Some People's Kids: Is this a Great Game or What?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is this a Great Game or What?

After months and months of waiting, we have finally come back to the start of the best time of the year for sports fans. Its a period of time every year starting from the start of Football season to the end of football season, culminating with the Super Bowl in early February. During this wonderful time, we see the start of football season, both college and pro, the start of basketball season, both college and pro, and the end of a 7 month long baseball season. Baseball's postseason is by far the best of all the four major sports. Every pitch means so much, coaching really shows up, and runs are at a premium. Not to mention that stadiums get uber crazy. Usually there are a few meaningful games come the last weekend of the regular season, but for the most part, the playoff spots are already filled or just a mere formality. Again, I emphasize, usually.

This year.... not so much. Coming into the last weekend, there were about 9 teams still alive for playoff spots, mostly all of them residing in the National League. I've never really been a baseball buff in the past, mainly because I would get bored during the doldrums of summer, when it seems that the season will never end. Again, this year was different. I've become more of a fan now than ever before. I never thought in a million years, I would be glued to the TV, watching a Padres/Brewers game on ESPN, hanging on every at bat. The end of this season has been the by far the craziest I've ever seen. Let me take a moment and try to break it down the best I can from my perspective. This season has seen everything. From a complete and utterly unfathomable collapse, to some teams left for dead showing everyone that they are very much alive.

In an earlier post, I said "That thud you hear is Rick Ankiel." I must apologize. I was very wrong on that one. That thud you hear is the New York Mets. If you realize what has happened to this team in the last month, you have to stand in amazement. Leading the NL East by a seemingly insurmountable 7 games in mid September, the Mets slowly dribbled it down their leg. With every loss to teams that had nothing to play for, the Mets showed us new ways to lose baseball games. They built 5+ run leads, only to have a Guillermo Mota led bullpen blow up in front of their eyes. They lost to teams that were eliminated from playoff contention in spring training. They had people who were brought in to prevent these kind of things from happening, namely Billy Wagner, blow lead after lead in uncharacteristic fashion after being solid all year. As much as I like this team and the players on it, I couldn't help but smile at the magnitude of that collapse. With the loss on the last day of season to the Florida Marlins, in which stallwart Tom Glavine gave up 7 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning, the boys from Flushing completed their fall and lost the division to their rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies. Twins fans know this situation all too well. This sounds like the Detroit Tigers team losing a 13 game lead last year to the benefit of our favorite club. The only difference was, those Tigers still made the playoffs, these Mets will not.

The Phillies, along with the Colorado Rockies, were the aforementioned teams left for dead earlier this season. These two clubs, although alot alike, went about their comebacks in different ways. The Phils kept coming all year. They weathered many key injuries and somehow kept their head above water, until their steady pace caught up with the tanking Mets. They are one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league. From the top of the order to the bottom, these Phils have people that will make you sit on the edge of your seat every time they step to the plate. Whether its Jimmy Rollins leading off with his unique combination of speed and power, or Ryan Howard abusing baseballs into the upper deck on a regular basis, these Phils always keep things interesting. Not to mention that Chase Utley may be one of the purest hitters that there is in the league. This team has style, and swagger, and damn, are they easy to like...

The Rockies however, chose a different route to a possible postseason appearance. They just chose to win almost every game since mid September. The Rockies took 13 of their last 14 games including a franchise-record 11 straight, finishing like gang busters to force a one-game playoff for the NL wild card with the (yawn) San Diego Padres. These aren't your cool older brother's Colorado Rockies either. These Rockies do it with both hitting AND pitching. With players that most people have never heard of, they have surprised everyone by winning in the rarefied air of Colorado. Although, you may have no clue who these players are yet, it won't be long until you do. Led not the Killer "B"s, of Houston Astros fame, but the Killer "H"s of Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, and the possible MVP of the league Matt Holliday, these Rockies can really do damage to any pitching staff. They all can hit for average. They all can hit for power. Its really, really scary actually.

The best thing about these teams, and the reason that you can feel really good rooting for them, is that they were both built through the Minor Leagues, not some flash in the pan, big free agent signing. No one would come to Colorado to pitch, causing them to vastly overpay for very sub par pitchers like Denny Naegle and Mike Hampton. When that didn't work, they just developed their own pitchers. No one wanted to pitch in Philly either, so they developed one of the best young left handers in the league in Cole Hamels. Even their Murderer's Row lineups were built through the Minor Leagues, proving to Twins fans that maybe there is hope after all.

The greatest thing of all though, is that if the Rockies win their one game playoff on Monday, these two teams will play each other in a first round best-of-five series. I'm already smiling about that prospect.

Baseball's postseason this year has so many stories to watch. So many players to watch. With every new series, there will be more intriguing things to watch then the series before it. You need to tune in. Trust me, you won't regret it.

I'd like you to meet my new love. Major League Baseball.

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