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Last-Minute Thoughts on the Baseball Playoffs

As readers of this blog know, I don't bet on sports except once in a blue moon I might make a friendly bet with someone from a rival alma mater.  

 

Don't think I'll be doing even that this season with Wisconsin football off to a horrific start and basketball not likely to be a real contender.  

 

But this year's baseball playoffs are certainly intriguing. What I want to see is a pairing in the World Series of the Braves or Giants with any of the AL teams except the Yankees.  

 

Even before Mick Jagger sang about it, I know that you can't always get what you want. 

So here is what I think may happen but don't necessarily want to happen.  

 

The Red Sox in the wild card game against Yankees will be missing J. D. Martinez who suffered the second most absurd injury on the eve of the playoffs. He tripped over second base and sprained his ankle running into the outfield in the last game of regular season.   

 

So that's advantage Yankees in Wild Card game at Fenway just six hours away as I finish this blog.  They will miss D. J. LeMahieu out with a sports hernia but they may have enough offense with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

 

Anything can happen in a short series let alone one game, but the Yankees do have a better defense and bullpen than their longtime rivals.   

 

If I have forceast correctly, the Yankees will then take on the Tampa Bay Rays in a best of five series.

 

The Rays amaze everyone in baseball, succeeding with a low payroll invested in winning players throughout the roster.  They are adventurous, experimental, and fun to watch (if you can tolerate all the strikeouts and the endless shifts).  

 

They don't have a traditional starting rotation or one real closer.  The Yankees or Red Sox don't have overwhelming starters either but the Yankees do have a rejuvenated Aroldis Chapman at the back end which could be a deciding factor.  I hope not.

 

In the other division series, two septuagenarians lead the White Sox and Astros into the fray.  As nearly an octogenarian myself. I can't miss in this series.  These guys are living proof that older folks have much to offer.  

 

I'd like to see Dusty Baker go deep into the playoffs despite the stain of chicanery indelibly upon the Astros. The scandal, of course, happened before Baker arrived on the scene. 

 

The White Sox coasted in the second half with no AL Central team mounting any real challenge.  We'll see if Tony LaRussa's lads led by the most consistent of all the Cubans in MLB, dh/1b Jose Abreu, can turn it on when it matters most.

 

In the NL wild card, it would be great if Adam Wainwright, 40, can outpitch the very talented and enormously high-paid Max Scherzer, no youngster himself at 36 or 37.  I am not sure St. Louis has the bullpen to stifle LA once the game goes into late innings.

 

The loss of Max Muncy to an elbow injury in a collision at first base will hurt the Dodgers. But they have another oldster and former Cardinal, Albert Pujols, to replace him. Or perhaps the slumping former MVP Cody Bellinger who could relish a chance to redeem himself in October.  

 

The Dodgers are favored in the wild card game and to go all the way to their second straight World Series championship.  But if they beat the Cardinals, they'll have to go through the Giants who won 107 games this year.

 

No one expected the Giants to soar, including me.  But they have a wonderful mixutre of vets from the world champs last decade, including Buster Posey, Johnny Cueto, and Brandon Belt.  Plus some good youngsters like Lamont Wade Jr. and pitcher Logan Webb, only 26 but he already possesses the visage of a gritty savvy veteran.

 

Belt got hit by a pitch and his broken finger may keep him out of the entire post-season.  But the Giants have always found a way in 2021 and I hope they do so again.

 

Winner of the first NLDS will face either the Braves or the Brewers, both teams with

Milwaukee in their history. Unfortunately, a key Brewers reliever, Devin Williams, suffered the most absurd and stupid injury shortly before the playoffs.  

 

After the NL Central-winning celebration, Williams had too much to drink. He went home and in undisclosed circumstances, he punched a wall in his house and broke his hand.  

 

He is out until at least the World Series if the Brewers get that far.  Since manager Craig Counsell micro-manages his bullpen seemingly more than any other manager, the loss of Williams to set up for closer Josh Hader might be too much to overcome. 

