Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems: The Cliff Lee Story

December 15, 2010

Remember when he was on Cleveland? 4 teams ago.

So, Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies much to the dismay of the Yankees and Rangers.  It seems that in the dying seconds, the Phils swept in and grabbed Lee with a 5 year deal.  Despite the fact that Lee took less years from Philadelphia in the offer that he accepted, he took what was the best deal overall.

Most of the articles written about this signing and many of the sports radio guys down here in the DFW (everyone but the Ticket) are groaning about the fact that Lee is giving up astronomical amounts of money to go to Philly.  The fact of the matter is, he isn’t.  Lee is still getting $24 mil a year for five years.  A sixth year is either going to be a vested $27 mil or a $12.5 mil buyout, so he basically has 6 years for at least $132 mil, if not $147 mil.  The Yankees offered him about $22.5 a year, the Rangers offered about $23 mil a year, but would not guarantee a seventh.  So…. In conclusion, they all offered roughly the same thing.  The seventh year did not matter, and Lee wanted to create a monster rotation for the Phillies.  Which brings us to….

Are the Phillies now the World Series favorites?

I am usually wrong in my predictions.  By that I mean, I have never been right, but I do not think Philadelphia is the strongest team in the Majors for 3 reasons:

1. Their Offense.
The Phils were 12th in the majors in batting avg. (which I take very little stock in), 13th in OBP, and 12th in slugging.  It is important to note that all of those numbers were good enough to be tops in the NL East.  In what is a big name offense who led the Phillies in OBP last year?  Carlos Ruiz.  OPS? Jayson Werth.

Ryan Howard’s walk numbers have plummeted since being named MVP in 2006, and his power numbers have fallen off as well (most likely a direct result using Dick’s Sporting Goods shit gear).  Jimmy Rollins hit .243 in fairly limited time.  If this offense stays healthy and returns to old form it is the best in the NL East, but with that rotation it is not about the East.  It is about a pennant… Which brings us to October and reason #2.

2. Recent Playoff History.

Projected top 4 in the Phillies rotation next year: Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels. 
Anyone watch the playoffs last year?
NLCS- Giants beat the Phils in 6 games beating Halladay, Hamels, and Oswalt in the process, but they didn’t have Lee.

hmmm…
World Series- The Giants beat the Rangers in 5 games beating one Clifton Phifer Lee not once, but twice in the process.

Maybe it was a team of destiny or some such nonsense, but they knocked around this dream staff pretty good.  No pennant for the Phillies.

Does adding Lee make them the team to beat in the NL?  Yes, probably, but….

3. There is a monster in the AL, too.

The Red Sox are the best team in baseball.  I was actually saying this before the acquisitions of Crawford and Gonzalez, but they just furthered the point.  Prior to the signing of Cliff Lee by Philly, the Sox had far and away the best staff in baseball.  Bucholz and Lester both had Cy Young caliber years last year.  Josh Beckett is a stud, and he is only 30, and John Lackey won 14 games in his 1st season with the Sox.  Say what you want about Dice K, but that is a pretty solid option at #5 (if ever healthy).

The Sox have a complete lineup, and a solid defense.  With that staff and those bats they have to be the preseason favorite.

With the Sox being so deep, and Cliff Lee (and his spit coated wife) going elsewhere, what are the boys in Bronx supposed to do?

Well, first thing’s first. Don’t shit your pants, Cashman.

Who knew George Costanza still worked for the Yanks?

Here’s to hoping that Brian Cashman does not feel a need to go out and flex his pinstriped nuts on the trade market.  The Yankees have actually been semi- prudent in holding onto prospects in the last couple of years, and it could pay dividends.  Their catching prospect, Jesus Montero has shown promise, and is poised to get time in throughout 2011.  Today’s acquisition of Russell Martin is hopefully not a sign that they are trying to make Montero expendable, but that would not surprise me in the least.

There are still a few guys available that could help the Yankees out a bit, but this might be a situation where they have to offer about 10 guys deals and have them compete.  They just signed Mark Prior to a minor league deal.  This is extremely low risk, but it would be nice to see him and Kerry Wood back together again.  Wood is someone they have to sign as he was invaluable down the stretch.

Amongst the other available names, Brandon Webb and Chris Young are the two that stick out, but neither is a proven commodity.  Jeff Francis might be a low risk lefthander to take a chance on, but only because there are no other lefty starters out there.

I would not be surprised to see them go out and grab Magglio Ordonez now that they have been snakebit by the other free agents.

There is still hope in the East for the Bombers as Tampa liquidated, but I don’t think a trade for an arm (Greinke) would be the answer right now.  Get Andy to come back and play one more year, something inside me wants to see the Yankees win(or lose) with their own guys for once.


2010 Blue Duck MLB Awards Spectacular

November 12, 2010

2010 Blue Duck Major League Baseball Awards

I wrote most of this about a month ago.  All the picks were done before the playoffs.  Without further bullshit:

AL Rookie of the Year-
Neftali Feliz

22 years old

The only real no brainer of the postseason awards.  Feliz breaking the rookie saves record isn’t what impresses me.  Feliz throws hard, but more importantly has balls.  He has filthy stuff, but his out pitch is predominantly his fastball, and a closer who doesn’t have to rely on a secondary pitch, is deadly.  Here’s hoping he doesn’t turn into a Father-in-law beating slop thrower like the guy his career most notably mirrors right now.

NL Rookie of the Year-
Buster Posey
Jason Heyward will win this award.  I don’t know if Posey is even eligible, but Posey has meant more to his team than maybe any rookie in recent years.  The only stat Heyward has him on is OBP.  Posey plays in a bigger yard, at a more important position, on a team with less weapons.  Posey was the best catcher in the National League this season.

