This piece was called “Home Stretch” when I started it with two games left in the season. I was finishing up Sunday morning before the last game when I somehow deleted the whole thing. That bummed me out so much it's taken me until today to redo it.
I'm coming back to it again-- writing about baseball-- because it lets me think about things other than the virus, which is deadly, or our politics, which are dark and dire. Those things are uncertain and foreboding, but baseball is played in almost exactly the same manner that it was when Honus Wagner and Ty Cobb squared off-- if they ever did.
Now that the first round is over something odd about the way the seeding was set up that I thought could happen has in fact occurred. The Dodgers have by far the best regular season record and home field advantage through the World Series should they get there, but the Braves have an easier track to the NL championship. The Braves will start the next series against a team with a .517 winning percentage, the Marlins, while the Dodgers will have to play the fourth seed, San Diego, which finished the season with the second best winning percentage .617.
Assuming the Players Association agrees, the commissioner wants fans at the league championships and World Series--he says comparable to what NFL teams-- the ones that allow fans in attendance-- allow. That could be from 10% of stadium capacity to 25%. Can you imagine what those tickets would sell for? There would be no working class in attendance. Who
knows how or whether the president's illness will figure in that decision.
I said last time that how far the Braves could last in the playoffs depended on whether Cole Hamels, whom we paid 18 million for one seasons’ work, came off the injured list and proved to be a reliable starter. Well he tried and couldn't make it through the third inning. It wasn't his fault he wasn't able. It wasn't Liberty Media's. Shit happens, but if he has any decency about him he will sign with the Braves next year for one year at the major league minimum salary, which last I heard was a half million dollars a year. He owes us. Like 18 million he owes us.
But having said that, something unforeseen and almost, for a Braves fan, magical has occurred. The Braves traded away loads of baseball talent a few years back for young pitching prospects. We paraded them out there and, except for Soroka and Fried, they got shelled and went back to Triple-A, but now they're clicking on all cylinders. Fried's a young Sandy Koufax-- Jewish, left-handed with high heat velocity and pinpoint command of four pitches. Ian Anderson is throwing blanks. and amazingly Kyle Wright, who has been thrown out there unsuccessfully so many times’ is pitching like Cy Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz. At the second round of this postseason, this is perhaps the best Braves team we've seen.
One more afterthought about the pandemic rule changes messing with baseball history. What if a player has a 54 game hitting streak coming down the home stretch and he has to play a 7-inning double-header? Same issue if you're 0 for 3 three going into the 10th inning and run into the man on second rule. DiMaggio's streak would have ended at 15 under those rules. I haven't researched Wee Willie Keeler.