The matchups in the league championship series, which begin Sunday with the Texas Rangers at the Houston Astros in the ALCS, aren’t exactly what MLB had hoped for.
Three teams with 100-plus wins — the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles — all bowed out quickly, leaving baseball with the all-Texas matchup in the ALCS and an NLCS series pitting a rebuilding Arizona Diamondbacks team with no household names against the star-studded Philadelphia Phillies.
A possible repeat of an Astros-Phillies World Series would likely be greeted by yawns. Last year’s matchup was the second-lowest rated World Series in history.
But who knows? It could be riveting baseball, which is something the postseason has lacked in the first two rounds thanks to all the blowouts and sweeps.
Here are five takeaways from the postseason.
1. Obviously the playoff format will be questioned when 3 of the top 4 seeds who had byes are gone.
The long wait for the first postseason series is basically like the All-Star break, and because baseball is a sport that relies on the 162-day grind, any change in routine can be hazardous.
Still, the Orioles proved they were not ready for prime time, the Dodgers trotted out three starters who looked clueless and the Braves couldn’t hit in the clutch. The blame should go to them, not the format.
The only solution is to change the wild-card series to a do-or-die from best-of-three, shortening the rest time for the top seeds. But that would involve losing TV revenue, so don’t look for MLB to do anything that would affect the golden goose.
2. If you are a Chicago White Sox fan, you might have experienced PTSD watching Wednesday’s Dodgers game.
It happened during the third inning of Game 3 of the NLDS . Dodgers starter Lance Lynn served up four home runs in one inning against the Diamondbacks, which never had been accomplished in postseason history.
Lynn served up a major-league leading 44 home runs during the season, including 28 in 21 starts for the White Sox. He last gave up four home runs in a game on July 21 against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field, though at least he spaced them out over two innings.
In September, Lynn told a reporter: “I mean, once you go over 30 (homers), who gives a (bleep)?”
As we discovered in Chicago when the Sox went south, Lynn doesn’t tend to take responsibility for his team’s downfall. He was one of the ringleaders in a bad clubhouse culture, and the Sox were motivated to find someone to take him off their hands. Fortunately the Dodgers were willing to take a risk, which didn’t work out.
It’ll be interesting to see which organization signs him for more of the same in 2024.
3. Bryce Harper can be an unlikeable guy, especially to opposing players.
After Harper was doubled off first base to end Game 2 of the NL Division Series, Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia yelled in the postgame clubhouse, “Ha, ha, attaboy, Harper.”
A few reporters mentioned it in their coverage, with one naming Arcia as the culprit. After Harper homered twice in Game 3, he stared Arcia down as he rounded the bases. Arcia said afterward that Harper “wasn’t supposed to hear it, that’s why we were saying it in the clubhouse.”
That led to MLB Network’s Alanna Rizzo criticizing one of the reporters on “High Heat” for using the comment, calling him a “jackoff” who didn’t deserve a credential and referring to the clubhouse as “sacred space.”
The Baseball Writers Association of America issued a statement saying the reporter was accredited and “to assert otherwise, in vulgar terms, is both unprofessional and unacceptable.” The statement added: “The BBWAA is deeply troubled that the league’s own network would permit the disparaging of one of our members in this fashion. Scrutinizing our work is part of the territory but comments such as these should have no place on MLBN.”
Rizzo eventually apologized to the reporter for her reaction after an outcry from media.
Will MLB discipline someone it employs on its TV network? Do I need to ask?
4. Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy have faced off many times, and the matchup of two future Hall of Fame managers figures to be highlighted on the ALCS telecasts.
Bochy has three World Series rings with the San Francisco Giants, but what I remember most is the 1998 World Series between his San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees. Bochy was pummeled for his decisions and took it gracefully.
“It goes with the territory,” Bochy said then. “I’d love to be in this situation all year, or every year, and let people take shots at me. We’re in the World Series, and when you’re playing in a series like this, every move is going to be scrutinized, and that’s fine.
“People are watching. That shows you people have interest, especially here in San Diego. And for me, I just have to keep going with what I believe and what my gut tells me. Use my instincts. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.”
It worked more often than not. Bochy’s 49 managerial postseason victories are fifth on the career list, and he has a .598 winning percentage in his nine trips to the playoffs.
5. Joe Maddon once called Nick Castellanos and his family a ‘reality show in the making.’
“People would watch it,” Maddon said as Castellanos sizzled for the Cubs after arriving in a trade in 2019.
Now it’s happening in Philadelphia, with Castellanos becoming the first player with two home runs in back-to-back postseason games. TBS often cut to his son, Liam, who was celebrating wildly in his box seat.
Why didn’t the Cubs re-sign Castellanos, who loved Chicago and wanted to return after the 2019 season?
It’s one of those things that can never really be explained.