AL MVP-
Miguel Cabrera.

Miguel being Miguel

Another pick that I doubt gets the award.  I picked Miggy last year as my MVP, and he sobered up and had another solid season.  All of his numbers got better this year, but the Tigers faded and this is what will ultimately kill Cabrera’s chances.  What worries me is this guy is arguably the best overall hitter in baseball (yeah, I said it, better than Pujols.) and he may never win an MVP.

Last year, I showed a comparison of striking similarity between Cabrera statistics up to age 26, and Ken Griffey’s to the same age.  He stayed on that Griffey pace.  The reason Cabrera is the MVP, though, is the lack of help in his lineup.  Hamilton had Nelson Cruz, Vladi, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler at different times of the year.  Cano had the Yankees.  Cabrera’s lineup is among the deepest if all healthy, but Carlos Guillen played less than 70 games, and Magglio Ordonez played right around half the year.  No one else had more than 15 hr’s for the Tigers.

Further proof:  Cabrera had 32 intentional walks, Hamilton 5, Bautista 2, Cano 14.

The Rangers win a closer West without Hamilton, the Yankees finish third without Cano, Tigers finish 20 games below .500 without Miggy.  He had the biggest impact on his team.  He should be the MVP.

2nd- Josh Hamilton
3rd- Paul Konerko
4th- Robinson Cano
5th- Beltre/Bautista

NL MVP-
Carlos Gonzalez.
This is a tough call.  The late surge by Troy Tulowitkzi and the late fade of the Rockies hurt him at the end, but his numbers are staggering.  CarGo (terrible nickname) finished first in the league in hits, total bases, and batting average, 2nd in RBI’s and slugging, and 3rd in OPS.  All this while swiping 26 bags, and playing well at all 3 outfield positions in a rather expansive Coors Field outfield.

Pujols and Votto sort of cancel eachother out, but I think Votto will get the award.

It should be a Venezuelan clean sweep for MVP.

2nd- Votto
3rd- Pujols
4th- Aubrey Huff.  He’s the fuckin’ man.
5th- Tulowitzki’s numbers in 122 games would’ve made him a favorite if he played say, 20 more.  Also, would’ve made the Rockies a playoff team.

AL Cy Young-
Felix Hernandez
CC is the pick right now, but King Felix has all the numbers.  Well, all the numbers except a clear lack of wins.  The debate will always rage on over whether MVP and Cy Young award winners can come from bottom of the barrel teams.  It tends to factor in more for offensive players than pitchers, but Felix will get knocked for this.  Anyone who picks someone else for this reason alone didn’t look at the stats.

Hernandez had 13 wins on the season.  This wouldn’t be all that impressive if his wins were against teams from the lowly AL West, but he actually struggled within the division.  11 of his wins were against teams with winning records, and he pitched the Yankees better than any other starter in the league.

His season line against the Yanks.  3-0….2 Complete games, 1 Shutout, 0.35 ERA, a WHIP under 1 and 31 K’s in 26 innings.

Hail Venezuela.

2nd- Clay Buchholz
3rd- David Price
4th- CC Sabathia

NL Cy Young-
Roy Halladay.
Just better than everyone else.  Pitching names come and go and Halladay puts up the same stats every year.  Why is he the Cy Young, though?  Well, the Phillies were falling apart midseason.  The shit was hitting the fan, and their one steady performer took the hill every 5 days.  The pickup and performance of Roy Oswalt at the deadline ended the NL East race, but Halladay kept his team in position for much of the year.

2nd- Josh Johnson
3rd- Adam Wainright
4th- Roy Oswalt

Too bad Carlos Zambrano didn’t have a good year.  Would have been a banner year for the land of Hugo Chavez.

Throw in Awards:

Hit the Showers, Wife Beater.

Closer of the Year-
AL- Mariano Rivera- still got unbelievable numbers, still only has one pitch.
NL- Carlos Marmol- not the best, but unbelievable year for K’s.  16K’s per 9 innings.

Comeback player of the Year-
AL- I don’t care.
NL- Don’t care either.

Manager of the Year-
AL- Ron Gardenhire- The Twins have no pitching, and a thrown together lineup.  Ron did a lot with this squad.
NL- Bobby Cox- Give the old guy a good send off.


Steve Phillips’ Public Walk of Shame

October 23, 2009
Steve Phillips had an affair with this dog over the summer.  Now shes telling the world.

Steve Phillips had an affair with this dog over the summer. Now she's telling the world.

To quote Macaulay Culkin’s character in the masterpiece Home Alone, “Buzz! Your girlfriend! Woof!”  And that may even be an understatement of epic proportions to refer to the mistress in the Steve Phillips affair saga.

For those of you unfamiliar with the situation, here’s the drama:  Steve Phillips had a relationship with a 22-year production assistant at ESPN this past summer.  Brooke Hundley, the mistress, apparently thought the relationship was much more serious than it turned out to be and wound up giving a letter detailing their sordid affair to Phillips’ wife.  Allegedly, Hundley sat in the driveway of Phillips’ family home in Wilton, CT and waited for the wife to get home to deliver the letter in person.  But when the wife came home, Hundley panicked, got in her car, and backed out of the driveway (not before backing through a stone wall), speeding away.  The letter was left on the front door. Furthermore, Hundley stalked Phillip’s eldest son, chatting with him under a fake name on instant messager, friending him with a fake profile on Facebook, and trying to glean family information from the boy.

