News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 30, 2010

AMEY TAKES AIM: Baseball season rounding third for an exciting ending

Andy Amey
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Major League baseball is coming down to an interesting week for the National League, then a couple of interesting weeks for the American League.

The last two playoff spots in the National League will have to be sorted out among the Braves, the Padres and the Giants. (By counting out the Rockies at this point I’m sure I’m setting them up for another miracle finish, although I can’t root as hard for them with Clint Barmes on the bench.)

All the American League playoff teams are set, but the pairings could come down to the final few days, when it’s determined whether it’s the Yankees or the Rays in the wild-card spot.

No matter what the matchups, however, the AL playoffs look to be gripping, with four teams all capable of winning — and with significant weaknesses to make all four equally capable of losing.

Pat Rady has never been able to convince me to be a Yankee fan, so I’m hoping they wind up without home-field advantage in any postseason series. Their weakness is figuring out who’s healthy enough to play on a given day, but that could actually be the least significant problem among the American League hopefuls — and there are plenty of off days so the old guys can rest. I hope that’s enough to make the Yankees lose, but they also have Mariano to make them least likely to blow a late lead.

Minnesota has been the best team in the second half of the season, but you still can’t find an ace among the Twins’ starters. Texas has a lot of interesting possibilities, but almost no playoff experience, some injury problems of its own and the least tested closer in Neftali Feliz. I’ll be rooting for the Rays, but let’s face it, they could go an entire seven-game series without getting a hit (or they could come out any game and score 20).

In the National League, I don’t want the Braves to win because I’d hate to see the massively overrated Bobby Cox go out a winner; the theory here will always be that any manager who could stay awake for nine innings would have won more than one World Series with Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz in his starting rotation.

So that would leave me with the Reds and their not-so-great bullpen (Aroldis Chapman may not be enough) and the Padres and Giants, both of whom I like and both of whom make the Rays look like an offensive juggernaut.

And all those teams would have to beat the Phillies anyway, which ain’t happening. The only potential weakness Philadelphia has is closer Brad Lidge and his occasional lack of courage, but since they’re liable to score in double figures every night with the rejuvenated Cole Hamels and the two Roys to handle most of the starts, the Phillies’ bullpen won’t be tested.

The NL playoffs will be boring. The World Series will be boring. I’m honestly not sure the Phillies will lose a postseason game.

Ryan Easton, Howie Johnson, Jimmy Mann — consider yourselves officially jinxed.

• Deja vu — Apparently it always rains in Macomb, Ill.

Sitting at Hanson Field on Saturday watching Indiana State play Western Illinois, I couldn’t help thinking back to the last time I was there — and my memory was faulty, research revealed.

The last time I was there it was raining, which is correct. Several members of the band fell down in their pregame practice, so it was raining harder then than it was on Saturday, when all the musicians remained upright.

How long ago was that game? Well, I remembered Mike Wagner (the former Pittsburgh Steeler safety) beating the Sycamores with a long kickoff return or interception return. Well, he was on that team (and my Theta Chi fraternity brother, it turns out), but the safety who had the 100-yard kickoff return was Mike Wilson, who also played briefly in the NFL with the Rams.

And, although I certainly remember the dreary day, ISU actually won that game on a late pass from Verbie Walder to Steve Schmid. The 9-1 Sycamores didn’t get the Grantland Rice Bowl bid they were hoping for, however.

• Another chance to do some good — Riverton Parke High School will be conducting a fund-raiser to fight cancer when the Panther volleyball team hosts Fountain Central on Tuesday.

Items have been donated for a silent auction, players are collecting pledges for their statistical categories, donation canisters will be available and ice cream brownie sundaes — I can vouch for these — will be sold.

Persons wishing to help out in any way can contact Panther setter Katelynn Rewers at (765) 548-0533.

Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4277 or at 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321.