Sunday, October 02, 2005

Back just in time

Now that the LSAT is over, I can finally get back to some good ol' sports blogging. The next few weeks will be heavily baseball slanted (big surprise), but I'm sure there will be a smattering of college and pro football as well as my thoughts on the return of the NHL. Given the wide open play I've seen in preseason highlights, I am quite excited about hockey this year. But for now, I turn to baseball.

The pennant races fizzled out a bit. Any time there is a possibility for a 3-way tie, anything less is a bit disappointing from a fan's perspective. It was a good last month nonetheless, even if the status quo was maintained (6 of 8 playoff entrants also made it in 2004). I'll be posting a full playoff preview tomorrow; here are some random thoughts and comments about the last month of the season.

The White Sox showed exactly why losing a 15 game lead is so hard to do. Cleveland was the best team in baseball for 3 weeks and Chicago played .500 ball, which was about wwhere they should have been all year given their offense. Cleveland really couldn't have played any better, and they still were not able to overcome the enormous deficit. This is why games in April matter. What was being built up as an epic confrontation for the division title in Cleveland turned out to be an anti-climax, as Chicago steamrolled into the playoffs. During the sweep, Cleveland provided Chicago's bullpen with a stern challenge, and for the most part, Jenks/Cotts/Politte and Co. reacted positively to the pressure. There are a bunch of good pitchers in that bullpen, and they can strike people out. Now that they've been tested in a playoff-like atmosphere, they should be ready.

The Angels had a similar "statement" series against Oakland last week, although injuries had rendered the Athletics benign by the time the series actually started. Clinching early allowed the Angels the luxury to line up their rotation. Maybe they'll also use that time to wake up and bench Steve Finley, who, if not for Cristian Guzman and Eric Milton, would have been the worst free agent signing of the year. Offense is a concern for Anaheim, but with their deep rotation and bullpen, they should not be taken lightly.

The Yankees and Red Sox ended the season on even terms, which really isn't surprising. They have the same strengths and the same flaws and...oh hell, just look at the last two editions of the ALCS! The results say it all. The MLB suits will want another 7-game ALCS, and they probably will get it if these two teams can make it out of the first round. Of course the flaws I alluded to may mean that it will be the South Side against the O.C., which would also be a very evenly-matched series. I feel confident in predicting that there won't be too many short series in the American League this year.

Over in the National League, all of the division races ended early in the month and what could have been a crazy Wild Card race turned into a (gratuitious alliteration alert) two-team tussle. Despite the best efforts Jimmy "Thirty-Six" Rollins, who has finally learned how to hit, and Ryan Howard, who should be Rookie of the Year, Houston protected its slim lead over the weekend. They won with what got them to this position in the first place, peerless starting pitching. Closer Brad Lidge hiccupped on Saturday against the Cubs, leaving some suspense for the last day of the season, but he slammed the door today. The Phillies didn't deserve this fate based on how well they played over the past two weeks. It's really gotta cook Charlie Manuel's grits to see the Padres in the playoffs, though Jake Peavy gives them a chance to steal one from the Cards.

Okay, off to do some research for tomorrow's playoff preview.


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