Dodgers cruise: and Will Smith had five hits this evening. How can we not indulge another fresh batch of baseball Power Rankings? And right before we somehow manage to embrace another sports universe weekend that is more a whopper and a bottleneck than any televisual awesomeness we’ve been witness to previously? The NFL, the NBA Finals, MLS, College Football, and more October baseball. What’s not love? Onward!
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Even on the brink of disaster, and with all their old fail safes dynamited, atomized, or actually on fire, LA somehow makes winning a high stakes playoff game feel routine. Breezy. Not only are the Dodgers a squad with apparently, unlimited depth, but they’re not built anything like Slam Diego who are victims of their own heavy-hitting disequilibrium. In fact, the Dodgers are so well balanced in pitching, defense and hitting, and formulaically dominant and calm and deft during a season that has been anything but simple and easy, I feel like I’m watching gentle waves eclipse the inevitable high tide instead of a premier baseball team compete and complete another installment in what is the frenetic drama of the new San Diego sand castle ball club collapsing before the ocean wins via its reliable volume once more. Now, four of the last five National League Championship Series’ have featured the now, eight-time consecutive National League West division winner Los Angeles Dodgers.
Can you imagine how David Price feels right now?
This is what I Tweeted Wednesday evening during the climax of LA’s Game Two triumph over the sputtering Slam Diego rally in the ninth.
“The recent national reemergence of “tough s*&%” late innings Joe Kelly during a Jansen meltdown sponsored by a dormant “SlamDiego,” was pure drama. A crystalline vantage of the dominant themes from the beginning of the regular season, Fernando Tatis on deck, two outs (part 1)
“I thought, (pt 2) baseball is the best sport in America again. The story line is the definitive standard of collision, and hype, primarily hype. One run scores. Two runs on three hits. Jansen gone. Dave Roberts calls in Joe Kelly from the bullpen to face Tatis. Pure drama.
“(Part 3) Tatis walks. Machado up. The gravity of this season sits with former Dodger, Machado, who once told Dodgers fans the Padres would win a WS before LA. Go ahead run on first now.
“(Part 4) Machado’s laid back swing is astonishing, fluid, beautiful.
“(Part 5) hard breaking sliders spitting chunks in the dirt every time Kelly lunges to the plate.
“(Part 6) Machado’s contract discussed at length.
“(Part 7) count full, runners going…
“(Part 8) ball four. Bases loaded. WOW.
“(Part 9) hosmer chasing… uh oh
“(Part 10) just remembered they’re playing in Texas… jesus.
“Final Play: Ground ball to second. Dodgers escape. Classy.”
That’s it. The Dodgers are classy. And too classy to miss out on the forthcoming World Series. Breezy.
2. Atlanta Braves: Another no frills and very dominant post season performance from the best team not named the Los Angeles Dodgers. They disposed of the upstart and surprising and very strange Florida Marlins with no hitches, no mistakes, and no major gaffes from their pitching or defense. And Braves Catcher, Travis D’Arnaud’s OBP for the Florida series was just shy of .700. It’s not even fun to watch. Yes, it is. Who am I kidding? They’re superb. The Braves outscored the Marlins, 18-5 over three games. But the Marlins scored all of their runs in Game One. I said before the abbreviated season began the Atlanta Braves would win the WS. And something tells me they’re not in danger of falling short, except for that team called the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, barring some sort of Slam Diego rally, much like SD’s first series win this post season against the Cardinals, the NLCS will feature the deepest, most well-balanced post season rosters we’ve perhaps ever seen. I’m thrilled.
3. New York Yankees: For better or worse, this team epitomizes fireworks. It’s all bombs, bombs, and bombs. Stanton, Wednesday. Voight, Thursday. But mostly Stanton’s Grand Slam in Game one. Small downside, Gerrit Cole is nowhere near as dominant as he was last season, allowing more home runs this season, proportionally, than any other regular season. And should they move on, the Astros might present a serious set of problems for Cole and the Bronx Bombers. Last year, Altuve knew what Chapman was going to throw before he made a motion to the plate. The same is true this year, should New York survive Tampa Bay.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays never have the money for big free agent signings. Now would have been a great time to deploy an Ace starter or an extra slugger, had they acquired any, or had the resources for such a move. But much like last year, they’re scrappy, but dreadfully inconsistent, as the Yankees have retooled and reloaded and made all the right adjustments. The Rays are frustrating for many fans across the country because they will look solid one night and abysmal another, and then flat-out weird during crucial moments in big games sometimes. And what can I say? They’re unpredictable. Or maybe they’re just innovative. The Tampa Bay Times’s Marc Topkins wrote the other day, “San Diego – It’s weird.” Because it is! The Rays will try new stuff constantly, using openers over starters with a trip to the ALCS on the line, which is well, just unreal, kind of gonzo. With that, I must add – this is not a shortcut to get out of talking about their bizarre play in San Diego, this segment is actually worth your time. Just check this link out if for any reason the current extra-efficient roster’s performance leads one to believe this isn’t the absolute weirdest and zaniest team in the history of baseball. The rabbit hole awaits.
