Why I Like Baseball

an online journal of baseball enthusiasm

Archive for October, 2008

October 31, 2008: News and Notes

October 31, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Uncategorized

Baseball season is really over, and the pickings become slim for us information junkies. I’ll be dong my part this offseason to keep things interesting as I migrate my old posts from ceciliatan.com to the new URL here at Why I Like Baseball. So look for a new posting here every day from the old site! I’ve got posts from 2000 – 2006 to move, so there will be plenty of good reading.

Meanwhile, some fun places to look into. The Baseball Early Bird, a daily newsletter of baseball news, history, recs, and more, will continue to be published in the offseason! Check it out at baseballearlybird.com.

Over at Jim Nemerovski’s site GirlsPlayBaseball he has republished Dorothy Jane Mills’ article Our Mother’s Game, about how women are storming the gates of baseball scholarship (as well as front offices, umpiring, and the field itself).

Alex Belth’s Bronx Banter blog is moving from Baseball Toaster over to the SNY group of blogs. You’ll find him and his crew all over at www.bronxbanterblog.com. Always readable.

You know how we make fun of the fact that Derek Jeter never says anything of substance? In this kind of goofy interview with SI.com, he actually comes out and tells the interviewer he’s not going to say anything. (Although to be fair, the interviewer was trying to ask him about his love life and politics…) SI.com.

Re-posting starts tomorrow!

October 29, 2008: Fading Days

October 29, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: On Playing the Game, Women In Baseball

The World Series is not yet over, but snow fell in parts of Pennsylvania yesterday, and I woke up this morning with my skin feeling dry. So dry that several calluses on my left hand were peeling.

I stared at them for a while after I got out of the shower, trying to figure out what they were from. What could I have been doing that built up a callus there, on my left hand, on the pads between the second and third knuckle of my grip?

I think these are my batting calluses, finally wearing off, nearly 14 months after I played my final game of hardball.

I used to go to the batting cage at least once a week. It was bit the way other people must make surreptitious stops at bars and whorehouses. Sometimes I’d make a special trip and plan to go to the cage, but more often than not, in my busy life, trying to fit baseball in around two jobs, community volunteering, writing, editing, and socializing, I’d have to sneak in a trip on my way to or from somewhere else.

I’d go to the Home Depot near the cage instead of the hardware store closer to my house, to justify the trip. I’d meet friends at the movie theater near there, but leave an hour early so I could get some hitting in, first.

I’d bring batting gloves with me on vacation. I’ve hit in batting cages in Aruba, Florida, the Jersey Shore. (Never did find one in Mexico, though.)

My car still has a pile of Iron Mike tokens in the ashtray.

But my last two years playing, I hardly went to the cage at all. I was too busy. My work life has gotten more and more pressing (which is good, it means I’m earning more through writing and editing). Just making time to get to the games I was supposed to play in was getting harder and harder.

And it showed on the field. After the season where I batted nearly .500 for fifteen games (and dropped to just under .400 after a slump in the last few – it’s only a 20 game season), my hitting dropped off the following year. The time not spent in the cage was part of it.

My fading eyesight is the other. No, it’s nothing so dramatic as Kirby Puckett—I’m just over 40 now and dusk light is the hardest to see in. The baseball that was bright and white and whose seams I could see spinning easily in the first inning would be dirty and sunset-colored in the fifth, melding into the dying day like a ghost. We play(ed) on a field without lights.

I’s funny, because one would think I’d miss playing baseball the most during the summer, which is when I played, but here it is, more than a full season since I retired and it’s only really hitting me, today. I worked hard for those calluses. I’ll miss them.

Of course, there’s nothing to say I can’t still go to the batting cage…

October 20, 2008: The Improbable Dream

October 20, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

Baseball in 2008 as a haiku:

“Devil” was struck out
Thrown out of the Rays team name
World Series here we come

You can’t make this kind of thing up. The team that has been so bad for so long, the perennial butt of jokes, finally not only has a winning season, they win the AL East, then beat the Red Sox in 7 games, AND go to the World Series. It remains to be seen whether the final flourish in the tale will be actually winning the World Series, or if just reaching the biggest stage of all for the first time will be the top of the mountain.

