Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baseball's Insufflation

Two weeks without any posts. Not a nice way to treat a perfectly good blog.

As I've indicated a few times recently, my life is pretty hectic right now, at least relative to my past periods of prosperous blog posting. In the slivers of free time that I do have, my writing has been confined to notebook scribbles so as to keep my writing game sharp. I had hoped to start a monumental study and breakdown of Ulysses here at this blog by now but I've got a few things I'd like to get out of the way first and they're moving along very slowly.

Three straight weeks of family visitors certainly threw me off too, though it was nice to see familiar faces. As great as Austin has been to me thus far, I haven't made any real friends because I haven't really socialized all that much. Although, in an incredible example of synchronicity, a good friend of mine from San Diego who I had drifted away from in the months before moving to Austin actually relocated at the exact same time and now lives about 10 minutes up the road from me.

The baseball season's progressively dramatic developments have kept me occupied as well. Weeks ago I had drafted a blogpost about the complete lack of drama and close pennant races in baseball at the time and my conclusion was to be that, no matter how bad things look, somebody would inevitably make things interesting for us. Parallel epic collapses by the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves (whose franchise, incidentally, originated in Boston) plus resiliency on the part of the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals have created as exciting a final day of the season that we could have ever possibly hoped for.

As I type this, the Wild Card races in both leagues look like this:

AL Wild Card
Red Sox 90-71
Tampa Bay 90-71

NL Wild Card
Braves 89-72
Cardinals 89-72

All four teams play tonight in four separate games and if the results don't yield a clear winner in both instances, we would see an extra one-game playoff tomorrow to decide the winner. Needless to say, it doesn't get any better than this.

For me, the NL race features two teams I don't like at all. The Braves are mortal enemies of the Mets but that doesn't bother as much as the stupidity of their manager, Fredi Gonzalez. One could write a lengthy piece detailing his numerous managerial transgressions throughout the year but it's enough to mention that he blatantly fails to put his best team on the field often and perpetuates the most idiotic bullpen strategies this side of... Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals manager. The Cardinals are no friends to the Mets either but, again, it's the manager that ticks me off the most. Since the Braves are a beaten down, limping team right now I'll prefer to see the Cardinals surpass them so at least they can be a viable contender in the playoffs.

As for the American League, I was sucked into rooting for the Red Sox during their incredible run in 2004 and had been rooting for them in all of their gargantuan battles with the Yankees over the years. That they employ Bill James and generally follow an intelligent, sabermetric approach to building their team has always appealed to me. Ever since reading Moneyball way back in 2003 (if I ever get to see the movie, I'll certainly share my thoughts on it here) I've had a strong fascination with the A's and other teams that employ statistical measures to team-building and the Red Sox certainly brought all that stuff to its highest peaks with their two championships in four years. But lately they've too closely resembled the Yankees and their distasteful tactic of throwing bags of cash at the best players on the open market.

On the other hand, the Rays, with their minuscule budget, have become a Moneyball East type of operation. Except their task is much more daunting having to play in a division with two deep-pocketed powerhouses and even the perpetually competitive Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays have a number of exciting young players (I'm starting to realize Evan Longoria might be my favorite player in the league) and even an eclectic manager.

I would love to see the Rays win, in fact, I'd love to see them win and then carry on to a World Series victory (perhaps a rematch of the 2008 Fall Classic against the Phillies?) but the scenario I most prefer to see would be both the Rays and Red Sox winning today and then playing an epic one-game playoff on Thursday. Same with the Cards and Braves. To nobody's surprise, all four teams have their best pitcher on the mound for today's game. I'll be watching intently and hoping the season drags the excitement out for as long as possible.

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