In this day and age of nine-players-on-the-field-at-once baseball, it’s surprising that a team such as the Giants can contend for a playoff spot with only two active players: Barry Bonds and Jason Schmidt, the latter pitching only once every five days.
The team is also handicapped by having a manager who is clinically deceased. But, since the team hasn’t yet been hurt by having the undead manager lead their two-player squad, who’s to say that they won’t get the wild card? Not this writer.
The team to beat this year is actually (gasp!) quite beatable. The pitching staff, anointed as The Greatest Of All Time by some drunk at the Cubby Bear, has been decimated by pitching shittily. Kerry Wood has been pitching like Mark Prior, who has been pitching like Ismael Valdez; Greg Maddux has come on of late, but his 72-year-old arm isn’t what it used to be; Matt Clement still looks dumb with that goatee thing; and Carlos Zambrano pitches well when he’s sane. Which is rare.
The team does have an easy schedule and probably the best all-around team, so they can make a run. Unfortunately, they have the SI-cover jinx (Wood, months ago, on the season preview), the idiocy of Dusty Baker, Sammy Sosa spending more time on the field than on the DL (yes, you read that right), and the Curse of Nomar to deal with.
Jumping Jesus and horny Moses! Didn’t the Astros fall so far behind in the playoff race that they quit the league altogether, disbanded the franchise, and resurrected the squad as a traveling circus show, touring much of the Midwest and parts of Canada as the Family Von Bs, two months ago? I mean, this team was dead. And not in that cute Beetlejuice way.
And then they fired their manager, benched the much-hated-by-me Morgan Ensberg, reeled off 13 straight victories, and are suddenly right back in the hunt. Their downfall will be their pitching—starting two studs and three “Player To Be Named Later”-caliber hurlers—and the fact that Ensberg is still on the roster.
Here they come again. Like last year, the cool September winds turn the timid Marlins into a ferocious fighting machine reminiscent of the Shatner-faced Michael Myers, a chained-up squirrel, or the Republican Committee to Re-elect George W. Bush.
Their strength, once again, is pitching. That and the fact that Jack McKeon has told the team that if they fail to make it into the playoffs, his death will be on their collective hands. Along with musket technology, bloodletting, and quill pens, Jack McKeon knows all about motivation. Just ask John Quincy Adams. If he were alive.
Larry Bowa is the manager.
Worrying more about the AL East crown rather than the (scoff!) AL wild card, the BoSox will claim this tarnished crown as long as the Cubs don’t sucker them into trading for Nomar.
If they do happen to surpass the Evil Empire, then look for the Yanks to get this wild-card spot instead. At which point Steinbrenner will systematically assassinate the entire roster, except for his lover: Derek Jeter. The revamped, and whittled down, team will be no match for the Red Sox, who killed a surprising none of their players.
This team’s only hope, besides the calming effect of satanic soul-selling prayers, is a free-fall collapse of the Oakland A’s. While unlikely, if the A’s pitching continues to underperform during the second half, the Angels could see themselves in the division hunt, but never the wild card. Because the AL wild card is reserved strictly for the Yankees-Red Sox money-making rivalry.
And that’s not just me talking. It’s me and tens of Internet Major League Baseball conspiracy theorists talking. We got our collective nerd eyes on you, Bud Selig. That’s four eyes a piece, Buddy.