Thursday, December 8, 2011

MLB continues a very hot winter

California Spending -

Albert Pujols to a 10-year 254million dollar deal. As if that wasn’t enough to spit out your chai latte the Angels reached back into their briefcase, pulled out another pen and then inked the best available starter, CJ Wilson, a former nemesis with Texas, to a 5-year 77million dollar deal and just like that by the time most Southern Californians were leaving their morning yoga class their baseball team was the best in the league and very uncharacteristically were not only aggressive but free spending in the Winter, placing themselves in third place all-time behind two Yankees clubs as the most ever in the off season. With these additions to a club that was a “pothole cover in the middle of the line-up” away from going deep into October these moves will not only fill the ditch but give the Angels arguably the best rotation in Baseball:

Jared Weaver (18-8) 2.41
Dan Haren (16-10) 3.17
CJ Wilson (16-7) 2.94
Ervin Santana (11-12 with no-no) 3.38

So now the immediate question is what will be the immediate fate of the gamble? Will they go the way of the Yankees who are still waiting for the dividend check to arrive for the ARod, CC, etc. spending spree or the Giants that squeezed every last penny of the checks they cut and wound up with a ring that should pacify that city another 50 years. Only time will tell, but before we go there keep in mind there is still plenty of time before spring training so don’t put it past the newly found intestinal fortitude of the LAA they may be going for number one on the list and tis’ the season.

Baseball’s Hot Stove continues to radiate during the winter meetings in Dallas and the Miami Marlins are the team mixing up something special! If you’re a baseball fan in South Florida, how can you not get excited about what’s owner Jeffrey Loria has cooking? First he goes out and gets Ozzie Guillen to manage his club. Guillen of Latin decent will go over very well in South Beach. Fans will understand him and the players will have no choice but to follow his lead. Guillen has a world title to his credit and the respect of both management and players because he’s a no-nonsense guy. While they bowed out of the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they’ve still put together quite a roster in the off-season. Adding shortstop Jose Reyes to the left-side of the infield for 106-million bucks over six-years while moving Hanley Ramirez to third could be incredible. Despite Ramirez reluctance to change positions, you know Guillen will get the job done and Ramirez will be a very productive part of the line-up. Needing a solid closer for a pitching staff that was one real legit arm away from being very imposing, the Marlins thru out a line to Heath Bell that he took hook line and sinker for 27 million over three years. So with Bell dropping fastballs to close out the ninth inning, who could they go get to not only be the staff ace but lead by example to the youngsters? Enter lefthander Mark Buehrle. The deal for five years at 58-million reunites the ace and Guillen once again after a long stint in Chicago with the White Sox. But wait, the prep work is not done. Since the didn’t land Pujols the money allocated his way will most likely be split up between two players. Buehrle was one and the other could be Texas Rangers free-agent lefty C.J. Wilson. The fish have offered a six-year deal that might make Wilson reconsider signing with his home-town team the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He’s expected to make his decision today. If that isn’t enough to get excited about in South Beach were there definitely is plenty to get hot and bothered over, have we mentioned the new ballpark? That’s what it’s called right now, New Marlins Ballpark, no kidding. So they may not have a title sponsor yet in these tough economic times but who cares? The state of the art facility is located on the old Orange Bowl site in the little Havana section of Miami, only two miles from downtown. Forget the days of sweltering heat and rain delays or rain outs. The retractable roof makes everyday a game day at 75 degrees inside. The stadium is made for baseball only and holds 37-thousand seats with sightlines that are reportedly perfect for fans of the great American pastime. You have to give Luria a lot of credit. Not only did he decide to make the commitment to satisfy his fans off the field he has also backed it up on the field with the team’s off-season acquisitions. If South Florida baseball fans aren’t hungry yet, they never will be because dinner has been served in Miami.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Comes Early at Chavez Ravine

We just hit November 2nd but the Thanksgiving turkey has already been shot, plucked and carved up at Chavez Ravine. Tuesday Night’s announcement from the Dodgers and Major League Baseball that owner Frank McCourt would agree to sell the team thru a court-supervised process, has Dodger fans all over the country giving thanks that the nightmare of the McCourt era is ending and there is hope for the 2012 season!

Although the courts will decide who gets to join baseball’s elite owners club, it’s up to Commissioner Bud Selig to make sure the next man or men who run one of sports most storied franchises; has A, the money to do it; and B, runs the franchise correctly. The Commish is almost just as much at fault for the fiasco the Dodgers have endured this past season as much as Frank and Jamie McCourt themselves. This, want to be power couple from Boston should have never been allowed to purchases the club in 2004, for 421 million when they didn’t have the necessary financing to do so comfortable. But in his haste to get the Dodgers away from a previous bad ownership group in Fox, Selig made another judgment in error.

How bad was that error? Let us count the ways. On the field the Blue- Crew reached back to back National League Championship Series. Now for some teams that would be considered an accomplishment but for the Dodgers and their history of titles, it was a shortcoming. All that was needed to put this group over the top was a solid veteran number one ace pitcher, who McCourt never purchased. What he did purchase off the field however, is the main reason he won’t be the owner on opening day in 2012. The couple allegedly purged 189 million of Dodgers money, to spend on houses, jets, swimming pools and other luxuries while the needs of the team and franchise were ignored. The only reason the imposters were caught is because neither was smart enough to figure out all their financial holdings and expenditures would come into public record during their divorce. Frank’s accusation that wife Jamie was nailing the body guard or chauffer, whoever it was blew the lid off the entire spending spree at the expense of the organization and it’s product on the field. From there the end was in sight. The franchise filed for bankruptcy in a Delaware court. Upon receiving the information, even the loyalist of Dodgers fans boycotted the Ravine. Empty seats took over the historic stadium, as did the gangster element in the pavilion seats due to a lack of security. The Dodgers failed to break the three-million mark in attendance for the first time in over a decade and the franchise received a black eye when San Francisco Giants fan Brian Stow was beat nearly to death in one of the dark parking lots after leaving the rivalry game on opening day with little security in the vicinity. Once the reputation of the franchise and McCourt’s integrity came into play, he tried to sell the television rights in a multi-billion dollar deal to ease he financial worries. But Selig and baseball blocked the move, stating McBroke would just use the funds for his personnel debts including the divorce cost and payoff. After this ruling was upheld it was game over for the fraud.

McCourt will sell the franchise for around one billion dollars. Hard to believe after all the mismanagement he’ll still make a stiff profit off the sale. But there is justice in his debt that needs to be paid off which is mounting and stands in the hundreds of millions of dollars. All in all McCourt won’t be broke, but he’ll leave Los Angeles stripped of his dignity, celebrity status, and team which is the most important thing for the City of Angels. Dodgers fans can once again root for their team proudly, feel good about spending money on the franchise, knowing the best interest of the club is at heart of whomever the owner ends up being. There is a lot to be thankful for this November, after one of the roughest rides in the storied history of The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is it just in the Cards?

They are the team that just won’t die. Like the main character in a character in a B horror flick. No matter how many vampires are inches away from the fatal bite, no matter how many zombies are closing in, no matter how many werewolves are chasing, death is not written in the script. Now, they have re-written the show, as the sun raises forcing sudden death upon The Texas Rangers in a game seven. They are the St. Louis Cardinals.

Last night’s two run comeback in the bottom of the 9th was just the latest act. Of course they couldn’t wait to follow up with another two-run comeback in the bottom of the 10th also down to the final strike of the season. As if those two drama filled rallies weren’t enough, the hometown kid in David Freese finishes off this scene of the World Series with a solo home run in the 11th to close the curtain on game six. But this team’s flair for the dramatic shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, this is the team that was ten and a half down in the wildcard race on August 24th. They then swept the Braves in a three game set at Busch stadium September 9th thru the 11th. Next, they won two of three from the Pirates, then, three of four from the Phillies. We all know how the movie finished up, St. Louis stealing the last playoff breath or should I say birth from Atlanta.

They weren’t supposed to beat Philadelphia in the Divisional series but they did. They lacked home field advantage against the N.L. Central Division Champion Milwaukee Brewers but they clinched the series in six games at Miller Park. Is the theme starting to make sense to the entire playoff picture? These Cardinals take flight just in time when it appears the season is about to come crashing down. Trailing in the series three games to two, St. Louis should have lost game six several times. Back to back homers by Rangers Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the 7th on their way to a 7-4 lead should have finished the game with just nine outs left. With two outs and two strikes in the 9th trailing by two runs, the shot Freese hit to right should have been caught by Cruz but it wasn’t. Down by a run again in the 10th with two outs and Jon Jay on second with first base open, Texas Manager Ron Washington should have walked Lance Berkman and pitched to Allen Craig but he didn’t.

