Bill “Pinner” Pintard knows something about baseball play-offs. His Santa Barbara Foresters have won five National Baseball Congress (NBC) World Series titles in the last nine years. That is a few notches in baseball talent below the big-league World Series, but from a competitive standpoint, the NBC tournament — played in the August heat of Wichita, Kansas — is a humdinger. It begins with 30 teams, and when you lose two games, you’re done. The Foresters took a loss three games into this year’s tournament and had to sweat it out the rest of the way, but they prevailed all the way to the championship, a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Studs in 12 innings.
Before the major league postseason got underway this week, Pintard, who moonlights as a scout for the New York Yankees, was asked to put on his cap and assess the chances of the last 10 teams standing.
WILD CARDS: The results will be in when this story comes out. Pintard liked the home teams to advance, the Kansas City Royals (over the Oakland Athletics) in the American League, and the Pittsburgh Pirates (over the San Francisco Giants) in the National League. James Shields, a Foresters pitcher in 2001, was due to start on the mound for K.C. Pintard approves of the single-game elimination, which entailed the addition of a wild-card team from each league. “It keeps more cities involved,” he said, “but it will be tougher for wild-card teams to go all the way. It should be tougher [since those teams did not win a division title].”
AL PLAY-OFFS: The Angels, with the home-field advantage throughout the play-offs, will be ready to roll against the K.C.-Oakland winner. “The Angels’ offense is too good,” Pintard said. “Mike [Scioscia, the manager] is going to have his boys ready. It’s too bad they lost their ace pitcher [Garrett Richards] to a knee injury. But their pitching has been solid enough since they got their bull pen bolstered.” L.A. outfielder Mike Trout seems destined for the kind of greatness that is achieved by October feats. Pintard chose the Baltimore Orioles to take down the Detroit Tigers in the other divisional play-off. “The Orioles have been consistent all season,” he reasoned. “[Manager] Buck Showalter hasn’t burned anybody up. They’re a fine-tuned racecar. Detroit barely got it done. [Justin] Verlander is not the dominant pitcher he’s been in the past.”
NL PLAY-OFFS: The L.A. Dodgers go into the postseason with high expectations — not to mention their return to the television screens of their Southern California fans after a season-long, money-grubbing fiasco — and it all may hinge on their best-of-five series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals (Fri., Oct. 3, 3:30pm). All-world pitcher Clayton Kershaw will be on the mound for the Dodgers, and the Cardinals will counter with their own formidable arm, that of Adam Wainwright. “If Kershaw loses Game 1, I don’t think the Dodgers are going to win [the series],” Pintard said. “Something in the back of my head says they’re in trouble. The problem is the pressure. The Dodgers are going to be uptight, all the way up to their new owners. They’ve got a lot invested … the highest payroll in baseball. St. Louis is very grounded, no Hollywood hype. They’re the defending league champions. They slow the game down and make you sweat. What’s [L.A. outfielder Yasiel] Puig going to do under pressure? I’m going with the Dodgers, but it won’t be easy.” The Washington Nationals, with the best record in baseball, will be a heavy favorite against the wild-card winner in the other NL series. “They’re ready to rock and roll,” Pintard said. “Their pitching is good, and they’re exciting on the field. Matt Williams is a manager with a lot of energy, a tough guy.”
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS: The strong pitching of the Nationals should be too much for the Dodgers, who have question marks in their rotation and bull pen, and the Angels will edge out the Orioles. “It would be wonderful for us to have the Dodgers and Angels in a showdown,” Pintard said, “but I think it will be a coast-to-coast World Series.”
WORLD SERIES: We’ll take a look at that matchup when the time comes. In case Pinner’s predictions do not pan out, there are several interesting possibilities. Both the Giants, who’ve been there recently, and the Athletics, who were rolling along before a late-season slump, could be dangerous if they get out of the wild-card games. A series between the Dodgers and Orioles would be historically interesting; they met in the 1966 World Series, when Baltimore’s pitching staff proved even tougher to hit than Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in a four-game sweep by the Birds. If the Cardinals pull the upset, we’ll be back where we were all summer long — no Dodgers on TV.
MAKING IT BIG: Although he wasn’t expected to be named to Detroit’s 25-man play-off roster, Dos Pueblos High grad James McCann is the Tigers’ catcher of the future. The 24-year-old backstop made a good impression during his September call-up from Triple-A Toledo. He collected his first two hits in a win over Kansas City, when he went the distance behind the plate and received praise from Verlander. McCann hit .250 in his first month in the bigs … At the other end of the career spectrum, 34-year-old Cincinnati Reds outfielder Skip Schumaker, a former UCSB standout, is among 30 finalists for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, presented to the major leaguer who best represents the game on and off the field through positive contributions in sportsmanship and community involvement. Previous winners include Tony Gwynn (1999), Derek Jeter (2009), and Kershaw (2012). Schumaker was the Reds’ ambassador to ailing children, making monthly visits to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and contributing to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. “He’s got my vote,” said Bob Brontsema, who coached Skip at UCSB. “One of the all-time, good-character people.” Schumaker spent most of his career with the Cardinals, including their 2011 championship season. His first season in Cincinnati was cut short by a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
WIN ONE FOR THE COOPER: Pintard escorted 10-year-old cancer survivor Cooper Adams to the football field at La Playa Stadium last Saturday. Cooper, this year’s Forester “Hugs for Cubs Kid,” participated in the coin flip before the game between the SBCC Vaqueros and West L.A. Wildcats. The Vaqueros responded with a 56-38 victory, their highest point total since 1996. Leading their ground attack were running backs Cedric Cooper (121 yards) and Cheroke Cunningham (110 yards). SBCC will be home again Saturday, October 4, at 1 p.m., against L.A. Southwest College.