Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Night 1 of MLB's Postseason: National League Observations

I've said this before and I'll say it again: There is no reason to keep baseball's regular season as long as it is. Even the most hardcore fan finds himself (or herself-sources tell me women love a man in a baseball uniform) completely bored by the monotony in mid-August. The NFL, NHL, and NBA have yet to officially start up, so our only options are baseball and the WNBA regular season, which generally has as much excitement and tears as a good nosehair trimming. Not good times.

From a fan's standpoint, there are some arguments that are in favor of keeping the 162-game baseball season as interminable as it is, most of which are concerned with keeping baseball's tradition intact. It is our national pasttime, after all(which is a lie-the NFL took the pasttime title away in the mid-90s). Truthfully, of all the major sports, individual statistics are the most important in baseball. Numbers have turned Gehrig, Ruth, Cobb, Mantle, Williams, and Musial not into simply dead dudes, but mythical gods. Shortening the season makes statistics skewed, something Joe Baseballfan cannot stand. We want records broken and we want Barry Bonds and his cheating numbers surpassed, but with a shortened season, this is less likely to occur.

From the owners' standpoint(and this is the only argument that really matters), it's not rocket science. A shorter season means fewer home games, which means less money. Obviously, a shorter baseball season is not realistic.

So here we are, on the first day of October and well into Autumn, and playoff baseball is just beginning. It's a shame, really. In a 144-game format, the season would be shortened by about 3 weeks. I'm watching Game 1 of Cubs/Dodgers as I'm writing this, and I see fans bundled up with sweatshirts, coats, and blankets, and Ryan Dempster is sporting a playoff beard not as a good luck charm, but as frostbite prevention. When exactly did it become a good idea to end our joyful summer game in 40 degree weather and angry gusts of wind? This is not how baseball's crown should be determined. You think baseball, you think warm weather. Not shivers and stagnant offensive performances. Wow, thank the lord I waited this season out; now I get to watch Milwaukee and Philly combine for 8 hits. Oh, the joy.

As far as the owners are concerned, try to channel whatever's left of the creativity that netted you all that money in the first place. Bolster advertising revenue, or bring in more merchandising and concession sales. Hike the effing ticket prices! I don't care...I only see 2 or 3 games per year in person, anyway. You're only losing 9 home games in all. You still have 72 of them. Shut up and make the changes for the greater good. Baseball is not a cold weather affair, you penny-pinching geezers. Silenced bats and snowfall is bad for this beautiful game. Stop being d-bags and try being fans.

That's ends my rant. Time to cheer up.

Things I Already Hate About MLB on TBS:

On second thought, it looks as though I'm not going to cheer up tonight thanks to TBS's crack squad of marketing personnel. I already want to slice my ears off whenever I see Jon Bon Jovi and Frank Caliendo.

While I'll admit this year's campaign is slightly more tolerable than Dane Cook reminding me hourly that there's only one October, I still find it pretty incredible how quickly I tired of Bon Jovi telling me about his "love" for "this town." The silver lining here is the giggle that I enjoy upon seeing footage of both the Twins and the Mets, two non-playoff teams mysteriously included in TBS's playoff campaign. Enjoy seeing David Wright one last time this year, Mets fans. I hope you choke.

Frank TV has surpassed Lipstick Jungle and One Tree Hill as the TV show I hate most despite having never seen an episode. Will these ads ever end? Definitely not until October 21, when his sketch show finally premieres. It's going to be a great 3 weeks. If Frank keeps this up, his ads might surpass Olive Garden's for the title of "Ad Campaign That Is Intended To Be Funny But Instead Makes Me Grimace and Crumple In Pain As Though My Kidney Had Just Been Shanked."

Phillies 3
Brewers 1

Milwaukee made a great surge to take the NL Wild Card, but it's pretty obvious to me that Round 1 is as far as they're going to go this year. These are the facts:

1. Ben Sheets is done.
2. CC Sabathia has not yet learned to pitch on 0 days rest.
3. If those first 2 facts aren't clear, Milwaukee's starting rotation is screwed.
4. Philadelphia has arms galore and arguably the best 'pen in the playoffs.
5. Milwaukee needs offense to counter their overmatched pitching staff. 1 run on 4 hits is not a good sign for the future.

Of course, with C.C. on the hill in Game 2, anything can happen. With a win tomorrow, the Brewers can turn this into a series. But I don't think it's very likely. Sabathia will be gassed due to the work he's had to do in the past week, so Milwaukee's bullpen might actually be needed in this one. Philadelphia should get to C.C., win Game 2, and wrap the series up in Milwaukee.

Dodgers 7
Cubs 2

I am surprisingly unaffected by this result. It could be because I was watching the game by myself without any rabid fans around me. Or maybe my heart isn't really in this season. Either way, I've always considered myself to be a die-hard Cubs fan. I'm almost positive that I am. I just think I've become so desensitized from Cubs postseason disappointments that I can't get too high or too low anymore. Not sure if that's how every fan's feeling, but that's how it is for me.

Wrigley had an eerie vibe to it tonight; it was obvious even on television. Before DeRosa's home run(he really bombed that one), I could feel a nervousness in the crowd. We as a collective group of Chicago Cubs fans are in an unfamiliar and almost unbelievable position. Eddie Vedder's tune "All the Way" speaks of our beloved Northsiders as underdogs, but in reality, this team is built for a championship and nothing else. The Cubs are the favorites this year, they're the sexy pick and the sympathetic pick. The crowd at Wrigley knows this, and I think that's why they sat on their hands for most of the night. First it was nervousness, and after Loney's grand slam, it was embarrassment that kept them silent.

This 7-2 drubbing will hopefully be a wakeup call for the Cubs. They may be the best team, record-wise, in the NL, but they're certainly not the hottest. That title would likely go to the Dodgers, who are a new team with Manny aboard. And by the way, did you effing see that home run he hit? That was poor Sean Marshall's best curveball, and it even fooled Ramirez! But he kept his hands back despite being off-balance and somehow pulled a low and outside deuce 420 feet. Ridiculous. I hate to say it, but the Cubs appear overmatched. Let's compare the 3-hitters on each team. For LA we have Manny, batting at a .400 clip since he joined the Dodgers while infecting his teammates with some good, old-fashioned love of baseball. The Cubs have "DP" D-Lee, a genuinely good guy who is currently about 15 times more likely to ground into two than he is to go deep.

For the entire season, the Cubs and most of their fans have had a sense of entitlement that comes from knowing the team is talented while also thinking that it's a team of destiny. Because it's the 100 year anniversary of the Cubs' last title, it's only fitting that they win it all in 2008, right?

Tonight was a rude awakening and hopefully a reminder that, shockingly, opposing teams won't be willing to let the Cubs have this one. They need to take it for themselves. The team on the field tonight looked more nervous and scared than the fans in the seats. Dempster refused to challenge Manny and Ethier at any time, which led to Loney's grand slam. Soto, Ramirez, and Lee all passed up delicious 1st or 2nd pitch offerings from Derrick Lowe only to put a bad swing at a ball because they were behind in the count. Soriano went 0-for-5 with a couple K's and a couple unnecessary hops in the outfield. I could have played similar left field for the Cubs tonight.

We need the bats to step up, we need the Cubs to play mean, and we need a HUGE start from Big Z, that psycho nutjob. If we don't get it, we can enjoy being worked over by an NL West team in the opening series for the 2nd straight season. 101 straight years? We're on our way.

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