ON HAVING TIX FOR TONIGHT’S GAME: Having two tickets to “Game 4* – If Necessary“, I thought I might feel conflicted, maybe hoping the Sox would drop one so I could go to the game. But, no. I screamed and swore at the TV last night, wanting desperately for them to finish the series. I’ve been lucky enough to go to my share of playoff games. I wanted to skip tonight’s ridiculous 8:37 start and instead sleep. I never thought I’d be so upset about going to a playoff game.
HOW MANY TIMES are the Sox going to get the lead runner on-base, only to squander the inning?
IF THEY LOSE TONIGHT, I’m going to punch Wally in his Big Green Face.
IN CASE I HAVEN’T MENTIONED IT BEFORE, which I have, my brother and I were the ones who started the famed “LI-LLY” chant in Game 3 of the 2003 ALDS, the one where if you watch the “Cowboy Up” video, players like Mirabelli and Merloni later taped “LI-LLY” to the backs of their jacket to encourage the fans to keep it up.
YOU HAVE TO FEEL SORRY for the Milwaukee Brewers. If Ben Sheets had been healthy down the stretch, they likely would have wrapped up the Wild Card a little earlier, and then been set-up for October success with two stud pitchers in Sabathia and Sheets, plus an amazing young arm in Gallardo. They could have gone a long, long way, even with how enemic their offense was in the Philly series. Now they’ll likely lose both Sheets and Sabathia in the off-season, and although they have talented young arms, they might take a step back. (They might be a prime candidate to sign a Pedro or Schilling to a one-year, incentive-laden contract.)
COREY HART LOOKED like the worst baseball player I’ve ever seen. Maybe he isn’t. But he looked like it.
THE PHILS-DODGERS SERIES looks like it’ll be an exciting one. Everyone, though, is hoping for a Sox-Dodgers series. Everyone, that is, except for my brother: Mr. Chase-Utley-ManLove.
ON THE CUBS COLLAPSE: Ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha. Ah, ha ha ha ha. HAAA, ha ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha (snort). Ha ha. Ha ha. Oh, whoo whoo whoo, hee hee. Haaaa haa ha ha ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha.
- When the Sox got rid of Manny and brought in some guy named Jason Bay, I heard a lot of “Why did they do this? Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him.” from several fans who are older (fifties, sixties), aren’t fantasy baseball playas (like me), and/or don’t pay attention to the Pittsburgh Pirates (my second-favorite team). I told them “Trust me. You’re going to love this guy.” Today, they are loving that guy.
- Considering how strong Lackey was last night, that was a game the Sox could have easily lost. It is obviously, then, a huge win. But today, as not only Sox fans but the national media have began reading the Angels their last rights and pronouncing this series over, I caution everyone to not get ahead of themselves. Game One is important, but it is only one game. I remember the Sox winning Game One against the Indians in the 1998 ALDS, leading everyone to say the Indians looked like a team ready to be swept; the Sox didn’t win another game. Also, an important stat I saw last night was that in the American League ALDS, teams that win the first game are 12-14. Yikes.
- My buddy came through with tickets to Game 4 at Fenway . . . if there is a Game 4. Which puts me in the awkward position of kind of hoping the Sox drop one of these next two games. Not real comfortable with that.
- Last night, while my wife was on the couch watching the Dodgers-Cubs game and I was in the kitchen (there is SO much wrong with that statement), she suddenly yelled “OH MY GOD!!!” I ran into the living room, expecting to see her TiVoing back to a collision or an incredible catch. Instead, she was watching Manny fly up the first base line to get an infield hit. “That’s NOT our Manny,” she said.
- It’s just one game, but it might be time to reconsider the Dodgers’ chances. I pride myself on being a BASEBALL fan; someone who not only follows his hometeam, but the whole sport. However, I have to admit I wrote off the terrible NL West Division this year. I mean, look at their records! But these Dodgers might be for real. For pitching, as inconsistent and downright goofy as he is, we all know Derek Lowe is a certified bad-*** in October. Then, they have some sick talent in young arms like Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw. In the bullpen, they have not one but two stud closers in Saito and Broxton. And they have a 355-game winner (Greg Maddux) coming out to do middle relief. They have a deep lineup a good young bats around Manny. And, whereas having no strong bats to come off the bench or hit as DH has been an Achilles Heel for NL teams in the World Series for years, this team has studs like Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra ready to fill in. And did you see that Manny homer? This team is for real.
