By Hal McCoy
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave sitting forlornly in the La-Z-Boy, Montecristo White Label in one hand and coffee in the other, distraught that there is no baseball today. So, the option is Coach Prime’s Coloardo Buffaloes against Stanford, but it doesn’t start until 10 p.m.
—HORSING AROUND: It was 1998 and the New York Yankees completed a four-game World Series sweep of the San Dieog Padres in Qualcomm Stadium. The Padres’ payroll was $34 million, 14th highest in MLB and about the same as they paid Manny Machado this season.
The parking lot was jammed with fleeing fans as Tampa Bay Tribune writer and long-time close friend Joe Henderson and I tried to weave our way out in my rental car.
The lot was patroled by several mounted policemen. At one point, a policeman’s horse reared up in front of us and landed hooves first on the hood of the car.
Within seconds, our car was surrounded by police cruisers, red lights flashing. An officer tapped on my window and when I buzzed it down he said, “Do you know that horse is a police officer and you just assaulted a police officer? You might go to jail. Stay here while I check on the horse.”
As I was just about to soil my linen another officer arrived and said to the first policeman, “It’s OK. The horse reared up on its own. It wasn’t the driver’s fault and the horse is OK.” And they let us go.
Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius was the World Series MVP, but to me it was Deputy Dawg, or whatever that second police officer was named.
—NICK AT NIGHT: At the risk of breaking my arm patting myselff on the back, I’ll risk a big ol’ I told you so.
Before the baseball playoffs began, I wrote that the one player the Cincinnati should have kept was Nick Castellanos.
Well, bang, bang, bang, bang. Castellanos became the first player in post-season history to hit four home runs in two successive games — two on Wednesday and two on Thursday to aid and abet Philadelphia elimination of the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
His first homer Thursday tied the game, 1-1, and his second gave the Phillies a 3-1 lead. . .the final score. All during the post-season Castellanos has been hotter than an overheated hair dryer.
His post-game interview was hilarious. The interviewer rambled on with a statement then pushed the microphone under Castellanos’ chin.
“Is there a question?” he said. The rest of his interview was a sequence of quick four and five-word answers. Castellanos is a no-nonsense guy and abides no fools or frivolities. If you ask him good questions, he gives deep and incisive answers.
And in every game there is a crucial few minutes and for the Phillies it came in the seventh inning. With the score 3-1, the first two Braves walked. Knowing the game was on the line, Phillies manager Rob Thomson brought in his closer, Craig ‘The Stork’ Kimbrel. He promptly walked the bases loaded.
That set up a two-out confrontation, one of baseball’s best closers against the likely National League Most Valuable Player, Ronald Acuna Jr..
The count went to 2-and-2 and Acuna drove one to deep left center. Rookie center fielder Johan Rojas sprinted shakily toward the wall and snagged it before running into the fence. . .saving two or three runs and the game.
Chasing that ball, Rojas must have felt as if he was swimming the English Channel at night, doing the backstroke while encircled by sharks.
Meanwhile, the Houston Astros disposed of the Minnesota Twins and advanced to the ALCS for the seventh straight season, seeking their third World Series title in that span, two of which were accomplished without cheating.
—RECORDS DON’T COUNT: As I often tell Nadine, “Any team in baseball can beat any other team on any given day, no matter how good or bad the teams may be.”
And in a short series, like the playoffs, anything can and does happen.
The three teams with baseball’s best records and 100 more wins this season, the Atlanta Braves (104-58), the Los Angeles Dodgers (100-62) and Baltimore Orioles (100-62) are already sent off to a long winter’s nap.
Eight of the last ten teams with 100 or more wins have not made it to the World Series.
Meanwhile, three teams with identical 90-72 records are still alive — Houston, Philadelphia and Texas, in addition to Arizona at 84-78.
For the Dodgers, it is becoming an annoying habit of winning 100 or more during the regular season, then losing in the playoffs. When it comes to post-season play for LA it is, “Enjoy life in the playoffs, it has a short expiration date.”
—ARBITRATION GUYS: For the curious, the Cincinnati Reds have eight players eligible for salary arbitration if they don’t agree to a contract with the Reds in the off-season. All the numbers are projected figures:
Jonathan India, $3.7 million; Nick Senzel, $3 million; Tyler Stephenson, $2.9 million; Lucas Sims, $2.8 million; Jake Fraley, $2.2 million; Alex Young, $1.7 million; Derek Law, $1.4 milllion; Tejay Antone, $900,000.
CEO Bob Castellini is going to have to open the checkbook wide and say, “Aaah.”
—WAKE UP, MR. ROBERTS: Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is a top-shelf baseball guy, but was he snoozing in the third inning of the elimination game against Arizona?
His pitcher, Lance Lynn, led baseball this season by giving up 44 home runs. In the third inning he gave up four home runs to the Diamondbacks, a dangerous snake in the grass team.
After the first two, Lynn should have been taking a soapy shower, but Roberts left him in long enough to give up two more.
If looked to me as if the 275-pound Lynn had two weaknesses: The breaking ball and double cheeseburgers.
—A BROWN-OUT: Not that anybody should trust any gambling site, but SmartBettingGuide lost all credibility when it posted results of its so-called research.
It listed its Top Ten NFL teams based on fan loyalty. . .and the Cleveland Browns were not in the Top Ten. There is no fan base more loyal and patient than long-suffering Browns fans.
The Dallas Cowboys were listed No. 1 and the Cincinnati Bengals were No. 6. Not to denigrate loyal Bengals fans, but in the past at some seasons’ end when the Bengals were out of it there were enough empty seats in Paycor Stadium to fill a small Peruvian village.
—FIRST? NO, LAST: There is a college football team that leads its league in first downs, is tied for second in touchdowns scored, third in rushing offense, has one quarteback tied for second in yards per completion and another quarterback tied for second in touchdowns responsible for.
So is this team leading the league or at least second? Nope. It is the University of Dayton Flyers and they are last at 0-3 in the Pioneer Football League.
How can that be? Well, mix in 15 turnovers in those three losses and that pretty much negates all those positives.
The Flyers have a chance to get on the board Saturday at 1 p.m. in Welcome Stadium when they tackle (hopefully) the Presbyterian Blue Hose (love that nickname). The Blue Hose are 0-2 in the PFL and new UD coach Trevor Andrews might consider starting Elmer’s Glue in this one.