Monday, October 18, 2021

MLB Playoffs, Days Nine and Ten

Being in your 50's is a lot different from being in your 30's.  For example, to me -- at the age of 55 -- things that happened in the 1990's feel like they happened about five years ago.  I was stunned to realize today that Colin Powell was 84 years old, just like I'm surprised every time I see how old Rick Pitino is these days.  To me, 1995 just wasn't that long ago.

So from my perspective, it hasn't been that long since the Braves were on top of the baseball world.  They won the Series in 1995, and they dominated the National League throughout the 1990's, and to me those events are still very much in living memory.

But it must look very different to someone who was 12 years old in 1995.  I was 12 years old when Kentucky won the NCAA basketball tournament in 1978, and I was 30 when the Cats won again in 1996, and to me those 18 years seemed like about 50.  I used to get more worked over any one season in the 1980's then I am over any five seasons today.  And so I can understand how if you were 12 years old in 1995, and 16 in 1999 -- the last time Atlanta won the pennant -- then the last 22 years must seem like a very long time indeed.

Those kids who grew up watching the Braves dynasty of the 1990's are in their late 30's and 40's now, and they never would have dreamed in 1999 that so many other teams -- including the Florida Marlins, the  Colorado Rockies, the Arizona Diamonds, Chicago Cubs (!), and the Washington Nationals (!!!) would win the National League before the Braves could got back to the World Series.

And it's not like the Braves have had bad teams.  Since 1999, the Braves have reached the National League Divisional Series on twelve different occasions.  Nine times out of 12, Atlanta has failed to survive the divisional series.  In 2001, they advanced to the LCS, but were crushed 4-1 by Arizona.  Last year, they reached the LCS -- won the first two games, then the first three out of four, only to lose when the Dodgers took the last three games 7-3, 3-1, and 4-3.

So while I'm still thinking about how the Braves dominated the Dodgers in the early 1990's, the folks a generation behind me are thinking of the Braves as a snake-bitten with a long history of coming up short in the playoffs.  I don't think about them that way -- I still remember them dominating the National League in the 1990's.  But I can understand how others would feel differently.

Anyway, there must be strong feelings among Atlanta fans now, because over the weekend their heroes won two back-to-back walk-off games against the Dodgers.  On Saturday night in Atlanta, the Dodgers and Braves got into a typical National League pitchers duel.  The score was 2-2 after four innings, and stayed there until the Braves won it 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth.  Last night in Atlanta, events were even more dramatic.  The score was once again 2-2 after four, but this time the Dodgers got two runs in the top of the seventh, and went into the bottom of the eighth with a 4-2 lead.  But the Braves got two in the eighth, and then walked off the Dodgers again in the bottom of the ninth for a 5-4 victory.  So for the second year in a row, the Braves lead the Dodgers 2-0 in the NLCS.

Meanwhile, over in the American League, the Astros and Red Sox are playing a much more violent game.  Houston fell behind 3-1 early in Game One, from Minute Main Park, but home runs from Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa allowed them to fight back and take a 5-4 victory.  The next day, however, Boston stunned the Houston fans with two grand slams -- one in the first and one in the second -- to take an early 8-0 lead.  The Bostons then rolled to a 9-5 win that tied the series.

So with all of that out of the way we are ready to get down the real business of deciding who wins the pennant.  These are four solid, veteran teams who know how to win big games, and I don't think any of them will be easy outs.

Atlanta leads Los Angeles 2-0
Houston and Boston are tied 1-1

Tonight's game:
7:08 P.M. Central:  Houston at Boston (Fox Sports One)


  1. I have a theory about all of this ...

    There's basically one big tube in our brain that measures time and it grows like the other parts of us. When I am 10 years old, a year is a tenth of my life as measured by my brain's time tube. When I am 100, a year is a 100th of my life to the time tube. Now, my logic tube understands those two years are the same outside-in length, but my memory tube computes inside-out the 10-year-old year to be 10 times longer than the 100-year-old year. Both the outside-in and inside-out math are real and not actually in conflict with each other, but our brains and words aren't smart enough to actually quite convey/represent it. And so we need things like the widow's mite story to remind us.

