The baseball playoffs have been overflowing with drama. Ninth-inning comebacks have become almost routine. Game-tying and game-winning home runs have become expected.
Former Phillie Raul Ibanez hit game-tying or game-winning homers in the ninth inning or beyond three times within a matter of days. Ibanez and the Nationals’ Jayson Werth, another former Phillies outfielder, hit walkoff homers within 24 hours of one another.
The Cardinals’ 9th-inning comeback Friday during Game 5 against the Nationals was incredible. Four runs in the ninth inning saved the Cardinals from elimination and propelled them into the National League Championship Series. One night later, the Yankees scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, on two-run homers by Ichiro Suzuki and Ibanez, to force extra innings. Alas, the ending was not a happy one for the Yankees. The Tigers won in 12 innings, 6-4, and Derek Jeter suffered a season-ending broken left ankle.
The NLCS hasn’t even started yet. The World Series is still off in the distance.
In other words, the postseason drama may only have just begun.
OPEN WOUNDS: Three of the four teams remaining in the baseball playoffs are the teams that eliminated the Phillies since they won the 2008 World Series. The Phillies were eliminated by the Yankees (2009), Giants (2010) and Cardinals (2011). That fact might transform some Phillies fans into Tigers fans.
PARTING SHOTS: In recent interviews, former 76er Andre Iguodala has said the past few years haven’t been much fun and how it was “draining” to play for the 76ers. He even takes shots at head coach Doug Collins, saying that Collins told him not to take 3-pointers two seasons ago, which Iguodala didn’t think made sense because he had been practicing 3-pointers during the offseason. As proof that he was correct, Iguodala says he disregarded Collins’ opinion and started shooting 3-pointers with more frequency last season, which is a reason for his personal improvement and the improvement of the team.
There has been speculation that Iguodala was upset that Collins didn’t inform him of his trade to Denver this summer while both men were at the Olympics. That’s understandable. But Iguodala should remember that Collins went to bat for Iguodala time after time during the past two seasons, repeatedly stressing his value to the team. “Dre,” as Collins calls him, sounds more than a tad ungrateful.
By the way, Andre, don’t be surprised if your comments affect your reception when your Nuggets open the season at the Wells Fargo Center on Halloween.
PRESEASON PEEK: We’ll receive a good look at the 76ers this week. The Sixers have four preseason games: at home against the Celtics and Cavaliers; on the road at Brooklyn and Boston.
So far Nick Young, Villanova’s Maalik Wayns and Jrue Holiday have been impressive. It will be interesting to see how Collins mixes and matches players during the remainder of the preseason.
What we won’t see is Andrew Bynum at center. The Sixers are hopeful that Bynum can get in a week’s worth of practice before their season opener.
HOT DOG: In case you missed it, one of the big stories surrounding the Eagles this past week centered upon the revelation that Michael Vick owns a dog. Vick was prohibited from owning a dog for 18 months as part of his probation for financing a dog fighting operation, which led to Vick serving 19 months in prison.
Let’s hope that Vick is more careful with his family’s dog than he has been while carrying the football.
BEAST OF THE EAST? The Temple Owls won their first two Big East Conference games since returning to the conference. They defeated South Florida, then erased an early 14-point deficit Saturday and rallied for a 17-14 overtime victory over Connecticut. The Owls will face another tough Big East challenge Saturday (noon) when they host Rutgers at Lincoln Financial Field.
LUCK OF THE IRISH: Notre Dame remains undefeated after Saturday’s 20-13 victory over Stanford. But Notre Dame’s victory seemed to be aided by several favorable calls.
First, the seventh-ranked Irish’s game-tying drive was helped by a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call on a hit on quarterback Everett Golson. The quarterback was not on the ground when he was hit, and the hit was not made with defender’s helmet. I’m not clear how that hit was deemed worthy of an unnecessary roughness penalty.
The other controversial play was the final play of overtime. Stanford may have scored on an earlier play, but let’s just tick with the fourth-down run by Stepfan Taylor. He appeared to score the tying touchdown (if the extra point was good), but the referees ruled him short. The problem is that the play was not reversed by the replay official.
For those who argue that the replays did not provide indisputable proof, I’ll ask if it had been Notre Dame trying to score, would the ruling have been overturned and the play declared a touchdown? If you’re honest, you know the answer to this question is “yes.” The question, of course, is hypothetical. There’s little chance a Notre Dame player would have been ruled short of the goal line on the final play of the game. Not in South Bend.
JOE KNOWS SPORTS? Some viewers found Joe Biden’s sarcasm, head-shaking and laughter during Thursday’s vice presidential debate to be obnoxious and rude. I say that depends on Biden’s intent. If he is worried his vice presidential gig might end and was auditioning for a regular role on “Around the Horn” or any of the other shout-over-the-other-guy shows on ESPN, Biden’s demeanor was pitch-perfect.
SEASON ON ICE: The impact of the NHL strike was felt this past Thursday. Instead of watching the Flyers open the season against the Bruins, the choices were the baseball playoffs and the vice presidential debate. I can’t believe the NHL is going to ruin yet another season.
CHASE UPDATE: Midway through NASCAR’s 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, Brad Keselowski has a seven-point lead on Jimmie Johnson. Denny Hamlin is 15 points behind Keselowski, and Clint Bowyer, winner of Saturday’s Bank of America 500, is in fourth place, 13 points behind Hamlin.
As long as Keselowski, Johnson and Hamlin keep running well, it will be difficult for any driver behind Bowyer to move into first place. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s chances evaporated with the concussion he suffered at Talladega, causing him to be sidelined for at least two races.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 24 years, finds the baseball playoffs are similar to the election: in the absence of a truly good choice, he has to root for the “least worst.”