Tonight’s game saw the flourishing of a new breed of fans in Tampa Bay, too, starting what could be their own continuing traditions if their club continues to be good in seasons to come, like the proliferation of cowbells. When there was just one “cowbell guy” in Tampa, whose percussive enthusiasm rang hollowly in their usually half-filled domed stadium, was one thing. Now that there are droves and droves of cowbell-ringing fans, game seven’s starter, Matt Garza, wore earplugs. One fan held up a sign that read: MORE COWBELL.

Another clever fan held up a sign that read “The Improbable Dream,” a historical nod to the team they were about to beat, the Red Sox, whose “Impossible Dream” in 1967 revived baseball in Boston, as 2008 has revived it in St. Pete. Ownership there has been trying to get the city to build them a waterfront, open-air ballpark… Winning a World Series seems a great PR move in that direction.

The Rays, whose franchise is only 11 seasons old, will face one of the oldest franchises in the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies, whose franchise was founded in 1883. They adopted the name Phillies officially in 1890, and have won exactly one World Series since then, in 1980.

The homer happy Rays should have a good time in the hitter haven that is Citizens Bank Park, while the Phillies outfielders will probably not enjoy trying to play balls against the beige canvas dome at Tropicana Field. The franchises have faced each other before in Interleague play.

An interesting note which may or may not presage anything: of all the NL East teams, the Phillies have had the worst record in interleague play. Often this has come from playing “down” to bad teams in the AL East like the Orioles and then-Devil Rays, rather than getting beat by the historically strong teams like Boston and New York. In 2001, the Phillies ended the season only 2 games out of first place, but had been swept at Tampa Bay earlier in the season.

When the two teams met in 2006, both Cole Hamels and James Shields were rookies pitching for their respective teams. Now they are both aces. The three-game series was played in Philadelphia and both Shields and Scott Kazmir earned wins for the Rays, facing a lineup that looked similar to the one the Phiting Phils will field on Tuesday: Jimmy Rollins leading off, and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard coming soon after, and other familiar faces like Shane Victorino. Hamels was hammered for 7 hits, 6 runs (5 earned) and knocked out in the fourth inning.

The one Phillies pitcher who did beat them back in 2006 was a highly touted prospect, Ryan Madson, who this season was a cog in bullpen, one piece in the “bridge to Lidge.” He notched a 3.05 ERA and an excellent 1.23 WHIP.

Of course, all the numbers mean nothing once the game actually starts. Great hitters can fail, shaky pitchers can get at’em-balls, and anything an happen. In fact, it is exactly the things that are against all odds that amaze us the most about baseball. Each and every game can be an Improbable Dream.

October 17, 2008: Goodnight, Tom Tresh

October 17, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Interviews

I was listening to the Red Sox broadcast last night of the Sox/Rays showdown. While wallowing in misery when it was 7-0 in favor of the Rays, Joe Castiglione, that most bipolar of broadcasters, mentioned that former Yankee Tom Tresh had passed away at age 71.

I was sad to hear that. Tresh was one of the good guys, a smart, articulate, funny man who was gracious with his time when I was working on the book “The 50 Greatest Yankee Games.” He, like so many retired ballplayers (and others…) lived in Florida, just a few hours from my parents. I got his address through a contact at the Yankees and I wrote him out of the blue asking if he’d be willing to get together for an interview. We set one up, and one sunny morning I drove south from Tampa to a Cracker Barrel intending to meet him for lunch.

When I arrived, there was no sign of him. I didn’t know what he looked like now, and so spent quite a while going in and out trying to see if there was anyone browsing the shop or sitting in the rocking chairs outside who might be my quarry. It was quite busy—there was not a parking space to be had, either. Eventually I determined he wasn’t there, and called his house.

