Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the world of pro wrestling there’s a saying called “putting someone over.”  Now in short what that means is when an older established guy loses to a younger guy so that the younger guy can become more popular and eventually be one of those established guys.  When you look at the way the Rangers beat the Yankees and how the Giants beat the Phillies, it’s easy to see that the Yankees and Phillies definitely put over the Rangers and Giants.  Course the Yankees and Phillies loss wasn’t scripted like wrestling is.

So where did these teams come from?  Well lets start with Texas.  For the past few years Texas was primarily an offensively minded team.  You knew when you played the Rangers you were going to probably give up a lot of hits and runs.  But you also knew you could score a lot of runs.  The Giants were quite the opposite.  The final year they had Barry Bonds on their roster the team was really just a sideshow.  All people wanted to see Bonds hit the big home run, or not hit it depending on your stance on steroids, or not steroids.  Whatever.

Since then the Rangers have been developing young pitchers and tweaking their lineup.  And it was one trade that REALLY put this team to where they are now (and no it’s not Cliff Lee, we’re not that far along in the time line yet).  I’m talking about trading Mark Teixeira to Atlanta.  Teixeira and a relief pitcher were sent to Atlanta and in return Atlanta sent back five prospects.  One of those prospects was Jarrod Saltalamacchia who was the prized prospect of the bunch never quite panned out as the top catcher he was supposed to be.  He’s since been traded to Boston and hasn’t done much there either.  Two of the other prospects were starting pitchers and the jury is still out on both of them.  But the two big names to come out of that trade were Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz both of whom were selected to the 2010 All Star Game.  Andrus is just 22 and is already penciled in as the future of the Rangers at short stop.  Feliz took over the closers spot after Frank Francisco struggled early in the year and Feliz never looked back.  This brilliant trade which gave Texas two big time players combined with their acquisition of Josh Hamilton in 2007/2008 (who is now the face of the franchise), the signing of Vladimir Guerrero and of course the trade that cemented their talented rotation of Cliff Lee, it wasn’t hard to see the Texas Rangers coming.  Did anyone think they would be this good?  Well, sure!  No, they weren’t talked about a lot before the Lee trade but I picked them to win their division.  Although they have no chance to resign Cliff Lee I admire them for giving it a shot to win it all this year and who knows, they just might.  But what’s scary is if their young pitchers can get a little better, they might be a legit world series contender next year even without Cliff Lee.

With the San Francisco Giants it was a trade that they DIDN’T make that got them to where they are.  Years ago they were the anti Rangers, they could pitch as good as any team but couldn’t score.  They won and lost a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 games.  And it seemed that this team needed a power hitter like Bonds, since his departure they just didn’t hit too many home runs.  So that’s where Matt Cane comes in.  He along with Tim Lincecum was a big time young pitcher who was going to be great for years.  Problem was, Lincecum was getting all the attention with all-star games and Cy Young awards.  Meanwhile Matt Cane showed flashes of greatness but never put it together.  Enter the Milwaukee Brewers.  The Brewers know that they don’t have a great chance of retaining power hitting first basemen Prince Fielder and they desperately need pitching.  So would the Giants pull the trigger and send out Cane for Fielder?  They didn’t and they were rewarded for it.  Matt Cane has since turned into an all-star pitcher and although he took a little longer to develop than Lincecum he’s almost just as dominate as he is.  You could almost say the same situation happened this year when the Giants debated trading pitcher Johnathan Sanchez for power hitting outfielder Corey Hart of the Brewers.  That trade never went through and good thing, the Giants now have 3 great pitchers.

But what about the offense?  Sure their pitching is better than ever but where are the runs coming from?  The runs are primarily coming from three men.  The first is Aubrey Huff the man who SHOULD have won the comeback player of the year award.  Huff has had up and down numbers throughout his career but for the most part he’s hit in the mid .200s and around 20 home runs.  So now lets put him in AT&T Park one of the hardest places to hit home runs, would he even hit 10 especially coming off of an especially bad year?  Yes, in fact he hit 26 and hit .290.  Who knew?  Nobody could have predicted that in AT&T park.

Secondly the Giants called up their top hitting prospect catcher Buster Posey.  The Giants traded Benjie Molina to the Rangers (so yea, he gets a ring no matter what) and Posey in his rookie year became the cleanup hitter for a team in the world series, safe to say he did a good job.  Not only did he live up to the hype he helped hit the Giants to where they are now.  Finally the Giants added just one last piece, Cody Ross.  Ross was an average player but like Huff, when he put on the orange and black he turned into an all-star.  Because the park is not conducive to home runs, the Giants like to double and triple teams to death and Ross was a perfect fit for this park.  As of writing this Ross was the MVP of the NLCS and almost single-handedly beat the Phillies and their three all-star pitchers.

