MLB playoff preview: There can be only one
Jed Rigney is an award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a sportswriter. His next film “Nowhere Girl” is available online and Video on Demand on October 13. His views expressed here are not necessarily those of TTFB (or any sane person, really).
Oh, man, the Major League Baseball playoffs are here and it looks like it’s going to be a doozie! As is the custom with all major sports, only one team will win it all (for now anyway, until the participation-trophy mindset continues to spread and the wussyfication of America consumes us all). But until then, all 10 teams have a decent shot to win no matter how mediocre they are or how lucky they were to even get in the playoffs – just ask the championship San Francisco Giants teams of the last few years.
When I was younger, one of my favorite movies was The Highlander – the first R-rated movie I ever saw in a theatre. The lifeless robot at the ticket window wouldn’t let me and my buddy in because we were clearly underage. Fortunately for us, the guy standing behind us in line stepped up and claimed we were with him. Also fortunately for us, he did not try to abduct us for a Human Centipede thing.
For the record, the film was rated R, not because of violence or language, but because of an entirely unnecessary and entirely disappointing sex scene. How bad was the sex scene? It was so bad that I, as a 14-year-old boy, was disappointed.
The film is about immortals who sword fight each other to death by decapitation until only one remains. Hence the phrase: There can be only one. But these were no ordinary immortals. There was the Spaniard with the Scottish accent; the Scotsman with the French accent; and the creepy goth guy who later played the guard in the Shawshank Redemption.
Spoiler alert: In the end, the Highlander wins. Spoiler alert: the film is called The Highlander. Spoiler alert: they didn’t call it The Spaniard, or The Creepy Goth Guy Who Later Plays the Guard in Shawshank Redemption.
So, what do sword fighting immortals with misplaced accents have to do with baseball? Frankly, I’m not really sure. But speaking of movies, now is a good time to mention that my movie “Nowhere Girl” is available online and Video on Demand on October 13.
Oh, right, I was doing a thing with that “” line and the baseball playoffs. Let’s take a look at how each of the playoff teams look heading into the Fall Classic. There’s no way to know for sure who will win, but let’s see if we can make some educated guesses (Note: “educated guesses” is Internet slang for making up wild opinions out of thin air.)
Okay, let’s proceed.
St. Louis Cardinals (100-62) – According to their record, the Cardinals are the best team in the league, but they’re a tough team to figure out. They don’t “look” like the best team in the league. But, I mean, off the top of your head, who’s their best player? Did you guess Jason Heyward? No, you didn’t. Can a team that has Jason Heyward as its best player win a World Series? I guess. Team’s with the best regular season record haven’t done well in the post-season lately. Maybe that’s because baseball isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon … that turns into a sprint. I’m getting winded just thinking about it.
Pittsburgh Pirates (98-64) – The team with the second-best record in baseball won the privilege of playing the single Wild Card game in hopes of advancing to the next round to play a full series. That’s just the way it goes. It could be worse. Twenty years ago, they’d be out of the playoffs altogether. And for their single game, they get the joy of facing Jake Arrieta who just happens to be the most dominant pitcher in baseball right now. Congratulations on the great season, Pirates. Maybe next year you’ll get it together and win some more games.
Chicago Cubs (97-65) – The team with the third-best record in baseball won the privilege of playing the single Wild Card game in hopes of advancing to the next round to play a full series. The Cubs are one of the great feel-good stories of the year. They’ve been rebuilding for the last few years and all the pieces have fallen into place. They’re offense is explosive and their pitching staff has been stultifying. They also have the best manager in baseball, so Cubs fans don’t need to worry about him Dusty Baker-ing things. They could go all the way as long as the opposing teams don’t bring in Steve Bartman to patrol foul territory.
Kansas City Royals (95-67) – The Royals were one of last year’s Wild Card teams and they made it all the way to the World Series. Many thought they wouldn’t even make playoffs this season but they wound up with the best record in the American League and will enjoy home field throughout the playoffs. Of course, that could screw everything up for them since the underdog thing was working so well for them. They’ve got one of the worst managers in baseball and their hitters don’t like taking walks, but they rarely strike out and play great defense. I don’t think they’ll get past the first round. But maybe that’s exactly what they want me to think.
