Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MLB Looking to go Back to the Future

May not be the best on Paper but you can’t deny they both deserve to be here. Game 1 of the 2012 World Series kicks off Wednesday night and the jury is still out on how compelling of series it will be for fans outside of the competing cities as it will not have the lure of the big name clubs that the Mothership loves to spoon feed us on a weekly basis (ie; Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, etc), or the biggest names but bias aside it will have the teams that best deserve to be there. I’ve read the post on this site as well as others across the net and understand the “best on paper” argument but this isn’t the NCAA Basketball tournament where it’s one-n-done. If you get beat by a team 3 times (DS) or 4 times (CS) they’re simply better than you. The Nats fans have ranted about if they didn’t shut Stass’ down, the Reds fans have countered with 97 wins in the most competitive division in baseball, and of course the Cards have those lovely patches on their sleeves that will now need to go to the tailors before the start of next season. However in the spirit of the debate season let me simply cut you off mid-sentence and say if you lose three closeout games in your own house, blow a 6 run lead in a deciding game, or blow 3-1 lead with your ace taking the bump in any of next 3, you deserve to watch from the comfort of your own home. One the other side, if your payroll is half the national debt and but your batting average in the post season is less than Justin Bieber’s weight you’re not going to be playing much winter ball. Hats off to the A’s fans again trying to urge the little train that could up the hill, and Orioles fans for a second great stretch run but that just shows you how step that hill is to get to top. The Rangers are coming dangerously close to the textbook definition of “Braveish” as they now appear to have the best regular season team in AL history but never stick around for the after- hours party. So let’s give kudos to the clubs that answered the call as the Giants’ run to this point has rivaled any that we’ve witnessed. Not just because of the afore mentioned comeback in the NLCS, starting with 16-1 odds to start the season, then losing the All-Star and team MVP mid-way through while increasing their division lead after he went down despite a “Yankee like” spending spree by the Dodgers to take the division in a 1-n-done effort, and lastly to go 6-0 in elimination games in the post season and outscoring their opponents 45-16 in the process. The Tigers were three games back of the Sox in the AL Central in Mid-September and 5 games out of the wild card race. They only 12-7 to end the season but then kicked it into another gear in the post going 7-2. Also sharing the distinction of starting the season with outside odds to get to the show at 14-1. As the Series kicks off tonight let’s not think about whom we would have wanted to see and instead appreciate the fact that these are the two clubs that are playing the best RIGHT NOW and should be representing their respective leagues in what should be a very competitive and well played series that true enthusiast of the game will appreciate. Now unlike most of you that read blogs and view websites, I am old enough to remember the 1-70 “show me series” between the Royals and Cards that turned out to be a 7-game thriller that not many outside of the mid-west turned on to see but wish they had, 23 years later this could be one worthy of a nickname as well.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Steinbrenner rolling over in his grave

Well, that was a thud, crash and burn that a few years ago would have had “The Boss”, thundering down from his owner’s suite into the Yankee clubhouse with the scythe of the grim reaper himself! After a season of winning the A.L. East on the last day of the regular season and then advancing to the League Championship Series by capturing a deciding game five at home, the Bronx Bomber collapsed in the ALCS, getting swept by the Detroit Tigers 4-0. On the route of the carnage, one very valuable broken ankle, along with a lot of broken bats and egos! So as always, unlike any other franchise is baseball, when the Yankee machine breaks down before the mission is complete, immediately the questions are raised what needs to change and who needs to go? Obviously taking the brunt of the Yanks demise is Alex Rodriguez and he should. A-Rod or maybe it really should be A-Roid; by the way his numbers continue to decline overall, since admitting his performance enhancing drug use several years ago was flat out awful and ended up having the best seat in the house to watch his team’s season end. Rodriguez finished the ALCS in a pinch-hitting role after being benched three times, twice in elimination games and being pinch-hit for in the divisional series. The one-time superstar went 0-18 versus right-handed pitching with 12 strikeouts this postseason. If manager Joe Girardi felt the Yanks chances were better without A-Rod now, why