So now it all comes down to game seven and you know what? Because of the rain-out postponement of game six, moving it from Wednesday to Thursday, St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter was able to get an extra day of rest. So now instead of him being unavailable for tonight’s deciding game, he’s had three days off and is able to start. Carpenter is the only true ace pitching in this series and now the Cards have a distinct advantage on Friday Night. So even if they have used up every last rally, every favorable bounce or every ticky-tact call that goes their way, they now have the best pitcher in the series on the mound. To win one game that’s all you need. Especially, if it’s already written in the cards.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Napolizing His Opportunities

Since the post-season started 25 days ago, Rangers catcher Mike Napoli has been doing everything but napping! His latest contribution to Texas’ playoff success which has seen the Rangers dispose of both Tampa Bay and Detroit, another clutch 8th inning one out hit to score the go-ahead runs in the Rangers crazy 4-2 win in game five of the World Series against the Cardinals. Texas is now just a win away from the franchise’s first ever title in the Lone Star State, with a chance to pop the bubbly on Wednesday Night in game six. You know Napoli will be ready for the biggest game in his life because he’s played big since being traded to the Rangers.

This is a guy who both the Angels and Blue Jays handed over in the off-season and now he’s on the verge of becoming the World Series MVP. While the Texas crowd chants Na-Po-Li, all he’s done has hit two homers and driven in nine runs. His teammates have only managed four homers and ten runs batted in combined in the Fall Classic. Behind the plate he threw out Allen Craig in both the 7th and 9th innings. His game has been all-around solid and that’s why the Rangers need to win just one more game to enjoy their summer this time. Napoli goes by the nickname of “dirt bag” affectionately given to him by manager Ron Washington because of his grit, guts and emotion. That emotion has followed up an amazing overall post-season with three homers, 16 hits and 14 RBI. His batting average is .314, down just six points from the regular season. With spotlight directly on him, he has risen to the challenge and now his team riding his back to maybe history on Wednesday Night.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rangers mess with Cardinals closure plans, for now.

The World Series is now down to a best of 3 with the Cards holding home field advantage. Now if you’re a cards fan and someone told you in May (or better yet August 19) that you would have that scenario, you would take it 8 days a week and twice on Sunday. However when you left Arlington on Sunday night you would have thought it was 3-1 Texas. I think that’s because no one in the Cardinals clubhouse or even in the state of Texas thought Derek Holland would not only pitch the game of his life but one of the best in Series history. However at the end of the day the Cards have a favorable rotation matchup for both games 5 and 6, with Carpenter on the bump Monday and he’s due for a career defining game with all the lights on. Also with phat Albert going ofer in game 4 you would have to think he’ll be back with a vengeance in such a crucial game. At the end of the day it’s still a must win for the Rangers as nothing really has changed for St. Louis, just hold serve and your adding another ring to the collection, but win in game 5 and you can take the balloons, streamers, and bubbly with you because they’re not coming back for any parade.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

All the pressure shifts to the Cards for more reasons than one

It’s no secret, St. Louis the heavy underdogs needed to win the first two games at home to really be competitive in this World Series. On Wednesday night they got halfway there with game one win that was very competitive and well played. On Thursday they were three outs away and couldn’t have asked for a better scenario as their closer was on the bump who has been unhittable thus far in the post season. Then the wheels fell off. A flair with eyes, a stolen base, a base knock with one of the few bad plays you will ever see phat Albert make as his deflection of the ball allowed Elvis Andrus to take another base. Normally no big deal but two sac flies later and the Rangers have two runs off of one solid and one that would looked more like it belonged in Williamsport than Busch Stadium. The Cards laid down in the bottom half of the 9th, not giving the Texas closer a chance to wilt under the pressure as they swung and almost every pitch, regardless of location, not forcing him to master his control. In the end the takeaway is not so much that the Cards dropped one of the first two games, that may have been expected but now in addition to the normal pressure of the series the Cards have to keep a small companion on their back for the rest of the series and their lives if they don’t find a way to win three more games. The monkey is now solely on backs of the birds as they know they let a 2-0 series lead slip away, not quite as bad as a ball through the legs, but one that hurts just as much as Texas may be better but not so good they could take 4 out of 5, and it will be an endless summer of contemplation in LaRussa can pull one more rabbit out of his hat but this gambler may have finally crapped out.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Destiny vs. Dynamite: A World Series Preview

The Fall Classic couldn’t possibly match-up two teams who took more different paths to get to October. The Cardinals flew out of nowhere from ten back in the wild-card race to catch and pass the Braves on their road to a date with the Rangers. Texas was chosen by many to repeat as the American League Champions and after winning the west, they powered their way past Tampa and Detroit. Two different journeys: two different styles, and of course two different teams.

The Cardinals birth in the 2011 World Series marks the fourth decade in which manager Tony LaRussa has guided a team to the National or American League Championship. That in itself is a remarkable achievement so it’s no wonder his Cardinals never game up and continued to believe, because he’s done it so many times before. St. Louis reached this point on the strength of some hot bats but hotter relief pitching. The Red Birds go six or seven deep in the pen and then turn Jason Motte loose to seal the deal. He’s been outstanding, pitching a combined seven innings versus the Phillies and Brewers in the playoffs. The right-hander has struck out seven, surrendered just one hit, walked no one and allowed zero runs. But the Cardinals are hoping on Wednesday they won’t even need him to break a sweat! Chris Carpenter steps on the bump in game one and he has been unbeatable so far. In three post-season starts, he beat favored Philadelphia twice, including a 1-0 shutout and also handled Milwaukee giving up three earned runs on six hits. His second start against the Phillies in the close-out game was the most impressive however. A 1-0 shutout complete game victory in which he gave up just three hits! If he has anywhere near that type of stuff in game one, those Texas bats could be silenced. Another advantage the Red Birds possess is they can stack their line-up with right-handed bats against those lefty Rangers starters. Texas will start C.J. Wilson in game one, Derek Holland in game three and Matt Harrison in game four. None of these three have made a quality start since the divisional series and none of the Rangers starters including Colby Lewis won a game in the ALCS. They’ll be facing Rafael Furcal, David Freese, Albert Pujols, Yodier Molina, Allen Craig, Matt Holliday and Ryan Theriot all right-handed hitters.

But speaking of hitters the Rangers made their point by putting up a nine-spot in the 3rd inning of game six of the ALCS in which they sent Detroit packing. This Texas line-up will be a terror for the Cardinals starters to deal with. Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse will have their hands full as only Carpenter possesses World Series experience. The Texas hitters will not be gun-shy, especially after having to deal with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in last years World Series loss.
If St.Louis pitching is not around the knees, let the fireworks begin. Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Michael Young Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz will be handing out souvenirs in the bleachers like it’s a December Fall Classic. This Rangers wrecking-crew is hitting .259 in the post-season, with 20 double and 54 runs batting in. They’ve also stolen seven bases to their opponents three. But nothing sets Texas up like losing last year to the Giants. This time around they’ll be loose, fully know the Cardinals pitching is not nearly as good was what they saw last October and will not be intimidated. So our prediction for the next six games? As one infamous sportscaster once coined….”Boom Goes They Dynamite”! Texas in six.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Texas holds serve while Cards steal it

If you haven’t been watching, too bad. Since Super Tuesday, game 182 the MLB season hasn’t lost any momentum as we’ve moved through the divisional series and now are knee deep in the Championships. The Texas Rangers look poised to make a return trip to the show after Nelson Cruz went yard twice (3 times if you count the first pitch jack that just went foul) including the game winning, walk-off, grand slam, and now the Texas Lumber Company will attempt to move its headquarters to Motown for at least two days and solidify their second consecutive trip to the World Series. True, like any seven-game series in any sport the series doesn’t truly begin until the home team loses or there is a game 7 but one has to wonder what that loss has taken out of the Tigers mojo. They will send Fister to the bump in a must win situation against Lewis for the Rangers, both attempting to notch their first win in the post-season. For the Tigers it will be home-sweat-home as over half their wins (50) came at home this year and they will need to send a message in game 3 that not only cools the red-hot sticks of the Rangers but wakes up theirs as the lack of timely hitting has been the difference so far.

After a through beat down in game 2 the Cardinals left Milwaukee with home field, momentum, and kicked their dog on the way out. Now the series moves to the city of the arch but facing a tough pitching matchup as Gallardo (17-10) will be a tough out even on the road. La Rusa’s challenge will be to not let the layoff, or rain delay, cool off the bats of Phat Albert & Co. who may be peaking at the right time as so many Wild Card winners do and ride that mo all the way to the Series.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Double Nickels to get the weekend going

It will be hard to top yesterday’s game 5 in the ALDS but I think we have a good shot at doing so as we have two game fives that promise to be tense from start to finish with every run making a huge difference. The Brewers host the DBacks in the early game and the Cards travel to Philly in the second. If the DBacks can get through the Prince & Braun Boardwalk / Parkplace neighborhood and make some of the other Brewcrew beat em’ they have a shot of winning on the road, but that task has been the toughest in baseball as Milwaukee has the best home record in the league (and that place is loud!)

