We're just about halfway through the postseason, if our finger-counting math is right, so we figured we'd toss out a few top-of-mind reactions that we've had to what's rolled out so far.
As much as we've enjoyed the first round-and-a-half of October baseball, we seem to be focused on the shortcomings of the teams. It's not that we want to be a wet blanket about the teams who remain, but rather, it makes us respect how hard the game of baseball is and how much failure you have to be ready to withstand as a fan.
Even good teams look bad sometimes: Not that we're insinuating that each of the remaining clubs should be the picture of a perfectly crafted and balanced franchise, but when we see each of the four teams, we notice just how many weak spots are present. The Brewers' top of the lineup is funny-ha-ha (Nyjer? Kotsay? Those are your tablesetters for Prince/Braun?), their defense is porous, and they've pretty much wrung the lifeforce completely out of Shaun Marcum.
The Rangers' starting pitching seems sketchier now than it did in the regular season, and most of their lineup seems to be walking wounded. Which is more than we can say for the Tigers, who we occasionally forget are without Carlos Guillen and Brennan Boesch, which explains how a team has made it to within six wins of a World Championship with Andy Dirks and Don Kelly getting regular playing time.
As begrudging as we are to admit it -- given our distaste for Tony LaRussa and his dubious mythology -- the Cardinals may be a lot stronger than we'd imagined when they snuck into the playoffs on the weakness of the Atlanta Braves' shredded bullpen arms. It's not that the Cards blow us away (outside of Albert Pujols, naturally), but they also don't seem to have the glaring holes that we see in the Brewers or Tigers.
Okay, Skip Schumacher playing centrefield isn't exactly stellar. But you get the broader point, right?
If we were the type who traded in perpetual exasperated disdain, we're sure that the relative weakness of some of these playoff teams as compared to the Jays would drive us crazy. But we're really pretty chill about this now. Although the plan to cultivate "all-stars at every position" probably still makes sense for the local team, it strikes us that it is possible to win with some flawed players. If only they could get themselves out of the AL East.
Pedestrian playoff heroes: Further to the focus on all-stars, we get so focused on superstars and their acquisition throughout the season that we sometimes forget how fun it is to see the admin and support staff step up at this time of year. Don Kelly? We seriously thought he was a fictional player generated by our MLB video game until a week or so ago. Jerry Hairston? He's a guy we pick up in deep mixed rotisserie leagues, mostly because of his multiple position eligibility.
It just struck us last night that the NLCS is a rematch of the 1982 World Series, which is one of the first that we can remember watching with a fair degree of interest, having chosen to root for Robin Yount and the Brewers. And the one thing that we took away from that year's championship series was that an average player like the massively bespectacled Darrell Porter can have a great couple of games in October, and be remembered forever for them.
So obviously, we're putting a fin down on Yorvit Torrealba to be this year's World Series MVP.
Hooray for the schedulemaker (and Mother Nature): Some of the relative weakness of the rosters that has been drawn out through the past few weeks has to do with the mercifully compressed schedule and the weather delays and postponements. Playoff teams are having to dig further into their pitching staffs (see Kyle Lohse versus Randy Wolf, for instance), and benches (George Kottaras, personal catcher for Randy Wolf).
Where travel days and extra days off to sync up with television schedules allowed teams to rest their bullpens and recycle three starting pitchers all the way through the World Series, we're happy to see teams required to dig into their roster depth to win. (We'd attribute part of the Yankees' downfall to the fact that they had so little starting pitching depth, and only managed to get 8.2 innings out of CC Sabathia through the five game series.)
People can look back fondly on the 2001 champion Diamondbacks and appreciate the extent to which two really good starting pitchers like Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling could carry a team in the playoffs. But from our perspective, it's more fun to have to see a manager pull Phil Coke or Scott Feldman out to pitch important innings.
Managers, schmanagers: We'll confess to having consciously taken an amiable, happy-go-lucky tack when it comes to this year's playoffs, so we don't wring our hands and pound our fists on the upholstery with every managerial decision this post-season. But considering the near-constant uproar that we see on Twitter through the games and in the day-after analysis, we're led to make this conclusion: All four managers remaining in the playoffs are terrible.
Again, we don't necessarily espouse this opinion ourselves. But given the many people who are much smarter than me and, we gather, the remaining bench bosses, it appears that it's pure happenstance and lucky fumbling into success that has allowed Ron Washington, Jim Leyland, Ron Roenicke and Tony LaRussa to outlast their brethren. It's as though Chauncey Gardiner wandered from the grounds crew into the dugout in four different cities, and proclaimed "I like to manage."
This being the case, we wonder: How good or bad a manger is John Farrell? And does it matter? Because if any imbecile can manage a team through to the end of October, we're more than willing to offer up our own services. We imagine we'd look smashing in a pair of baseball pants and a windbreaker.