The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


More Fun Than a Barrel Full of Rabid, Knife-Wielding Monkeys

With the Dodgers idle after Sunday's second Nomar Garciaparra walkoff of the week -- NOMAAAAAAH! -- this one a grand slam to close out the regular-season schedule in Chavez Ravine, Monday night was a helluva night for scoreboard watching as I finished the week's Hit List. The NL playoff picture, in particular, is more fun than a barrel full of monkeys. Rabid, knife-wielding monkeys intent on stabbing one in the stomach with rusty blades, at that.

With the Phillies a half-game up on the Dodgers in the Wild Card race and playing the Astros, I had that game on and was following along, cursing as Jimmy Rollins broke open a 2-2 game with a two-run homer. Meanwhile I was eyeing ESPN's scoreboard page, where I spied the NL West-leading Padres jump out to an early 5-1 lead on the Cardinals, who came into the game having lost five straight. With the score cut to 5-2, I told my wife, "Call St. Louis collect and tell them to stop sucking!"

No sooner had I said that when I saw that Jim Edmonds, who hadn't played in four weeks due to post-concussion syndrome, had apparently hit a three-run homer to tie the game. I didn't actually see the bomb live, mind you, but I watched the scoreboard page refreshed with his name in the homer column, and quickly flipped the channel to watch the replay.

No sooner had Edmonds and I pumped fists in unison as he rounded first base than I sat back down and saw that the Astros had re-tied the game in the seventh on a two-run single by Orlando Palmeiro. Figuring that I'd done a good job of not jinxing things by actually missing the key plays, I went back to the Hit List and discovered on my next glance two minutes later -- I don't have a very long attention span these days, and who wants to watch a Brad Ausmus at-bat, even on GameCast? -- that Mike Lamb had singled in the go-ahead run. "Everything is coming up Milhouse!" I wrote in an instant message.

Meanwhile, the Yankees -- who needs to watch them in these post-clinch days, especially against the Devil Rays -- were pounding the living snot out of poor Tampa Bay 12-1. Glancing at the box score, I patted myself on the back for skipping over a laudatory comment about Jae Seo's recent work as he'd been torched for eight runs, including two three-run homers in the first by Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui, in 1.2 innings. Feh, Mark Hendrickson can do that.

That wasn't the only blowout going on at the time, either. I checked in on the White Sox via GameCast; they were down 14-1 in the seventh, while the Twins, whose magic number to reach the postseason coming into Monday was at two, led the Royals 3-1 in the sixth. Clickety-clack on the IM: "I see that the World Championship has called Ozzie Guillen in the visitors dugout of Jacobs and told him that it's time for them both to see other people."

By this point I'd surrendered the TV to Andra so she could tape Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, so I spent another hour flipping back and forth on the GameCast as I closed out the Hit List. The AL picture tidied itself up with the White Sox elimnation, leaving only the Central title to be decided between the Tigers and Twins. Meanwhile, the Phils lost, moving the Dodgers into a tie for the Wild Card (wohoo!), but the Padres managed to break the tie in the seventh with a Brian Giles double and a Mike Piazza single, and even with Trevor Hoffman sitting this one out as Scott Linebrink closed out Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen, they never looked back.

As the game wound down, I outlined various NL playoff scenarios via IM for a friend with Mets tickets:

• If the Phillies win the Wild Card, the Mets play either the NL Central or NL West winner, whichever has a worse record. The most surprising result of last night's play is that the slumping Cardinals' lead over surging Houston (whom I roundly dismissed in the previous two Hit Lists) has dwindled to 2.5 games with seven to go (six for the 'Stros). Right now the Baseball Prospectus Postseason Odds Report gives the Astros a 7.8 percent chance of pulling off such an unlikely scenario. Even if the Cards do win, they're currently 3.5 behind the Padres in terms of having the better record, so they'd play the Mets, while the West winner (likely the Padres at 87.1 percent, with the Dodgers at just 12.9) would play the Phils.

• Other scenarios are simpler. If the Dodgers win the Wild Card (41.0 percent), they'd play the Mets in a rematch of the magical 1988 LCS matchup. The Padres and Cardinals would reprise last year's Division Series, or the Pads and Astros would... meet to discuss which of the two teams got the better of their 12-player deal back in December 1994. Or something.

• If the Padres win the Wild Card (8.9 percent), they'd play the Mets, with the Mike Piazza storyline likely dominating the airwaves. The Dodgers would get either a rematch of their 2004 Division Series with the Cards, or a throwback to the strike-induced 1981 Division Series via a matchup with the Astros.

Cribbing from Dodger Thoughts (whose Jon Weisman tells me he wasn't actually at the Four-Homer game, contrary to my understanding), here's how the slate plays out:

Day DateSan Diego (84-72)Los Angeles (82-74)Philadelphia (82-74)
TueSept 26 at St. Louisat Coloradoat Washington
WedSept 27at St. Louisat Colorado at Washington
ThuSept 28at Arizonaat Colorado at Washington
FriSept 29at Arizonaat San Franciscoat Florida
SatSept 30at Arizonaat San Francisco at Florida
SunOct 1at Arizonaat San Francisco at Florida

• If PHI finishes ahead of a tied LA and SD, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL West title in LA on October 2.

• If SD finishes ahead of a tied LA and PHI, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL Wild Card in PHI on October 2.

• If LA finishes ahead of a tied SD and PHI, there would be a tiebreaker game for the NL Wild Card in PHI on October 2.

• If SD and LA finish tied ahead of PHI, SD would be the NL West champion and LA the NL Wild Card.

• If all three teams finish tied, SD would play at LA to decide the NL West champion October 2, and the loser of that game would go to PHI to decide the wild card October 3.

Fun stuff, even with those monkeys. Did I mention how sharp their teeth were?

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