Saturday, October 02, 2004

 

NL and AL Races: Final Weekend

The AL West battle has turned into a 3 game playoff series, and sadly Anaheim delivered the first blow. I keep trying to tell myself Oakland can win the next two, but I am really not so sure.
I can't talk about that series anymore, but I will watch it while eating comfort foods such as ice cream to calm my anger at the A's.

The Twins won tonight, but if they lose once this weekend then the Red Sox face whoever comes out of the AL West duel. If the two division leading teams tie, then the Sox face the west team (according to huntforoctober.com I believe). The shock factor of Santana is starting to wear off, and I am remembering the Sox have Schilling, but still I'd just rather not have to deal with that kind of stress in my life. So go Athletics/Anaheim, with a little more emphasis on the Oakland version.

As for the NL Wild Card, if the Cubs lose I am happy. Since they are doing a good job of that on their own, I'm even happier. I just don't think that team deserves it as much as say the other three teams involved. The Padres finished in last place in 2003 with virtually the same roster (David Wells was obviously a key pickup, as was the callup of Khalil Greene) and are playing the underdog role, which has always been held dear to me for some unknown reason. The Astros went from non-factor to Cardinal killer and reinvigored the city of Houston (also increasing their chances of resigning god-send Carlos Beltran in the offseason, keeping him away from Darth Steinbrenner and his apprentice Darth Cashman.) The Giants have Barry Bonds, Ray Durham (now anyways) J.T. Snow (enjoy it while it lasts my defensively inclined friend) and um...they released Neifi Perez. The Cubs deserve to lose just for picking him up. That might not be fair, because Perez has been hitting (for him at least) in Chicago. I guess the Cubs deserve to lose more when they can't even use Perez as their excuse. I don't hate the Cubs at all, I just don't want a team that has spoiled as many chances as they have to win the Wild Card when so many other teams have gotten excited about their chances. In a perfect world, the Giants, Padres, and Astros will finish tied after Sunday's games. Why? For two sudden death playoff games of course! Very exciting baseball...if two of them are tied I'll be satisfied I guess, but I really want this to happen.

Note: I just noticed the Padres can't do it...they are three games out with two left to play :(
I am too lazy to sort through my previous text though, so just ignore it.

Watch as much of these games as you can this weekend, because that is what I am doing in between homework and such.

Local note, the Sox announced Schilling as the #1 starter...Wakefield's performance tonight (2 ER in 6 IP) earned him the 4th spot in the playoff rotation, and the Sox are waiting to see how Williamson's elbow feels before adding him to the Division Series roster. Wakefield will start game 3 or 4 of the Division Series.

One more positive note...NO MORE RODRIGO LOPEZ UNTIL NEXT SEASON! YAY!


Friday, October 01, 2004

 

Rocketing past the competition

So I was watching ESPN's cold pizza this morning, and I heard something stupid out of the mouth of Woody Paige (which shouldn't surprise anyone), but what frightened me was hearing something intelligble out of the mouth of Skip Bayliss. Woody, ever the bandwagoner, the ultimate die hard for pointless causes, picked the Cubs to win the NL wild card. By this point I was already mid coronary and screaming at the tv at the top of my lungs, when the somber, couldn't make you like me if I sent you milk and cookies Skip Bayliss spoke "Woody, you're a moron, the Astros are going to take the wild card." When the awe of Skip Bayliss saying that finished setting in, I sat down to write this(4 hours later).

