So the playoffs are nearly upon us, and once again baseball has managed to give us all an incredibly interesting playoff race in the NL. So what if the AL winning the World Series again is a foregone conclusion? Does anyone doubt that divisional realignment and the creation of the Wild Card was ingenious? While Rob Neyer and Bob Costas were probably somewhere bemoaning the assault on the tradition of the game, the rest of us realized that perhaps, just maybe, more than 15% of teams should make the playoffs. You know, as long as it's not half the damn league like the NBA.
Is there a more compelling story line than watching the Cardinals collapse and Tony LaRussa chew a toothpick to splinters while the national media foams at the mouth at the prospects of getting Roger Clemens into "one last" (whatever the fuck that means anymore with Clemens) playoffs? Let me tell you, it does not look good for the Cardinals. Although they play a Brewers team that might as well show up drunk (oh wait, maybe that's the Bengals), they DO have to face Chris Capuano and Ben Sheets, two of the better NL pitchers. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are trotting out Jeff Weaver (yes, THAT Jeff Weaver, who has been cut by a lot of teams. A lot.) and Jeff Suppan against them. My prediction: the Cards lose those two games and then win the last one in which they face some scrub and have Carpenter pitching.
The Astros, meanwhile, face the Braves, which, really, could go either way. The most interesting thing about all of this is that the Cardinals may (and probably will, at this point) need to play a makeup game with the Giants, in St. Louis, to finish out their season. The Giants, of course, are out of things and would have to fly halfway across the country simply to play spoilers. Being a player, I can't really imagine giving a shit in a situation like that. Unfortunately, that may add up to a bullshit win for the Cards. Maybe Bonds will have to hit the juice once more for old time's sake. I'm sure Cards fans would be cool with that.
In any event, the Cards' potentially epic collapse made me wonder which is worse: losing it all at the end, or losing it, painstakingly, game by game, over the whole course of the second half, like the White Sox did? I'm leaning towards the latter. Prolonged shittiness trumps spectacular, immediate shittiness in terms of overall shittiness. Besides, there's something of a spectacle in watching a team go down in a blazing heap. Watching prolonged shittiness is akin to watching a Pants-Off Dance-Off marathon. You keep hoping it will get better, but in the end you just feel cheap and stupid for having put up with it.
In other news, the tentative schedules for next year came out a bit ago, and the White Sox' schedule is particularly interesting. Save for a 3 game set with the Angels, the Sox' entire September is against divisional teams. Perhaps more importantly, they play the Royals 7 times in the last 2 weeks. It's tough to predict baseball from year to year (see Detroit this year), but I think it remains safe to say that the Royals will suck. Detroit's schedule looks comparable, but, by contrast, the Twins finish at Detroit for 3 and Boston for 4. Too bad for them.