wouldn’t they be later? Well the answer is they probably would be, at least for the amount of money Rodriguez is making and still owed which is a huge problem for the organization. Under his current deal, Rodriguez is still owed 114-million dollars over the next five seasons! That would make him 42 years old when the deal ends, comical isn’t it? Not if you’re a Yankees fan or in the New York front office. The only solutions for the Bombers to this huge problem are the following; find a suitor who is willing to take him off their hands like the Florida Marlins and pay the majority of his remaining salary, which would probably be anywhere from 80 to 100 million dollars without getting much in return or continue to run him out there at third base and hope what happened in the post-season was just a bad slump at the wrong time. A-Rod is not as bad as what we just saw in October but truth be told, he is also not the same player that came over from the Texas Rangers what seems like many moons ago in 2003. In 21 post-season games between 2010 and 2012, Rodriguez is hitting a putrid .160! Over the course of 162 games when healthy, he’s probably .270 hitter, who will pop between 15 and 20 home runs per season with about 65 RBIS. Clearly not enough for 30-million a season, so general manager Brian Cashman has some serious work on his hands without a whole lot of options. Remember, Rodriguez holds a solid no-trade clause in his contract so he has the final say to his future. They only way Cashman might be able to wash his hands of this dilemma is to threaten to platoon A-Rod at third base in certain pitching match-ups and maybe that would make Rodriguez waive the clause and skip town. But A-Rod wasn’t the sole perpetrator in the Yanks post-season debacle. As a team in the ALCS they played 39 innings, failing to score in 36 of them with a team batting average overall in the post-season of .188, the worst ever for a team that played at least seven games. His replacement at third Eric Chavez went 0-for-16 in the entire playoffs. The combination of A-Rod, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano hit a combined 14-for-125 with one home run. Swisher was 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position. Cano endured a 29 at-bat hitless drought over the entire post-season. Those are the type of stats that get you eliminated from the post-season and the roster re-worked for the upcoming year. Swisher, who made 10.3 million this past season will most likely be wearing another uniform next season. The clubs holds options on both Cano and Granderson at 15-million a pop, but expect both to return wearing pinstripes. Ichiro Suzuki will probably be offered a chance to comeback but for much less than the 17 million he made this past season after coming over in a trade from Seattle. You have to figure the franchise will work out a new deal for the recovering legend, closer Mariano Rivera who missed the entire season with a torn ACL, while Derek Jeter who will undergo ankle surgery after being hurt in game one of the League Championship Series, still has two years left on his remaining contract. Chances are pitcher Andy Pettitte will retire for good now at the age of 40, while Hiroki Kuroda could be offered another one-year deal. Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez futures are up in the air at best in New York with Chavez probably looking for another team in-order to keep his career alive. This was the first time the Yankees have been swept in a best-of-seven series since the 1976 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. If “The Boss” were still alive, heads would be rolling by next week! Current man in charge Hal Steinbrenner is not quite as irrational has his father George and much slower to pull the trigger on jobs and careers but you can bet, after the embarrassment the Yankees franchise just experienced over the last four games, this team will look very different in 2013.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Collapse, Conclusion and Continuation

October can be a cruel month for fans of the Great American Pastime. Think about it, only one fan base ends up satisfied while 29 others are left with questions of what if, why and what happened? Most don’t even get to enjoy watching their team play past September but for those who do; become emotionally involved at your own risk. No group of supporters know this better than the 41,142 Cincinnati Reds fans, that crowded into the Great American Ballpark to watch the greatest choke job in the history of Cincinnati sports over the last three days. At least that’s what many of the Cincy media are calling it. You have to remember, the Reds haven’t won a post-season series since beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995 and a post-season home game in 17 years, so after they captured both games one and two of their NLDS over the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park with the series headed to the Queen City for games three with four and five on a….if necessary basis, there was a lot to be pumped up about! But with a change in scenery came a change in focus, execution and momentum. It all started in the bottom of the first inning of game three. Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips was on first and stealing second after the Giants had gone three and out versus Homer Bailey in a must win game, coming off a 9-0 shutout loss in game two. Phillips was safe at second as the pitch from Ryan Vogelsong got by catcher Buster Posey. Instead of being satisfied at second and in scoring position with no outs giving the Reds a chance to jump on the board first and continue momentum, Phillips decides to try and take third. Posey throws him out easily, becoming the first out of the inning and at third base which is a major baseball no-no! After a few hits, Cincinnati does score one run, but the inning could have been a huge one and maybe even put the Giants away early in game three… but they survived and felt relief after the frame. Turns out the single run would be the only run the Reds scored all day long. When Scott Rolen couldn’t make a play on Joaquin Arias’ ground ball in the top of the 10th inning allowing Buster Posey to score from third with the go-ahead run for an eventual 2-1 San Francisco win wasting Bailey’s ten strikeout performance, momentum had shifted. So game four rolls around and instead of going for the jugular, Reds Manager Dusty Baker sits both Rolen and starting catcher Ryan Hanigan against lefty Barry Zito. Todd Frazier and Dioner Navarro are put in the line-up. Maybe its strategy as Navarro is a switch hitter and maybe is just a case of making sure everyone is fresh in case of a game five. Baker also decides to start youngster Mike Leake on the hill, with pitcher Johnny Cueto injured from game one, choosing against starting Matt Latos on three days’ rest. The 24-year-old Leake had shutout the Giants back in June and was 3-0 lifetime against San Francisco but had also never started in a playoff game before. The right-hander gives up a leadoff homer to Pagan and ends up going just 4.1 innings after surrendering six hits and five earned runs. Giants win easily 8-3 as the Reds’ lack of killer instinct now has them tied at 2-2 in the series with all the pressure squarely shifted to their clubhouse as no team has ever blown a 2-0 advantage in NLDS history. Game five matched a rested Latos against Giants game one starter Matt Cain. Both pitchers are great through four innings. In the top of the fifth however, Latos gives up a single to Gregor Blanco and starts to get his strike zone squeezed by home plate umpire Tom Hallion. While Latos is getting annoyed at balls and strikes he then gives up a no-out triple to Brandon Crawford scoring Blanco for a 1-0 Giants lead. After striking out Cain, Angel Pagan hits a ground ball to short. Zack Cozart has a play at the plate on Crawford but fumbles the ball and the San Francisco led is now 2-zip. Latos proceeds to load the bases with Posey the likely N.L. MVP coming to the plate. In a must-win game, already down 2-0, does Baker pull him? No and Posey makes them pay with a grand slam off Latos for a huge 6-0 lead and now its game over. After cutting the deficit to 6-3 in the 7th, the Reds get men on 2nd and 1st with no outs. Could this be a chance to pull this comeback off after all? With Hanigan at the plate and a full count, Baker sends the runners. Hanigan watches a call strike three and Posey throws out the stealing Jay Bruce at third, killing the inning and basically the Reds true chances. Did the Reds have other opportunities in the 8th and 9th innings? Sure but they didn’t close the deal eventually going two for 13 with runners in scoring position in the game and 3 for 24 with men in scoring position in the series. 6-4 turned out to be the final score in the fifth and deciding game with Cincinnati losing the series 3-2, season over. This is one they will not forget about on the banks of the Ohio River for a long time coming. At least, until the Reds finally win another post-season series, after the biggest choke job and collapse in the history of Cincinnati sports. For the amazing A’s this is not how it was supposed to end. After that incredible three-game sweep of the Texas Rangers over the last three days of the regular season to win the division, their fate seemed brighter! Oakland at one time trailed in the A.L. West by 13 games late in June. But with a few trades and some young talent playing the way Billy Beane’s “money ball” system calculated things out, Oakland made a run into the post-season with five rookie starting pitchers, something unheard of! After losing two close games in Motown to the Detroit Tigers, the “never give up A’s” captured games three and four of their ALDS at the Coliseum with the culmination taking place in the bottom of the 9th of gave four. Trailing by two runs with just three outs remaining in their season, the Oakland magic took over! Four hits off Tigers closer Jose Valverde resulting in an incredible 4-3 victory forcing Thursday’s fifth and series deciding game. After a league-leading 14 walk-off victories this season which set the stage for Wednesday’s heroics, it appeared the A’s were the post-season’s team of destiny. But there can only be one true team with the fate of a champion on their side and most of the time that team has a “true ace” on its pitching staff. The Tigers have Justin Verlander. Last year’s A.L. Cy Young winner and MVP can be dominating and unhittable at times, especially when his team needs it the most. Detroit needed something powerful to combat the A’s momentum, magic and Coliseum mastic. What they got was a four-hit, 11 strikeout gem, in a 6-0 series clinching win to save their season. 