PnP Conversations: Playoff Talk Pt. I

Fall is in the air, and it’s playoff time in baseball land. In this tet-a-tet, Eric and I will force our tendency to wax on and on into a conversational format, trading our takes the way kids used to trade baseball cards before the Internet stole their souls.

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Ted: Eric, we’ve just witnessed a thrilling win in a one game playoff by the Twins. Should Minnesota have tried harder to feature Joe Mauer in the hero’s role? Should Alexi Casilla be allowed to enjoy himself, knowing the heroic glory that he stole from Joe?

Eric: Was it stolen necessarily? Captain America went 2-4 with a double and a pair of walks. Dude reached base 4 times! I’ve listened to enough Prairie Home Companion to know that Minnesota is not a state to overdo things, and that includes its heroes. Favre Monday and Mauer Tuesday would have been too much. Better to let the redemption story play out. Let the Mendoza Line-treading Casilla make up for his hideous piece of base-running a couple innings prior. Let the Twin Cities celebrate this stage-setting victory. And leave Joe Mauer to do something heroic when the lights are shining even brighter. Because with Mariano Rivera on the mound, it’s going to take a lot more than seeing-eye astroturf groundballs to win baseball games. Do you see the Twins’ momentum as viable…are they a real threat to the Yankees in the Rockies ’07 sense? What about this year’s Rockies?

Ted: How right you are. A simple regular season game, even one as fancy as that, is no stage for the man-shaped comet, Joe Mauer. Sorry, I got caught up in the moment.

I do not see the Twins momentum as viable. I don’t see any momentum as viable. The Yanks are formidable. A-Rod’s pecs and Mark Teixeira’s winning smile are well-rested. That said, the news just hit that Joe Girardi will squeeze lovable lump Jose Molina behind home plate in place of of Jorge Posada when A.J. Burnett pitches. This kind of decision-making does not bode well for the Yankees. Granted, pitchers are weird and sensitive, but if I’m out there on the mound I’d be more distraught about the worm hole in the lineup that is Jose Molina than enthused about his powder-soft receiver’s touch. Posada might be one of the most underrated catchers of all-time. He’s just great, and he has a beautiful web site, with lots of great breaking news, including the Pulitzer-level story “HOW POSADA GOT HIS GROOVE.” Girardi needs to get his head on straight.

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Despite the massive success of the Marlins and the Dbacks and the Rockies over the past decade-and-a-half, I still have trouble investing any confidence in the 90s expansion teams. When they make a playoff run, I give them the stink-eye like an old man in an F150 at the SmartCar cheerfully idling next to him at the red. I don’t even know how the Rockies got into the playoffs. I feel like I’m at the supermarket, and the pimply kid bagging groceries just tore open his apron to reveal a Superman emblem on his chest. In any event, when you’re talking Rockies v. Phillies, I think that Cliff Lee will shut down the pups. He has a stern, sort of Puritan presence on the mound with the long face and the devil’s left-handedness. The upstarts will quake under his pious glare.

What about your Dodgers? Will an extremely successful regular season campaign translate into LDS success against Pujols and Dave Duncan’s merry band of really really good starting pitchers?

Eric: You mention man-shaped comets and lovable lumps. These are terms that encapsulate my fears regarding the Dodgers in this series. Albert Pujols is less man-shaped comet than man-shaped Death Star. Can Clayton “Skywalker” Kershaw fly blind into the depths of evil and redeem humanity? I sure as hell hope so. Second, and more importantly, the lovable lumps. Joe Torre has opted to start Ronnie Belliard at second base and Vicente Padilla in game 3. Indeed those two lumps have been nothing but lovable in their supporting turns on the middling second-half version of the Dodgers. But the moves reek of a manager playing his gut. I really want to see Hudson and Billingsley out there. Even with Belliard red-hot, I think Hudson is a safer bet at second base. And even with a fairly abysmal second-half (combined with notable postseason collapse last year), Billingsley has the stuff to shut teams down. His last two starts have been encouraging, if not all that successful. Let’s not treat the guy like Oliver Perez.

All that said, is it just me or are the Cardinals only 4 players deep? 4 great players certainly (maybe 4.5 with Pineiro), but not that scary. I’m a little bit confounded by their near unanimous anointment as LDS winners by pundits far and wide. Side note: There are some crazy religious overtones going on today as we keep using the acronym LDS. So my question is this: If Cliff Lee represents the stern, Puritan presence of a Nathaniel Hawthorne character, who is Chris Carpenter? With a name like Carpenter, fairly unassuming stuff at first glance, and now two rises from baseball’s (near) dead, he appears to be some kind of redemptive construction of the baseball gods. Never mind the fact that his WHIP of 1.01 this year aligns perfectly with the 101st Psalm. A Pledge To Live Righteously…

Are players who live righteously rewarded for such in the postseason? Are the failures of Alex Rodriguez merely the restoration of karmic balance to the universe? Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers might think so right about now. And what of the Angels, and their inherent spirituality. Is baseball’s ultimate lovable lump, the somehow 30-base stealing Bobby Abreu, just riding on the wings of Christopher Lloyd? Will the gilded men of Anaheim make quick work of Boston? Has there ever been a Red Sox club to enter the playoffs so unassumingly? I find lack of Boston hum strange…something amiss in the Sports Media Industrial Complex?

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Ted: Isn’t it always a matter of Good versus Evil? The Evil Empire, after all, is a term regularly used to describe the most hallowed and admirable team in baseball history. Yogi Berra, Dimaggio, Gehrig, Ruth? Hardly a Pantheon of ghouls, but so swings the taste of the baseball fans, and this schizophrenic dichotomy of wills is what makes life interesting: the eternal Versus; one force pressing against another. That, and Christopher Lloyd.

We could very well see such spiritual concerns steer the course of events in these playoffs, for the reasons you’ve outlined. I’m usually as secular as it gets, but it is hard to explain Abreu’s stolen base totals in any other way but some kind of divine intervention. Such prognostication can be problematic when looking forward, however. Some say that you can read the future in one of Manny’s game-used chaw-balls. Others claim that Josh Beckett’s Abercrombie Rosary carries great mystical powers. Those forces are beyond us, unfortunately, and the most we can hope for is to find some pattern after it’s all over and the dust has settled.

I’m afraid I can’t agree with you re: the Cardinals and their lineup. I have learned over a number of years never to doubt the Cardinals, even when they appear mediocre. Yadier Molina’s got mojo, and the rest of white dudes hitting around him and Pujols might appear to lack character and distinction, but the moment you forget about them is when you get Ludwicked. That said, the Dodgers stink with talent and skill and youth, which is a fine formula for success in the short format. Think Andruw Jones back in the day, think Steve Avery back in the day, Josh Beckett as a Marlin, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Papelbon, Pedroia, etc. The postseason brings with it great surprises, every time. Some old timers reemerge, yes, but more often (anecdotally speaking, this ain’t FanGraphs) one or two youngsters make their names. That said, there aren’t many youngsters on the Cardinals who seem ready to burst. You never know. It could be a triumph of the young, or it could be one of those Randy Johnson-Curt Schilling years. But in the name of Chris Carpenter, let’s hope not.

PS: If you have any concerns you’d like us to address in tomorrow’s little dialogue, feel free to drop them in the comments.

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