There is nothing in the constitution or playing rules of the National League which requires its victorious club to submit its championship honors to a contest with a victorious club in a minor league.
—New York Giants owner John T. Brush, declining to play the Boston Americans after the regular season, 1904
Last week and this one should be ideal. Just about every potential postseason opponent is losing to a team that won't affect our standing for home-field advantage at all. When an American League team beats a National League team that isn't us, we automatically benefit.
But when an American League beats a National League team, you can bend an ear toward the site of the Polo Grounds and hear John Brush grunt and John McGraw curse. These are not pleasant sounds.
On paper, Interleague play and how it's unfolding should be delightful given how well it fits with how I rank the thirty Major League teams by personal preference:
2.-15. American League teams that aren't the Yankees
16.-29. National League teams that aren't the Mets
But in reality, I can't stand what's going on between the two circuits. We're the Senior one, damn it, but instead of using our wisdom and experience to outfox Junior over there, we're getting bashed over the head with our own canes. Consarned whippersnappers!
On a night when the Mets could sit back, relax and sort through logo designs for the NLDS program without the formality of playing a baseball game, I took advantage of my Extra Innings package to scout the competition. Here's my scouting report:
The competition sucks.
The Phillies and their agreeable failure to trip up the Red Sox you know about. The Braves we've already tossed dirt on and they did nothing to brush any off against the Skanks (even though it would have been universally permitted under 2006 rules). The Cardinals, everybody's other consensus pick to see October, got clobbered by Cleveland, continuing a mini-collapse that started at the hands of the White Sox and was extended by the Tigers. The Astros, allegedly enhanced by the return of the Rocket, were embarrassed in Detroit, same as they were shamed in Chicago, just like they were made to look bad in Minnesota. The Twins have moved on to swat Los Angeles…the Dodgers, that is. The Los Angeles Angels came back on Colorado, one of five so-called contenders in the National League West. The Brewers won, but they were playing the Cubs. And the Brewers are an Interleague team unto themselves.
The only NL team besides us with a winning record against the AL is the only NL team that won against the AL last night, the Marlins. All of the Sunshine State was no doubt abuzz (paid attendance at The Sack: 7,416) as the Marlins beat the Devil Rays. The Devil Rays. The Devil Rays are the Royals with heat stroke. Nevertheless, the Devil Rays and the Royals have winning Interleague records.
The National League's performance en masse versus the American League to date can be summed up in three words.
What has become of our league? We organized first. We integrated first. We hit and run. We write nine men onto the lineup card and mean it. We won just about every All-Star Game every summer from the time I was born to the time I was old enough to drink. We are the league of Mathewson and Wagner and Frisch and Ott and Musial and Kiner and Hodges and Mays and Aaron and Clemente and Koufax and Gibson and Seaver and Bench and Carter and Hernandez to name a few.
We are the league that spread the wealth. No suffocating dynasties for us. Everybody gets a chance to win. We have the best stories in our library: Tinkers to Evers to Chance; The Miracle Braves; The Gas House Gang; The Whiz Kids; The Shot Heard 'Round the World; The Boys of Summer; The Big Red Machine; We Are Family; Us.
Have you ever heard a single player or manager who's spent quality time on both sides say they prefer the American League style of play? I never have. Never. It's the one thing that remains different. They can mash up the offices and the presidents and the umpires and the balls, they can unfetter player movement so nobody's a lifer anymore, but the games remain dissimilar. The designated hitter is favored only by the lazy-minded, the offense-insatiable and the fourteen guys who cash DH paychecks.
The sole edge the American League has on the National League is they have more better teams. The Tigers are roaring. The White Sox can't be darned. The Athletics are in great shape. The Twins are suddenly moving in double time. The Blue Jays, as we saw, could take wing at any moment. The Red Sox, as we will see, are red hot. And some other team that plays nearby isn't half-bad.
The National League? We're all alone here.
Maybe the Cardinals will pick it up, but they seem to be stuck in the wrong gear. We witnessed the best of the Reds and they were one Billy Wagner BS from losing three of four. Haven't played the Rockies yet, but the Diamondbacks and Dodgers and Giants and Padres? Oh my. The Brewers are a little scary, but only to a point. The Astros have a post-pennant hangover, Clemens or not.
You know who remotely frightens me? Florida. Seriously. The Marlins have played extraordinarily well for a month, become clearly the second-best team in the East and if they swim to Shea for four on July 7 within a single-digit of us, I may actually produce a bead of Fish-related sweat. Yet for all that, they're 7 under, 6-1/2 out of the Wild Card and 13 behind us. With all due respect to their young, talented, exciting and underpaid ways, they're the Florida Marlins…and this isn't 1997 or 2003.
If our worst problem is the extremely unlikely possibility that teal lightning will strike thrice (and we'd have to blow like nobody's business to not freefall into the safety net of the Wild Card), then I guess we have no immediate problem other than a tough first game of three tough games in Boston and, though we take 'em one at a time, three more tough games in the Bronx. After that, nothing but National League.
That still means something, no matter what the records say.
Fresh off her fill-in stint at Always Amazin', a member of our little FAFIF family, Jessica1986, has debuted a promising Metsian blog of her own, Chicks Dig The Pitchers' Duel. If you've read her comments here, you know she'll be bringing the heat over there. As Muggsy no doubt advised Big Six, go get 'em kid.