The playoffs: when insanity is perfectly acceptable

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Things I’ve learned while listening to readers and fans for the past couple of days:

  • Robinson Cano is the best there ever was;
  • The Rays are an unstoppable juggernaut;
  • Kirk Gibson is a fraud;
  • The Rays lack a knockout punch;
  • Alex Rodriguez is a terrible baseball player;
  • Robinson Cano isn’t clutch;
  • Tony La Russa is a moron;
  • Cliff Lee sucks;
  • Tony La Russa is a genius.

And I’m sure there are more.  The completely understandable, yet 100% insane, reactions of people to playoff baseball.  Baseball where the sample sizes are the smallest yet the significance of any one event is magnified to crazy extremes. A time when nothing has ever mattered as much as the thing that just happened, and nothing will be forgotten quicker when the next thing happens.

I’ve never gotten 100% comfortable with this. My feelings about baseball and the world it inhabits do a complete 180 when the playoffs start.  I love watching playoff baseball. The games are crazy-intense and the drama is out of this world.  Yet the commentary about it is, almost by definition, kind of meaningless once you get past the “wow, that was somethin'” observations.  Contrast this to the regular season where single games have almost no significance apart from being a brick in the wall of what will eventually form a somewhat cogent narrative that, at least in my view, has some value.

I tell myself every year that I’m going to ignore the overreactions that are inevitable once the playoffs come. And then I usually forget. I guess that’s just part of playoff baseball too.

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.