Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First off let me start off by saying I know it’s been awhile.  I don’t really have a great excuse for the long lay off other than I’ve started a new job and that just having an idea for a blog doesn’t always give you motivation to write a blog.  But I’ll hopefully be getting back into the swing of things so with that said lets start this blog, which is two parts!

Here’s my pre season MLB predictions for playoff teams: Rays, Yankees, Rangers, White Sox, Phillies, Cardinals, Braves, and Giants.  And I really struggled with White Sox over Twins so needless to say I wasn’t shocked the Twins won.  Do I have proof of these incredibly accurate predictions?  Of course.  I proclaimed these picks on my radio show before the season and my co host heard them with his own ears.  On Facebook I then made the following predictions: Yankees over Twins, Rangers over Rays, Giants over Braves, and Phillies over Reds.  That’s 4/4.  But how did I know that?  Was it just a guess?  Did I get lucky?  No.  Call me crazy but I knew the results before they happened.  I would have been shocked if anything than what happened actually happened.  Allow me to explain and I’ll start with the Rays.

Tampa were the ESPN darlings all season and ended up with the best record in baseball so why would I pick them to lose to a team that had never won a post season series in the history of their franchise?  Sure it had something to do with Cliff Lee but not everything.  Looking at Tampa I couldn’t shake the fact that they were a team built for the regular season.  How do I know?  Lets take a look at their pitching for starters.

Throw out all the numbers and lets just watch the guys play.  Other than David Price which Rays pitcher would fetch the kind of money Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia would?  None of them.  David Price as good as he is, still very young especially for an ace.  Guys like Matt Garza and Wade Davis are good but they don’t strike fear into anyone.  Guys like John Lester, Josh Beckett, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, they make you scared to play them.  You add in the fact that James Shields (don’t ever call him “big game” again please, thanks) is your #2, no, their pitching was never good enough to win in the playoffs.  It’s good enough in the regular season but not when it matters.

How about the Rays offense?  Well when you’re talking about the Rays offense you have to talk about how easily susceptible they are to the no hitter.  Now lets look at their best hitter in Evan Longoria.  He went 0/4 tonight in the big game and his lifetime post season numbers are 16/82 which means he’s hitting less than .200 in the playoffs.  If this guy played for NY, Chicago or LA he’d be getting killed in the media but because he plays for Tampa where nobody cares it goes unnoticed.  There’s no doubt Longoria would fetch the most money as a free agent but he wouldn’t get top dollar with those awful post season numbers.  Now before you say “Well NY gave A Rod a lot of money when his post season numbers were bad.”  Remember, A Rod did a VERY good job in the playoffs for Seattle and nearly single handedly beat the Twins in 2004.

And that’s how the Rays were exposed as frauds.  I said it all year and now I’ve been proven right.  I hate to pat myself on the back but I trust my eye test and it showed.

As for the rest of my picks, simple enough.

The Phillies just had a ton more talent than the Reds.  The Reds rotation was never going to be strong enough to beat Philadelphia.

Yankees always beat the Twins, obvious pick.

Giants and Braves was a tough pick but the Braves to me looked like a poor mans Giants team.  The Braves pitching is good but the Giants pitching is just a little better, the Giants offense also a little bit better.

So who makes the world series?  Well I picked Phillies/Yankees at the start of the year and I see no reason to change that pick.  Would I be shocked if it wasn’t that?  No.  But in the end I have to pick the better teams.  If Cliff Lee can pitch twice vs. NY sure Texas can win, but that’s a big if.  If Lincecum can shut down the Phillies offense which can vanish at times and beat Halladay does that give the Giants the edge in that series (especially considering Cain is better than Oswalt) sure it does.  But in the end, the Phillies have better players.

Now I said this blog was a two parter so here’s part two.

Shame on you Tampa fans.  Forget about the fact that you never showed up to the games all year long, you guys filed out in droves before the game was over when your team needed you the most.  Not that I’m surprised, the fact that the game was sold out only tells me the stadium was more filled with bandwagon fans anyway.  So what am I saying?  It’s time to move the team.

