Playoff baseball is a great reminder of many things.
The simple things, like statistics are meant to set up expectations that are subsequently crushed. I’m keeping an imaginary list in my head. So far: The Braves had won Kris Medlin’s last 23 starts, until the Cardinals ended that in the one game playoff last week; the Orioles were 73-0 this season when leading after seven innings, until Raul Ibanez decided to be Raul Fucking Ibanez, in the same breath that some still utter Aaron Fucking Boone.
Wait, there’s more. The Cincinnati Reds hadn’t lost three in a row at home all season, so they decided to take a 2-0 lead home against the Giants and promptly lose all three at the Great American Ballpark; and lastly, Jayson Werth’s last homer was 25 games ago, the most expensive contract in the capital turned lead off man promptly extended the Nats’ season with a walk off home run.
And if you like play on names, Romo had never come up big in the playoffs until that San Francisco Giants reliever came along and did his best Brian Wilson rendition, looks and results both.
In the category of reminders that things still make sense: Alex Rodriguez was pinch-hit for in two straight games at home, with the game in the balance. Somewhere, I’m imagining Barry Bonds getting the same treatment, or put this thought up with your favorite slugger, and I just can’t see it. Only A-Rod. Only in New York. In a few years, we might even be following his chase for the all-time home run record. It’s going to be a Mitchell Report reunion party in 2016. BYON: bring your own needles.
More reassurance came in the form of the Oakland A’s. Still processing the fact that they started a rookie pitcher in over 100 games this season. On the way to reclaiming their position during Billy Beane’s reign as a team that finds a way to come up short in the most excruciating way possible, Coco Crisp provided the blueprint on how to put scapegoat horns on yourself and remove it, a whole DIY manual on the exercise that ultimately ended in defeat.
Because for all the talk about illegal drugs and regression, playoff baseball also reminds me that human limitations still rule the game. Like the fact that it’s impossible to wish that one day it’ll be possible to have a starter pitch every game in a playoff series — somewhere Stephen Strasburg just endorsed this idea with Bryce Harper disagreeing vehemently while smearing eye black all over this thought. Even if you have the best pitcher in the game, you only get a few turns in the rotation, but luckily, two appearances from Justin Verlander was enough.
I have no idea where that last paragraph was going, maybe because sometimes you sit through too many pitching changes in one week that you start to wonder if John Smoltz and Cal Ripken Jr. can find a way to co-exist in the booth, or if Dusty Baker ever actually uses toothpicks for their actual purpose, if Jim Leyland uses up all of his players’ duty-free limits on cigarette cartons when he travels to Toronto to play the Jays, or if somewhere in a cabin in the woods, an aspiring screenwriter is now stuck without a third act to his yet to be completed Moneyball 2 script.
The championship series and World Series will be lots of fun, with no clear cut favorite and a bunch of fun storylines set to clash until some of them become tragic and others keep emerging, these playoffs can only get better.
But we got the full plate in the first round: two play-in games, all four divisional series going the distance and two straight quadruple headers with enough walk-offs and tense moments to make being in front of the TV for twelve hours less of a commitment than it seems: this week might’ve been the best playoff stretch in baseball in awhile.
That is until A-Rod gets pinch hit again.
Glad we still have that running joke to kick around while uncertainty reigns in this crazy tournament.