October is many people’s favorite month for many reasons, its majestic colors, the harvest time, Halloween, the stepping-stone toward the full holiday season. It is also a great time for sports – the NFL is moving from a trot to a gallop, the NBA is tipping off, the NHL has dropped the puck for its first faceoff, and the grand old game that is played on a diamond is in its glory.
October is the time that baseball annually crowns its king for the year, and this one is shaping up to be another great one. Last year’s clash between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs had the highest-rated viewership for a World Series in many years, and it didn’t disappoint as the loveable losers from Chicag
o’s north side finally broke their drought of no titles in 108 years! Cleveland then became the team with the longest stretch of no World Series titles, last taking home a championship in 1948 – a streak that will continue for at least another year, if not a hundred years, after yet another October meltdown!
The post-season began with the one-game playoff between the two wildcards in each league. The one-game format after 162 games doesn’t sit well with some fans – many think it’s just too long of a season to only reward with one game. But the more important point is that it is out of sync with the way the game is always scheduled. From Opening Day in April to the last game of the October Classic, baseball is played in series – three of four games at a time – never just one. A pitching staff makes a team good or not – not a single pitcher who can dominate in a one-game format. That said, there is the guaranteed intensity of a winner-take-all in the one-game format.
In the NL wildcard game, The Arizona Diamondbacks defeated their NL West rival Colorado in a game that was indeed wild with 19 runs scored. Arizona won 11 – 8. In the American League wildcard, the Yankees came back from a three-run first inning deficit to defeat the Rochester Red Wings’ parent club, the Minnesota Twins. When the Yankees were down early, the flaw in the one-game format had to be on major league executives’ and television executives’ minds. After an exciting season with the new young gun Aaron Judge for the Yankees ready for a post-season showcase, the upstart and quite anonymous Twins could have snatched it all way before it even really began rolling. And if you don’t think it’s important for MLB to have big-market teams with national fan-bases like the Yanks in the post-season, you would be mistaken.
But the Yankees came back in that wildcard game – and they were only just starting. After falling behind two games to none in a best-of-five series against the Cleveland Indians – the runners-up in last year’s dramatic World Series against the Cubs – everyone was throwing dirt on the Bronx Bombers’ chances, and not without reason. The Indians broke a MLB record this summer by winning 22 straight games in August and September – and over their last 37 games they only lost four times total! Was it realistic to think they would lose three in a row when they barely lost three times in forty games! But it’s the Yankees, it’s October, and it’s baseball. All that adds up to you just never know. And sure enough, the Yanks broke Cleveland’s winning ways – along with the Indians players’ confidence and the city’s heart – by taking three in a row. The AL championship series will be between the Yankees and the very strong Houston Astros who disposed of the Boston Red Sox three games to one in their divisional series.
On the National League side of the ledger, the LA Dodgers have also been on a historic tear. They broke the record for best 50-game stretch since 1912. Over June, July, and early August they won 43 of 50 games! Shortly after that they did follow up with a dreadful run, losing 16 of 17 games at one point, but they have righted the ship and are back to dominant baseball. They swept the Diamondbacks in three games to make it to the NL championship series. The defending champion Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals had a tough five games series with the Cubs prevailing in a crazy final game, 9 – 8, after falling behind early in the game.
So we are down to our Final Four in baseball, and any one of the four has a totally legitimate shot of winning the 2017 World Series. Houston was the best team for a long stretch of the first part of the season, and after weathering a wave of injuries, they are healthy with a host of dominant young studs led by Jose Altuve – the shortest man in the league at 5’6” but with the biggest heart and bat! He is the odds on favorite to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award. The Yankees are the most dominant franchise in the entire history of professional sports, and although experts thought they were a year or two away from contending for it all, they are ahead of schedule. When you have a young player like Aaron Judge – who set the rookie home run record with 52 bombs – mixed in with savvy and gritty veterans, they definitely can win the whole enchilada. The Dodgers behind pitcher supreme Clayton Kershaw and their own bevy of rising stars have been historically dominant and may have to be considered the odds-on favorite to win it all. But you certainly can’t overlook the Cubs. They now have a championship pedigree, and they had the best record in the National League the second half of the season after a sluggish first half.
These four teams provide arguably the strongest four contenders in many years, and there should be excitement and high drama. Be sure to check out the games at one of Penfield’s finest establishments! There’s Fairfieds Bar & Grill, Timothy Patrick’s, or the Penfield Pour House just to name a few. Root Root Root for your team in the hunt for October glory!