Author: Craig Calcaterra

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 8.16.51 AM

Deep thoughts about champagne celebrations after a Wild Card win


On the one hand, if you’re happy and you know it, pop your corks. On the other hand, why are we still doing this, especially for early rounds of the playoffs?

source: Getty Images

To be clear: I’m not animated by some curmudgeonly “act like you’ve been there before” impulse. Yes, a few years ago I thought that maybe there were too many champagne celebrations in baseball, what with the clinch, the wild card, the division series, the LCS and the World Series. But I’ve mellowed on it over time and I now realize that it’s not my party, so I really don’t have a place to cry, even if I want to. These guys have worked all year, and if they want to party, let them party.

But I do look at these celebrations and feel like the whole enterprise has become something of a contrived show.

The question I have is who drives this. Is the default that the champagne celebration will occur, or is it something someone plans special per the team’s wishes? Is there a rule that the TV cameras have to be allowed access or, if the team chose, could they celebrate in private? Given that the champagne, the goggles, the T-shirts and probably even the plastic draped over the lockers is sponsored and institutionalized these days, is doing this or not doing this an act of paperwork and coordination with league partners and stakeholders, or is there still an element of spontaneous exuberance here?

I guess where I come back to is here: the first champagne celebration was almost certainly an off the cuff thing in which everyone was whooping it up and improvising, either because they smuggled the bubbly in to the clubhouse or because the team’s owner supplied it. Certainly the act of pouring it on each others’ heads and spraying it at each other was spontaneous. Now it clearly isn’t, even if the guys have fun doing it.

I look at Hunter Pence in this picture here, and I’m well aware of the fact that he’s one wonderfully strange dude. I feel like, if they said the champagne was going to end tomorrow, he’d come up with something more fun and crazy. And I tell myself: THAT’S something I really want to see. And I ask myself: is he allowed to?

UPDATE: Someone I know familiar with how all of this works tells me that it’s not as orchestrated and sponsored as I fear/complain about. There is no official champagne — clubs can use what they want — and there are no “official goggles” even if some are made available to the clubs. It’s not one of these deals where, like, Nike is going to send a corporate rep in if someone is wearing Oakleys or whatever. The coolers are provided by Budweiser, but Bud’s name is all over baseball already.

The more you know.

Playoff Reset: Both AL Division Series Get Underway

Buck Showalter


If the playoffs are a four course meal, the Wild Card Games are the appetizer. Let’s call them, I dunno, gorgonzola phyllo cups or bacon wrapped scallops. That makes the Division Series our second course, so let’s take a look at the Mediterranean tomato bisque and Caprese salad on tap tonight.

The Game: Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles, ALDS Game 1
The Time: 5:37 PM Eastern
The Place: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Max Scherzer vs. Chris Tillman

The Upshot:

  • Strength against strength: the Tigers impressive starting rotation vs. the lineup who socked more homers than anyone in baseball this year. Or, at least that’s how it will be framed. Let’s see how long into the game we go tonight before anyone mentions that the Orioles starters were, overall, fifth in the AL in ERA while the Tigers were 10th. Or that the Tigers were second in run scored and the Orioles sixth. Cy Young hardware and home run totals don’t tell the whole story.
  • Still, if you’re a betting man you tend to take Max Scherzer over Chris Tillman, right? Maybe. Scherzer hasn’t faced the O’s this year. Tillman faced Detroit once and shut ’em down, allowing one run in eight and a third innings. This is not as lopsided a matchup as people who haven’t bothered to familiarize themselves with Tillman may think it is.  Overall, the Tigers took five of six from the O’s, but all of those games took place months and months ago, including Tillman’s win.
  • The Orioles bullpen certainly has the advantage over Detroit’s. And talent aside, Showalter is probably the best in the game at managing his relievers these days. Time and again this year Joe Nathan and, at times, Joba Chamberlain, Al Albuquerque and the rest of the gang has let the Tigers down and that has often prodded Ausmus to stick with his starters longer than he should or than he’d like (not that he has a good choice about it). The single most important factor for the Tigers is how deep the starters go and how efficient they are. The less Ausmus has to go to the pen, the better.
  • You have to figure the Tigers have decided that they don’t want to let Nelson Cruz beat them and that the O’s feel the same way about Miguel Cabrera. You feel, then, that the second bananas on offense are going to decide this thing. Each team has some good second bananas, with Victor and J.D. Martinez on Detroit’s side and Adam Jones and Steve Pearce for Baltimore.

It’s a really evenly-matched series. Should be tons of fun.