The Cardinals vs. the Phillies, Carpenter 11-9 2.45 vs. Halladay 19-6. 2.35, Pujols / Holliday vs. Howard / Utley, oh yea and this is the deciding game to see who advances to the NLCS. Everything about this game indicates a winner. Often big games don’t live up to the hype but I think this one will.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No shells will be spared

We knew the Tigers matched up well with the Yankees as they actually defeated them in their season series but I think most of us were surprised to see them push the Boomers to the brink of elimination twice as the Evil Empire has always ruled the month of October more than Halloween. However as much as we may have thought this time will be different , and as good of a story as it would have been, you normally only get one opportunity to assonate the King and the Tigers may have missed theirs in Game 4 when they were in the friendly confines of Comerica Park in front of 43,527. Now they must travel back to hallowed ground and knock off Goliath in a house that has more ghost than the old Boston Garden. We won’t bother with the cliché that there is no tomorrow and no doubt both clubs are preparing as such as captain Joe has already stated that CC will be ready for work and will get the nod if called upon. In fact all pitchers are said to be locked, loaded, and ready to fire upon request. All except the future Cy Young award winner as Verlander will be saved for tomorrow but a loss tonight and there will be no tomorrow for the Tigers.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

East needs to come up Big on Tuesday

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Only two or three games into the divisional series in both the National and American Leagues and baseball’s parity is once again ruling supreme. The game’s biggest payroll in the New York Yankees, finds itself on the ropes in a must win game today at Comerica Park or it’s another epic fail for the Bronx Bombers. Philadelphia’s 102 win season along with its fantastic four starters could only manage a split at Citizens Bank Ballpark against the wild-card Cardinals. Now the home field advantage lies with the Red Birds, as they try to take total control of the series later this afternoon. All four series hit the field on Tuesday in what should be and outstanding and unpredictable day of baseball.

The road warriors of the divisional series must be the Texas Rangers. Last year’s American League Champion won all three games at Tropicana Field to eliminate the Rays and they hope to make it five straight today. On the strength of a Mike Napoli two-run homer, the Rangers scored all four of their runs in a four-run 7th inning for a 4-3 win, taking a 2-1 series lead. They’ll now hand the ball over to Matt Harrison making his first post-season start. He did pitch a frame of relief during the 9-0 drubbing the Rangers took in game one in Arlington. He was 14-9 during the regular season with an era of 3.43 in 30 starts but that doesn’t mean anything in the post-season. The Rays turn to Jeremy Hellickson to keep their season alive. With Matt Moore he becomes the second Tampa rookie to take the hill in the series. Although this is he’s first playoff start, the right-hander does have a 2-0 loss against the Rangers on August 30th to draw from. He has also made five starts down the stretch run of the season for Tampa which could all be considered playoff games.

One of the National League Divisional Series games takes place at Chase Field where the Arizona Diamondbacks have been able to rely on their offensive bite all season long. After dropping the two opening games of the series against the Brewers at Miller Park, the Snakes are hoping a little home cooking puts them right back into the series. But in order to accomplish that, rookie right-hander Josh Collmenter is going to have cool the Brewer bats of Ryan Braun and Price Fielder, a combined 9 for 16 in the series so far. Collmenter does have 16 scoreless innings facing Milwaukee from the regular season in July, which is why manager Kirk Gibson gave him the start today. Milwaukee turns to road-ace Shaun Marcum on the mound. The 29-year-old was 8-3 with a 2.21 era in 16 road starts this season. He did however struggle down the stretch of the season sporting a 6.66 earned run average during his final four outings. This could be the man the Diamondback hitters need to see in order to get back in the series.

On the American side the Yankees season now rest on the arm of the inconsistent A.J. Burnett. The right-hander wasn’t even suppose to pitch in this series but the rainstorm of game one changed manager Joe Girardi’s plans. Burnett has posted just a record of 11-11 this season with an earned run average of 5.15. But he did turn in three solid road starts in September going 1-0, with an era of 3.18, striking out 15 in 11 and 1/3rd innings. Burnett’s last two post-season starts however were a disaster. He gave up five runs in six innings to the Rangers in the 2010 American League Championship Series and only lasted two innings of game five of the 2009 World Series giving up six runs and losing 8-6. Lifetime he’s 2-2 in four starts at Detroit. The Tigers go with Rick Porcello, making his first post-season start to close the door on the Yankees season. The right-hander dominated the Bronx Bombers at Comerica Park in his last two starts against them in Motown. Porcello gave up just two runs over 14 innings and actually beat Burnett back on May 5th. If Porcello can continue to keep the bats of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira quiet as they’ve been, he’s chances should be good. The duo is just a combined 1 for 21 so far in the series.

The Phillies will try to use lefty Cole Hamels extensive playoff experience to help them re-take their NLDS lead over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. The 2008 World Series MVP has won six post-season games over his career, while over half of his victories from the 2011 season came away from Citizens Bank Park. Hamels will probably not have to deal with Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday due to that injured right middle finger which makes it painful to even just grip a bat. Allen Craig will most likely get the start in place of Holliday. St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia did win nine games at home this past season and sparkled in September with a 3-0 record with a 2.64 era. He also allowed just one earned run in 15 innings of work this season against the Phillies, holding them to a batting average of .178 overall. Should he falter, Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa will turn to his reliable bullpen of six that should be fully rested after Sunday’s win in Philly.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simply the best night of baseball in recent memory

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For baseball purist the final night of the 2011 regular season was a nightmare. It embodied everything the old timers can’t stand about The Great American Pastime in the 21st century. Three teams battling for two final spots in the post-season but not for their division title. No last night’s drama had nothing to do with which team could finish better than their division rivals, because those battles had long been settled. Last night’s late-night, extra inning theatre, came courtesy of baseball’s wild-card system.

There are some who believe the wild-card cheapens the accomplishments of a team’s consistent play over a full 162 games season. They believe it gives squads a second chance to recover from their lack of success and rewards mediocrity. Those who enjoy having one extra spot in both the National and American Leagues would say, last night might be the single best night of baseball on television in the history of the game! Three of the four teams involved for a wild-card birth played deep into the evening with two of those games going extra innings and the other won in the bottom of the ninth. Three extra fan bases that would have not cared about Wednesday night baseball in late September were on the edge of their seat and two of those faithful support groups, now get to enjoy the playoffs as a treat for their devotion!

We have never seen a spectacle in prime-time television sports, like what took place in two of those ballparks last night. Both the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox needed to win, to at least ensure themselves of a wild-card playoff game against each other for the final spot in the American League post-season. While the Rays got off to a horrible 7-0 deficit to the Yankees at Tropicana Field, Boston was handling its business at Camden Yards over the Orioles 3-2. Then things wildly changed, forever building up the argument for the wild-card system baseball has in place. While the Red Sox and Orioles hit the clubhouse to wait out a rain-delay in Baltimore, the Sox players had the pleasure of watching the Rays comeback on the New York. Evan Longoria’s grand slam cut the Yankees lead to just 7-6 in the 8th inning. By the time Boston and Baltimore got back on the field to restart their game, they were fully aware Dan Johnson’s solo homer with two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th inning had tied the game for the Rays as it read loud and clear on the Camden Yards scoreboard. So while baseball fans across the country amazed at the Tampa comeback, the Red Sox now were set with even a greater sense of urgency. But urgency wasn’t their problem, pitching was. All season long, despite their fall in September, when the Sox had a lead heading into the 9th inning they’d won the game, not losing one. But America watched closer Jonathan Papelbon give up a two out, two strike game tying double to Nolan Reimold. Then they watched Robert Andino hit the game winning base hit to left, beating Boston 4-3. When the network showing the Boston loss switched back over to the Tampa- New York game, now in the 12th inning, not sooner than three minutes later did everyone see Longoria stroke his second home run of the game for a dramatic 8-7 Tampa Bay walk-off victory giving the Rays the wild-card spot in the American League as the Red Sox loss was posted on the scoreboard. We might not ever see that time of spontaneous baseball drama over three minutes again in our lifetime! It was all courtesy of the wild-card system.

In the National League with the St. Louis Cardinals having wrapped up an 8-0 win over Houston earlier, securing at least a wild-card playoff game against the Braves, baseball fans also got to watch Atlanta meltdown one more time in the 9th inning, blowing a 3-2 lead against Philadelphia before finally falling in 13 innings, 4-3. More wild-card drama, making game day 162, memorable for baseball. Even the teams and their fans with division titles all wrapped up, had to be all wrapped up in the night’s twist and turns. After-all they were affected by the outcomes for their own division series match-ups. Last night proved beyond a doubt, the wild-card system not only works, but adds a bit of October, to baseball’s regular season in the month of September.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Game for One Spot

After 161 games baseball has the perfect wild-card scenario! One game each, for four teams to prove their worthiness to continue into the hunt for October. The situation has four cities on the brink of a fandom break down, but on the other hand, with the anticipation of the post-season temping them like hot dogs on a grill or fresh apple pie, hot out of the oven. For four teams four different seasons has brought them all to the same day, tied for the wild-card lead in the National and American Leagues. But the bottom line, one more win can open up all the possibilities the baseball playoffs have to offer.

