Weekly Pepper - Postseason LDS

by Gregory Pratt, BaseballEvolution.com
October 6, 2008

Other Weekly Peppers:

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As the playoffs enter their second week, Gregory Pratt enters what may very well be the busiest week of his life with four exams, four papers and a conference paper due. Please pray for Mojo.

The Mysterious Javier Vazquez -- Javier Vazquez has, through his career, been an A+ "peripherals" pitcher (putting up solid K/BB, K/9, BB/9, HR/9 numbers) but a sub-.500 pitcher whose peripheral stats never really translate into his ERA. Ozzie Guillen called him out before facing the Twins for not being a "big-game pitcher" through his career and he responded by stinking up the joint, helping to set up last Tuesday's epic matchup between John Danks and the Twins. Unfortunately, the extra game meant that Vazquez would be called upon to start Game 1 for the White Sox.  He probably finished it for them, too, as he put his team in too big a hole to overcome. He has now gone four straight starts giving up five or more earned runs. If he had a tougher pitcher's head -- Danks', for instance -- he'd be one of the great pitchers of his age, because his stuff is dynamite.  As he is, he's just an enigma: a man with good stuff who just can't get it done on the field consistently. The most mysterious baseball players are those who are never able to put their tools together on the field, and Vazquez is the poster-boy of my lifetime. I guess a close second might be Joe Mauer, who just can't hit for more power, but he isn't exactly a disappointment when he's won two batting titles as a catcher.

The Feisty Tampa Bay Rays -- The White Sox and the Rays had a tense moment in Game 1, of which you can see video of here, though I'll provide the excerpt: "Rays reliever Grant Balfour is a fiery guy. I know this because he’s from Australia -- they’re a feisty bunch. But usually he keeps his madness directed inward; often openly yelling at himself on the mound. But yesterday, during Game 1 of the Rays-White Sox series, he took exception to Orlando Cabrera kicking dirt in his general direction, and this bit of unintentional hilariousness broke out. Harold Reynolds assumed the two had some sort of past, which led to the little tiff. But what actually seems to have sparked it was Balfour celebrating his strike out of the previous batter, Juan Uribe. Remember: There are strict rules in baseball against “showing up” the opponent. Only polite golf claps, fist pounds, and, in the most joyous of circumstances, a butt slap or two are acceptable. The punishment for anything more than that is dirt being kicked all over your pristine white knickers. Welcome to America, Grant." I know it's weird, but I like it when teammates don't get along in a traditional sense but respect each other, like Dioner Navarro and Matt Garza. These Rays are the guys I want to see in the World Series with the Phillies, although I'd be okay with the White Sox making it, too, but I don't believe in their team over the Rays or over anyone, really.

The Suddenly-Mediocre Chicago Cubs --
The Cubs had the best record in the National League, but let's not lie to ourselves: the LA Dodgers are a much better team, with a better offense and a better pitching staff, as Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton, and Joe Beimel are a better bullpen than Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood, plus Lowe/Billingsley beats out Dempster/Zambrano. It always breaks my heart to turn on the TV here in Chicago and see all the heart-broken Cubs fans crying outside of Wrigley Field, so let me just say that they should appreciate the division title and wait for next year, truly and honestly, because they don't happen every year. It's been a fun year to be a Cubs fan, although I must admit to taking a certain amount pleasure from watching Greg Maddux "save" Game 1 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Until the start of next season, however, they should consider whether or not a manager can be criticized for not having his players ready to play major league defense in Game 2 of a playoff series and whether or not Alfonso Soriano is still a good investment. They have him under contract through 2014. Ouch!

The Brewers and the Phillies -- If there's any consolation for Brewers fans, it should be that Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra are ready to take over the rotation next season after Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia leave town, and they should probably be pleased to have Sheets leave town, as they might then be able to use a pitcher in his place who won't break down every single season. Of course, the best team won, and I'm happy for the Phillies because I like the Phillies, but the sentimental version of me wishes that Milwaukee would've won, as it be nice to see them get their first World Series win. At least Asher's favorite pitcher, Dave Bush, got a win in the series. His guy beat my guy, Jamie Moyer, but that's okay, I guess. I'd have loved to see all four series end in sweeps or most of them end in sweeps, but I guess the Brewers, White Sox, and Angels didn't want that. Phillies fans ought to be thrilled with Pat Burrell, who homered twice in game four and has been heating up after being terrible in the second half. If Chase Utley can also heat up, the Phillies might be unbeatable.

The Los Angeles Anaheim of Low Yield Payroll -- As of press time, the Angels are down 2-1 to the Red Sox, and I don't like their chances of fighting past Jon Lester in game four at Fenway Park, but they're still in it. I don't have very many thoughts on what is going to happen in this series, although there's a small part of me that would love to see a Dodgers-Red Sox World Series to see Manny Ramirez battle with his old teammates. I'd bet that the first pitch he saw would hit him in the ribs, provided the situation allows it (2 outs, nobody on). I do wonder about these Angels and Arte Moreno, who for years refused to make "the big move" to put his team over the top and is now facing the possibility of another first-round exit from the playoffs. With the failure of the Braves to make the playoffs after trading for Teixeira, and the Mets with Santana, and perhaps the Angels failure to make the World Series with the same Mark Teixeira the Braves got, I wonder if more GMs will be less likely to pull the trigger on trades. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Revisions -- Last week, I submitted my Pepper late at night like I usually do, and when I woke up, I had this email from Keith waiting for me: "Your playoff scenario has the Phillies beating the Brewers but the Brewers, undaunted, still making it to the World Series. Care to revise?" I was so thoroughly amused by it that I printed it out and hung it on my wall. I don't usually need as much sleep as most people, but sometimes I need the extra reminder to get into bed a little earlier than usual.

History of the Week -- Jacoby Ellsbury had baseball's first-ever 3-RBI post-season single Sunday night and that "Folk Hero" Evan Longoria made history by becoming the first rookie to homer in his first two postseason at-bats. I'll  also recommend two fun history pieces to you, the first one being this one, about how fun and glorious the 1920s were for minor league baseball in addition to Major League Baseball, and this fun piece on Rocky Nelson, minor-league superstar. I'd give my current pursuits up to play minor league ball.

Gregory Pratt is a political science and history double-major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His political commentary can be found at the Office of the Independent Blogger, and he can be reached at gregory@baseballevolution.com.