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Some Thoughts On Day 2 Of The 2011 MLB Playoffs

I'll be up front with you: I don't have a lot to talk about. Not here, not today. It's weird, since these are the playoffs and all eight teams were active, but I feel like there weren't a lot of really and truly compelling angles, and besides, we're all still kind of coming down from Wednesday's high. Three days ago, two teams simultaneously finished off perhaps the two worst collapses in history, and one of them was the Red Sox. The Red Sox! And everything turned around for them in the span of like five minutes at the very end! No, nothing's going to compare to Wednesday for a long long time, which is a blessing and a burden. Wednesday could've been the best baseball day in history, but that just means that subsequent baseball days will be underwhelming by comparison.

I'll grant that tonight's Rangers/Rays game was pretty interesting, at least when compared to the other three. The Rangers rallied and then the Rays almost rallied and everything. But unfortunately that was the game of which I personally got to see the least, since I was covering the Yankees and Tigers, and the two of them overlapped. And anyway, even if it was interesting, consider what we saw early on in last year's playoffs. On the first day, Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter. On the second day, Tim Lincecum struck out 14 in a complete-game shutout. On the third day, the Phillies rallied past Aroldis Chapman and the Reds, and the Braves came back to beat the Giants in 11 innings. Last year's playoffs were amazing from the start. This year - this year's playoffs started on Wednesday, but the Friday and Saturday action has been pretty tame. The biggest story is that a game got suspended by rain, and there's no way to spin that into anything you want to read.

I've just spent several hundred words explaining that not much of interest has happened. It's the end of a long day into which I've put a lot of other, different words, so I apologize for carrying on. I do have a few notes. Let's talk about those notes.

  • It's funny - the Rangers lost yesterday, and they got off to an ugly start today. They were down 3-0 after three and a half, and it could've been even worse than that, since Derek Holland wasn't very good. As soon as Matt Joyce hit his two-run homer in the fourth to put the Rays up three, I started to see a lot of the same comments. A lot of people suggesting that the Rangers might be toast, or that they were on the verge of being toast.

    It's amazing to me how many people - how many smart, sharp people - carry on as if momentum exists. It might exist in other sports, but it doesn't exist in baseball, and I don't know how many times we need this to be proven. Games and series can reverse course in an instant, and few things get on my nerves as much as this kind of premature resignation. "Toast"? Because the Rangers were down a game and down three runs? They're the Rangers. They're a fantastically good baseball team. They are playing the Rays, who are a worse baseball team. Give them a chance. Don't assume that they're suddenly shitty because they looked shitty for a handful of innings.

    It's also amazing to me how quickly some people were prepared to throw in the towel three days after Wednesday night. Odds are odds and one shouldn't allow the events of Wednesday to make unlikely things feel more likely than they are, but you'd think there would've been more of a honeymoon period. More of a "you just never know" kind of afterglow. I'll be damned.

  • I'm getting the sense that Evan Longoria might be turning into the new David Ortiz. Not as a player - they are very different players - but in terms of developing a reputation for clutch production. Ortiz delivered a bunch of important hits in the playoffs some years ago, so he became one of the most clutch hitters in baseball. Longoria has delivered a bunch of important hits and home runs of his own, so he's becoming one of the most clutch hitters in baseball.

    There's no denying that Longoria has come through with some clutch hits. But there's a difference between hitting clutch hits and being a clutch hitter, and Longoria's history of clutch performance isn't exceptional. He has a negative career clutch score. If "clutch" means "performs well in the clutch," then sure, Longoria does that because he's really good. But if "clutch" means "performs better in the clutch," then, no, there's little evidence that Longoria does that at all.

    It's funny to be talking about this on the same day that "Big Game" James Shields allowed seven runs in 5+ innings. Shields is now up to 20 runs allowed in 34.1 playoff innings. The Rays are 2-4 in his six playoff starts. Shields is great. Longoria is great. It's just...it's the damn clutch thing. Stop it.

  • Baseball got going at like 11 in the morning today, and the two starting shortstops for the Diamondbacks and Brewers were Willie Bloomquist and Yuniesky Betancourt. Bloomquist batted leadoff and finished 2-for-4 with a stolen base. Betancourt went 1-for-4 with a critical triple. We did get to have our fun when Yuni hit a big stupid pop-up, but the first pitch of baseball that I saw today was smacked into center field by Willie Bloomquist, and that was before I had a sip of coffee. I was not prepared for that game. That game barely let us be snarky at all.

  • Prince Fielder ripped a home run, provoking the expected response from certain corners. I wouldn't expect this to die down as long as Fielder is producing in the playoffs. Somehow for so many people who follow the Mariners, Fielder has become the one guy the team just has to go get over the winter. I want to make this clear now in an effort to make sure things don't get ugly: those of us who are opposed to signing Fielder do not think that Fielder is bad, or mediocre, or even something less than very good. Prince Fielder is obviously very good. The issue, as it so often is, is about the size of the commitment. Are the Mariners really the team that ought to give Fielder the contract that he's going to get? These Mariners, in their current situation? This isn't about whether or not Fielder's power would fit in the lineup. Fielder's power would fit in every lineup ever. It is always always always about weighing the risk and reward.

  • Four batters into the Kyle Lohse/Roy Halladay lopsidathon, the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead. I was going to write one thing, but then the Phillies came back and kind of blew the Cardinals out, so now I'm going to write another. Halladay allowed a leadoff single in the second inning on a grounder. After that, he retired the final 21 batters he faced before giving way to Michael Stutes in the ninth. And not only did Halladay retire the final 21 batters he faced - he retired the first 20 of those without letting a ball out of the infield. The 21st - Rafael Furcal - lined out to left. I guess Halladay allowing the ball out of the infield was the signal to Charlie Manuel that Halladay was done.

    It's an outing like that that convinces me that Halladay spotted the Cardinals those three runs as a favor. Turns out Roy Halladay is cocky now!

  • For the next time someone complains that the fans at Safeco don't do enough to help their team out, here are Yankees fans responding to a deep fly ball hit by a Yankee:

    Faninterference_medium

    Robinson Cano's fly ball hit the very top of the wall, right about in front of where that guy in the yellow on the left is standing. It would've been easy for a fan to try to grab it. They didn't try to grab it (except for that one guy). I'm not saying the umps wouldn't have reviewed the play and reversed it anyway, but the fans didn't even try to make that a home run. In New York.

  • Doug Fister pitched better than the line with which he finished, but I'm not here to analyze Doug Fister. I'm just here to show you what Fister did over one stretch of five at bats between the second and third:

    -Derek Jeter strikes out swinging
    -Curtis Granderson strikes out swinging
    -Robinson Cano grounds out to second
    -Alex Rodriguez strikes out swinging
    -Mark Teixeira strikes out swinging