- It was pretty beautiful to see Wrigley Field get so glum.
- In Anaheim, it’s amazing to see so many of the opponent’s fans at a playoff game. And what is with Angels’ fans not being able to clap with their hands? It looks like the franchise that brought you thundersticks now has some kind of noisy strap for their “fans”. Let’s hope for baseball’s sake that tomorrow’s game is the last of the year in Anaheim of Los Angeles south of Portland on the same coast as Seattle.
- What a maddening loss for the Brewers. One inning, two terrible defensive plays, and – even with Cole Hamels looking Pedroesque – they lose a game they could have won. Now, do you think CC Sabathia can pitch on no-days rest?
After doing the AL the other day, now it’s time to look at the NL playoffs. (Quickly . . . as I’m currently wearing an apron. Don’t ask)
LA Dodgers The Dodger are the champions of the National League West . . . which is kind of like being the tallest guy at a midget convention. Sure, they had a fun run once good-Manny showed up in August. And, sure, it’d be fun to see the 2003 Red Sox (Manny, Nomar and Lowe) make a run deep into October. But they don’t have the pitching to do it.
Milwaukee Brewers Do you think Ben Sheets has a permanent handicap sticker on his license plate? With a healthy Sheets, this team has serious October potential. But without Carl Pavano . . oops, I mean Sheets, they won’t go far. Unfortunate, as the Brewers of the early-80s were my favorite team not from Boston, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them.
Philadelphia Phillies These Phils should do better than last year, but they won’t get past the . . .
Chicago Cubs I hate to say it, as I hate the Cubs, but they are the most well-rounded and talented team in the National League . . . which is a lot like being the tallest guy at a midget convention. It’ll be fun to watch them lose in the World Series (unless they play the Angels, White Sox or Rays, all teams I hate more than the Cubs).
So, I have not posted in a while. Truth be told, it has been hard to get excited during the first half of the baseball season the past few years. To this baseball fan, the first half has become the most boring part of the calendar year. Even when there is no baseball, it is still more exciting to be a baseball fan than during the first half. From Halloween through just after New Year’s, you have the Hot Stove, which, let’s face it, if your team is a player is the most exciting time of year outside of September and October. Then, after New Year’s, you have the excitement of pondering your team’s offseason moves, comparing them with the rest of the league, making predictions, and — most exciting of all — scouting for your fantasy team. But the first half? Like a straight-to-video Shannon Tweed flick, I just want to fast forward to the good parts.
I haven’t always viewed the first half like this; it is more the product of the Red Sox recent success. Back before the Sox started winning championships, a successful first half was reason to celebrate. In 1999, I was actually dancing with glee by Memorial Day. And who could forget First Half MVP Carl Everett’s Sox of 2000?
But nowadays, the Sox are supposed to be playoff contenders. You know they’ll be in the thick of it come September, so we often spend the rest of the season now thinking “just get there already.” I almost envy fans in Milwaukee, St. Louis, or Florida (if they had fans), who must be amped at where their team is right now. (Notice I didn’t mention Tampa in that last sentence? F them.)
But here we are finally at the midway point of the season. And now it gets good. Despite an unsensational performance over the first half, the Sox are right where they should be: In the thick of it. They have a ton of young talent to play with come the trade deadline, and are poised to make The Run in the second half. So, while I wait for that to happen, here are some thoughts about recent events:
- When the Sox got swept in Tampa Bay and left for New York, I said I still feared the Yankees more then the Devil Rays. And then yesterday I noticed the Sox were five games back. Today it is four games, but take a look at the loss column (six games back). I still don’t think Tampa will be there come late September, and I still fear the Yanks more, but if we continue to dig ourselves a hole . . .
- The game the Sox lost to the Yanks, when — down by one — they loaded the bases with no outs, and then had Crisp, Varitek and Lugo squander the game, was one of the most disappointing games in recent memory. I didn’t even watch Lugo’s at-bat.
- How good must the fans in Milwaukee be feeling right now? Plagued by injuries and a disappointing start, six weeks ago everyone was writing their obituary. Now, despite all of that, they find themselves just four games behind the first-place Cubs, who have enjoyed a great first half, and they just acquired C.C. Sabathia. And here’s a little secret: The Cubs aren’t as good as everyone is making them out to be. Pass it on. I am really looking forward to the Brewers winning that division.
