October 3, 2008, 3:54 p.m. You're darn right, you betcha.
Catch the first two games of the Dodgers-Cubs National League Division Series, did'ya? Now was that jaw-dropping or what? Almost unexplainably so. You saw it, so you don't need my analysis. A few thoughts, just the same.
Chicago looked worse than cursed, and the Dodgers played like champions. The Dodgers played like champions. There's a sentence we haven't considered in awhile. And whoda thunk it? Be honest now – is a two-games-to-none Los Angeles lead even remotely what you had in mind when this thing started? C'mon.
National League West slash Dodgers critics had gone to the the-division-stinks-Dodgers-beat-crappy-teams card enough to MapQuest the thing to oblivion, and instead it's Lou Piniella's bunch that's headed there. Twenty years of the dreaded "three and out" phrase is more than enough, thank you very much, and is available for use elsewhere. So knock yourselves out, Chicago. From the looks on your faces, we know you want to.
Of course, the Cubs played like nervous wrecks and spoon-fed chances L.A.'s way, but converting chances into victories is no small thing. For much of the regular season, including a good chunk of the time post-Manny, the Dodgers fumbled those opportunities away with Wendell Tyler-like regularity. No longer.
It was Chicago who resembled the 84-78 team, and L.A.the 97-64. And the only fair way to list the contributors is alphabetically, or better yet, by batting order: Furcal, Martin, Ramirez, Ethier, Loney, Kemp, DeWitt and Blake. Plus, in order of appearance, Lowe, Wade, Broxton, Maddux, Billingsley.
Two very convincing road wins over a heavily-favored club, with but a pinch at bat from Jeff Kent, and Nomar Garciaparra still waiting for his October, '08 debut. It's not like the Dodgers needed pinch-hitting, but they will, and I'm glad those guys are in the dugout.
Joe Torre too. We've criticized the skipper quite a bit this year, but Torre sure looks the leader of men right now. Calm, cool and collected, and it's reflected in his team's play, quite obviously. Contrast that to Piniella and his, and you can see why one man beats the other in the postseason, just as a matter of course.
Meanwhile, Russell Martin enjoyed three days off in a row before the series, which is more than he's had in any month since March, and is he ever refreshed. And Rafael Furcal? All I can say is "wow." Just, wow.
I don't get why the TBS announcers or the Cubs were surprised by Raffy's bunt exactly, or why a local guy like Bill Plaschke would use the word "stunning" to describe a play that's been a part of the shortstop's repertoire for years. The only surprise is that, compared to the way he usually executes it, this was one of Furcal's weaker efforts. The rust will shake in time to surprise the Cubs, or the Phils, once more and soon enough, I'm quite sure.
I'm also quite sure that there's been way, way, way too much talk about Manny's contract. Let's deal with that in November, shall we, and talk about the 26 postseason home runs now. 26.
I can remember looking at that 18 next to Mickey Mantle's name in the record books, with such awe as a kid. And all in the World Series – 18 World Series homers. It's still ridiculous when you think about it, and a great record for the Mick to own to this day, and perhaps forever.
But 26 Fall homers for Manny in incredible. Mind-boggling, really, and there's no way to understate the accomplishment. Except, come Saturday, or Sunday, or in the National League Championship Series, when it becomes 27 or 28 or 29. Ponder that for a moment.
Or that Ramirez has already passed a couple dozen Hall of Famers on his way to 20 career grand slams, and will no doubt pass Lou Gehrig (Lou Gehrig!) during his next contract. But like I said, we'll discuss the contract soon enough.
Oh, one more thing about the NLDS. It's appropriate to refer to the Cubs century of futility in plurals now. Forget the line about their not winning since 1908, the 100 years and all. We're past that. The Cubs haven't won a World Series in hundreds of years. It's more than 100, so it's hundreds. Hundreds…
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