Sunday, October 5, 2014

Of Pastimes and Pucks

I have surprised myself thus far in this baseball postseason with the amount of attention I have paid to the playoffs.  Candidly, as a Yankees fan, my general rule of thumb is that the playoffs hold my attention only as long as the Yankees are active participants in them.  In other words, I have been able to stop paying attention pretty much since Jeter was carried off of the field at the Stadium during Game One of the 2012 ALCS against the Tigers. 

This October, however, has been different.  While I spend zero time during the season monitoring the comings and goings of the National League, I have always been a Don Mattingly fan.  My loyalty to Mattingly has extended - at least temporarily - to the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Truth be told, I started not hating on the Dodgers when a certain Brooklynite named Torre headed west to manage them several years ago.  Torre brought Mattingly to Los Angeles with him.  So, having signed on at the beginning of the Torre Era, I shall stay engaged through the end of the Mattingly Era.  Given his relationship with his team's front office and the not-infrequent, head-scratching decisions he makes while managing playoff games, the end might very well in fact be right around the corner.  

Meanwhile, there is a possibility that the field for the 2014 ALCS could be filled by night's end.  My friend Gracie, although a Jersey girl, is the daughter of a late, great Baltimore Orioles fan.  Her father, Thomas, died shortly before the end of the 2012 season, which season was the first one since the late 1990's in which Baltimore made the playoffs.  Thus far in the 2014 ALDS the O's have been able to conjure up enough late-inning magic to post back-to-back comeback wins over the favored Detroit Tigers.  If MLB had only decided - in an effort to reduce the length of games - to shorten them from nine innings to seven, then the Tigers would have headed home for today's Game Three with a 2-0 lead.  Unfortunately, the proposal never saw the light of day.  Worse still for Detroit, their bullpen has.   

Also poised, perhaps, to advance to the ALCS are the Kansas City Royals.  Until they hosted the AL Wild-Card game early last week against the Oakland A's, the Royals had not played a post-season game since 1985.  I was a first-semester freshman at the Unversity of Colorado, Boulder when the Royals - taking full advantage of one of the worst calls ever made in a World Series and a complete meltdown by the St. Louis Cardinals - rallied from three games to one down to win.   The Royals have ridden the three-game winning streak that capped off their 1985 post-season right into 2014 - a mere twenty-nine years later.  After defeating the A's in extra innings to win the Wild-Card game, the Royals headed west to play the Angels, owners of the American League's best record.  Back-to-back, first on Thursday night and then again on Friday night, the Royals won extra-inning affairs.  And of course, a team that had fewer home runs (95) in the regular season than the Angels had victories (98), secured their consecutive road victories in Anaheim by hitting home runs. 

Do not misunderstand, I would find the playoffs much more enjoyable if the Yankees had managed to find their way into them.  They did not - and frankly their prospects for playing October baseball in 2015 seem...well, let us part as friends and say, simply, "not good".  So far, this year's edition of the playoffs has kept me entertained and enthralled...

...and with the New York Rangers ready to open their 2014-15 NHL season on Thursday night, it has accomplished its mission.  


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