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October 11, 2005

Prospectus Matchups

Ranting and Raving

by Jim Baker

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  • During last night's Game Five, we were told that the Yankees had sent Jaret Wright, a non-roster player in the ALDS, to Chicago to prepare for the next round of the playoffs. I've got a serious problem with the way teams are allowed to change their rosters between playoff series. I think there is something untoward about allowing clubs to customize their rosters as the need arises. This is the playoffs, man--the real deal! Teams should be made to set their rosters when the season ends and survive all 19 games (if that's what it takes) with that group of players. The only exception should be for legitimate, verifiable injuries. (We don't want ever want to revisit the Mike Andrews situation from the 1973 World Series.)

  • What should have been Jason Giambi's first clue not to throw home on Darin Erstad's roller in the third inning of last night's game? The fact that Jorge Posada had not bothered to discard his mask. If the catcher doesn't clear for action, there's no point in getting him the ball.

  • Have you had your fill of the practice of some players of wearing crappy-looking headgear? Trot Nixon's hat, Orlando Cabrera's batting helmet--you can file these under pure affectation. Do they think it makes them look scrappy? "Oh, look at me! I'm a rough and tumble sort who can't be bothered to wear a clean hat." This isn't some industrial league where you have to buy your own equipment. Spare me.

  • I can relate to what happened to Bubba Crosby after his collision with Gary Sheffield. The trainer hustled out and gave Sheffield all his attention, pretty much ignoring poor Bubba. I was on the soccer team briefly in high school. I didn't play much and never got past JV, being hindered by a lack of foot speed and any kind of skills. There was a guy on the team named Hessler (or something equally Germanic) who had been playing in local versions of the Bundesliga since birth. In practice one day, Hessler and I collided, smashing our knees together. The coach ran over and asked him a thousand times if he was OK. He helped him up and brought him to the sidelines. I, on other hand, couldn't move. My knee was, for lack of a proper medical diagnosis, stunned. The coach blew his whistle to get the action going again, but I was still laid out.

    "Baker!" he yelled. "Kindly clear the field so we can resume practice!" I obliged and managed to crawl off the field.

    I would say that the difference between my talent level and Hessler's was, relatively speaking, equal to the gap between Crosby's and Sheffield's. So, while you may have been surprised that the trainer didn't bother with Bubba, I certainly wasn't.

  • Speaking of Crosby, his off-line throw in the third was unremarkable because of its remarkable predictability. Doesn't it seem as though most throws from the outfield come in a good piece up either baseline? Seriously, how often does an outfielder get a throw to the catcher in a manner that allows him to make a play? Maybe I'm wrong, but I would sure like to see this counted. If my perception turns out to be right, I will have to rethink my long-standing predilection for conservative baserunning.

  • The season starts with 512 possible World Series outcomes. That figure is arrived at simply, by multiplying 14 American League teams by 16 National and multiplying by two because there are two possible outcomes in a World Series. While it can be argued that we can eliminate the possibilities of such Series pairings as Colorado over Kansas City and Kansas City over Colorado before the season even starts, the right thing to do is let them play their games as scheduled. When the season is finished, the list is down to a far more workable 32 outcomes.

    24 of those possibilities are killed off in the League Divisional Series, leaving us now with just eight. With the possible exception of the St. Louis-Los Angeles matchups, none of these eight seemed at all likely when the season began--which is sort of what we want. After all, we can't have a fait accomplis in the World Series every year. Here are the eight possible outcomes that will crown the 2005 season:

    St. Louis over Los Angeles/Los Angeles over St. Louis: Is it bad mojo to win it all and then blow up your stadium? It's never been done before.

    St. Louis over Chicago/Chicago over St. Louis: Two teams that have been playing simultaneously for 105 seasons and they have never before met in the World Series. There hae only been a handful of times they have come anywhere close: In 1963, they both finished in second place, but the Sox were 10.5 games out and the Cardinals six. The next year, the Cards represented the National League, and Chicago finished second again, just one game behind the Yankees. In 1967, the Cards again went to the World Series. That year, the White Sox were the first team to blink in a four-team race eventually won by Boston. Chicago finished fourth, but just three games back. In the multi-division era, they've only had one near encounter and that came in 2000 when both qualified for the playoffs. The White Sox bowed in the first round, though, and the Cardinals signed off in the second.

    Chicago over Houston/Houston over Chicago: The drought series. Never versus nearly forever. The matchup with the guaranteed feel-good result.

    Los Angeles over Houston/Houston over Los Angeles: If the Angels end up playing the Astros in the World Series, it will be the first time ever that two teams added in the expansion era will have met for the championship. It has happened a number of times in the LDS and LCS, but never in the Series.

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