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Sensational Sunday (Update 6)

OK, the Diamondbacks almost made me eat my words, but the NL wild-card is set. Colorado vs. San Diego on Monday to determine the final playoff spot in the National League.

Arizona didn’t make it easy. Augie Ojeda had a sacrifice fly and Alberto Callaspo an RBI single in the ninth. But Stephen Drew grounded out to closer Manny Corpas on a close play at first, and the Rockies survived.

So 162 games and 26 weeks in the book, and this thing still hasn’t been settled. What’s one more day? Can’t wait til Monday.

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Sensational Sunday (Update 5)

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/playerSplits?categoryId=200805Brace yourself for a wild-card tiebreaker on Monday. The Rockies put up three in the eighth inning vs. Arizona. Garret Atkins a run-scoring single and Brad Hawpe a two-run double did the trick. Hawpe has played great over the final two months, and has been as much a beneficiary from Matt Holliday’s great season as anyone.

Even if the Rockies finish off this win, life won’t be easy Monday. The Padres, a loser to Milwaukee on Sunday, are braced to use Jake Peavy in the tiebreaker. Still, the Rockies have some serious mojo. They’ll give Peavy everything he can handle.

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Sensational Sunday (Update 4)

The Mets’ collapse is complete. A loss to the Florida Marlins and a Phillies victory over the Washington Nationals vaults Philadelphia to the playoffs for the first time since Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, Lenny Dykstra and the gang went to the World Series in 1993.

The results, as mentioned earlier, exorcise the ghost of Gene Mauch and the Phillie Phailure of 1964. Meantime, a winter of hard questions for Mets manager Willie Randolph. In a way, this ending is every bit as painful, if not more so, than losing a do-or-die Game 7, as New York did to St. Louis in the National League Championship Series a year ago. On Sept. 12, the Mets were in charge. From that point on, they went 6-11, while the Phillies went 14-3.

One other note that will pain the Mets in the offseason. They were swept in their final three series against Philadelphia.

Meantime, big-time hope for the Rockies. Milwaukee has exploded for eight unanswered runs vs. San Diego, and has a 10-4 lead. If that result holds, a Rockies win over Arizona will force a wild-card tiebreaker. The Rockies and D’backs are coming down to the end; the two teams are tied 1-1 in the seventh inning.

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Sensational Sunday (Update 3)

So much for a San Diego waltz to the NL wild-card spot. An error by Padres third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and a home run by another young Milwaukee Brewers stud, Corey Hart, has cut the Pads’ lead to 3-2 after four innings in Milwaukee.

Meantime, Florida has added a run is back up seven (8-1) vs. the Mets, and the Phils lead remains 3-1 over the Nationals after six innings.

It’d be interesting to see the fallout that would await Willie Randolph should these scores hold. The Mets will have pulled off the greatest collapse in history — they led by seven games with 17 left — and expunged the ghost of Gene Mauch, who presided over a colossal Phillies collapse in 1964. Meantime, the Phils have been eliminated on the last weekend the past two seasons, so only the masochist in you could possibly root for them to miss out again.

Just finishing up this blog, and have noticed that the Padres have gotten a home run from Khalil Greene to go up two. Bad news for the Coloradoans.

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Sensational Sunday

Got the lap top in my, uh, lap, coffee at my side and remote in my hand. All set, in other words, for one of the best days in baseball history. And not just because we’re bidding farewell to lousy seasons from the A’s and Giants.

Final day of the season and four teams in the National League are still alive. And there’s a possibility that three teams could finish tied for the NL wild-card, and that myriad tiebreakers could take place before the actual playoffs begin.

Some folks who like to bash baseball regularly for its supposed lack of competitive balance should take note. In the American League playoffs, three of the four teams (Boston, the Angels, Cleveland) weren’t in the postseason a year ago, and in the NL, the only two to have clinched a spot (Arizona and the Cubs) weren’t there, either. By the end of the day, seven of eight playoff participants may have missed out a year ago.

If that happened in the NFL, we’d hear about what a wonderfully competitive and balaned league that is.

Anyway, a quick glimpse at Sunday.

NL EAST: Mets send Tom Glavine to the hill vs. Florida’s Dontrelle Willis, and the Phillies will go with Jamie Moyer vs. Washington’s Jason Bergmann. Advantage: Phillies.

NL WILDCARD: Padres will start Brett Tomko at Milwaukee, where he’ll face Brett Tomko. Colorado Rockies start Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Arizona’s Doug Davis. Advantate: Rockies, if only because Jimenez is still too young to realize how much pressure is involved. (Plus, gotta admit that I’m pulling hard for the Rockies, a long-suffering franchise that put together the longest winning streak in its history to get to this point).

Now, assuming my scenarios take place (a risky bet, for sure), the Philllies will win the NL East over the Mets, and the Padres and Rockies would play a wild-card tiebreaker tomorrow, with San Diego set to send Jake Peavy to the mound.

But let’s let it unfold and see what happens.

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So Long Barry

A few thoughts now that the curtain has closed on the Barry Bonds era:

— The emotion in the ballpark last night was about what you might expect from a mid-week gathering at the local tavern. The video montages on the high-def scoreboard were a nice touch, as was the No. 25 etched into the grass in left field. But overall, it seemed like jus another night at the ol’ ballyard. The Giants announced a sellout, but there were several empty seats in the upper deck. Managing general partner Peter Magowan kept referring to his memories of Ted Williams’ final game as a Red Sox in 1960, but that was like comparing Babe Ruth’s style of play with Ty Cobb’s.

