Are we agreed that Wednesday, September 30, 2011 was the greatest last day of the season ever? I can’t imagine anything ever remotely like it, with four critical games involving six potential playoff teams. The drama was intense, with three of those games going down to last at-bats and two going extra innings. Only the St. Louis Cardinals decided to drain the drama from their game with a five-run outburst against the lowly Houston Astros in the first inning.
For those complaining about the baseball season being “too long”, I humbly submit Game 162 of the 2011 season in rebuttal. Let’s also consider how the decision to expand the playoffs by adding an extra team in 2012 would have affected that evening’s outcomes: both the Boston Red Sox, and Atlanta Braves, who blew huge leads and missed October, would have been in. There would have been almost no drama save determining match-ups. Having gotten the nation’s attention in a way that has escaped it in many of the previous oh-so-many seasons, should Major League Baseball discard that talisman so cavalierly? Think about it, Mr. Commissioner.
As I write this we are awaiting the commencement of the ALDS series tonight, with the Texas Rangers hosting the Tampa Bay Rays in a rematch of a fine first-round series from 2010, only this time the Rangers have home-field…last season that was poison in this series, as the visitors won each and every game. The Detroit Tigers travel to the Bronx to face the New York Yankees, in a rematch of the 2006 Division Series, when Los Tigres shocked the Bombers before going on to beat the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS to reach their first World Series since 1984. This strikes me as a better Tigers team, with better pitching than the Yankees feature this season.
In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies will host the St. Louis Cardinals starting tomorrow afternoon; the Cardinals visited Philadelphia just two weeks ago and took three of four, putting themselves on their final trajectory and sending the Phillies to a dispiriting eight-game losing streak. Pundits point out that the Cards handed the Phillies a 6-3 series drubbing but keep in mind the one game where the Phillies fielded their regular lineup was the clinching game they won; the next two nights were scrubs and call-ups and in fact the Phils fielded their regulars against the Redbirds very few times this past season..
Congratulations to the Milwaukee Brewers, who captured their first divisional gonfalon since 1982 when they were in the American League East. That team, “Harvey’s Wallbangers”, has many similar features to this year’s Brew Crew who feature the likes of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. They will feature the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks, who dethroned last year’s World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. Again recalling the 1980’s, any team with Kirk Gibson (1984 Tigers, 1988 Dodgers) was dangerous in the post-season.
If you’re a fan of one those teams, have fun. And if you’re not, come along for the ride anyway! It’s the best time of the year.