren't.

I...I think that in expanding the playoffs years ago, the MLB made it possible for underdog teams to have more of a stake in the playoffs. You know, for years it was just 'well the two best teams in each league play each other and the winner goes to a World Series', and then when other divisions came up and it became possible for multiple teams to be really good in divisions, it became 'well we can't leave these guys out', forgetting that October momentum is like any other month's momentum, and a 100-win team could go cold going into a seventh month. So this is why so many upsets happen, because now that the postseason is so expanded, those fluke teams have as much of a chance as the titans.

Which is why the Padres took down the Dodgers, something they had trouble doing all season. 

I said it after they took down the Mets, all the Padres needed were great starts from Musgrove, Darvish and Snell, and production from their lineup. Trent Grisham has been hot all postseason, Austin Nola had a great night last night, Machado and Soto have been holding things down, and there seems like so many opportunities for this team to succeed. And them coming to life late last night, blowing up Tommy Kahnle and completing the arc they'd been working on for 2 years...perfect.

A Padres-Phillies NLCS is gonna be a lot of fun. The Nola Brothers are gonna do battle. Harper and Soto are gonna square off. Machado is gonna play the team he could have gone to on two separate occasions. It's gonna be INSANE. And...again...I don't think the Phillies are gonna win. Mostly because I think that's my strategy here. 

Now...yesterday wasn't all roses, y'all...

Because the Astros are going to yet another ALCS, and have the potential to ruin all the fun vibes the NLCS is planning on setting up. I am 100% sick of the Astros just being amazing every year, holding momentum through the whole season and beating all the fun and worthy teams. It's like the Patriots all over again except I actually like Dusty Baker. The Astros waited 18 innings to score a run, and then did it IN SEATTLE, to punish the Mariners for actually having hope, which was CRUEL. That was MEAN AS HELL and they did it anyway because they're the Astros. Pathetic.

Anyway they're going onto the ALCS, and...if the Yankees make it, they'll have to do that schtick again, and if the Guardians make it they have a pretty good chance too. I badly want someone else to win an ALCS. This is worse than the Cardinals in the mid-2010s, cause at least the Cardinals didn't cheat in 2011. I just want, ONE TIME, a consequence to befall this team. That's it. And then maybe someone else can make a World Series. 

Look, at this point I kinda want the Guardians to win anyway, because at least they will provide some variety from the usual 'Astros beat the Yankees in the ALCS' thing we always do. Plus, the Guardians are scrappy as hell and a can kill a team with contact ball. The Yankees had their long-balls last night, and the Guardians won it with contact hitting. It was infuriating to watch, but from a baseball standpoint it was great. Oscar Gonzalez, Steven Kwan and Will Brennan taking down AARON JUDGE, GIANCARLO STANTON AND ANTHONY RIZZO would be...huge. And at this point, I'm honest enough about this Yankee season that I can be alright with it. 

Still, we should mourn the fallen:

The Braves proved that 2021 was not a fluke, and came back better and stronger than they were last year, ensuring they'll be competing for a long time. They may have lost this year, but they'll definitely be back next year, and with a lot of the same characters.

The Mariners were the feel-good story of the year, finally breaking a 21-year playoff drought and letting young stars like Julio Rodriguez, Cal Raleigh, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby fuel the narrative. I just wished that they would have had anything to get past Houston, but they could definitely be back next year.

And the Dodgers, ironically like the 2001 Mariners, were an unstoppable regular season force that looked unsinkable, and thereby sunk. I think the Dodgers did a lot right this year, and that their lineup was still impressive as hell [Trayce Thompson came back POWERFUL]. But the injuries, and some bullpen issues, sunk this team, and hopefully they'll learn from it.

Yanks-Guardians is today, and the Guardians could clinch. I'd prefer they didn't.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Division Series' Day 2: The Ties That Bind


Welp...looks like the NLDS series aren't gonna be finished on Friday after all. 

I had a feeling that one of these series' would be pretty competitive, but we also have the fact that the Dodgers aren't gonna waltz all the way to the NLCS. If anything, it ensures that this stage of NL playoff ball will remain interesting, and that the team you thought was gonna be in control won't always be.

Also, I can say this: Kenley Jansen got a postseason save last night and the Dodgers lost. How weird is that.