I wouldn't bang this heffer with CareBear's dick.

I wouldn't bang this heffer with CareBear's dick.

Steve Phillips admitted to the affair earlier this week, and is currently trying to protect his family from this “delusional and obsessive” individual.  He is also on a “leave of absence” from ESPN while he deals with this issue, although it is widely believed he is suspended and eventually will be fired for his transgressions, following in the steps of another former Baseball Tonight analyst, Harold Reynolds.  Sadly, this isn’t the first affair Phillips has been engaged in.  In 1998, he was forced to admit to several affairs after being accused of sexual harassment while with the Mets.  He settled that case out of court.  It has also been reported that his wife has filed for divorce, immediately after this story broke.

Hundley is a graduate from Ithaca College with a degree in TV/Radio.  She’s certainly got the face for radio.  In her letter, she reported in graphic detail some of the things her and Phillips engaged in.  Some of the gems:

  • She’s “not just some random girl he had sex with in parking lots.
  • They “first slept together in St. Louis in his hotel suite.
  • They apparently went without a condom, because Steve “assured me I wouldn’t have to worry about getting pregnant since his vasectomy.”
  • They exchanged texts “mostly about the sexual side of our relationship.”  She even has “some saved if you ever want to read them.”
  • “He’s glad you decided to stay at home, he enjoys being with me because I have more of a passion and drive to really do something with my life.”
  • And she’s “not telling you all of this to hurt you in any way”
  • “To top it off, Steve has a big birthmark on his crotch right above his penis and one on his left inner thigh, so you know i’m not being fake”
I'd rather bang the storm trooper.

I'd rather bang the storm trooper.

Miss Hundley, is a real class act.  I’m glad that she wasn’t trying to hurt Mrs Phillips by writing this; imagine what her letter would look like if she WAS trying to hurt her?  I mean, she’s got a drive to do something with her life, what does Marni Phillips bring to the table?  For a communication’s major, who told students at her alma mater that writing is one of the most important skills a professional needs, the letter looks like it could’ve been written by a pubescent teenager.

What did we learn here, other than Phillips is a serial cheater and has ruined his family’s lives in the most public way possible?  First of all, if you’re going to cheat, cheat up.  Never, ever cheat down.  It’s that simple.  Listen, Phillips isn’t a particularly talented baseball man (See here) but he’s not dirtiest old man either.  He could definitely do better than this pig.  Hot chicks don’t become obsessed with their paramour, they simply move on because they can.  Ugly girls though, they are never going to see anything this good again in their miserable lives.  They are going to hold on for dear life, it’s science.  Second, ESPN doesn’t care about illicit affairs, but they do care about them when they come to public light.  It’s widely known that Chris Berman and Mark Schlereth are among the worst offenders in Bristol.  But nobody cares because their families aren’t sent nasty letters or pressing charges.  When Harold Reynolds was sued, he was never seen on the network again.  Phillips is next.


Howard and the Schmuck: Phillies Sued for 200th HR Ball

October 12, 2009

On July 16th, Ryan Howard hit the 200th homerun of his young career.  He became the quickest player to reach the milestone, doing so in just 658 games.  It took Alex Rodriguez 826 games to reach the same mark (ARod was 25 when he hit his, though, Howard is 29).  As has been the case in recent years where milestone homeruns are hit seemingly every night, not a whole lot was made of the round tripper, but more than a month later the story lingered for more selfish reasons.

Howard will have many more Homeruns, but if he wants to keep them, he better slim down and keep them in the park.

Howard will have many more Homeruns, but if he wants to keep them, he better slim down and keep them in the park.

It was a packed house in Miami that day, 39% full.  About 15,000 fans showed up to watch a division rivalry.  The ball was “caught” by 12-year-old Jennifer Valdivia.  She was sitting in one of the quarter-full sections of LandShark (A crappy beer, a crappier stadium) Stadium, and when the ball ended up under a seat a couple to the left of her own, Valdivia moved briskly, but did not face much competition in her quest to procure the ball.  Then she simply went back to her seat.

A Phillies representative was sent out to get Jennifer and her 16 year old brother.  They were brought down to the clubhouse and given cotton candy and a different ball signed by Ryan Howard in exchange for the historic homerun ball.  They took the exchange, and all parties seemed to be content.

Now I do not know if Miami area attorney Norm Kent approached them or they approached Kent, but this guy was born for this case.  Kent is a Brooklyn-born former talk show host and political advocate whose office is riddled with Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia (Read up on Norm Kent here).  Kent seems like the type of guy who loves to be in the spotlight, and was waiting for an opportunity to attach himself to baseball somehow.

Norm Kent as Dodgers Fantasy Camp.  Click to read his fantasy baseball blog.

Norm Kent at Dodger's Fantasy Camp. Click to read his fantasy baseball blog.

The famous Valdivia vs. The Philadelphia Phillies case will be known for giving fans the ultimate right to a baseball caught in the stands.  That’s right, Kent sued the Phillies so Jennifer could get her baseball back.

The practice of returning milestone homerun balls to the player that hit them became very prevalent around the time of Mark McGwire’s run.  At that time, people were excited to catch one and get driven down to the clubhouse to meet with the Larger than Life slugger.  Things seem to have changed since McGwire’s 70th sold for a cool million.

The market has slowed to a halt since then, and Norm Kent’s appraisal of the ball as being worth $1,000 is probably correct.  Someone would pay that much for the ball right now.  This is a ball that could be worth a lot of money in maybe 50 years, or the week that Ryan Howard gets enshrined in the Hall of Fame.   It all depends on the first basemen’s consistency over the rest of his career.

