Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday's Starting Five

1. Evan Longoria. At one point yesterday afternoon a co-worker asked me if Longoria, the rookie third baseman starring for the Tampa Bay Rays, was going to hit a home run in every single postseason at-bat of his career. I thought about it. I told him it seemed incredibly likely, going by the numbers. At that point in the afternoon, Longoria had two career postseason at-bats. He hit a home run both times. He clubbed the first to lead off the bottom of the second inning and the second with two outs in the bottom of the third. The latter of those two longballs pushed the Rays ahead of the AL Central champion Chicago White Sox, 4-3. The Rays, playing in the first playoff game in franchise history, never relinquished the lead. Thanks in part to what happened the third time Longoria dug into the batter's box. And, no. In spite of his previous rate of hitting one out of the park 100% of the time he batted in the playoffs, Longoria only managed an RBI single when his turn in the batting order came up in the fifth inning. His run batted in would stake the Rays to a 5-3 lead. They would tack on one more run down the stretch and take a 1-games-to-none lead in their five-game set with the White Sox. With the Mets cursed and out of the playoffs, the Rays are hereby officially endorsed by WWOD?. Which sucks for them. Aside from the precocious Longoria, the Rays feature several former Metropolitans, including Cliff Floyd, Chad Bradford, Dan Wheeler and the one-time, next-Gooden and the forever-time one-that-gottaway Scott Kazmir. Let's go Rays.

2. The Los Angeles Dodgers. For the fashion forward out there (and I know that you are reading this), please know that Dodger Blue is the new black. But, like the little-black-dress, cool and sexy black. Meanwhile, Cubbie Blue is the new black, too. But, like the old-person-at-another-funeral sort of black. The sort of black that is shapeless unflattering and faded by too many trips through the washing machine. This is because, in part, Manny Ramirez cracked another home run (that's two in two games if you're keeping track) and the Dodgers rolled the Cubs, 10-3, in Game 2 of the NLDS. The last time the Cubs won a World Series was 1908. Meanwhile, the club from the Left Coast has a seemingly insurmountable 2-games-to-none lead in the best of five series and Wrigley Field was as conflicted and awkward as Shea Stadium was around 5 p.m. this past Sunday afternoon.

3. Brett Myers. By all accounts, he's an ass of the highest order. He's publicly punched his special lady friend. He's had some clubhouse problems and some on-field ones too. Myers is an all-around erratic guy. But he's shown that he can (not they he always will, though) be a pretty darn good pitcher. So, he stays around. And, last night he had the key at-bat against Brewers rental ace CC Sabathia. Yeah, you read that correctly, Myers had the key at-bat. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the second inning there were two out and a man on base. The TBS broadcasters (two days into the playoffs and it still makes me cringe to hear Ron Darling calling something other than a Mets game) were ready to send the telecast to commerical. But Myers wasn't doing his part. He was battling Sabathia, the guy who had run amok in the NL since arriving via trade in July. Myers, with all of six hits to his name over the last SIX seasons, wasn't going down without a fight. Which didn't surprise his wife. On the ninth pitch of at-bat, Myers didn't move his bat. The home plate umpire ruled that it was ball four. The Fightins fighting pitcher trotted down to first. The inning was alive for the Phils. And, CC was rattled. Badly. He lost command of his fastball and walked the next batter, Jimmy Rollins. Now the bases were loaded. Citizens Bank Park was rocking and rolling and the Brewers mountainous hurler surrendered a grand slam to Shane Victorino. Philadelphia 5. Milwaukee 1. Although Myers would last seven innings in the game and only let the Brew Crew push two runners across the plate it was his walk in the second that made all the difference.

4. Joe Biden. He's the Democratic nominee for Vice President. In case you didn't know. He's not the smoothest talker. In case you didn't know. He's also not the youngest guy. He's neither edgy or folksy. And, he's just fine with that. The papers and the talking heads can spend as much time as they want today writing/talking about how Governor Palin (the other VP nom) didn't get routed in the Vice Presidential Debate like the Cubs last night. That's fine. She might not have been flat-out routed. But she was absolutely outclassed in every conceivable way by Biden, who wasn't there with the goal of just avoiding embarrassment. The current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee had steak when Palin just had sizzle. He had percentages and specific policy prescriptions while she had cloying "doggones," and a handful of buzz words, which were generally unrelated to the questions posed. He expressed a vision for this country while his opponent just tried to paint a (terrifying if true) vision of what she thinks people see when they look in the mirror.

5. Bill Simmons. Better known as The Sports Guy, Simmons built a rabid following of college-aged and post-college-aged readers during the 1990s and the early 2000s writing about the joys and despairs of sports fandom, specifically the unrequited nature of being a Red Sox fan before they reached and won the World Series in 2004. This was before the term "Red Sox Nation" was used with great reverence. Or used at all. Oh, those were such better times. But, those times are now only prelude to these ones, when Simmons is famous and much less dependable a read. He writes about the NBA (and, when I say NBA, I mean to say that he frequently finds ways to compare current basketball teams to Celtics teams from the 1980s) and makes weekly picks during the NFL season. We all still read these things. Because we have to. And, it feels like that a lot of the time. But then yesterday's Manny Ramirez story came through the office bathroom window like a messenger pigeon from yesteryear. The article was about the Red Sox. It was about Manny. It was passionate, at turns irrational and/or highly critical of the organization. And it was good. Darn good. I've had three conversations about it in the past 24 hours. The sort of "Hey did you read..." exchanges that I used to have about this guy's work when I was in college. The sort that I can't remember having in a very, very long time.