  2. Go, Red Sox (because they're not the Astros). Also: Go, Dodgers (because of you). But, if not: Go, Braves (because of Jason Frakes).

  3. Up 2-0 in the top of the 4th, with their ace Walker Buehler on the mound in a game that they desperately needed to win, the Dodgers have come completely unglued. Freddie Freeman, who is the greatest player in baseball (at least against the Nats) leads off with a single. Buehler gets Ozzie Albies to fly out, and then gets Austin Riley to hit a deep fly to the warning track in center -- where it is DROPPED by Dodger center fielder Gavin Lux.

  4. At this point it was still 2-0 and the Braves had runners on second and third. But Buehler knew he was sunk, and he was right. Joc Pederson singled to make it 2-1. Then Adam Duvall singled to make it 2-2. Then Buehler walked Travis d'Arnaud to load the bases. Dansby Swanson singled in a run to make it 3-2. Buehler then struck out the pitcher -- but gave a bases loaded walk to Eddie Rosario to make it 4-2. And that was all for Buehler.

  5. The Dodgers survived with no further damage, but they trail 4-2 after 3 1/2 innings, and their offense has been almost completely useless for the last week.

  6. Baseball is a funny old game. I thought the Dodgers' win in San Francisco to survive the Divisional Series was one of the greatest games they ever played, and since then they have been absolutely terrible against the Braves.

  7. And this Braves team reminds me a lot of the Nats' team in 2019 -- they're veteran guys who have been humiliated in a lot of playoff series, and who are ready to win this time.

  8. The Dodgers hurt themselves with stupid baserunning in Game One, they tried a disastrous stunt by using Urias as a relief pitcher in Game Two, and now they've killed themselves with a dropped fly ball and bad pitching in Game Three. It's hard to win 106 games in the regular season, survive a one-game playoff with St. Louis and an epic divisional series with San Francisco, only to go out in such an embarrassing fashion. But that's baseball.

  9. The Dodgers have also been hammered by injuries. Clayton Kershaw's out for the year. Max Muncy, their best hitter, hasn't been available in the playoffs, and something is wrong with Justin Turner that has rendered him largely useless. But again, that's baseball. Give credit to Atlanta, which lost its best player -- Ronald Acuna, Jr. -- months ago, and which has simply rolled on regardless.

  10. But that's all easy to say when you're my age. If I were still young, I'd be really hating Gavin Lux and Walker Buehler right now.

  11. When I grew up, I thought of L.A. as a laid-back place, but it's really not -- it's a place that expects success and has no tolerance of failure. The fans there compare all of their teams to the Showtime Lakers. So the reaction to this collapse by the Dodgers will be much harsher than it would be in most towns.

  12. One thing I really like about the Braves is that they keep taking advantage of the Dodgers' shift by slapping the ball the opposite way. I have long thought that someone would get burned for all this shifting, and give credit to the Braves for making it happen.

  13. Braves up 5-2 and cruising in the top of the 6th. The Dodgers, who have fought so hard and so bravely in each of the last six seasons, seem resigned to defeat -- I haven't seen them so lifeless in a very long time. Will be interesting to see what changes they make in the off-season.

  14. So now it's over to the BoSox and the Astros. The Braves have never played the Red Sox or the Astros in the World Series.

  15. Ten greatest Astros by Wins Above Replacement players:

    1. Jeff Bagwell: 79.9
    2. Craig Biggio: 65.4
    3. Jose Cruz: 51.4
    4. Cesar Cedeno: 49.6
    5. Lance Berkman: 48.1
    6. Roy Oswalt: 46.1
    7. Jim Wynn: 41.5
    8. Jose Altuve: 41.4
    9. Carlos Correa: 34.1
    10. Larry Dierker: 32.0

  16. Everyone in my neighborhood was convinced Cesar Cedeno was going to the Hall of Fame.