by Harry Parmenter
Good: Justin Turner, Mr. Dodger. A Mets’ castoff has become the heart and soul of the Dodgers, their best hitter and MVP, despite Manny Machado filling the big shoes of Corey Seager to help them save their season. Turner is a professional hitter, and his homerun in game two at Milwaukee kept the series from slipping away from L.A. Fear the beard indeed.
Bad: The Dodgers are on TV! That’s actually good, of course, but the fact it takes national playoff broadcasts to get seen by well over half their fandom continues to be a black eye for the team and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
Ugly: David Price, game two at Fenway vs. the Yankees. Rumor has it that the Bronx Bombers actually sent a limo to pick Price up at his house, given that they have batted .1000 against him since Boston gave him $217 million dollars. True to form, Price couldn’t make it through the second inning with Aaron Judge hitting a blast off him that broke a window at the old North Church. The Fenway faithful were not amused. Despite a marginal 4 2/3 innings yielding four runs in game two vs. Houston, at $31M a year, The Price is Wrong.
Good: The aforementioned Judge has replaced Derek Jeter in Pinstripe Nation and will someday have his own plaque in Monument Park. Bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bond villain “Jaws,” Judge hit .421 with three dingers and four RBIs, which would have been a lot more if anybody ever reached base before he hit (we’re looking at you, Andrew McCutcheon and Gleyber Torres).
Bad: The Chicago Cubs were quickly eliminated after losing back to back games beneath the friendly skies at Wrigley Field, first against Milwaukee, then Colorado. With their aging starters it’s a good thing they won in 2016. Letting Wade Davis go was a mistake.
Ugly: The Oakland A’s, who, after a lot of big talk about going to the World Series, had their “bullpen game” strategy blow up in their face in the do-or-die wild card game against New York. The Yankees put two runs on the board in the first with a Judge bomb and never looked back. The bullpen thing is working for Milwaukee but as a purist, I hate it. Give me a starter going deep anytime. Satchel Paige is rolling over in his grave.
Good: Rookie manager Alex Cora has been pressing all the right buttons, like bringing ace Rick Porcello into game one of the ALDS to bridge a mediocre bullpen performance and take command of the series. He employed Porcello with similar success in game two of the ALCS vs. Houston. Cora, bench coach on last year’s champion Astros, also plugged Brock Holt, Christian Vasquez and Rafael Devers into game three, all of whom contributed to the 16-1 smackdown. Holt did something no one has done in the history of the postseason: hit for the cycle.
Bad: The Colorado Rockies choked at home the last weekend of the season, losing a game to the pathetic Nationals, necessitating a divisional one-off at Chavez Ravine, which they lost. They then flew to Chicago and outlasted the Cubs in the dullest 13 inning game I have ever seen, then got swept by the Brewers, scoring two runs in three games. Despite big names like Arenado, Blackmon, Story and Gonzalez, the Rockies simply couldn’t hit the ball.
Ugly: Brian Cashman fired Joe Girardi, one of the best skippers in the league, replacing him with Aaron Boone, who had never managed or coached, because Boone would “relate better” to the younger generation. After no doubt tucking him in at night, Boone watched starter Luis Severino implode in pivotal game three while his high-powered bullpen sat spitting sunflower seeds (whatever happened to tobacco?). A position player, Austin Romine, pitched the ninth inning in front of 38 people and a pair of janitors as the Red Sox finished a historic drubbing, the worst loss in the Yankees’ storied franchise. If George Steinbrenner was alive, he would have fired Boone before breakfast.
Good: The Brewers are for real. Manager Craig Counsell is expertly deploying the weapons GM David Stearns got him, from soon to be MVP Christian Yelich to Lorenzo Cain and Mike Moustakeas, key members of the great Royals teams that went to two consecutive World Series, winning it all in 2015, to a lights out bullpen led by Josh “Wild Thing II” Hader. At press time they are giving the Dodgers all they can handle, with the series tied at two wins apiece. And when’s the last time Milwaukee had something to cheer about?
Bad: As great a regular season pitcher as he’s been, Clayton Kershaw has disappointed in the post. After a strong outing against the baby Braves he lasted just three innings against the Brewers, his playoff ERA about $4.25. His twin meltdowns against the Astros last year spelled doom for the Dodgers. Madison Bumgarner he is not but there’s still time for redemption—and a ring.
Ugly: I don’t know about anyone else, but haven’t we had enough of exit velocity, launch angle and every other tedious analytic sabermetric the TV announcers and analysts spew incessantly? Is this what fans want? Does it “relate better” to young fans? It’s BASEBALL, for God’s sake. It’s a game with interesting storylines, colorful personalities and inherent drama, not a nerd fantasy camp field trip. Where have you gone, Vin Scully?
Bad: Mike Trout not in the playoffs, again. The Angels stink and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. The Dodgers should do whatever they have to do to get him. They have no stars in the outfield. Period.
Ugly: The Cleveland Indians. All that talent, and they get beaten by Houston, badly. Hart High great Trevor Bauer had a tough time in the clincher with a couple of fielding gaffes as the game slipped away. It was almost as bad as when he couldn’t pitch a couple years ago after cutting his hand on his drone. The Indians, whom many considered a dark horse in the A.L., are on the up escalator going down.
And finally…The Inane: One broadcast featured a mic’d third base coach so we could hear him yelling, “Yeah! Yeah!! Yes, sir!!!” Cutting-edge insight at its finest.