5. Oakland Athletics: Their bullpen was lights out all year until they crossed paths with the, at least through the regular season, woefully underperforming Houston Astros offense, this week. Seems as if some sort of monstrous reversal took place in their series with Houston. And then launch angles and exit velocities be dammed, they found a way to win at least one of their games despite the obvious resurgence of the unrepentant Houston Astros sign stealing antics. The math supports my accusations. It’s blatant and egregious and disgusting. How do the Astros not know we know what they’re doing? It’s too brazen! So I’ve slotted Bob Melvin’s club here mostly out of spite in Thursday’s immediate aftermath of the single most extreme instance of degenerate post season baseball stratagems used since the height of the home run record smashing steroid era.
But not all is lost! Since the A’s lost the series today, and there season ended way too early. Here are some riffs on a sort of throwback to another time when the A’s saw their talented rosters done playing baseball way too early. Not exactly a sort of unrelated silver lining, but this Oakland A’s nostalgia nugget is fun to chew on with the Astros advancing.
We’re at a strange intersection of media and sports during the pandemic. Everything overlaps. And the current overwhelming stockpile of uploaded internet archive footage is robust like never before, and therefore some of this old footage has fond a hot spot on TikTok. Where I saw again for the first time in a long time, something you need to see if you’re a big baseball nerd like I am – it’s wild, and beautiful, and just dig around, and go find Barry Zito’s breaking ball highlights.
Here is a preview of what you’ll find.
Long ago, as a young M’s fan, when Barry Zito played for the A’s, there was no opposing pitcher I wished I could resemble more when I took the mound myself. I never could because Zito was perfect, poetic, and potent, the type of untouchable moonshot breaking ball savant I remember a lot of my friends wishing they could mimic, and believe me, we tried throwing his curves in wiffleball too.
Now, another tangent, in the next week, “Moneyball” is returning to Netflix. Upon receiving this news last night, I had what I won’t call an epiphany, but: I’ve recently learned how time passing reveals that it’s too easy to bluff a subjective essay on The Oakland Athletics and pretend one knows all about Barry Zito’s unbelievably crystal clear, and televisually excellent, optical sales point: His pitching mechanics. And that’s just another great reason why it’s so vitally important we remember, at any time, we absolute can dive back through Zito’s highlights, when he was the best bang for buck starter I can remember during the absolute fever of the Cy Young winner’s deep breaking pitches on TV.
Side excursions into the collective A’s baseball franchise’s footage from SportsCenter & Baseball Tonight, I found on Youtube after TikTok reveals that with no uncertain limitation on any number of addendum, I can finally admit that around the house I’m kind of halfway turning inside out the already culturally appropriated, Gen-Z slang, and TikTok hashtag centric, and derivations of new phrases too, “It’s the blank (“ridiculous curveball”) for me,” to remedy the friendship annihilating sour insult parodies online, and the, “Insert (blank [for me: Aaron Sorkin and the private majesty of “Moneyball”]day dreams that are dominating my recent nostalgia and procrastination during the fluctuating, and alleged final stage of the early pandemic’s major seasonal arc, just before a contradictory and forewarned slaughter during the upcoming shuttered holiday season, for me.
With that being said, it is an absolute atrocity the A’s won their first major playoff series only to lose to an inferior team with a spot in the ALCS now because they possessed no shame in how they conduct themselves on the diamond when the whole of the MLB knows of their disrespect for baseball’s legacy, and a legacy that includes the all-too-pure Barry Zito’s curveball footage.
6. Houston Astros: They’re cheating. Anyone who says otherwise is not paying attention or is willfully oblivious to the facts. The ‘Stros do not deserve a spot in the ALCS. But there they are…moving on…so, anyway. Good job with (not really) getting away with it, I guess?
7. San Diego Padres: It was a sloppy middle third of the week. Bloop singles becoming easy slide doubles; the Padres will, if not tonight, then soon, mosey on home without anyone forgetting how much fun it was for the Friars and all of us baseball aficionados when things were good, and then how demoralizing it was as every single one of their pitchers, it seemed, fell to pieces. This was the best SD squad in franchise history. The power hitting alone, Machado, Tatis, Meyers, Hosmer, Pham, Cronenworth and more, in this revamped and very new era of long balls or bust over everything, is enough to fuel the off-season hype machine. There is a strong chance next year’s Padres will find a way through to the NLCS and the World Series. And I can’t wait.
8. Florida Marlins: Always, always, always there is one team we’ll spot thrashing for advantages in the post season, though we collectively know, but typically do not say aloud, one of these teams is not like the others. The Marlins went from setback to setback without any obvious loss of enthusiasm, which is what Churchill defined as success. The bizarre campaign featured a bastion of players most of us had never heard of, nor will most likely ever see again, featured in as much a spotlight of a regular big league appearances and games again in just about the correct type of jarring action I expected from but could not predict which ball club would produce as the regular season plans for the MLB were concretized after months of pointlessly finicky bickering. Baseball teams make plans and the Baseball Gods laugh heartily. Hats off to Jeter for finding a way to make his team competitive for an extended stretch this October.