Bring On The Braves!
September 30, 2013

It was far from the MLB Fan Cave, a giant Las Vegas sports book, or even the pub down the street, but I had my own Baseball Central going on in my little apartment this weekend. With a television, radio, computer, and a tablet. I could watch three games at once, and listen to another. It was pretty cool, on my own small scale, even if just for a few hours.

Baseball's internet package had free video the final three days of the regular season, so I got to watch the Dodgers play a meaningless series with the Rockies, and still keep tabs on the games that mattered. I was actually rooting for the Atlanta Braves, so that they would have the best record in the National League, and not play the Dodgers. That didn't happen.

I really wanted a Dodgers-Cardinals series for two reasons. One, I like the Cardinals better, and two, I didn't want all of the NL Central teams to play each other. But the Reds will play the Pirates with the winner to face the Cardinals, and that leaves the Dodgers and Braves.

Getting a chance to watch the Dodgers over the weekend, albeit on a very small screen, means I actually got to watch the outfielders deteriorate right in front of my eyes. Matt Kemp came out for a pre-playoff rally Sunday on crutches. I'm no doctor, but I know that's not good. Yasiel Puig is only 22, but seems to have a hamstring issue, and Carl Crawford seems to be running well, but hasn't played in back-to-back games for awhile. I didn't see Andre Ethier, but it turns out that's because he's in Arizona with a bad ankle.

At least the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The starting pitchers are much better than Atlanta's tandem of Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Teheran. If that's the order, the Ryu-Teheran matchup could be the best. The Dodgers, hopefully, will be up 2-0 at the time.

The Dodgers have the best starting staff in baseball, the Braves have the best bullpen. The Dodgers have Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, and hopefully healthy outfielders. The Braves have an outfielder on the mend as well in Jason Heyward, and also have Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, and his brother B.J. Game One is Thursday (5:30pm PT, TBS), and Game Two Friday (3pm PT, TBS) in Atlanta. Let's rock!

Lots of random thoughts this week...

I don't agree with 163: Any tiebreaker games that determine a playoff berth have always been deemed regular season games. That is, the win, the loss, the batting averages, and ERAs all will show up in regular season totals. Other than cosmetically altering the final standings with that extra half-game, there's really been nothing wrong with that, but now it's time to change the rule. With winner-take-all wild card games, a tiebreaker game is just like a playoff game. There's national television, and six umpires instead of four, but the game is played with different rules. Both Tampa Bay and Texas had 37 eligible players on their roster (instead of 25 in the playoffs), and one even made his major league debut. With one more hit, Adrian Beltre would have been the only player in the majors this year with 200 hits on the season, but he got an extra game to do it. Every one knows a tiebreaker is a de-facto playoff game. It should be treated like one.

TBS guessed wrong: It was unfortunate, but maybe it was too late to do anything about it. TBS' Sunday telecast was Pittsburgh at Cincinnati—a game that turned out to be meaningless. The Pirates had clinched home field for the wild card the day before, and there were three American League games that day that had playoff implications. With ESPN not having a Sunday Night game on the final day, none of those three games were televised nationally.

Melon-choly: Speaking of TBS, Keith Olbermann? Really? The Big Giant Head (literally as well as egomaniacally) is the studio host for the TBS playoff coverage. Even Narcissus would tell the guy to tone it down. Good thing I have a DVR and a pause and fast-forward feature.

And the winner is: Two wild card skippers would win Manager of the Year if I got to pick: Terry Francona of Cleveland (narrowly over Boston's John Farrell) and Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle. MVPs are Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen. Cy Young's are a slam dunk: Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish, but the Rookie of the Year is a little tougher. Tampa Bay's Wil Myers is a solid call in the AL, and I'm going with Yasiel Puig in the National League over Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez and the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Steroid boys: I was rooting for Tampa Bay tonight, mostly because the Rangers were allowed to bring back performance enhancing drug user Nelson Cruz. Cruz and a handful of other players were suspended 50 games back in August, but the 50 games are now up. It bothered me even more that Cruz got a standing ovation from the fans when he came up to the plate for the first time. No one cares that the guy cheated. Other PED users to watch in the playoffs; Jhonny Peralta of Detroit, and Bartolo Colon of Oakland. The Dodgers will be represented by hitting coach Mark McGwire.

Stat-tastic: James Loney, who never fulfilled expectations with the Dodgers, who was shipped to Boston in the mega-trade with the Red Sox, and then signed to a bargain basement deal by the Rays this off-season, had the best batting average on the road in the major leagues (.355)...Since the Division Series was first played in 1995, there have been 72 matchups. The team with home field advantage is 36-36.

Max effort: Yuba City native Max Stassi was activated from the Disabled List for the final week of the season by the Houston Astros. The catcher only got one at-bat, and ends the season 2-for-7 with an RBI. The run batted in is what knocked him out of the lineup—he was hit in the face with a pitch with the bases loaded... Cincinnati Reds pitcher and Gold Sox alumnus Curtis Partch will probably not make the playoff roster. The 'Redhead from Merced' was 0-1 with a 6.17 ERA in 14 games. His loss was to the Dodgers, when Puig hit a walkoff homer to win 1-0.

The more things change, etc.: It was 25 years ago this week that Orel Hershiser broke Don Drysdale's record for consecutive shutout innings. I remember listening to Vin Scully in my Chico apartment in bed, with my head as close to the radio as I could get, so I could hear through the static. What was I doing exactly 25 years later? Listening to Vin Scully, in bed, in my Marysville apartment only 45 miles away, but on my computer so I at least got a clear signal. I really don't know what to make of that.

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