Off Base
On Paper the Game's Not Played

October 2 , 2006

Forget everything you’ve heard about the Yankees rolling over three anonymous opponents on the way to a ticket-tape parade, long since scheduled.

Sure, New York might waltz its way to a 27th World Championship. It could happen. Or, the Cards might vanquish a Minnesota Twins team, who easily defeated Detroit, who brushed aside the Bronx Bombers in 27 innings.

Why? Because baseball’s not played on paper. It’s played on grass. In Philadelphia and St. Louis and Cincinnati and Kansas City and San Francisco and Pittsburgh, baseball is played on grass. Wasn’t always, but it is now.

In 27 and soon-to-be 28 major league ballparks, the game is played on grass. Thankfully. Tampa Bay still uses carpet, but only because they don’t want to get stuck with a gardeners’ contract in place when the team is moved, or God-willing, contracted.

Anyway. Baseball is about the October surprise. Heavily-favored teams lose. They lose earlier in the process now, but other than that, nothing’s changed. In baseball, the underdog always has a chance, and often prevails. There are so many World Series examples it boggles the mind.

There’s ancient history, like 2004 for one; 2003 for another. 2001, 1996, 1990 and 1988. More famously, and even without a Tony La Russa-managed loser, we point to 1969 and 1964, 1957 and 1954. 1945, 1935, 1919…uh, skip that one...1918 and 1906.

You never know which star player will do what, and you really never know what roles will be filled by which role-players, and in what fashion.

And yet, people in the know think they know. Memo to those in the know who think they know: You don’t know. I’m in the know and I don’t know, but at least I know I don’t know. I think the Yanks will beat the Tigers, but I don’t know.

I know I don’t know about Minnesota and the A’s. Not a clue. I think the Dodgers and the Padres will meet in the National League Championship Series, but I don’t know. Perhaps it’s my West Coast Bias talking.

While we’re on the subject, here’s the thing with East Coast Bias. East Coast folks aren’t inherently biased. It’s not some in-bred thing, like an accent, or better pizza making skills. It’s just that, like most of us, East Coast fans and supposed people in the know tend to follow one club; their club, as a matter of course.

Perhaps the best and the brightest read the box scores, or catch an occasional a.m. SportsCenter to bone up on the previous night’s West Coast play, but for the most part, the East Coast doesn’t know squat about the West Coast. They don’t stay up late enough. We watch them but they don’t watch us. We’re thorough and they’re lazy. Come to think of it, let’s drop the name, “East Coast Bias" in favor of "East Coast Lazy."

Award Time: Yes, now, after game number 162. September, and every bit of it, counts. In the MVP race, in particular. Had Houston passed St. Louis, with, for example, Lance Berkman going ape-wire over the weekend, adding perhaps a Bobby Thomson-like homer to the mix, he would’ve been the MVP. He didn’t, but he might have. That said, and with an actually copped-to West Coast Bias in some places, here are my picks:

NL MVP: Ryan Howard, with Albert Pujols second and Lance Berkman third.

AL MVP: Fine, call it a Lifetime Achievement Award. See if I care. Deter Jeter is the guy, with Justin Morneau a very respectable second, and Johan Santana third.

NL Cy Young: Roy Oswalt. With the fifth worst hitting club in the league, Oswalt finished with the same record than the next best choice, Chris Carpenter, and one less win than the next best choice after that, Brandon Webb. The only NL ERA below three, and dig this, 38 walks. Besides, Oswalt was my preseason pick, and since I was wrong on so many others, I’m sticking with this one.

AL Cy: Johan Santana.

NL ROY: Ryan Zimmerman, followed by Russell Martin. The East Coast has no idea what we have here. Perhaps next year, they’ll stay up late a little more often.

AL ROY: Jered Weaver. Remember, I said “West Coast Bias,” not “Anaheim Bias.” The idea would never occur to me.

NL Manager of the Year: Grady Little, with Willie Randolph second and Bruce Bochy third. Joe Girard’s Marlins had the seventh worst record in the league, or the ninth best, so he gets ninth place in this category.

AL Manager: Ron Gardenhire, followed by Jim Leyland.

NL Executive of the Year: Ned Colletti, with Kevin Towers a very impressive second, and Pat Gillick third.

AL Executive: Dave Dombrowski.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Nomar Garciaparra.

AL Comeback: Frank Thomas, with Magglio Ordonez second.

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

It Happens Every Fall: Where there is success in Oakland, Billy Beane is sure to take credit for it. Where there is failure, Beane is bound to blame Ken Macha…

Media Savvy: Even with the East Coast Lazy in full view, ESPN’s “Baseball Tonight” continues to reign as the best and most significant program in television history. What, you were thinking “I Love Lucy,” “Star Trek,” or “The Ed Sullivan Show” maybe? Please.

The show I watched and enjoyed most this year? “Dodgers Live,” starring the great and powerful Kevin Kennedy. does some wonderful baseball stuff in photo gallery form. Online now is a display of Postseason X-Factors. And here’s another from a couple weeks back, of memorable Pennant Race Collapses. Great stuff…

Shallow, Fairly Obvious Observations: Non-performance-enhancing drug user Luis Gonzalez’ career has gone full circle. Through 1998 and his first eight full seasons, Gonzo averaged .268, with 13 homers and 68 RBIs per. After five monster seasons, highlighted by 2001’s .325, 57 and 142, Gonzalez’ final three years in Arizona rounded out to .269, 19 and 67.

While “Rally Monday” sounded like a creative idea at first glance, finding out that seven teams held them on the same day blew it for me. Props to the Yankees for being the lone holdout.

Regardless of the pitch being thrown, Lance Niekro always looks like he’s trying to hit a knuckleball…

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend. More about statue...

Remember, glove conquers all….






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