Michael R. Stevens
Baseball Review 2016, Part 2
So what do we have here? The postseason will begin in the AL with the hateful and confusing one-game wildcard between Baltimore and Detroit, and before Cal Ripken can be summoned to show his hoary, tonsured head to the crowd to summon the old championship magic, the Tigers will dispatch the Orioles, moving out west to take on the shocking Angels. Meantime, the two Sox will battle, with the Red Sox riding David Ortiz's wizened playoff wizardry to a seventh-game showdown with the White Sox in a frenzied Southside Chicago. Look for one of the three Tigers castaways—Alex Avila, Avisail Garcia, or most likely Austin Jackson—to play a crucial role in felling Boston. The White Sox have the vibe, and the pilgrim-collared uniforms of '83 might re-appear (but not the short pants, please!). The Angels will batter the Tigers faster than you can spell 'DeCinces,' as Detroit continues its long-term struggles in Southern California, and then the icy winds will descend on Chicago, as the Angels shiver and slip through sleet, slashing at Sale's sliders (Gerard Manley Hopkins finally makes it to the ballpark!). The White Sox will scratch and claw in the bad weather, then erupt on the Angels home field, but mighty Pujols and the leaping Trout will hold serve, and back at what was once Comiskey, in a Game Seven played in autumnal chill, with Bobby Grich present in the crowd, the Angels will earn the right to play for the World's Championship, with Jered Weaver matching Chris Sale pitch by gangly pitch, for ten innings, until Pujols quiets the crowd with a slider deposited deep in left-center. '83.
In the NL, the Cardinals surge, and no matter what I said before, they make the wildcard and clash with the Pittsburgh (Lee Mazilli, I've decided you did make the difference!)—the Cardinals emerge swinging bats and punches, ready for the rival Cubs, while the Nationals and the Dodgers cross the country to cross swords. The Cubs will be ready, emotionally and baseball-wise, to take down their longtime foe, as Arrieta provides a Bob Gibson-esque lesson in sustained postseason dominance, and Kyle Schwarber miraculously returns ahead of schedule from his ACL tear for one limping, Kirk Gibson-esque late home run. Wrigley will be electric, and twice Chicago will host games in the north and south sides on the same night—a vigor for the windy city not felt in the baseball world since a century ago. The Nationals will ride the Francophonic winds of Montreal mystique straight through the hearts of the Dodger fans, with an NLDS sweep that leaves an old refrain migrating west from Brooklyn to L.A.: 'Wait until next year'—and wait until $250 million on the payroll! Gio Gonzalez, Strasburg, Roark, Scherzer—this rotation is formidable and will be at its strongest when the Cubs come to town. Strength on strength, mano a mano, a Strasburg heater cutting in on Rizzo's hands, Arrieta 3-2 on Bryce Harper, an NLCS for the ages, with ghosts and echoes and tintinnabulations resounding through D.C. and the Northside. Back and forth, until Arrieta and Scherzer meet in Game Seven, in Wrigley, the World Series a few hours away. Steve Bartman in exile, the curse of the billy goat exorcised, the futility of the both sets of Washington Senators now rescinding, and then Jayson Werth twists all 6'5" into a fastball and the Cubs dreams must wait another year. The El-Series, the ChiTown Twinbill, the Cubs-White Sox miracle series, will have to wait for another year.