Okay, so...Braves-Phillies, you know it wasn't gonna be unanswered. The Braves are awesome this year, they have Austin Riley and Ronald Acuna, and these are the Phillies, who often LOSE to the Braves. It was bound to happen. And so Kyle Wright shutting down the Phillies lineup as the heart of the order takes down Zack Wheeler is...understandable. And so now we're tied up heading to Philly. I went to a Phils-Braves game this year, and it was a pretty low-key crowd, but Phils-Braves IN THE MIDST OF A CRAZED PHILLY FAN-FILLED STADIUM. Oh man. Charlie Morton could still have his stuff, but with all those Phils fans wanting blood, it's gonna be tough.

Meanwhile, although he gave up some early runs, Yu Darvish is still an excellent postseason pitcher, and him staying steady as the Padres, including Machado and Cronenworth, have fun with Clayton Kershaw, is a very telling variable in this Padres-Dodgers series. Even if the Dodgers are the overwhelming favorite, the Padres can still win games, and they plan on outhitting this team when they put their guard down, like they did the Mets. Kershaw, like Scherzer, is the latest and greatest pitcher to fall victim to this lineup. I don't think they're done, either, especially if they're going back to PETCO Park in a stadium full of people who haven't seen a playoff team at home in years. 

Whatever picks up on Friday is gonna be wild. Tonight's should be interesting too. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Division Series' Day 1: Nearly Along the Dotted Line


I've talked many times on here about the worst thing this postseason can be, which is a predictable postseason. We've got four matchups, and it's all 'the team that is always good' vs. 'the fun, underdog spoiler'. And the worst outcome is all four fun teams losing. I can even be humble here and say that the Yankees beating the Guardians wouldn't be the fun outcome, because...I care about my readers. But if we get an Astros-Yankees ALCS and a Braves-Dodgers NLCS, that'd be boring as hell wouldn't it?

Well, Day 1 of the playoff series', and it's not looking good for spontaneity. I mean, the Mariners-Astros game was looking good for a while, then Paul Sewald blew it in the ninth by pitching it nice and easy to one of the scariest power hitters in baseball. Yordan Alvarez is GOING to do that if you treat him like it's another out. And so Alvarez with 2 runners on, bottom nine, I audibly went 'oh no', because that's just...awful luck. The Ms had done so well off of Justin Verlander, and now this. 

The other games went basically as you'd expect. The Yankees struggled early against the Guardians, but soon, and, I wanna make sure you all know this, THE MOMENT I STOPPED WATCHING THE GAME, the offense took over, Donaldson, Bader and Rizzo went to work and got the best of Cal Quantrill. 

And though Julio Urias gave up some late runs, the Dodgers outlasted Mike Clevinger, as expected, and knocked back the Padres thanks to Max Muncy, Gavin Lux and Chris Martin. I think the Dodgers do have the best chance of the four of just steamrolling the fun opponent and heading to the Championship Series. It's not a great sign for Padres fans expecting a heated rematch from 2020, but...ya never know, Darvish or Musgrove could be a match for them.

The only series that started off favoring the fun, wild card team is the one I was immediately thinking would be a wash anyway. The Phillies have struggled against the Braves til very recently, and I didn't think they'd be able to do much against Max Fried. And yet the Phillies were truly ready yesterday, with Nick Castellanos having his single best game as a Phillie, batting runs in and saving the day in the ninth. Once again, I have to mention that the second I turned on the game the Braves started scoring runs, including that late Matt Olson home run that Zach Eflin gave up, but somehow the Phils were able to get out of it with a win. I still think this series is gonna be very tough, and if we win it'll be by the skin of our teeth, but it's honestly just nice that they're here and winning games against a potential contender.

A few more NL matchups today. We'll see what we're really looking at.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Wild Card Series' Day 3: Mets Twist Again [Like They Did Last Summer]


I once had a reader tell me I was being too salty about the Mets on here, so I'll try and keep an open mind. But with this...oh gosh that's so difficult.

How do you see a Mets team go from a 100-win monolith with no weaknesses to being kicked out of first by the Braves to getting railed in a playoff series by the Padres, who were lower in the standings than them, and not think it's the funniest thing ever? Even the Mets fans have been going '...I mean, these are the Mets, they do this'. How do you see the Padres go against one of the best pitchers of our generation, Max Scherzer, and completely dominate him, and not think God's just enjoying himself?

