Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The Washington Nationals better hope GM Mike Rizzo knows what he's talking about when he says this year's playoff appearance would be the first of many for the new-look Nats.
The team with the best record in the National League couldn't fend off the never-say-die St. Louis Cardinals. Pitcher Stephen Strasburg's arm could have changed that outcome.
The Nats, who decided to shelf Strasburg for the season, made their first post-season appearance in 79 years and tanked.
Try as baseball might in stacking the deck in favor of the teams with the best records, those teams aren't making it to the World Series.
The Cardinals stand poised to do it again technically as the playoffs' worst team. St. Louis beat Atlanta in the wildcard play-in game before running the table through the NLDS. The Cardinals are on the cusp of doing the same with the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS.
The Nats and Yankees, who ran away with their division titles over 162 games, collapsed over the first two weeks in October, the Yankees to the point that their eventual dismemberment a la Philadelphia last year is inevitable.
When do you bench the game's alleged best player who makes more than $29 million a season? When playoff time rolls around A-Rod couldn't hit sand if he fell off a camel.
Washington's decision to shelve Stephen Strasburg after 159 and 2/3 innings pitched and a full two weeks before the regular season ended came back to bite the Nationals where it hurt the most – in additional playoff games hosted.
The Nats were blown out in their first post-season home game in three generations and in just their second home post-season game, faced elimination and Stephen Strasburg was not pitching. Strasburg is Rizzo's kajillion dollar investment and not even a chance at a World Series ring THIS year could sway the Washington GM from his decision.
The Cardinals made short order of the Strasburg-less Nats facing a young closer working his third consecutive ninth inning in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
Rizzo's kid gloves approach with his young arms apparently only applied to Strasburg as he allowed closer Drew Storen to march out to the mound for three straight games.
The Golden Rule of Closers is, “Don't overuse your closer,” and Washington did. Storen's fastball was flat and his slider had no bite. He spent most of the ninth inning backing up third. Now with the Redskins' RGIII battling concussion issues and the NHL strike de-icing the Capitals, Nats fans are facing a long winter in D.C.
As for the Yankees, their post-season never caught fire against Detroit.
First Derek Jeter breaks his ankle in what could possibly be a career-ending fracture that will require surgery. I think this sends Derek off to Chipper Land (retirement).
As for A-Rod, the Yankees will find a way to unload his $29 million annual contract. Look for him to land in his hometown Miami. Having A-Rod in pinstripes when he brings baseball's all-time home run record back to New York where it belongs isn't worth the four-or-five World Series rings they could have won if Alex could actually hit in pressure situations.
Still, baseball fans everywhere are smiling.
The only thing that would make this any better would be if the Boston Red Sox had been swept out of the playoffs as well.
Oh wait, the Sox finished dead last in the AL East.
I like it. Christmas indeed came early this year.