The Common Man

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There is no doubt that the Giants clamped down on the Tigers during the World Series, producing one of the more lopsided Fall Classics in modern memory. Pablo Sandoval single-handedly demolished the Giants in Game 1, the Tigers were held scoreless in the middle games, and Giants starters posted an ERA of 1.42 in 25 1/3 innings.

But as great as the Giants played, and bad as it was for the Tigers, it could have been even worse.  These are most lopsided World Series in history:

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So it all comes down to one game. Winner stays, loser walks. I’m not even going to bother telling you what I think is going to happen. There are so many variables, and on a per-game level, you really can’t predict ball. So instead, let me just tell you what I noticed from last night’s game:

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It’s impossible to feel bad for the New York Yankees, who find themselves down 0-2 in the ALCS and headed to Detroit without Derek Jeter, who will remain behind to receive treatment on his broken ankle. They are, after all, the Yankees. And while nobody loves to enjoy the Yankees suffering more than me, there’s no joy in watching one of the top half dozen shortstops in baseball history helped off the field in obvious agony.  I don’t feel good about this either, but I’ve grudgingly matured enough to come to grips with the fact that, while Jeter may be overrated in some circles, he’s still fantastic. And it’s always much more fun when he’s on the field for the Bombers.

Now, the loss of Jeter is probably not going to hurt the Yankees much this postseason. With the rest of the club’s offense, with the exception of Raul Ibanez, deciding to take October off, Jeter would have often been a one-man show. Moreover, the chances of Jayson Nix having a hot couple weeks and performing better than Jeter would have is not insignificant, especially since The Captain was playing through a bum ankle before it broke. And in the playoffs, where a couple of hits can be incredibly important, Nix’s timing could end up being better than Jeter’s. As for defense, I’m not sure any of us really know if Nix is going to be a better defender than Jeter, who was back to being pretty subpar defensively this year, but he probably won’t be that much worse.

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It’s not fair to generalize about the entire 2012 post season based on a single weekend of baseball, but I’m totally gonna. I mean, what else do we have to do but to analyze what’s in front of us?

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:

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Do you not feel shame, Major League Baseball?  Do you not feel the hot tears of embarrassment and grief streaming down your rosy cheeks in the way you have so callously murdered baseball’s 2012 season by adding a second Wild Card team to each league?  Jeff Passan thinks you should,

It is the middle of September, and baseball is celebrating a pair of teams [Philadelphia and Milwaukee] that have clawed their way back to around .500. Their refusal to fold is laudable, certainly, and their re-admittance to the wild-card shuffle should invigorate fan bases that were ruing September. And that’s about the only positive thing baseball gets from this watered-down race that rewards the pedestrian and manufactures and force-feeds drama where it need not be…. The number of deeply flawed and disappointing teams nonetheless in the playoff hunt is disheartening. Contention and bad baseball are not supposed to mix in September.

Passan goes on to talk about 9 franchises that he identifies as still being “legitimate” contenders for the postseason (including the 71-76 San Diego Padres, who sit six games out with six teams in front of them with 15 games to play, truly stretching the definition of “contender” past any and all reasonable measure).

Good god, spare us your moralizing, Jeff.  “Shameful?” Baseball is not a great moral undertaking.  It’s a game and a business that provides entertainment to millions and millions of North Americans.  Shameful?  I suppose if your goal is to shut down interest in baseball’s postseason chase for a better part of a month in those nine cities, and cede the fall to football for a month, that would be a disappointment.  But I cannot see how it’s at all shameful that fans have a reason to keep talking about their teams and buying tickets for games deep into September.

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Long before Roy Oswalt was pulled in the third inning of last night’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, it was apparent that the Oswalt experiment was a mistake.  After finding few takers this offseason, Oswalt chose to rest for half a year and shop his services at midseason, just like Roger Clemens did for two seasons at the end of his career.

On the surface, it seemed like a solid idea.  Oswalt’s back would be better with time off, and it certainly stood to reason that what Clemens could do at 44 years old, Oswalt could do a decade younger.   But despite the time off, and his relative youth, velocities that are unchanged from last year in Philadelphia, and the best strikeout to walk ratio since his rookie season, Roy Oswalt has been getting absolutely lit up, allowing a homer for every five innings he’s tossed.

Meanwhile, at 50 years old, Roger Clemens has thrown eight scoreless innings in the Atlantic League on a whim.  And despite the angry vitriol from some writers suggesting that he’s poised to make a cynical appearance for the Astros to increase his chances of making the Hall of Fame, it’s fairly clear that he won’t be allowed to join Houston before the season ends in three weeks.

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Did you ever go away for a weekend thinking the world worked one way, and then suddenly had those illusions ripped away, and had to come back to a vastly different world from the one you left?  I was up at our cabin this weekend in the north woods of Wisconsin, standing on a dock overlooking a pristine lake, preparing to catch a zillion fish with my son (who quickly decided he’d rather practice his light saber moves with a nearby stick), when I found out that the Red Sox were sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney and four young prospects.

The Red Sox haven’t been sellers since 1997, when they dealt Heathcliff Slocumb to the Mariners for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek and Mike Stanley to the Yankees for Jim Mecir and Tony Armas Jr., and while they’re on pace for their worst finish since 1994, it would have been impossible to imagine them dealing any of those four players (and their contracts) this year before this weekend, let alone exchange them (in August!) for anything of value.

But they did, and I’m being forced to reevaluate a lot of things I thought I knew.  So, here’s what I learned from this weekend’s mega deal:

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