Why should we watch?  Unfortunately I don’t foresee this as a highly rated world series.  Baseball’s season goes on way too long and right now the NBA and NHL are just starting up and NFL and college football is about in mid-season.  For me, October is the best month for sports, problem is with so many sports people don’t pay attention to all of it.  When the big market teams like New York, Philadelphia or Boston aren’t in it people don’t pay attention as much.  It’s a shame because I think this is going to be a really fun series.  Problem is ESPN doesn’t talk about teams like the Rangers or Giants and then it’s surprise they’re in the world series, OK everyone watch these two teams who you don’t know play each other.  My hope is that because the Giants and Rangers beat the Phillies and Yankees that maybe it will get people’s attention.  Maybe those series’ turned some heads and people said, “Oh, look at what those teams are doing, they just beat the teams in the world series last year, maybe there’s something to that.”  But I’m doing my part, if I got just one person to watch this world series who otherwise wouldn’t have I’m happy.  And maybe this will be a lesson to ESPN, you gotta pay attention to all 30 teams just like you do in football!

So who’s my pick?  I gotta go with the Texas Rangers.  I know everyone is picking them and everyone picked Philly and the Giants heard all the doubters and proved them wrong, thing is I don’t think the Rangers are going to be full of themselves like Philly was.  Would it shock me if the Giants won?  No.  I could easily see Lincecum outduel Lee and the rest of the Giants pitchers baffle those talented Ranger hitters.  However, I trust the Rangers hitting more than I trust the Giants hitting, course pitching wins championships and the Giants have that, but so do the Rangers.  However I think the Rangers pitching is just good enough to shut down the Giants hitters and that the Giants pitching is going to be good but not good enough.  Again it’s gonna be a great series but I’m going with Texas in… what the hell lets say Texas in 7, make it exciting!

The term “winning with pitching” is not unheard of for national league teams.  Even right now just look at the 1st place Padres, they have a below average offense, stellar pitching and it’s working.  Well that was the idea that the San Francisco Giants had.  2007 was supposed to be the year that the Giants turned it around.  You see, ever since they came within a hair of winning the World Series in 2002 and then being booted from the playoffs by Florida in 03 the Giants were marred in obscurity.  They had made awful trades (Francisco Liriano, Boof Bonser, and Joe Nathan for A.J. Pierzynski) and the team essentially became a sideshow just waiting for Barry Bonds to pass Hank Aaron’s home run record.  Even worse the Giants offense had gotten so bad that Bonds in 2004 remains to this day the last man to hit 30 or more home runs for the team.

So by 2007 something needed to be done but it wasn’t all bad.  Noah Lowry was a promising young pitcher who had some nice years and Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain were on the verge of becoming big stars.  But a talented veteran was needed to head up the rotation.  The Giants looked no further than across the bridge to one Barry Zito.  But who is Barry Zito?

Sexy...

Mysterious...

A rock star...

So yea he was a pretty popular player in Oakland but Zito was a free agent and it was time to cash in on his success.  Oakland wasn’t going to pay him but somebody was.  Zito was a California guy but the Mets we’re one of the teams that wanted Zito and at the time you could see that working out, a guy like Zito in New York, sure, makes sense.  But despite playing in Oakland he lived in San Francisco and the Giants stepped up to offer him (at the time) the largest major league contract in history (7 years 126 million) and with that Zito was a Giant.  And it made great sense.  Zito, who was still only 29 and in his prime could head up a young staff.  The Giants made their intentions clear, we want to win with pitching and in the NL, that’s really what you have to do.  Offenses in the NL for the most part consisted of guys who could steal bases, get sack flies and maybe a cleanup hitter who could hit 30 or so home runs and bat in the low to mid .200s.

Now while pitching in Oakland Zito averaged an ERA of 3.49 a year and a record of 102-63 with a Cy Young award thrown in there.  Not too shabby.  The problem was out of the 6 years Zito spent in Oakland he was only the best pitcher on the staff twice, the year he won the Cy Young (2002) and his final year.  But even his final year numbers were only average (16 wins, 3.8 ERA).  So was he REALLY an ace?  The Giants thought so.  I mean he did have good numbers in Oakland and he would be moving to the worst hitting division in baseball so yea he could probably be an ace.  But I don’t think anyone thought what was going to happen, would happen.

Zito’s first year as a Giant he posted an ERA of 4.53 and a record of 11-13.  I can forgive the record because their best offensive players were Barry Bonds way past his prime, Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, and Benjie Molina.  Not exactly the Big Red Machine Cincinnati Reds of the 70s.  But the ERA of 4.5, that was a career high, what happened?!  Maybe it was just first year jitters, trying to live up to that big contract and having people boo you, can’t be easy.  But it was about to go from bad to worse.

