Early October brings two things without fail—Thanksgiving and playoff baseball.
With that in mind, it seems appropriate to take a look at what baseball fans should be thankful for early on:
< *c>The Rockies
There’s plenty of reasons why the Colorado Rockies are a great story this post-season. First and foremost was their elimination of the San Diego Padres in a single-game playoff to end the regular season.
Not only was the thrilling extra-innings affair arguably the best single baseball game of the decade, but it saw the pitching-heavy Padres—quickly becoming as omnipresent in October as they are boring—ousted in favour of the scrappy, slugging Rockies.
The Rockies were six-and-a-half games back of the Diamondbacks on Sept. 16, and were fourth in the NL West and behind three teams in the wild card chase—with Milwaukee and Atlanta just a game behind.
They parlayed that night’s win to a now famous 13-1 run, to which they tacked on a win against the Padres and then three-straight against the Phillies in the first round.
Colorado’s team is a young and exciting one, to boot. Their ace, Vancouver native Jeff Francis, finally has come through and shown off how good he can be.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitski—the deserving rookie-of-the-year candidate of the NL—has been one of the great stories of the year.
Garrett Atkins, Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Matt Holliday, and now apparently even Kazuo Matsui can all hit, and hit hard—especially in the famed launch pad that is Coors Field.
The Rockies may not win it all, but they sure are fun to watch.
< *c>The Indians
Amazing how little ink the Cleveland Indians—and Fausto Carmona, in particular—garnered this season, but vanquishing the N.Y. Yankees in four games in their first-round series has changed that.
If they manage the same against the equally self-obsessed world of the Boston Red Sox, they’ll really be something. With the Cubs out, this is the reigning “cursed” team, having not won the World Series since 1948.
As an aside, fans can be thankful to gnats for their part in diffusing a bit of the hype that’s been so heavily piled on Joba Chamberlain in his rookie season.
< *c>The Diamondbacks
For all the focus on the Rockies, Brewers, Phillies, and other rough-and-tumble types on the National League, the D’Backs have come across as also-rans.
But the upcoming Colorado/Arizona series should be entertaining, as the two are division rivals and the D’Backs also are a young team looking to prove themselves with a few key studs in place, such as last year’s Cy Young winner, Brandon Webb.
Plus, look for spark plug Eric Byrnes in left field and an equally electric player, the injured Orlando Hudson, making himself seen and vocal from the bench.
< *c>The Angels
Be thankful for the Angels because, like it or not, this is where baseball is going for a few years. And if you saw them play much this season, you know where a number of teams are planning to head in the off-season.
Their emphasis on running from first base to third on singles (and seemingly winning a division because of it) definitely will affect next year’s landscape.
And, of course, the Angels themselves will be a team to watch in 2008, especially if they add Alex Rodriguez to the roster as is oft-rumoured. Make no mistake about the Boston sweep—Anaheim will be back.
< *c>The Mets
In a season where it seemed nothing would top Barry Bonds winning the home run title, the N.Y. Mets did the impossible and made headlines with their catastrophic collapse this season.
While it’s a shame to see one of the more entertaining teams in the National League fail to qualify for the post-season, it’s far more memorable to see them lose 12 of their last 17 games and find their way out of the playoff picture on the last day of the season after leading their division by seven games as late as Sept. 12.
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