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"THE ONLY REASON TO PLAY BASEBALL IS TO KEEP WINTER AWAY"

Don’t know who first said that mouthful – it may have been Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh - but it is one of my favorite quotes of all time. Of course the first rounds of the baseball playoffs endured in early October some of the worst wintry conditions in recent memory. The Phillies and the Rockies had one game snowed out and the Yankees took their commanding lead over the Angels in the ALCS in near-icy conditions in New York. If the World Series goes seven games it is slated to end on November 5th and if there are postponements who knows if we will have baseball with Thanksgiving? Most of the games have been gripping so I am not complaining though I wish the most important games between the best teams were played in more ideal conditions. Unless these games are moved to warm weather sites – which evidently only super-agent Scott Boras prefers – it won’t happen so must grin and bear it and lose sleep if we want to see games to conclusion.

Quote of the Post-Season so far - "Baseball is a beautiful game based on the overarching premise that failure is something to be expected, respected, and rendered useful" – It comes from my friend Perry Barber the woman umpire responding to calls for changes in umpire system given the current post-season gaffes.

Base-running has sure never been worse – Yankee reserve outfielder Brett Gardner has to thank his lucky stars that during the first round in the ALDS (American League Division Series) Minnesota Twins Carlos Gomez and Nick Punto’s gaffes were more costly than Gardner’s being doubled off third base on a line drive to the middle of the infield.

Joe Mauer on the other hand did something that Paul Richards in the Great Beyond would have marveled at - Mauer was NOT doubled up on a line drive to first baseman Mark Teixeira! Richards “The Wizard of Waxahachie” [Texas] – title of a recent biography – always said that only on the liner to first base can a base runner be forgiven for being doubled off because the instinct is always forward in a good player. Yet Mauer managed to stay on base.

The conventional wisdom is that Mauer will be the American League MVP nearly by acclamation though Teixeira’s offensive numbers and aplomb at first base certainly deserve consideration. Things I try not to think about - Mauer becoming a Yankee in a year or two and President Obama sending more troops into Afghanistan - equal horror stories. Though a good baseball organization can always make a reasonable attempt at filling holes. A President who sends troops to die doesn’t and shouldn’t have that luxury.

Another great moment of the post-season so far – Pedro Martinez’s seven shutout innings against the Dodgers in Game 2 in NLCS. That lapses in the Phillies’ defense cost the team the win after Pedro left the game should not in any way detract from Martinez’s great performance. “It’s art,” Pedro said after the game, noting that he loves to paint performances on that wooden baseball bat, keeping the ball away from the sweet spot. As someone who collaborated on Tom Seaver’s THE ART OF PITCHING, I say, “Bravo, Pedro! Hope you get another start this post-season.”

I predicted in my only prognostication for the post-season that Dodger pinch-hitter Jim Thome would influence at least one game. His single in the Game 2 that Pedro pitched so well in indeed set up the winning rally. Thome has never won a World Series though he has participated in the 1997 fall classic on the losing side of the Indians. Though I think Philadelphia will prevail, I’m glad Thome will have a chance to get to the Series. A tip of the cap to Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Ken Williams for arranging the trade in which Chicago did not receive a top prospect. Thome, too, deserves a kudo for making the Dodgers aware that he could only pinch-hit because he is too banged up to play first base again nearing the age of 40.

Ciao for now, and remember: “The only reason to play baseball is to keep winter away.” So play on, lads, play on!
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