Toronto Blue Jays (93-69) – Toronto has been the league’s best-scoring team all season – and that’s even after you factor in the exchange rate. The Blue Jays (or “BJs”) lineup is a bit right-handed, but the BJs will be just fine. This is the first time in 22 years that the BJs have been good and Toronto couldn’t be more excited. For so long, the BJs have been disappointing, never performing the way fans and ownership wanted and leaving a bad taste in their mouths. However, the acquisition of ace pitcher David Price at the trade deadline will really help the BJs have a happy ending.
Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70) – Normally when a group of people get together and spend an astronomical amount of money on an endeavor, they don’t put someone in charge that doesn’t know what they’re doing – aside from any of Donald Trump’s businesses. The Dodgers have a $300 million payroll and a manager who’s “learning on the job” and who only kept his job this year because Joe Maddon chose to go to the Chicago Cubs. The team made it to 92 wins and the Western Division title despite Don Mattingly. This team has Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, two of the three best pitchers in baseball this year, and while their offense has been somewhat erratic, it will really be up to these two horses to carry the Dodgers deep into the playoffs.
New York Mets (90-72) – The Mets are yet another of the feel-good stories of the year. They have a great young pitching staff and the team is trying its best not to ruin them like the last time they had a great young pitching staff. They brought in Yoenis Cespedes (which I just spelled correctly without even checking because I am a professional) and he was a house on fire. The team finished the season with a thud and missed out on home-field advantage, but end of season record usually is no indication of playoff performance. They couldn’t possibly continue to hit this poorly going forward, right? Who do they play first? What?! The Dodgers’ Greinke and Kershaw? Oh, well, there’s always next year, Mets.
Texas Rangers (88-74) – Texas has been yet another great story this year. For the first few months of the year they were kind of playing possum and even when they traded for the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, most people thought it was more of a long-term move. But here they are division champs. They’re just playing with house money at this point and they are built to continue to do well in seasons to come. However the best move this team made wasn’t trading for Josh Hamilton or Yovani Gallardo even making Derek Holland shave that stupid mustache off his face; it was getting rid of manager Ron Washington, who was almost solely responsible for the team’s recent playoff disasters and disappointing finishes. This should give a team like the Washington Nationals a lot of hope after firing their mis-manager Matt Williams.
New York Yankees (87-75) – And so we get to the best of the worst. The Yankees got one of the Wild Card spots and will put their old-timey baseballers out on the field against the youthful Houston Astros on Tuesday. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia announced on Monday that he was checking himself into an alcohol rehab facility. Makes you think maybe that wouldn’t have happened if the team hadn’t celebrated their playoff berth with champagne. This team just doesn’t look like it has any of the pieces it takes to even get past the one Wild Card game and will surely be sent packing by the Astros. But don’t be surprised if this group of crafty veterans puts together a few more wins.
Houston Astros (86-76) – For years the Astros have been building for this moment. They dumped every player they could and tried to acquire talent, talent and more talent. Now they have one of the best young teams with one of the brightest futures. They started the year off hot and then staggered down the stretch and stumbled into the last Wild Card spot, but that’s all that they need to realize their dreams. Last year’s Giants and Royals both barely qualified for the playoffs and they thrilled us all with a great World Series. This Astros team has the pitching to make a run. Their offense is going to score runs. Lots of runs. Their batters are going to strike out … a lot … no, more than that … still more … okay just a bit more than that. But there’s just no way they’re going to be denied by the New Yankees Beer League team.
You may not agree with what I have said, but let’s try to be civilized. My team isn’t in the playoffs and I’m just trying to provide some objective analysis, so let’s not lose our heads. Get it? It’s a call back to the Highlander decapitation thing. [Editor’s note: Jed, how much of this paragraph did you write just to make that joke?] [Note to Editor: What?! How dare you?] [Editor’s note: So, all of it?] [Note to Editor: You’re not my dad!]
There are so many great storylines for the playoffs that it’s sure to be another thrilling ride from start to finish. That said, if you find yourself with some time on your hands because your favorite team got knocked out or maybe there’s some days off between series, feel free to check out my film “Nowhere Girl” – available online and Video on Demand on October 13. Take a peek at the trailer below.