 

The Braves finished strong and I think have an edge over Milwaukee. They have two MVP candidates in the heart of their lineup, Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley.  (They might split the vote which could allow a poseur to win it like Bryce Harper - he always electioneers for the award but usually plays golf in October.)  

 

I am sure the Braves would like to meet the Dodgers in the NLCS and avenge last year's wrenching loss. Their one Achilles heel is closer Will Smith who is shaky far too often.  

 

Well, there you have my analysis for what it is worth.  And the old adage still applies.

"Opinions are like assholes - everyone has them."  

 

Always remember:  Take it easy but take it! 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

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From A to Z: The Tampa Bay Rays Are Making October Baseball Especially Rewarding

There is nothing like the drama of a close baseball game when all the chips are down.  

 

When undrafted, unheralded Tampa Bay infielder Mike Brosseau homered in the 8th inning off Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman this past Friday night Oct 9, it sent the Yankees towards another early October exit, their eleventh in a row since they last won the World Series in 2009.

 
There are some baseball laws that apply even to the outrageously entitled Yankees:  If you hit home runs and very little else and have a thin starting pitching rotation, you are bound to run into October trouble.  

 
The low-budget but multi-talented Rays will certainly be the sentimental favorite in their matchup against the unrepentant sign-stealing Houston Astros, the team everyone wants to hate (especially now that the Yankees are out).

 

They got off to a good start last night (Sunday Oct 11) with another come-from-behind nail-biting 2-1 victory. The RBIs came on a home run from sizzling Cuban defector Randy Arozarena and a rare single by catcher Mike Zunino.

 

From A to Z, the Rays are abundant with great baseball stories.  Arozarena, a mere 25, is in its first season as a Ray. He arrived in a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals for minor leaguers who have yet to reach the majors (though pitcher Matthew Liberatore is considered a good prospect). 

 

Zunino, 29, came two years ago in a trade with the Seattle Mariners who only have utility outfielder Mallex Smith to show for it so far.  Zunino was an All-American at the University of Florida and played on three College World Series teams.

 

In 2012 he ran the table of college baseball awards - winning the Golden Spikes and Dick Howser trophies and the Johnny Bench award. By 2013 he was in the majors.

 

Talk about having baseball in one's blood! His father Greg met his wife Paola in Italy when he was catching for a Bologna team and she was a catcher on the national softball team.  Greg has since become an area scout for the Marlins and more recently the Reds.

 

Yankee killer Mike Brosseau, 26, is another fascinating story about the vastness of the Rays' scouting net.

 

From Munster, indiana, Brosseau went undrafted out of Oakland University in Detroit, a weak team in the not-exactly-powerhouse Horizon League. He improved each season in the Rays farm system and also spent a winter playing in Perth, Australia. 

 

Kudos to Curtis Granderson, who working for TBS on a post-game panel after Brosseau's dramatic homer, noted Brosseau's lineage. Curtis, the former Tiger-Yankee-Met outfielder, played for the University of Illinois-Chicago Circle in the same conference.

 

Talk about the connection of baseball present to baseball past.  When I heard the name Brosseau, I immediately thought of Eddie Bressoud, the journeyman shortstop who played for my New York Giants after Alvin Dark left in the mid-1950s.  Last I checked, Bressoud

was still alive at 88.  Hope he felt a connection to Brosseau, too.  

 

There's still a lot of baseball left between dangerous and playoff-tested Houston and Tampa Bay. But let's give a salute to the gritty multi-talented Tampa Bay boys and their ability to make its whole far greater than the sum of its parts. 

 

More next time on the National League Championship Series featuring two unbeaten teams  in the playoffs:  Everyone's betting favorite, the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of eight straight NL West titles but still no World Series victory since 1988. And the Atlanta Braves

who haven't won it all since 1995 and have endured their share of playoff agony.

  

For now, let's be glad we have a heaping helping of October baseball in front of us.  Almost seems like normal which of course it isn't.  But to watch baseball is to dream so here's to more of it. 

 

And always remember:  Take it easy but take it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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