His wife answered to say she thought he was playing golf. He’d left about an hour before. My heart sank. Nine holes of golf takes like three hours. Eighteen holes takes all day. And I had to be back in Tampa that night for the game. She said she’d call his cell phone though, and try to see what he was up to. A little while later he called. I could hear he was outdoors, but he said he was just finishing up and would be right over. He was very apologetic. Friends from out of town had dropped in for a few days and got his schedule all out of whack.

Now I felt guilty, because I was sure I was pulling him away from a day of golf with good friends. When he arrived he told me not to worry, he had only had a golf lesson that morning, and so he really was finished when he came to meet me, and he was incredibly apologetic for forgetting.

We talked for hours. We got a table—by the the crowds had begun to abate—and talked all through the meal and then sat for a long time afterward. I ran out of tape; I think that’s the only reason we ended when we did.

What follows is an edited transcript of the interview. When I say Tresh was articulate, it’s quite evident in the long paragraphs that I include in his own words.

So who was Tom Tresh? He was the Derek Jeter of his generation of home-grown Yankees. In his rookie season, 1962, he won the shortstop starting job out of spring training as Tony Kubek had to leave for a stint in the military. That year Tresh won Rookie of the Year honors, and in the World Series led the team in hitting. When I spoke to him in the spring of 2004, Tresh had a lot to say on what it meant to be a Yankee.

Cecilia Tan: You had a cup of coffee at the end of the ’61 season, just in time to catch the end of the Maris/Mantle home run race, right?

Tom Tresh: I came up the last month of the season. You know when you dream of being a New York Yankee for many years….? My idol was Mickey Mantle, even though he was about 7 years older than I was. I was playing in Richmond, VA in Triple A ball and they increased the roster the first of September and I was the only minor league player they called up. They were in a race at that time and they had a one game lead over the Tigers. So I met them on the first of September. I got to the stadium before anybody else did. You’d met most of the guys, it wasn’t like I hadn’t yet, because being in the organization for three and half years at that time, you’d met Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris and Bob Richardson and Tony–spring training and so on–but you don’t know them well. You’re still kind of a minor leaguer at that time, they’re a major leaguer, but they know who you are and you know who they are, so it’s a little different than being traded and meeting everybody at once.

CT: What happened on September first?

Tom Tresh: So I got there that morning, earlier than anybody else would be there. And I went in and Pete Sheehy–the clubhouse man who was there forever, a great man–met him and he took me over to my locker and they had my locker right next to Mantle’s, and my locker number was 15 which was my dad’s number. My dad played in the major leagues for 12 years and wore number 15 with the White Sox, so you know everything was just a thrill. And I did the thing that everybody does, you know, I walked out through the dugout and I walked out to home plate and stood there in my dress clothes with the sun shining and nobody is in the stadium yet, and you look out there and you see the center field area where the monuments are… it was a tremendous feeling to know that Babe Ruth stood there, and DiMaggio, and Gehrig, and Mantle and all these great players throughout the history of the Yankees. That was it and you were there.

CT: Do you remember anything else from that time?

And then games started and it seems to me, and I might be wrong, but it seemed to me that we won every game that homestand. You can check that but it just seemed to me we never lost while we were home. Maybe that’s just my memory of it. [Ed: Tresh's memory is quite good. Starting September 1, 1961, they swept three home series in a row, 12 games against Detroit, Washington, and Cleveland. Then they had a 13 game road trip where they went 6-7, and came home to play the final 5 games of the season, going 4-1. So they did win every game that homestand, and only lost one while he was there that year at home.]

Mickey and of course Roger were in the midst of a home run derby, and my locker being next to Mickey’s meant that right after the game was over–and there was a lot of papers in New York then and they were getting a lot of coverage from Japan and foreign countries, and my locker was on the end and Mantle’s was right here (holds up hands)–the press would come right in. You had screens between your lockers and they would move right into my locker [to be able to see and hear Mickey]. So as quick as I got in I would get right out, it wouldn’t matter if I sat there or not because they’re going to be hanging over here trying to get to ask Mickey questions and whatever. And right across from me on the other side of the locker room was Maris with HIS crowd, so it was this constant crowd, this back and forth from one locker to the other.

