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Puffing In the Playoffs 2010

Cigar Aficionado's guide to enjoying cigars in baseball's postseason.
Alejandro Benes
Posted: October 5, 2010

(continued from page 1)

Umpires are not happy about the prospect of using more technology to assess human performance. So what? What fan goes to a ballgame to see how well the umpires do? As Don Denkinger, a former MLB umpire best remembered for a blown call in the sixth game of the 1985 World Series that likely denied the St. Louis Cardinals a championship, said to ESPN, "I really wasn't in favor of replay, even after missing that particular call. I believe that replay has gotten so much better and it's so much quicker, that if it's handled properly, they can put somebody in the press box and have them make a decision very quickly and it wouldn't slow the game down."

And still, MLB is not likely to do anything significant to assure accuracy in a game that has become too fast and has too many variables to absorb the increasing number of errors on the part of the umpires.

THE SEASON
Despite the fact that it's not always clear who should have won the game, baseball provided some memorable moments this year. Five no-hitters, two of them perfect games. Ken Griffey Jr., an exemplar of what's right about baseball, retired on June 3, but relatively few paid much attention in the wake of the blown call in the Galarraga "imperfect game." Mike Lowell of the Red Sox retired and so did Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus, who won three Gold Gloves in his 18-year career and ends up number seven on the list of games caught. Billy Wagner, the fireballing Braves closer, says he's done after the playoffs. Say goodbye to Mets GM Omar Minaya (fired), Mets manager Jerry Manuel (fired), Braves manager Bobby Cox and Cubs manager Lou Piniella (both retired.) Joe Torre, too, after his first losing season as a manager since he skippered the Braves in 1984. See ya, Cito Gaston (Toronto manager). Hello again to Buck Showalter who took over the Orioles in August and piloted the team to more wins this season than the previous two managers combined.

There were the usual great plays, including one on opening day by Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle, who nabbed the runner by flipping the ball with his glove between his legs from foul territory with his back to first-baseman Paul Konerko after the ball had been hit off of Buehrle's leg and caromed past the first-base line.

There were the usual hopes dashed. Just think of Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals. The hopes faded, for the most part, for the "Don't-Call-Me-Anaheim" Los Angeles Angels when their star first-baseman, Kendry Morales, tried to jump on home plate after a walk-off grand slam on May 29. He missed the plate, broke his leg and missed the rest of the season. That might pale by comparison with the achievement of New York Mets second-baseman Luis Hernandez who broke his foot before hitting a home run on September 18. It was the only homer by a Mets second-baseman, all six of them, all year. The Toronto Blue Jays, which hit 257 team taters, had six guys with 20 or more each, led by Jose Bautista with 54. Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and David Ortiz all again had more than 30 dingers and 100 RBI.

Last year's National League rookie of the year, Chris Coghlan, of the Florida Marlins, tore his meniscus while attempting his best Soupy Sales impression to celebrate a Wes Helms walk-off homer on July 25.  The pie-in-the-face ended Coghlan's season. Among other ridiculous moments, Dallas Braden, pitcher for the Oakland A's, ranted on April 22 against Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees for crossing the mound on his way back to first base after a foul ball. A-Rod brushed off the incident by saying he didn't want to "extend [Braden's] 15 minutes of fame."  Braden extended his own fame on May 9 by pitching a perfecto against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that was no-hit twice in 2010.

The Los Angeles Dodgers saw their reputation tarnished by an ugly off-field divorce between the owners, or the owner and his wife who doesn't really own the team, but their lawyer—really his lawyer—changed a notarized post-nup dividing assets or... Oh, just let the courts decide.

A legendary owner with his own stormy past, George Steinbrenner, passed away. Oh, and those Cincinnati Reds are in. So are the Texas Rangers. New blood in the postseason. Nice.

Enough already. It's playoff time and you've got games to watch and cigars to enjoy. Here are my picks for the two leagues, followed by suggestions of where you can smoke in the playoff cities.

THE PLAYOFFS

For the third year in a row, we've had to wait until the last day of the season or beyond to find out who's in and who's playing whom. No matter what happens, there are good places to enjoy a cigar in any of the cities with teams left in the hunt as well as in most of those already setting up their rotations for the playoffs. Here, as usual, are my extraordinarily "accurate" picks for the series.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
If there's any justice, and I think we know there isn't, the Yankees and the Rays will end up playing for the A.L. crown and the chance to go to the World Series. The teams battled all year and the division winner wasn't decided until the last day of the season. The Yankees will open against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis. The Yankees should win the series. Barely. OK, maybe not. Yankee pitching consists of C.C. Sabathia, who knows, and Mariano Rivera at the end of games. Rivera has shown himself to be slightly mortal and slightly beatable this year. Andy Pettitte has pitched in four games since July. The rest of the staff is a big "if." The Twins will throw Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing. They recently have seen ballooning ERAs. We could see some real slugfests from two teams with powerful lineups. This is the first year in a long, long time the Twins have an outdoor stadium and weather is going to be a significant factor. The highs will be in the 70s. During the day. Gametime temps will be in the mid-40s. Yankees in four.


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