Let's make this short and sweet. The baseball season is over. Nobody's going to beat the Oakland A's, whether we like it or not. So, we all might as well get our minds right.
Oh, sure, we all love upsets. Well, here's hoping everybody saved those old tapes of the 1988 World Series. Sorry, Orel Hershiser isn't pitching this October. Back then, the A's didn't have Rickey Henderson, Willie McGee, Harold Baines, Willie Randolph, Mike Moore, Scott Sanderson or the new-and-improved, 27-game-winning Bob Welch.
They do now. As a result, if everything imaginable goes wrong for the A's -- if Jose Canseco's back keeps aching and Moore's fastball stays lost -- the Oaklands will probably need five games to beat the Bostons and six to finish the Series.
My personal party- pooping apologies accompany this prediction. Honestly, I've tried. I've written and waste-canned three Upset columns. I almost had myself convinced that the '88-'89-'90 A's were really the reincarnation of the '69-'70-'71 Orioles and that the ghost of Roberto Clemente was going to lead the new Pirates to a seventh-game Series victory. But my fingers have rebelled. They just won't type such tripe.
Yes, all those guys up there in the second paragraph are new A's since Capt. Kirk's miracle. Thanks, Sandy Alderson, you colossal wet blanket. What have the A's lost since '88? Well, Glenn Hubbard and Luis Polonia aren't in the starting lineup and Storm Davis isn't in the rotation; the A's even add when they subtract. Only Dave Parker is missing.
On paper, the A's look like an almost perfect team. The problem is, they look that way on the field too. This is the team that can't find room for Harold "Ribbie" Baines in its lineup. Think how paranoid Gene Nelson must feel. His ERA was 1.57; he allowed only 17 walks in 74 innings. And he has no chance to be the A's closer because Dennis Eckersley's numbers -- 0.61 ERA and four walks in 73 innings -- make him look like a piker.
As if the A's didn't have enough advantages already, they also have the Red Sox on their side. Face it, the A's have drawn a bye into the Series. Boston has no chance whatsoever in the AL playoffs. Love to be wrong, babe. Make my year. Hey, let's be honest, it'd make some people's century. But it'll never happen.
The A's won 103 games this year, the Red Sox 88. Only once in baseball history has a team with 15 fewer wins captured a postseason series: The 1973 Mets (with 82) upset the Reds (99) back when the playoffs were best of five.
Do Roger Clemens, Mike Boddicker and Question Mark look like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack to you?
Before you answer, remember that Clemens punched a wall this week and has a new nickname -- The Sockit Man. He's spending more time in ice than Dr. Pepper. Clemens got mad because Manager Joe Morgan wouldn't go along with his sixth-grade idea of punishing the nasty, negative Boston press by closing the locker room for a half-hour after the Sox clinched.
For those of us who insist on daydreaming, here's the Mystic River Bridge scenario. The law of averages helps Clemens outduel Dave Stewart, whom he's never beaten, in Game 1. Welch loses Game 2 because it's October and his postseason ERA is over 6.00. Boddicker, who's big time in big games, comes back and beats Sanderson in Oakland. Tony La Russa panics and brings back Stewart on short rest and the Red Sox sweep. Now, about this vacant office building you really ought to buy.
The only team that has an outside chance against the A's is the Pittsburgh Pirates. That's why we all better root for them in the NL playoffs because they're going to have their hands full with Cincinnati.
The Reds are a good team, but, in the Series, they'd wilt. How could they look the A's in the eye. Everything the Reds do well, the A's do better.
The Nasty Boys? Eckersley has more saves than Randy Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton combined. With Todd Burns, Rick Honeycutt and Nelson, the A's even have a deeper bullpen.
When the Reds' big star, Eric Davis, looks at Rickey Henderson, isn't he going to be mighty embarrassed? Davis had 24 homers, 21 steals and hit .260. Some superstar. Henderson had 28 homers, 65 steals and hit .325. Put it this way: Davis might not be able to start for the A's. (He could sit next to Baines.)
Except perhaps for Jose Rijo, the A's would blow the Reds' starters away. The Nasty Boys might never be factors.
For this season to have any real competitive drama, the Pirates would have to meet the A's in the Series. Even that's a stretch. But at least there's some potential.
All the A's starting pitchers are right-handed. All the Pirates' best hitters are left-handed: Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke, Sid Bream, Mike LaValliere and switch hitters Bobby Bonilla and Wally Backman. The only way to beat the A's is to beat their starters, because only Kirk Gibson can beat their bullpen.
The Pirates would also face a narrower ego gap than the Reds. The stats on Bonds (.301, 33 HRs, 114 RBI) and Bonilla (.280, 32, 120) are of MVP quality and Doug Drabek (22-6, 2.76 ERA) should win the Cy Young Award. At least we can fantasize about players like that, plus tough guys Van Slyke and Backman, standing up to the A's.
Excuse me. It's easy to get carried away and forget that the Pirates have a few small problems. They have no postseason experience. With Vicente Palacio ineligible for the postseason, they barely have a bullpen worthy of the name. And their starters after Drabek are Zane Smith (12-9) and Bob Walk (7-5).
After the October lessons of '85, '86, '87 and '88, how can we ever again take anything for granted in baseball's short season. After the Twins' Homer Hankies and the Dodgers' Stunt Men and Royals filling their straight flush, how can we write off any team?
Somebody call security. Who wrote that last paragraph? Get this imposter away from my typewriter.
It says here that a season that went to sleep in May will stay asleep in October. The 49ers repeated. The Pistons repeated. And the A's will too.