Back-to-back-to-back complete games for the White Sox in Games 2, 3, and 4 of the ALCS? Sure, why not? Never mind that this hasn't happened for 32 years. In the modern era of pitching specialization, several things have to go right for such a feat to be pulled off. What makes Chicago uniquely friendly to complete games in the postseason is a four-man starting rotation for which manager Ozzie Gullen has equal confidence in each arm, and a bullpen which hardly inspires the same feeling. Bobby Jenks is certainly no Brad Lidge; at least, not yet, anyway. If the White Sox score as easily in the game today as they did yesterday (perhaps Paul Konerko will hit his third consecutive first-inning homer), there's no reason to imagine why Jose Contreras couldn't complete the feat and go nine himself. Wouldn't that be something else?
As the Angels stand on the brink of extinction, there's many things for their fans to lament. The Padres may have gotten crunched in the first round, but it's hard to construct an argument for how they could have done any better. Anaheim on the other hand is missing both Bartolo Colon and the real Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad won't likely suffer as much abuse as Alex Rodriguez has taken because of his easygoing image and the fact he's not a Yankee, but Guerrero's numbers for the postseason so far are .233/.303/.233 with one RBI and no extra-base hits.
In fact the Angels as a team are at .239/.264/.402. They weren't a great-hitting club during the regular season (.270/.325/.409), but they weren't that bad. Chicago by contrast is hitting pretty much the same as they did during the year -- .269/.324/.462 during the playoffs, .263/.323/.425 on the season. Chone Figgins isn't hitting and nor are Garret Anderson or Adam Kennedy. The offensive stars such as they are have been unlikely -- Orlando Cabrera, Robb Quinlan, the Molina brothers.
So how do you make the Angels better for next year considering they must continue to contend with a rapidly maturing A's team and a Rangers squad that will also have some money to spend? Anderson, Darin Erstad, and Steve Finley are all still under contract, so the obvious solution of finding a first baseman or corner outfielder who can bang is probably out for the time being. Dallas McPherson's injury this season kept the team from really knowing what they have at third. Kennedy, Cabrera, and at least one Molina will return. In the rotation John Lackey (first-year arbitration) and Erwin Santana are pleasantly inexpensive options for their production (plus Francisco Rodriguez in the pen has yet to enter arbitration). Bartolo Colon and Kelvim Escobar are under contract. Jarrod Washburn will be a free agent; with the pitching market as thin as it is he may go for more than the Angels are willing to spend on a fourth starter.
Will the Angels be back in the postseason next year? They'll still have Guerrero, and they'll still have a pretty good pitching staff top to bottom. Here's a question for you: regardless of how the playoffs resolve themselves, between Chicago and Anaheim whom do you think is more likely to return to the postseason in 2006? The Angels have the A's to deal with, but Chicago shares a division with the Indians, who many people considered to be the best team in baseball in the second half. After several seasons with very little change, it seems to me as if the playoff picture could look very different as soon as next year.
I didn't see any of the Astros' win yesterday (band practice), but what more is there to say about Roger Clemens anyhow? I hope he plays long enough to pitch to his son in a major league game. He's certainly not going to have to retire on account of diminished skills, that's for sure.
Finally, a Rockies rumor: Peter Gammons writes (ESPN Insider) that the botched Shoppach/Bigbie deal from the trade deadline could be revisited and expanded. The Rockies would give up Larry Bigbie and Ryan Shealy and get Kelly Shoppach, Adam Stern, and pitcher Abe Alvarez. Alvarez is the pitcher, legally blind in one eye, who wears his hat at a crooked angle to correct light balance. He's not a sinkerballer or a swing-and-miss guy, and Colorado already has its skinny finesse lefty starter in Jeff Francis. I'd like to see Dan O'Dowd shop Shealy around a little more. Having him try to move to the outfield is a noble experiment, but the guy is a first baseman, no ifs ands or buts. If we can get him so he can play just enough left so that teams get the impression we don't have to trade him, he should have more value than a C/C- starting prospect. Shealy has proven he can hit in the majors. He'd be a great fit for Boston, in fact, who desperately need a first basemen but aren't averse to playing young guys. They just need to give up a little more than Alvarez. Kelly Shoppach remains a better option at catcher than anyone Colorado currently has on the roster; O'Dowd has made it clear that he still wants him. Shealy for Shoppach straight up might not be a bad deal. Certainly makes sense as Shealy plays Todd Helton's position and Shoppach plays Jason Varitek's.