1. Manny Ramirez. Notorious for being himself, Manny is also famous for hitting home runs and line drives like few others ever have. Sort of like the HR he hit for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field last night. The ball, delivered by Cubs pitcher Sean Marshall, in the top of the seventh inning that Ramirez clubbed into the stands was flat-out unbelievable. The ball was way out on the far side of the plate and barely shoe-top high when Manny got his bat to it. Most players would send a cue shot up the first base line or into the dugout on that pitch. If they were lucky enough not to just swing and miss. Yet, somehow Manny pushed the ball several rows deep into the stands of the opposite field. He is amazing. I still can't fathom how the Red Sox could really, really part with him. Since arriving in LA at the very end of July, Manny has batted .396, recorded 74 hits, cracked 17 homers, drove in over 50 runs and gotten on base 49% of the time he steps to the plate. Ladies and gentleman, your 2008 National League Most Valuable Player.
2. The Los Angeles Dodgers. It sure does look like "next year" is this year for dem bums from Brooklyn by way of Los Angeles. Playing in Wrigley Field against the No. 1 seed in the National League, the Dodgers come from behind (an early 0-2 hole) to rout the Cubbies and snag the home field advantage from here on out. Everything was clicking. And, they look ready to roll. Spark plug Rafael Furcal is back at the top of the batting order after having only nine at-bats since May 5. I had no idea he was ready to be back in the lineup and feel like he is another game-changer for this club. The guy batted .367 in April before getting hurt. Furcal will be getting on base ahead of potential NL MVP Manny Ramirez, who is now anchoring a lineup featuring young up-and-comers Russell Martin, James Loney (who hit the big grand salami that really decided Game 1), Matt Kemp and Blake DeWitt. If that weren't enough, they've got the best playoff beard in all of baseball over at third base on the face of Casey Blake. The beard is serious. It has been to the postseason already. It's poised. And, if Blake's beard-poise weren't enough, the Dodgers have four-time champ Joe Torre pulling the strings from the dugout. I generally believe that the effect of a manager is overrated but I have no doubt that the young Dodgers draw confidence from the been-there-done-that Torre.
3. Old Habits. The Los Angeles Angels in the Outfield Near Disneyland were the class of the American League this season. They got strong starting pitching up and the down the rotation. They got consistent play from stalwarts Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson. They got a record-breaking number of saves from K-Rod. They were good. The best, in fact. And, then they traded for slugging (and Gold Gloving) first baseman Mark Teixeira. Which made them even better. Now, they had the additional power bat in the middle of the batting order that pundits always said was the team's one weakness come playoff time. So, with Tex in the lineup this team had no weaknesses. Right? Right. But, they do still have old habits. Which, as the saying goes, die hard. One of those old habits. Is losing to the Red Sox when it matters most. It happened in the 1986 ALCS. It happened in the 2004 ALDS. It happened in the 2007 ALDS. And, then it happened again in Game 1 of the Division Series.
4. Cole Hamels. Yeah. He was good. The Phils jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the NLDS matchup with the Wild Card-winning Milwaukee Brewers. Yeah. I hate these guys.
5. Frank TV. I've never watched this show. Although I feel like I have. Like a lot. I'm fairly certain that it has only been on the air one season thus far (which I very, very, very vaguely remember hearing about this time of year last year). Nonetheless, I couldn't feel any stronger that this program has overstayed its welcome. This Frank person can do some great vocal impressions. You've got to give him that. But he looks exactly the same in every commercial. The differences between all his characters? A different wig. A different sport jacket. Honestly, I'd rather watch Giuseppe Franco's ads for that hair loss stuff that played during Mets games all season on SNY. Those actually make me laugh.