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.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.