No Choking Time in MLB Playoffs

The Major League baseball Playoffs are a good time to put up the “No Choking” signs in each clubhouse and then try to pay attention to them, but it apparently is a little too late for that advisory in 2010.

Cincinnati just left the playoffs Sunday night with their vaunted offense in total meltdown at the hands of their H20 (Halladay, Hamels, & Oswalt) rinse through Philadelphia’s powerful “Big Three” pitching order. It should be noted, however, that the Roy Oswalt member of that deadly pitching trio, along with some negative help from Phils second baseman Chase Utley,  did his own choke job  in Game Two of the series. Fortunately for the Phillies, many of the other Philadelphia players would have no part of a Reds comeback as they came back to defeat Cincy in the only game the Reds showed any familiarity with a bat.

The Minnesota Twins also melted fast in the competition company of the New York Yankees, going down for the count 3-o in games quicker than they could recall for the gazillionth time that they were playing the club that once served as home to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle.

That 50% pure choke finish in half the NLDS competition games leave the Yankees and Phillies free to rest and refresh as they wait for two other teams to finish their work in the first round, but here’s where choking gets to be something of a shared experience.

In the “we can’t stand the pressure of playing at home series,” the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers have both now experienced the horrors and joys of this particular phobia. The Rangers stuck the Rays where the sun never shines in those first two games at Tampa. It looked as though the Rangers were going home to a quick finish on their first playoff series in history, but I guess they thought about that sweet finish too much. Once back in Arlington, the Rangers went into their own meltdown, losing twice to Tampa Bay and sending the sunshine series back to Florida. Can the Rangers benefit from this move back to their former position as road warriors? We’ll find out tomorrow.

The fourth series is also an intriguing engagement with choking on both the team and individual player levels. After taking Game One behind the phenomenal pitching of ace starter Tim Lincecum, the Giants untied some late ending rope around the necks of the Atlanta Braves in Game Two and reattached it to themselves just in time to watch a Rick Ankiel home run into McCovey Cove send the series back to Atlanta with everything tied at 1-1 in games won.

Game Three in Atlanta Sunday produced the biggest sputum-producer of the playoff season, so far. Going into the top of the 9th, the Braves led 2-1 and seemed honed in on taking the series lead. Then the Giants started putting together a little base-hit rally that tied the game with two outs at 2-2. That’s when second baseman Brooks Conrad allowed a crisp ground ball to go straight through his legs into right field. Another Giants runs scored and SF now led 3-2, a tally that would hold up for the final score on Mr. Conrad’s (cough! cough!) third error of the day. You had to feel bad for the guy. There’s no place to hide in baseball when that sort of thing happens.

No Smiles on Sunday

Also, we have to be aware these days of HD close-ups of a player in the wake of such an embarrassing moment. Conrad could clearly be seen, shaking his head and uttering what sounded by lip-reading as that famous exclamation of self-frustration – the one that fits the “WTF” initials used by texters to express uncultured dismay or shock.

Better put up those no-choke signs in the clubhouses at Atlanta and Tampa pretty quick, folks. We “ain’t done yet.”


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2 Responses to “No Choking Time in MLB Playoffs”

  1. Bill Gilbert Says:

    Injuries to infielders Chipper Jones and Martin Prado and closer, Billy Wagner have really hurt the Braves. Brooks Conrad is a career minor leaguer and unfortunately he has played like a minor leaguer in the series.

  2. Damo Leonetti Says:

    Thanks to media types like Jim Rome and others, our commentary on sports events these days seems to always center around what someone did not do, versus applauding the victor and his accomplishments.

    Bill: I really enjoy your blog and read it regulary. However, I am not a fan of the work CHOKE and choose to focus on how teams and players rise to their moment in the sun; not the unfortunate who are very select professionals in their own right, who must wait other day for their time in the winner’s circle.

    Go Texans, Rockets and Astros. Congrats to the playoff winners.

    Damon Leonetti/Sports Fan

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