36,393 loyal Oakland rowdies threw all the “Bernie-mojo” they could into game five but the bottom line proved to be star-power outperforms passion at least on the mound most of the time. Verlander won both the front and back games of the series putting Detroit back into the ALCS. While the majority of the baseball world wanted what seemed like the destined A’s to continue a mythical post-season ride deeper into October, those dreams ended up facing the harsh reality of a deciding game versus a veteran superstar and his right arm of reason. The conclusion here is that will, pride and desire, still have a rough time against a 95 mile per hour sinking fastball. All is not over however in the divisional series. Jayson Werth’s walk-off job, kept the season alive for the best National League team during the regular season. They hadn’t seen playoff baseball in Washington D.C. since 1933 and the Nats faithful certainly weren’t ready for the ride to end yet! The 2-1 victory over the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, forces a fifth and deciding game today at Nationals Park. The match-up on the hill is extraordinary! Gio Gonzalez, who could win the National League Cy Young, faces veteran Adam Wainwright. The Washington lefty started game one of the series and has not allowed an earned run at home over his last 23 innings of work. The Cardinals went 4-0 last season when facing elimination games to become the champs. Wainwright gave up just one earned run in the Red Bird’s game one 3-2 defeat, earning a no decision. The Cardinals not only have the starting pitching experience tomorrow but also the offensive experience. They’ve outscored the Nats 23-9 in the series and why would that change with the most pressure at bats of the season coming today? St. Louis wins a tough game five on the road to face the Giants in the NLCS on Sunday. Start spreading the news! The Yankees and Orioles will do it again in the Bronx one more time in 2012! Scrappy Baltimore found away once again in extra innings like they have all season long, extending favored New York to a fifth and deciding game at Yankee Stadium, with Thursday night’s 2-1 victory in 13 innings. These two squads played 162 games to decide the American League East title so why should this five game set be any different? Jason Hammel, (5 2/3rds allowing two runs in game one) starts for the O’s, while ace CC Sabathia, who came just one out short of a complete game victory in game one… (7-2 New York) starts the decider for the Bronx Bombers. The big lefty is 6-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 11 playoff starts with New York. During the regular season, these teams played the season series to a tune of 9-9 with Baltimore outscoring New York 92-90. But as resilient as the O’s have been in 2012, (17 straight extra innings wins) this is still a deciding game at Yankee Stadium against a star pitcher. Sabathia’s numbers don’t lie in post-season games nor do they sway in the house Ruth built. Both teams have big names struggling offensively but New York has more chances of a star running into one with the game on the line. The small spenders of the world will be rooting for the Orioles Friday, but the smart money is on the Yankees and their ace in an elimination game in the Bronx

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bay Area Clubs Stay Afloat (at least for one more day)

I think it’s unanimous that the addition of a second wild card was a welcome addition to the mix this year and enabled the MLB season to carry the drama through game 162 as opposed to the banal September months of previous years when everything was decided by Labor Day. However, despite the added drama (and revenues) some clubs may feel like they’re picking up part of the tab for the added party guest. For example the A’s came on strong to sweep the Rangers in the final 3-game set of the season and win the division in the process. The spoils of their victory may have allowed them to hang another pennant on the walls but it also bought them all-expense paid tickets to Detroit to open the playoffs. Not sure how that worked out it Bud Selig’s mind, you win more games, 94 to 85, you win your division, yet you have to go on the road for the first two games of the playoffs and find yourself down 2-0. I mean, this ain’t the NBA where at least it’s a 2-3-2, and a 7-game so losing one at home doesn’t kill you but it does send you home under this format.
