Because the League Championship Series are going to play out for at least two to three more games each (possibly/probably more if Boston and L.A. ever figure out how to hit the damn ball with consistency), I’m writing today to remind everyone that we here at the Recorder do more than just write series previews. Plus, I did promise a column with baseball thoughts that didn’t quite get posted in my Friday LCS preview, so consider this an update on that particular promise. Don’t worry, this will be a lot of fun.
Without further ado…
10 Baseball Thoughts
1. Big Papi
At this point, there’s not much Big Papi can do to surprise me. He could secretly be Luke Cage and I wouldn’t bat an eye. He could show up twenty minutes late to the game because he was busy saving kittens from a burning animal shelter and I would just nod and go “that sounds like Big Papi.” Hell, he could go 5-4 with 6 home runs and I’d say “Yup, that’s a postseason Big Papi line”.*
*Caveat: Things Big Papi would do that wouldn’t surprise me are entirely different from what another noted Boston slugger might do that wouldn’t surprise me. While Big Papi reading to a class of 3rd graders while riding on a speeding rail car would make sense, things like climbing the back side of the Green Monster with a rock hammer while reciting the works of Pablo Neruda are more in line with what, say, Manny Ramirez might do. But that’s ancient history.
So, naturally, when the Red Sox began their rally in the 8th inning yesterday (because of course they did! more on this in a second), of Course! it was David Ortiz who came to the plate. And of Course! it was David Ortiz who hit a 2-out grand slam to tie the game up at 5-5. Of Course! it was Big Papi. Because that’s what Big Papi does.
Anyone who denies that David Ortiz has become the face of the Red Sox of the past decade (and most likely decades to come) either has their head in the sand or is simply being a contrarian for the sake of being a contrarian. (You know, the guy who always claims to be “the devil’s advocate” solely as a means of getting their voice heard as opposed to contributing actual relevant dialogue to a conversation. Man, I fucking hate those guys.) This stretches all the way back to that wonderful 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, where Ortiz established the roots of his folk-hero status, on up through last night’s heroics. And, of course, there was this moment earlier in the year.
Mayor of New England indeed. As legends like Ted Williams and Yaz fade into the distant baseball past, Ortiz provides a tangible, physical presence that we can all remember. His Hall of Fame credentials can be debated (Yours truly thinks he belongs in, because while the DH is a position that is to be abhorred forever, it is still a playable position, and one that can now have a top-5 DH of all time conversation. And if David Ortiz is not in that conversation, then something has gone wrong.), but his emotional presence in the Red Sox line-up, as well as what he specifically means to the city, cannot be disputed. The man is an icon, somewhere in the listings of Tom Brady, Larry Bird, and Bobby Orr. (Where he fits in, exactly, is a fun debate that I’ll leave to the Boston homers out there.) For now, let us celebrate getting to see the exploits of David Ortiz, so that we may look back upon these days in years to come and say to our children: “I remember watching Big Papi come to the plate. When the game was down, you knew he would win it for Boston. You just knew.”
2. Four Pitchers and a Funeral
Now, let’s get into why Boston was able to make a comeback.
- Jim Leyland starts the inning by removing Max Scherzer, probably AL Cy Young Winner and the man who had just pitched 7 innings with 2 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, and thirteen strikeouts.
- Jose Veras gets a groundout from Stephen Drew, followed by a double to Wil Middlebrooks. Remember, the Tigers are up 5-1 at this point. The tying run is nowhere near the field of play.
- Leyland pulls Veras for Drew Smyly. Smyly promptly walks Jacoby Ellsbury. Tigers are still ahead by 4 runs, but now runners are on first and second.
- Leyland pulls Smyly for Al Albuquerque (which is where that tying run might have been at the moment.) Albuquerque strikes out Shane Victorino for Out Number Two, and then gives up a ground ball single to Dustin Pedroia. Nobody scores, but now the bases are loaded and Big Papi is coming to the plate.
- Instead of inserting lefty-specialist Phil Coke to deal with Ortiz (getting that one crucial out against left-handed hitters like Ortiz is the sole reason Phil Coke is on the Tigers’ postseason roster, I feel obligated to point out), Joaquin “Not Phoenix” Benoit is inserted.