So basically, this is my NL Wild Card debate, with just the weekend series remaining for all teams, here's how I see it, from worst to first-
Worst: The Chicago Cubs- First off, I'd like to disqualify any team managed by Dusty Baker when it comes down to the weekend before playoffs, where coaching moves make or break entire seasons. Although Dusty has his big guns this weekend, their tired, their overworked, and his bullpen (J.C. Romero will be joining Bartman in recent Cubbie infamy) are tired, and on the downfall. The Cubs are 1 game back of the Giants and Astros right now, and their playing 3 in Atlanta. Atlanta is still playing for homefield advantage throughout, so they're not going to just be giving games away. The Cubs have suffered heart breaking losses this week, can have next to no confidence, and their going into Turner Field where the Braves are clicking on all cylinders vying for homefield. Sorry Dusty, one of your starters is going to have his arm fly off with his fastball on the way to home plate, and there's just no way your sweeping the Braves at home, sorry. Look on the bright side, you have an entire offseason to mismanage your team and prepare to overwork your starters (hears cheers and expectations of World Series 05' for the Cubs already).
The next loser: Maybe I'm just picking with my heart here, maybe I'm not, but I'm putting the Giants here. There going into Dodgers stadium, with insane expectations, hopes of stealing the division, and no one on their team producing not named Barry Bonds (although, with all due respect to Barry he does count for 3 people). I refuse to acknowledge J.T. Snow as being productive, because I, like many of the sports writers of America, are just waiting for the alien, symbiot, disease, that has possessed him to leave him (also a running theory that he is from an alternate reality, and his stats have only become inflated due to Scott Bakula being an incredible baseball player, QUANTUM LEAP!). I just don't see the Giants taking any more than one game this weekend in Los Angeles, not with how shaky their starters have been. Yes, I know Gagne is tired, but I think this Dodgers team is going to be playing to prove something, that they aren't just in first because of Gagne (which they aren't, thank Adrian Beltre also finding his own symbiot). I am well aware that Bonds' home away from home is Dodger stadium, but I'm going with my guy, and making my prediction based on a very similar circumstance as I did above. Last week of the regular season is a time where great managers win games, and even better managers, like Felipe Alou, lose them (sarcasm inserted here). Rest assured Felipe, I hear Dusty is holding a camp for coaches who can't coach, Mike Martz guest speaker!

2nd Best: Because they have the all time greatest winner of the Brian Giles award for unheralded greatness, Mr. Brian Stephen Giles (thanks Eric Neel)! In all seriousness, Padres have their 3 best pitchers going this weekend, and their playing with purpose for the first time in ages. Who can remember the last time the Padres were a real contender? This is a team finally coming of age, a pitching staff grabbing its footing, and David Wells being a perfect leader for that. The young hitters have been phenomenal, Khalil Greene is arguably the rookie of the year, and Mark Loretta is playing beyond phenomenally. Did I mention Mr. Brian Stephen Giles, I think I did? However, those aren't the reason I have the Padres above the Giants. Simply put, they're playing the Diamondbacks. Peavy is going to smoke the DBacks tonight, and there's a 50/50 chance of taking the Saturday game where Johnson pithces (because Randy can't win every game alone, just most). Look for David Wells to finish strong on Sunday, and for the Padres to put up a strong finish. As for next year, all I can say is be afraid, be VERY afraid.

The NL Wild Card Winning: Houston Astros! Roger Clemens, rocketing past the competition, it's a play on words! Not enough can be said about the Astros late season surge. These guys are playing great fundamental baseball, and the chemistry is just amazing. This may be the final year of Bagwell, Biggio, and maybe even Clemens. How much would it mean to Houston to send Jeff Bagwell off with a championship- Hell, how much would it mean for Jeff Bagwell, who has worn his heart on his sleeve for the better part of a decade for Houston, to bring a championship to Houston. Bagwell retires a World Series Champion, as does Clemens, and they both ride off into the sunset of Cooperstown. Did I mention Carlos Beltran, Jeff Kent, and Lance Berkman? Oh, and that Brad Lidge guy with the unhittable slider, and Roy Oswalt? I could go on, but I think I hear Dusty Baker crying, and Nomar demanding a trade to the Yankees, where he agrees to play second base. The real reason I picked the Astros- They're playing Colorado, at home, in front of a sold out crowd. Sorry, advantage Astros.

Bias aside, GO PADRES GO!




Tuesday, September 28, 2004

 

Who are they keeping for October?

