2017-10-19 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

Pennant races exciting no matter who
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“It is not how you start the season, it is how you finish. You don’t play to put up the numbers, but to try to get a chance to make the World Series.” – Albert Pujols, All-Star major league player.

As I write this, the chase to see which two teams will emerge as American and National League pennant winners has not been decided. This year’s races have had tons of drama and emotional ups and downs and we have already seen some favorites fall by the wayside.

You have to feel some empathy for the Washington Nationals. They really fell apart in game five against the Cubs and errors and miscues played a big factor in their losing for the fourth time in the last four seasons in the first round after being favored to win. Dusty Baker, the Nats manager, was quoted as saying that it was a tough way for his team to lose after all that they had endured in the 2017 season.

So the Dodgers are playing the Cubs and the Chicago manager, Joe Maddon, is hoping to repeat last year’s World Championship. First he has to get by the powerful Dodger lineup. Not only do the Dodgers have power at the plate but they have speed on the bases and they have the highest paid player in baseball, Clayton Kershaw. The 6’7” Kershaw has a seven year $212 million dollar contract. That is a lofty $32 million dollars a year for Pete’s sake! He did win 18 games for the Dodgers during the regular season. The Cubs have battled all year so do not expect them to let up on the Los Angeles team.

In the American League, the red hot Houston Astros, led by firecracker second baseman Jose Altuve is a team on a mission. The Texans led all of baseball this year with a team batting average of .282, an on-base percentage of .346 and a slugging percentage of .478. These are the three most important offensive stats in the game. Justin Verlander, one of their premier pitchers, just pitched a complete game in the team’s defeat over the Yankees in game two.

Do not overlook Yankee’s manager Joe Girardi’s ability to come up a winner. He has the talent of Aaron Judge, a rookie who set a record for rookies with 52 homers this season. Starlin Castro and Brett Gardner are two all-out players who produce and are both fun to watch because they reach base over and over again. Yankee hurler Aroldis Chapman puts fear in batters when he tosses up his 103-mile-an-hour fastball. Put that with fellow pitcher, C.C. Sabathia’s mound successes and you have a pitching staff that I wish wore the Braves uniform. No matter which of these four teams winds up in the World Series it has been fun to watch. Some famous catcher said one time: “it ain’t over, till it’s over.”

I know fans of college football and pro football have had to make some choices if they have watched any baseball in the last few days.

Play the National Anthem and fly our flag proudly, I don’t care if I ever watch an NFL game again. Batter up!

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