One door closes, and an even better one opens. The Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers series featured both the first and final game of the divisional round, and in the end—in a roller coaster ride in which the home team went 0-5—the Texas Rangers pulled out a 5-1 win last night to advance to the American League Championship series, where they will face the New York Yankees, who defeated the Minnesota Twins in three. (As the seemingly unstoppable Philadelphia Phillies did the Cincinnati Reds; it took the San Francisco Giants four games to dispatch the Atlanta Braves.) So the door is closed on Tablet Magazine’s official playoff team, which was (controversially) the Rays.
But the door is opened on the Rangers and their second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who is now the only Jewish player left in the playoffs (for what it’s worth, he is also the only man named Ian ever to play every day in the big leagues). And it is not like he is some guy who is on the roster: He has played sensationally. Look at his five-game stats! Three home runs (including the game-icing one last night), 6 RBI, a .444 average, and .944 slugging (and a 1.444 OPS for the sabermetrically inclined). Ron Kaplan notes that he was involved in more than 50 percent of his team’s runs. Divisional series don’t have MVPs, but if they did, Kinsler would have a strong case.
And one more thing. Last time, I tried to justify my case with reference to something about Jews historically being underdogs, and there were somewhat justified complaints in the comments, so I’m dropping that pretext. Just face these facts. The Yankees’ payroll is nearly four times the size of the Rangers’. The Rangers savvily traded for starting pitcher Cliff Lee this season, and last night, he pitched a gem of a game, going the distance, allowing one earned run and six hits, and accomplishing 11 strikeouts; in seven postseason starts, Lee is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA. And in the offseason, he is expected to do what most fabulous postseason pitchers represented by Scott Boras do: Sign with the Yankees. Word is he’ll get $115 million for five years. But why not $120 million? $150 million? What exactly is stopping the Yankees from paying him whatever it takes? The lack of a salary cap in baseball is making the game as close to a mockery as it can be.
The dialectician in me would love to see the Yankees win the World Series every year, heightening the contradictions to the breaking point such that the proletariat—excuse me, the small-market franchises and their fans—finally gain class consciousness and successfully agitate for a salary cap. The baseball fan in me, however, simply can’t stomach that. And fortunately, the Jew in me happens to agree. Go Rangers!
Earlier: The MLB Playoffs Kick Off