The party hasn't started until Canseco shows up

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I’m surprised it took him a day to find a microphone.  Anyway, you’ve been right more than you’ve been wrong about this Jose, so you’re probably entitled to a few minutes of the floor:

“I’ve got no problems with a few of the things he’s saying, but again,
it’s ironic and strange that Mark McGwire denies that I injected him
with steroids. He’s calling me a liar again.  I’ve defended Mark, I’ve said a lot of good things about him, but I can’t believe he just called me a liar. There is something very strange going on here, and I’m wondering what
it is. I even polygraphed that subject matter, that I injected him, and
passed it completely. So I want to challenge him on national TV to a
polygraph examination. I want to see him call me a liar under a
polygraph examination.”

Maybe Canseco is telling the truth about this, but allow me to ask: does anyone, even the most passionate anti-steroid crusader, care about the specific mode of injection?  I’m willing to live with a half-truth regarding one man injecting another in a bathroom stall. Aren’t you?  And I think Jose said too much with the national TV thing. His biggest weakness in all of his truth telling is that he’s been seen as being far more interested in making a buck and getting attention out of it than in doing what’s right for baseball.  He pretty much admits that here.

Canseco is also miffed at La Russa’s claim that he didn’t know McGwire did steroids until yesterday:

“That’s a blatant lie.  Tony La Russa was quoted as
saying that I was using steroids back then, and I was talking about it
in the clubhouse, openly. That’s a blatant lie. There are
some things here that are so ridiculous, and so disrespectful for the
public and the media to believe. I just can’t believe it. I’m in total
shock. These guys remind me of politicians that go up and just lie to
the public and expect to get elected.”

I’m with Canseco here. La Russa had one of the most steroid-happy locker rooms around, in two cities no less, with the most brazen user of them all in Canseco under his supervision.  He has always played dumb and no one has ever taken him to task over it.  If a manager is as ignorant about what goes on in his clubhouse as La Russa claims to have been he wouldn’t be able to fill out a lineup card because the players would be total strangers to him. Good for Canseco for saying this. I wish someone who wasn’t such a freakshow would repeat it.

Canseco also hates having to defend himself over all of the claims he has made:

“I’m tired of justifying what I’ve said. I’ve
polygraphed, I’ve proven that I’m 100 percent accurate. I never
exaggerated. I told it the way it actually happened. I’m the only one
who has told it the way it actually happened. Major League Baseball is
still trying to defend itself. It’s strange. All I have is the truth,
and I’ve proven that.”

To my knowledge, nothing Canseco has said has been proven wrong. At least nothing major, so he has a point.  Still, as all of today’s outrage over McGwire’s apology makes plain, to most of the media and to a certain vocal brand of fan, it’s not what you say, it’s how and why you say it.

McGwire catches hell for only apologizing because he wants a job and for not following the specific remorse regimen that the public allegedly demands. By the same token, Canseco only came out with his steroids stuff when he was at the end of his career, found himself in desperate financial straits and needed to make some money.  It’s a free country, so he can do what he wants along those lines, but he shouldn’t act surprised when he’s not embraced with open arms.

Finally, Canseco takes on the Hall of Fame:

“This is
far from over. There’s a list out there of [103] players. The last five
to eight years there may have been some players elected to the Hall of
Fame that were on that list. Nonetheless, if that list is not divulged,
there will continuously be players who are inducted into the Hall of
Fame who will probably be on that list.”

I wonder if this isn’t some backtracking on Canseco’s part. He has said in the past that there is definitely someone in the Hall of Fame who has used steroids. I agree that the odds favor a PED user in Cooperstown, but Canseco has always acted like he’s known the player’s name. Now it sounds like maybe he doesn’t.

Oh well. I think my headline is wrong here. Canseco showing up doesn’t represent the start of the party. At least not anymore. He’s now more like the fat lady singing. He may have hit the right notes a few times here — but it’s over. What else more is there to say?

Playoff Reset: The Cards and Dodgers have their backs against the wall

Clayton Kershaw
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Historically speaking, the Cardinals and Dodgers are the class of the National League. A couple of organizations which have won a ton, have had a lot of classy alpha-types running their respective shows over the years, no shortage of glory, no shortage of history and enough evocative and grand footage in the can to make Ken Burns sepia with envy.

Meanwhile, the Cubs and Mets, while they’ve won some and have some wonderful history too, are far better known for their failures. For dubious achievements and fan bases which have, collectively, spent far more time smacking their own foreheads than high-fiving the guy in the seat next to them. Nevertheless, by the time we go to bed tonight it’s quite possible that the classy organizations with the long resumes of winning baseball will have been eliminated by the sad sacks and that we’re going to be treated to a Mets-Cubs NLCS.

In short: today’s NLDS contests are “the big game” sequences in any late-70s-mid-90s “slobs vs. snobs” comedy movie. Camp Mohawk vs. Camp Northstar. Lane Meyer vs. Roy Stalin skiing the K-12. Thornton Wilder vs. Chas in the diving meet. Once these things are over don’t be surprised to see someone on the Mets or Cubs kissing some girl way out of their league and to be asking yourself, “wait, why are there cheerleaders at a diving meet?”

Of course baseball isn’t as scripted as all of that and William Zabka is, according to IMDb, in pre-production on some Civil War project, so he can’t make it. I have no idea what that’s about. I can only assume he’s playing some stuck-up Confederate General who will lose the big battle to Curtis Armstrong’s Union general in the big battle, after which we cut to credits over some tossed-off Dave Edmunds song he wrote for the soundtrack just for the money.