Maybe Kent is trying to drive the price of the ball up with all of this publicity.  I do not know, but I do know that there is something wrong with this whole thing.  The fans at the games are looking for payouts.

The price was a bit steep for Matt Carson, but he will treasure the bat instead.

The price was a bit steep for Matt Carson, but he will treasure the bat instead.

Earlier this season, Matt Carson, a 28-year old career minor leaguer playing for Oakland, hit his first career Major League homerun.  When the team inquired about the ball, the fan said he could have it, for $10,000.  Just another sign that people do not know how much Minor League baseball players make.  Carson said no, and got his bat authenticated instead.

Part of me does not blame the girl.  She is just a kid at a game.  She probably is barely paying attention, dragged there by her older brother.  She most likely had no idea who Ryan Howard was before she grabbed the ball.  So for her to feel swindled is normal because she was told by Norm Kent that she was swindled.

I am disappointed in Norm Kent.  This is a baseball fan claiming to be an advocate of baseball fans, but for a real fan, going into the Phillies’ clubhouse after the game, and getting a signed ball would be better than having that homerun ball.

Seth McFarlane, creator of the Comic book character, Spawn, paid 3 million bucks for the Mark McGwire 70th homerun ball.  I think its worth $9 now.

Seth McFarlane, creator of the Comic book character, Spawn, paid 3 million bucks for the Mark McGwire 70th homerun ball. I think its worth $9 now.

Obviously, the Phillies could have handled this better.  Ryan Howard should have reached out more and given the fan more than just a signed baseball.  Maybe sent a personal letter and memorabilia.  I doubt this would appease Norm Kent, but it may have made the fan’s experience better.  Also, giving cotton candy to a kid to get something away from them makes the whole situation sketchy.

This is just a sad representation of what sports have come to.  In an interview, an NPR journalist asked Norm Kent if he were Ryan Howard, wouldn’t he want the ball back?  His response:

“There was a time, and day, and era, when that argument might have had some merit…, but this is an age when that ball has more than just historic significance.  There’s nothing to say that Ryan Howard, would not, years from now, auction off that ball as other professional athletes auction off their rings and jewelry to generate money for themselves.”

I’d say, “Go to hell,” but I think you’re well on your way.  Just do me a favor, and don’t take baseball with you.

Norm Kent’s Interview with NPR
Video of the Homerun


Cuzzi’s Call Has Fans Crying Foul

October 10, 2009
You be the judge.  Not a tough call (Getty Images)

You be the judge. Not a tough call (Getty Images)

The New York Yankees took down the Minnesota Twins to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS on Friday night.  The Yankees won in dramatic fashion with a walk off homerun in the 11th by 2009 acquisition, Mark Teixiera.  The dramatic winning effort was overshadowed, though by an absolutely horrible call that took place in the top of the 11th.

Joe Mauer was leading off the top of the eleventh with Damaso Marte (how did this guy make the postseason roster?) on the hill.  Joe hit a flair down the left field line that, off the bat, looked as if it would be well foul.  Melky Cabera gave chase and nearly caught up to it in the left field corner.  The leftfielder got a piece of it, it hit the ground, and bounced into the seats by the foul pole.

Phil Cuzzi was literally 20 feet from the spot of this soon-to-be mess.  He is staring directly at the occurrence, and as the ball bounced away, Cuzzi emphatically motions that the ball was foul.

There are a few things that are just really bad here.  First of all, this ball was fair by a foot.  I am not even exaggerating there.  The foul line is actually as fair line, and this ball was probably eight inches inside the line.  So, seeing that as foul is about as bad a call as I have ever witnessed.

Second, this would have been a ground rule double or a foul ball.  Either way the play is dead.  So, if Cuzzi saw this as fair and just called foul by instinct, he had ample time to change his decision.  Cuzzi would have gotten booed a little for this, but further review by everyone would have shown he was correct.

Third, this ball nicked off of Melky Cabrera’s glove.  Melky was well in fair territory when it hit off of him, and that alone, even if Cuzzi saw the ball land foul, should merit a fair call.  The only thing I can think of was that he was waiting to see chalk, and when he did not see it, Cuzzi called the ball foul.

Phil Cuzzi has a track record of controversy in the MLB, but this wasnt about ego like usual.  This was a case of either dyslxia or blindness.

Phil Cuzzi has a track record of controversy in the MLB, but this wasn't about ego like usual. This was a case of either dyslxia or blindness.

Really the worst part about this call is that the third base umpire would have gotten it right.  I do not see the need for the extra two umpires in the playoffs.  Now that you have instant replay for homerun/non homerun calls, the outfield is pretty much covered.

There are very few situations that the umpire further down the line will get a better view of a catch or a boundary call.  I understand it gives the base umpires a better opportunity to watch the bags, and see if runners tag up, etc, but you are asking an umpire to do something he has not done all year.

Phil Cuzzi really blew this call.  He saw down for up, left for right, fair for foul.  It was his one call of the night.  Chuck Meriweather blew numerous calls behind the dish, but he was allowed instant redemption by the next pitch.   Cuzzi got one chance, and made a mockery of Abner Doubleday and the rules of baseball.

If you want to see what fans are saying, here are a few reactions from Twitter and comment boxes from various articles (just know that I didn’t edit these people, and apparently, no one can spell):

Umpire Phil Cuzzi are U buddies with Tim Donaghy?”

I really believe that Phil Cuzzi might have made the worst officiating call in history. How did he miss it?”

