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I wanted Barry Zito to excel to today. To put the horrid outings behind him. To justify his gargantuan salary. To redeem himself, to be the hero, to be the man as the San Francisco Giants clinched the American League West title and advanced to a glorious post-season.
It didn’t happen.
No. 75 didn’t get past inning No. 3.
What a huge disappointment for the Giants and for their fans. Now they stare down the Padres, who have owned them virtually the entire 2010 season, for one more game. Maybe even two.
Based on a million permutations involving the Phillies and Braves and tie-breakers and God knows what else, the Giants may still make the playoffs even if they lose on Sunday.
Today was the day they should have clinched (yes, I’ve put the painful Friday night loss in the series opener behind me).
So what happens tomorrow? Will Jonathan Sanchez be able to keep his emotions in check in the biggest start of his career?
I hope so. But I won’t be surprised if it all comes crashing down on the Orange and Black.
“Pennant race” conjures images of clutch hits, great catches, overpowering pitching and long shadows slanting across the diamond. But with baseball’s division structure, there isn’t a true pennant race left.
Right now, the team I follow — the San Francisco Giants — has a slim lead over San Diego and Colorado in the National League West. The Yankees and Rays are locked in a tight battle in the American League East.
To me, the pennant represents the league championship, rooted in the pre-playoff American and National leagues when eight or 10 teams vied for the title and the right to play in the World Series. So it was in 1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as illustrated above.
In a diluted way, today’s races for the division championship and even the wild card playoff spots are a part of the pennant chase.
So I’ll do my best to cast off my curmudgeonly traditionalist attitude and accept that even a team in the hunt for the wild card is in a “pennant race.”
I don’t want to burst anyone’s gonfalon balloon.
Posted in Baseball
Tagged American League, Baseball, baseball playoffs, Colorado Rockies, National League, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Tampa Bay Rays, wild card
The long shadows of October baseball
Of the division matchups in the baseball playoffs this year, the only one I can illustrate with a pair of caps I own is the Brewers-Phillies series.
I’m already on record in expressing my devotion to the Brew Crew. Their place in the playoffs this year takes me right back to their last appearance, when they lost to the Cardinals in seven games in 1982. Somewhere in a shoe box I have photos I took out the window of our flat of the Goodyear blimp flying along the Lake Michigan shore en route to Milwaukee County Stadium. I am also on record, if only semi-seriously, as wanting to be buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Milwaukee, hard by the ballpark and not far from my grad school apartment.
I have a soft spot for the Phillies, too. Some of that has to do with having worked briefly in the Philly market at Trenton, N.J. Part of it is rooting for a team that gets only sporadic cracks at the big time.
The Milwaukee-Philadelphia matchup can also be played out in food terms. Milwaukee is the center of the bratwurst universe, and Philadelphia is the capital of cheesesteak nation. I love them both. So although I’m fully pulling for the Brewers, I’m open to the Phils advancing. Does that make me a weenie?