Tuesday, November 4, 2014

They Might Really Be Giants

The arduous nine month journey is over with a new World champion being crowned and the third time in six years the ring holders reside from the Bay area. Also in familiar fashion, apologies are in order for most of us that didn’t think they would get out of the West four months ago let alone the National League. However in typical Giant fashion now folklore they put it together exactly when they needed to, did just a little more than the club they were playing and just enough to win and eventually won the war of attrition to bring another tittle to NoCal. I mean really, how many of you honestly thought that after losing Angel Pigan thought they even had a chance to make any real noise? Pense wasn’t hitting real well, Sandoval was being sat down of games at a time “to rest” and other than Bumgarner they didn’t look to have a consistent starter. The Dodgers had just burned through their 9 game cushion and they were now tied with LA shortly after getting swept at A T & T park. Honestly there was more talk about restructuring than winning another World Series. All of us bloggers, writers, pundits that were provided with months of fodder by adamantly stating that the “every other year” notion had no more validity to than the “curse of the bambino” or the sheep in Chicago well, maybe there was something more to it than we thought and may I be the first to step up to the cafeteria and get a plateful of crow. I’ve written before that That I felt this club and franchise in particular more resembles the execution of the ‘Money Ball” theory than their brothers from across the bay, and they are the reciprocal of they’re attempting to do down in LA which is to spend your way into the Series. Whatever it is, it is working, well at least every other year. We would be remised if we didn’t extend to the levels of hyperbole to illustrate how great a coaching job Bruce Boche has done. Sure he had a horse to ride in Bumgarner, but he paid attention to when the buzzer sounded and then stopped the ride, as opposed to Don Mattingly who always seemed to leave his ace in one inning too many. Boche never seemed to be in that position and that’s the mark of a great manager, sure there’s always pressure situations but the moves are so seamless that the club seems to avoid being on the wrong end of dramatic moments, like 3-run jacks to complete a 7 run comeback. San Francisco took its beating in game 6 then calmly came back in game 7 when the city, the odds makers, and most of the country was waving blue towels and simply slammed the door on the dream and the series. Lastly, how about the play of Pablo Sandoval? He would have been in line to pick up his second WS MVP putting him in Hall of Fame company, if he wasn’t surpassed by an even more unhuman performance of one Madison Bumgarner. Not bad for a guy not expected to last past his contract year. So now perhaps the Giants will do their best to help lower the unemployment rate, and take a year sabbatical and give someone else a chance to justify the money they spent to build a winner. It would be nice to see someone like the Orioles, Royals, Pirates, or even the Dodgers get back to the spotlight after a couple of decades but even if that happens, they shouldn’t get too comfortable because the Giants will probably be back in 2016.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Royals Don’t Need A Broom When a Whisk Will Do

Kansas City rolled into the playoffs the hottest club in baseball, which unfortunately has sometimes been the kiss of death. Just ask the Angels and Nationals whom had the best record but didn’t have to play a meaningful game for so long before the playoffs that they were swept away by the intensity and right out of their first round series. The Royals journey has been well documented, on the outside looking in coming down the stretch, making the wildcard, then riding that momentum into the playoffs and winning 8 straight games, 4 in extra innings, and 4 by one run. Now that steam seems to be running out, they are still playing the same game, great defense, small-ball, full of sacrificing, bunting runners into scoring position, and trying to bring them home. However what has been missing has been the speed on the base paths and the timely hitting. Actually, the Royals are hitting rather well with runners in scoring position (.322) they just haven’t had that many, only 31 opportunities in five games. And the stolen bases? Only one, and they haven’t even attempted one after being caught by Buster Posey early in the series. Meanwhile the Giants have a lower average (.301) still respectable but have had 53 runners in scoring position. They also have only one stolen base, but that’s not what they do. That begs the question would you be more upset if you left runners in scoring position or if you didn’t have enough? The Giants may have left 39 runners in scoring position but they have had 16 more than the Royals over the course of the first five games, and most importantly San Francisco has out hit KC by almost 20, 52-33. With all of that said, and all of those stats, at the end of the day Kansas City still has the final two games at home and rest assured at the beginning of the season if someone would have proposed that to end the “Pine Tar Curse” all they had to do was sweep a two game series at home they would like their chances. After all they have already proven they could take four straight from the best baseball, and the odds are actually on their side as eight out of the last ten clubs that came back home down 2-3 won the final two games to take the series. So they don’t need the Royal flush, just get back to what got em’ there and hope that the Giants don’t bring back Bumgarner on two-days rest!