Umpire Phil Cuzzi was the MVP for the Yankees last night”

Phil Cuzzi you don’t need to make the trip to the Metrodome. Watch from home. Broadcast in HD maybe you will see the White Foul Line.”

Umpire’s ugly mistake costly to Twins: Phil Cuzzi might want to register under a pseudonym at his hotel in Minn”

Dear Phil Cuzzi, I’ll pay for your lasik surgery… You should feel horrible”

Phil Cuzzi Stinks, And I Don’t like him”

Then the Ones that Think the Fix is In:

Calling for the head of Phil Cuzzi…what a joke of a call last night…no way can someone unintentionally make that big of a mistake”

Phil Cuzzi is paid off with Steinbrenner money.”

“come on people…this is how the mob works…they own these umpires…remember the n.b.a. ref….all the money that is on a yankees trip to the world series…MONEY TALKS”

“Lets really investigate Cuzzi. His calls to vegas? his friends? All of it. If it isnt him, Its MLB, One of the 2 is guilfy. Im so disgusted with the game now. I used to be a true fan of it.”

“Just another case of Bud Selig and MLB doing whatever they can to guarantee that the Yankees get to the World Series.”

“Get some glasses and then get a brain. That call was blown on purpose. GO buy that ump a drink. I’m sure he has plenty of them today. I hope he made enough to retire on with that call.”

“That call ruined a great game. Rigged.”

Some Said it was Karma:

“Brandon inge got hit by the ball that would have scored a run!!!! quit all your crying the twins are there too by bad calls so everbody just zipp it it done!!”

“Wee, hey twins fans…remember that blown call when inge got hit? I’m sure you do. Maybe this was super obvious, but what goes around comes around.”

Who was happiest with this call?

You may think it was the Yankees or Yankees fans or even the National Association for the Defamation of Umpires (NAfDU for short) but no, it was Joe Nathan.  Nathan’s complete collapse gets pushed back a page because of an umpire’s blindness.  Nathan, who was sweating like he was in withdrawal, gave up two missiles to start he ninth inning and knot up the score.  Nathan said after the game, “I wasn’t the only one who blew one tonight.”

Joe Nathan is pumped that everyone forgot about him blowing this one, and turned their attention to a call.

Joe Nathan is pumped that everyone forgot about him blowing this one, and turned their attention to a call.

No, you weren’t Joe, but giving up a 440 ft bomb to ARod kept the game going long enough to allow Phil Cuzzi his opportunity. So don’t deflect criticism because you have gotten off extremely easy.  You owe Phil Cuzzi a thank you card.

If Twins fans really think the fix is in, then I suggest you investigate your closer before you start suggesting that the mob paid a guy standing in the left field corner to blow a critical call in game two of the ALDS.


The Ghosts have Crossed the Street

October 10, 2009

On Friday night, the Yankees came back from two runs down in the ninth, and then overcame a bases loaded, nobody out jam in the eleventh en route to a Mark Teixiera homer, and a 2-0 lead in the series against the Twins.  The victory makes one wonder if the mystique of old Yankee Stadium has jumped the short distance into the Bronx Bomber’s new stomping grounds.

The Yankees caught a few big breaks in this one.  Terrible umpiring was prevalent from the first pitch, but in the eleventh, Joe Mauer hit what appeared to be a leadoff ground rule double.  The umpire called the ball foul, though replays proved it to be fair by at least a foot (Words cannot describe how bad this call was.  The umpire was standing on top of it, and staring right at it.  Melky Cabrera touched it in fair territory.  Bad call).  Mauer would later single, but was forced out at the plate in an epic escape by Yankee’s reliever David Robertson.

Earlier on in the game, with the game still tied at zip, Matt Tolbert singled with two outs and Delmon Young at second.  Carlos Gomez took a wide turn rounding second, and Nick Swisher quickly got the ball into Derek Jeter.  Jeter who is seemingly, always in the right place at the right time in the month of October, applied the tag to Gomez just before Delmon Young reached homeplate.  Inning over, game still tied.

A more blatant example of pimping a homerun. At Least Mannys went out.

A more blatant example of pimping a homerun. At Least Manny's went out.

Also, a moment no one touched on during the coverage.  Brendan Harris hit a key rbi triple for the Twins.  While watching, the first thing I thought when Johnny Damon whiffed on it was, “that will be an inside the park homer,” but replays show Harris pimping it (definition: verb. admiring a batted ball that you think will reach the stands.) and getting off to a slow start.  He had a stand up triple and slowed down into third.  If he busts it out of the box, Harris may have had a rare homerun without leaving the yard.

A third break for the Yankees is that in his last two outings, Joe Nathan has looked pathetic.  Tuesday, against the Tigers, he pulled a Houdini on a ball smoked at Orlando Cabrera that caught Curtis Granderson napping at first, and tonight, he came in and could not throw a strike.  Nathan looked shook on the mound.  He was sweating like a pig.  When Nathan did find the zone, he found a bit too much of it, and paid the price.  Teixiera got a hard single off of Joe, and Alex Rodriguez followed with an absolute blast that made New York fans forget about the past, until tomorrow.

Jose Mijares dodged a bullet in the tenth, a runner inherited from Joe Nathan, Brett Gardner took off from third on a line drive to Orlando Cabrera and was doubled off to end a very promising threat.  (In Gardner’s defense, if he froze and got back to third, Derek Jeter was halfway to second base, and would have been thrown out anyways.)

Francisco Cervelli was the last person that thought Francisco Cervelli would play tonight.

Francisco Cervelli was the last person that thought Francisco Cervelli would play tonight.