And how do you see Joe Musgrove deliver one of his best starts in years against the Mets while Buck Showalter, searching for a way to get him off the mound, complains that maybe he's using an illegal substance on his ears, when in fact it was a LEGAL substance that Showalter couldn't do anything about, and not just enjoy the entire journey of baseball history that led to this exact point? This guy was two managers before Torre in the Bronx and here he is just trying to get a dominant pitcher away from his lineup. Look, his earwax has tack on it!

The thing is, I genuinely do feel bad for this Mets team. They were right there, so close, and genuinely had the team to go far...and then things slipped slightly, a bunch of unlucky things happened in the span of a week, and now the Phillies are in the playoffs and they aren't. I genuinely thought Pete Alonso, Jacob deGrom and Edwin Diaz were gonna be big figures in this postseason. Instead, this is the latest and greatest Mets team to lose all momentum late after a big start. I really hope they can figure out how to sustain momentum, because this is terrible.

As for the Padres...look, they've got a pretty sharp team. Musgrove, Darvish, Grisham and Soto have been huge weapons for them, and now they're heading into a series against the Dodgers, a team they grappled with famously in the leadup to the World Series in 2020. It's a pretty cool revenge match, and I think the Padres have the momentum to be something of an apt opponent for these Dodgers. LA is still the better team, but the Padres have proven they have the power to upset 100-win teams.

And so the field is set. All four high seeds will be playing teams they've had trouble beating this season. The Dodgers have struggled against San Diego, the Braves have lost some games to Philly, the Astros have actually seemed human in some games against Seattle, and the Yankees notoriously blew some games to Cleveland this summer. There are stakes, history, and interesting possibilities. Aside from my selfish desire for a rematch of the 2009 World Series, I'd love to see perennial underdogs like the Mariners or Padres make it all the way. 

The Mets will be back. With an exit like this, they have to be.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Wild Card Series' Day 2: Was This Trip Really Necessary?


Okay, one year into the new playoff schematic, how we doing? ...Alright, I suppose.

On one hand, you have a lot of matchups that shifted the balance of power in the race, where a higher seed lost out to an underdog competitor with less regular season wins. We've already lost a division leader in this stage [and it is one I am very happy about], and we've already lost a high-seeded wild card team and could lose another. There has been drama, there have been excellent games, a 15 inning game broken up by a clinching home run, a game with an incredible 7 run comeback, an inning with a win-sealing 6 run ninth inning. It has definitely been entertaining baseball.

But...from a full series standpoint, only one series is going to three games, and it's Mets-Padres. All the others are the 'riding momentum' type wins that the play-in wild card game would have done. So I feel like the MLB brass are wishing there were more lengthened dramatic series rather than just 'they win and they also win again'

I bet they're pleased with Mets-Padres, as are Mets fans, because you know that if they lost to San Diego in 2 games you wouldn't have heard the end of it for years. It's really a matter of who you put up, and Darvish is a surer bet than Snell, while deGrom was healthier than Scherzer. And so the Mets' offense could get the better of Blake Snell last night, including the extension of Eduardo Escobar's killer September, and yet another homer by Pete Alonso. Of all the series', I'm kinda glad this one went all 3 games, solely because it's the only one I have no rooting interest in. My cousins are Mets fans, but I don't really want them to suffer. And I like the Padres, but they're no longer the scrappy underdogs they were in 2020. I think I actually want the Mets to take it, y'know? It'd be fun.

As for the ones that ended yesterday...I was hanging out with my friend Josh yesterday, he's a diehard Cleveland sports fan. I feel like things concerning our teams always happen when we're in the same room. I was having lunch with him when we found out Cliff Lee was going to Philly. I've seen him go through it. So I'm hanging out with him yesterday and he's asking me for the score. And for most of the afternoon there isn't any. And then it's 'okay, we're going to extras'. It became an experiment in patience. Would we even still be at my friend Matt's place when the game eventually ended? And what would happen if Cleveland got that far and still screwed it up? Sure enough, by the time we were waiting for food, it just ended abruptly. And I was relieved that it was Oscar Gonzalez who came up with the winning blow. 