- Grand slam.
- To be fair, Benoit did strike out Mike Carp to end the inning. On the other hand, that’s like the Roman legions saying “Well, the Goths sacked Rome, took our goods, slaughtered our armies, and raped most of our women and children, but we did put out that fire on First and Caligula street, so there’s gotta be something to be said for that!”
At this point, a Boston comeback was inevitable (I suppose nothing is inevitable, but go with me here), given the Red Sox’ habit of scrappy, come from behind wins driven by men wearing yak clippings around their chins. (Have I mentioned their beards are awesome?) It should be noted that the four run inning was evenly distributed amongst the four relievers, and that when your starting pitcher is cruising along with a 4 run lead, you probably should be restrained rather than remove him from the game. But, then again, I’m not a manager.
(It also occurs to me that the exact opposite scenario is what doomed the 2003 Red Sox and Cubs, when Dusty Baker left in Mark Prior one inning too long and Grady Little did not remove Pedro Martinez from the game in the bottom of the 8th inning. Which just goes to show that nobody knows anything, except that nobody knows how to actually manage a bullpen except for Tony LaRussa. Who is retired.)
3. St. Louis is reeeeeally good.
Two years ago, St. Louis won the World Series. Immediately following, Albert Pujols left for Anaheim and Tony LaRussa retired. Two years later, they might very well be in the World Series again, on the strengths of a highly impressive crop of home grown talent. Take Michael Wacha, the rookie pitcher who can’t be stopped. Take Allen Craig, Matt Adams, and Matt Carpenter, the youngsters who help drive that offense. Take Yadier Molina, who somehow gets better as the years go by. (I think a 3rd World Series might open a small discussion for Molina making the Hall of Fame ballot. Is he a Hall of Famer? I don’t think so, but then again, neither is Aaron Sele, and somebody voted for him. I think Yady would get more than one vote if he were put on the ballot.) Take Mike Matheny, who is no Tony LaRussa, but who has his squad up 2-0 on the mega-payroll of the Dodgers. They’ve just won games started by Greinke and Kershaw. Shoot, Wacha, the rookie with 9 regular season starts to his credit, outdueled Kershaw in a 1-0 game. In part, because…
4. The Dodgers are limping through the playoffs.
Injuries have been the story of the Dodgers all year long, and nothing seems to be going right. Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers’ best hitter, was sidelined in Game 2 after being hit by a pitch in the first game. Matt Kemp, their superstar center fielder, is out. Andre Ethier, that $85 million sinkhole, has a bum ankle. Don Mattingly apparently has a brain injury that prevents him from effectively managing. (Ha ha.) The rest of the lineup has yet to show up in this series, which is no good when you’re going against Adam Wainwright tonight in Game 3. Essentially, the Dodgers are held together at this point by $217 million worth of duct tape and WD-40.
On the plus side, they’re in Los Angeles, which might provide a home field boost. Then again, perhaps the Romans will fight back the Goths this time, preserving their empire forever.
5. Paul O’Neill might manage the Reds
A non-playoff non-sequitur. But Holy Crap, You Guys! Paul O’Neill might come back to Cincinnati! Maybe he’ll bring his magical Yankees karma! Maybe we’ll win four World Series with him leading the way! Guys!…guys?
I actually imagine the scenario of his interview going like this. Bob Castellini is busily interviewing Jim Riggleman, he of the lifetime losing record as a manager, and is being drawn in by his fearsome Riggle-speak. (Think Saruman in Lord of the Rings, where you know he’s talking bullshit that is absolutely the worst thing that anyone could listen to…but the more you listen to it, the more you’re thinking “Hey, this guy might not be so bad after all…we might be able to do good things with him…”)
Suddenly, a door bursts open, and Paul O’Neill strides in, red cape emblazoned with a big wishbone C. “Stop right there, Riggleman!”
“Curse you!” hisses Riggleman, reverting to his natural, snake-like form. “How did you know it was me?”
