Note: For the first time in five years, I get to kick back and watch the baseball playoffs. In October 2002, I was switching jobs and moving from Boston to L.A. In October 2003, I was working 14 hours a day for Kimmel's show. In October 2004, the Red Sox overpowered everything else. In October 2005, I was traveling around the country on two book tours.
This year? I'm home. The Red Sox are out. And I get to immerse myself in playoff baseball for four straight weeks. So to kick off the occasion, I'm posting running diaries of the first four games as they happen: Three on Tuesday, followed by Mets-Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon. Here's a running diary of the second game (St. Louis at San Diego):
1:00 p.m. (PST) -- The Quadruple-A Playoffs kicks off: Chris Carpenter against Jake Peavy, Chris Berman and Orel Hershiser announcing, and me still reeling from my random celebrity encounter between games. While waiting in line for a sandwich at one of my neighborhood lunch places, it took about 10 seconds before I realized that the guy standing behind me was the same guy who paid Dirk Diggler to, umm, pleasure himself outside the church in "Boogie Nights."
So that left me with three choices:
A. Tell him that I "loved you in 'Boogie Nights,'" followed by him spending the next 10 minutes wondering if that meant I loved him in 'Boogie Nights,' or I just love scenes where guys pay former porn stars to pleasure themselves outside a church, followed by their friends beating the hell out of them.
B. Wait to pick up my sandwich, make eye contact with him, then tell him as calmly as possible, "It's 5 dollars if you want to see it, 10 dollars if you want me to (bleep) the sandwich off."
C. Stand there debating Option A vs. Option B for 10 minutes, do nothing, get my sandwich and leave.
(Needless to say, I chose Option C. I'm a wuss. Back to the game.)
1:05 -- Sideline reporter Duke Castiglione tells us that it's "extremely loud" on the field right now. That goes for the broadcast booth, too.
1:10 -- We see Peavy's stats (11-14, 4.09 ERA, OBA .242) as Berman tells us, "Don't be fooled by that 11-14 mark since the All-Star break, he's been a strong pitcher." You know what? I'm going to judge him by the 11-14 mark. Thanks though.
1:15 -- Did you know that Cards outfielder Chris Duncan is the son of La Russa's longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan? Wait, you did? Whoops. Anyway, Duncan and Pujols strike out to end a scoreless first.
1:17 -- Congratulations to Planters for celebrating 100 years of great taste. Meanwhile, Dave Roberts singles to start off the first for the Padres. When I'm hawking a "Curse of Dave Roberts" book 40 years from now, I just hope you don't hate me.
1:18 -- Our first shot of Mike Piazza wearing A.J. Soprano's hair on the bench. By the way, Carpenter has gone 175 innings without giving up a stolen base, Yadier Molina has a cannon arm, and Roberts is 49 for 55 stealing on the season. Something's gotta give.
1:22 -- Brian Giles is from San Diego. We get it. Noted. Of course, he chops into a double play. We'll have to wait a few innings for the Carpenter-Molina-Roberts SB duel. I'm actually interested to see how this plays out. No, seriously.
1:30 -- Orel just called La Russa a baseball "genius." (Shaking my head.) Every time I'm ready to push Al Leiter aside and name Orel my favorite baseball analyst, he does something like that. (Shaking my head some more.)
1:33 -- No score through two innings. You know, every time I see Mike Cameron, I think of that horrible Beltran collision where he broke his face. He's this generation's Rudy Tomjanovich. Somebody write this book before John Feinstein does. Please. I'm begging you.
1:35 -- Cards second baseman Ronnie Belliard singles to start off the third. He's a good 20 pounds overweight and looks like he should be hanging outside a convenience store drinking Mountain Dew out of a brown paper bag. The good thing about the NL is that everyone has a chance to shine: Young guys, short guys, fat guys, old guys it's almost like a good softball league. To be honest, it's growing on me.
1:38 -- Eckstein gets through an entire AB (a grounder) without Berman calling him "little." That was exciting. We're scoreless through two and a half.
1:42 -- Circuit City wants us to know that we can pick up "V For Vendetta" for just $13.99. Do we have to? Is it mandatory? I need to save my money for the 15th new "Scarface" DVD in eight years.
1:43 -- Disturbing sideline report from Duke: When David Wells was a Toronto rookie, he lived at Jesse Barfield's house and occasionally babysat Baby Josh Barfield (before he became Young Josh Barfield), even changing some diapers and everything. Now that's horrifying. Meanwhile, Berman has dropped three "Young Josh Barfields" and two "Little David Ecksteins" in less than three innings. Couldn't he throw in a "Fat Ronnie Belliard" now and then?