So the Oakland A’s now must sweep their second consecutive 3-game series and although they may be in the friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum it is still a tall order bing that they’re going up against the a team with the triple crown winner and is in the top ten of the four major offensive team categories (11th in the fourth). So that may have set the stage and the A’s answered the call in game 1 by winning a thriller 2-0 but is this perpetual death? On Wednesday they go up against 16-game winner Max Scherzer and will try to counter with 24-year old rookie A.J. Griffin. As I mentioned, I’m not sue it’s fair how they got here but this pitching matchup and facing Prince (only hitting .125 in the post season, so due) and Cabrera (who is not due hitting .375) bodes well for the money ballers. Across the bay the Giants also made an amazing run of their own not only taking the NL West crown but doing it in very convincing fashion, smoking their inner-state rivals LA in the process and all without the aid of the All-Star Game MVP who is currently fulfilling a 50-game suspension for PEDs. I don’t think their situation is quite as egregious but still 94 wins and an 8-game cushion, doesn’t go as far as it once did as all the thanks the Giants got was a two game deficit and coming off the hands of a 9-0 thrashing looking more like wild card than the their host for the last two games whom didn’t clinch a post season reservation until game 160. Much like their No. Cal comrades facing elimination they managed to pull out a win however unimpressive it was. The GMen tied a dubious record for winning a game despite notching only 1 hit through nine innings (they scored 2 in the 10th). They also set a record for striking out 16 times in an ALDS and winning. Both don’t say much for their offensive prowess or chances in game 4. But I will close with this, if there is ANY club left in the playoffs that can defy both odds and gravity its San Francisco and if the Reds are wise, like I know Dusty is, they take some pitches and try to get Zito out early and not even give this a chance of going 5 because we’ve seen this “group of misfits” before, they were drinking champagne and getting fitting for rings two years ago.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Welcome to Octoberfest, USA Style

Well 162 games are now in the books and things finally start to get serious! Baseball needed every single day of games, to figure out those worthy to play in the post-season in 2012 but then again that’s what the model is designed to do. So with qualifying now out of the way, five squads remain alive in each league with the dream of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy at October’s end but only one franchise, city and group of fans get to watch the fantasy come true. It all starts with solid preliminary bouts in Atlanta and Arlington. The National League the wild-card match-up on Friday is a damn good one! The defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals head to the A-T-L to face a Braves squad that’s been chomping at the bit for two years to play this game. Remember, The Braves endured that monumental collapse last season and missed the playoffs on the final day of regular season play, while the Red Birds reaped the benefits of Atlanta’s misfortune to take their spot as the wild-card team, which led to an eventual crown. But this is a new day in Atlanta and the Braves have proved they are a different team from last season. Part of the reason has been the pitching of tomorrow’s starter Kris Medlen. The right-hander has been dominating since joining the rotation. He’s started just 12 games finishing 10-1 overall with the Braves winning the last ten games he’s started. With an ERA of just 1.57 he’s been the hottest pitcher in the big leagues over the second half of the season. St. Louis hitters are just 4-25 in the small amount of match-ups to sample. This comes out to an average of just .160 with no walks. For the most part the Cardinal hitters haven’t seen him with last year’s World Series MVP David Freese only facing him once. As a matter of fact, the only Red Birds hitter that has seen much of Medlen is Carlos Beltran and he is 0 for 6 in their match-ups. Medlin is also 4-1 at Turner Field this season in 76 and 2/3rds innings pitched. He did not start against St. Louis but did make three relief appearances, giving up six hits and three earned runs in just 5 and 2/3rds frames. The Cards counter with the reliable Kyle Lohse. There are many more at-bats to look at in the Lohse versus the Braves hitters and the numbers are not as impressive as Medlen’s. Overall Atlanta has a career batting average of .320 against the right-hander. Chipper Jones completely owns him in 20 career plate appearances! Jones is batting .462 with a pair of doubles, a homer, five runs batted in and six walks in the match-up. Martin Prado hits .429 against Lohse and even the struggling Dan Uggla bats .333 with 5 RBI in 15 career at-bats. Lohse however has been a stand-out for the Red Birds on the road going 8-2 overall with a 3.41 earned run average