Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Matt Stairs. That ball exploded from Stairs's bat like a cannon-ball firing from the deck of the Pinta into a confused indigenous village in the autumn of 1492. Cripes, he crushed the ball like he probably used to when he was playing for Connie Mack back in the Roaring Twenties. Because, you see, Stairs is approximately one hundred years old. Not that his extreme age and all-around old-mannishness mattered last night when the 16-year veteran stepped to the plate with two outs in the top of the eighth and the game tied, 5-5.

2. Manny Ramirez. If a pitcher in a baseball game is looking to compile outs in any given inning without allowing the opposing side to tally any runs then said pitcher cannot and must not throw a strike to Manny Ramirez. It's official. You can't pitch to this guy. He hits everything. And, he's perfectly calm and balanced at the plate. He doesn't try to muscle up and crush everything either. He simply uses the wooden implement provided and redirects pitches into the field of play to spots where they cannot be caught. It's amazing. I'm pretty sure that I've never seen anything like this. I mean Pujols is great, really great, but in the 2006 NLCS (my main hi-pressure situation exposure to the guy as a Mets fan) he only had one RBI and I just don't remember being utterly convinced he was going to get a hit in ever at-bat. And, Barry Bonds, well he was great in his prime too. Really great. But, he did line out to center field for the final out of the 2000 NLDS against the Mets. Without taking away from those two I think what Manny is doing right now is just next level. You could throw pitches to those two guys even when they were at their best whereas right now you literally have two choices with Manny: walk him or have him put the ball in play. He has 11 hits in 22 postseason at-bats to go along with 10 walks, for a .656 on-base percentage. He's got nine RBI and eight runs scored in seven postseason games played. He's got three home runs against just four strikeouts. In last night's game, Joe Blanton intentionally walked him in the first inning, all-but intentionally walked him in the third inning, and then surrendered an RBI single to him on the first pitch he threw him in the fifth inning. Phillies reliever Chad Durbin intentionally walked him in the sixth inning and then Brad Lidge gave up a double to Manny in the eighth. He's unstoppable.

3. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The only thing coming out of the City of Brotherly Love that makes me smile these days is this FX comedy. Even the random text messages from a buddy living in Philly make me want to smash my phone into pieces since they have recently concerned only Met entropy and Fightin success. The Phillies may be up 3-games-to-1 in the NLCS but this show is the only thing about the city that I feel like complementing. Geno's sucks too.

4. Shane Victorino. One way for a baseball player to gauge his ascension to star status is to mark the vitriol he inspires in the fans of his division rivals. So, let me be the first offer the flying Hawaiian a hearty congratulations. I officially do not like you. So you must be getting pretty good. This came to my attention last night during Game 4 of the NLCS in Los Angeles when Victorino hit the game-tying home run in the X inning. Watching him round the bases brought the bilious taste to my mouth I usually only experience when Pat Burrell or Jimmy Rollins does something of note. Apparently, Victorino has earned his own place amongst such unsavory company. Great. Grand. Your welcome.

5. Madison Square Garden. Tonight is the Knicks pre-season home opener. I won't be there tonight. But someone, at least some one, will when the Knicks take on the Philadelphia 76ers. The World's Most Famous Arena is again open for business.

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