Cocktail Chatter: Baseball Playoffs Edition
How to fake your way through the 2009 baseball playoffs.
Historical context: The Rockies' march to the playoffs this year is reminiscent of 2007's magical late-season run that saw them win 21 of 22 games and reach the World Series. Note the eerie coincidence that all three Colorado squads that have made the playoffs clinched their berths on Oct. 1. You're not sure what that means, but you're happy to use it to support your longstanding contention that Don Baylor is a witch.
Conversation starter: "Who's been the most clutch player in baseball this year? How about Yorvit Torrealba, who's hitting almost .500 with runners in scoring position."
Conversation stopper: "JASON MARQUIS? MORE LIKE GAYSON MARQUIS! WOOOO! PHILLIES!!!"
National League Division Series, St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Cardinals talking points: With dual aces in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals have received a lot of attention for their starting pitching. You know that their bullpen might be even better: Closer Ryan Franklin has a 1.92 ERA and 38 saves, lefties are batting .207 and .135 respectively against Dennys Reyes and Trever Miller, and righties are batting .176 against rookie Blake Hawksworth. So what if the 36-year-old Franklin sucked in September? You maintain that it's all part of Tony LaRussa's clever fool-people-into-thinking-that-Ryan-Franklin-is-old-and-getting-tired strategy. After all, he is a genius—just ask Buzz Bissinger.
Historical context: Busch Stadium is named after the family that once owned both the Cardinals and Anheuser-Busch, a brewery that was purchased last year by Belgium's InBev. Sure, that's not particularly relevant to this current Cardinals team, but you're always happy to take the opportunity to spout off fun facts about Belgium. Belgium has an eight-team professional baseball league of its own, featuring teams like the Borgerhout Squirrels. The only Belgian-born major leaguer was Brian Lesher, the pride of Wilrijk. Some Belgians are called Walloons.
Conversation starter: "A .231 batting average in almost 400 at-bats? Maybe Rick Ankiel should go back to pitching."
Conversation stopper: "Matt Holliday deserves his own holiday. Let's call it Mattmas."
Dodgers talking points: Your friends might be disheartened by the way the Dodgers ended the season—losing five of their last seven games and almost falling to second place in the NL West. But momentum notwithstanding, you know that it's very hard to find a weakness on this Dodgers team—they led the National League in both hitting and pitching this year, posting a .270 team batting average, a .346 team OBP, and a 3.41 team ERA. If you like, you can stoke your friends' fears by noting that the Dodgers tied for last in the league in complete games, which could be really important if, say, the entire Dodger bullpen comes down with swine flu.
Historical context: Although the Dodgers have made the playoffs in four out of the last six seasons, they haven't won a World Series since 1988, when a Tommy Lasorda-skippered team made short work of the Athletics. Use this as further evidence to support your contention that the Dodgers need a blustering, roly-poly Italian manager, not a dour, wheat-grass-drinking Italian manager.
Conversation starter: "I don't know which stat surprises me more—Juan Pierre's .365 OBP or Brad Ausmus' .295 batting average."
Conversation stopper: "Jim Thome might be the most fearsome pinch hitter in the playoffs. If you close your eyes and pretend that it's 2002, that is."