MLB Playoffs Recap (Week 2)
“Everything changes.” These words from Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez must rankle Yankees fans at this moment. After winning Game 2 of their division series, quite a few observers thought the Yankees had it in the bag, with the next two games at home in the Bronx. Now the Red Sox will face the Houston Astros for the American League pennant. Astros fans, too, are possibly alarmed by the new prominence of this versatile hitter: their team dumped him just before the 2014 season began, probably because he was below average in some statistic that I’d never heard of until this week (it’s called OPS+).
I listened to Games 3 and 4 of the Red Sox - Yankees series on ESPN Radio, where you can enjoy the brilliant narration of Jon “Boog” Sciambi and Jessica Mendoza, as well as the sounds of Yankee Stadium (those fans are not hard to make out on radio, even when they’re just fuming at lackluster pitching). I am fast becoming an old-fashioned consumer of baseball action. Really, who needs the elaborate graphics setups of today’s TV coverage when Boog and Jessica can sum it all up? For me, still more or less a baseball neophyte, it’s also useful not to be bombarded by too much information at once, and there’s not much second-guessing the umpires.
Boog tells me that at least one player (Alex Bregman of the Astros) has complained about this series getting a prime-time slot, while the other playoff matchups have generally not. I have little sympathy for last year’s Champions whining about this. Did anybody in the Cubs dugout complain last October because not enough people were paying attention to them in the National League pennant race? No: they just got on with it, and got crushed by the Dodgers, and nobody I know thought any less of them for it. For those who don’t like to read classic literature or ponder philosophy, baseball shows just as good as either of those that cockiness goes before a fall and greatness usually emerges from the murkiest of beginnings.
Rick Porcello, a right-handed pitcher from New Jersey who loves to “pound the zone” (throw fast into the strike zone), and Andrew Benintendi, an outfielder from Arkansas, are my current favorites on the team. But it’s hard not to love his co-outfielder Mookie Betts too, who is also a professional bowler and has spent his entire MLB career (four years) with the Red Sox. When they are asked for comment during or after a game, they all sound happy, even when (as in Benintendi’s case) they are probably still sore from a bad pitch by the Yankees’ C.C. Sabathia. Their jaunty attitude gives me such an instant moral boost, and that at least is a justification for immersing oneself obsessively in the world of sports.