On to the League Championships!

On to the League Championships!
So we move on the League Championship Series. The two top teams, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies, are gone, both victims of offensive brown-outs at the most inconvenient times. Both of those big-payroll teams are going to take long, hard looks at themselves in the off-season. For the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks and their hard-nosed manager Kirk Gibson: a hearty well-done. They arose from the cellar and a 97-loss season in 2010 to 94 wins and a divisional crown, dethroning the reigning World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. They brought a lot of life to the desert!

And for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Little Engine That Could, another amazing chapter in even making the post-season. It’s disappointing that their community isn’t providing the kind of support the team deserves; certainly a more convivial ballpark in a more favorable location would do them a world of good. In the current economy, good luck with that. In the meantime, they continue to do amazing things with the smallest payroll in the toughest division in baseball.

The League Championship Series combatants will warm the country’s heartland during the colder October nights, which may not be great for the television ratings but will likely result in some compelling baseball and fascinating storylines. Will the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals rekindle their Fall Classic acquaintances from 1934, 1968 and 2006? Will the Texas Rangers reach their second consecutive World Series? Will the Milwaukee Brewers reach their first final round since Harvey’s Wallbangers of 1982?

Will Albert Pujols be playing his last game at Busch Stadium? Will Prince Fielder be giving his swan-song at Miller Park? The individual dramas are going to be played out on the game’s grandest stage.

For one, I am happy to see Justin Verlander continue to ply his trade. He is the best pitcher in baseball right now, an awesome presence who combines power and finesse. He was a rookie the last time he got to the World Series, and he and the Tigers were taken advantage of by the under-dog and opportunistic Cardinals, who once again find themselves in that role.

Meanwhile, fans in The Hub will have to content themselves watching two discarded stars, Victor Martinez of the Tigers and Adrian Beltre of the Rangers continue to play while the imported eminences failed to deliver an anticipated playoff berth. Baseball is not in and of itself about irony, but irony nonetheless abounds in the game and gives a wash of chiaroscuro that at once limns and illuminates.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the next round as long into the night crucial matchups and amazing turnabouts are provided for our enjoyment.

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