Archive for September, 2011
Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Last night was an EXCITING night in baseball, wasn’t it? I wouldn’t say it was the greatest display in MLB history, but it certainly made headlines. The Red Sox crumbled against the Orioles who cheered as if it was Game 7 of the World Series, Evan Longoria shocked the world and single handedly won it for the Rays as the Yankees fielded their farm team and the Cardinals clinched because the Braves crapped the bed. To say the least, they were outstanding finishes to the wild card races that no one could have ever predicted.
Where to begin is beyond me so I will start with what I thought was the most compelling. I must say, I am happy for the Tampa Bay Rays. Any walk-off home run is dazzling in my books. Longoria roped a solo shot off Scott Proctor, the Bronx Bombers 12th hurler of the night to end it and take his team to the post-season. Proctor? That is the deepest part of the bullpen, showing Joe Girardi’s micro managing at it’s finest. The Yankees Manager fielded the entire 2011 Wilkes Barre-Sranton opening day roster and the outcome looked good on him. Resting beaten up starters is smart, but altering the entire starting line-up and losing a showcase game is embarrassing. That is the difference of having an outstanding team (which is what he has) and using the tools properly to win championships. My prediction, Girardi will be the one to stop the pinstripes from hoisting the World Series hardware. He shows too much doubt in high pressure situations. Whereas Charlie Manuel, the Phillies Skip puts the best he’s got on the field every single game on the schedule.
Boston Manager Terry Francona must have been sweating bullets when he saw the Yankees pitching situation. Did you know Girardi was prepared to put a position player on the hill to close out the contest? That would have been hideous to watch. For the love of God, if I was Francona I would have needed restraints to keep me from getting on the horn with the Yankees decision makers and asking them what the hell they were doing! That is besides the point, the boys of Beantown fell hard in September. It wasn’t the lack of money? Was it the constant injuries? Last night, it was Jonathan Papelbon that blew the game. The same reliever who was running his mouth a couple weeks ago, stating that he was “Mariano Rivera” material. Don’t get me wrong, the Sandman has had his fair share of blown saves, but Papelbon is far from being that great. Everyone knows what happened, right? Long and the short, Papelbon couldn’t protect a 3-2 lead in the ninth with the season in his hands. One strike away from a huge victory, Nolan Reimold hit a ground-rule double and Robert Andino followed up with a liner to Carl Crawford who came up short with the play. Game over. Boston’s season over. I am only guessing the timing of it all, but Boston was welcomed with the Longoria hit just minutes following the game-ender from the Orioles. The AL East basement team had eliminated the mighty Boston Red Sox.
Hate to admit it, but it looks kind of good on Crawford who left Tampa to play for Boston. He is probably kicking himself for leaving a team who is now heading to October baseball. If he stayed, he could have returned to the post-season and possibly played with Johnny Damon, who knows all about jumping ships. Damon, the former long-haired freak has figured it out and learned to adapt on a team. He is a former Boston/Yankees/Detroit outfielder who has had his share of ups and downs. Clearly, he has shown he has made some strides, he was the first guy to jump out of the dugout when Derek Jeter got his 3, 000th career hit this season, showed class all year long and played quietly with a .261 BA, 73 RBI’s 16 homers, 152 hits and 51 walks in 582 trips to the plate. He put his head down, went to work and is well on his way to 3, 000 career hits as well and I am sure that Jeter will counter with the same treatment, a salute and tip of the cap to greatness. (Damon is a couple seasons/277 hits shy of the accomplishment). Anyways, the fact that Crawford is now at home on the couch, he really has nobody to blame but himself.
As for the National League wild card that was up for grabs, Chris Carpenter had a beauty outing and managed to pick up his first win (8-0) in Houston in six years for St. Louis. The righty finished with a complete game shutout, eleven strikeouts and only surrendered two hits. This game was clearly less dramatic, but at least St. Louis cruised to a win where they awaited the Braves to finish up against the Phillies.
It went to thirteen innings, but the Phils without surprise, prevailed and ousted Atlanta.
However, as the Cards and Rays showered in the bubbly, the Yankees had to swallow a walk-off homer from a team they may eventually play in the ALCS, the Red Sox sat in the clubhouse watching their season slip away from them and the MLB had their division series laid out, all ready to go. It was the most exciting nights for baseball in a very long time.
I simply conclude with this: baseball is no less riveting than it ever was and the sport itself is not going anywhere. The only thing that is near death, is the passion from the people that say so. There are games within the game that you simply cannot slow down, even if you think watching baseball is like witnessing paint dry. It is a highly skilled game that takes talent and time to play.
Here are the match-ups for the post-season!
For the American League it will be :
Texas Rangers will play host to the Tampa Bay Rays
For the National League:
Philadelphia Phillies will host the St. Louis Cardinals
Monday, September 19th, 2011
Another milestone for the Yankees…shocking isn’t it? Well not really. Among many things to be proud of this season: they are en route to reaching yet another post-season , Captain Derek Jeter hitting his 3, 000th and of course, the Sandman is now the all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball history. 602 times he has shut the door on his opponents and this time, Mariano Rivera closed out the Twins at home. Not only is he the greatest closer to have ever worn a Yankees uniform, but the best closer in baseball history. Many people would thank family and friends, but Rivera gives thanks to God and the fans that have supported him his entire career. Don’t get me wrong, the future hall of famer mentioned he had family & Panamanian countrymen in the stands but without the two separate support groups he gave props to above, none of it seemed possible.
