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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Bay Believer

During his four and a half seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates - on the verge of becoming the lowliest franchise in major league history - Jason Bay hardly played a meaningful game after his perennial appearance as the team's sole representative to the All-Star Game in early July.  While the more appealing story may continue to be the postseason heroics of the man(ny) who used to play left field in Boston, his replacement, Bay, is playing as if possessed with a fury not unlike that of Barry Bonds, another former Pirate left-fielder, during 2002, the only year he made it to the World Series.  In the first six playoff games of his career he is batting .458 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, and 5 Runs Scored.  Additionally, he has played an exceptional outfield, cutting off balls in the gap and throwing out runners who try to advance.  I find it hard to applaud Theo Epstein's continued attempts at white-washing the BoSox clubhouse, but Jason Bay is helping him once again look like a genius.   

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

October 1 Notes

  • For C. C. Sabathia, Jimmy Rollins, Gary Sheffield, and others who have been promoting MLB's inner-city baseball programs (namely R.B.I.) and drawing attention to the waning presence of African Americans in the major leagues, this postseason should be a source of great pride and cause for further diligence on that front. In a time when there are only an average of about two black players per active roster, five teams are taking three or more African Americans with them into October. Four of the five teams who boast five or more black regulars advanced, with only the Tigers being left out of the playoffs. The Brewers, having added C. C. Sabathian and Ray Durham midseason, boast the largest percentage of African American players, with 7.
  • Those who aren't eager for a centennial World Series appearance for the Cubs are probably anticipating the possibility of Manny Ramirez facing off against his old club, the defending Champion Boston Red Sox. However, in addition to the drama of Manny's return to Fenway, having carried his NL West leaders through the second half, there are other Dodgers with axes to grind with the BoSox. Dodger manager Joe Torre hasn't faced the BoSox in the postseason since they reeled off four wins in a row against his Yankees en route to the 2004 World Series. Derek Lowe, the Dodger ace, went 3-0 for the Red Sox during that same postseason, but Boston chose not to resign him. Nomar Garciaparra was also a member of the BoSox in 2004, though not for long enough to see October baseball. He was traded to the Cubs in July. Nomar quietly disdained the way he was treated by the Boston organization in his final years with them, as he struggled with injuries and Manny cited the dismissals of Garciaparra and Lowe as among his reasons for seeking to leave the Red Sox during the tumultuous weeks leading up to his trade.
  • The Dodgers are by no means the same team this October that was responsible for their modest record from April to August. Not only has Manny changed the face of the lineup, as will be constantly eluded to by the commentators, and not without due cause (Manny was responsible for approximately a third of the Dodger runs after he joined the team). The Dodgers also add Rafeal Furcal, who hasn't been a regular since May, at which time he was hitting .367. Furcal, if fully healthy, gives L.A. a top-flight leadoff hitter and a massively talented defensive shortstop. The difference between Furcal at 80% and Angel Berroa at 100% is notable. The Dodger also added Casey Blake at 3B, allowing them to move Blake DeWitt to 2B, and relegating Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra to the bench. I would be willing to bet that one or both of them will make a splash pinch-hitting in a critical situation.