Which is to say: we have to watch these games to see what happens:

The Game: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs
The Time: 4:37 p.m. ET
The Place: Wrigley Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: John Lackey vs. Jason Hammel
The Upshot: Wow, those were a lot of dingers given up by Michael Wacha and his friends last night, huh? The god news is that they’re running Lackey out there this afternoon and Lackey has owned the Cubs of late, going 3-0 with a 0.93 ERA in four starts against them, including his gem in Game 1 on Friday night. The bad news: even a half dozen recent starts aren’t great predictively speaking, and Lackey is on short rest. TBS will show highlights of Lackey pitching on short rest in the 2002 World Series today, but think about what you were doing in 2002 and whether you’d be just as good at it today as then. Hammel has the ball for the Cubs. He has not fared well against the Cardinals this season (5.37 ERA) but the same small sample stuff applies.

Injuries could be a key consideration here, as Addison Russell may be on the shelf for the Cubs following his hamstring tweak in last night’s game. Likewise Yadier Molina left early, apparently having aggravated his thumb injury. Otherwise: wear a helmet if you’re in the Bleachers at Wrigley this afternoon. Balls may be flying out your way.

The Game: Los Angels Dodgers vs. New York Mets
The Time: 8:07 p.m. ET
The Place: Citi Field
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz
The Upshot: The Clayton Kershaw Legacy Game. It’s not fair to Kershaw that, after eight years of completely dominating Major League Baseball people will deem him worthy or unworthy of, well, whatever, based on his 10th postseason start, but they will. If he falters today on short rest, with no reliable bullpen to bail him out, people will call him some sort of choke artist. If he dominates he’ll be considered redeemed, though he’s never been a guy in need of redemption. I don’t care much for that game, but it’s inevitable it will be played so let’s just silently roll our eyes and go with it. The Mets may have a bigger question mark on the mound in Steven Matz, who hasn’t pitched in a couple of weeks thanks to a tweak in his back in the last week of the season.

This should feel like a totally different game. The Utley drama has to subside now, especially given that he’s unlikely to get the start against a tough lefty. And that tough lefty is, with all due respect, no Brett Anderson. You can bet against Clayton Kershaw and win, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d make a habit of.

In any event, the Cubs and Mets should play this on a loop in the Clubhouse before today’s games. Because . . . it just doesn’t matter!

Yoenis Cespedes and his bat flip say good morning

Yoenis Cespedes

It was a late night last night. Especially for old farts like me. I turned on my TV at 12:30 yesterday afternoon and there was baseball on it for just about 12 hours straight. Not too shabby unless you happen to root for the Astros, Rangers, Cardinals or Dodgers. Oh well, today is another day. Or tomorrow if today is a travel day.

In the meantime, we have Yoenis Cespedes to keep us happy, alert and occupied. Again, unless you’re a Dodgers fan. Of course, if you are a Dodgers fan you got absolutely no right to be upset at a bat flip following a homer. And if I catch you complaining, you’re getting a time out.

The Mets break out the whuppin’ sticks, rout the Dodgers 13-7

Cespedes d'Arnaud

So often in life the anticipation of something outpaces its reality. For Mets fans tonight, it was the exact opposite. They had a grand old time. The Mets broke out the lumber and overwhelmed the Dodgers 13-4 to take a 2-1 lead in NLDS.

So much of that anticipation was about revenge, really. Hitting Chase Utley if he was in the lineup, perhaps, or at the very least sending some sort of retaliatory message the Dodgers’ way in response to Utley breaking Ruben Tejada‘s leg on Saturday. But with Utley out of the lineup — and the notion that base runners matter a whole heck of a lot in a playoff game — Matt Harvey just set out to pitch, not plunk. And Mets hitters set out to beat the living heck out of Brett Anderson and a couple Dodgers relievers. Living well is the best revenge, and for a major league team, winning baseball games is living well.

It didn’t start out so well for Harvey, as Yasmani Grandal singled in two runs in the top of the second with a third run scoring on a Curtis Granderson error on the same play. It was 3-0 Dodgers early and Mets’ fans sphincters’ clenched. But only momentarily.

The Mets came right back in the bottom of the second with four runs with a Travis d'Arnaud single and a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double from Curtis Granderson. In the next inning d’Arnaud hit a two-run shot. In the fourth Daniel Murphy singled in a run and Yoenis Cespedes hit a three-run bomb to left to make it 10-3. The Dodgers got one back in the top of the seventh but New York scored three more of their own in the bottom half. It was never a ballgame after the third inning.

Brett Anderson was the author of the damage through three, Alex Wood gave up the four runs in the fourth and hung on in the fifth in what became mop-up duty. Harvey was done after five and took the win. He wasn’t necessarily sharp, but he did strike out seven and was good enough. Some late damage from the Dodgers, including a three-run homer in the ninth from Howie Kendrick, was too little, too late. Granderson and d’Arnaud did the damage for New York, driving in five and three runs, respectively.

Once the competitive portion of this game was over, the Mets’ crowd turned to more important matters. Chanting things like “We want Utley!” Don Mattingly didn’t give him to ’em, probably because there was no downside to smacking him after the game got out of hand. But no upside either. Because of that stuff about living well, remember?

Now it’s on Clayton Kershaw to save the Dodgers from elimination [looks at watch] tonight, technically. If he doesn’t, his detractors will write another page in their Big Book of Clayton Kershaw Playoff Failures. If he does, we get a Game 5 back in Los Angeles.

Maybe Chase Utley gets into one of those.