Billy-Ball Daily: 2007-10-2

10/2/2007
Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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The only spin here is on my screwball – Happy birthday, Maury Wills

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Top of the 1st
TRADITIONALISTS BE DAMNED
“They’re really rocking in Boston,
In Philadelphia PA,
Up in the air in Denver
And in Anaheim, L-A.
All over Chicago,
Cleveland, O-hi-o,
Everybody’s playing baseball
It’s the playoffs, let’s go!”
Lyrics by Bill-Chuck-Berry
Okay, I have now broken the hearts of Chuck Berry traditionalists and I’m about to do the same to baseball traditionalists: and I’m shouting it today; BASEBALL NEEDS ANOTHER WILD CARD TEAM!

The way the new television contract is configured the post-season begins on Wednesday. The Monday that precedes it should be Celebration Monday and Play-In Monday.

Division winners that are to be the home team for the first games shall host celebrations such as the ones in Philly, Chicago (even though the Cubs start on the road, those Cubs fans deserve any opportunity they can find to celebrate), Cleveland, and Boston yesterday. The other part of the day shall be spent by the two Wild Card teams battling it out to see who earns the right to move on and play on Wednesday.

One game – an instant Game 7, an instant classic.

Tired of seeing Wild Card teams win it all? I know I am. Other than the lack of home field advantage, they come into the post-season every bit as ready to play as the teams that won the division. Most of the time, they spend their last week of the season setting up their rotation, resting their regulars, and preparing for the first round…just like the Yankees did.

What the Wild Card teams should be doing is playing a magnificently exciting, and yes stressful, game on Monday like the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres did. This game defined the wild in Wild Card. First, the Padres were forced to use their ace, Jake Peavy, in the hopes of winning the game. Even had the Padres won, they would have been put at a disadvantage in the division championships because Peavy would not have been available until Game 3.

The fact is both teams ended up burning through their bullpen in this 13-inning classic. The Padres used five pitchers, including Trevor Hoffman…who once again blew the save, the game, and the season in one momentous, stupendously exciting inning. And, the Rockies used, get this, 10 pitchers among the 23 players used in this game as manager Clint Hurdle did everything he could to successfully keep his team alive.

Yes, the losing Padres went home, but the winning, exhilarated, and exhausted Rockies were both flying high and flying to Philly as Colorado opens its National League Division Series, Wednesday at Citizen’s Bank.

Under my scenario, yesterday the Yankees and Chien-Ming Wang would have been facing off against Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers at the Stadium. The Tigers would be playing because despite the fact that the Detroit and Seattle had the same record, the Tigers won the season series 6-4. Had they tied 5-5, Seattle would have made it by virtue of a better intra-division record. If that was tied, I would count the team’s record in individual series won during the season.

Now, look how this added element changes everything. Fewer teams are playing meaningless games at the end of the season because now prospective wild card teams are still engaged. Head-to-head matches between contenders throughout the season have greater meaning. It will truly matter now if you finish first or in a Wild Card slot (other than home field and bragging rights, the Yankees were thrilled to get into the post-season while Boston would have been let down had they surrendered first place).

Think about it, the Wild Card team that now enters the Divisional Playoffs comes in at a deserved disadvantage. Baseball and television get another big payday. And finally, last but far from least, the fans get another game, another chance, and if the Padres/Rockies game is any indication, another thrill.

Top of the 2nd
THE PLAY-OFFS
We will track all the action each day in this slot:

DIVISION SERIES
Wednesday, Oct. 3 Cubs at Diamondbacks Game 1 10 p.m. ET / TBS
Rockies at Phillies Game 1 3 p.m. ET / TBS
Angels at Red Sox Game 1 6:30 p.m. ET / TBS
Thursday, Oct. 4 Cubs at Diamondbacks Game 2 10 p.m. ET / TBS
Rockies at Phillies Game 2 3 p.m. ET / TBS
Yankees at Indians Game 1 6:30 p.m. ET / TBS
Friday, Oct. 5 Yankees at Indians Game 2 5 p.m. ET / TBS
Angels at Red Sox Game 2 8:30 p.m. ET / TBS
Saturday, Oct. 6 Diamondbacks at Cubs Game 3 6 p.m .ET / TBS
Phillies at Rockies Game 3 9:30 p.m. ET / TBS
Sunday, Oct. 7 Indians at Yankees Game 3 6:40 p.m. ET / TBS
Red Sox at Angels Game 3 3 p.m .ET / TBS
* Diamondbacks at Cubs Game 4 1 p.m. ET / TNT
* Phillies at Rockies Game 4 10 p.m. ET / TBS
Monday, Oct. 8 * Indians at Yankees Game 4 6 p.m. ET / TBS
* Red Sox at Angels Game 4 9:30 p.m. ET / TBS
Tuesday, Oct. 9 * Cubs at Diamondbacks Game 5 10 p.m. ET / TBS
* Rockies at Phillies Game 5 6:30 p.m. ET / TBS
Wednesday, Oct. 10 * Angels at Red Sox Game 5 8:30 p.m. ET / TBS
* Yankees at Indians Game 5 5 p.m. ET / TBS
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Thursday, Oct. 11 NLCS Game 1 TBS
Friday, Oct. 12 NLCS Game 2 TBS
ALCS Game 1 FOX
Saturday, Oct. 13 ALCS Game 2 FOX
Sunday, Oct. 14 NLCS Game 3 TBS
Monday, Oct. 15 ALCS Game 3 FOX
NLCS Game 4 TBS
Tuesday, Oct. 16 ALCS Game 4 FOX
Wednesday, Oct. 17 * NLCS Game 5 TBS
Thursday, Oct. 18 * ALCS Game 5 FOX
Friday, Oct. 19 * NLCS Game 6 TBS
Saturday, Oct. 20 * ALCS Game 6 FOX
* NLCS Game 7 TBS
Sunday, Oct. 21 * ALCS Game 7 FOX
WORLD SERIES
Wednesday, Oct. 24 WS Game 1 (AL host) FOX
Thursday., Oct. 25 WS Game 2 (AL host) FOX
Saturday, Oct. 27 WS Game 3 (NL host) FOX
Sunday, Oct. 28 WS Game 4 (NL host) FOX
Monday, Oct. 29 * WS Game 5 (NL host) FOX
Wednesday, Oct. 31 * WS Game 6 (AL host) FOX
Thursday, Nov. 1 * WS Game 7 (AL host) FOX
* – If necessary
Top of the 3rd
PLAY-IN MONDAY
It truly was an instant classic. To tell you that San Diego took a two-run lead on Scott Hairston’s homer in the top of the 13th, and the Rockies scored three runs off Trevor Hoffman, the major league career saves leader, in the bottom of the inning to win it, 9-8, is to say that Bobby Thomson hit a home run in 1951.

This was stunning baseball.

San Diego had 19-game winner, NL pitching Triple Crown winner Jake Peavy going on full rest. Peavy allowed six runs on 10 hits in 6.1 innings. Rockies starter Josh Fogg, known as the “Dragonslayer” for beating Brandon Webb, Curt Schilling and Roy Oswalt this season, gave up five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings. The Rockies had won 13 of the previous 14 games to set up this remarkable game #163.

Colorado had a 3-0 lead erased in the 3rd when Adrian Gonzalez hit his first career grand slam as the Padres scored five runs to take the lead. The Rockies scored once in the bottom of the inning to make the score 5-4 and tied it up in the bottom of the 5th and took a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the 6th. But Matt Holliday misplayed Giles’ two-out fly ball in the 8th inning into a tying RBI double.

There were indeed runners on base in the extra frames as the Padres put two men on the 10th and 11th and one in the 12th against reliever Matt Herges without scoring. The Rockies stranded two in the 11th when lefty Joe Thatcher struck out Brad Hawpe. But it looked like it was history for the Rockies when they grabbed the lead in the top of the 13th and Hoffman on the mound for the Padres.

You might recall that Saturday in Milwaukee, with Hoffman on the mound and the Padres one strike away from a 3-2 victory, Tony Gwynn Jr. tripled in the tying run. The Brewers went on to win 4-3 in 11 innings and there was no need for Hoffman in their 11-6 loss to the Brewers on Sunday.

But here was Hoffman looking for atonement and he was greeted by back-to-back doubles by Kazuo Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki to cut the lead to one run. Then up stepped Matt Holliday and with one triple off the scoreboard in right, he accomplished four things. First, he tied the game. Second, he put the winning run on third with no one out. Third, by going 2 for 6, Holliday won the NL batting title (.340) over Atlanta’s Chipper Jones (.337). Fourth, by driving home the tying run he also won the league RBI crown with 137, one more than Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard.

Hoffman then intentionally walked Todd Helton to pitch to Jamey Carroll, who pinch-ran for Garrett Atkins in the 7th and stayed in at third base. With the infield in and the outfield shallow, Carroll hit a liner to Brian Giles in right. The throw appeared to beat Holliday to the plate, but catcher Michael Barrett couldn’t handle it, and Holliday barreled in headfirst for the run. I still say, he never touched the plate and should have been out when Barrett recovered the ball and tagged the dazed and bleeding Holliday.