Monday, October 20, 2014

World Series Preview - The Wildest Cards in The Deck

And then there were two. After what always seems like it takes a full calendar year to complete the regular season came to a close, giving way to a post season that was one of the best and most surprising fans have ever been treated to. The clubs with the best record were both eliminated in their first series by teams that didn’t even with their division. The clubs with the highest payroll didn’t make it out the Divisional round, if the playoffs were determined by marketing dollars then the Dodgers and Tigers with rosters fill of Cy Young award winners, MVP’s, and Gatorade spokespersons should be throwing out the first pitch on Tuesday, but that’s not how it works. What did hold true was that the teams that were playing the best baseball are still playing and everyone else is home for the Holidays. The Royals and Giants needed all 162 games just to make it into the playoffs so it seems they’ve been playing playoff games for two months now, and therein could be the key, if you go in cold you get carried out cold, and conversely regardless of rest if you come in battle tested, you’ll last much longer. Regardless of what you might think the formula is and despite what it might look like on paper the two best clubs are the ones we have left standing, and they both needed to win a play-in game. The Giants got out of the blocks like they finished the season, playing their brand of baseball and simply just winning games. They burst out to a nine game lead on the Dodgers and looked like they were going to run away with the division. Then they hit a lull that culminated in the Dodgers coming up to A T & T Park in late July and sweeping their way back into contention. LA would eventually take over first, lead by 6 games down the stretch and hold off the Giants by winning 7 of their last 9 meetings. However once they got in, they’ve looked worthy to represent the National League going 8-2 against the League’s best. Meanwhile the plight of the Kansas City Royals was very similar. The Royals got out of the box fast including a 13-3 streak in June where they took control of the division but tough stretch in the second half of the season particularly against the division leaders Detroit who seemed to own them, put them in danger of missing the playoffs all together and fighting for that final playoff spot. But they got it an now they’re 4 wins away from the pinnacle it took them 29 years to get back to. KC has defied everything we thought we knew about baseball as we watched a club with a .549 winning percentage win 8 consecutive playoff games, sweep the team with the best record in baseball, win four extra-inning games (new record), and 4 one-run games. So the Series opens in Kansas City as they try to keep the win streak alive which got all kinds of things going through my head. Could you imagine if they manage to keep this streak going? What if they win 4 straight? This team goes down in the books as the greatest ever? Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinal teams of the past and this Royals clubs gets top billing over all of them? Or what about the Giants? In the first four games of the series they’ll send out pitchers where 3 of the 4 in their rotation have winning percentages of .538, .692, and .615 respectively. I look at this and ask how did they get this far? I mean, we’re all aware of the “every other year” phenomenon, and it make for great fodder but really?? In the end I don’t know if the Royals can keep it going and finish the post season with the most wins in MLB history, or if the Giants can win in another even numbered year, but I do know that I’ve seen every game of the playoffs thus far and these clubs, as unsexy as they may be, play the game the right way and it works for them. If they get a runner on first the either bunt or steal him into scoring position and then they get a timely base hit or move the runner over and get a sac fly. A walk is sometimes as good as a run with them. Defensively the Royals have been the best we’ve seen in years, quashing rallies with leather and breaking teams spirit in the process. A guy like Pablo Sandoval goes AWOL for 6 months, benched at one point during the season for lack of production, and suddenly is playing like the guy that took home a World Series MVP. And they did all of this with Angel Pagan, arguably their most consistent player in the lineup. We can all make strong arguments how one of the clubs watching from their living has more justification to be running out on the field on Tuesday but they would all be wrong. This is the World Series, and you don’t get this far without being the best in the world, and say what you will, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals have proven that they are just that. Enjoy. View the complete World Series preview with highlights, stats, predictions, and more here.
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