The Game: Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, ALDS Game 1
The Time: 9:07 PM Eastern
The Place: Angels Stadium, Anaheim, California
The Channel: TBS
The Starters: Jason Vargas vs. Jered Weaver

The Upshot:

  • The best team in baseball this year takes on the Cinderella story. And it’s more of a study in contrasts than just that. A power team in the Angels vs. a running, small-ball team in the Royals. An effective yet cobbled-together bullpen for Anaheim and three stone cold assassins in Herrera, Davis and Holland for Kansas City. Finally: the steady hand of Mike Scioscia vs. the force of nature that is Ned Yost. Well, the force of something.
  • Big bats like Mike Trout’s aside, the Angels key to victory is going to be getting the most out of a seriously compromised rotation. Weaver has long been the Angels’ ace and that’s well and good for tonight, but injuries and uncertainty have caused Mike Scioscia to go to a three-man rotation in this series. One of those three man, Matt Shoemaker, is coming off an oblique injury. The other, C.J. Wilson, has been pretty shaky down the stretch. Look for a lot of innings from long men/back of rotation starters Cory Rasmus and Hector Santiago.
  • The Royals rotation seems stronger right now. Ace James Shields will not be able to go until Game 3, but Vargas and Yordano Ventura have been solid all year. Yost can go to either Jeremy Guthrie or Danny Duffy as a fourth option, though it appears as though Yost prefers to keep Duffy in the pen. Which makes no damn sense to me, but again, it’s Ned Yost.
  • For as wild and wacky as the AL Wild Card Game was, the Royals’ gameplan has not changed: try to get six innings out of their starters, scratch together a bit offense and hope like hell they have a lead entering the seventh when Yost can go with his bullpen script. If things do not go according to plan, well, don’t count on fortune smiling on the Royals for five games like it did for one game the other night. The longer Ned Yost has to riff, the more likely he is to play a sour note.

On paper the Angels are way better. Fortunately for the Royals and all of us watching, they play the game on grass.

Derek Jeter is afraid of cats. Likes Baskin Robbins. And other important stuff about him.

Derek Jeter AP

Remember the end of the classic “Simpsons” episode, “Last Exit to Springfield,” when Mr. Burns realize he may have been overestimating his adversary and says, “I’m beginning to think that Homer Simpson is not the brilliant tactician I thought he was”? Well, after the Twitter chat Derek Jeter had today to promote his new “Players’ Tribune” thing, you can substitute Derek Jeter for Homer Simpson and “interesting personality” for “brilliant tactician.”

I suppose it’s our fault if we assumed he was intriguing in ways that he really isn’t. He’s never pretended to be interesting. I guess I was just holding out hope that he, I dunno, fought crime and killed his sensei in a battle or something.

In other news, has anyone besides me wondered what people would say if Alex Rodriguez announced that he was launching a vanity publishing project in the middle of the playoffs? I almost feel as though someone might accuse him of trying to upstage things and to use the timing of it all to benefit his personal interests.

But I suppose that’s crazy talk.

The A’s-Royals game did pretty well in the ratings

old TV

I’m guessing a lot of people went to bed before it was over. I’m also guessing a lot of people jumped on to watch it after it got weird. But either way, the A’s-Royals playoff game did pretty well last night.

Major League Baseball says 5.2 million viewers tuned in to TBS for the game, which is a 14% increase over the Tuesday night Wild Card Game between the Pirates and Reds last year. TBS beat all cable competition last night as well. The local ratings in Kansas City were pretty good too, drawing a 30.3 rating, making it the highest-rated MLB telecast on record there (though it’s worth noting, local rating records don’t go back too far).

I figure the Royals will lead to good ratings if they stay in it, mostly because they are the team the general public is least familiar with and the one with the most compelling narrative. At least if you’re into that sort of thing.

Wild Card Game: Giants vs. Pirates lineups

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 4.03.08 PM

source: Getty Images

Here are the lineups for tonight’s tilt:


1. Gregor Blanco CF
2. Joe Panik 2B
3. Buster Posey C
4. Pablo Sandoval 3B
5. Hunter Pence RF
6. Brandon Belt 1B
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Travis Ishikawa LF
9. Madison Bumgarner LHP

Not any surprises here. Crawford and Ishikawa have been flip-flopped in the past, but who cares?


1. Josh Harrison 3B
2. Jordy Mercer SS
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Russell Martin C
5. Starling Marte LF
6. Neil Walker 2B
7. Gaby Sanchez 1B
8. Travis Snider RF
9. Edinson Volquez P

Gaby Sanchez gets the start over Ike Davis because of the lefty Bumgarner on the mound. Travis Snider is a lefty, but this season he’s actually had a reverse platoon split. Let’s chalk that up to solar flairs or something. Starling Marte has hit lefties well this year so he’s pretty key tonight.

Here’s hoping we get a matchup as fun as last night’s.