- You have to feel for the Milwaukee Brewers. Sure, the Eric Gagne signing was horrible. But, outside of that, here was a team that started the year with a GREAT shot at winning the NL Central, after a quarter-century of being MIA from the playoffs. They have boatloads of young, talented position players. And they’ve been sunk this year by a rash of unfortunate injuries. Now, their pitching is paper thin and they are sinking fast. I’d argue that this could end up being one down year before they rise to the top again — ala the Indians of 2006. But with Ben Sheets possibly gone at the end of this year, this may have been their window of opportunity . . . unless they break the bank for a stud pitcher in the offseason.
- Sure, we’ve been down this road before with the Yankees; they start off horribly slow, people write them off, and then they storm back the rest of the season and into the playoffs. Those other years, I always looked at the calendar and thought, ‘No way are they this bad, and there’s too much time left for them to come back.’ This year, though, I think they really are in deep trouble. As I said at the beginning of the year, if you are the New York Yankees it is crazy — absolutely crazy — to rely on rookies for half your rotation, especially when the other half (outside of Big Wang) is so close to joining AARP. More often than not, rookies don’t explode onto the scene. They take years to work in. And, if the Yanks aren’t careful this year, they could ruin Ian Kennedy. Sliding Joba into the rotation likely won’t solve anything; being a starting pitcher is a different animal from being a setup man, and who knows for sure what Joba will bring to the table. On top of all that, the offense that has carried them for so many years is getting old, real old. Sure, Cano is good, at least much better than he’s been hitting. He’ll bounce back. Melky is decent, but not a guy who can carry you. Now, take a look at all their superstars. Their career arcs aren’t rising, and many are starting the slide downward. In prior years, the Yanks always had the goods to go out and make a mid-season deal. But this year they have so many holes, they’d be better off holding on to their prospects and, if things don’t turn around dramatically by July 4, chaulk this up as a rare lost season.
- The Athletics are finally coming back to Earth. Now, what is St. Louis waiting for?
- Scary to see Beckett give up four homers yesterday. Shades of 2006. Gulp.
- GM’s might be the professionals, but they also might not be any smarter than you. Case in point: The Milwaukee Brewers. Signing Eric Gagne to a $10 million contract was ridiculous — a fact almost everyone pointed out at the time they signed him. Sure, some in Milwaukee may have had visions of him returning to form, just like Boston fans once had visions of Andre Dawson, Jose Canseco, Ricky Henderson, Jack Clark, Kevin Mitchell, and many, many more has-beens returning to form. Doesn’t happen. And $10 million? Who were they bidding against? The Answer: Themselves. After Gagne’s atrocious second-half last year, Milwaukee got played. Now Gagne has lost the closer’s job (for now), and the Brewers have a washed-up middle reliever taking up 1/8 of their payroll. What was their GM thinking? Despite what Theo and other baseball people say about “the professionals,” turns out they are often just as dumb as the rest of us . . . and quite often even more so.
- Joe Morgan should be fired, and networks don’t care how bad broadcasters suck. Actually, this revelation is nothing new. It was just reinforced this week. At least Joe Morgan seems to like our young outfielder, Jacoby Ellswood. Does Joe Morgan even watch baseball?
- We are stuck with Julio Lugo. This weekend, I heard some ESPN knucklehead saying the Sox defense was very good, making his case with this statement: “Take away Julio Lugo, and the Red Sox only have 10 errors.” Oh, how we wish we could take away Julio Lugo. (Theo, see the above section on GMs.) No matter, how much we bellyache about it, Lugo is our shortstop this season. He has a terrible contract no one wants, and forget about replacing him with an unproven rookie. Ain’t gonna happen. Now, I’ve heard some people saying, well, we won a Series with him last year. I would like to amend that statement and say: We won a Series last year in spite of him. Although Lugo is a headache, if that is our biggest problem, I’ll take it. We can still win it all . . . in spite of him.
- Lowry is our shortstop next season. No, he won’t supplant Lugo this year. But expect Lowry to take over next season, ala Ellsbury-Coco. Lugo is just too bad to be at short through 2010. Sox brass would be reluctant to go to a young rookie like Lowry now, so they are looking to ease him in over this season, much like they did with Ellsbury. But look for them to dump Lugo in the offseason rather than bring him back as a disgruntled backup infielder next year. They’ll eat much of his contract, like Renteria and Offerman, and pay him to play elsewhere. But watch him play now and then tell me it won’t be worth it.
