August, September, BASEBALL!, November, December. Part 1

The Dry Statistics

The Yankees eliminated the A’s, only to be vanquished by the Boston Red Sox, who beat the reigning champion Houston Astros. The Astros got there by beating the Cleveland Indians.

The Rockies knocked the Cubs out, then lost to the Brewers, who lost to the Dodgers. The Dodgers had eliminated the Atlanta Braves along the way.

And for the fourth time in the last 15 years, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Well done, Boston, well done. And in no series along the way did the Red Sox ever lose more than one game. They are the best team in baseball.

 

But Can You Handle the Truth?

Competition has gotten out of hand in our culture. Left unchecked, it creates a world of commerce that seeps into every part of our daily lives. We must find the will to replace commercial teases with authentic communication and connection with that person who is standing right in front of you.

And unhealthy competitive drive, and professional sports as an industry are part of the problem… [in case you never noticed, the Most Valuable Player of the World Series ALSO gets awarded a Chevy truck on national tv, just one of thousands of examples].

Yet there is something irresistibly exciting and also natural about intense competition. Perhaps that is why I am such an avid fan of baseball—athleticism, lots of thinking, lots of room for inexplicable divine interventions, sacred geometry and very intense competition, where body contact is only incidental.

For me, the Major League Baseball playoffs are like Shakespeare. Heroes emerge and Goats bleat. But even in a year when two of my three least favorite teams are in the World Series…. it’s a great contest, no one gets killed, injuries less frequent, fans do not have to pay much money to watch the playoffs. Baseball is a sterling tradition that lives on with its essence intact. So here’s my summary of yet another great October of championship play:

 

Waxing Poetic

An unprecedented appetizer of two NL tiebreakers,
Brewers portend a return of the Cubbies’ curse
While the dead-to-me Dodgers extend the Rockies’ tour.

Wild-card Cubs give us a great show for 13 innings, then lose, banished!
Said Rockies, can they beat LA?
Annoying and persistent rash known as the Yankees
Beat the ‘just glad to be here’ A’s (goddammit!).*

Drinking muddy water
From the fire hydrant of
Four Division Series . . . help!

Dodgers and Brewers off to great starts. Likewise ‘stro’s.
Brewers deft, Roberts’ holding Kershaw until Game 2 was managerial brilliance.
God is smiling, as Yanks and BoSox beat each other up.
Three sweeps still possible.

The dust settles on what one hopes
Are two sinewy and engaging best-of-seven contests
From whence the new heroes of the 2018 World Series
Will emerge.

 

The Breakdown

The Brew Crew and the Astros made quick work of their opponents. Cleveland a really good and charismatic team, just not as good as the Astros. And Colorado was worth watching for their 3rd baseman, Nolan Arenado.

No one thought that Atlanta was ready, so . . . good for them, they took one from LA.

And the Yankees/BoSox, Game 4 a heartstopper at the end, but I think we all knew Boston would be celebrating in the Bronx. One of the commentators thinks that that will be Boston’s most difficult series.

I beg to differ.

Folks, my next-door neighbor is a rabid Red Sox fan, so if you don’t hear from me, bring a shovel and start digging in my back yard. I’ll keep my grandfather’s watch wound so you can hear it ticking right where Capone buried my ragged carcass.

But we’ve got two great matchups, enjoy them!

Brewers and Dodgers Game 1 had it all: solo home run by relief pitcher, the first one out of the Brewers’ infinity bullpen! I love that the heart of the 2015 WS Champs Royals are pumping blood into the team…Cain and Moose. Hader, anyone? Arcia is way athletic at SS and has the determination, keep watchin’ him. Of course, Counsell getting a lot of premature attention now, but 12 straight wins is hard to argue with. Yelich will come out of this little slump.

Chris Taylor, Dodgers utility player, Ben Stiller’s more handsome little brother…he is the most clutch hitter, ALWAYS does damage. My meanest baseball joy is watching Clayton Kershaw crumble, especially in the postseason. It’s a fun and harmless hate, the safest not seriousway to experience that emotion. How much is that monkey, on his ba-a-ack? [Forgive me, Lord.]. Roberts’ coaching smarts are undisputed, and he’ll make some moves that will pay off (although I would have voted to retain the policy of assigning Game 2 to Kershaw). Justin Turner is a monster hitter and he will come out of his slump.

 

The League Championship Series

You know the difference between a hot dog at Yankee Stadium and a hot dog at Fenway? You can still get one at Fenway this month…’nuff said, John Littel! Red Sox / Houston and Sale / Verlander all matching up to brutal one-hit games. The tension’s killin’ me, I tell ya’!

So while the LCS’s were not historic, they did not disappoint. The fabulous Astros collapsed. Were they outmaneuvered, or are the BoSox just a steamroller that doesn’t know how to stop? Jackie Bradley had a couple of firecracker moments (like a Grand Slam!), but Benendetti the left fielder was the real star who understands clutch. They are such a good offensive team that more than compensates for a very good but not monumentally great pitching staff. Will we see the Astros next year in the playoffs? Not if the ascending Seattle Mariners have anything to say about it (cough cough, ahem).

The highlight of the playoffs so far was the National League Championship Series, which included a 13-inning 2-1 game (I’d recorded it and was watching until midnight) and 1-1, 2-2, and 3-3 ties, all along the lead changes,  went for the holy grail of Game 7. Counsell has great strategy, a bullpen of former starters, and not just Hader (lights out!), but Knebel, Woodruff, Miley, perhaps the best pitching staff in baseball. I picked shortstop Arcia back when they played the Rockies, and he did emerge, despite 2 errors, as their great clutch hitter and fielder, Machado be damned. I think that Moustakas sucked and Yelich underperformed. They both kept swinging for home runs, whereas if they’d’ve hit more doubles, the Brewers would be going to the World Series.

In Los Angeles last week I watched the Brewers shut out the Dodgers in Game 3, in a restaurant just a mile or so from Dodger Stadium (the THIRD oldest MLB stadium still in use) . . . rooting for the Brewers in a crowd of hometown Dodger fans. Delicious. The food, I mean, of course.

Roberts and the Dodgers managed to look like underdogs, while quietly taking a 3-2 lead and ultimately winning the series. Puig and Turner and even Ballinger eventually turned their bats on, and the Dodgers played very effective small ball in Game 5, something they are usually unable to do (convert runners into runs). It may bite them in the World Series if they can’t repeat that strategy.

The Achilles heel of using the bullpen early and often, is that every time a new pitcher walks out to the mound, you’re rolling the dice. With Milwaukee, those risks have been minimized with some of the most dependable relievers in the game: Bader, Burnes, Knebel, Woodruff. The risky guy is Jeffress, who’s great when he’s great, but he really isa roll of the dice, and putting him in in a series-deciding game was Counsell’s biggest mistake, along with putting Hader in too soon (maybe), but DEFINITELY pulling him out too soon. Counsell mindfucked himself.

The next post…World Series!

*[Editorial Comment to Disney: Honey I Shrunk Judge, Stanton and Betances…make that documentary NOW!] Best bullpen in history? https://www.mlb.com/news/yankees-could-have-a-historic-bullpen-in-2018/c-264785758  I guess not!

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