It was a tumultuous ending to the regular season, particularly in the American League.
Boston was ousted handily in one of the more epic collapses in recent history, which enabled the Rays to sneak into the dance, much to the chagrin of the Rangers.
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The Tigers and Yankees have spent the past week sizing up one another like boxers at a promotional weigh-in, only to be suspended after two innings and tied at 1-1 last night. You can almost hear CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander grinding their teeth as they frustratingly and patiently await their returns to the mound in game three.
What’s most interesting about the ALDS, is that every team seems to be genuinely fearing one another. And for good reason, each contender could realistically upset the next. This divisional series could quite capably resemble the same drama that unfolds every March during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Rebuttals to that comparison can easily be quelled by reviewing Wednesday night’s calamity.
Even more intriguing is the variety that has surrounded playoff roster formation. Each American League manager is counting on his rookies to perform in the most crucial stretch of the season. Every rookie should be so fortunate. Asking a rookie to not only contribute, but compete, at the postseason level is a tall order to ask of any 22-year-old. Which is not to take away from the enthusiasm that is surely coursing through their veins as they prepare to meet the steepest challenges they will face in their professional careers.
With that in mind, let’s look at each manager’s rookie selections and the probable psychology that led them to these convictions:
Jesus Montero (C/DH) – New York is going to wisely implement Montero’s .328 batting average into their lineup cards in hopes of further bolstering the firepower of their offense. Not a foolish move considering the amount of sterling right-handers Detroit will undoubtedly unleash on their lefty-favoring lineup. Montero’s bat will be crucial when Yankees hurlers are in need of run support against an equivocally lethal Tigers batting order.
Al Alburquerque (RHP) – Jim Leyland recognizes how crucial the back-end of the bullpen can be, particularly in the playoffs. That’s why Al Alberquerque was all but guaranteed a spot on the postseason roster. It probably didn’t hurt his chances going 6-1 this season with a 1.87 ERA. And that slurve is just malicious — did I mention he racked up 67 Ks in 43.1 innings?
Andy Dirks (OF) – Dirks will be brought on as a platoon player for the outfield and will more than likely be a situational sub based on his defense. In the event of an injury, he is a viable replacement at most positions because of a strong arm and the speed with which he uses to seamlessly shag fly-balls.
Cody Eppley (RHP) — Eppley will make a nice addition to the Rangers bullpen. The 25-year-old flamethrower will be a requisite addition for Ron Washington’s aspirations in the post-season — aspirations that are sure to be sincere given that the Rangers are still soothing the burn of last year’s unexpected dismissal.
Leonys Martin (OF) – Washington knows, just as well as any manager in the playoffs, that the Rangers are going to need serious run support to compete with some of the more complete pitching staffs baseball has to offer. That’s where Martin comes in. He was hitting .348 with 10 stolen bases earlier this year in double-A before being called up to triple-A Round Rock.
Matt Moore (LHP) – Does Rays manager Joe Maddon have the golden touch, or what? Moore’s seven-inning, no-runs, two-hit outing yesterday in leading the Rays to a 9-0 series-opening victory is what every 22-year-old dreams of. Moore, who had pitched only 9.1 innings over three outings in his September call up, was a cool customer during his dominating performance. Off to a fast start, he has an opportunity to be the most interesting and vexing rookie in the playoffs. Interesting because he struck out 11 Yankees in 5 innings of work during his last start, vexing for that same reason. With Tampa Bay’s pitching ferocity, no team was thrilled to see them crash the playoff party.
With these considerations in mind, the most rewarding segment of the baseball season is upon us. The moment where this sport transcends any other, and naysayers rub elbows with the most astute fans of the game. The only people more excited than the fans are the players who are coming to the realization that they are faced with the most gratifying reward of a grueling 162 game season. And the only people more nervous than those players, are the rookies who are showing up for their first few days on the job.