In today’s FOX Sports Insider with Martin Rogers: If this year’s MLB postseason matches what we’ve seen the past several months, we’re in for a treat … we take a look at how Bubba Wallace finally got the victory he had been chasing … and we are introduced to a new, must-see workout product.
Here we go, Major League Baseball postseason, what have you got for us? Just a warning, though, we’ve been spoiled these past few months, so this had better be good.
With October now upon us, the annual roll-in of elimination baseball comes with it, resoundingly the most thrilling, unpredictable and just downright fun time in the historic old sport’s ongoing cycle.
However, after a regular season that brought an embarrassment of riches when it came to superb individual performances, a spectacular rise of young talent and a breathless finish to divisional slugfests and wild-card madness, the playoffs have got some living up to do if they’re going to match what came before them.
“This regular season was one of the most exciting in memory,” FOX Sports MLB Writer Ben Verlander told me in a telephone conversation this week. “The consensus is that it was simply awesome. That mostly had to do with outstanding young players standing up, which speaks volumes for the game and brings new eyes to the sport.
“Then you have two teams going pedal to the metal in the final weeks, way over 100 wins, but still forced to give it everything down the stretch. Then the final three hours on the last Sunday of the season was some of the most enthralling baseball we’ve seen for a long time.”
The youngsters igniting the sport are led by Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angeles, whose two-way exploits defied all common baseball thinking and were a true joy to behold. With other fearless sluggers like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. shining, baseball has some true box office superstars upon which to hang its hat.
Yet for all the individual brilliance – Ohtani hit 46 home runs and tallied 100 RBIs while going 9-2 with 151 strikeouts on the mound – the most intriguing part of the campaign might have come in the battle to get through to this bit, right here, where everything becomes magnified and where the margin for error shrinks to virtually nothing.
That’s certainly the case for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won 106 games but will face a win-or-go-home wild-card clash with the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night, because they finished a game behind the extraordinary San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
No one wants their campaign to hinge on a single nine inning window and so the Giants and Dodgers were going all out in the final weeks. No resting and recuperating and setting up their playoff pitching rotation here. Over the last 10 games the Giants went 8-2, while the Dodgers scorched to 9-1, but still came up fractionally short.
In the American League, mass chaos nearly ensued as, going into the final day, the possibility of a four-way tie for the wild-card positions remained feasible. All kinds of quirky permutations would have been required to sort that one out. In the end it wasn’t necessary as the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees both took care of business and will now face each other at Fenway Park on Tuesday night.
It doesn’t get much more storied than that, an appropriate way to kick off the rollercoaster that is bound to ensue over the coming month, with single elimination games adding a head-scratching wrinkle to any attempt at prediction.
Consider this though, the Dodgers are still favorites to win it all with FOX Bet (+400), despite the fact their season could be over by Wednesday night.
If prior knowledge is to be of any assistance it is to tell us that current form counts for something, but not everything, that resiliency and a couple of flashes of luck are mightily welcomed factors, and that everything you expected might just get thrown out the window.
It is also that new stars will emerge from obscurity to help their teams, think Randy Arozarena for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020 or Juan Soto for the Washington Nationals a year prior.
“Everyone plans so much and you expect certain things from the big stars on another team,” Verlander added. “Sometimes it takes someone to just come from nowhere to make the biggest impact.”
Once things begin Tuesday night, the action barely slows and it’s all on the line, back closer to what we are used to after the slightly odd (but necessary) shifts made last time to accommodate 16 teams into the postseason of a COVID-curtailed 2020 campaign.
“The goal,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters, “is to start a new season in the postseason.”
That new season is going to be edge-of-the-seat stuff, the format and structure virtually guarantees it. If it matches what we’ve seen the past several months, we’re in for a treat.
Here’s what others have said …
Jake Mintz, FOX Sports: “While a playoff series feels like a multi-season television drama, the wild-card game is a well-orchestrated, slightly too long yet undeniably compelling feature-length film. Some characters rise to the occasion; others depart prematurely.”
Tristan Cockroft, ESPN: “Many people watching these postseason games probably couldn’t even name a single pitcher on the Rays’ roster, but let’s face it, this was a 100-win team in spite of that, and it’s because Tampa Bay’s scheme is rock solid. Maybe in a year in which workloads were such a worry for every team, the team to pick is the one that pretty much mixed and matched its entire season and never needs to worry about such follies as ‘workloads.’”
Pedro Moura, FOX Sports: “If the Giants had performed as most of us expected this season, there would be no question who the World Series favorites are. It’d be the 106-win reigning champions. The Giants deserve enormous credit for their achievements, but the truth is that the Dodgers remain more talented – than them, than anyone in the NL, than anyone in the AL. That doesn’t mean the Dodgers will win. It doesn’t even mean they’ll win Wednesday. But it does mean it’s difficult to pick against them.”