CT: How did you deal with it?

I quickly learned that the thing to do was to go in and take off my uniform real quickly and head for the training room, and grab a beer or a pop or something and go into the training room until it was all over, and then go out and get dressed. It was a tremendous thrill to be a part of that. I was in the game where Roger hit his 61st home run. It’s kind of a dream come true, the excitement of it. In those years, the Yankees were the number one sports team in the world. There wasn’t anything comparable, so being a part of the New York Yankees at that time was a tremendous feeling. You’re part of a limited roster of players that have that opportunity. In those days there wasn’t a whole lot of movement of team players. You kind of got there and stayed there–or didn’t. It was a big thrill.

CT: So then in 1962, you got your shot at a starting job, because Kubek went to the army, and you and Phil Linz competed for the job.

Yeah, Phil and I were the two better middle infielders coming up at the time. I had started a little bit before him, so I had the jump on him. He was playing one level lower than me. In 1961, to begin the season, we were both at Richmond, and I think they had him working out at third, and they decided to send him back to double A in Amarillo. So I got called up at the end of the season and he didn’t, so I still had that kind of a lead on him so to speak. And when Tony went in the army, also Joe DeMaestri retired. So not only was Tony gone, but the utility shortstop was gone. So they really had two positions in spring training open. So Phil and I just approached it where there were two positions, and we could tell real quick that the press wanted to try to get something competitive going on, and we just weren’t going to let them do it. When they talked to me about Phil I would just tell them good things about Phil and I thought he was a heck of a player and then he’d do the same thing for me. We never bad-mouthed each other in the press, and we’ve been very very close friends and are today. But we probably did both know that we both would make the ball club. I think we ended up leading the Yankees in hitting that spring training, he was first and I was second. [Ed: Again Tresh's memory is good.] So we both had a real good spring. But he was in an unfortunate situation because I had the lead, and you’re both doing the same, but you can’t catch the other person because the other person isn’t falling down. He could have easily been a starting shortstop with any other team in the league. But at that time, they could protect players, and they weren’t about to get rid of Phil Linz and give him to somebody else. Then when Tony got back, they moved me to the outfield, and that put Phil in the utility job still, didn’t change his status, so he was just second to Tony.

CT: They basically had to find you a position because you were hitting too well to be taken out of the lineup.

They couldn’t do that. When Tony came back, they couldn’t move me from the lineup, and left field just worked out well because it was a platoon. They were playing Hector out there, and Johnny Blanchard out there, Yogi, Elston, that was in ’61 when the Yankees catchers hit over 60 home runs–they didn’t do it as catchers, some of them did it while they were playing the outfield and the other one was catching, so a couple of them were in the game at the same time. I’d be interested to see how many home runs did they hit where there were one in each game, because if both guys are playing in the same game, that shouldn’t count. Although if somebody hits two, you can count one… you’d have to look and see which one the one was catching hit, not the outfielder.

CT: So you moved to LF when Kubek came back, yet you still won rookie of the year in ’62…

Yep. There’s a lot of advantages being a rookie playing on a team as good as the New York Yankees are, on the one hand. On the other hand there’s a lot more pressure to play well on the Yankee team. One of the biggest thrills I ever had was hitting in the third hole in the World Series. Generally that’s reserved for their best hitters. But we had so many ‘best hitters’ you couldn’t designate which hole the best one should be in. I always think that was a thrill, when I look through the lineup and the guys around me — that showed they had a lot of confidence in me.

CT: There are two themes in that 1962 series, rain and the redemption of Ralph Terry. Did the guys ever talk about what had happened in 1960?

The Pittsburgh game? No, they never did talk about it that much. They really outplayed Pittsburgh by a ton, and yet they lost, and that’s the only thing they talked about. They really felt that they won that series, they should have won that series. Big time statistically, Bobby Richardson, I don’t know if he still holds the record but he used to hold the record for 13 RBI in a World Series, in Pittsburgh in the losing effort. You have to give the credit to Pittsburgh, because they won.