in 103 innings pitched. But in his one meeting with the Bravos this season, he surrendered nine hits and five earned runs in just five frames of work. Atlanta won five of the six meetings this season between the two clubs, but the margin of victory was only a total of eight runs, so these squads have played each other tight throughout the month of May when both three game series took place. Overall in this one game play-in you have to like Atlanta. Medlen is baseball’s best starting pitcher at the moment and the Braves bullpen with Jonny Venters, Eric O’Flaherty and Craig Kimbrel arguably is the game’s most nasty group of relievers. If St. Louis doesn’t get to the young guy early who is making his first post-season start, their chances go way down in a hurry. Remember the Cardinals despite owning the experience factor, just crept in to the second wild-card spot on the seasons second to last day but hey, last year they waited until the very last game. The American League wild-card match-up is one of two teams that have vastly different talent levels but as teams and have been playing on different levels as well. Buck Showalter’s Baltimore Orioles might be as much of a surprise to the post-season as the Oakland Athletics, who just swept the Texas Rangers in three game series to capture the A.L. West title and send the O’s to Arlington to face the two-time defending American League Champs on Friday. Despite dropping 7 of their last nine games to blow a five-game lead and lose the division, the Rangers still send a solid Yu Darvish to the hill. The right-hander is a strikeout master that averages ten k’s per night and the free swinging O’s succumb to the strikeout. Baltimore racked up the third most strikeouts in the American League this season. Darvish is 4-0 with a 1.85 earned run average in six starts since being taken out of the rotation in late August for a ten day rest and then re-instated. He’s never faced the Baltimore line-up this season, that is arguably the scrappiest in the majors this season with Adam Jones (32 homers, 82 RBI), Matt Wieters (23 homers, 83 RBI) and Chris Davis (33 homers, 85 RBI). The Orioles are also the masters of the one-run game and extra innings contest as well. The O’s finished the season at 29-9 in one-run games! Only the 1890 Brooklyn Bridegrooms and 1883 Cleveland Blues have ever been better in games decided by a single run in baseball history! In extra innings, The Birds are even better. Baltimore posted a 16-2 record overall in games that were played over nine innings and also won their final 16 for a 16-game win streak in those contest! Texas will try to counter The Orioles amazing ability to preserver with experience and star power. O’s starter Joe Saunders will have his work cut out for him against a Rangers line-up that feasted on Baltimore pitching this season, winning five out of seven games overall. They hit .317 overall with the high point coming on May 8th in Baltimore when Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton belted four home runs at Camden Yards. Third baseman Adrian Beltre also hit four home runs overall versus the O’s while shortstop Elvis Andrus hit .313 only to be pushed by David Murphy’s gaudy numbers of .450 and an on base percentage of .522 with six runs scored. However there is the momentum factor in play. You can’t ignore what just happened on the West Coast to the Rangers. If Sanders can keep his club close, (don’t expect him to shut Texas down) Baltimore has a shot. Expect a high scoring game with the Orioles finding a way to win like they have so many times this season. You have to figure the Rangers have had their shot, playing in the last two World Series. But with the way they’ve played down the stretch it certainly looks like their reign of the American League is over and upstart Baltimore has all the intangibles to pull off the one-game upset.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Money Can't Buy You Love or Wins in MLB

Now that The Great American Pastime’s post-season is set, the baseball gods have spoken and they didn’t have much to say for the game’s big spenders. Out of the top six spending franchises in the game today in terms of payroll, four didn’t even make the post-season. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox all bought themselves nothing more than a ticket to watch the playoffs on television. View the Smacchat MLB Playoffs Preview Here. The most talked about spending failures however took center stage in Southern California. Angel’s owner Arte Moreno made it no secret last off-season, he wanted the Halos back in the Fall Classic and was going to open his pocketbook to put his team in contention. The target, free-agency’s 254 million dollar man last winter, Albert Pujols. The former N.L. MVP left his comfort zone in St. Louis after a World Series title for the big cash of Orange County and a ten-year deal the Cards weren’t going to offer, which included 12-million in year one, as most of the contract is back loaded. Along with Pujols’ big bucks, Moreno was on the line for outfielders Vernon Wells and Tori Hunter’s cash flow. Wells