Fall Ball by Kevin Faris
The team that spends so much money “buying” the World Series that the owners were ready to blow up the game and start over, is out. The team they wanted to contract is in. The team that won 20 games in a row will watch the next round from the comfort of their homes. The team that has never won a playoff series before will watch the next round from field-level seats, dugout field-level seats. The defending champs are now just chumps, while the team with the most off-field tragedy continues on a magic season. It has been a crazy season in baseball, but at least you can still count on the Atlanta Braves to choke in the playoffs.
The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing and the big news is: the New York Yankees are out. Finally, for the first time since 1997 we will be spared the fawning and gushing over Derek Jeter that has somehow become an autumn tradition right up there with raking leaves and carving pumpkins. To be honest, the guy is a very good player, and a very, very good post-season player, but he is not a great player. He is probably only the 4th best player on his own team, behind Alfonso Soriano, Jason Giambi, and Bernie Williams. The point is, however, the Yankees are done. Their pitching, which at this point has an average age of something like 57, ended up being their Achilles’ heel. The Yankees were done in by the Anaheim Angels, whose claim to fame at this point seems to be The Rally Monkey, the mystical late-inning force that propels them to victory. You have to love a team that understands the inherent genius of a having a crazy monkey fire up the fans. The Angels have never won a playoff series before, and it is now obvious they simply needed the monkey. They beat the Yankees and they beat them pretty handily. “Mystique and Aura are just dancers at a club,” said Arizona pitcher Curt Schilling, (more on him later) during last year’s World Series, and it looks like he was right. With the new collective bargaining agreement kicking in next year, we could be looking at the end of the Yankee dynasty.
The Yankees were supposed to beat the Angels and then face the Oakland A’s in the next round, as Jason Giambi would have to face the team he left behind, that actually did better without him. Well, somebody forgot to tell the Contraction All-Stars, the Minnesota Twins, because when the 20-wins-in-a-row A’s imploded, again, in the post season, the Twins were there to make them pay. Chances are, despite the fact they won their division going away, the only Twins highlight most people know is Torii Hunter’s catch in the All-Star Game, an All-Star game that most of America has attempted to block from their memory. Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to contract the Twins 11 months ago, now they could be going to the World Series. If Bud thought he got booed at the All-Star Game, watch what will happen if he has to attend a World Series in Minnesota. The Diamondbacks won the World Series last year because of four things:
When the St. Louis Cardinals went out to a two games to none lead in their best of five, beating Johnson and then Schilling, this series was done. The deal with the devil the D-Backs made last year has expired. The Cardinals and their manager Tony LaRussa have had to endure a season of off-the-field tragedies. First, long-time Cardinals announcer Jack Buck died of cancer, and then teammate Darryl Kile was found dead in his hotel room. Despite all of this, they came together and won their division and could be the team to beat in the National League. I have never been a Cardinals or a LaRussa fan, but one thing changed that. In Phoenix during the series, a Phoenix DJ on KUPD 98, Beau Duran, called Darryl Kile’s widow on the air and asked her if she needed a date for the game. The reaction of the Cardinals players and LaRussa was one of pure rage. The anger and emotion they showed revealed the pain they still carry with them. This “stunt” is so tasteless that it boggles the mind. Duran has since been fired, but Tony LaRussa, apparently wanting more, was quoted as saying, “I just wanted him to suffer some day at this darkest moment. I don’t think this is it.” At that point I wanted the Cardinals to win, because with idiots like that Arizona deserves nothing.
The Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants series was memorable only because somebody had to win. It was going to be impossible for both the Braves to choke, like they usually do, and the Barry Bonds-led Giants to choke, which they have gotten pretty good at as well. In the end Barry Bonds actually came to play and propelled his team to victory with a big home run in Game 5. Perhaps now, the “Barry Bonds cannot play in the post season” talk will end. He is the greatest player you or I will ever see, so be sure to tune in when he comes to bat.
It is easy to understand how the end of the baseball regular season is overshadowed by the beginning of football. But it is now October, and it is worth remembering that the name “Mr. October” does not belong to a football player. The Fall Classic is not played on a rectangular field and America’s Past Time does not use an oblong ball. It is World Series time, and with the Yankees and Diamondbacks out, it is time for new legends to be formed, new heroes to be born, and new teams to make a date with Destiny. Not the Destiny that dances with Mystique and Aura down at Solid Platinum, but the Destiny that turns one team into Champions.