This whole situation led to the very surprising use of Francsico Cervelli in the game.  When Posada was pulled for a pinch runner Francisco was actually at the bar in centerfield with his spikes on.  Cervelli came in and handled David Robertson effectively to get out of a huge jam.

After the first two games of the series the Steinbrenner Plan is working to perfection.  C.C. got a win, AJ Burnett pitched wildly effective, and Mark Teixiera collected the walkoff “wallscraper.”  Yankees fans are just hoping the Plan works in the House that Kirby Built.


Matt Holliday… It’s Not Your Fault..

October 9, 2009

Here’s a quick video of Tony La Russa and Matt Holliday talking it out after last night’s game…

Matt Holliday made one of the more memorable plays in recent history last night in the Cardinal’s last inning loss to the Dodgers.  In a play more fitting for America’s Funniest Home Videos than Baseball Tonight, Holliday got hit in the balls, fell over, and then chomped on sunflower seeds while getting harassed by America’s prettiest in SoCal.  It was as if the opposing team’s Leftfielder was channeling Holliday from the bench.  To put it bluntly, Matt Holliday pulled a Manny.

Sorry Ryan, you were called on to get 2 outs, then needed to get an extra one because of Holliday, but, isnt getting 3 outs your job?

Sorry Ryan, you were called on to get 2 outs, then needed to get an extra one because of Holliday, but, isn't getting 3 outs your job?

Moving on, I realize that Holliday’s catch would have ended the game.  It would have been a one, two, three inning, and Cardinals fans would have gone and listened to books on tape read by Jack Buck, and wandered off to dreams of Mark McGwire hitting dingers into Big Mac Land (or whatever it is Cards fans do after victories… Budweiser?).  But, in his defense, Ryan Franklin still has to close this game out.  Lets take a look at Franklin’s line:


R. Franklin   0.1 IP,  2H, 2R, 0ER, 2BB,  0SO, 0.00 ERA  L, BSv

James Loney would have been Franklin’s second out in his appearance.  You are telling me a closer can’t get three outs for a save?  The problem I have with Ryan Franklin is that he doesn’t have overpowering stuff.  He had a WHIP of 1.20 for the season (meaning he gave up 1.2 walks or hits per inning he pitched, meaning, basically, he allowed at least a base runner in every appearance he made.).

A good closer has to be nearer to 1.  Also, with a WHIP of 1.2, Franklin is used to pitching with a runner on base.   He did not have anything to put away Casey Blake in a long battle that ended with a walk of Blake.  He then sacrificed the game tying single to Ronnie “Belisario” Belliard.  Then, the one that really throws me for a loop, he walked Russell Martin on four pitches, none of which, made Martin even contemplate swinging.

Once Manny and Ethier were out, this was not the heart of the Dodger lineup.  One must question Tony La Russa’s taking out of Adam Wainwright as well.  Wainwright had thrown 109 pitches, but he had allowed only 3 hits.  Wainwright did run into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the 8th, but it ended without anyone hitting anything too hard off of him.

A closer has to have the ability to get a strikeout.  Unless you are a popup producing machine, you need to be able to get a K to limit damage with runners on.  Franklin struck out 44 guys in 61 innings this season.  For some perspective (Mo, 72K- 66IP, Pap, 76-68, Hoff, 48-54, and Broxton, 114-76).  My esteemed colleague picked him as closer of the year in the NL.  WHIP is why I disagreed.

I am not placing the blame squarely on Franklin, but he is due a fair share, and I am sure he is kicking himself as much as Holliday is today.  You want to spread it around some more?

Here we go, nobody out in the 7th, Mark DeRosa singles, Colby Rasmus follows him with a double that scores DeRosa, but is thrown out at third.  Cardinals take the lead, but the rally is dead.  Could have been a big inning, instead of runner on third nobody out, it is nobody on, one out.

With his contract up, its sad that Holliday will probably be remembered in ST. Louis as, That guy that got hit in the balls.

With his contract up, its sad that Holliday will probably be remembered in St. Louis as, "That guy that got hit in the balls."

Here is another fun fact, the Cardinals scored two runs in this game.  The second was on the double by Rasmus.  The first run was on a homerun by none other than public enemy #1 in St. Louis right now, Matt Holliday.  How soon we forget.

There is no worse feeling for a baseball player than making an error, and just waiting in the field to see if it will result in runs.  A closer has to have the balls to pick up his teammates.  Holliday screwed up, but this loss was a team effort, just as the win was a team effort for the Dodgers.


What Grinds My Gears? National League Style Baseball

October 9, 2009
Heres to the mute button for baseball commentators.

Here's to the mute button for baseball commentators.

You know what really grinds my gears?

Well, I will tell you.  Baseball commentators consistently talk about National League style baseball.  They talk about how National League teams bunt and run more, and play an older style of the game.  Well, that is bullshit…Let me explain.

Tonight, during the Red Sox-Angels game, Buck Martinez made numerous dumb comments.  Not only was he trying to tell Don Orsillo (who called every Red Sox game this season) that he was wrong about how teams aligned defensively against David Ortiz, but he also mentioned how strange it was to see two American League teams that rely so heavily on the running game.  Well, Buck, I loved you in Triple Play 97, but you are a moron.

I only looked at stats back to the year 2000, more because I am lazy than anything, but in six of the last ten seasons, American League teams have averaged more steals than National League teams.  Every year has been close, though.  The widest margin in fact, was in 2001 when an average AL team stole 118 bases, and an average NL team stole only 91.

The idea that AL teams just go station to station and wait for a homer is preposterous.  Certainly there are teams that do this, but even Billy Beane’s Moneyball squad stole 133 bags this year (he must not believe in his theories anymore).