2008 Would be Barry’s worst year as a pitcher with a dreadful 10-17 record and ERA of 5.15.  Zito started the year 0-6 with an ERA of 7.53 and the team had seen enough and sent him to the bullpen.  Zito didn’t make any appearances out of the pen but the message was loud and clear, PITCH BETTER!

2009 Was a little bit better for Zito.  He was 10-13 but the ERA was 4.03 so he was the victim of the occasional no run support but even so, he was brought in to be the ace and he was anything but.  An ERA over 4 is not ace stuff, it’s fine for a #3-#5 starter but not the ace.  But let’s be honest Lincecum and Cain were the #1 and #2 guys, Zito was #1 in name only.

But then came 2010 and it looked like the nightmare was over.  I mean Giants fans did have a lot to be hopeful about seeing how Zito did have a decent 09.  Things only got better when Zito started the year 5-0 with a 1.49 ERA.  Could it be?  Is this FINALLY the Zito the Giants paid for?  Yea those 3 years were rough but imagine if Zito finally got on track and turned back into the old Cy Young award-winning style of pitcher!  You’d have Lincecum the reigning back-to-back Cy Young award winner, all star Matt Cain, an up and coming Johnathan Sanchez who already had a no hitter under his belt, AND Barry Zito pitching like his old self?  Can you say playoffs?  Certainly looked that way early on, and to be fair, as of me writing this the Giants are still very much alive in the playoff race.  I mean look what Zito was doing!  His curve ball was unhittable!

But sadly it was not to be.  As it stands now Zito is 8-9 with a 4.07 ERA, that 5-0 seems like forever ago.  In August Zito posted a 6.23 ERA and 0-3 record.  So now what?

Part of me thinks if the Giants fail to make the playoffs this year, or even if they do, that the Barry Zito experiment is over in San Francisco barring a huge miracle.  He’s not pitching well, the fans don’t like him, and he’s lost 14 more games than he’s won.  All the things that made people in California like Zito (the laid back attitude, the yoga, the music) now people don’t like.  You can get away with being a little different or unique when you’re producing, when you’re not, you’re annoying.  Take a hint from the team across the Bay with what they did to JaMarcus Russell.  Sure you’ll owe him a ton of money (unless you find a trade partner which seems really unlikely) but sometimes you just gotta move on.  But don’t feel bad for Zito, he’ll land on his feet.  I can think of 10 teams off the top of my head that LOVE reclamation projects, good teams too like Boston and New York (not the Mets, I said good teams).  I mean everyone loves left-handed pitchers anyway.

But it makes you wonder, why has it not worked out?  Zito had everything in his favor, he was moving to the weak hitting NL West, he was pitching in a park that consistently leads the league in least amount of home runs allowed, he was pitching in a city he had lived in for 7 years, and that part of the country knew what he was capable of and loved him.  Zito isn’t the first player to flop after signing a big contract and he wont be the last but he is one of the more perplexing busts.  Usually it’s the other way around, pitchers from the NL can’t cut it in the AL (look up Chris Carpenters numbers in Toronto and then St. Louis, and then look up Javier Vazquez’s numbers in New York/Chicago and then Atlanta).  So might Zito be better off in the AL?  Maybe even as a #4 or 5 starter?  It’s possible.  I’m confident the future isn’t that bleak for Zito but chances are the future isn’t in San Francisco.

Look I get it.  I get that Roger may have lied under oath and I get that baseball has an antitrust exemption granted by baseball, I get all that and therefore I understand why Congress might have an interest with steroids and baseball, I get all that.  But just because they CAN have an interest in something, should they?  Better yet, isn’t there another organization where steroids and drugs are a much bigger deal?  Zero baseball players have died from any steroids related illness but what if I told you since 2000 that 15 people have died from a steroid or drug related illness?  Doesn’t that seem more severe?  It does to me.  Well it’s no joke, it exists and it’s called pro wrestling.

I should point out that 3 of the 15 are Chris and Nancy Benoit and their son.  Nancy and her son were murdered and Chris committed suicide because it was believed his brain was so badly beaten up he had a severe case of dementia.  But for what it’s worth Benoit was linked with illegal steroids, having received some just days before his death.  It’s also worth mentioning all of the 15 people were under the age of 50 when they died.

