|David Price and catcher Jose Molina|
celebrate after Game 163.
What we get first, of course, are a pair of win-or-go-home wild card games. Tonight, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh; Wednesday, Tampa Bay at Cleveland. My thoughts:
NL: My rooting interest here is easy. The Pirates have Francisco Liriano starting tonight and presumably Justin Morneau at first base. The Reds have Dusty Baker as their manager and a fan base/media too dimwitted to comprehend the brilliance of Joey Votto. (The Votto bashing in the Rhineland is much akin to the Mauer carping here.)
So I'm rooting for Pittsburgh. But I think Cincy is going to win, because I don't trust Liriano to keep his composure under this spotlight. I hope I'm wrong. Liriano certainly had a superb year.
AL: I'll root for Cleveland, with misgivings. I would love to root for the low-budget Rays, who are testimony for the theory that tight budgets can be a blessing for sharp management; if you haven't money to burn, you don't make expensive mistakes. Parsimony has freed the Rays to make wise moves rather than splashy ones.
But the latest market inefficiency exploited by the Rays, to be blunt, is low-life scum. Tampa Bay's roster is dotted with people I wouldn't want hanging around, starting with convicted sex offender and bullpen piece Josh Lueke and moving on through the likes of Delmon Young, Yunel Escobar and Luke Scott. Cheering for these guys (and I very well may at some point this month if they move on) will make me feel a bit slimy.
As for the game: Both managers are putting their team's season in the hand of talented but inexperienced starters — Alex Cobb for the Rays, Danny Salazar for the Tribe. A very intriguing matchup.
My sense is that Tampa Bay has the better team, so I'll pick the Rays to win Wednesday. But in one game, anything can happen.