“Don’t you know?” asks O’Neill, laughing as he wields his World Series Gauntlet, emblazoned with 5 precious rings. “I could smell the stench of a losing snake from miles away! Now BEGONE from this land!”
As they duel, Bob Castellini shakes off the effects of the Riggle-venom, realizing the close call with which he has just avoided trashing his prized franchise. As Paul O’Neill casts Riggleman from the heights above Cincinnati (let’s be fair, a 4 story drop, but still!), he turns to Paul O’Neill standing triumphantly in the window overlooking the city.
“Paul! You’ve saved our franchise! How can I ever repay you?”
Paul calmly withdraws a small business card, with a phone number and the words “5-Times World Series Champion” emblazoned in striking, bold ink, and hands it to Castellini. “You can reach me there at anytime between the hours of 9 to 5. Now I must go, for there is work to be done.”
And just as quickly as he arrived, he disappears into the hills, waiting for the chance which should be his.
Somewhere nearby, Brian Price looks up at a sound of thunder in the skies. He ignores it and goes back to teaching kids how to fucking pitch like studs.
6. The off-season does strange things to columnists.
I swear! That’s a totally viable scenario!
7. The Pirates and A’s will be back.
It was heartbreaking to watch the Pirates’ season come to an end, but then again, the Cardinals were simply a better team. There is no shame in losing to a team that is absolutely loaded with stellar pitching and quality young hitters. Besides, the Pirates are built for the long-haul, provided they find a decent starting pitcher and more consistent offense from first base and right field. Re-signing Justin Morneau might be looked at as a cost-effective short-term filler, and perhaps Marlon Byrd will feel like sticking around. Then again, I’d never want to rest my offensive hopes upon Marlon Byrd returning.
Meanwhile, the tired creed of Billy Beane’s lament (“My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs”) gets trotted out again after the A’s lose in the first round for what feels like the 100th time. A solid young team that seems to be peaking at just the right time (Look at their division: Texas is floundering, the Angels look like a continual sink-hole, Mike Trout be damned, the Mariners are still a year or two away from contending, and the Astros are technically a major league team if only because it’s impossible to demote them to Triple A.), they’ll be back next year. One of these days, they’ll peak at the right time (and not have to play five games against the Firm of Verlander, Scherzer, Sanchez, and Co.) and make their push. Until then, they can look forward to another long offseason where pundits lambast the A’s for “not getting it done in the playoffs”.
8. This Guy
Friends, it’s time for our latest Addison Recorder contest! Provide what you think is the best caption for this photo and we’ll run it on the website on Friday! Submit your entries in the comments below!
As Goethe said: “Be bold, and mighty forces will come to your aid.”
9. Mailbag: The A-Rod Scenario
While the Recorder loves any form of feedback, the most likely way to get us to respond to something is by sending us text messages. The next most likely scenario is by standing behind us as we write with a sock full of quarters muttering the words “Finish this…” Fortunately, the former scenario was how our latest question was delivered.
“[What are] your thoughts regarding A Rod suing the MLB?” Meg – Chicago, IL
*pauses to scan the news*
A-Fraud, as your fairly unimaginative columnist likes to call him, is desperately trying to save any legacy he might have left. It’s sad to think that the most recognized baseball player, as determined by ESPN polls, is A-Rod. (Then again, this might be because of Sportcenter’s love affair with any and all A-Rod news. Why not have a nightly Mike Trout feature? Show how amazing he is! MARKET YOURSELF BETTER.) My thoughts are that this lawsuit gets dismissed by a judge who is doubled over from laughing, and that A-Rod serves out his damn suspension next year and may or may not ever play again. I think he will. Then again, I tend to be wrong about these kinds of things. We’ll just have to wait and see.
10. The Playoffs are Awesome
Game One of the NLCS was a 14 inning masterpiece that highlighted the unparalleled glory that is Carlos Beltran. Saturday’s games were a pair of 1-0 pitching masterpieces. Last night’s game was an instant classic that cemented the iron legacy of Big Papi in Boston, all the while keeping Boston’s hopes alive for at least another day. And best of all? No concussions. (Looking at you, NFL)
We are talking some seriously good baseball here.
It’s the playoffs. Get with it, yo.