NL fans are screaming, “but we bunt guys over and do double switches.”

Well, yes.  You do, but only because when the DH rule came around, every pitcher, no matter the league, forgot completely how to hit.  There is no use in having NL pitchers hit anymore because they are just wasting everyone’s time.

“Its part of the game!”

Charlie Morton, trying to bunt.  Hes a Connecticut guy so I can make fun of him.

Charlie Morton, trying to bunt. He's a Connecticut guy so I can make fun of him. Hes also 6-4 and could break my legs. So, sorry Charlie.

No, it was part of the game, back when pitchers had pride, and didn’t take three down the chute, and go back to drink a Red Bull in the dugout (Anyone else see the treasure chest full of supplements and goodies in the Dodger’s dugout?).

But i digress.  Looking at the numbers, the NL averages about twice as many sacrifice hits per team as the AL does, but a pitcher is going to bunt at least once every game.  So, in my most distinguished opinion, I would infer that the amount of actual sacrifice hits, done in actual situations, by actual hitters, is about equal.

This rant would be thrice as long (yes thrice) if this guy were calling the games.

This rant would be thrice as long (yes thrice) if this guy were calling the games.

So Buck, and all you other commentators who like to fill the space with words because you know no one knows better, shut the hell up.  Why? Because I know somewhere down the road, some guy at the mall, or church, or even at a baseball game is going to tell me about how the NL is better because they play a more entertaining style of baseball, and I know they know nothing about baseball, but they heard it from some poor old sap like you.

Sorry, but TBS is killing me.  Dick Stockton referred to Ronnie Belliard solely as “Belisario” at one point tonight.  I would rather have Charles Barkley call the games if Turner is going to be involved (I love Chip Caray, you aren’t included in this rant).

2 More Myths about NL Baseball that People are Always Wrong About

#1: Managing in the NL is Harder:

The common point: Managing in the NL is harder because you have to pinch hit for your pitcher, and make double switches, and all that jazz.

My counterpoint: Okay, so its the 6th inning, your team is down one.  Your pitcher has thrown 92 pitches, and has shown a few signs of wear.  He is a proud guy and never wants to give up the ball.  Do you tell him to go back out there for the 7th, or keep him in and replace him with some shlub who failed as a starter?

Well, if you’re an NL manager, its easy.  You have some guy that plays nine positions (none well) but can swing the bat a little, hit for the pitcher, and the pitcher understands because he hasn’t swung a bat since college, for some reason.

The famous, You got enough left for one more batter? Conversation happens much less in the NL.  Grady failed there too, though.

The famous, "You got enough left for one more batter?" conversation happens much less in the NL. Grady failed there too, though.

If you’re an AL manager you gotta let “The Rocket” go back out there, and then go talk him down from ‘roid rage after he walks the other team’s 9 hitter (who can work a count, because its the AL, and he’s not a pitcher).

In the AL, you actually have to figure out when a pitcher’s done. In the NL, he’s done when his at bat means something.  Also, its a lot easier to keep a clubhouse happy when every slob gets to pinch hit every night.  Try keeping Eric Hinske happy when he bats once a month.  He will tear your goddamn arms off.

#2: Guys don’t get Thrown at in the NL because Pitchers have to Bat.

Tell Sammy they dont throw at guys in the NL.

Tell Slammin' Sammy they don't throw at guys in the NL.

This one is just pure garbage.  The argument is that NL pitchers do not throw at opposing players because they know they have to bat, and think they will get thrown at.

The HBP numbers are again, the same in both league for the last ten years, but if you dig deeper, you can understand.  Obviously, if a pitcher hits your best hitter you get really angry, and you want to throw it right at the pitcher’s head.  But then, you, being an NL pitcher, think for a moment.

“Hmmm…Why would I throw at Tim Lincecum who is hitting .152 with 36 k’s in 66 ab’s when I can just strike him out and drill Pablo Sandoval with 2 outs and nobody on?”

So, throw that out the window.  Myths.  The NL and AL are the exact same except for the DH rule, and the NL has the Mets which makes them an inferior league.

Thats what really grinds my gears.

That's what really grinds my gears.


Hip Hip, Jose!?…

October 7, 2009
Jorges been a bit up tight of late, but no doubt, he will get over this. Molina (right) will get the nod when AJ throws.

Jorge's been a bit up tight of late, but no doubt, he will get over this. Molina (left) will get the nod when AJ throws.

Earlier this week, the Yankees announced that Jose Molina would catch AJ Burnett in the playoffs.  This comes after a season where hitters batted 50 points higher against Burnett when Jorge Posada caught him than when Molina was his backstop.  So the decision comes as no surprise, but Posada’s reaction may surprise some people.

Jorge was visibly distressed when asked about the topic.  The switch-hitting catcher seemed angry about the choice, but, in a rather childish tone said he “saw it coming.”  Jorge and Burnett have had trouble all season.

Burnett and Posada have had some gems, but a lot of indecision as well this season.

Burnett and Posada have had some gems, but also a lot of indecision in 2009.

If you have seen the games where Posada has caught the lanky righthander you can tell that it is an oft stressful relationship.  There are more mound visits and more shaking off of signs than any other Yankee battery, and when something goes wrong, you can tell that each one blames the other party.

Posada is a solid catcher and much more of an offensive threat than Jose Molina, but Jorge has to take this and see it as a day off for the knees more than anything.

He will still get his at bats, most likely taking over the role of designated hitter from Hideki Matsui (who had a great year, by the way), but Jorge would be a great bat to have off the bench.  I am sure Girardi would love to replace Molina in the lineup with #20 when Burnett’s night is done.