Now that the Red Sox have officially made it to the playoffs for 2004, I think it is time to take a look at their roster and how it should be downsized from the current 40-man version to its playoff counterpart. I don't think any of the September callups are going to be a part of the roster, but with all of the players who have played significant roles for at least a portion of the season it makes it tougher.

I'll list by position first, make my cuts later:

C: Varitek and Mirabelli
1B: Millar, Mientkiewicz, McCarty
2b: Bellhorn and Reese
3B: Mueller and Youkilis
SS: Cabrera and Gutierrez
OF: Ramirez, Damon, Nixon, Kapler, Roberts
DH: Ortiz and Burks

That is 18 position players out of 30 spots.

SP: Martinez, Schilling, Arroyo, Wakefield, Lowe
RP: Foulke, Embree, Timlin, Williamson, Myers, Mendoza, Dinardo, Leskanic, Adams, Kim, Astacio

That is 16 pitchers; 34 roster spots total.

We have 30 spots to work with, so this should not be too hard:

Lose Astacio (33); I just don't think he has had enough work recently to make a playoff roster, unless he randomly shows himself to be lights out in the next week. Same with Kim (32), except I don't think I want him there even if he shows he can pitch, because he's too unreliable with us and avoiding any soap operas we can is a must.

Dinardo (31) loses out thanks to a large consensus I conducted between myself and Andrew, lots of work involved. It was Dinardo or Myers, and Myers wins due to experience. Plus, Dinardo has not got a lot of work lately either.

Now the pitching looks like this:

SP: Martinez, Schilling, Arroyo, Wakefield, Lowe
RP: Foulke (R), Embree (L), Timlin (R), Williamson (R), Myers (L), Mendoza (R), Leskanic (R), Adams (R).

Now one person has to be taken off the bench (I'll only mention backups):

Mirabelli stays obviously...McCarty might have to stay as a defensive replacement (Millar pinch hits for Mientkiewicz late in the game, McCarty at first to protect a lead sort of deal)...Reese better only play in Lowe's games, but I don't even want Lowe to start. Still, a defensive replacement in the 9th is a possibility...Youkilis .261/.370/.422, I sense a walk in a late close game, yay Moneyball...There is nothing positive I can say about Ricky Gutierrez from an offensive standpoint, and Reese is backing up 2B and SS already...I would love for Ellis Burks to have one triumphant playoff homerun or game-winning hit, but since his knee needs to be drained when he thinks about walking too hard (sadly) I don't think this will come to pass.

Looks like Gutierrez might make it by default. He can thank Ellis's knees for that one. Of course Ellis might be put on the roster in the hopes of a Kirk Gibson happening, in which case Ricky can kiss his chance goodbye. Everyone's favorite cast looks like they are going to be in though, so no worries this year (I hope).

Oh yeah, the rotation should go: Schilling/Martinez/Arroyo/Wakefield...

Lowe's career ERA in the Metrodome: 6.58 (yay turf + sinker ball)

Wakefield's ERA v. NYY in 2001-2004: 1.59/2.25/3.96 (2.25 in NY)/1.83
Wakefield also has an ERA of 1.17 this year against Minnesota, 1.29 in 2002 and 3.60 in 2001 (2003 was a bad year for him against Minnesota, but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule: 5.68)

I've seen Lowe get beat up a few times in NY this year, and it was not as big a deal when you could match him up with Contreras and watch the balls fly out of the park. Wakefield is the #4 in my mind.

Schilling goes first for two reasons: (1) Schilling in the playoffs makes rainbows and happiness for all of the children and (2) Bob Brenly did it in 2001, starting Schilling 3 times over eventual Cy Young winner Randy Johnson. Seemed odd, but they won didn't they (despite Brenly in most cases, but we'll give him that one.) On a related note pick up Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups, that is how I remember Schilling started Game 1.

Also, any excuse to not start Pedro against the Yankees too often if we end up facing them...for the love of God Joe Torre even said I hope they don't throw Wakefield against us to start, he kills us. (Obviously not verbatum)



Monday, September 27, 2004

 

I have a little dreidil

I made it out of clay, but if it's the Saturday of Yom Kippur, baseball I will not play?