After losing 19 of their last 25 games down the stretch, the Atlanta Braves will have only themselves to blame should their season come to an end versus the Phillies. This organization is known for falling in the NLCS or World Series, so a wild-card blunder is out of character for the A-T-L. But with another defeat, the tomo-hawk chop turns into one of the greatest tomo-hawk-chokes, in the history of wild-card play! Pitcher Derek Lowe has been a 15 million dollar bust for the Braves, losing all five of his September starts. So the heavy lifting will have to be done by today’s starter Tim Hudson. Huddy is 16-10 this season with a nice earned run average of 3.23. He’ll face Philadelphia starter Joe Blanton, who’s making his first start since May. Advantage… Atlanta.

While the Braves were looking over their shoulders it was the St. Louis Cardinals wings they kept hearing. Tony LaRussa’s squad battled back from a nine-game deficit, winning 17 out of 25 games in the month of September. They reached the mountain-top on Tuesday with a 13-6 comeback win over the Houston Astros, whipping out a 5-0 lead for The Stros in the process. But they still need one more to secure more baseball. Cardinal’s number one Chris Carpenter heads to the hill in Houston today but the challenge will not be easy. Houston starter Brett Myers has only allowed seven runs in his last six starts! But the Cardinals could be the team of destiny in 2011 and their bats will do the talking at Minute Maid Park.

After almost blowing another lead in Baltimore before Jonathan Papelbon secured an 8-7 victory yesterday the Red Sox were almost in a must-win situation today. Check that, they still are in a must-win scenario. Red Sox Nation is certainly ready to witness the worst today the way the end of August and all of September have gone. They’ve blown a nine game wild-card lead in the span of just 23 days. An elimination from the post-season today would surely put this collapse up there in the forefront of Boston sports disappointment lore. Jon Lester is the man who will try to make everyone in New England forget the long winter ahead should the Sox fail against Orioles starter Alfedo Simon. Lester has the most wins for the Sox this season, while Simon has a record of just 4 and 9 with an earned run average of almost five. There is no way in the world Boston should not win. But it was almost impossible to blow a nine-game lead in 23 days but they managed that!

The Tampa Bay Rays have to be the loosest bunch of this wild-card final four. They were left for dead a month ago, until Boston started regurgitating its win total from earlier in the season. With a win the Rays get another crack to be were they shouldn’t considering their payroll and fan support. David Price who won his last outing against the Yankees takes the hill with Tampa’s season on the line. New York will play its everyday line-up and treat Wednesday like a playoff turn-up. But is that really possible? No way will the Yankees care as much about the season finale as the Rays do, nor will they play like the season is on the line the way the Rays will. Tampa has no fear of New York or the moment, considering their season should have been over a long time ago. Expect the Price to be right today at Tropicana Field.

Oh and by the way, if both the Braves and Cards both win or lose…. And likewise with the Sox and Rays…. There will be a one-game playoff on Thursday between the pairs! Now that’s a wild thought!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What a Wild Ride!

Some of the best music ever made has been titled with the word, “wild” in it. Of course there’s “Wild Thing” by The Troggs in 1966. How about “Born to Be Wild”, of course a Steppenwolf staple from 1967. The 70’s brought us “Wild World” by Cat Stevens and who can forget Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” from 1988. The best sports adaptation in relation to the word, without a doubt has become baseball’s wild card race! In both the National and American League’s, six teams all find their playoff fate resting over the final week of the season. Now what could be wilder than that?

For the Atlanta Braves the wild ride is about over unfortunately. The Braves have been on a downward spiral for the last 20 games, losing 13 of those. They owned a 10 and a half game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild-card standings back on August 25th. That advantage has now dwindled to just one and a half, with six games to play. Atlanta now must finish the season with three games at Washington, then host baseball’s best team the Phillies for the final weekend of the season, not good. The Cardinals have been able to tomo-hawk chop the Braves lead because they have flat out caught fire! Tony LaRussa’s bunch has won a remarkable, 19 of 25 games since August the 25th. They also have the easiest schedule remaining with just one left today at Busch Stadium against the sub-.500 Mets and then they host the Cubs for three before finishing the season at lowly Houston on the final weekend. The Red Birds will most-likely be signing a post-season fight song at the end of the week! Their biggest competition for the spot might be moving up on their shoulder in the defending World Champion Giants. All of a sudden, they’ve won nine of ten and find themselves just three and a half back of the Braves, two behind the Cards. San Francisco has the best pitching out of the three contenders but must still play one game versus the Dodgers today and then three at National League West eventual champion Arizona. Should the Giants still be hanging around over the final weekend, they get three at home against the banged up Colorado Rockies and that will end up a sweep. The champs won’t go down without a fight but this race is the Cardinals to fly away with!

On the American side it’s boo-hoo time in Bean town! Not only are the Red Sox hanging on for their dear life but face it, they don’t deserve a playoff position after the September they’ve recorded in the books. The Sox have dropped 16 of the last 21 games! Talk about a free-fall. Not that long ago, they actually were the East leader over the Yankees and now just two and a half games separate Boston from both Tampa Bay and The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. To make matters worse the Red Sox now have to deal with The Bombers in the Bronx for three and then head to Baltimore for the final weekend of the season. Six games left but who can they turn to? Even ace Josh Beckett got beat yesterday as he succumb to the pressure, blowing a late lead at Fenway Park. Boston held a nine-game lead back on September 3rd over Tampa Bay. While they try to tune out all the talk of choking in their locker room by the media, The Angels certainly aren’t on their side. The Los Angeles Angels of course is to whom I’m referring. The Orange County crew has captured 12 of their last 19 games because that potent line-up is starting help out Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Erving Santana on the hill. The Halos have the best combination of starting pitching and run production out of the three teams in the race. They end their series with the Jays today in Toronto before finishing the year at the Big A with three against Oakland and three against a Texas team who will already have clinched the division. You have to love the Angels remaining schedule as an advantage to them catching and passing Boston and Tampa. Speaking of the Rays, what a run they’ve made but you don’t get to make playoff travel plans for a nice effort. After thumping Boston all around in six head to head games the past week and a half, they’ve now dropped three straight and still have to play the Yankees four more times. Momentum does not seem to be on their side and neither is their ability to score runs with New York or the Angels. If they were playing Boston for another set in the final week, you’d have to like their chances but they’re not. So what a wild fall it could be for the Sox and a wild rally for the Angels. We can only hope, if baseball’s post-season is anything like its wild-card finishes, then the wild ride has just begun!
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Friday, September 16, 2011


View the complete up to the game Wild Card Standings here.

The last time New Englanders were this nervous, Paul Revere was riding around shouting, “The British are coming, the British are coming”! In 2011, there is a tropical storm know as The Tampa Bay Rays that has just landed on the shores of Massachusetts.

For the majority of the season, the Red Sox have either led the American League East or been the wild-card leader. Well, they’re still the wild-card leader but that lead isn’t much to smile about these days if you’re a member of Red Sox Nation.

Just two weeks ago, Boston’s lead over the Rays was nine games back on September 3rd. The Red Sox were riding high, in first place over the Yankees and Tampa was an after thought. But the dog days of August passed and a September swoon has hit Fenway Park! Boston is a pitiful 3-11 this month and has watched the Bronx Bombers pull away in the division. But the bigger problem is now the Rays rest just three games behind and Boston is in serious danger of choking away its wild-card position and the post season!

Just how serious has it gotten? Well Tampa stung the Sox last weekend in Florida, sweeping a three-game set. Last night in Boston, Jeremy Hellickson led the Rays to a 9-2 win, surrendering just three hits and one run in 5 and 2/3rd innings for the win. That was just game one of a four game series this weekend in Beantown! The Rays could actually roll from Yawkey Way with the wild-card race tied if they can sweep! A month ago this would have been unheard of! It’s certainly not out of the question either, considering Tampa has won 10 of the 15 head to head games against the Sox this season. Trying to ease the minds and souls of the Boston faithful tomorrow will be ace Josh Beckett. He returns from an ankle injury but is scheduled to start against Tampa’s James Shields who just beat Boston last weekend at Tropicana Field.