Even though I’ve proclaimed the Rays frauds the team was still good, why only average 23,000 fans a game?  Arizona, Seattle and Houston all had horrible seasons yet they averaged more fans.  Don’t give me the economy as an excuse because Detroit also averaged more fans.  And don’t tell me the stadium is bad so people would rather watch the games on TV because last year Minnesota averaged 29,000 fans and they played in that dumpy Metrodome.  Fact is, Tampa isn’t a baseball market, in fact, Florida isn’t a good baseball market.

I remember Rays manager Joe Maddon saying they want a new stadium, I say NO WAY.  You don’t deserve one.  Minnesota did and got one.  The Florida Marlins don’t deserve a new stadium either but they got one.

Here’s what I expect out of the Marlins new stadium and what would happen IF the Rays got a new stadium.  Here in Columbus we have a AAA team called the Columbus Clippers, they used to be the farm team of the NY Yankees so back in the day they were really good, 7 championships if I recall.  They actually drew a pretty good amount of fans but the Yankee star power will do that.  Once they switched to the Nationals the attendance plummeted.  People then started to say “Well to be fair the stadium is getting pretty old and crappy.”  True, it was.  So we get a new downtown stadium and switch to the Indians, not much star power although they were good (won a AAA championship) and the locals liked seeing the Indians.  But the stadium itself was really nice and once again the Clippers were drawing fans.  But back in the old stadium the fans they drew were the pure baseball fans, who would have shown up if the game were in a backyard.  The fans who were showing up at the new park were families looking for a fun night out with the kids (usually out by the 7th regardless of score) and the young professionals crowd who talk the whole game, cheer when they notice a home run and say, “Wow it’s the 6th inning already, I wasn’t even paying attention.”

Does the team care?  No, money is money.  But it’s the same way with Miami.  The families and young professionals of Miami don’t want to drive out there to Sunlife Stadium to watch the Marlins in a football stadium which has reminders of being the home of the Dolphins all over the place.  So you put the stadium downtown and make it really nice and climate controlled they bring in the families and young professionals because it’s a fun night out and it’s “cool to be seen” there.  Do I fault the Marlins for doing this?  No.  But in the end you might have a better attendance for a while but in the end you’re stuck with bandwagon fans who wont show up once the novelty of the stadium has worn off.  How do I know?  The Clippers despite winning it all had a drop in attendance.  In 2009 the stadium opens up and the team is awful and attendance is good, in 2010 the stadium has been around, the team is the best in AAA and attendance drops.  Now I know it’s just AAA and this is MLB but it’s still baseball and it’s still people.  People at their core are the same everywhere in America, just trust me on this.  In 2012 the Marlins attendance will be good and it will drop in 2013 because that’s just how it is.  So why does Tampa deserve a new stadium?  Miami is a bigger city and they can’t draw fans so why will Tampa?  In fact Florida other than NFL (minus the Jags) don’t even draw that well in pro sports.  I guess the Magic do well, although people who live in Orlando probably have nothing else to do except go to see the Magic since they all probably work at a theme park or hotel.  The Heat were a good team last year and didn’t draw too many fans, they will sell out now but it only took bringing in LeBron and Bosh to do so.

With baseball in Florida if you grew up before the Marlins and Rays came in you already rooted for a team because of spring training, especially in Tampa where NY has their spring training.  So here comes the Rays who are awful for so long and have to play 9 home games a year against NY (a team who played in Tampa before the Rays did) who will the bulk of Tampa root for?  And I’m not even counting all the transplants in Florida.  Combine the fact they have a dump stadium and a cheap payroll, baseball in Florida just isn’t going to work.  The Marlins win 2 world series’ and people still don’t care.  Now it’s too late for them to move since a stadium is on the way but the Rays have gotta get out of there.

Will it happen?  Honestly, it might.  If a team owner can’t make money in a city with a good team why keep the team there?  Especially if there’s no signs of a new stadium on the way, and it doesn’t look like there is.  Frauds or not, the team is good, not world series good, but they don’t deserve the small fan turnout they get.

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.