These playoffs have been a little weird for me so far. I usually have at least one team to root for, even though being a Cubs fan and then a Rockies fan for most of my life has nearly always prevented me from ever feeling the real highs and lows of postseason baseball. The last few years I've usually rooted for the Red Sox, since my mom's three brothers all live in Boston. Last year though completely indifferent towards the White Sox I was excited to see my hometown finally host a World Series. Likewise, in 2002 when I was living in Berkeley it was neat to have the Giants in the Series, even though my deep abiding hatred for Jeff Kent prevented me from ever fully embracing that team.
So was I happy to see Kent involved in one of the dopiest plays in Division Series history yesterday? Well, so far as such things go. As you have no doubt heard deconstructed a thousand times by now, the play yesterday where Kent and another Dodger baserunner were both tagged out at home was not Kent's fault. Nor was it third base coach Rich Donnelly, although the normally loquacious Donnelly was shaken enough to not produce any of his usual postgame quotables. It was the other runner, J.D. Drew, who didn't watch the play in front of him, advanced while Kent was holding up so that Donnelly had no choice but to send Kent home, and then continued on past third even after Kent was thrown out by ten feet. It was just one of those things.
I was just reflecting yesterday, as the morning talk shows were breaking down Jim Leyland's decision to double steal early in the first game of the Detroit-New York series, on how the playoffs are the only time of year when the routine everday strategies of baseball games are ever this closely scrutinized. And then the games of that day went and provided not one but two plays that were so unusual that they would have been singled out and discussed widely had they happened in regular-season games. (Presuming they involved the Yankees and/or Red Sox.) There was the J.D. Drew baserunning circus, and there was Torii Hunter's misplayed fly ball in Game 2 of the A's-Twins series. Explain something to me. How is that a home run? Kotsay hit a single, and Hunter misplayed it into a home run. Shouldn't it be a single and a three-base error? The same thing goes for balls that bounce off of fielders into the stands. I don't get why the home run element trumps the usual scoring rules.
Alex Rodriguez just struck out with the bases loaded in the top of the first. I cannot believe I actually feel sorry for a guy making $25 million a year. But...I kind of do. He's going to hit 800 home runs, and thousands of baseball fans are convinced he's a bum. I feel like I've made this argument a million times, but maybe not here before. If Derek Jeter is so great and such a great team guy and a winner through and through, why is he still playing shortstop? Alex Rodriguez is a better shortstop than Jeter. He would probably be more relaxed if he could play the position he grew up playing. If Jeter played third or in the outfield he could make even more completely unnecessary dives into the stands than he does now. If people thought his defense at short was ever worth a Gold Glove, playing in left field he would win two or three per year.
I kid about Jeter, but his defense at short has gotten demonstrably better over the years -- he's now almost average -- and he deserves to be the MVP this year. No doubt about it. If Justin Morneau wins, it'll be a joke. You can't argue with Jeter's record, but at the same time, the aura he has around him seems to make a lot of baseball fans give him free passes on stuff like the defense and the A-Rod thing. If he's the captain, how come he gets to give A-Rod the cold shoulder? Is he only the captain for the other 23 guys on the team? The Yankees are probably going to win the World Series, and if they do, Derek Jeter will deserve a ton of the credit. He elevated his play this regular season when his team was deluged by injuries. That's a skill that Alex Rodriguez has yet to demonstrate with any of his organizations. Jeter is as regularly dazzling a performer in postseason and nationally televised games (against Boston) as baseball has ever known. But he isn't perfect, and it is annoying that A-Rod, who is no more or less flawed, gets all of this abuse while Jeter is humored. Not to mention the way Jason Giambi, cheater, liar, opportunist, traitor, has become a folk hero himself.