Cocktail Chatter: Baseball Playoffs Edition
How to fake your way through the 2009 baseball playoffs.
Conversation stopper: "Lou Gehrig's old news. I think we should call it Derek Jeter's disease!"
Tigers talking points: Detroit fans can be excused for wanting 26-year-old Justin Verlander to start every single game of the playoffs—he won 19 games and struck out 269 in the regular season and single-handedly saved the Tigers' season by beating the White Sox in a do-or-die game on Sunday. You, however, are worried that Jim Leyland will take the Verlander backers seriously—the young Tigers ace logged 240 innings this year, well above his career high, and appears willing to pitch until his shoulder rips apart if it gives Detroit a chance to win. Cool everyone's Verlanderian ardor by noting that the Tigers have two more decent starters in Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello. And since Detroit isn't beating the Yankees anyway, it's probably worth saving Verlander's arm so he'll still be able to pitch when he's 27.
Historical context: Miguel Cabrera showed up in the Detroit clubhouse on Saturday with scratches on his face after he came home drunk and got in a fight with his wife. (No charges were filed by either party.) Cabrera initially told reporters that he got the scratches from his dog, the worst fib told about a baseball injury since Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel claimed he hurt his hand in his hotel room. Beimel actually cut himself on broken glass in a New York bar, forcing him to miss the 2006 playoffs. To honor Cabrera and Beimel, tell your friends you can't come over to watch the playoffs due to a lingering groin problem.
Conversation starter: "Curtis Granderson: great center fielder, underrated blogger."
Conversation stopper: "So what if Verlander's arm falls off? Dontrelle Willis' anxiety disorder is bound to wear off soon!"
Twins talking points: Sure, Joe Mauer had what might be the best offensive season ever by a catcher, hitting over .360 with an insane on-base percentage and outstanding sign-stealing technique. But you'll win the hearts of high-school baseball coaches across the land by noting that it takes 25 players to make a team and that without solid seasons by Michael Cuddyer (32 HR) and Jason Kubel (102 RBI), Mauer's efforts would have been wasted. Confuse your friends by instantly contradicting yourself—without the slugging Justin Morneau, who's out for the season with a stress fracture in his back, the Twins have little chance to make a playoff run.
Historical context: This is the last season the Twins will play in the Metrodome, a stadium that has long been derided for its similarities to an uncomfortable, air-conditioned pillow. Be ready to join in the eulogies by compiling a list of your favorite Metrodome memories. Like all those times that balls got lost in the ceiling. And the 1982 NFL playoffs. And, um, the plentiful parking?
Conversation starter: "Remember can't-miss prospect Francisco Liriano? Looks like he missed."
Conversation stopper: "How much will you give me for this bathroom-used Homer Hanky?"
National League Division Series, Philadelphia Phillies vs. Colorado Rockies
Phillies talking points: There are three basic reasons why the Phillies won the NL East this year: a dominant lineup that led the league in runs, home runs, and slugging percentage; solid and durable starting pitching; and the Mets really, really sucked. Although your friends, being Phillies fans, will tend to emphasize the Mets' suckage, you should take the more analytical road and emphasize things like Chase Utley's .397 OBP and Cliff Lee's strong pitching after coming over from Cleveland at the trade deadline. Good luck getting heard over the chants of "WOOO! PHILLY! WOOO! K-ROD? MORE LIKE GAY-ROD! WOOOO!"
Historical context: After winning the World Series last year for only the second time in franchise history, the Phillies are looking to be the first NL team to win back-to-back championships since the "Big Red Machine" Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and 1976. "The Purplish Philly Phactory" doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but since you've already ordered 10,000 T-shirts, you really hope that it catches on all the same.
Conversation starter: "Brad Lidge seems like a real stand-up guy, which will come in handy when he has to take the blame for blowing a bunch of close games."
Conversation stopper: "I've got a sneaking suspicion that Ryan Howard is actually Bake McBride in a fat suit."
Rockies talking points: With all five Colorado starting pitchers posting double-digit wins and a team ERA of 4.22, some argue that the Rockies' success this year was due to pitching. Make what should be an obvious point by noting that a 4.22 team ERA isn't actually all that good. The Rockies did, however, excel at the most- and least-exciting plays in baseball—hitting triples (50) and drawing walks (660). Go ahead and attribute the team's success to this improbable fusion of batter's box yin and yang. It makes as much sense as attributing it to Aaron Cook and Jason Marquis.