======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
The Major League Baseball “playoffs” start today (subsequently followed by the actual playoffs, but don’t tell Kansas City and Pittsburgh fans that–JUST LET THEM HAVE IT, OKAY?!) and like any red-blooded American whose team didn’t make the postseason, I don’t really give a shit.
Baseball’s playoffs sans your team are like a renaissance fair you drive by on the highway. You see it from a distance and think, “pffft, lame,” even though if you actually took the time to go check it out, you would probably have fun. At the very least, it would involve delicious snacks and beer. Any place that sells those whole turkey legs is worth at least 20 minutes of your time, which begs the question: why don’t more stadiums sell whole turkey legs? That would easily vault into a top three stadium snack if it were widely available. Get the fuck out of here with gourmet burgers and ANYTHING that requires a knife and fork (unless it’s a chili dog so obscene, it mocks the rest of the world with America’s overabundance of food). Even Italian Serie A soccer fans think you’re an asshole for ordering pasta at a stadium. Give me a whole turkey leg in a boat with the option to be as fiscally irresponsible with $3 as is humanly possible by spending it to have an ounce of nacho cheese slathered all over the leg. Between the prices and what the actual meal consists of, isn’t the whole point of ordering food at a stadium to demean yourself as much as possible? When I eat at a game, I want to feel like I’m an obese man “Leaving Las Vegas”-ing myself, but with state fair food.
The 2014 incarnation of the Major League Baseball playoffs does add one extra, interesting wrinkle: there is a possibility for four regional World Series match ups, which is pretty crazy. There’s a potential Beltway Series between the Nationals and the Orioles, a Bay Area series between the A’s and the Giants, a Violent Stadium Parking Lot Assault Series between the Angels and the Dodgers, and one of my own personal sports wet dreams, an I-70 Series between the Cardinals and the Royals. Naturally, the Tigers will end up sweeping the Pirates in the lowest-rated World Series since there were only 300 television sets in America.
Throughout my five years at Mizzou, every October, I wondered how glorious it would be to witness a Royals-Cardinals World Series while planted right in the middle of I-70, amongst some of the drunkest fans of both teams. There is no doubt that an I-70 Series would irreparably damage friendships, and likely destroy at least a few relationships at Mizzou. Watching a Cardinals fan initiate a public screaming match breakup with a Royals fan (that’s how it would happen) after a late-inning loss would be supreme entertainment. The Columbia police would probably have to designate different bars for either fan base. Royals fans get Big 12, Cardinals fans get Bengals, and presumably, what at first glance resembled the whitest Bloods versus Crypts gang fight in history would break out in Peace Park of all places, after every game. This is the World Series I’m rooting for.
Onto my terrible predictions, which I’ve put very little thought into because that’s about as effective as putting in a lot of thought when trying to predict the MLB playoffs. We’ll start with the Wild Card play-in games, which are stupid and obviously only there to make the last three months of the regular season less terrible for the fans of four extra teams.
Royals over A’s
Giants over Pirates
In a way, though, the play-in games make the last few months more terrible, because fans are forced to endure their team’s infuriating mediocrity as it competes with other frustratingly incomplete ball clubs to see which team can back its way into a “playoff” birth the least incompetently, instead of being able to happily ignore baseball and move fully onto football. (Unless you root for the Marlins, Rays, Braves, Rangers, or Astros, in which case you’ve moved onto football regardless of success.) I stayed with my team, but do you think I really wanted to watch an extra 900 Braves batters strike out this year all for the exciting opportunity to have Madison Bumgarner or Edison Volquez throw a no-hitter and advance to the next round?
These games also screw the formerly lone Wild Card teams. The Royals just made the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, with the fourth best record in the American League. Still, they might be gone after one game, in which they’ll face a pitcher in Jon Lester who is so clutch that he’s beaten cancer. By comparison, the benign Royals lineup doesn’t seem so tough. But never mind that the A’s basically spent the second half in an epic, backfiring tailspin–WELCOME TO THE PLAYOFFS FOR BEING THE LEAST DOG SHIT TEAM IN THE AMERICAN LEAGUE!
I will never get over watching Chipper Jones end his career in the first year of this godforsaken expansion, despite the Braves finishing six games better than the Cardinals in 2012. Meanwhile, I assume Bud Selig was seriously considering expanding the postseason to 16 teams just to give Derek Jeter one last hurrah in October and extend the country’s misty-eyed, God Bless America-scored, national pastime circle jerk to the face of one of the most reviled dynasties in sports history. I’ll give Jeter credit, though–he’s The Captain, and no singles hitter could ever lead steroids addled All Star teams in a sport of individual accomplishment quite like he did. Yes, Jeter is an all-time great and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, but on paper, he’s basically Craig Biggio on way better teams with WAY better marketing. Well, unless that paper is Jeter’s sexual résumé, which, in the history of all pieces of paper, is only surpassed in impressiveness by the Declaration of Independence and whatever parchment the first Gospel was written on.
These play-in games are like the four-team college football playoffs. They were part of a half-assed expansion that is almost certainly not yet complete, but rather being implemented in phases because the governing bodies of these sports assume the American public is too stupid and unstable to handle change any more drastic, when in reality only half of that is true. We’re stupid, but it’s our stupidity that actually makes us able and willing to consume anything. Whether it’s food or television, if it’s meant to be consumed while we’re on a sofa, the American public really doesn’t give a shit what it is. We would gladly eat high sodium cheese balls seasoned with kitten hearts while watching Guy Fieri talk to a Venezuelan diner owner in Santa Monica about stuffing banana peppers–also with kitten hearts–and, at worst, only get upset about the Guy Fieri part. Just expand the play-in game to a three-game series, all played at the higher seed’s park, and give us the eight-team college football playoffs that everyone knows is coming.
Angels over Royals in 4
Orioles over Tigers in 5
Giants over Nationals in 5
Cardinals over Dodgers in 4
For some reason, the Dodgers pitcher for Game 1 is still TBD (as of Monday) presumably because Don Mattingly can’t decide whether or not he wants to risk blowing Kershaw on a Game 1 loss to Adam Wainwright. That’s how much fear the Cardinals strike into every other team in the playoffs. Their devil magic (follow #CardinalsDevilMagic during the playoffs, you won’t be disappointed) is real and well-known in baseball circles, so much so that the Dodgers are afraid of “wasting” the best pitcher in baseball on Game 1. Just accept the inevitable, L.A., you’re fucked. Sorry you couldn’t play the Braves this year, but at least you can all act like Angels fans once the Dodgers are out. You’ve had plenty of practice with the Kings and the Clippers. In fact, I assume Los Angelenos would turn on what they love faster than any other population in America. The least realistic part of the movie “Battle: Los Angeles” was that residents weren’t taking up arms and joining the invading aliens against the rest of humanity as soon as the city was overrun.
Angels over Orioles in 6
Cardinals over Giants in 7
Obviously an I-70 Series is what I’m rooting for, but in terms of sheer entertainment, watching Cardinals fans classily tell Albert Pujols to go fuck himself on Facebook and Twitter for the duration of the World Series is a close second. Whoever runs the Twitter account @BestFansSTLouis has got to be praying for this. Meanwhile, Mike Trout will go all ’04 Carlos Beltran for the next month and bring home a title to not Los Angeles.
Angels over Cardinals in 6.