How about this idea for Major League Baseball's post season? Instead of having the team with the best record in each league play the wild card winner, the team with the best record gets to choose which team they play in the first round. In the American League, Houston would probably still choose to play Tampa Bay, but in the NL, you have to think the Dodgers would pass on playing the Washington Nationals.
Yes, the Dodgers won 106 games during the regular season and Washington struggled to get a wild card berth, but the Nats were hot down the stretch. Washington has perhaps the lousiest bullpen in baseball (with apologies to the Mets), but they also have great starting pitching including Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
Those two are almost solely responsible for forcing this opening round playoff series to a fifth and deciding game. The Dodgers took game one at Dodger Stadium 6-0, but neither Strasburg nor Scherzer pitched because they were needed in the wild card game to get here. In Game Two, a 4-2 Washington win, Strasburg was brilliant, and out-dueled LA's Clayton Kershaw, who did his usual get-rattled-early-but-then-settle-down routine. That usually works for Kershaw, but Stasburg was too good. Scherzer pitched a scoreless eighth, and stuck out the side.
In Game Three, a 10-4 Dodger win in our nation's capital, the Nats went to Anibal Sanchez. He was great against Hyun-Jim Ryu, but they pulled him after five innings. The bullpen, beginning with usual-starter Patrick Corbin did what they do, imploded, and the Dodgers took the series lead. No Scherzer of Strasburg in that one.
This afternoon, needing a win to stay alive in the series, the Nationals turned to Scherzer. The Dodgers, knowing all along that if a fourth game was necessary, but begin with Rich Hill, who is coming back from injury, and then a stable of relievers to try to keep them in it. Against Scherzer, the Dodgers managed an early solo home run, couldn't get to the Nationals relievers and lost 6-1.
That brings the series back to Los Angeles Wednesday for a final game. Walker Buehler, who only gave up one hit in six innings in the first game, will be on the mound for the Dodgers, with Strasburg on the hill for the other side. The teams that wins will move on. The team that loses will go home. If that team is the Dodgers, it will be a bitter disappointment after going to the World Series the last two years but not winning it.
For the Dodgers, Kershaw, Ryu, and everyone else will be available to pitch if needed. The same is true, though for Washington, and that likely even means Scherzer. For LA, this is the reward for winning 106 regular season games? If the Dodgers could choose, they'd likely go with Atlanta or St. Louis. But then again, those teams are locked in a battle of their own.
Wouldn't it be an interesting dynamic, though, if a team like the Dodgers could pick their own playoff poison. Of course, be careful what you wish for, but the Dodgers certainly didn't wish for this.
Homer-mania: Remember when a 20 home run season was a pretty good year? This season, 129 players hit at least 20 homers. That's an average of better than four players on each team. Of those 129, 58 players hit 30 or more—an average of almost two players per team. Ten players hit 40+. One guy hit more than 50, and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso (53 homers) was just a rookie!
Good TV: With the exception of the first two games of the Yankees-Twins series (I'm writing this while watching Game Three), all of the games have been good ones. The first game of the Tampa-Bay Houston series was a blowout, and the Dodgers handled the Nats in their first game, but they were still entertaining. The best series by far has been St. Louis-Atlanta, but the best broadcast has to be the three-man booth in Houston. Kenny Albert. A.J. Pierzynski, and Joe Girardi are informative, and discuss various situations that come up without making it sound like they are over-analyzing. Albert would just shut up while the two former catchers would discuss pose questions that the managers are dealing with.
More Girardi: In each of the first two games of the Rays-Astros series, both Albert and Pierzynski was needling Girardi about rumors that Girardi may be the next manager of the New York Mets. On both occasions, Girardi would only say “I'm a bnroadcaster”, and guaranteed that he would be working the entire series. That likely means he'll be named the Mets manager before this weekend.
More Pierzynski: It really is difficult to admit because he was such a [so-and-so] during his playing days, but Pierzynski is a good broadcaster. He's even self-deprecating, which he definitely wasn't during his playing days. He's about an 8 on the 1-to-John McEnroe scale.
Wednesday (October 9) marks nine months since my mom's death, 16 years since my Aunt Judy's death, and also would have been Uncle Marty's 90th birthday. I miss them all so much. It's also Yom Kippur, and all would have been lighting at least one candle if they were here. I'll be lighting one for all of them, but that's far too many. I hope I don't burn the house down.