Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wagging the Mess -- can Billy be trusted?

Tonight is game 7 of the stunningly uninteresting NLCS. Do you care? If so, are you either (a) a Met fan or (b) a Cardinal fan? If neither, are you (a) bored with life, (b) a little touched in the head, (c) someone who thinks ESPN's "The Schwab" is cool?

The Monk is a baseball fan generally. I watch playoff games to some degree even if the Yanks have honked. But this series is just wrong somehow. First, the 83-78 Cards are the third-worst playoff team ever (2005 Padres = 82-80, 1973 Mess = 82-79). If they win, they'll do so with three starters who were castoffs from the AL, two of whom were stiffs: Carpenter (injured in AL, but talented), Weaver (mental case) and Suppan (a stiff). At least the '73 Mess had the '72 Rookie of the Year, an all-Star and a future Hall-of-Famer (Matlack, Koosman, Seaver) fronting their staff.

Second, the Mess will need to win games 6 and 7 behind an older-than-usual rookie and a late-season take-him-off-our-hands deal inclusion, and they're halfway there! The Mess had two starters go down before the playoffs and one go into mental hibernation in this series (Trachsel).

Third, if the Cards win, this will be a colossal upset. Since the advent of divisional play, only the '74 A's, '85 Royals, '87 Twins (twice), '88 Dodgers, '90 Reds, '95 Braves, '97 Indians, '01 Yankees, '03 Marlins and '05 Astros have won a seven-game series against an opponent that won at least 10 more games than it in the regular season. The win differential between the Mess (97) and Cards (83) would be larger than any of the other upsets except the '01 Yanks (95 wins v. Seattle's 116).

Fourth, the last time a team won game 6 at home to tie a seven-game series and lost game 7 was 1975 -- the Red Sox against the Reds. That Reds team was excellent, the Cards aren't.

Finally, a last thought on this series -- with all the mediocrities trotting out to the mound (Weaver, Suppan, Trachsel, Maine, insert reliever here __________), the best pitcher on the Mets has been one of the worst in this series. Billy Wagner, who used to be mentioned with Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman among the best closers in baseball, got ripped up in game 2 and nearly choked away game 6. In those two games alone, Wagner gave up 5 runs (all earned) in two innings. Rivera has allowed 10 ER in 111+ postseason innings and has never allowed more than two runs in ANY playoff series. The Mess have to wonder if Wags can be trusted if they take a 1-2 run lead into the ninth tonight.

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