By Joe Hines
PSDC Staff & Chicago Guru
I’m sitting in the ProjectShanks.com home office in Longview, Texas, six feet to the left of my slave-driving boss, Chris Stuckey. Talk about pressure.
But I surge ahead, determined to transfer these thoughts I have from my brain to keyboard, whether a thousand miles away at home, or at headquarters.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Cubs have the third best record in baseball. It is typical, that in such a case, the two better records belong to teams in their own NL Central Division; the Cardinals and Pirates. With only a couple of games this weekend to settle the dust and seal the postseason awards, the National League playoffs are set. The Cubs and Pirates will play the one game wild card game in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, TBS the dutiful portrayer of the game. And don’t the playoffs just scream TBS? They broadcast an excuse me game every now and again, I was surprised to find late in the season that Ted Turner’s network even continued to broadcast baseball, with the superstations TBS and WGN dumping the local team coverage in the last few years, they being the Braves and Cubs. But that’s a conversation for a different column.
The winner of the play-in game (Cubs, Cubs, Cubs) will play the suddenly Molina-less and Martinez-less and Piscotty-less Cardinals. What I am trying to say here is the Cardinals can be had. Molina is the unquestioned Redbird leader and his absence, arguably, affects that team more than the loss of any other player might affect his. Without Molina, they do not have the soul of the team. I have watched them a fair amount as the season has wound down, and St. Louis has looked lethargic and uninterested like they are not having fun. While teams like, oh, let’s say, the Cubs look loose, easy and fun. I picked the Cubs to eject the Cards from the playoffs at the beginning of the year. I’m sticking with my pick. Granted, I’m a Cub fan, but I’m also a baseball fan with a pretty keen eye. I like the way the Cubs are playing.
The other division series will be the Mets and Dodgers. Pitching against pitching. Kershaw, Grienke and pray for rain. I know it doesn’t rhyme neatly like Spahn and Sain, but whatever. The Dodgers rely on their top of the rotation to continue win streaks and stop losing streaks. Kershaw has been notably bad in the playoffs the last two years, and need him to turn around to be successful this year. One can’t imagine anyone in the Dodger hierarchy being happy with another quick postseason exit with the $300 million plus payroll.
The Mets feature young pitching every night if you discount rotund graybeard, Bartolo Colon. I can’t imagine him being in the playoff rotation though, what with the emergence of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom. And with the addition of Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets lineup at the trade deadline, an inept Mets lineup suddenly became dangerous, leading the NL in runs scored since the July 31 trade deadline. If the numbers play out, I think the Mets have one more quality starter, and the improves offense leads them to the next round against the Cubs. Imagine that? A rehash of the 1969 Amazin’ Mets surge to the NL East title as the the Cubs blew a substantial lead in September.
If the Cubs indeed get to the NLCS, it is foregone they will win. That’s just the type of year it is.
In the American League, nothing is so set in stone. With a day and a half yet to play, the Royals and Rangers have clinched as of now, Saturday Oct. 3 at 2:30 Central Time, along with the Yankees and the AL beer league champs Toronto. Pizza and wings after the game tonight. Honestly, have you ever seen a team like them? Every game, they seem to lead 10-0 in the second inning. They are certainly a bit more dangerous now with David Price at the top of the rotation, but in my opinion, their pitching isn’t deep enough to carry them far in the postseason, when pitching is paramount.
The Angels and Twins still have a say so in the outcome of the AL wild card scenario. There are mind-bending tiebreaker scenarios involving the West contenders, along with the Twins. Check with me Monday to see how it all plays out. It is sure to be fun to watch over the last couple of days of the season.
Meanwhile, I want to note. This is the 200th column I have written for ProjectShanks.com and my friend first and editor second, Chris Stuckey. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know this stellar human being over the last few years, and he has given me the chance to speak my mind, both poorly and well. He and his family are great citizens of the Longview, Texas community, honest, charitable and compassionate. They have become important to me, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity Chris has afforded me.
Baseball is fun again for us Cub fans, it’s a cherry on top of what has been a great season, these impending playoffs. Do yourself a favor and follow the excitement, I will keep you hopefully entertained and informed here on ProjectShanks.com.