Good for Ball, Bad for Ball
Breaking down both sides of 2007's Division Series
Here's how it works: The five-game format of baseball's Division Series is Good For Ball. After the long grind that is the regular season, the best-of-five format punches you in the face, bringing intensity and urgency back into the game immediately. Every game, every inning, every pitch is a killer.
Those clamoring for the first round to be a seven-game series, therefore, are Bad For Ball. Does the better team always prevail in a five-game set? No. And that's kind of the point. The best team doesn't always win a seven-game series, either.
The 162-game marathon is designed to weed out the pretenders. The postseason, be it a 19- or 21-game max, rewards the team that not only survived the marathon, but also plays best under the suffocating pressure in full sprint.
It works outside of baseball, too: Frank Caliendo, in limited doses, is Good For Ball. Most of his comedic impressions are spot-on, and his George W. Bush is nothing short of legendary.
The incessantly hyped "Frank TV" that was force-seared into your brain during the first round of the playoffs, however, seems destined to eventually fall in to the Bad For Ball abyss. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and by the time we see Caliendo's tortured Al Pacino playing a Starbucks barista in a nine-minute sketch, we'll know we've reached the jumping-off point.
It's simple, really. Everything in life can be labeled in one of two ways: Good For Ball or Bad For Ball. With that rule in mind, let's take a look back at the 2007 Division Series and break it all down.
Rox on a roll: It's pointless to even attempt to come up with new ways to describe what Colorado has been doing for the past few weeks. Let's just leave it at awesome.
And while we're at it, let's make sure manager Clint Hurdle gets more than a little credit for the run. If you were wondering what makes the Rockies so laid back, hopefully you got a load of the man during one of his NLDS press conferences.
Leaning back in his chair with his hat off, his salt-and-pepper hair spiked up with sweat, and sporting a tan that would make George Hamilton envious, Hurdle looked and sounded like a beach bum whose only concern was the size of the next set of swells rumbling into shore. His team seems to play with the same attitude: Bring it on, brah. Good For Ball.
Somebody had to lose: It happened way to fast. Just when we'd started to fall deeply in love with the Phillies, thanks to Jimmy Rollins epitomizing the notion of "most valuable," Ryan Howard hitting moon shots daily down the stretch, Chase Utley emerging as the new Jeff Kent, and Cole Hamels looking like a modern-day, more-together Bo Belinsky. ... POOF! It's over.
What Philadelphia did in the regular season's final weeks can't go underappreciated. The Mets' collapse was epic, to be sure, but the Phils played like madmen to get into October, and they deserve to be as lauded as much as the Mets deserve to be mocked.
But will that actually happen? Probably not. When your postseason falls apart like an overstuffed generic trash bag, all anyone remembers is the coffee-grind-crusted chicken bone sliding under the fridge. Bad For Ball.
Brandon, Byrnes and the best of the Baby Backs: Brandon Webb's excellence calls to mind the understated game of Alex English of the old Denver Nuggets. You watch the athlete in action and think, "Nice," but then you check the box score and say, "Wow."
Eric Byrnes is a Good For Ball favorite, for many obvious reasons. A's general manager Billy Beane once said Byrnes played as if his hair were on fire, and when Byrnes was in Oakland, that description was money. Byrnes has toned it down a touch, and that's helped his game tremendously, but there's still enough burn in Byrnes to make you wonder if, while he's banging -- not clapping -- his hands after flopping into third with a triple high off the wall, that isn't a little smoke you see escaping from the top of his helmet.
Oh, and if you're into trying to identify the next big thing, go with Chris Young. The kid is already there, and he hasn't even scratched the surface yet. Good For Ball.
Not so sweet: Enough with the curse talk, already. A goat didn't lift Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano from Game 1 after 85 pitches with the score tied after six innings. At least not a goat in the traditional, horns-and-tin-cans-in-the-tummy sense.
That was Lou Piniella who yanked Big Z, and an acceptable explanation has yet to surface. Nor has a defender of Ted Lilly's glove-throwing tantrum -- circa Little League, 1977 -- in Game 2. Shameful. Bad For Ball.
There's more where that came from: Josh Beckett didn't catch lightning in a bottle in Game 1 for the Red Sox. We've seen him bully teams like that before, and we'll see it again, probably for the rest of the postseason.
Ditto the soaring shots of Big Papi and Manny Ramirez, the best left-right threat since ... wow, forever? That sounds insane, but it might be true. Regardless, expect them to be right there with Beckett when it's all said and done. Good For Ball.
Ouch, babe: The Angels, when they were rolling, might have had the best outfield in baseball. Garret Anderson will never win any awards from those who like a sense of urgency, but GA doesn't need urgency. He's a soft jazz-blues riff at his best; effortless in his professionalism. Gary Matthews Jr. is a Gold Glover when he's right. And Vlad is simply a beast.
So back off Arte Moreno and Mike Scioscia, Angels fans. They had a heck of a team that, if healthy, would have been a handful even for the steamrolling Sox. But players get hurt. That's not the owner's fault. That's not the manager's fault. That's just baseball's cruelty. And Bad For Ball.
Timing is everything: The Bombers were back in it, having broken out in Game 3. Game 4, Yankee Stadium. Were there a lid on the place, even the slightest whiff of early momentum would have blown the lid right off.
Enter Tribe leadoff man/movie star Grady Sizemore. Boom. Game over, right then and there. Simply exquisite. May the ALCS go seven games. We need to see as much of this man as possible before heading into winter. Good For Ball.
Go, Joe: And finally, a quick, unsolicited piece of advice to Joe Torre.
Call the press conference now. Say you don't want to come back. You look 50 years older than you are, and you don't need this anymore. Take a year off and come back refreshed. You'll be able to write your own ticket. The constant chaos of New York can be thrilling at times, but when you're made the scapegoat for so much underachievement, it's just plain Bad For Ball.
And thanks for all the years of class and grace, Mr. Torre. You've done the Yankee tradition proud in countless ways.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.