Rounding the bases…
First Base: With all the handwringing in Pittsburgh over the Pirates’ failure to match their first-half play (50-31) during the second portion of the season, much of the same is going on in other baseball cities about their teams as well.
The one exception is in Los Angeles, where the last-place-in-late-May Dodgers exploded to clinch their division title easily.
The truth is that any team invited to the post-season party can lose eight games and still be the World Series champion.
By extending each of the three playoff series (going 3-2 in the division series, then 4-3 in both the league and inter-league series), a team would win 11 (or 12 if the wild card becomes the champion) games while losing eight.
Second Base: Despite the never-ending laundry list of blunders compiled by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, here’s one he got right: the wild card format created last year.
I never liked the old system’s one wild card, which Selig needed to complete the field for each league’s playoff system. The wild card team played the team with the best league record in a best-of-five series before the best-of-seven league and inter-league series. A wild-card team could get a semi-run and, by winning three games, oust the team with the best record.
I like the one-and-done approach, which has the two wild cards play one game for the right to continue into the playoffs.
Let’s face it: A wild card is not the winner of any of the divisions; the three division winners in each league earned that position by finishing first after playing 162 — that’s 162, not five games.
By rights, any wild card team is lucky to be there; if baseball took only the division winners, the wild cards would be watching the playoffs on TV.
So what if it’s luck. A wild card team can blame only itself, putting itself in that position by NOT winning the division.
Third Base: How times have changed.
When the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1960 World Series, the post-season consisted of at least four games but no more than seven. After the end of the regular season, there were no “playoffs”; instead, the winner of the two eight-team leagues met in one best-of-seven series.
Long-time Pirates fans will remember that the FINAL game of the 1960 World Series was played on Oct. 13. This year the FIRST game of the 2013 World Series is scheduled for Oct. 23.
This year, if the Series goes seven games, the deciding game will be played on October 31—Halloween.
Trick or Treat!
Home Plate: No matter where and when the Pittsburgh Pirates end the 2013 season, at least one Bucco will enjoy a big post-season honor.
You can set it in gold — as in gold glove: Andrew McCutchen will be the National League’s most valuable player.
Virtually everyone who has written about the MVP race agrees that McCutchen deserves his first MVP. This is unlike last season, when Cutch won back-to-back player-of-the-month awards in June and July, then faded with the rest of the 2012 Pirates.
In 2013, McCutchen saved his best baseball for August and September, his average hovering around .400 during the season’s final month. Among the league leaders in almost every category, Cutch has also “defended” his gold glove crown, gathering in baseballs that most other centerfielders get to on a bounce.
While Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, and Russell Martin have been double digits under the Mendoza line all month; while Starling Marte didn’t get in the batter’s box until Sept. 17; while Justin Morneau left his nine August home runs in Minnesota, driving in one lone run in his first three weeks in Pittsburgh — McCutchen joins Marlon Byrd as the entire Pirates offense this month.
The face of the franchise will be smiling at awards time — and not just because his team is in the playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons.
McCutchen will be the MVP.
Jim Sankey is a baseball columnist for Allied News.
Rounding the bases…
Breese wins 2nd straight region crown
“One more step!”
Those were the words of Lakeview heavyweight Sam Breese after winning his second straight Northwest AA Regional Championship Saturday at Sharon High School.
Of course the step he referred to was the top of the medals stand at the PIAA State AA Championships this weekend at Hershey Giant Center.
Breese, who won the state 285 crown last season, is seeking to join an elite group of Pa. matmen to win more than one state crown.
Mercer girls bow in D-10 title tilt; SR ousted in consys
In 1986, the Mercer Lady M’s won the school’s first and only girls basketball District 10 title at Edinboro University’s McComb Field House, but in the same gym on Saturday in 2014, the squad in blue wasn’t so lucky.
Mercer led the Gen. McLane Lady Lancers 27-19 entering the fourth quarter, but the Lancers outscored the Lady M’s 19-4 in the final frame to win the Class AA title tilt 38-31.
EXTRA INNINGS: Teams like the Pirates need to invest for the future
Rounding the bases…
FIRST BASE: If you among the very elite at your job, and your company — rolling in money — asked you to take a 50 percent pay cut, then offered a 25 percent cut instead, would you be happy?
Or might you leave for a company that offered you a chance to make 275% more than your former company?
Be serious. Would you stay with your original company?
NCAA Football: Rock 6-1 after 17-3 win over Cal U
Slippery Rock University rode a length-of-the-field scoring drive by its offense and a goal-line stand by its No. 1-ranked defense late in the first half of action Saturday to a 17-3 win over 14th-ranked visiting California (Pa.).
NFL: Steelers top Jags as Mendenhall makes return
Mike Tomlin isn’t ready to say the Pittsburgh Steelers are back. Not after watching his team sleepwalk through the second half against Jacksonville on Sunday.
IndyCar Racing: Crash takes Wheldon’s life
Every race car driver heads onto the track understanding this race could be the last and hoping it won’t be. On Sunday, IndyCar drivers got a harsh reminder when the worst happened to one of their own.
NHL: Sabres beat Penguins 3-2
The Buffalo Sabres have had trouble with the Pittsburgh Penguins whether Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin play or not.
NHL Quick glance: Montreal at Pittsburgh
A breakdown of the National Hockey League game Thursday night between the Pittsburgh Penguins and visiting Montreal Canadiens.
High School Highlights: Oct. 19, 2011
A look at the last few days in local high school fall sports action.
Leading Off: Oct. 19, 2011
News and notes from the local, regional and national sports scene.
- More Sports Headlines
- Breese wins 2nd straight region crown