It is likely that Posada has gotten over this.  He is just a competitor who wants to be out there for every pitch.  Also, it may be hard for him to take this news when it comes from the guy who Jorge took the starting role from.  It must still be odd for the few remaining Yankee veterans to have to hear from Joe.  Surely the man demands some respect, but still he was a former teammate.  Girardi was key to the ’96, ’97, and in a diminishing role, with the ’98 championship teams.

Joe Girardi was in a tough spot after missing the 08 playoffs, but has pulled the rights strings thus far in 09.

Joe Girardi was in a tough spot after missing the '08 playoffs, but has pulled the rights strings thus far in '09.

Jorge was ultimately the reason that the perennial homerun threat (by that I mean he hit one homerun a year) became expendable.  Posada, who came up as an infielder, owes a lot of the talent he has behind the plate to his current manager.  He should take this decision and move on, and do all he can to support Jose Molina.

Jorge is a veteran, and a guy who, despite his .236 career postseason average, knows how to get it done in October.  By 6PM tonight, this is a non-issue.


Metrodome Madness, Part 2: Twins/Tigers Didn’t Disappoint

October 6, 2009
This game really brought back memories of the Metrodomes heyday.  Kirby would be proud.

This game really brought back memories of the Metrodome's heyday. Kirby would be proud.

The game that I previewed here, proved to be the best game of the 2009 season, by far.  It may have been the best tiebreaker game in Major League history, and that includes a few gems.  It was a 12 inning masterpiece where its hard to think of a guy who played poorly.  Whenever someone made a bad play, they came back and made a good one seemingly seconds later.  In fact, the game was steeped in redemption, and it made for classic baseball.

Miguel Cabrera came in with a bit of a rap sheet, and owed something to the Detroit fans after a raucous weekend that included a lack of pounding baseballs and a surplus of pounding brews.  Cabrera hit a Scott Baker pitch roughly 8 miles for a 2-run jack in the 3rd inning to put the Tigers ahead 3-0, and the redemption began…

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected.  Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected. Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

In the bottom half, Rick Porcello (who pitched his ass off) pulled a boner with two outs on a pickoff play to first.  Matt Tolbert scored when the ball got away from Miguel.  Porcello pitched around Joe Mauer to load the bases, but came right after Jason Kubel and struck him out, celebrating as he ran off to the dugout.  Kubel redeemed himself with one of the longest homers I’ve seen at Hubert H. Humphrey in the 6th.

Ryan Raburn left his feet for a ball that Michael Cuddyer hit his way in the bottom of the 10th.  He missed the flair by a wide margin, and Cuddyer got around for a leadoff triple.  He would eventually score, but Raburn hosed Alexi Casilla on a sac fly turned double play later in the inning.  Alexi’s run would have ended the game.  Casilla failed to get back to third base to tag until after Raburn had caught the ball.

But alas, in this game of redemption, Casilla got his chance, too.  And he made the most of it by singling in Carlos Gomez on a grounder through the right side in the bottom of the 12th.  That hit won the game, and the Twins celebrated along with 55,000 fans.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for todays game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for today's game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

The Metrodome was alive today.  And despite the fact that you could clearly make out the endzones up the first baseline and out in left field, the playing surface looked great.  The crew must have worked deep into last night getting this field ready after the Favre-fest, Monday.

It was one of those games where watching on TV was really not enough.  The longer it went, the more I wanted to be there.  They opened up the Metrodome’s top deck to make more room for fans, and it really changed the complexion of the ballpark, and the game.  I am happy to see the stadium go, but I am also happy it lived up to its potential in one of its final games.

In a game where no one played bad, it is usually hard to pick an MVP, but I think Nick Punto was the clear winner in this game.  Nick Punto really personified the Twins tonight.  There are very few “ballplayers” left in baseball, and this guy showed baseball fans what that term really means.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto went one for four.  Not so great, but the second baseman saw 32 pitches.  Grinding out at bats got Porcello out of the game and got the Twins deeper and deeper into the Tiger’s ‘pen until they pretty much ran out of guys.  Punto had a huge at bat in the 7th when he fought off a few pitches and grinded his way to a single.  Orlando Cabrera homered two batters later and the Twins took the lead.

In the 9th, Punto led off with another hard battle that led to a walk.  The Twins failed to get him around.  He came up the 11th with a chance to put the game away and did his job, hitting a ball hard to right that ended up leading to the Raburn-redemption double play at the plate.

Maybe the biggest and most telling play that Punto made on the night came in the top of the 12th with one out, and the bases loaded.  In a tie game, Brandon Inge hit a chopper toward the middle, and Punto swooped in and threw out Miguel Cabrera at the plate.  It was one of those plays that does not seem big, but if he hesitates at all, they get nobody out.  It was a “ballplayer’s” play.

So, Punto and the Twins won this one.  They earned the right to celebrate for ten minutes, hop on a flight, and realize they have no pitching against the Yankees at 6 PM tomorrow.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Actually, Ron Gardenhire, by being cautious with his pitchers and matching up against hitters, really preserved his bullpen despite the long game.  None of his starters had to relieve, and the longest any of his guys threw in relief was Joe Nathan, going one and two-thirds.  Jim Leyland was not as cautious, and the Tigers would be in trouble if they were playing tomorrow.  Still, the Twins have a tall order tomorrow in the Bronx.

I hope you got to watch this game, if not, check out the highlights.  October baseball is finally here, and you could not have picked a better game to start things off.