But the umpires saw it differently and the Rockies (90-73) who had been in fourth place and 6 1/2 games back in the NL West on Sept. 16, had finally overtaken San Diego (89-74) to become the Wild Card team and make their first postseason appearance since 1995.

And so it shall be that in 2007 the Wild Card teams are the Rockies and the Yankees, both of whom were the very first Wild Cards in 1995.

* In September, Holliday hit .367 with 12 homers, 30 RBI and 29 run scored.
* Brad Hawpe hit .467 with 20 RBI in the last 11 games
* Todd Helton was a .386 hitter in the final 14 games with three homers and 13 RBI. The Rockies bullpen had a 2.49 ERA, and.212 opponents average
* The Rockies committed a major league-low 68 errors and accrued the best fielding percentage of any team in major league history (.98925, slightly better than the 2006 Red Sox.)
* “We easily could have laid down, but we didn’t,” said Tulowitzki, a rookie shortstop who had four hits and missed the cycle by a home run. “Some guys put together some nice at-bats, and we beat the best closer ever in baseball.”
* Hoffman (4-5) has 524 career saves but blew his seventh chance in 49 tries this year.
* “I’m having a hard time expressing myself right now,” Hoffman said. “I wish I could, but I can’t after what happened tonight.”
* The Rockies won a franchise-best 90 games and are owners of the second-best record in the majors since mid-May.
* Helton is heading to the postseason for the first time in his 11-year career.
* “That’s the best shower I ever had in my life,” a drenched Helton said in the clubhouse.

Top of the 4th
THE CHICAGO CUBS CURSE?

THE STORY: Tavern owner William Sianis brought his pet goat to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series to see the Chicago Cubs host the Detroit Tigers. Sianis and his goat were allowed to stay for a while until …

THE OFFENSE: Cubs owner Philip Knight Wrigley ordered them to hit the road because the latter began to smell, well, like a goat.

THE CURSE: Sianis left, but not before cursing the Cubs to never again win a pennant or play in a World Series.

EPILOGUE: The Cubs went on to lose Game 4 and the ’45 World Series, prompting Sianis to send a taunting telegram to Wrigley saying, “Who stinks now?”

BELIEVE IT OR NOT: The Cubs haven’t played in a World Series since.

Top of the 5th
MAKING THE PLAYOFFS
The Phillies will be making their first playoff appearance since 1993. Since the last time the Phillies played a postseason game, 24 other teams have played at least one playoff series.

Here’s a look at all the teams in the majors and their last playoff appearance. (*Denontes playoff team this season.)
Tampa Bay Devil Rays. . . Never
Wash. Nationals/Montreal Expos. . . 1981
Milwaukee Brewers. . . 1982
Kansas City Royals. . . 1985
Pittsburgh Pirates. . . 1992
*Phillies. . . 1993
Toronto Blue Jays. . . 1993
Cincinnati Reds. . . 1995
Colorado Rockies. . . 1995
Baltimore Orioles. . . 1997
Texas Rangers. . . 1999
*Cleveland Indians. . . 2001
Seattle Mariners. . . 2001
*Arizona Diamondbacks. . . 2002
Florida Marlins. . . 2003
*Chicago Cubs. . . 2003
San Francisco Giants. . . 2003
*Anaheim Angels. . . 2005
Atlanta Braves. . . 2005
*Boston Red Sox. . . 2005
Chicago White Sox. . . 2005
Houston Astros. . . 2005
Detroit Tigers. . . 2006
Los Angeles Dodgers. . . 2006
Minnesota Twins. . . 2006
New York Mets. . . 2006
*New York Yankees. . . 2006
Oakland Athletics. . . 2006
San Diego Padres. . . 2006
St. Louis Cardinals. . . 2006

Top of the 6th
JOBA THE HEAT
Justin Chamberlain is the real name of the exciting young pitcher on the New York Yankees, but Joba, pronounced Jah-buh, like the character from Star Wars, is currently in the process of making Joba his legal name.

Justin or Joba, a Winnebago American Indian, is one heck of a pitcher and if you haven’t seen him yet it is indeed a treat.

Top of the 7th
RED SOX IN REDS LAND
In 2008 the Boston Red Sox will be visiting Cincinnati for the first time since Game 5 of the 1975 World Series for a weekend series on June 13-15. The Indians are the only other American League team visiting Great American Ball Park, according to the tentative home schedule released by the Reds

Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
The Diamondbacks’ .556 winning percentage is the lowest for a top seed in the postseason in major league history.

Top of the 9th
WHY WE’LL MISS BRIAN GILES IN THE POST-SEASON
“People want to talk stuff about our offense. They move the fences back, they take steroids away, what do you expect?” — Padres outfielder Brian Giles.

Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.