2010 Major League Baseball Playoffs: Some Observations. By Doug Bird
I must say that as playoffs go, these were the best of times and these were the worst of times. The umpiring was inexcusably bad, no one could beat Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels , C.C. Sabathia, or Tim Lincecum, and the Braves and Twins made another quick exit. The coverage on TBS was much better than we can ever hope for on Fox while once again, we had the inexplicable non travel days off. Oh and the two best teams in each league are still in the hunt for the grand prize
Hopes were high that the umpiring situation which dominated much of last season’s playoff discussion had been resolved with the firing in the offseason of six of the main offenders. Apparently these firings did little to solve the problem and excuses from the umpire overseer Frank Robinson and various media outlets contradicting what was obvious to anyone watching have done little if anything to resolve this situation. Arrogance and denial doesn’t fix things. The concern lies not so much that the umpires are making mistakes, but that obvious calls are being missed with the umpires in a very good position to make them. Blown calls are excusable if an umpire is caught out of position through no fault of his own and is running to make the play or is simply too far away or blocked out and unable to clearly assess the situation. They cannot be tolerated when the offending umpire is in a perfect position to make the call and get it right. Umpires should not be involved in the outcome of any game, especially the playoffs. The “human error is what make the game charming ” excuse should never hold any legitimate water. Replay won’t fix the situation nor should it. Better umpires will.
Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, C.C. Sabathia, and Tim Lincecum are once again proving that they are not only elite pitchers, but that they are elite pressure pitchers. Lee and Hamel have the track record to prove their worth while Halladay and Lincecum are in the playoffs for the first time. Only Lincecum showed any nervousness which quickly abated after the first inning. In fact, this nervousness may have worked to his advantage as he was effectively wild with his fastball throughout the game, not allowing the Braves hitters to dig in and forcing them to take wild swings at his other off the plate out of the strike zone pitches. Of these five starters, Lincecum faces the added pressure of having an offense which has been unable to score many runs for him during the regular season. He has a very slim margin for error. Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, C.C. Sabathia have faced similar problems but the potential for offence is always there for them as both the Rangers, Phillies, and Yankees have the great leveler, power. Having power allows a team to break open a close game or play poorly yet manage to put enough runs on the scoreboard to win the game. All four pitchers have the mental toughness to keep a lead and finish games.
The Twins went quickly and quietly and the Braves simply went-again. Minnesota proved to be no match for the powerful Yankees. The Twins lacked the starting pitching and power to keep up with New York. The Twins game is perfect defense and perfect situational play. They proved that this is philosophy is good enough to win in the regular season, especially this season with the injury to Justin Morneau and the lost season of Joe Nathan. Ron Gardenhire time and again is able to squeeze every last drop of talent out the players he has-there simply weren’t enough drops to defeat New York. The Yankees lineup is too strong and too balanced and the ninth inning with Manny Rivera, belongs to them, especially in the playoffs. Atlanta couldn’t overcome the loss of Chipper Jones, (few teams could), and were unable take advantage of what might have been a win one for Bobby Cox in his final season mental advantage. There is also that history of Atlanta folding up their tent quietly and going home in the playoffs. That is one of the unexplainable mysteries of any sport, some teams simply can’t get over that hump. The Braves managed to get to the World Series three times but more often than not they were defeated in the first round. Such circumstance is certainly not a Braves phenomenon but three out of sixteen only heightens the agony.
The two best teams in either league, Philadelphia and New York, should be once again in the World Series. But of course, that’s why they play the game isn’t it.