Thursday, September 29, 2011

Talking Baseball

It seems there were some interesting games last night in baseball.

My cohort at The Reaction, Michael J.W. Stickings, does a great job of wrapping up the nailbiters between the Cardinals and the Braves, the Rays and the Yankees, and the Red Sox and the Orioles.

In the National League, the Cardinals and Braves were tied for the Wild Card going into the final day of the regular season — and tied only because of a Cardinals surge in September, coming from well behind to be in contention. Ex-Blue Jay Chris Carpenter, an injury-plagued star, led the Cardinals to a decisive 8-0 win over the Astros, a dominant performance. So the Braves had to win.

And they were ahead going into the bottom of the ninth, with their outstanding closer, Craig Kimbrel, on the mound. But the Phillies, the NL’s top team, tied it up and then won it with a run in the top of the thirteenth, 4-3. A win would have meant a one-game playoff with the Cardinals, but now it’s St. Louis in the playoffs, going up against what on paper is a much stronger Philadelphia team (with Milwaukee going up against Arizona in the other NL series).

In the American League, the Red Sox and Rays were similarly tied — and only because an epic collapse this month by a Boston team that spent wildly in the off-season and that was predicted by many to win the World Series. As if to make the situation even more intense, the Rays were playing the Yankees, the top team in the AL and Boston’s historic rival, not to mention one of Tampa’s rivals in the highly competitive AL East (where the Blue Jays finished fourth). Meanwhile, the Sox were going up against the Orioles, the last-place team in the division but still a team, after a disappointing year, with a lot to prove.

And the games were played at the same time.

This is why I love baseball. I love watching the intensity of the relationship between pitcher and batter; it is not a game of constant motion but of paced and studied movements. There’s a metaphor for life in there, I’m sure, but even if you don’t get all heavy and philosophical, there’s still a level of grace and coordination that you don’t see in other sports, especially those that are playing against a ticking clock.

A few weeks ago, I heard a sports commentator say that this year’s baseball playoffs were going nothing to get excited about; look for the usual suspects in the races, including the Red Sox and Atlanta. And now… well, that’s another reason to love the game.

Go Tigers.