So with a three game lead and just 13 games left to play the numbers still favor Boston don’t they? Not really. The Sox are hitting just .178 against Tampa Bay pitching. That’s the lowest total for a Red Sox team against any opponent, playing at least ten times in 65 years! At Fenway Park that number gets lower to the tune of .162. So besides just hitting the baseball, what else is ailing the Sox? How about back spasms to Big Papi, a sports hernia and bursitis in his left hip that Kevin Youkilis is trying to play through. Beckett has the twisted right ankle and Adrian Gonzalez is dealing with a bad leg. Not the way you envision the end of a season leading to a playoff run. But there is one saving grace for Boston fans ready to take a walk and a leap off the upper deck of the Tobin Bridge into the Mystic River to end it all: the New York Yankees. While the Red Sox play the Baltimore Orioles in seven of their last ten games after the Rays series, Tampa faces the Bronx Bombers in seven of their final ten games. Four of those meetings come at Yankee Stadium as well. So the schedule favors Boston, no matter what happens the rest of this weekend. But if the Red Sox don’t find a way to beat Tampa or start winning some games in the month of September, it won’t matter who the Rays finish the year against. The Orioles will be playing the final days with nothing to lose, kind of the same thing Tampa was doing just a few weeks ago!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Six horse race is down to 2

September’s stretch run in the majors has come down to just two division races that leave something for the imagination. The American League east is once again another race to the finish between the Yankees and Red Sox. But even that race is no fight to the death as both teams will make the post-season, with the loser of the east counting on winning the wild-card spot in the American League. New York has weathered a Boston run to own a two and a half game lead by putting together eight wins over their last ten games. While C.C. Sabathia is once again a Cy Young candidate, with Ivan Nova and Freddie Garcia putting together double-digit win seasons on the mound, The Bronx Bombers sit on top because they do just that, bomb away at the plate! Not even the Phillies offense is close to what the Yankees have done in terms of run differential in 2011. New York has scored 209 runs more this season than it has given up. Boston is second in this statistic but trail the Yanks by over 40 runs. That’s saying a lot about the power of the New York line-up. The bombers have eight players in their line-up with double-digit home runs! That is ridiculous considering Alex Rodriguez; maybe their best power hitter has been hurt for a good portion of the second half of the season. Boston’s three top starters with double-digit wins, Josh Beckett-12, Jon Lester-15 and John Lackey-12, have all given up plenty of long balls as well. This doesn’t bode well for the fight to the division title as the two teams meet up just three more times at Fenway Park. Somehow Boston has won 11 out of the 16 head to head match-ups this year, but New York still leads the division. You just have to figure with the ferociousness of the Yankee offensive attack, should they meet up in the post-season, the run scoring production of the pinstripers, will be too much for the sox to overcome.

The American League west has suddenly become a showdown at the O.K. Corral between the Angels and Rangers. This race has a lot more at stake because the loser will be watching in October. Like the Yankees – Red Sox, the Rangers have produced a run differential number that is hard to ignore. The Texas offense has nearly outscored its opponents by one hundred more runs than the Angels. But this head to head match-up is almost even at 9-7 Rangers. Like Boston, the Halos top pitchers are starting to show some strain. Jered Weaver, Edwin Santana and Dan Haren have all had to throw recently on shorter rest and its show in their performances. Pitch counts are high for all three at the end of the season, but manager Mike Scioscia really has no choice. When one of those three starters are on the bump, the Angels are 56-36. If not, the record is an ugly 25-29. Those numbers won’t catch the defending A.L. Champs down the stretch run. Texas right now is hanging on with one major advantage besides its offense. Manager Ron Washington seems to be able to turn to any of his five starters and receive a quality start, or least a performance to give him a chance to win. C.J. Wilson, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Derrick Holland and Colby Lewis have all notched double digit wins. Another Ranger plus, they’ve been there before. Last season’s victory over the Yankees and World Series appearance no doubt is going a long way in the confidence department. These two squads play each other three more times in the final three games of the season. The Angels can only hope to hang around long enough to make it come down to that!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cy Young award anyone's race in the NL but AL is all but engraved

Baseball’s Cy Young races have become about as different as striking out the side and a bases loaded walk. On the national side the top dogs keep switching the top spot with a chance for any of four hurlers to take home the hardware. In the American League there is one arm that continues to separate himself, from the rest of the competition and the league in general.

Out of the contenders in the National League, Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw plays for the worst team, that gives him the least amount of run support. But that didn’t stop him early in the season and it’s only made him stronger during the dog days of August. In his last 13 starts dating back to June, the Los Angeles ace has been simply awesome! How does a 10-2 record with a 1.65 era sound? He’s fanned 105 hitters in just 98 innings while walking just 19. He has averaged at least 7 and a third innings per start over that stretch, not allowing an earned run in six of those starts. But he hasn’t just come on since June. Prior to that, he posted a 6-3 record while only surrendering an era of 2.62. All this, on a Dodgers squad that only recently hit its hottest streak of the season, winning 11 of its last 15 games. Kershaw is the National League front-runner despite any debate.

Not far behind of course is Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay. At 16-5 with an earned run average of 2.47 for the season, Kershaw can feel the right-handers breath on the back of his neck he’s so close. While the numbers are comparable one advantage the Phillies number one does have is the way he’s performed in that little league field known as Citizen’s Bank Park. Without a doubt Halladay pitches his home games in a hitter-friendly stadium but it hasn’t blown his numbers up. A disadvantage compared to Kershaw, he plays for the better team by far. They score more runs, play better defense and the Philadelphia bull-pin despite the injuries is far superior to the Dodgers. But neither of these guys has needed much help in 2011.

Getting himself back in the conversation is Philadelphia teammate Cliff Lee. He’s August has been the best in baseball in either league! The left-hander posted a record of 5-0 with an earned run average of 0.58! That is an amazing statistic. It’s similar to his June performance of 5-0, allowing just one run in 42 innings of work. So your asking, why isn’t he the front-runner? Well his July was rocky at best; as he lost three out of five and surrendered 39 runs in just 33 innings pitched. But is 15-7 mark continues to pick up steam.

The odd man out in the National League now is the San Francisco freak, Tim Lincecum. Despite his record of 12-11 which in the most part is the fault of his teammates lacking ability to score runs, he was right in the mix. Before his last start against the Chicago Cubs, the two-time defending National League Cy Young winner had given up just eight runs over his last nine starts. Now the Giants won six of those games, while scoring only 19 runs, that’s how good Lincecum was in that stretch. But on August 29th, the Cubbies roped him for six hits in six innings of work with four earned runs. Lincecum was also lit up for three homers in a game for the first time in his career. Add in the Giants fall to six games back in the West and his bid for a third straight award is all but over.
The American League leader hasn’t had any meltdowns, bad months or injuries for that matter. Detroit’s Justin Verlander has been on a mission since opening day. He sports a major league best 20-5 record, with a 2.38 era, just as smidge higher than the Angels Jered Weaver. Besides wins, he’s the American League leader in strikeouts with 218 and quality starts, 26 of 29 possible. Oh did I forget to mention he threw a no-hitter back in May and how about an 11-1 record against division opponents. He is the reason for the Tigers dominance in the American League Central, which now makes him a complete most valuable player candidate. With that talk surfacing in the American League, no way he doesn’t win the Cy Young unless he completely falls apart in September. Don’t hold you breathe, that’s for hitters in the American League stepping to the plate at Comerica Park when Verlander is on the mound.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Heroes and Goats of the stretch run

The craziness that is baseball’s dog days of August have now been in full swing for over three weeks. We’ve watched the Giants fall from the beanstalk at the top of the National League West. Seen the Diamondbacks show a resilient bite with a bunch of unsung big leaguers led by a crusty, stubborn but respected former World Series MVP. As usual the A.L. East has turned into the annual New York – Boston two-man game of musical chairs swapping the division lead until the tunes run out in September. Just when you thought the sheriff had returned to claim the A.L. West again, the Texas Rangers after taking three of four from the Angels in Anaheim, upping their lead to six games, get shot down in five of the last seven. The Halos then suddenly found their wings, winning six straight cutting that lead back down to just two and a half games, with a three game series in Arlington starting on Friday.

There was finally a Carlos Beltran sighting in San Francisco. Since being traded for from the Mets, he’s helped the Giants lose a three game lead to now trail by two. Now, to his defense he has missed the last 13 games with a wrist injury but the patients of Giants fans was running out and he was no longer considered the San Francisco treat! That is until he roped a Tim Stauffer pitch into the right field arcade at AT&T Park for his first home run in orange and black. The solo shot broke a scoreless tie and helped Tim Lincecum win a
2-1 victory. As fans of the defending champs were starting to turn from the free love, costume wearing, first-time winners, into a talk radio lynch mob, with Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and even Cody Ross headed up the steps for a good hanging; Beltran just bought himself at least a couple more losses with his home run.

In Boston the five tool guys, appear to have found their hammer! Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury combined for eight hits, including two home runs, six runs scored, eight RBIs and two stolen bases, while helping the Red Sox to back-to-back wins against the Rangers, including a 13-2 beat down Wednesday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Ellsbury has been consistent to the point that the MVP talk continues in New England. But if Crawford, who hitting .346 over his last seven games comes on like this, the Yankees will be eating New York wild-card cheesecake in a few weeks.

Right now no one is flying higher with his home fans than Anaheim Angel Jered Weaver. The Southern California native has become a hero on and off the field at the Big A. He gave up possibly millions just the other day to sign a contract extension, instead of testing free agency after next season like his agent Scott Boras recommended. He’s reasoning, there’s no place like home. It was that simple and Halo fans love him for it. Then he turns around on the field and tosses seven innings of four-hit shutout baseball for an 8-0 Angels win over the White Sox, their sixth in a row. The victory moves Anaheim within just two and half games of division leader Texas. Dream Weaver’s record is now an outstanding 15-6 and he’s not just an angel to the Orange County fans, he’s a God.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Diamondbacks strike a Giant move in N.L. West

While the Yankees and Red Sox continue to fight it out in the A.L. East, probably to the final week and no one seems to be able to, “hold that Tiger” in the A.L. Central, it’s the N.L. West where a wild turn has taken place, in baseball’s tight races. Just three weeks ago the defending World Champion Giants held a three game lead in the division. Management added slugger Carlos Beltran, after putting 2nd baseman Jeff Keppinger’s name on the roster. San Francisco appeared ready to make a “giant” push into the post-season and go after a serious run for back to back titles. Like the fog rolling in at AT&T Park on a fall night, it’s amazing how quickly things can change.

