It's getting late on Saturday night. Baseball's regular season has about 18 hours to go and the Seattle Mariners are trailing the Oakland A's 7-4 in the seventh inning. They score three runs to tie, keeping their playoff hopes alive, and also a mathematical possibility of a four-way tie for the two American League wild card spots. The M's would lose, and even with six meaningful games on Sunday, no tiebreakers would be needed, and baseball would take Monday off.
Since baseball's post-season expanded in 2012, only one extra game has been needed. Texas and Tampa Bay tied for the second AL wild card in 2013, the Rangers won the one-game playoff in Arlington, and advanced to another one-game playoff, known as the wild card, and beat Cleveland. The Boston Red Sox, though, would win the World Series.
This year, however, it seemed almost mathematically impossible that there wouldn't be some sort of tie to break. With a day and a half to go, four teams were vying for two AL spots, but just two days earlier, seven teams were alive for three playoff positions, and that's just in the American League. To make things even more interesting, Detroit and Cleveland were rained out earlier in the week, and would have to make up the game Monday if there were any playoff implications. Detroit lost on Sunday, Toronto beat Boston, and Cleveland defeated Kansas City, and that was the end of that. And that's just the American League.
In the National League, neither the Mets, Giants, nor Cardinals seemed to want to play October baseball, but two of them had to. New York secured the first wild card on Saturday, and the Giants, by beating the Dodgers, got at least a tie for the second wild card. If the Giants lost, and the Cards won, there'd have to be an extra game. There wasn't.
If this has been any other regular season, the focus would be on six different games. Because of a little incident involving the Cardinals two years ago, all games on the final day of the season now start at the same time (Pittsburgh lost early in the day with St. Louis playing a later game at Arizona. The Pirates lost, clinching the division for the Cardinals, who then pulled their starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, in a now-meaningless game), and the remote (and the networks) would be getting a workout. But with the Giants trying to get that second wild card, and the Dodgers broadcaster saying goodbye after 67 years, all ears were tuned to Vin Scully.
The Dodgers radio network simulcast all nine innings of Vin's telecast. San Francisco radio carried the third inning, and TBS and the MLB Network would jump in here and there. If you had the cable package, you could watch the whole broadcast, except in northern California, Giants territory, where it was blacked out.
In rivalries, there are some that incite the battle, and others that are exempt from it. For years (well before my time), mention Juan Marichal or John Roseboro, and you get instant hatred of the other team, whichever side of the fence you stood on. But guys like Willie McCovey even made Dodger fans smile with respect and admiration.
You can quadruple that admiration when it comes to Scully. A plaque commemorating his final broadcast is now in the San Francisco press box. Scully's arms were around Wilie Mays during an in-game ceremony, and fans serenaded Vin with Take Me Out to the Ball Game during the seventh inning stretch.
Scully has told the story many times this season, that he was a Giants fan growing up. He lived 20 blocks from the Polo Grounds, and one day as a kid, he saw the score posted in a Chinese laundry, that the Giants lost game two of the World Series to the New York Yankees by a score of 18-4. He said he felt sorry for the Giants and became a Giants fan, until he got his big career break, and was hired by the Dodgers in 1950. Sunday was 80 years to the day of that World Series game and the day he saw the score in the window.
His final Dodger Stadium broadcast was last week. Charlie Culberson hit the walkoff home run that clinched the division, Scully sang Wind Beneath My Wings, and champagne corks started popping. It was a real Hollywood ending. In San Francisco, on his final day behind a microphone, the Giants, his boyhood favorite franchise, made the playoffs by beating the Dodgers handily 7-1. Scully is likely happy with the result. He said he would root for the Giants in the wild card game, but Dodger fans don;t likely see that score as the way to end the 67 year tale that has been the story of all of our lives, not just his. Scully felt sorry for those 1936 Giants, but how about this alternate ending? To complete the 80 year circle, where Scully first saw that score in the window, how about if Giants had once again lost 18-4? Dodger fans will be happy to settle for Culberson's home run a week earlier, and 67 years of wonderful memories.
Best laid plans (as Scully might say): With the entire Vin Scully final broadcast not available in northern California (blacked out because it's considered an 'in market' game, meaning to protect the Giants broadcast), I was trying to figure out how to see the game. I thought it would be a great gesture to drive to Palmdale and watch it with my mother, who has been in love with Scully for decades. It could be a family moment, a mother-son memory. She was excited, of course, so what happens? She slept through most of the game. When she woke up, she asked me if she missed “anything interesting”. How the heck am I supposed to answer that? She did see the final signoff, though, and I didn't even have to look at her to know to pass her the box of tissue.
Mom on Vin: Everyone who has ever listened to Scully has a story to tell, but my mom's has a pretty good generational perspective. When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, she was furious. She loved the minor league Hollywood Stars, and knew that they and their rival, the Los Angeles Angels, would be going away. She didn't want anything to do with the Dodgers, until, of course, she heard Scully.
Start times: The start times for the first week of the playoffs have been announced, and as expected, the Cubs seem to be getting the prime slots. Both wild card games start at 5pm Pacific Time with the American League game (Baltimore at Toronto) Tuesday on TBS and the National League Game (Giants at Mets) Wednesday on ESPN. Thursday, the American League Division series begins on TBS with the AL Wild Card winner at 1:30pm, followed by Boston at Cleveland at 5pm. Friday is the messy day on the schedule with four games, and it's even messier this year because there are no home teams on the west coast. That means two games on at the same time. The AL games are first (wild card at Texas Game #2, 10am, TBS, followed by Boston at Cleveland Game #2, 1:30pm, TBS). The Dodgers-Washington series starts at 2:30pm on FS1, followed by Giants/Mets winner at Cubs at 6pm on FS1). Saturday is an NL doubleheader with Dodgers-Nationals Game #2 at 1:30pm on FS1, with wild card-Cubs on MLB Network at 5. Sunday has the ALDS Game #3s on TBS with Cleveland-Boston at 1pm, and Rangers-wild card at 4:30. Bottom line in California. The Dodgers are on at 2:30pm Friday and 1pm Saturday. If the Giants beat the Mets, they'll be on at 6pm Friday and 5pm Saturday. The Saturday game, though, is on MLB Network.
Fantasy glory: My fantasy team (the Yuba River Yawhoos) took first place in my 12-team online league this year. It's just my second title in 10 years. My team was really good (guys like Bryce Harper, Todd Frazier, Corey Seager, Kyle Seager, Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta just to name a few). They dominated the first half, sucked in the second, barely made the playoffs on the final week, and then won it all. I hate to say it, but kind of like the Giants. Hopefully except for that last part.
Political humor: I'm sorry, but this was too funny to pass up, no matter which side your political leanings fall. Larry David as Bernie Sanders during a Family Feud sketch on this weekend's season premiere of Saturday Night Live. On why he is supporting Hillary, David (as Sanders) said, “Senator Clinton is the prune juice of this election. She might not seem that appetizing, but if you don't take her now, you're going to be clogged with crap for a very long time.”