Tagged: playoffs

A World Gone Wrong

Dan:

I don’t even know where to begin. Actually, as I think about it, I realize I’m still not in a good place; not in any state where I feel okay talking about it. I still want to pretend it didn’t happen and that baseball doesn’t exist. The more I think about it, the more I want to throw up.

How do you explain baseball sometimes? On paper, this Red Sox team was stacked. But all year long there just seemed to be something missing; some spark of life. That certainly was the case in the playoffs.

The only thing I feel comfortable enough to say right now is this: This series loss isn’t on Papelbon. Every great closer has blown playoff saves — Eck, Rivera, Gossage, Hoffman, the list goes on. The blame should fall on the offense. One run in the first two games is inexcusable no matter who is on the mound.

For the Sox brass looking to make an improvement, look no further than a power-hitting first baseman. To acquire an Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder, they’ll have to do it in a trade. But it can be done. (Then move Youk to third.)

I don’t want to talk about this anymore . . .

Ready For October

Dan:

Here it is again: the most wonderful time of the year. October playoff baseball is upon us, and our beloved Sox are back in the mix. We almost take that for granted now. But we shouldn’t.

I don’t know why I have such a bad feeling about this series with the Angels. I shouldn’t. The Sox have the edge in almost every aspect of the game, and they man-handled the Angels last month. Still, it’s almost like the Angels are due, which scares me.

Anyway, here are my playoff picks:

American League:

Red Sox def. Angels – The Angels will run like crazy, but you can’t steal first. The Sox rotation and bullpen are insanely deep, and their bats are stacked. I’d pick the Sox to sweep, but my heart says in four.

Yankees def. Twins – The Twins have a ton of momentum, but they could sure use Justin Morneau right now. They haven’t won a game in New York since July of 2007, which means they could be due. But I think the Yankees are too much and should sweep them.

Red Sox def. Yankees – Of course. The playoffs usually come down to pitching, and the Sox have a deeper rotation and bullpen. I think they win in six.

National League:

Phillies def. Rockies – This is BY FAR the toughest series to call. I went back and forth on this several times. I like the Rockies, and they’ve been so strong in the second half. I also think Ubaldo Jimenez is a great up-and-coming ace. But the Phillies are very well-rounded. Ultimately, I think whoever wins this series wins the National League, and I don’t want to see the Sox and Rockies in the Series again. So I picked the Phils in who knows how many, although I’m leaning toward 4.

Cardinals def. Dodgers – I’m not terribly impressed with either of these teams, and the Dodgers really struggled down the stretch. Cards should win in 4.

Phillies def. Cardinals – I haven’t been a believer in the Cardinals all season, and even though they’ll make it to the NLCS, I still am not a believer. The NL Central was a HORRIBLE division this year. Phils in 5.

WORLD SERIES:

Red Sox def. Phillies – Sure, call me a homer. But the fact is the Sox are the most well-rounded team in baseball. And the National League is the junior division. Sox take it in 5 games.

(MVP – Jason Bay)

Solid Clay

Dan:

It pained me to watch how good Clay Buchholz was last night.

But only because I forgot to start him on my fantasy team.

Despite stumbling early on in Kansas City – when they might have closed the gap with the Yanks and actually made a run at the division – the Sox are looking great. With each start he makes, Buchholz confirms to the rest of the American League that he has indeed arrived.

While many great October teams have two ace starters . . . and then have to hope for a miracle . . . the Red Sox are entering the playoffs with a complete staff of four ace starting pitchers (provided Matsuzaka can keep it up) who can shut you down. They already have the game’s best bullpen and a very good lineup. They have to be the favorite heading into October.

A lot will be made of this weekend’s series with the Yanks. But, in reality, it is just appetizers before the main course. The division has in all reality been decided, and nobody is going to stress out their pitchers to try to win it when they are already in the playoffs. Can’t wait for October.

Ouch

Last night’s game hurt. Hurt bad.

Yeah, I know the Sox are heading to the playoffs. I know it makes little difference whether they make it with the wildcard or the division. Still . . .

A victory last night would have moved the Sox to just 3 behind the Yanks in the loss column, with a three-game series coming up. I know it doesn’t matter, but I would have just loved to see the Sox steal the division from the Yanks . . . if for no other reason than to just stick it to them a little bit. Damn I hate the Yankees.

The Rollercoaster Red Sox

Dan:

Sox fans have a reputation of living game to game. Sox win, everything is good; they lose, their season is collapsing. I try to sit back and look at the big picture of the season — when they started the season 2 and 6, I said don’t worry; when they went 8 and 0 against the Yanks, I said don’t get too excited.

But this season feels like it has been an up-and-down season like no other in recent memory. After a good spring – despite weak performances by Papi and their starters – this team looked like a force. Come June, they went through a stretch where their problems started to show through, and we became justifiably worried. Then they went into the break strong while the Yanks scuffled, and we were cruising toward October again. But for much of the second-half, they’ve looked troubled, being torched by the Yankees, and looking vulnerable in the wild card race. Then, just when things looked bleak, they run off an 8-2 stretch and start September in command of the wildcard. And, then, last night Beckett struggles again, they blow it late, and both the Rangers and Rays pick up a game and worry begins to creep in.

I can’t do this.

As a Sox fan, stress is part of the game. And each season has an ebb and flow. But not like this. In 2004, the team was mediocre until August, and then took off like a champ. Not a whole lot of back and forth. In 2005, they struggled around the “good enough” line through the season. Next year, they were great til August and then nose-dived. 2007 they were great most of the year, watched their division lead shrink in September, but were still strong enough. And in 2008 they spent the year consistently being good, but not good enough.

But this season has had peaks and valleys that would even make the most level-headed fan feel motion-sickness.

Now we sit in early September, in the middle of a full-blown playoff race, and who knows what to expect from this team game to game, never mind the rest of the season. I don’t know how much more of this I can take . . . but I’ll try.

This Is Progress

Dan:

Good news for all of us who are driven nuts each October by the ridiculously late starts to playoff games, and even more ridiculous late endings. Fox has mercifully announced they are starting most games at 7:57 p.m. next October. That’s an improvement from recent years, when games wouldn’t start till well after 8:30 . . . a ridiculous start time in a sport that prides itself on appealing to kids (true or otherwise) and where regular season evening games begin at 7:05.

Now if Fox would just dump Tim McCarver.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/baseball/mlb/05/18/postseason.starts.ap/index.html

Observations From Playoff Day 1

Dan:

  • 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?