1:50 -- New from Domino's: Oven-baked brownie squares!!!! That ranks right up there with Pizza Hut introducing the Lasagna Pizza on the "Did we really need to create ways for Americans to become even fatter?" scale.
1:52 -- Time for an in-game interview with Bruce Bochy and his enormous, gravity-defying head. Even though they've been working on Peavy's right hand between innings, Bochy tells us that Peavy isn't battling blister problems, just "a little flaking going on." What does that mean? Sadly, we'll never know. Nobody asks.
1:58 -- Predictable Pujols AB: Umpire Jerry Davis dares to call a borderline strike on Pujols, followed by a perturbed Pujols saying a few words, followed by Piazza misjudging a pop-up behind home plate, followed by Pujols fouling off three more pitches (come on, you know where we're headed here) followed by Pujols cranking a two-run homer to left-center. 2-0, Cards.
Here's how predictable that was, and I swear on Larry Bird's life this happened: In the previous paragraph, I had written everything up to " (come on, you know where we're headed here)" right when Pujols launched the homer. I mean, you knew SOMETHING was gonna happen. I love baseball.
2:00 -- Funny dugout replay of the Cards bench erupting and Tony La Russa watching the homer with his left hand frozen on his face, like he's about to fall asleep at a musical. We're sure this isn't a "Weekend at Bernie's"-type thing with him, right?
2:06 -- Third and second, no outs for the Cards and "Davey" Roberts chases down an Encarnacion gapper for the first out. 3-0, Cards. Peavy gets out of the inning after a Molina brother hits a nine-hop grounder that somehow gets turned into a double play. Has there ever been a slower family in sports history than the Molinas? It's like their father sliced their Achilles tendons when they were kids.
2:10 -- E-mail from Jason in Virginia: "I think Pujols just entered Jordan territory. Did you see the fear in the face of the ump after he contested the called strike on him. And then at 2-2, same pitch doesn't get called. And you know what happens next gone." Excellent point. Don't mess with Poo Holes.
2:15 -- Another e-mail from Nigel in NY: "From the A's-Twinkies running diary, you said: 'Let's see what Barry Zito brings to the table here as Keith Law pointed out this week, the spacious Oakland outfield and their D makes his record seems much better than it is.' I'm no Zito fan, but his home ERA this year was 4.71 and road ERA was 2.97. In the same number of starts he gave up twice as many HRs at home. You are like a weatherman. You can make stuff up, be completely wrong, and never get fired."
(All good points. I'm an idiot. Although I might have to break up with Keith Law. This was unforgivable. By the way, two on, no outs for the Pads and "Young Adrian Gonzalez" is up. I need a drink.)
2:20 -- I was thinking about making Gonzalez my favorite player with no Red Sox ties in the playoffs because (A) he looks like Dante from "Clerks," and (B) because the crowd chanted "Yo Adrian" when he was just batting. Then he struck out. Now it's up in the air. One out in the fourth.
2:26 -- All right, when did Piazza say to himself, "Maybe it's time to dump the mustache with the little ends that dip around my mouth and go with a fu manchu?" Was it a rash decision? Did he screw up while shaving? Was it a long time coming? Couldn't Duke Castiglione answer this for us? Why else would we have a sideline reporter there? Anyway, Piazza grounds out, followed by a Russell Branyan K to strand Roberts. I'm not sure how good Carpenter is in real life, but he looks like the 1994 Greg Maddux against this crummy Padres lineup.
2:30 -- Common side effects from Flomax are "runny nose, dizziness and a decrease in semen; upon standing, a sudden decrease of blood pressure may occur, rarely resulting in fainting." Call me crazy, but wouldn't you rather have a weak stream of pee over any of those other symptoms? We should vote on this on ESPN.com's main page.
2:33 -- Orel mistakenly says the phrase "first basemans." Sadly, I can't make fun of him -- I'm the same guy who wrote that David Stern "freezed" the Knicks envelope last week.
2:35 -- Duncan nearly misses two homers in the same AB. Can't say I'm impressed by Peavy. Speaking of Duncan, he has one of those clumps of hairs that start at the baseline of his chin and go halfway down his neck, like the bottom part of a fu manchu, only that's the only hair on his body. So here's my question: What do we call this? Is it just a "manchu?" And what do we call the clump of hair underneath Carpenter's lower lip? The lip-chu? We need to name a tsar of facial hair to rule on this stuff.
2:38 -- RBI single for an injured Edmonds. 4-0, Cards. And if that's not bad enough, Berman just called Jake "young Peavy." Which reminds me, common side effects from this game are runny nose, dizziness and a decrease of semen.
2:44 -- Just briefly passed out during the in-game interview with La Russa. Hey, did you know our starters for Game 2 are Jeff Weaver and David Wells. Are you kidding me? Jeff Weaver and David Wells????? That's a playoff game??????????? They should be showing this series on OLN 2.