Now look, I understand that it’s ultimately the person taking the steroids or drugs who is ultimately responsible for their own deaths but why is WWE totally getting off the hook?  Baseball and baseball players are getting hammered in the media and in Congress.  Is it because wrestling is “fake” and it’s just part of the business?  I don’t buy that, that’s still 15 dead people that didn’t have to be.  I mean you look at how baseball is getting attacked by Congress and you see that they have zero deaths under their watch, imagine if they had 15!  I would venture to say that MLB would have a LOT of explaining to do, so much so that there could be talks of shutting it down.  Seriously.  If 15 ball players died of steroids, hell make it 10 players, died of steroids in the past 10 years you’re gonna tell me Congress wouldn’t be taking MAJOR steps to fixing this even going as far as saying “Clean up your act of we’re shutting you down.”

So my question is why is WWE not getting any heat on them?  15 People dead, and no the numbers were not cherry picked all of those people worked for WWE at one point (minus Benoit’s wife and son).  The one positive from the Benoit tragedy was that it at least gave this problem some national publicity.  Fox News, CNN and so on all covered the story, but only for a few days, after all it’s wrestling so who cares right?  But the brief public outcry did result in WWE issuing a “wellness policy” where, get this, guys who failed drug tests were actually punished!  What a novel idea right?  You’re not 10 years too late or anything but I digress, better late then never I suppose.

But how’s that working out?

“The New York Daily News, ESPN and Sports Illustrated reported the following names respectively:

Randy Orton, Charlie Haas, Adam Copeland (Edge), Robert Huffman (King Booker), Shane Helms, Mike Bucci (the now retired Simon Dean, who was not on the active roster and worked in talent development), Anthony Carelli (Santino Marella), John Hennigan (ECW Champion John Morrison), Darren Matthews (William Regal), Ken Anderson (Kennedy), Chavo Guerrero, Shoichi Funaki, Dave Bautista (Batista), Chris Mordetsky (Masters) and Eddie Fatu (Umaga). All of which are or have been major stars in the WWE during the last few years.

Randy Orton did not suffer a suspension and it is generally thought that because he was on his last chance he may have been punished before it was agreed to suspend all the other wrestlers. Thus he was not suspended with everyone else. Others see this as WWE covering up for one of its top stars. We will probably never know.”  Taken from WrestlingTruth.Com

Out of those names: Orton, Copeland, Carelli, Hennigan, Matthews, Guerrero and Mordetsky all currently work for WWE.  Bautista and Huffman recently retired (although Huffman requested to be released from WWE, wrestled for a bit then retired) and Fatu is dead.  Haas, Helms, Anderson, and Funaki were all fired for other reasons, mostly budget cuts.  Another big star was suspended by WWE and that being Rey Mysterio.  He said the drugs were prescribed to him but he couldn’t produce the prescription in the allotted time before his suspension so believe what you want.

Is this wellness policy enough?  I suppose it is for now as long as WWE doesn’t decide to suspend the big stars and fire the minor guys just to say “See we’re firing people.”  But the point is, why do they not have to pay for their crimes?  They allowed this culture of steroids, drugs and painkillers to fester and grow and did nothing to stop it.  Many even say that WWE indirectly encouraged using steroids by really pushing the bigger guys.  But don’t take it from me, here’s former wrestler Chris Nowski on the subject:

You’ll also notice Linda basically answering my question as to why WWE shouldn’t be responsible for their employees dieing.  The problem with her explanation is Heath Ledger is an actor.  I’m not for sure but I doubt he has to take drug tests for a movie.  Ledger is also only responsible to a studio for a short time.  Once he’s done filming a movie he moves onto the next one, it’s a totally different situation.  Besides, Heath is one guy.  While it’s true drugs are rampant in Hollywood what is a movie studio supposed to do about it?  If you can’t see the difference between the relationship of an actor and a movie studio and a wrestler and the company he works for then maybe you shouldn’t be running for office Linda.

So what’s it going to take for Congress to realize they’re attacking the wrong company?  Ideally I wish they’d focus on jobs and the economy but if they have to tackle drugs in sports than attack WWE.  Sure they claim to be clean now with the wellness policy but so does baseball and Congress continues to go after them.  You’re telling me nobody is going to be held responsible for these 15 deaths?  Seems like it’s going to be that way.  I think the big outcry against WWE was the Benoit situation and now it’s over.  I mean Linda McMahon is running for Senate and all her competitors can focus on is that WWE has shown women being humiliated and necrophilia.  Who cares, that’s just stupid TV, it doesn’t hurt anyone.  Maybe if a documentary was released?  It worked for fatty foods when Super Size Me came out and for going green when Inconvenient Truth came out.  Maybe a movie would shed some light on the problem and people might say “Oh, you know what?  It IS BS that WWE is getting off so easily and baseball isn’t when one has 15 deaths and the other has 0.”  Whatever happens (probably nothing) I just hope that this blog can at least make 1 more person aware of this than before I wrote it, if that happens than mission accomplished.