CT: What kind of guy was Ralph Terry?

He was the ultimate professional pitcher. He didn’t have an overpowering fastball, or an overpowering curve ball, but he knew how to pitch. He knew how to get people out. That was the name of the game. You have your pitchers and your throwers. He was a very competitive individual, quiet-spoken, but a real nice individual. I don’t know if there’s any one thing to say about him. Just picture a real quiet easy going southerner–even though he’s from out in Kansas or somewhere. That’s the way he was. Didn’t seem like anything bothered him.

CT: Was he still laid back after winning that game?

I don’t know. Things can get pretty chaotic there.

CT: The game ended with McCovey hitting that line drive into Richardson’s glove. Could you even see that from left field?

It happened so quick. I mean, you’re a nervous wreck. You know a mistake can mean the ball game. Some of these guys, you know, Cepeda, and Mays, and McCovey, just to name a few, these are great players, coming up all the time. It’s hard to get through a ball game like that and win it one-nothing. You look back and the one run that we got came on a double play ball. That’s exactly the move that you make early in the ball game, you give up a run to get the two outs. Very seldom would that one run ever win you a ball game. It was a great ball game. Most nervous I’ve ever been in a ball game.

CT: So how did you know it was over?

Well, you know how many outs there are, and you know what has to happen, it just happened so fast that you’re kind of shocked. The ball was hit-caught. It’s one thing if it’s a long-running catch or something, but this was boom-boom. I’m glad he hit it to Bobby. I’m glad he didn’t hit it to me. I’d had enough that day and I didn’t need another one. That was a great game.

CT: So then what did you do, go running in?

Oh yeah. That’s part of it, right? That’s what you’re in training for, so you can get in there and get on the pile! The hardest thing is that being in the outfield, it takes you a lot longer to get to the pile. The good news is that you don’t get spiked because you’re on the top. It was a great thrill. To be young and to be with those guys.

CT: So I have that you led the team in hits that series.

I think I led in hitting too, with .315. [Ed: He did lead in hitting. with .321.]

CT: And you were the youngest player on the team. How did that feel?

Yeah, I was. I guess I was deserving to hit in third whole then, huh?

You know, I grew up with my dad being a major league ball player and because everything was there in front of me all the time, I never paid a whole lot of attention to it, to stats and all that. But I tell you there are a lot of people out there today who do. Playing in these fantasy camps and so on you really run into people who know everything. They know everything about you. Those have really been fun, for the players as well as the people who come. I’ve been doing them for over 20 years now but some of my best friends are people I’ve met through fantasy camps. It’s like every year you have a week’s vacation with your friends. So it’s fantastic. As close friends as I’ve ever had. I’ve got friends of my own background that I might have known longer that I don’t see a week a year. But the thing that makes it all work is that everybody has a love of the game, they have that one thread of common thing, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a fireman from New York or you’re an attorney from Tampa, there are so many different variations of jobs and careers and so on that are all mixed together, and nobody wears that hat during that week, everybody wears a Yankee hat. It just really works well. I really enjoy it.

October 9 2008: Pennant Eve

October 09, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings, Great Games

So, the Red Sox and Rays are getting ready to have a pennant showdown, and I find myself getting very antsy that there has been NO BASEBALL for the past several days. I know this new schedule is supposed to boost the TV ratings of the various playoff series’, but it going to be the opposite for me. I’ll be busy all weekend and see NONE of it, whereas the past few nights after dinner I’ve been twiddling my thumbs. Heavy sigh, winter is coming.

The date of the ALCS beginning, October 10th, is an auspicioys one for the Red Sox, though. It is the infamous day on which the fledgling New York Yankees challenged Boston for AL supremacy for the first time, only to have their chance thrown away—literally.

