HOLLYWOOD, CA – A good story enhances sports, particularly in the playoffs. Pundits are always touting “storybook endings,” or saying things like “Hollywood couldn’t script it any better than this!” That sounds weird to anybody who has ever actually lived in Hollywood. It’s like saying, “That crazy man yelling in his diaper outside Pla-Boy Liquor at Yucca and Wilcox couldn’t script it any better!”
Speaking of Hollywood endings, let’s talk baseball.
Last night the Running Royals beat the Powerhouse Angels for the biggest upset in the MLB playoffs… so far. As far as storylines go, there weren’t many good ones here, except that the world was introduced to the Royals’ Rusty Kuntz. It’s a good thing he looks like Robert Redford… you know, with a name like that. Kuntz moves on to become the potential story against Baltimore, where Barbara Hershey will shoot him in a hotel room, leaving him to come back to keep his vow to be The Greatest Third Base Coach to ever Third Base Coach the Game.
Giants-Nationals could be over tonight, thus putting an end to Matt Williams managing against his old team, and ruining a lot of potentially good storylines before they even start. On the other side of the National League, the Dodgers have made bubbles their storyline. The richest team in baseball have the attention spans of that spastic yellow fish from Finding Nemo. Still, bubbles are better than anything the Cardinals have to offer, but it’s the playoffs and anything’s possible. That’s what good story-lines are about, so let’s look ahead:
Giants-Dodgers: The best storyline of the playoffs could be this one, two iconic figures who battled in New York and moved to the West Coast in the fifties, just like Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance.
Cardinals-Nationals: There could be a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington storyline here, if Ozzie Smith came along in his old uniform and gave a rousing speech before Congress, before doing backflips down the aisle.
Winner: Giants-Dodgers: Hard to believe they’ve never faced each other in the playoffs, until you remember that the Wild Card has only been around 20 years.
Dodgers-Royals: It’s not clear these two franchises even know that the other exists, which leaves the small grasping straw of Zach Grienke facing his old team.
Cardinals-Royals:: A rematch of the 1985 classic “I-70 Series,” the last time the Royals won the championship (and the last time they were in the playoffs).
Winner: Cards-Royals. Easy. A Dodgers-Royals series would be confusing to fair-weather fans since they basically wear the same uniforms.
Dodgers vs. Orioles: A rematch of the 1966 World Series, where Frank Robinson led the Orioles to their first title in a sweep over the defending champ Dodgers. That might get some press, but the better storyline might be Mattingly matching up against his last manager in Buck Showalter…one of them would finally get the World Series monkey off their back.
Nationals-Orioles: The nation’s capital would make itself the storyline, a rich regional history on rare display on baseball’s biggest stage. The rest of the country might be out, but subway/freeway/beltway rivalries usually shine bright enough to draw a lot of moths.
Winner: Nats-O’s: It’s a close one, but you’ve got the ideal Frank Robinson connection, an Oriole legend who took the ultimate fastball to the ribs for the team by agreeing to manage the moribund Nationals in their early expansion days. I saw him featured in a Boys and Girls Club ad at the Dodgers game the other night…here’s a guy primed for a twilight renaissance, and the MLB would be wise to ride him once again.
Giants-Royals: The story here would be the first time two Wild Card teams met in the World Series…if that was true. The Giants and Angels were both Wild Card teams in 2002.
Giants-Orioles: Everything about this scenario, from the uniforms to the ballparks to the fans themselves, clashes…but at least they’re two longtime franchises.
Winner: Giants-Royals: Without Rusty Kuntz, I’m not sure we can summon the national will to move on.
So there you have it. Nationals-Orioles provides the most natural drama, but Giants-Royals gives us more Rusty Kuntz.