I can't imagine having to attend that game, y'know. 15 innings of nothing happening. At least you get what you wanted if you're a Guardians fan, but man that was a lot of leadup for it. Happy for the Guards, though. I think there's gonna be a lot of back and forth in this series. Honestly, the Guardians could win it. They've beaten the Yankees before. What if this is the team that goes back?

A seven-run deficit, man. I love baseball.

There was already a story in the Jays coming back on Robbie Ray and Gausman holding down the Mariners offense, and then at some point the story shifted, the Ms came back, and the Jays completely collapsed. Potentially screwing Springer up is just the icing on it. The Blue Jays came in here confident and strong and they did not at all prepare for the amount of power the Mariners were capable of. And so the Ms came back, used people like Ty France and Cal Raleigh and a MASSIVE HOMER FROM CARLOS SANTANA to stymie them and take the series. With everything the Jays were doing late in the season, I did not think their postseason hopes would go out with a whimper. 

Happy for Seattle. It's about time.

And then...I'm gonna be honest, I did not see this coming.

Cardinals have been great all year, have this incredible storyline with Pujols and Molina on their last legs and this incredible youth movement reestablishing dominance. And then the little Phils come in, hit little things off them, and hold onto it against all odds. The Philadelphia bullpen legitimately held onto a lead, and stopped the Cardinals from tying the series, and...I just can't believe they did this. This is a good Phillies, team but I didn't think they were this good. 

Now, granted, they do have to play the Braves now, and that's not gonna go well AT ALL unless things really change, but...Phils actually won a playoff series, got a prime playoff spot, they did it. 2022 Phillies slayed the dragon, and put the 2011 grievance to bed. 

And now, to commemorate the fallen:

The Rays did the same thing they do every year, except with less healthy stars and more homophobes. They will probably do the exact same thing next year, only with more success, and hopefully less homophobes.
The Blue Jays had a pretty exceptional team that built on what they'd accomplished previously, but once again disappointed when it came time to defending their status as a playoff team. Next year should, in theory, be their year, but I'm not sure how many opportunities this team is going to get.

The Cardinals were more likable than they've been in years, made some excellent moves in terms of player development and trade deadline moves, and were able to send off Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina gracefully. Next year will require a great deal of both Andrew Knizner and Juan Yepez, as well as the continued upward rise of this team's tentpoles, even as the Brewers remain competitive. Will they build on this and infuriate me once again? Probably.

Should be a big match today, Mets-Padres. Then the important stuff.

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Wild Card Day 1 Observations: Karmic Retribution at Work


I think one of the ultimate goals this postseason for the teams that don't always dominate recent postseasons to do well. You know, I am very worried that we could have another year where the same few teams, like the Astros, Rays, Dodgers, Cardinals and Braves make it all the way [yes, I can hear you saying 'What about the Yankees?'], and I'd love to see the sort of underdog teams that don't always make it here have nice Octobers and start new regimes. And judging by the first day of the Wild Card series', I think we are seeing some of that at work.

I mean, I think the most traditional modern-day postseason team that won yesterday was probably Cleveland. They've been a perennial postseason team, even if they haven't had much luck since 2016. And now that they've let the kids come up and dominate the team along with Ramirez, they come off as fresh underdogs again. So, seeing them pummel the Rays a bit was fun. I've talked at length about why I don't like the Rays this season [I'll give ya a hint, it has to do with Jason Adam, Jeffrey Springs, Jalen Beeks and Ryan Thompson], but I also don't like how they just waltz into the playoffs without having a particularly durable or efficient team. It was a very simple game, but I'm glad Ramirez got the better of the Rays' pitching, and I hope this team can do it again today. 

So...I watched almost the entirety of the Phillies-Cardinals game yesterday. Thrilling stuff if ya love pitching and defense. I watched every single hit Philly ball go to a Cardinals outfielder, and I watched a few Cardinals balls go unanswered for a bit until Juan Yepez stepped up to bat, I audibly went 'oh no' and he blasted one to Mars. Fun stuff. So I run out to pick up some food in the top of the ninth, come back and it's 6-2 Phils. I was extremely confused. I had basically resigned myself to a Philly loss, and was just looking forward to what Aaron Nola would be doing today, but...sure enough, the Phils got hits off of Ryan Helsley and small-balled their way to a win. Which means I should get food during the game more often. I'm glad the heroes can be people like Bryson Stott, David Robertson, Brandon Marsh and Alec Bohm. Proof that it doesn't have to just be the big guys. Hoping for a big Game 2 as well.