The culprit was “Happy Jack” Chesbro, the pitcher without whom the New Yorkers would not have contended at all. In 1903, their first year in the American League, the New York club (called variously the Highlanders, Hilltoppers, and many other nicknames including “Yankees” by the newspapers) was inconsequential, while Boston won the league and the World Series. But in 1904, Chesbro served notice on the champs on Opening Day, facing Cy Young and leading New York to an 8-2 win. The two clubs would battle all season, and the balance of power between them was evened when AL president Ban Johnson arranged for one of Boston’s dominant sluggers to be traded to their rival in exchange for sickly Bob Unglaub (who was so sick,he didn’t even play).

Chesbro would finish the year with one of the best single-season performances for a pitcher in the 20th century, going 41-12, pitching complete games in 51 of his starts, and relieving in 4 others. In the final 3 weeks of the season, he started 9 games and relieved during a doubleheader, earning wins on both ends. And because of rain-outs and rescheduling, the pennant race came to a crescendo at the wire; the final five games of the season would all pit Boston against New York, including two doubleheaders, one in New York, and one in Boston.

Chesbro pitched the first game of the five in New York and earned a hard-fought 3-2 win. With four games to play, New York needed to win any two of the remaining contests and the pennant would be theirs. They headed to Boston on the train to play the next two. Manager Clark Griffith planned to leave Chesbro in New York and pitch him again when they returned, but Chesbro chased the team to the station and talked his way into taking the ball. Griffith granted his wish, but Chesbro faltered in the fourth and Boston won both games.

Now New York needed to win both of their games in the home doubleheader. There was a day off thanks to rules against Sunday baseball, which allowed Chesbro to rest. He looked fresh and strong upon taking the hill on the fateful day, retiring the first three batters easily. He escaped a few jams, but guarded a 2-0 lead jealously into the 7th. Jimmy Williams, New York’s second basemen, made three unfortunate errors that inning, letting in two runs. With the game tied 2-2, Chesbro went out to pitch the 8th inning.

With two outs and Boston’s catcher Lou Criger perched on third, Chesbro needed only retire Freddy Parent, a hitter he had owned. Throwing his signature spitball, Chesbro quickly put Parent into an 0-2 hole. One more unpredictable, impossible-to-hit spitter would do it.

Unfortunately it was impossible to catch. The ball went to the screen, the run scored, and the Yankees’ bubble had been burst. Newspaper accounts describe Griffith as falling to his knees at the fateful pitch and Chesbro collapsing in tears. Though they batted twice more, New York did not rally. The second, now-inconsequential game, was called off after 5 innings. New York would not contend again until the arrival of Babe Ruth in 1920.

By the way, I’m rooting for the Rays.

October 8, 2008: Hold that Tiger!

October 08, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Great Ballparks

You can Save Tiger Stadium.

This from the Old Tiger Stadium Convervancy:

Reports of Tiger Stadium’s demise are greatly exaggerated. For over a year The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy has been quietly working on a plan to preserve the entire playing field and a significant portion of the beloved old ballpark. (See what is still standing: http://www.aerialpics.com/G/TigerStadiumDemo.html)

On Tuesday, the Detroit City Council rejected a plan that would have demolished the entire structure, but have given the Conservancy only until Friday to come up with the money to fund their plan. The Conservancy has “reached agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding that will ultimately transfer title to the stadium to the Conservancy and grant a long-term lease of the playing field. We … are continuing to pursue our goals of preserving and redeveloping the historic Navin Field grandstand and upper deck, restoring the playing grounds as a first-class youth baseball facility and revitalizing Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighborhood.”

To move forward, the Conservancy needs to raise $50,000 by Friday “to provide for six months of onsite security while we put our long-term financing in place. Our $15M project plan expects to receive $4 million via a federal earmark and more than $6 million in historic preservation and economic stimulus tax credits.” They have already raised $170,000 and must hit their goal of $219,000 in the next 24 hours.

Make your donation at http://www.savetigerstadium.org. The Conservancy is a registered Michigan non-profit corporation and has been accorded 501(c)3 status by the Internal Revenue Service, making all donations tax deductible.

