Sunday, September 28, 2008

One Sixty-Two

It has been a long time since game one sixty-two, the final game of the regular major league baseball season, meant as much or brought as much suspense. I have been glued to televised baseball this weekend and have checked the standings online more times than I can count. Not that the television commentators haven't told me exactly where things stand plenty enough...

Why is the last game of the regular season so exciting? Because as it stands at this moment the American League Central has yet to be decided. The White Sox and the Twins are battling it out to the end. The American League East is sitting undecided. Either the Rays or Red Sox will be the division winner. The loser will be the American League Wild Card. And, perhaps the most exciting is the National League Wild Card race. It comes down to the Brewers and the Mets. If they both win (or lose) today they will have a tie break game tomorrow. If one wins and the other doesn't, there's your winner.

It is absolute craziness!

Where are my loyalties? Well, I don't really have any. The Braves are ending their second season of rebuilding. Second rough season in a row for a team that won their division fourteen years in a row. I am a paradox as a baseball fan. Instead of hating the teams that rival my team in the National League East, I mostly like them all. Love the Nats, love the Phillies, and manage to like the Marlins and Mets most of the time.

There are of course other National League teams outside of the Eastern division that are worth watching. I admire Cubs fans. Admire their loyalty more than anything. It takes a lot to stick with a team that hasn't won a World Series in one hundred years. In the NL Central I don't mind the Astros, less so since Biggio and Beltran left, the Brewers aren't bad, but I can't stand the damn Cardinals. The West is kind of a wash or at least it has been since the Diamondbacks won the World Series. The Rockies had a great run last year, the Dodgers are moving and shaking this season, the Giants were my team for awhile when Will Clark was there, and the Padres are a team I like from time to time.

Whatever indecisiveness (not quite the word to describe it) lies in my loyalties in the National League, I have very certain feelings about the American League.

In the American League East, I can't stand the Yankees. Can't stand Yankees fans. I should like the Red Sox because they are the major rival of the Yanks, but I can't get past the ego of the Red Sox. The Rays haven't been around long enough, the Blue Jays aren't worth watching, and the Orioles are really the only redeemable franchise in that division.

I don't particularly care for anyone in the American League Central. Don't like the White Sox, don't care for the Indians or Twins, haven't ever paid much attention to the Royals, and liked the Tigers as long as Pudge Rodriguez was there.

The American League West presents an interesting conundrum for me this season. I can't help but love the Angels. I've loved Vladimir Guerrero since his days in Montreal and that 502 foot homer he pounded there (I was a huge Montreal Expos fan), so watching him play for the Angels is a pleasure. With the addition of Mark Teixeira to the Angels line-up, despite him leaving my Braves, the Angels have been a power hitting team and one I'd watch as often as possible. Pitching staff is also superb. Add Torii Hunter to the mix and it is, in my opinion, the best team in baseball right now. Never paid much attention to the Rangers or A's. And the Mariners haven't been the same since Mike Cameron and Griffey left, despite what has been an unbelievable career for Ichiro. So, depending on how things look after today, I may be rooting for an American League team in the playoffs. Go figure.

On the final day, with game one sixty-two playing, the only thing we know for certain is the playoffs will be an interesting mix of young and old, fast and powerful. We'll see the Angels, Cubs, Dodgers, Rays, Red Sox, and the Phillies for sure. Will it be the Brewers or Mets? Twins or White Sox?

Update 4:32 p.m. (MST): The Mets collapsed, AGAIN. The Brewers beat the Cubs. Your National League Wild Card winner is the Brew Crew. The Twins and White Sox won. Tomorrow's make-up game against Detroit will determine the AL Central winner. And I'm still not sure what the standings are in the American League East.

When I realized I was rooting for the Brewers for the simple fact that I'd like to see Jason Kendall and Mike Cameron in the playoffs--two guys with limited playing time in their careers left--I decided I should be rooting for the White Sox over the Twins for similar reasons. Wouldn't it be great to see Ken Griffey in the playoffs?

Now, none of what I have said about the Brewers is to discredit the true story here--C.C. Sabathia. The Brewers brought in Sabathia long before the trade deadline to move them into the post season. They spent the cash for a guy they won't have for more than this season. And they spent it well. It's super-human really. He's come out on three days rest for several starts, today's start he also closed, and has given everything he's got. Best trade this season? Certainly the smartest. Manny gave the Dodgers the boost they needed, Bay filled the gap for Boston, and Teixeira energized an entire team, but it is Sabathia who actually carried his team.

Last, but not least in this marathon final day of the regular season post is what ends today. The Yanks, having not secured a place in the playoffs, say goodbye to Yankee Stadium. A whole lot of history there for sure--the first Yankee homer off the bat of the great Babe Ruth, the last off a Yank came from a Molina, Jose to be exact. The Mets say so long to Shea Stadium. I love Shea. I love Shea for the very reasons Chipper Jones (your NL batting champion) loves Shea. Which players are done? A whole bunch of pitchers. I'm guessing Roger Clemens is done for real this time. Quite possibly Curt Schilling, Orlando Hernandez, and even maybe Mike Mussina or Randy Johnson. Will Smoltz be back? How about Maddux? Todd Jones is also gone. J.T. Snow signed a one day contract with the Giants so he could retire at the bay. The Big Hurt, Mr. Frank Thomas, is surely done. For good, for good. Paul Lo Duca probably should retire. Same with Omar Vizquel, though I enjoy watching him.

That's it, folks. The 2008 Major League Baseball regular season has now ended. Bring on the post season!

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