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Baseball playoffs are a lucky break for the viewer

The pace of the game, the drama of every pitch, the discussion of every close play — it all stirs deeper reflections about the sport.

October 07, 2013|Bill Dwyre
  • Oakland's Stephen Vogt, center left, celebrates with his teammates after driving in the winning run in the Athletics' victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the American League division series Saturday.
Oakland's Stephen Vogt, center left, celebrates with his teammates… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )

October is the month of triple-crown TV viewing. It's playoff time. Nothing better than a couch, a beer and a big-screen TV.

To steal from the long-ago "Saturday Night Live" eloquence of Chico Escuela, "Baseball been berry, berry good to us."

Sure, for many, this is football season. But though that is a wonderful game, packed with action and excitement on the college and pro levels, TV has paid for the right to ruin it and is doing just that.

The games have more stops than a police drunk-driving checkpoint. Halftimes are so long you forget there is a game. With every exchange of possession comes a sales pitch. We are sold beer, cars, insurance, dating websites and more beer. And those are squeezed among the promotions of the network televising the game. "Don't forget to tune in to blah, blah, blah…."

Every once in a while, there is a glimpse of a game.

Baseball may have as many commercials and as much self-serving network slobber, but it has an advantage. It is a game ready-made for TV breaks, every half-inning. No need to force them, like football. They are there.

Football is instant frenzy. Baseball is slow, by design. At playoff time, each pitch is a mini-drama. Every squibbler through the infield, every step off the pitching rubber, every close play is a topic for discussion.

In baseball, everything that happens, or almost happens, or should have happened, leads to pondering the significance of what might have been. It is a slow waltz to an explosive finish, a fox trot working up to a break dance.

So, with a nod and tip of the cap to the late, great Herald Examiner and Times columnist Allan Malamud, who captured these things with his Notes on a Scorecard, let's do some baseball playoff musing:

• Don Mattingly walks Reed Johnson and his job is now in jeopardy? Are you kidding? Must have been a different guy who managed that 42-8 run.

• Are there two better baseball names than in the Oakland Athletics-Detroit Tigers series: Coco Crisp and Prince Fielder?

• Is there a catcher in baseball better at framing pitches to influence umpires than the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis?

• Why can't the networks just let Vin Scully do all the games?

• Isn't it a tragedy that the Angels' Mike Trout is getting no postseason national TV exposure? There are still millions of fans who haven't seen enough of him to acquire an appreciation for how good he is. Already.

• Speaking of the Angels, isn't it good to see Torii Hunter's smiling face again on a regular basis? Word is that the Detroit clubhouse is a happy place, that it has veteran leadership. Gee, how did that happen? And was it there for the Angels this season?

• Did anybody else notice that, when Yoenis Cespedes scored the winning run Saturday night in the A's thrilling walk-off victory on Stephen Vogt's single, that he didn't step on home plate?

• Will the issue of catchers' suffering concussions by being hit with foul tips in the face mask become a bigger deal? Apparently, football and boxing don't have a monopoly on this danger. Of course, in boxing, they just ignore it because they all have concussions.

• A little known fact: Years ago, Commissioner Bud Selig agonized over the wild-card setup for the playoffs and fretted that it would infringe on the established purity of league winners' playing each other in the World Series, period. Bet he doesn't agonize now.

• Is there something bad in the center-field grass in the Dodgers' and Angels' stadiums? Both players who were the projected starters in those places this season, Matt Kemp and Peter Bourjos, suffered through agonizing seasons of injuries and bad luck.

• Does Atlanta still take a beating from the politically correct segments of society for the Indian warrior chant and red tomahawk chopping by the Braves' fans? Or have those critics now become blase?

• Is network announcer Ernie Johnson trying to bring back the good old days of baseball cliches — when loaded bases were stuffed hassocks and left-handed pitchers were flossy forkhanders — with his call the other night that two scoring runners were "crossing the pay station"?

• Is there any more interesting look in the history of baseball than the Dodgers' Brian Wilson and his ponytail beard? How do you top the little scrunchie that holds the bottom in place?

• Hats off to Albert Pujols. When he threatened to sue Jack Clark over Clark's radio statement that he knew "for a fact" that Pujols had used performance-enhancing drugs, skeptics laughed. Pujols' threat was an idle one, they said. Too expensive, even for Pujols, and too time-consuming, they said. Too tough to win a suit like that. In a conversation in the Angels' clubhouse shortly after his threat, he repeated that he had said he would sue and he was a man of his word. Now, he proved it.

• Thumbs down to Alex Rodriguez. He is suing Selig and Major League Baseball for his 211-game suspension on yet another drug-related issue. This is the same A-Rod who has made well in excess of half a billion dollars in salary and endorsements in his career.

He needs to stop and ponder the words of Chico Escuela. Baseball's been berry, berry good to him.

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