There are still 39 games left in the division race and the regular season. But with just six games remaining between the Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks, it’s last year’s division winner who will have to play catch up! Not only has Arizona won seven straight games and turned a three game deficit into a three and a half game lead, but they’ve done it with clutch hitting not incredible pitching, which is usually baseball’s formula for fall success. The Snakes have come from behind in six of their last eight victories! That’s the type of energy that breeds the attitude that, “we’re always in the game”! Believing you can win is half the battle for a young team like the Diamondbacks, who seem to grow a little bit with each and every victory. On Tuesday night at Citizen’s Bank Park, Arizona trailed the National League’s top pitcher Roy Halladay and baseball top team, the Phillies, 2-1 heading into the top of the 9th. Nine out of ten times that game is over, especially when Doc Halladay had retired the last 12 hitters entering the final three outs. But after starting the inning with two singles, newcomer Lyle Overbay stepped up and crushed a one-out double to right-center field. Both Justin Upton and Collin Cowgill scored as Arizona again rallied for the 3-2 win. Sure four D-Backs pitchers held the Fightin’ Phils to just nine hits and two runs, but how about those clutch at bats in the 9th?

Meanwhile in Atlanta the tables continue to turn on the Giants. After back to back one-run loses, San Francisco is now 2-3 on its ten game road trip. They’ve lost 13 of their last 18 games overall and have dropped to 3-5 in one-run games in the second half of the season. This is a far change of direction and chemistry from a team that won 24 of 36, one-run games in the first half of the year. The biggest problem has been lurking in the dugout for sometime, a lack of offense. Over the last 18 games, the Giants have averaged just 2.4 runs per game. The big hits Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff contributed last season in the title run are now few and far between. Add in the fact only pitchers Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong have consistently given the team long outings and you’re begging to win three out of every five games from your starters. Add in the fact the newly acquired Beltran, brought in specifically to land the big hit missing from the attack is now on the disabled list with a wrist problem and it’s all adding up to the Giants fantasy from a year ago, slowly coming to a wake-up call.

There is still time for the Giants to make up a small three and a half game deficit, especially with six meeting still to take place between the first and second place teams. But as baseball’s dog days of August continue to roll on, it’s the defending champs with their injuries and fortunes turning, who are on the verge of being “snake-bit” for the division title and a spot in baseball’s post-season.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Giants Escape Brawl Unscathed

While the Philadelphia Phillies backed their play on the scoreboard, winning three of four from the San Francisco Giants last weekend, off the field they took a beating in the post-brawl suspension game. The Flying Hawaiian, Shawn Victorino is going to have enough time to visit the island after getting slapped with a three-game vacation which he is appealing. What is appalling, none of the Giants players will be missing any game time!
Not pitcher Ramon Ramirez, nor catcher Eli Whiteside or infielder Pablo Sandoval. You have to remember this was a punch-less bench clearing encounter so how can one man be the fall guy?

At the scene of the crime, the Giants were again getting their behinds handed to them 8-2 in the 6th inning on Friday night. They had already gotten beat the previous night 3-0, in front of over 42-thousand fans at AT&T Park. After Jimmy Rollins stole second and Placido Polanco reached on an infield hit, San Francisco reliever Ramon Ramirez hit Victorino square in the back. The Philadelphia Centerfielder, who had already homered in the game and singled earlier, took about four steps towards the mound before Whiteside jumped in front of him. As others including home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski stepped into the space between Victorino and Ramirez, Whiteside who’d been jumping around like a prize fighter, tackled Polanco and the benches ended up clearing to the field. In the scrum, no real punches were thrown with the exception of the one Sandoval got away with in the middle of the melee. Victorino did end up eventually in the middle of it all after a second effort to get away from several peace makers but did no harm to the opposition.

9-2 ended up being the final score as the Phillies went on to win three of the four games in the series. But on the brawl scoreboard, Victorino paid the price for just taking a few steps towards the mound. No charge, no pointing, no threats. Apparently he just wanted to know why Ramirez hit him. The three main Giants involved all received undisclosed fines but how they escape without missing game time is a mystery to all expect themselves. “Victorino's aggressive actions prolonged the bench-clearing incident between the Clubs," the commissioner's office said in announcing the penalties. As expected the Giants had no problem with the final decision on the incident. "I thought it was well done," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of MLB's decisions. "And I'm not saying that because we didn't have any suspensions. It was pretty clean out there." Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel had a different point of view. "They were the ones that provoked it." "Vic probably felt like he had to stand up for himself. Usually when you get into things like that on the field, and you get into a little pushing and fighting, whatever you want to call it, somebody gets suspended. And when you get one of your front-line players suspended, it hurts the team of course because of the games they miss. But it's good that it was just one guy."

While the Phillies end up with a four out of seven season series wins, this could just be a warm-up once again for the National League Championship Series. The Giants shocked the world last post-season with their upset in the NLCS. But this time come October, the victory they just won in brawl-gate, might be their last over the Fightin’ Phils.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

With 2/3rds of the season behind us all but one divsion is up for grabs

With roughly 56 games remaining in the 2011 Major League season, we are looking at a shootout at the O.K. Corral, baseball style! All of the contenders re-armed in different ways, hoping to bring in enough ammunition to get them over the top and into the post-season. Before yesterday’s trade deadline, there were eight teams in both the American and National League’s with legit shots at playing playoff baseball. Almost all of them did a little something in terms of adding personnel in order to make that final push!

In the American League East as always it’s a two team race. The Red Sox hold a slim two-game advantage on the Yankees, while the Bronx Bombers appear to have the wild-card spot all but lassoed-up with an eight game margin in front of the Angels in the loss column. Boston beefed up its staff with the addition of Eric Bedard from Seattle while also removing Jon Lester from the disabled list. On the flip side the back injury to Right-hander Clay Buchholz if serious, could make the Bedard move a wash overall. The surprise move might be that the Yankees decided to do nothing. Many thought the struggling Ubaldo Jimenez might look good in pinstripes and the change of scenery might do him good as well. But Yankee brass decided against the move and he landed in Cleveland. In a close race where anything can happen, you have to like the Red Sox here for not staying pat.

The Central is Detroit’s to win but Cleveland and Chicago are for real with Minnesota needing a lot of good fortune at seven games back. The Tribe made the latest splash with the pick-up of Jimenez in a five player swap, while also snatching outfielder Kosuke Fukudome from the Chicago Cubs. The first place Tigers must feel good about their slim two and a half game lead, because they didn’t re-load at all. But when you’re throwing A.L. CY Young leader Justin Verlander, and backing him with both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello both 11 game winners, you have good reason to feel confident. Besides taking John Danks off the disabled list the White Sox did nothing and it will take more magic than Ozzie Guillen has to win the division with the current squad.

The wild-west is once again a two-team race with the defending A.L. Champion Rangers holding off the Angels by just two games. They also did their best to make sure nothing changes with the acquisitions before Sunday’s deadline. Of course getting Mike Adams from the Padres was the marquee move they needed for the bullpen. But in also picking up reliever Koji Uehara turned their team weakness into strength. After this the Angels probably will need divine intervention to win the West.

Turning to the National League East the Phillies appear to be a lock for the division while the Braves have to be considered the wild-card favorite. Philadelphia’s move to grab Hunter Pence might have been a reaction to counter the San Francisco Giants acquisition of Carlos Beltran for another N.L.C.S showdown. But the bottom line is it gives Philadelphia another solid right-handed at bat for the stretch run, who will be able to deal with left-handed pitchers from both the Braves and Giants in the post-season. Let’s not forget Philly also appears to have a healthy Shane Victorino in the line-up. We’ll see how their next series with the Giants in the Bay Area turns out. As far as the Braves are concerned, no doubt with both Nate McLouth and Brian McCann on the disabled list, Atlanta might find itself not holding the wildcard spot for long in the National League, despite the speedy Michael Bourne in the line-up fresh out of Houston.

The Central is indeed the race to watch! The Milwaukee Brewers hold a slim lead of just two and a half games, but the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are all in the hunt. Everybody tried to improve their chances for a division title. The Brew-Crew added infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. The Red Birds traded for shortstop Rafael Furcal. The Reds dealt outfielder Jonny Gomes for outfielder Bill Rhinehart and left-handed pitcher Chris Manno. The Bucs big move brings in hard-hitting outfielder Ryan Ludwick from San Diego. This division will be the hottest race down the stretch because even the third place Pirates and fourth place Reds are capable of making runs to the top of the division with plenty of time left! It is truly up for grabs in the Central.

