Eric: Things are so different this year, Ted. So different. Do you remember last October? When our souls thawed like springtime in a slow John Steinbeck novel for the New York Yankees? When A-Rod was the center of the universe, and names like Strasburg and Heyward offered little more than glimmering hope for a distant future? When fragments of the McCourt divorce bombshell still sizzled on streetcorners in the land of baseball?
It feels like a million years ago, last October. So much has changed. All of a sudden baseball is a young man’s game, a game of Hamiltons and Vottos, Prices and Lincecums. Even the three returning postseason teams are markedly different: The Yankees are back to their evil ways as monolithic favorites (if not in practice than in my imagination). The Twins are without Justin Morneau and without a roof above their heads. The Phillies have transformed themselves from an offensive powerhouse to the 2001 Diamondbacks or 1966 Dodgers with their new-look rotation.
I’ve been a negligent fan lately. I’m without a horse in this playoff race. I’m utterly unqualified to pick a division series winner, much less a World Series champ. But after a tiresome September, I’m ready with an aspiration. I hope we’re in for a hell of a wild month of postseason baseball. I hope there’s a brawl. I hope there’s a no-hitter. I hope there’s an unexpected hero. Basically I want all the regular excitement. What do you want out of these playoffs?
Ted: A no-hitter would be appropriate, given the season itself. I’m with you, though. I don’t have a horse. I’m in for a vicarious playoffs, and I’m excited to see the Braves, the Rangers, and the Giants, mostly because their fans will be fired up. That’s the kind of fan I am in general: if I don’t have a horse, I’m more than happy to jump on the bandwagon of someone around me. I enjoyed the Angels’ 2002 World Series win immensely because my good friend is a fan. Heck, I became a Mariners fan this year based mostly on proximity (though it blew up in my face like a bouncing Betty).
So I’m ready to enjoy myself, and harbor no bitterness towards any team, even the Yanks. For the one key difference this year, against last year, is that my favorite player of all time plays for the team now: Lance Berkman. If he gets any significant playing time, I’m in it to win it with the Bronx Bombers. It also helps a bandwagon fan like myself that my good friend out here is a Yanks fan proper.
I will also abstain from picking any winners. I am here to enjoy myself, to watch some baseball, to soak in the atmosphere and the fun. I don’t in the end care who wins, even when it comes to the Big Puma. There, I said it! I feel liberated. I burned out on baseball this year, and I’m using the playoffs as a vehicle in which to travel back to the basics.
The basics include such tourist destinations as:
– Tim Lincecum’s change-up
– Neftali Feliz’s easy motion
– Bronson Arroyo’s efus-like curveball
– Dusty Baker’s dancing toothpick
– Jason Heyward’s mighty swing
– Bobby Cox’s swan song
– Joey Votto, superstar
So, yes, I agree, things are different this year. It’s a little brighter day, in my mind. I’m letting the sun in.
So, Eric, you are the mayor of the town of the basics. What does your population look like? Or would you leave the town of the basics and head for the hills of small sample sizes, predictions, wagers, and other madness?
Eric: The Mayor of Basics. That could be the name of an independent film. But since it isn’t, and it’s my title, here we go. Here are the basics I want from the 2010 MLB Playoffs:
I want The Joe Mauer to tear through the Yankees pitching staff with so much aplomb that the people of New York can’t help but tip their caps in slack-jawed awe. And if The Joe Mauer can’t, then I wan’t The Evan Longoria to do the same thing. I want Elvis Andrus to steal second and third base on consecutive pitches. I want Roy Oswalt to be better than Roy Halladay and Edinson Volquez to be better than either of them. I want Pablo Sandoval to walk off — but only once — and Brian Wilson to drop to his knees in agony as a Brian McCann home run settles into the San Francisco Bay.
Is that enough? If not, I’ll still hold out for that aforementioned brawl. Hockey season is coming.
You mentioned Berkman. There are quite a few more un-World Series’d veterans taking to the postseason this week. Halladay and Oswalt for two. Tim Hudson. Big Jim Thome. Arthur Rhodes. I’m sure I’m missing more.
Who, besides Berkman, would you like to see get their hands on a ring this year?
Ted: I don’t think it has to be an old guy to want to see someone get a ring. Immediately, Joe Mauer comes to mind, as one of the elite players in the game. The Rays as a whole have been a really good team for a little while now, and they are the sort of young, fun team that it would be great to watch win.
(You know what’s weird? I don’t really associate Tim Lincecum with Victory, and with the charge for the championship. For whatever reason, he occupies more of a theoretical slot in my baseball consciousness. Almost like Wes Anderson and the Oscars. Anderson makes consistently great films, but I don’t associate Rushmore and Tenenbaums with the infrastructure of the Academy or whatever.)
As I alluded to earlier, I think it’d be epic for Bobby Cox to win it in his final year as the Braves manager. That strikes me as the storyline that could have a lot of widespread cultural weight behind it (a la ARod winning it all, Red Sox curse breaking, etc.). There’s not much more basic than the old gipper winning it in his last go-round.
The irony would be, of course, that this is a young man’s playoffs. Whoever wins minus the Yanks will be able to look at foundations built on youth. So maybe what I’m looking for is that classic set-up: young guys spill their blood to win one for the old guy.
And I wouldn’t mind a McCovey Cove splashdown much either.