As many of you may or may not know, Shawn Green is an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and is a Jewish American. The Dodgers, who were in the midst of an extremely tight race for the NL West title, and the even closer race for the NL wild card, had a very uneasy situation on their hands when the high holiday of Yom Kippur rolled around this past weekend. What was their star players Shawn Green going to do? Could they possibly ask him to play and forfeit his religious beliefs, and could they afford to play without him?

Well Shawn did something many viewed as honorable, but I personally feel to be distasteful, he compromised. He played in the pivotal series opener with the Giants on Friday, a game the Dodgers won, but took Saturday off, honoring the Jewish tradition of not working on the Sabbath. So if his convictions are strong enough that they force him to not work one day, why does he bother working the other?

Maybe it's just that I'm bitter, maybe it's that I think he's being a hypocrite, but if you're going to say you're religion mandates you not play one day, why bother playing the other. Do you think his teammates would have really dogged him for taking 2 days to observe his religion? It's not as though he was out in the field with a yarmulke on eating latkes between innings and screaming oi everytime he swung and missed. Pressure was being applied to Shawn from both his Temple not to play, and his team to play, and I just think it's wrong. Ultimately, I'd imagine the pressure from both sides is what caused Shawn to play one game and not the other.

I guess I just feel bad for Shawn, to be put in such a strong place. It's just my take that as someone who had religious convictions deep enough to take one day off, he probably wanted to take both days off, and eventually succumb to the pressure around him. Some guys miss time because a child is born, a family member is ill, or a child's birthday; why is the Jewish New Year any different?

Maybe it's just that Shawn is a better man than I am, with as much commitment as the people he works with to his family and religion. I just know had the choice been mine, I would have sat out both games, and told anyone who thought otherwise to stick it where the sun doesn't shine (oi!).

As for the score, the Dodgers won the game Shawn played and lost the game he didn't, but who's to say that's his fault, or that it wasn't?

Happy Yom Kippur Shawn..

 

Another Twist in the Race

Jose Guillen was suspended for the rest of the season and the playoffs (if applicable to Anaheim) for his actions yesterday after being lifted for a pinch runner. I'm sure you have heard about this already, and if you have not, here's the link:

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1889533

The important thing about Anaheim losing Guillen's services is quite simple; if they make the playoffs they are short another man. This after already losing Adam Kennedy for the season, as well as a dangerous crutch in relying on Erstad's ability to hit for average and average only to drive the team to wins.

Guillen: .294/.352/.497 27 HR 104 RBI

Something tells me they would miss his bat in the playoffs, where the Angels' gameplan is as follows:

1) Score early
2) Don't let the starters get too beat up
3) Lead by atleast 1 by 6th inning so bullpen can shutdown other team

In the playoffs runs are scarce for high-powered offenses, so they will miss him a lot, not to mention Kennedy was ALCS MVP in 2002 and for those who believe in clutch hitting it is a big deal. So what does this all mean?

I think the Angels might pass the Athletics for the division lead soon, especially since Mark Mulder still has a start left this year. This is good news and also bad news. The good news would be they could continue their mini-surge at the end of the season and maybe overtake the Twins, allowing the Sox to play them in the division series. Or they could go up against NY, where their lineup may take advantage of the NY pitching. What I see if they do make it though is a defeat in the ALCS unless they go up against NY. They probably wouldn't have a lead by the 6th or 7th inning with Santana and Radke pitching, or even Pedro and Schilling. This takes their bullpen out of the game, and that is who won the World Series for them the first time around. Nothing has changed since then, except Vladimir Guerrero is on the team now (to balance that seemingly idiotic statement, the pitching is weaker now as well.) Basically the fact that the Angels may pass the Athletics thanks to the A's struggles and go into the playoffs bitten by the injury bug could without a doubt add some new twists to these already overinteresting playoffs.

Quick note on Jake Peavy, since I wrote about him last time. Apparently the Padres are trying to get him enough IP to qualify for the ERA title; he currently has a 2.27 ERA.


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