For updates, visit: http://savetigerstadium.wordpress.com/

October 2, 2008: Nine Questions about the 2008 Postseason

October 02, 2008 By: Cecilia Tan Category: Baseball Musings

So, since the Yankees are out of it, and I find myself without a real rooting interest, I am looking at the postseason like if a daytime soap opera suddenly decided to wrap up its run with a prime-time mini-series. All questions will be answered! All the suspense hangs in the balance! Here are the subplots I’m looking to see tied up. There are nine of them in my lineup, of course:

1. Will the Cubs be the first Cubs team in one hundred years to win a World Series? They’ve been so good all year, but the monkey on their back (or is it a goat? the monkey’s in Anaheim…) is even bigger than the one the Red Sox shook off in 2004. Even their crosstown rival White Sox got rid of their “curse.” Could this be it? Do Cubs fans even dare to hope?

2. The Rays. Who writes this kind of a script? Perennially losing team, the only franchise in baseball history to still have never reached the postseason, removes the word “devil” from their name, and immediately wins the impossibly tough AL East. The baseball gods, that’s who. The story is already amazing, the only question is how much more amazing can it get?

3. Which means more, that the Red Sox have beaten the Angels soundly in every postseason meeting between the two teams in the Scioscia-Francona era, or that the Angels trounced the Red Sox in nearly every regular season meeting this year? The Red Sox can always be schizoid, as in last year’s ALCS where for a few days it looked like they were going to steamroll the Indians, then suddenly it looked like they were never going to get the job done… only to steamroll the Rockies. The Angels can be kind of like that, too, though. Could be a sweep, could be a seesaw.

4. Will C.C. Sabathia’s arm fall off? He pitched his team into the playoffs on three days rest. Now he’s going to pitch again on three days rest, with the PLAN to pitch him AGAIN on three days rest. A lot of teams are just counting the hours until he becomes a free agent (the Yankees among them), and you know each time he goes out there, they are cringing that he’s adding wear and tear to his arm. But Brewers fans have to be loving it, and any fans of old school hard-nosed baseball.

5. Philadelphia beat out the Mets at the wire two seasons in a row, now, but last year that momentum didn’t help them in the playoffs. They were summarily bumped from the first round and the pressure is on them to avoid that this year. The first game they lose, expect half the city’s attention to turn to the Eagles.

6. Manny being Manny. He’s been hitting .400 since going to LA, playing a good left field, and in the opening game against the Cubs, actually beat out an infield hit! To Boston fans, that only proves all the more how he was dogging it while a Red Sox. The Sox were taking BP last night when Manny blasted a home run one-handed at Wrigley. If Jason Bay hadn’t broken the ice in the Sox’ own game a few hours later with a homer, then the trade of Manny would have surely been lamented. Instead, Boston fans can continue to say good riddance… unless the Sox and Dodgers end up facing each other. Another World Series MVP trophy would suit Manny just fine.

7. Joe Torre’s vindication. The Steinbrenners decided they’d had enough of a good thing, apparently, and let Torre walk away. Now the Yankees are at home carving pumpkins with their kids for the first time since 1994′s work stoppage, and Torre is loving life. But he still has to get his team out of the first round to be able to really gloat. (Not that Joe would gloat.)

8. What will Ozzie Guillen say this time? Whether the White Sox win or lose, Ozzie is always good for some great quote that will set the media and the clubhouses buzzing. The White Sox had to fight tooth and nail to finally quell the uprising of the Twins, they might now have their hands full with the Rays. But wouldn’t it be a fine thing to see Junior Griffey be a hero?

9. Who am I going to root for? Since I don’t have a horse in this race, should I root for a cool matchup in the World Series? Cubs/White Sox would be a spectacle. Cubs/Red Sox could have a nice historical appeal, and I could drag out all my old stories about 1918. (There are some doozies from that World Series.) I don’t like the Angels or the Red Sox, though. Honestly, I rooted for the Red Sox in 2004, but I’m kind of tired of them winning now. Red Sox/Dodgers would be cool for the Manny angle. I think, though, ultimately, I have to root for the Rays. They’re new, they’re young and exciting, and they’ve got nothing to lose. I’m an AL gal at heart, and besides, that’d just make it sweeter when the Yankees beat them next year.

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