made 24.5 million this season and Hunter 18.5 himself. The problem was even with the addition of pitcher Zack Grienke at the trade deadline and his 13.5 million dollar deal, The Halos couldn’t make up enough ground from their bad start. Despite a payroll of 154,298,266.00, third highest in the majors at season’s end, Anaheim started the year with just a 17-26 overall record thru May 21st. On top of that, Pujols didn’t even hit his first home run of the season until May 6th. That was 29 games and 111 at bats into the season, not exactly what the boss man Moreno had in mind. Pujols will finish with at least 30 long balls, 105 runs batted in and an overall average of .286, but the bottom line is the Angels a favorite to finish atop the A.L. West ended up on the outside looking in. On the final day of the regular season, The Halos sit four games out of first place and were eliminated from wild-card contention a few days earlier. But this wasn’t a case of terrible injuries or bad chemistry. The Angels played in very competitive division with the two-time defending A.L. Champion Texas Rangers and the surprise team of the entire major league season, The Oakland Athletics. The bottom line is the Angels never played well enough to overtake either team down the stretch. The Rangers, who have the sixth highest payroll at 135,560,974.00 dollars played steady all season long, while Oakland, who ranks just 27th overall in payroll at 58,335,000.00 made a major run towards the end of the year while using five rookie starting pitchers which of course is simply unheard of and not the norm. For the other Southern California team the Los Angeles Dodgers, the story was a little different. The Dodgers had to wait for a change in ownership pre-season to become a real player once again. After Frank McCourt mismanaged the franchise into bankruptcy court which eventually led to him being forced to sell the team, the club was bought by the Guggenheim Group. The new ownership instantly wanted to push the club back towards its glory days didn’t hesitate adding players and salaries. At the trade deadline, the Dodgers dealt for all-star Hanley Ramirez while picking up both relievers Randy Choate and closer Brandon League. When the season started Los Angeles ranked only 13th as far as overall salary with the payroll being 93,686,077. But even with the help at the trade deadline, injuries to Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. among others stalled the Dodgers early season division lead and had them behind in the N.L. West standings, certainly missing a few pieces to contend for a World Series Title. So the new ownership group went to work on the waiver wire deadline and eventually made the deal of the season in baseball on August 24th. The trade added Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, the injured Carl Crawford and Nick Punto. With the players of course came salary additions of more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the course of the contracts. The new players moved the Blue-crew all the way up to the number two spot in overall salary at 198,369,359.00 for the 2012 season. The result ended up being far from what Dodgers fans hoped for. With the club only getting a month and a half to gel and figure out roles, it slumped from the get-go finding itself at one point dropping 12 of its first 18 games with the new squad, mostly because of a lack of offense. With a red-hot San Francisco Giants team taking full advantage of the Dodgers slump they ran away with the division title. Los Angeles was left battling for a wild-card berth and despite finally getting hot as team over its last eight games; they were eliminated from playoff contention on the seasons second to last day. The bottom line here is without enough time together to finish off the season the offense started to press when they fell behind in the standings. Players started trying to do too much and you had a team not complementing each other offensively with everyone trying to win games on their own. The result was an offensive slump that ended the season early despite an everyday line-up that resembles something the New York Yankees put on the card game in and game out. While the Yankees are in the post-season with the games highest payroll, they still haven’t won a World Series Title since 2009 and before that hadn’t even been to the fall classic since a 2003 defeat to the Florida Marlins. The Bombers of course did however roll off a run of four World Series Titles in five years from 1996 thru 2000, always with the highest payroll in the sport. Baseball is a funny game indeed where the team with the best overall players, don’t always win. In order to get those types of players however, you have to pay big dollars but those dollars spent don’t guarantee anything on the field. There is something to be said for team chemistry and we’ll see next October after a full season passes, if the money both the Angels and Dodgers spent on some of the game’s best players can actually buy them the success they’ve been swinging for.
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