We're nearing September. Which means we're starting to watch things more closely, and we're starting to care more about how they turn out. At times like these, I like to set the emotional compass, get my hopes and wishes in order for the stretch drive.
And so I ask myself some questions. I think about hypotheticals. Such as ...
Would you rather see Chris Carpenter or Roger Clemens win the Cy Young Award?
Clemens has, what, 17 of these things? He's so bronzed-up the good folks at Coppertone are planning shots of him in a bikini with a terrier yapping at his butt for their new ad campaign.
Clemens is worthy, but I want to see Carpenter get the love this time around. His ERA (2.25) is tremendous, the strikeout/walk ratio (4.33) is terrific, and the WHIP (.98) is a wee little thing shrunk up in the cold water of a lake swim. He's legit.
But that's not why I want him to win it. I want him to win it because it'll mean more to him than it possibly could to Clemens.
Carpenter had two shoulder surgeries (in 2002 and 2003) and some nasty nerve irritation late last year (which caused him to miss the stretch drive and the postseason). He's having the year of his life at a time when his club (at various times without Rolen, Walker, Edmonds and Sanders) needed him to do nothing less. Six complete games? Four shutouts? This is Chris Carpenter's magic year. He has no claims on history and no shot at a Hall pass, but he has this season, right here, when he was supernaturally great for a team primed for a World Series run.
As freaky good as Clemens has been, there'd be nothing discernibly different about his appearance with the Cy trophy at the end-of-the-year news conference. The pictures and quotes would be familiar. But if Carpenter's up there, shedding off eight years of anonymity, bathing in the weird brilliance of this totally unforeseeable moment ... that'd be something to see.
Would you rather see the Yankees aced out of the wild-card spot or see the Yankees get in and then get BoSoxed out for the second year in a row?
They're just not that good. Michael Kay's hilarious all-Riveras-look-alike commentary notwithstanding, they make for painful TV. Seventy errors and 17th in the league in fielding percentage? Twenty-first in team ERA? Nasty. This team plays Tony Womack for god's sakes. A lot (308 excruciating at-bats so far). The Yankees' pitching staff, after Mo (who ought to be the AL Cy Young just for keeping them in the conversation), is to batted balls as Swiss cheese is to a toddler's tongue. Which is to say, inviting, and just about to become a mess all over the ground.
In 2003 and 2004, Red Sox-Yankees felt like Ali-Frazier. In '05, it'd be more like Ali-Holmes.
I can do without the "Requiem for a Heavyweight" rendition, thanks.
Would you rather see the Astros, Phillies or Nationals win the NL wild card?
Houston all the way.
First, the euphoric "it's so great to have baseball back in the nation's capital" stuff has got to stop. The very thought of Tucker Carlson in a Nationals cap on my television makes me break out in hives. Some suffering is in order. These are, after all, the Expos, and this is, after all, the seat of a government whose domestic policy prominently features the idea that hard times are a requisite Horatio Alger prelude to making something of yourself.