Major League Minutiae

It’s October, the month when baseball is no longer leisurely. It’s serious. Whether you’ve been following the 2,430 games of the regular season, or you’re just tuning in now, here’s a guide to get you through the month.

First of all the four division series are:
-Yankees v. Tigers
-Twins v. A’s
-Cardinals v. Padres
-Mets v. Dodgers

For some basics, visit Major League Baseball’s official site, which provides news, video highlights, and audio clips. A fan-based playoff preview like this one at Baseball Analysts can get you caught up on deeper issues. And Slate has provided a cocktail party primer for those of you who think parties should be highbrow versions of Mike and the Mad Dog. Our local NY teams are being covered by the New York Times’ new blog.

The Yankees-Tigers matchup may be the most compelling David-and-Goliath tale. The Tigers haven’t been in the playoffs since 1987; they have a moderate payroll; and nine of their players were on the 2003 team that (as the Times’ Rob Mackey pointed out) set an American League record for most losses in a season.

For those of you with economic brains, here is a list of the payrolls of each team, along with cost per win (Scroll down). The Twins, not Billy Beane’s A’s, get the most for their money. But the A’s do have the loveliest uniforms.

The Twins, though, are not faring well so far. If you missed it, the A’s aging slugger Frank Thomas hit two homers to win game one, and the A’s took the second game as well. In San Diego, the Cardinals got a big boost from Albert Pujols and took the early series lead. In NY, Derek Jeter had five hits (including a homerun) in the Yankees’ first win. Here’s a chronicle of his at-bats with a very peculiar-looking DJ.

The Mets, hampered by injuries to two of their best starting pitchers, had to give John Maine (Who is John Maine?) the ball in their first outing, but they still won. The game included the most incredible play, a double put-out at the plate. (Here is a team-by team look at injuries not including the blow to Orlando Hernandez’s calf.)

Blog readers may already have too much to choose from on the Web (See Willing Davidson’s story on Yankee fan sites), but MLB is adding to the Internet excess. They are publishing tons of blogs. Most are ads for big league baseball. Tommy Lasorda’s blog is, even more than the others, packed with clichéd excess: “Just because your team didn’t make the playoffs is no reason to stop watching baseball this October,” he writes. “Inside every fan of a certain team is an even bigger fan of the game. October baseball is magical; it’s our passion; it’s our love; it’s our game’s special time.” Yuck.

Bud Selig also got players from seven of the eight playoff teams to blog the post-season. (The lone dissenters, the Yankees, must be too rich for this kind of hack journalism). You can check out the fascinating chronicles of the Cardinals’ John Rodriguez, the Twins’ Michael Cuddyer, the Tigers’ Nate Robertson, the Padres’ Dave Roberts, and Mets Cliff Floyd and David Wright.

Most of this is boring, “the atmosphere was electric, but we’re taking it one game at a time” kind of stuff. But Dodgers pitcher Derek Lowe tells us of his tour of Ground Zero while Barry Zito gets slightly metaphysical, asking himself, “What exactly is a pitcher’s job?” Greg Maddux is Zito’s Zen master. He repeats the Maddux mantra: “Look, all I do is make pitches. Everything else just happens.” Totally, dude.

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