Let’s be honest here, the divisional series are like MLB Playoffs Light. Yeah, they count as playoff games and you need to win them if you’re ever going to be regarded as a successful player and/or franchise. However, from a fans perspective, unless you have a vested interest in one of the teams participating in the divisional series it doesn’t carry the same feel of do-or-die importance that comes with the Championship and World Series’. Sometimes, even when you do have a team participating in the divisional series it still fails to evoke playoff type emotions in you. Such was the case last week as the Cardinals took on the Padres. I watched the games but did it with an emotional detachment that I rarely experience while watching a playoff game of any sort. Deep down inside in places you don’t like to talk about at cocktail parties, I knew the Cardinals would win.
Last night was an entirely different story. I was openly clapping and whooping it up as the Cards’ surged to a 5-0 lead in the early innings of Game 1. I began to tighten up as Chris Carpenter’s control seemed to wane in the middle innings and he subsequently got himself into a couple of possibly game breaking jams. I called my Dad at least three separate times to discuss different aspects of the game and the two starting pitchers’approaches. I told my girlfriend (half-jokingly) that she might have to leave as she walked in my door at precisely the moment that Chris Burke sent a two run homer off the leftfield foul pole of Busch Stadium. I even openly (and repeatedly) questioned Tony LaRussa’s decision to let a laboring Carpenter hit in the bottom of the seventh, despite the fact that I believe it’s crucial for the Cardinals’ starters to go late into the game during this series. To put it simply, it felt exactly like playoff baseball. Well, not exactly. St. Louis was never truly in trouble and I never had that god awful feeling in my stomach that you get during a 1-1 or 2-1 pitcher’s duel in October.
Game 2 @ 8 PM on Fox. We'll see how my stomach feels tonight.
I can’t say I watched much of the Angels-White Sox game, though I did happen to tune in just as the weirdest ending in recent memory was taking shape. After looking at the replay numerous times, I concluded that the ball did hit the ground. My girlfriend, on the other hand, said that there was no way the ball had hit the ground. Whichever way you saw it, the one thing that can’t be argued is that it was an extremely heads up play by White Sox catcher (and noted asshole) AJ Pierzynski. That’s a really tough way to lose a ball game but credit should also go to Mike Scioscia for refusing to blame last night’s loss in way, shape, or form on the disputed strikeout. Crying about it isn’t going to change the outcome so you’d might as well move on and get your team ready to play Game 3 on Friday night.
Finally, I have a story that relates (somewhat) to the ALCS. As you may or may not be aware of, I used to work for a minor league baseball team. This team was the spring training home of the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals. In addition to this, any players who were doing rehab would be stationed at our complex in Viera, FL. As it turned out, 2004 was a big year for injuries for the Expo organization. At various times throughout the year Nick Johnson, Tomo Ohka, Tony Armas, Jr. and Carl Everett all spent more than a month at our complex rehabbing various injuries. All of these guys kept a pretty low profile while doing their rehab. All of these guys except for Carl Everett. Carl would routinely come out to the minor league games and hang around with our staff. He would come out on the field for postgame contests and basically just act like one of the guys during his almost two month stay in Viera. It seemed to all of us that Carl was just awfully bored in Viera, not a surprise if you’ve ever been to Viera or any of it’s surrounding areas. What was a surprise was what a funny guy Carl turned out to be. We never saw “Crazy Carl” come out, though we often joked about it in the privacy of our offices.
Basically, Carl came off like “that guy”. You know, the guy who is hilarious and always a ton of fun to be around, but also the guy who everybody is careful around because you can tell by his personality and general demeanor that he is only a step or two away from a full blown meltdown at all times. While being around Carl changed our view of him, it definitely didn’t lay to rest the stories of him being a complete and total whackjob. If anything, it lent credence to the ridiculous stories that you’ve heard about Carl over the years. Why am I telling you this? I’m not quite sure other than he’s a key member of the White Sox this year and there’s a story that illustrates why we all (as a staff) came to love Carl.
One night as I sat in the stands taking in a low scoring game with a couple of other staff members, a conversation began between myself and another staff member about video games over our radios. This conversation quickly turned to a session of trash talk over who was the better gamer of the two of us (I could not have cared less, I just enjoy insulting other people). As we traded insults over the radio we were suddenly interrupted by a voice that I’ll describe as “urban”. The voice was loud and it’s utterances went something like this, “Aww man. I’ll whoop ya’ll young boys. You can’t mess with me.” My friend then went on to challenge the unidentified voice to a game of Madden. To which the voice replied, “Na, na. I don’t play the new games. I’m old school. Give me some Donkey Kong. I’ll tear you up in some Donkey Kong or some Dig Dug or…what’s that one with all the burgers? Yeah, Burger Time. I’ll kill you in some Burger Time. Chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp, chomp.” At this point, I was bent over in my chair I was laughing so hard. We looked about three sections over to see the only man it could’ve possibly been, smiling and ranting into a handheld radio. As I’m sure you’ve surmised by now, it was none other than Carl Everett. For that reason alone I say…Go White Sox!