The West is all about the defending World Champion Giants and second place Diamondbacks, now just two games behind. San Francisco picked up Beltran as we stated earlier and also shortstop Orlando Cabrera to probably take over the position for an aging and injured Miguel Tejada. Beltran is off to a terrible start in four games with just two hits and one run batted in. This is indeed the Giants weakness, hitting and if he can’t come through their chances of winning both the division and the pennant go way down. Arizona made some moves of it’s own on the hill. The D-Backs traded for starting pitcher Jason Marques and reliever Brad Ziegler. They are now better equipped to deal with the Giants pitching-wise head to head, but the injury to Stephen Drew might have been the game changer as far as the division goes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Derek Jeter Misses an Opportunity

In a career where his pinstripes have fit perfectly, his hat always on straight and his words have never gotten him in trouble, Yankee Derek Jeter committed an error last night. It wasn’t a misplayed ground ball. It wasn’t a bad throw to first or a failed turn for a double play. No, The Captain’s error came away from the field, because he was away from the field. The Yankee Shortstop decided to skip the 82nd All-Star game in Phoenix due to exhaustion. Jeter was flat out tired after his quest to become the first Yankee to reach three-thousand hits, which he obtained on Saturday in grand fashion hitting a home run for number three-triple-zero.

Jeter also had other reasons to rest beside the mental toll he spent on his quest for Yankee immortality. He just returned to the Bronx Bomber line-up after a stint on the disabled list due to an injured calf muscle. At 37, injuries are nothing to take lightly especially in the calf area. With the Yankees one game out of first place in the American League East, the last thing they need is for Jeter to miss significant time in the season’s second half with a flare up from the previous injury. You can bet New York Manager Joe Girardi and his Yankee teammates had no problem with their leader not catching a plane to Sky Harbor Airport.

But the task of reaching three-thousand hits just four days ago, and the risk of injury which can happen anywhere at anytime are exactly two reasons Jeter should have suited up for the Mid-Summer Classic. Can you imagine the standing ovation this guy would have gotten even from even a Pro-National League crowd at Chase Field? Talk about perfect timing after reaching one of the highest plateaus in all sports! A packed house on national television, with nothing else taking place in the entire Sports World! The entire pre-game could have been his personal showcase in honor of his entire 16 year career in the big leagues. Despite being a fan favorite across the entire nation with maybe the exception of New England, who’s to say Jeter won’t suffer a major injury in the coming twilight of his career that will prevent him from playing another all-star game, even with the fans voting him in?

No athlete can outplay and outrun father time forever and Derek Jeter’s lead on the old man is starting to shorten. Would he trade in his health and a sixth Yankee Championship under his watch, for yesterday’s all-star classic? Of course not, who would take that deal? But what if there are no more championship rings for Jeter’s jewelry box? The all-star stage is arguably the next best thing and the timing will never be better than it was last night. It’s all too bad, because the fans missed his pinstripes, hat and name on the back of his jersey. The American League missed his bat, glove and overall aura Jeter brings, when he steps onto the field.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

San Francisco will need more than Giant breaks this fall

No, there wasn’t anything wrong with you television. With high-definition we all saw it crystal clear. San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson striking out Nelson Cruz to win the first World Series Title for the Giants since their move from New York. 1954 was a long time ago with the Say-Hey Kid and an upset over the Cleveland Indians. So long ago, most fans of the orange and black couldn’t believe what the just witnessed. But it did happen although not without quite a few things going the right way besides an alignment of the stars beyond the Milky Way.

The Giants had to battle all the way to the final game of the regular season and beat the San Diego Padres to clinch the N.L. West title. The hero of that nail-biter was pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Not only did he pitch well, but added an RBI triple to jump-start an often stagnate Giants offense. Once in the post-season, San Francisco after losing home-field advantage to the Atlanta Braves, received help from Atlanta second-baseman Brooks Conrad who committed three errors in game three, helping the Giants retake the series advantage as they advanced to the National League Championship Series. Once in Philadelphia, the unthinkable took place as Roy Halladay gave up a pair of homers to Cody Ross of all people and once again the Giants grabbed momentum and never let up. In the Fall Classic, you just knew it was San Francisco’s Series to lose when Ian Kinsler’s shot off Matt Cain should have given the Texas Rangers a 1-0 lead in the 5th inning of game two. Instead, an inch of the pad on top of the wall kept the ball inside of AT&T Park. Kinsler would end up stranded and the Giants would go on to take a 2-0 series lead and the rest of course is history. Talk about the baseball God’s putting a team in their good graces.

Now in giving the Giants their due, the pitching of the San Francisco staff made all of those breaks hold up. But that was last year and this season things are already quite different. The Giants still lead the worst division in baseball, the N.L. West by a game over the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the starting pitching has not been as over-powering as last year. Take for example Tim Lincecum’s 6-7 record with the all-star break a week away. Cain, the number two man in the rotation is just 7-5. If it weren’t for the miracle comeback of Ryan Vogelsong’s first half, the Giants wouldn’t be in first place. Not trying to nibble on the pitching too much, but this season out of Brian Wilson’s 24 saves very few have been clean and without the opposition threatening to comeback with men on base.

Offensively the Buster Posey injury was a killer! Not only was he the most valuable player to the team offensively but no one could steal bases with him behind the dish. Injuries to Pablo Sandoval and Freddie Sanchez have kept both of them from consistently producing solid numbers. Juan Uribe’s bat is now in Los Angeles, which is a good thing for Giants fans, while Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell have both come down to earth from clutch years at the plate in 2010.
These Giants do have nine walk-off wins so far this season. But what you see by looking closer at this version of the Giants is very clear on your 60 inch high-def at home. Unless the defending champs pick up their level of play in the second half of the season in all areas, the Baseball Gods will not have enough charity this time around, to get them a repeat come October.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How long will it take for baseball to strike out McCourt?

When will this non-sense stop? How can one of the most storied sports franchises in all of The major sports, be belly-up? Well, here’s how. You have the governing body of the sport Major League Baseball, decide to let someone with bad credentials and a sketchy financial history, buy the team. Then that owner decides behind closed doors to spend the franchises money on houses, trips, personal items and keeping his greedy wife happy. Only when the marriage to the greedy wife goes belly-up, does the dirt surface to the top and here we are.

So the Dodgers, the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of six championships in the City of Angels are broke. Owner Frank McCourt has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The motive behind the move of course is so the most hated man in Southern California can meet the teams payroll for June 30th. The club will receive 150 million in Debtor in Possession financing. This will allow the players, venders, workers and everyone else involved to be paid, while the club can continue to function. What is also does, is buys MCBROKE, time to try and convince Baseball’s commissioner Bud Selig to let him do a multi-billion dollar television deal with a network to bring instant income to the Dodgers financial state.

This is where baseball and the commish need to strike MCBROKE out once and for all. First of all, the bankruptcy of the club cannot possibly be in the best interest of baseball. I don’t care if it was Selig’s blockage of MCBROKE’S Fox Deal that put these wheels in motion. That was done because the commish doesn’t trust the owner after the word came out during his divorce he was using Dodgers money to finance his lifestyle. Why should baseball give this guy a free pass to first,when all these troubles were brought on by himself? It shouldn’t plain and simple. Selig should use the bankruptcy as enough evidence that it would be in the best interest of baseball for the leagueto take over the franchise. Now this will most likely happen, but it needs to happen now!

Dodger fans are among the most loyal in the sport. The club hasn’t won a World Series title since 1988. 22 years is a long time in any league, yet fans have rolled through the gates of their blue heaven at at Chavez Ravine at a clip of over three-million a year, up until this mess of 2011. Now the home base is basically boycotting the franchise to the tune of thousands of empty seats in one of the most pristine stadiums in the bigs. For Dodger fans to put their wallets down is really saying somethingin itself. Now it’s time for Mr. Selig to back the fans play and boot MCBROKE out of the game for

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Monday, June 27, 2011

McCort takes MLB to court but not before he BK’s one of it’s most storied franchises

The LA Dodgers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court Monday, sighting Major League Baseball for refusing to approve a multibillion-dollar TV deal that owner Frank McCourt was counting on to keep the troubled team afloat. Chapter 11 allows for the Dodgers to continue daily operations or around 150 million, providing them with some breathing room to pursue a media deal that could pump about 60 million up front, no doubt most of which will wind up being divided between the McCourts. It also will by Frank Mac time to get the house in order and possibly come out of this still holding the reigns of the horse. However there are two big hurdles in the way, one that Fox is against McCourt trying to push a deal through even though they now have all of the negotiating power as the deal could be worth up to 3 Billion with $385million up front. Both parties have said the deal would facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt", yea ya think? It would pretty much bail him out, but the second hurdle could be too high overcome, the fact that Mlb holds the right to terminate a franchise once it files for bk, and it’s no secret Selig and Frank are not drinking buddies, so for the second time in one inning McCourt could be gunned down at the plate with a chance to score a major run. In any case this has been a farce from the beginning. I realize there are some major cons to business ownership of a franchise, but some of the worst travesties have come at the heels of personal ownership (ie; the fire sale of the Oakland A’s in the 70’s at the hands of Charlie Finley) and the fact the one of MLB’s most storied franchises is being dismantled because of a lover’s quarrel makes a mockery of the great American pastime. Only in Hollywood could something like this play out, could you imagine the McCourts being able to show their face on streets of New York after 12 noon if they did this to the Yankees? Rest assured Bud will have a counter strike planned and hopefully the bad soap opera will be put to rest for the good of a potentially great ball club, and the betterment of the league.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interleague play survives the schedule challenges