— Bonds’ refusal to make a speech for fans was a glimpse into his personality. Simply put, he’s one of the most selfish athletes ever to don a uniform. He often referred to those fans as “his family,” but then he heads out of town without so much as a “Thanks.” So much for class.

— The scene inside the clubhouse was also very revealing. Players usually spend time during the final week getting memorabilia signed by their teammates, exchanging phone numbers, etc. Nobody was asking for anything from Bonds. If anything, there seemed to be a pending sense of glee and anticipation for a season without him.

— On the other hand, heckuva classy maneuver by Padres starter Jake Peavy. He basically grooved a 2-0 pitch in Bonds’ final at-bat. Peavy hinted he might do such, and with the Padres holding a huge lead at the time, there was no need to paint the corner. Bonds’ drive fell short, but it gave his fans one brief thrill.

— It would be only right if Bonds and the Giants reunite someday, because Bonds’ stature in the franchise’s pantheon can’t be ignored. But for now, they’re like a couple that has just split after a sometimes volatile 15-year affair. They need time in their respective corners.

— In a postgame video tribute, the Giants serenaded Bonds with Frank Sinatra’s “I Did it My Way.” Terrible choice. Where was Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”? Not that Barry noticed. He already was out of the ballpark, having cleaned out his locker and removed his nameplate.

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Milton Bradley

Did not see a whole lot of television on Sunday, and made a conscious decision to avoid the Internet. So, just now noticing the news that Milton Bradley tore the ACL in his right knee for the Padres in an argument with an umpire on Sunday.

One word: Hilarious.

Not for the Padres, who nonetheless should get no sympathy. They knew what they were signing up for when they traded for Bradley in June, and like with every other team he every played, Mount Milton has spent more time sidelined with injuries than he has on the field. The consolation, of course is that the pitcher they dealt for him, A’s reliever Andrew Brown, doesn’t look like the second coming of Dennis Eckersley.

As for Bradley?

Hilarious.

Reason I say that is this: At no point in his life, it seems, has Milton learned how to take responsibility for anything. Everytime he has blown a gasket, in his mind, he has either a) been provoked or b) been misunderstood. He is a fabulous talent, deemed someday to land on a list of all-time wasted ability. And yet, he has never had anything to do with it.

A year ago, when he had won over several Athletics, a few members of the organization told me privately that they’d talked to Milton about controlling his temper, and resisting the fan-baiting and umpire-baiting that his attitude sometimes engendered. It’s understandable. My own experiences with Bradley found him to be kind, big-hearted and with seemingly an insatiable desire to be liked. His on-field ferocity also was a needed element in the A’s clubhouse.

That said, there’s a line between being feirce on the field and being dumb. Look, umpire Mike Winters stirred the pot, but ultimately, we alone are responsible for our actions, and Bradley has to know that he can’t do anything dumb. Blowing his stack is dumb. Period.

Now, he has an injury that can threaten a career. Not that he knows this, but he has himself alone to blame.

Hilarious.

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One Week to Go

Caught the end of the Cleveland Indians clincher vs. the A’s on Sunday, and noticed just how many of the A’s hung around in the dugout after the final out to watch the Indians celebrate their American League Central title. It’s funny to read players say how they don’t want to be any part of such a thing and then watch how they can’t take their eyes off it.

It was a good thing for the the green and gold (and soon to be black) to see it though, because there’s nothing then stoking the hunger to be successful than to see other teams party. The A’s have so many young kids who are probably happy to be in the majors that losing probably hasn’t kept too many of them up nights.

Granted, the youngsters shouldn’t be held responsible for the A’s first losing season since 1998. Guys getting their first exposure to the majors have enough on their mind trying to stay there, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to win. You need a pretty decent mix of veterans for that, and almost all of the A’s veterans spent their season in the medical room.

Anyway, the misery for the A’s and Giants lasts only one more week. Only question about the Giants is whether Barry Bonds will be available to play one final home game. Speaking of Bonds, complete lack of class shown by A’s general manager Billy Beane with his “no comment” on Bonds’ imminent departure. It doesn’t take much to say, “Guy had a great career,” even if he does play across the Bay. When Beane leaves the A’s, the headlines will be just as big and just as many comments will be sought. And, like Bonds, Beane’s tenure will be worthy of a sentence or two of thought. I’m not a Bonds fan, but Beane’s stance struck me as very weak.

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You can tell Barry goodbye!

Well, the news that was bound to come sooner or later was delivered about an hour ago. Barry Bonds will not be a member of the Giants in 2008.

There’s a press conference at 5 p.m. and much reaction to come. So I’ll have a much better chance to gather my thoughts at that point. But I will say this immedately:

Why did they wait this long?

This is an announcement the Giants could’ve and probably should’ve made as soon as Bonds hit his 756th home run. It would’ve put fans on alert that they had six weeks left to see Bonds, and that certainly would’ve been an aid to the turnstiles. And truthfully, they probably owed Bonds that much. No doubt that the man has pulled the Giants strings as if they were marionettes over the years, but I’d venture an argument that without Bonds, there would’ve been no AT&T Park.

Anyway, Bonds expressed disappointment that he wasn’t notified earlier, but my guess is he’ll have to get used to not getting his way. He hasn’t made a lot of friends in the game — the universal response you get from folks inside of it when they speak off the record is a) an acknowledgment of his phenomenal talents and b) his miserable talents as a human being — and that could hinder his chances to find further work.

That said, if he’s willing to swallow some pride, there will be room for him somewhere. The Angels are a team that immediately pops to mind.

Anyway, it’s the end of an era. It’s an exciting day, and a melancholy one, too.

Feed me your thoughts.