Ok, fine, so we can’t use the weekend’s games to say with any degree of certainty what the future holds for Detroit’s Avisail Garcia or that Joe Saunders has become the second coming of Tom Glavine or that Tim Lincecum’s problem this season was that he warmed up too much. But I think there are a few things we can learn from the first three days of the playoffs, such as:
1) Umpires are still ridiculous.
Sam Holbrook’s decision to use the Infield Fly Rule on Andrelton Simmons pop up to kinda-shallow left field certainly looked like a bad call, and was made worse by rookie Joe McEwing stand-in Pete Kozma allowing the ball to drop well behind him. Joe Torre and the rest of the umpiring crew’s defense of the call the next day was particularly insulting, given that Kozma was not set under the ball and wasn’t making an “ordinary effort” on the play. That said, the play was ultimately a judgment call (which demonstrated the need for real live human umpires) for Holbrook, and not reviewable. Some acknowledgment that his judgment seemed wrong in this case would have at least helped to demonstrate the baseball doesn’t have utter contempt for the intelligence of those that watch it.
2) Postseason.TV is the worst.
Hey, speaking of utter contempt for the consumer, let’s talk about MLB’s Postseason.TV, which is available for $5 and which you should never, ever buy. The service looked great for freaks like me who decided to forgo cable in light of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video costing far, far less. But buying Postseason.TV doesn’t entitle you to watch the actual broadcasts. Instead, you watch specific camera angles from each broadcast which you adjust manually. So you can watch the pitches from the center field cam, or you can watch the plays from the home plate camera. But you can’t do both, and you’re subject to the crazy, disorienting, tilt-a-whirl-esque camera work of the guy in Baltimore last night who kept making me nauseous. If you know that guy, feel free to punch him in the face for me. Ditto, if you meet whoever offered this inferior product. I would have been better off spending the $5 on beer at a local watering hole.
3) The one-game wild card rounds, as constructed, were a bad idea.
For one thing, the potential for one random play, like the Holbrook blown call, to determine the outcome of the round is much, much higher. For another, teams were able to game their rosters for this single game, to add extra relievers or pinch hitters to the 25 man roster, since they only needed one starting pitcher. And so the Rangers moved their DH to catcher in the Wild Card game, and simply pinch hit for the pitcher’s spot when it came around again and carried 11 pitchers to help them win one game. When teams have the ability and personnel to sub players in constantly, baseball looks more like football or basketball. And finally, now we have Baltimore and St. Louis, at best the 5th best club in each league, making it through to the next round, while the Rangers and Braves go home seemingly before their postseasons had even started. Next year, assuming they keep it, baseball needs to expand the Wild Card round to three games, all of which should be played at the #4 seed’s ballpark, to further incentivize regular season success.
4) There is only one Greg Maddux.
When a player doesn’t throw particularly hard and has success, he inevitably gets compared to Greg Maddux, the wiry Cubs and Braves hurler who may be the first player to garner 100 percent of the Hall of Fame vote next year. It’s a burden of his unexpected success that he gets turned into a type, rather than the uniquely intelligent and talented pitcher he was. When we compare Kris Medlin and Doug Fister both terrific pitchers, to Greg Maddux, we do a disservice to Maddux, who should be above comparisons like that, and to Medlin and Fister, who are pale reflections of what Maddux was for the eleven seasons when his composite ERA+ was 171.
Maddux was the 31st overall pick in 1984 and he flew through the minors in less than three seasons. At 20, he posted a 3.02 ERA in AAA and debuted for the Cubs that September. From an early age, it was clear he was a phenom. And finally, Maddux’s fastball velocity only dipped to 90 when he was in his mid-to-late 30s. Before that, he regularly sat at 93. Fister debuted at 25 and is 28 now. His best ERA+ (138) is well below all of Maddux’s prime with the exception of 1999. When Maddux was 28, he had just finished his third of four straight Cy Young seasons. Medlen has had a tremendous season, but only started 12 times and thrown 138 innings. Please, let’s see what he’ll do over a full season in the rotation before we start hanging Greg Maddux comps on him; when Maddux was Medlen’s age, he had already spent five full seasons in the Cubs rotation and won 75 games. So yes, let’s leave Greg Maddux alone and find a new model to work from, because we’re currently comparing Honda Accords to a Rolls Royce, simply because they both have four tires.
5) Bronson Arroyo looks like a hippy Liev Schreiber.