...Bless the Seattle Mariners, man. They've been waiting 21 years for this, they come in there and absolutely throttle a team that people were saying would be a postseason lock all year. Not that the Blue Jays didn't try, but the Ms had Luis Castillo throwing smoke, Raleigh and Suarez having fun at the plate, and so many elements clicking into place now. My uncle's a Mariners guy, and though he watched the game with baited breath, he's gotta be relieved that this team can work in October. I hope it lasts longer than this one game.

And then...the upset of the night, not counting inning 9 in St. Louis. Max Scherzer, one of the best pitchers in baseball, being too hurt to hold down the Padres lineup. Josh Bell, Jurickson Profar, Trent Grisham and Manny Machado all took him yard, and made everybody rethink their postseason predictions. Even if the Mets' bullpen was pretty strong afterwards, and there were signs of life thanks to Eduardo Escobar, the Padres looked phenomenal last night, and Yu Darvish looked absolutely untouchable. The Padres need to prove that they can stop the Mets consistently, as the Mets will be putting up deGrom today against Blake Snell, which looks like a winning matchup for New York. If the Padres win today, the Mets fans' passive aggressive anger will be through the roof.

I hope we get some more fun games today. Would love to see some teams advance, especially Philly.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Best of the Rest: 2022


This is both one of my favorite posts to write each year and one of the least favorite.

It's one of my favorites because I get to have fun with superlatives and the teams that didn't make the playoffs, and you get to be a little mean. But it's one of my least favorites because, well, I get to be a little mean to teams who tried to compete and didn't. Also, I prepare this one a little in advance of the end of the season, and I have to eventually put in the last team cut from the wild card race, and I'm still extremely worried that it's gonna be the Phillies. [It wasn't] the end of the day, it's proof that the hierarchy of baseball can change on a year to year basis. Every year there are teams that make this post that didn't before, and there are teams that were on last year's post that aren't on this year's. More of that may have to do with Rob Manfred expanding the playoffs from 10 to 14, so I have a little over half the league in here this year, but also a lot of teams that were so close to making the playoffs last year are comfortably in this year. If anything, it proves this post is always gonna have flux. 

To give you the exact variable, four teams who made the playoffs last year are in this post for 2022, while five teams that were in this post last year are playoff teams.

So, with sixteen teams that won't win anything this October, let's see what they did in in The Best of the Rest:

Most Likely to Succeed [According to the Sportswriters in March]: Texas Rangers

Best Example of Banking Too Hard on A Single Free Agent Signing: Colorado Rockies

Best Example of Banking Too Hard on Two Insane Prospects to be MLB Ready: Detroit Tigers

Team That Did Pretty Much Exactly What Everyone Expected: Washington Nationals

Team That Peaked Too Early: Los Angeles Angels

Team That Shouldn't Have Taken a Health-Related Retirement to Realize What Everyone Already Realized Last Year About Their Manager: Chicago White Sox

Best Squanderer of Hopes Their Fans Had in 2021: Boston Red Sox

Best Squanderer of Hopes Their Fans Had in June: In a squeaker, the Minnesota Twins

Most Willing to Settle: San Francisco Giants

Most Underwhelming Use of Other Teams' Top Prospects: Oakland Athletics

Best Pitching Staff for a Team That Didn't Make the Playoffs: Arizona Diamondbacks

Worst Pitching: Pittsburgh Pirates

Biggest Anticlimax: Baltimore Orioles

Most Blatant Victims of a Rough Second Half: Milwaukee Brewers

Worst Trade Deadline Luck: Minnesota Twins

Most Interesting Use of Replacement-Level Players: Chicago Cubs

Most Depressing Team to Talk About Every Few Weeks: Detroit Tigers

Most Comically-Timed Injuries: Miami Marlins, in a heated category this year

Most Fun Last Place Team: Kansas City Royals

Most Unwilling to Recapture the Lightning in the Bottle: Cincinnati Reds

Most Likely Not to End Up on This List in 2023: Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers

It was a hard fought season, and I hope some of these teams aren't on this list next year. 

I'm toying with whether or not I'm gonna do a predicting the playoffs post this year, cause I'm always extremely far off. Maybe I will anyway.