Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Various Loose Strands
2005-09-19 13:05
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Attention bettors: I played New Orleans vs. the Giants in Madden this morning and won 27-0. For what it's worth. Also, Deuce McAllister is on my fantasy team, and my fantasy team is having a crazy good week -- go, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, go! Not to mention Mike Brown and the Bears' defense. (Peter King says, "If Mike Brown stays healthy and the Bears win a few games, he'll give Ed Reed a run for his money as the best safety in football." Who am I to argue with Peter King?)

On the subject of the special Monday Night Football doubleheader tonight, I'd like to take a second to shake you all down for money. I give you all of this premium Rockies content and ask you nothing for it, now it's time to give back. You see, I'm poor. Real poor. I "work" as a freelance writer and live quite literally story to story. There has been less than a dollar in my bank account since whenever Fox cashed my three-dollar check for shipping on my replacement "Simpsons" Season Six box. So I'd like to pursuade those with better jobs than I to toss a few dollars towards the hurricane relief effort. My uncle, aunt, and their two daughters lived in the Virgin Islands several years ago and when the hurricane hit it was like somebody hit "reset" on their lives. Not everyone in New Orleans is fortunate enough to have a huge concerned Irish Catholic extended family, so please considering giving if you can spare it. If you've already given in your name, now's your chance to do so in mine!

Moving to the relatively trivial matter of the baseball pennant races, I'd like to remind you anew to check Baseball Prospectus's daily Playoff Odds Report. On second thought, if you are a fan of one of the teams trailing in the various races, maybe you shouldn't. The rigorous methodology of BP's system takes into account the offensive and defensive abilities of every team in baseball, but by its very nature it treats games played by Tampa Bay in April just the same as games played by Cleveland this week. Obviously if two teams are in a close race that means they have very similar winning percentages, and probability dictates that they are likely to continue playing at more or less the same pace. This gives a huge advantage -- theoretically -- to frontrunners like the Red Sox, Astros, and Angels. But you know and I know that there are times in baseball when you simply throw the numbers out. It's like one of the fundamental precepts of baseball fandom. We have to believe that teams can "come together," that players can "take the team on their backs," that a single game or play can "make all the difference." As an A's fan I look at that 34.9% chance of playoff games and shrug it off. We still play the Angels! At home!

In any case the only team guaranteed postseason play as of this writing is St. Louis, which clinched a few days ago. The Cardinals have to be pulling for Houston to win the wild card, giving them San Diego in the first round. If the Marlins or Phillies (or heck, the Nationals, they still have a 1.3% shot) win the fourth spot, that means the Braves will play awful San Diego in the first round and the Cardinals will have to deal with the wild card team. Baseball's rules about first-round seeding, by the way, are incredibly stupid. Not as stupid as having the All-Star winner's league have home field in the World Series, but on that level. The teams should be slotted 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3 by record, throwing out the foolish prohibition on intradivisional first round series. The NFL wild card round always seems to have at least one intradivisional game, and more often than not it's the best one of the weekend. Of course I know MLB is loathe to do anything that will cost us nationally televised Yankees-Red Sox games, but having the best record in your league -- or for that fact, the majors -- is worth basically nothing except home field in the second round if you get there. I'm not against the wild card, because having only 4 playoff teams out of 30 seems wrong somehow, but they could definitely manage it in a better fashion.

I haven't been paying terribly close attention to day-to-day Rockies affairs, and hence I didn't notice due to injury that Mike Esposito and Jamey Wright will start instead of Zach Day and Byung-Hyun this week. I know there are some people out there who are very fond of Esposito, but I've seen him pitch in person and he just strikes me as a minor league lifer. Love his control, love his makeup, hate his stuff. Day's season is over with a broken thumb, assuring that he will finish the season with more DL trips for the Rockies than wins. Oh, but I've got tons of faith in him for next season.

On another topic entirely, tonight is a big evening for TV nerds like me, as current Best Show On the Planet "Arrested Development" premieres for its third season and immediately afterwards "How I Met Your Mother", featuring thinking America's sweetheart Alyson Hannigan (Aly, if you're somehow reading this, I love you, and will you please autograph my Vampire Willow action figure?), debuts on CBS. Well, it has Neil Patrick Harris, it can't be entirely bad. Carry on.

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