Dodgers Move On to Aptly Named 'Division Series'
October 5, 2020

It was a roadblock to a championship that shouldn't have been there, and didn't even exist until the day before the start of baseball's abbreviated regular season. Expanded playoffs meant an extra round, but it turned out to be a hurdle that the Los Angeles Dodgers were able to clear rather easily. There were some surprises in the newly-added best-of-three Wild Card series, and we knew there would be, but the team with the majors' best record just brushed aside the Milwaukee Brewers.

Before the series began, no one would dare ask the question out loud, and now that the Dodgers have moved on, it's totally moot, but what if the Dodgers had failed? It's been said so often because it's true in baseball, that anything can happen in a single game or a short series. Ask the Chicago Cubs and Minnesota Twins, who won their divisions but are now at home. Ask the Oakland A's, who won the American League West, but had to come from losing the first game to beat the Chicago White Sox. You can also ask the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, which had mediocre records at best, but have survived and moved on.

We won't dwell further than this paragraph on this, but what might have happened if the Dodgers lost? The Brewers, after all, were a fourth place team. The narrative on television was it would have been a much better series if two of their pitchers hadn't gotten hurt. Yeah, that's probably true. We don't have to think about it, and its probably unfair, but after an early exit last year, manager Dave Roberts might not have that title anymore if it was Milwaukee playing San Diego in this next round instead of Los Angeles. I mean the Clippers fired their very popular coach because they didn't get to face the Lakers in the NBA Western Conference finals. It won't happen now, and we'll never know if it would have, but you have to throw it out there.

Now that the extra few days of playoffs are behind us, the next round, known as the League Division Series is upon us. It began today (Monday) with two series in the American League, with the National League to get underway tomorrow. Interestingly (I guess), all four matchups feature two teams from the same division. With one exception (Tampa Bay-Toronto), we were spared that in the wild card round, especially since that's pretty much all these teams did during the shortened year was play their divisional counterparts. It's a little different now, though, with the spotlight on a real rivalry now with the Dodgers and Padres, two very heated battles with the A's and Astros and Yankees and Rays, and the 'let's play these games early in the day and get them out of the way' series with the Braves and Marlins.

A peculiar wrinkle for this and subsequent rounds, is that games are being played at a neutral site. The Oakland A's were the 'home' team for their game against Houston today, but it was being played at Dodger Stadium. The best-of-five series between the Dodgers and Padres will be played in Arlington, Texas, and so will the World Series. Baseball is kind of taking a page out of the NBA's book, and creating a 'bubble' with no real home-field advantage, except for some real curious (and for the most part meaningless) changes.

If you watch the A's game Tuesday, notice that some of the signage on the outfield walls at Dodger Stadium have changed. Some of the A's sponsors are there instead of the Dodgers, which likely means they'll be changed again on Wednesday when Houston gets to be the home team. Even the celebrity cardboard cutouts in the front row have been substituted with cutouts of people wearing A's gear. Is this really necessary? I noticed in the NBA Finals (I hadn't been watching up to this point), that they were playing the 'defense' chant when Miami had the ball, and 'Let's Go Lakers' when LA had it. Even the Laker logos were on the floor during the first two games. With the Heat the home team for Game Three, they switched everything out. It has to cost money to do that, right? What a waste.

So the playoffs move on. At least now we're down to four games a day instead of eight, but still with games overlapping. All day games for the A's and Astros at Dodger Stadium which could mean a lot of home runs. It's apparently a law in this country, and probably a right guaranteed by the Constitution, that the Yankees play in prime time, and the Dodgers and Padres will be the late start in Texas. Don't forget about the Braves and Marlins, too. Lot's to watch, and all day every day for a week to do it.

Asterisks: I suppose they had to do this, but network broadcasters were making a lot out of things that realy should be non-stories. It is true that the Miami Marlins had a remarkable season, mostly because they had over half their roster test positive for Covid-19 in early July and had to rework their roster. They did come back and make the playoffs, but only because of the expanded format. The Marlins also ended a 17 year playoff drought thanks to post-season expansion. ESPN's Tim Kurkjian pointed out several times that the Brewers, at 29-31, had the worst record for any playoff team ever. Well yeah. Proof they shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Memorial day: It might be more interesting to listen to (Tuesday's) Dodger game on the radio from this perspective. In addition to Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson passing away this past week, so did two prominent Dodgers. Pitcher, and later pitching coach, Ron Perranoski died Friday night at the age of 84. I'm sure broadcasters Charley Steiner and Rick Monday will have plenty to say about both Gibson and Perranoski, but I hope there's time for Monday to regale us with stories of his former teammate Jay Johnstone, who passed away due to Covid complications at the age of 74. Johnstone hit a big home run in the 1981 World Series, helping lead them to a championship, but it was his personality that he'll be remembered for. Always the prankster, he would pull practical jokes on manager Tommy Lasorda, and, along with Monday, pitcher Jerry Reuss, and catcher Steve Yeager, recorded a version of Queen's We Are the Champions, and even released it as a single under the group name 'Big Blue Wrecking Crew'. I still have the 45, and the song is on YouTube. The singing is absolutely atrocious, which is what makes it so great.

Lighter note: Dodger Stadium organist Dieter Ruehle is very clever when it comes to his tune selection, and you have to listen closely. For example, he played I Saw The Signs when the Astros were in town, and the Hawaii Five-O theme when Mookie Betts does something spectacular (Betts wears number 50). However it was the organist at Wrigley Field that had the best one this week. As the Miami Marlins were taking the field, the song you could hear in the background was the Barnes and Barnes comedy classic Fish Heads.

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