2:51 -- What was more incredible -- the shot of failed Red Sox reliever Rudy Seanez warming up in the Pads bullpen in the sixth, or Berman immediately nicknaming him "Rudy 'Today's' See-n-ezz?" I can't decide. Meanwhile, Belliard just rolled into home after an RBI single from Keenan Ivory Molina. Here comes Today's Seanez! It's 5-0, Cards.
2:57 -- Orel calls Seanez a "veteran" and "experienced." Also, he has arms and legs. Somehow, he gets out of the sixth.
3:03 -- Pinch-hitter Todd Walker grounds out to start the bottom of the sixth, followed by a Dave Roberts triple. Who's up next, Mark Bellhorn? What year is this? By the way, Orel Hershiser and Danny Ainge have the exact same personality, vocal inflections, down-home demeanor, everything. It's like they're long-lost brothers.
3:10 -- Roberts scores on a sac fly. 5-1, Cards. I'm openly reading e-mails. I have to be honest: I don't know how many Quadruple-A playoff games I have in me. We're playing it by ear. That's all I can tell you.
3:12 -- Jared from Pittsburgh writes: "Wow, did you just catch that Holiday Inn/Humpback Whale commercial??? Could that thing have been a little more awkward and weird? WOW." Couldn't agree more.
3:15 -- Berman discusses Edmonds' various injuries, including post-concussion syndrome symptoms. We're very close to "post-concussion syndrome" being shortened to "PCS," kinda like how we use "ACL" or "EKG." It's only a matter of time. On an unrelated note, Today's Seanez has retired five straight batters. Go figure.
3:23 -- Edmonds dives for a Branyan gapper, just misses it and takes about 90 seconds to regroup. He's like the Evander Holyfield of baseball. Hang it up, Jimmy. Pretty soon you're going to be mumbling your way through a "Dancing with the Stars" cameo.
3:30 -- Two on, one out. Warming up for the Cards right now? Kinney and Johnson. I have no idea who these guys are. None. Johnson ends up coming in and he hits Josh Bard (former Red Sox catcher) on the first pitch. That brings up wait, are you kidding me? It's Mark Bellhorn! I just joked about him an hour ago! Who knew? I wonder if he'll strike out for old time's sake.
3:32 -- Yep. He struck out. Now Todd Walker's up. What the hell is going on here??? Thank God I retired from smoking pot a few years ago -- I'd be freaked out and pacing around my office right now. Next thing they're gonna tell me is that Grady Little is managing one of the NL playoff teams.
3:33 -- Belliard robs Walker of an RBI single to end the seventh. He's up there with Charles Barkley and Oliver Miller on the "Fattest Athletes of All-Time Who Somehow Seem Light On Their Feet" list.
3:36 -- Question: Why does Long John Silver keep advertising when nobody's ever actually seen a Long John Silver restaurant? I'm convinced that these ads are an elaborate practical joke by some multi-billionaire that's been going on for 15 years.
3:37 -- Now pitching for the Pods: Chan Ho Park. Apparently Hideo Nomo is caught in traffic.
3:42 -- This seems like a good time to mention that Dave Roberts is 3-for-3 with a run scored. You can almost hear Bob Lobel screaming, "Why can't we get guys like that?" back in Boston. Whoops, he just struck out. The Pods are dead. Put a fork in them.
3:50 -- From the producers who brought you Lasagna Pizza and the Domino's Brownie Squares that's right, it's the half-pound burrito from Taco Bell! I think I put on three pounds just watching these ads.
3:51 -- Our second weird Holiday Inn ad: This one featured a guy sitting too close to another guy in a hot tub but not realizing it, followed by some awkwardness and the other guy eventually moving. I can't say this strongly enough -- Holiday Inn, fire your ad department and start over. It's your only choice. We're about two more ads away from a joke about all the dried DNA on the bed spreads.
3:55 -- This e-mail sums up Game 1, courtesy of Adam in Simi Valley: "So I was just reading your first diary in one room with the Cardinals-Padres game on TV in the other room when my buddy yells 'Hey Pujols is coming up again.' So I actually stand up, walk the 10 feet into the other room, and watch his at-bat. I think he is the only hitter alive today who is worth actually stopping what I'm doing just to watch him hit."
4:00 -- With the Pods on life support in the bottom of the ninth, Berman makes a "Get Smart" reference, then quotes a song by Louden Wainwright III. That's it, I'm fast-forwarding on TiVo to the finish. Sorry.
4:03 -- Our final score: Cards 5, Padres 1. See you in a few hours with the Yanks-Tigers diary.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His new book "Now I Can Die In Peace is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores everywhere.