I have watched the Sandman my entire life, growing up worshipping baseball and playing myself. Early on in my career, I dreamed of being nicknamed “Rivera” knowing that he was a sacred pitcher to be related to. I often pushed it upon people (sort of jokingly) but realized that I was hardly worthy of the compliment. In fact, no one is. Right now, he is the best closing reliever to have ever pitched. Your role as a closer is to get the save and to earn the win. He has 602 saves and 75 wins to date and will only keep adding on to the beefy numbers. Untouchable? Prolific? Yes, number 42 is one of a kind. He has won five World Series rings, tossed 1209 innings, all with one pitch (that can be modified) which happens to be the nastiest cutter going.
Every game from here on out is vital for the pinstripes, but months or years from now, people will remember one thing from this 6-4 victory over Minnesota; Mariano Rivera became MLB’s all-time saves leader. It was a moment to spark some newer memories in their new yard after mourning a ten year anniversary of a large tragedy in the city. It was beautiful to see his old teammates there for him following the final pitch. Jeter and Jorge Posada were the first to congratulate him.
The New York Yankees currently sit on top of the AL East standings, four games ahead of the Red Sox. Who knows what magic is left in this 2011 Yankees club, but for now it is the 17-year veteran that holds the spotlight. And the funny thing is, Rivera is more impressive in October and November than he is in the regular season, history has proven that.
Monday, September 12th, 2011
The outcome of the big series with Philadelphia and Milwaukee this weekend was to be expected, well for me anyhow.
The Phillies took three of four. In game 1, Cole Hamels got behind early, but battled through and came up with the win.
Two former Blue Jays battled it out in game 2! On the hill for the Brewers was Shaun Marcum and Roy Halladay countered.
Halladay worked with a lead all night thanks to a 3-run shot in the first from Ryan Howard. The hurler breezed through the contest improving to 17 wins this season. It seemed as though Halladay was just fine-tuning, whereas a lot of starters are working on rounding out their pitching.
Despite the fact that their best line-up is on the field game in and game out, what makes this team so good, is that everyone in the clubhouse expects excellence, even the skipper. “He was himself,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said about his starter. Even when this team is on a quick roll, no one is shocked. They crave it, they don’t allow anything but.
Let’s not get TOO ahead though, although Halladay sailed through the win, he hasn’t been lights out his entire major league career against the Brew Crew. Going in, he had a lifetime 1-2 record with a 6.41 ERA.
Cliff Lee started game 3, but it was reliever Michael Stutes who grabbed the third W of the series. Lee tossed seven innings, allowed one earned run on six hits and fanned seven. The game went to ten innings, but compliments of Raul Ibanez and his leadoff double in the tenth, along with a throwing error from Brewers reliever LaTroy Hawkins, the visiting team came out on top 3-2.
It was another tight match-up on Sunday, this time it was Milwaukee that did the talking. Yovani Gallardo was dominant minus the two solo shots from Howard and Shane Victorino. Gallardo completed seven innings and struck out 12 and took the four-game sweep at home out of the equation. He salvaged the weekend with a great pitching performance.
It was a great preview for what’s to come in the post-season and how these two clubs match up. The Phillies are inching closer and closer to clinching home field advantage throughout the post-season (thanks to Doc & Prince Fielder’s performances in the NL’s victory at the All-Star Game). Their playoff berth is already inevitable. The only thing stopping the Phillies, is the Philadelphia Phillies. From top to bottom they are filled with gamers who are busting with talent and are led by a man who treats every game as a must-win. A rock solid front that can only be haulted by themselves. I say this with the utmost confidence, this is the best team in the major leagues right now! The only thing missing from the series was Chase Utley who is having his head examined. He was hit in the head by a pitch last week and due to positive test results, he is expected to be back later this week.
Friday, September 9th, 2011
Some random thoughts on the Majors….
Big big stuff this weekend, well in my opinion. The Phillies and Brewers square off in early September. What better way to see where these top two National teams are at so close to post-season. I know what I will be doing this weekend when I’m not at work. My bottom will be on the couch watching these stellar clubs go at. Prince Fielder vs. Roy Halladay. Talk about beast mode. The Jays could really learn something from these studs. Jimmy Rollins was recently activated off of the 15-day DL list and Chase Utley is being examined for a concussion, he did not make the trip to Milwaukee. So that is bittersweet, one in and one out. The 2007 National League Most Valuable Player is a great exchange for the star 2B.
Andre Ethier was sent to Dr. Andrew in Birmingham, Alabama to look after his ailing knee injury. Coincidentally enough, I went to the same doctor in University when I was dealing with rotator cuff surgery. All-star Ethier is in magnificent hands with Andrews, he is one of the top doctors in North America and has worked on hundreds of top athletes. Very polite, intelligent and compassionate doctor. He does not hesitate, so Dodgers fans worried about one of their top players, he will be OK.
I am at the yard right now as the O’s are in town. Brett Cecil is on the hill, he is 3-0 against Baltimore in his career, but is winless since July 29th. Stay tuned I will have more this weekend…