Hot Stove #204 – October Madness and Long-Suffering Fans

Today at noon, the second round of the MLB playoffs will begin. Like this past Friday and Saturday in the first round, there will be four games spread out over the day and night, giving a feeling of March Madness. For baseball nuts, it’s heaven. Our own October Madness.

MLB playoff schedule 2022: Full bracket, dates, times, TV channels for  every series | Sporting News

When the Royals are not in the MLB postseason, my team loyalty gravitates to the teams with long-suffering fans. In the first round of the playoffs this year (the Wild Card round), this meant Seattle, San Diego and Cleveland. Philadelphia has also been absent from the postseason for many years, but I could not root against the Cardinals in this magical year of Albert Pujols. My three top favorites won, but the Cardinals did not.

In this next round (ALDS and NLDS), the Wild Card winners will play the top-seeded four teams who had a bye in the first round. I’m rooting for the four underdogs. But not betting any money.

Seattle Over Houston: My overall favorite is a no-brainer. Seattle has never been in the World Series. I’d like to see the Mariners get there. Second reason – Houston won a World Series by cheating. They can wait for a while.

There was a second reason I wanted the Mariners to make the postseason this year. They had not even been to the playoffs since 2001. That was the longest postseason drought among MLB teams. Daniel Kramer, beat writer for Seattle, offered a fun take on the drought:

For all the rain that this lush region of the country accumulates, more than any major U.S. city, there’s been a widespread drought here as equally insatiable as it is intangible. The Mariners, who on their best days can be the most coveted and beloved show in town, have longed to return to that elite stage, but the drought has weighed down those ambitions, especially as it lingered for two decades…And now, the drought is over. A reign is underway in Seattle, and finally, the longest active playoff void in North American professional sports has ended. The Mariners, at long last, are headed to the postseason.

The long-suffering Seattle fans were ecstatic when the Mariners clinched a playoff spot at home with a walk-off homer (click here for the great call by Seattle’s Dave Sims).

The Mariners have now taken another step for their fans by sweeping Toronto in the Wild Card round. The Mariners won the first game 4-0. In the second game, the baseball world was treated to a postseason classic. After falling behind 8-1 in the fifth inning, the Mariners staged an amazing comeback to win the game 10-9.

Go Mariners!

San Diego Over Los Angeles (Dodgers): My second choice is San Diego. They have been to the World Series, but have never won. The Padres finished the regular season with 22 fewer wins than the Dodgers. Only one team has won a postseason series after being that far back. The 1906 White Sox won the World Series over the Cubs who had 23 more wins in the regular season.

The Padres reached the NLDS by upsetting the New York Mets in the only Wild Card series that went three games. In the first game, Mets pitching ace Max Scherzer gave up four home runs in a 7-1 defeat. The second Mets ace Jacob deGrom kept the Mets alive by winning the second game.

But it was all San Diego in the third game as the Padres chipped away (no homers) to win 6-1. Pitcher Joe Musgrove threw 1-hit ball over seven innings and also provided the visual for the series. Mets manager Bucky Showalter asked the umpires to check Musgrove’s “shiny” ears for an illegal substance. All of the umpires and most of the Padres came to the mound for the big reveal. Musgrove’s ears were clean.

Padres' Joe Musgrove has ears checked by umps for foreign substance - NBC  Sports Bay Area

Early in the 2022 season, the Mets had a division lead of 10.5 games. They won 101 games and were in first place for 176 days. But Atlanta caught them in September, and the teams were tied at the end of the regular season. A tiebreaker handed the division title and a first round bye to Atlanta. This pushed the Mets to the Wild Card series where they fell to the Padres. Sportswriter Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal summed it up this way:

“This Mets season felt like watching a waiter artfully carry a giant tray of plates across a busy banquet hall – only to drop and shatter them on the floor, three steps from the dishwashing machine.”

 Cleveland Over New York (Yankees): As much as I appreciated Aaron Judge’s season, I’m not rooting for the damn Yankees. And Cleveland has a special place in my “long-suffering” fans test.

The Cleveland Indians/Guardians have not won the World Series since 1948. Yes, 74 years ago. Satchel Paige was on their roster. About a month after they won that Series…

 Cleveland, in this first season as the Guardians, won its Wild Card round by winning two close games over Tampa Bay. The Guardians won the first game 2-1 with a game time of 2:17. They won the second game 1-0 with a game time of 4:57. That second game went 15 innings, the teams using 16 pitchers who combined for 39 strikeouts.

As Hot Stove readers may remember, I can obsess over deuces on the scoreboard. The extra inning game gave me a chance to do this with aces. Check it out on the screenshot below. 11th inning. 1 on and 1 out. 1-1 count. Six aces.


Philadelphia Over Atlanta: This is the first Phillies appearance in the postseason since 2011. The Braves are almost always in the postseason. So obviously I want the Phillies to win.

In the Wild Card series, the Phillies surprised the Cardinals with a two-game sweep at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals blew a 2-0 lead in the 9th inning of the first game, losing 6-3. In the second game, the Cardinals were shutout 2-0, often failing to capitalize with men on base. Cardinals Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado will likely run first and second for the NL MVP Award this year. But they combined for one hit in 16 at bats in the two games.

A good example was in the 8th inning of the second game. With a man on first and one out, Albert Pujols singled. Two men on with the two MVP candidates coming up. Goldschmidt and Arenado both struck out. So that was the last at bat in the career of Albert Pujols. But what a final season he had. Next stop, the Hall of Fame.

Albert Pujols descends down the stairs of the dugout to the clubhouse.

Royals Trivia: The Phillies have been in the National League since 1883, but they did not win a World Series until 97 years later – in 1980 over the Kansas City Royals. Five years later in 1985, the Royals won their first World Series (16 years after their founding in 1969). Thank goodness we did not have to wait 97 years.

1980 World Series Commemorative Pin - Phillies vs. Royals

 Future Drought Favorites: Going into this season, the Mariners (2001) and Phillies (2011) had the longest active droughts in failing to reach the postseason. With their Wild Card berths this year, the new leaders in playoff droughts are…


 World Series Book: Today is the release date for Tyler Kepner’s new book, The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series. Kepner is the national baseball writer for the New York Times. I read his prior book, K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, and it was excellent.

 I have ordered his new book, and it is scheduled to arrive today. A perfect companion to the 2022 postseason.

 The Grandest Stage: A History of the World Series: Kepner, Tyler:  9780385546256: Books

 Lonnie’s Jukebox – Timmy Trumpet Edition: The Mets lost out in the Wild Card round, but they were first in the majors in walkout music for their closer. When all-star closer Edwin Diaz is called from the bullpen and heads to the mound, the stadium fills with the sounds of “Narco,” a 2017 single by Blasterjaxx, a Dutch electro DJ duo, in collaboration with Australian trumpet player Timmy Trumpet.

In the spring of 2018, Diaz was with Seattle Mariners and began using the song for his walkout music. He was traded the Mets in 2019 and renewed using “Narco” in 2021. His pitching success this season has turned the infectious song into a fan favorite. The Mets mascots join in by dancing and pretending to play trumpets.

In August, the Mets invited Timmy Trumpet to come to Citi Field to play the walkout music live. It was a big success and the video has gone viral. Check it out here (2:31).

See Edwin Diaz take the mound for the Mets to the live sounds of Timmy  Trumpet at Citi Field | SNY - YouTube

The fan reaction for “Narco” is reminiscent of watching Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) head to the mound in the 1989 movie Major League. Ricky’s song is “Wild Thing” by the Troggs. Movie clip here (2:27).

Major League (Wild Thing Edition)