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The ATL Divisional Playoffs

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The Injury Factor

by "Scoops" Mibble
All Time League Freelance Sports Reporter

The inaugural Divisional Championship Series is under way in the ATL after an exciting Wild Card Playoff game to determine the owner of the last playoff berth. But that's gone and done, and now we look forward to see how things will shake out for the League Championships. But before we go any further, let's take a look to see if injuries will play a factor in these games, shall we?

Cincinnati Reds
The Cincinnati Reds (93-61), the Legends League homefield advantage team throughout the playoffs, escaped the Injury Bug quite handily. The Reds owner was leery of getting an important player injured and so played a lot of subs the last couple of weeks of the season, and it almost cost the team the homefield advantage, but it all worked out right in the end. They tied with Pittsburgh for the best overall record in the Legends League, but they won on tiebreakers so all is right in Cincinnati. Greg Maddux (11-5, 2.67 with the Reds) is expected to start the first game against the upstart New York Giants and Red Ruffing (14-9, 4.78).

New York Giants
The New York Giants (84-71) camehere the long way around, and their injury report bears some small evidence of that. Winning their last 5 games of the season, 4 against the team they overtook, and then winning a Wild Card Playoff Game -- the Giants of New York must feel as if they started the playoffs a week earlier than everybody else. Their Injury List only contains two backup players, catcher Sherm Lollar (.097, 0, 2) and righty setup man Ewell Blackwell (1-1, 2.63). Both are on the Disabled List until September 29th. That puts them both out of this round of the playoffs, though allows for the possibility of rejoining the team in the next round should the Giants get past the Reds.

Newark Eagles
Newark (96-58) had some trouble during the season with important injuries: Sam Crawford (9-8, 2.98) went down for 23 games, Satchel Paige (9-9, 5.12) was out for 20, Willie Mays (.312, 39, 134) was lost to the team for 17, and Quincy Trouppe (.271, 14, 55) went missing for 10. Even with these major injuries the Eagles never relinquished first place all year long, easily maintaining a double-digit lead in games at all times. Now are healthy and raring to go. They aim to make  the best regular season won-loss record translate into season's best team in the post-season as well. The aforementioned Sam Crawford will get the first game against the Athletics of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Athletics.Philadelphia. The Athletics chased the Eagles all year long, forever in second place with nary a glimpse at first place all season long. Until now. Now the Athletics are as close to the going past the Eagles as they were 153 games ago -- and never got as close again. On the first day of the season Pedro Martinez beat Tom Seaver of the White Sox 3-1, while Newark and Satchel Paige were shutting out Addie Joss and the Spiders, 5-0. The next day the Athletics lost on a no-hitter by Bert Blyleven, 2-0, despite a 10 K complete game effort by Bob Gibson. That was the slide into second that never ended. Never again were the Athletics that close . . . until now. The Wild Card Athletics have been practicing all season for this one series.

Pittsburgh PiratesPittsburgh. Sister city to Philadelphia. Pittsburgh spent most of the year in first after chasing down the Mets, capturing the headlines of the Pennsylvanian sports pages. The Pirates are determined to get the chance to go on a raiding mission into the Union League by being the representative team for the Legends League in the World Series. The Injury Bug was pretty much a foreign port of call for the Pirates, only losing 6 players all season long for more than a day to imjury. Chief among them was Chino Smith's 21-day stay on the DL back in April. But perhaps Gabby Hartnett's collison on the bases scared them more even if it cost only a 12-day DL price tag. Regardless, all the Pirates are now fully armed and ready for any skirmish without nary a new bruise among them.

San Francisco SealsNow we get serious about that whole injury thing. I'm sure you were wondering why I was on an injury kick. The San Francisco Seals have have been singing some major injury blues this season, and the post-season is promising to be just as bad. The Seals lost 19 players to injuries lasting 4 or more days, 8 of them lasting between 10 and 38 days. Micky Mantle (.317, 30, 69) collided with Seattle's Johnny Roseboro at home plate on the 4th of September. That put The Mick out of the playoff picture until far into october, or next season. Also spending time on the Dl with Mantle right now are Heinie Groh (.346, 2, 10), Barry Larkin (.294, 7, 31) and Kevin Brown (11-5, 3.25). Mantle, Brown and Larkin will be sorely missed. Can Moises Alou fill in for Mickey Mantle?

Toronto Blue JaysAnother team hit by the injury bug is Toronto. Ivan Rodriguez (.218, 6, 39), the brick wall that put The Bambino out of action earlier in the year on a play at the plate, is himself out on a home plate collision -- this one with Keokuk's Sliding Billy Hamilton. The Blue Jays had bad luck with injuries during the season, losing 17 players for 4 days or more, and 13 of them for 10-25 days. But for the post-season only 2 are still on the DL: Rodriguez and Eppa Rixey (4-2-2, 5.95). Hank Gowdy (.275, 4, 10) will be filling in for I-Rod, and will be backed up by Bob Boone (.238, 0, 1). It could have been worse: in the last couple of weeks Catfish Hunter (0-7, 6.61), Curt Simmons (3-0-1, 3.67), Kazuhisu Inao (1-1, 4.13) and Whitey Ford (10-7-1, 4.10) all came off the Disabled List.

Washington NationalsThe Nationals have only one player on the Disabled List and out for the series, and that's their outfield gloveman Tony Phillips (.217, 4, 26). However, they are carrying two players who are not quite ready for prime time because of injuries suffered. Both Frank Thomas (.249, 21, 64) and Fred Clarke (.366, 6, 27) were hurt on the last days of the season, and both should be ready to play n the second game of this playoff series. But they will be unavailable for the first game, no matter what. Fred McGriff (.295, 20, 73) will cover first base for The Big Hurt, and Clarke's job will go to King Kong Keller (.229, 9, 43). Having won the last 10 games of the season to get here, the Nationals are not about to let a couple of black and blues keep them from the ultimate prize!

So that's the scoop, and this is Scoops signing off until next time.