- The Celtics are not a championship team. Watching this team in the playoffs has so far been the ultimate exercise in frustration. And, after watching them drop two in Cleveland, I’ve sworn off watching the rest of this series. I loved watching Kevin Garnett this season. But, for all his pre-game hollering and chest-thumping passion, he has no fire when it gets to crunch time. In fact, it seems nobody does. This season has gone from “what a great collection of unselfish players” to “where is a leader on this team? Would somebody please step up!” Great teams almost always have a leader who steps up, demands the ball, and looks to shoot, challenging the opposition to stop him. Bird, Magic, Jordan, Olajawon, Duncan, all could take over a game when it got to crunch time. Instead of that, we get stuck with Garnett who gets the ball in the paint, and instead of looking to shoot, kicks it out to the likes of James Posey. Against the Hawks, and now the Cavs, Garnett has disappeared in close games down the stretch. Of course, no one else has stepped up either – Pierce? Allen? When games get close now, the Celtics look timid and full of doubt. And, if they were going to step it up, they would have by now. This team is done.
It’s hard to believe, but the 2008 MLB season is just about 25% complete. There’s a lot of ball left to be played, for sure. We also have some good data to look at the Pythagorean standings to see what teams are under or over performing in the win column. The complete standings are below. Here are a few things that stand out to me.
AL East –
Toronto really is this bad. They’ve only under preformed by a little more than a game. With Wells now hurt, it looking like it will be another disappointing year from the team north of the border. It’s too bad to. Come next year, Toronto might be the standard pick for 5th in the AL East – it’s going to be a tough division.
Cleveland has under preformed by nearly three games – which is huge. They appear in good shape to right the ship and win the division.
What’s more surprising? The fact that the Angles are over performing or that the A’s have under preformed. Not having seen any A’s games outside of Japan this year, I’m not really up on the team. Guess I’ll need to spend some time watching, but how can they be this good? If it’s the youth, will it last?
Atlanta has under preformed by 4 games and the Marlins have over preformed by 3. All the talk before the season was about the Phillies and the Mets. However, its plausible that two teams from this division will make the playoff this year and both will play well south of the Mason-Dixon line. I’m not saying its going to happen (Go Phillies!). I’m only pointing out that base on a quarter of the season – it’s a real possibility.
I hate to say it but, … the Cubs are a darn good team. St Louis too appears destined to make my last-place pick for them continue to look horrible. Another shock is the Brewers. You’d think a team with so many blown saves would be under performing – but they aren’t. I’m still a believer in them, but they need to have a really good next month – or it might start getting late early. And then there are those almost 500 Buccos! The pitching is starting to come together and the bats are OK. A word to the rest of the league – don’t let this team start to believe in themselves.
Bad news for the Giant – you’ve been over performing at 16 -22. Worse news for the Padres 14-24 seems to suit you fine. The Diamond Backs are clearly the cream of the crop here.
W%=[(Runs Scored)^2]/[(Runs Scored)^2 + (Runs Allowed)^2]
Pythagorean Winning Percentage.
Boston 0.587 1.1
Tampa Bay 0.549 0.7
NY Yankees 0.509 -0.3
Toronto 0.483 -1.4
Baltimore 0.465 1.3
Cleveland 0.576 -2.8
Chicago Sox 0.564 -2.3
Minnesota 0.480 1.2
Detroit 0.426 -0.2
Kansas City 0.400 1.2
Oakland 0.625 -1.4
LA Angels 0.500 2.5
Seattle 0.430 -1.8
Texas 0.418 1.7
Atlanta 0.632 -4.1
NY Mets 0.542 0.0
Florida 0.540 3.0
Philadelphia 0.528 0.4
Washington 0.370 0.9
Chicago Cubs 0.641 -1.7
St. Louis 0.569 0.8
Houston 0.554 -0.1
Pittsburgh 0.455 0.6
Milwaukee 0.438 1.8
Cincinnati 0.418 -0.9
Arizona 0.617 -0.4
LA Dodgers 0.548 -1.3
Colorado 0.407 -0.5
San Francisco 0.361 2.3
San Diego 0.354 0.6