The interleague schedule was facing some serious challenges with the ‘dogs of chance’ as the most of the last place or fledgling clubs were scheduled with non-rivalry competition. IE; DBacks / Royals (19k tickets sold), Florida/LAAngels (17k), and Rockies/ Indians (15k) but other than those MLB has made another case in point how valuable inter-league play is. Aberrations like the Last place A’s taking on the Mets drew 37k paid, and even the last place, 10-games out Orioles drew 33k paid (38 total) against the Pirates on a Tuesday so if this group of games was the big concern then Selig now has some money in the bank. Cornerstones like Cards/Phillies (40K), Cubs/White Sox (35k) delivered despite challenging weather, and attendance strongholds like LA (38k vs. Detroit) and Boston (38K vs. last place San Diego) can always be counted on to tow the company line. The games did their best to help out as five of the twelve games were within one run, so despite the fact that there was no sell-outs per say, the attendance wasn’t the disappointment expected and the fans were treated to some pretty good baseball.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Where have all the cowboys gone? Nowhere, you just have look a little harder.

There were tons of question marks at the beginning season particularly from the staples of MLB, is the clock on the Yankees ticking? Are the Rays the Florida Marlins of this decade as the quintessential ‘rent a team’ as they were being dismantled after letting most of their high priced talent go in a fire sale. How would Albert perform under the cloud of a contract negotiation this season? Despite all of their young talent would the Dodgers be able to make a playoff push amid the soap opera divorce of the McCorts? Even more intriguing were the individual player stories, Jeter vs. the front office, Pujols vs. the accountants, Manny vs. himself, and that has overshadowed the teams themselves. Well to surmise, Jeter is having the type of season that will provide the GM with plenty of fodder to critique how he spends his time off. A .260 batting average, only 16 RBIs, 2 HR, in 55 games is hardly what you expect from the face of the franchise. Also not going out in grand fashion is Jorge Posada who is relegated to 3rd on the catching depth chart and functioning as the DH, hitting a paltry .178 with 6 jacks. What about the characters from last year’s post season? “The Beard” has had health problems and has only pitched 27 innings this season with a less than astonishing era of 3.00, Series darling Buster Posey is out for the rest of the season after a controversial collision at the plate, Josh Hamilton has just gotten back into the lineup after a long hiatus for injury and has only played in 23 games this season. Albert Pujols has come on to be tied for fifth in NL with 13 HRs but .278 and only 7 doubles is hardly a MVP type season. So if you’re in the camp that there are no more heros left we’ve got some that should be garnishing your attention, and your All-Star votes. The Dodgers duo of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier; Kemp has a shot at the triple-crown as he leads the NL in RBIs, is 2nd in Home Runs with 16, and is fifth in batting average at .323. His Dodger partner Ethier has already had a 20+ game hitting streak , is just above him in average at .325 is simply a nightmare against right handed pitching. Curtis Granderson NYY, his 17 HRs have been an added bonus that they didn’t expect, but his exciting play (5 triples, 9 sbs, and great defense) are the intangibles that he brings to the table. Jose Bautista .348, nuf’ said normally but in addition to living in the elite neighborhood of .400, how about 20 HR’s, 40 RBIs, and almost reaching base 50% of the time. David Price – Tampa Bay – how great is this kid to watch? The 26-year old may only be 6-5 but he’s one behind the league leaders for wins and is doing it without much in the way of run support. A 3.338 ERA is not the greatest but the kid gives the Rays a chance to win every time he goes out by going almost 7+ innings per outing. Michael Pineda – Seattle Mariners – A win/loss of 6-2, an ERA of 2.30, the 22-year old is a big reason the mariners are closer to the top of the AL West than they have been since Jr. graced center field for the first time. His walks and hits per innings pitched (WHIPs) is 1.00 and among the best in the league. I think we need to treat a .267 hitter like a .267 hitter regardless of what his name is. I love Ichiro as much as the next fan who is a statistician and appreciates consistency, but he could be having an off year but at 37 just not the same player. Same as DJ, at .260, 2HR, at 14.7 mill, love the history and how he’s one of the faces of the game but we’ve got plenty of great players putting up good numbers and now it’s the opposite of what things were a few years back, when I look at Bautista’s .348 average and 20 jacks, I think he’s 100% clean simply because you can’t get away with that stuff anymore, and I respect his numbers even more. I like the direction the League is going and you should too. There’s plenty of players to like and great ball being played even in the names on the backs of the unis are not as familiar.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Interleague 2011 – why are we still debating if this is a good thing?

Is there such a baseball thing as a baseball “purist”? If so, would they even still be watching MLB? I would think between collective bargaining, strikes, and steroids they would have transferred their interest elsewhere by now, but maybe that’s not the case. It seems every year for the last 15 seasons we listen to people complain about the changes it puts the club through, how the batting line-up is affected, or the pitching staff needs another series to get back to normal etc., and now that the scheduling doesn’t make sense. Ok, I get the argument that if you’re matched up with another division, then you should play EVERY club in that division at least once, similar to the NFL. I also understand the one of the main draws to inter-league scheduling are the rivalry matchups (ie; Yankees/Mets, Dodgers/Angeles, Cards, Royals) so there are going to be some pairings that must compensate but a simple solution is instead of the Cubs playing a three game set with the Mariners, make it two. I understand that if you take a game away from one club to accommodate a rivalry there could be some serious ripple effects as your extrapolate it out for instance this season the Mets play 15 games against AL clubs with a .500 record or better opposed to the Nats that play none and that’s why the system might need to be tweaked just a bit. However, you have to remember that the Colorado Rockies are not going to have a rivalry series nor are the Mariners or Nats, so not everyone is going to love shaking things up, but c’mon even fans in those markets who are sick of the fact that they don’t get any love nationwide, will still tune in to see the Yanks n’ Mets, Cubs n’ Sox, and Dodgers/Angels. MLB learned from the NBA and NFL that you have to get your marquis clubs and start players in markets that would never get a chance to see them play with the exception of a World Series because as we know, that could take a hundred years and most of us don’t have that long (no pun Cubs fans).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

These division races will have more turns than Indy

AL West – Top to Bottom 3.5 game separation – The Angles ma lead at the time this was written but it is subject to change on an hourly basis. .556 is the worst of all six division leaders, and a 8-9 home record is as well, but they’re doing it on the road (.631) and you know that .470 record will not last at the Big A. Oakland is right behind them just a game back with a very similar resume, 8-9 at home and 11-9 on the road, but have won 3 of their last 4 including 2/3 with KC, and a split with Cleveland (funny when was the last time that would have been impressive?) , and have taken the first of 3 with the Rangers. Of course the talk of the town is Trevor Cahill who has improved to 6-0 with an ERA of 1.72 it’s a good thing they brought him as his six wins are just about a third of the club’s total. The defending AL Champs got out to the good start but now are just 18-18 after dropping 7 of 10. The loss of Big Josh is really starting to show now as they could sure use the added stick in the lineup as they are just +7 on run differential (and that’s with being 3rd in runs and slugging pct)but the timely hitting just isn’t there like it was last year. Then there’s Seattle just 3.5 back but in this division it must seem like 12. I just want to see Ichiro in the post season ONE TIME before he enters the Hall. It would be a shame not to see him play seven games in a row that actually mean something.

NL Central – Top to Bottom 7 game separation – The Cardinals have rebounded from a very inauspicious start to lead the division at the 35-game mark and even without Albert being Albert (just .248 this season) the Cards are still top in MLB in three of the four major offensive categories and 2nd in the fourth. A positive run differential of 44 is best in the and second only to the Indians (yes, Indians!) in the league. Conventional wisdom would figure when they get healthy between the ears they’ll extend the lead but they have a mob chasing them. Cincinnati is right behind them just a game back and will pay a visit to the Arch this weekend for a three-game set, and just down the road a three-game interleague showdown with their Ohio rivals, the Indians, who just happen to have the best record in baseball. The Pirates have been called the worst franchise in all of team sports and they’re working hard to banish that dubious claim to fame and this year has been a step in the right direction as they play hard, exciting baseball and do it more with speed and consistency than with the long ball. The closest to the top they’ve been since Barry had a 30-inch waist, they’ve won 3 straight and with seven games coming up with the Brewers, Nats, and Reds can actually be sitting on top of the division by May 19th.

Up next.....the AL East.
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