Jul 21

Looking At The Pennant Races Heading Into Second Half

By rights the most intriguing storyline of the second half should be the pennant races, as that is the essence of the sport. No matter how hard Major League Baseball tries to screw up the integrity of the regular season schedule, we’re still there watching at the end to see who is left standing.

The New York Mets are one of nine teams at least ten games out of first place in their respective divisions. That puts 21 teams within reach, if you define that reach as the ability to pick up one game a week.

Mathematically, the  “best’’ race is the National League West, where nobody is more than 7.5 games out. Trouble is, three of the five are under .500, including the defending champion Giants. Do you remember when they wanted to get rid of Don Mattingly in Los Angeles? Well, the Dodgers are a mere half-game out.

Another compelling race is the National League Central, where the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds are bunched up under a four-game tent. Considering the mediocrity of the rest of the league, all three should qualify, as nobody else is close to becoming a wild-card contender. That would mean the first winning season in Pittsburgh in two decades, or since before Barry Bonds juiced himself out of the Hall of Fame running.

The Washington Nationals, the team supposed to get a pass into the World Series, is floundering and Stephen Strasburg is just 5-7. Not disappointed here, as the arrogance the Nationals showed last year by saving Strasburg under the assumption they will be a playoff fixture might not come to pass.

Once again, that leaves us with the American League East with the most compelling race. Boston, a team given no chance at the start, is in first followed by Tampa Bay, Baltimore and the Yankees, who are some how six games back without Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis and mediocre years from C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. Joe Girardi, to me, is the AL Manager of the Year.

There’s the chance for a compelling race in five of the six divisions. The worst? That would be the NL East.

A lot of things play off the pennant races, including the trade deadline. Every year it is the same, but with each team gearing up for a run there seems another about to unravel and call it a season. The manufactured excitement of the wild card in some cities is often off-set by the resignation summer is over by the first of August in others.

The Phillies are in town this weekend playing the Mets. Take a close look at them as they might break up that group. They are claiming they won’t trade Cliff Lee, but it’s another July and who wouldn’t be surprised to see him check out of one city and into another? It isn’t also hard to see Chase Utley traded.

Minnesota, both Chicago teams, Milwaukee, Miami with the Giancarlo Stanton Watch and perhaps the Angels all could undergo personnel facelifts in early preparation for spring training. The Angels won’t say it, but they’d love to be out from under Albert Pujols‘s contract. Probably the same goes with Josh Hamilton.

Meanwhile, the Mets are saying they won’t be sellers, but we’ve heard that before.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

May 09

Umpire Angel Hernandez Blows Call; Needs To Be Repremanded

There’s arrogance. There’s blind arrogance. And, there is Angel Hernandez arrogance, which by the way, incorporates a little bit of the blind.

Another night, another blown call, but Hernandez’s last night in Cleveland was compounded by his bullish behavior afterward, which should be met with swift and forceful action by Commissioner Bud Selig.

HERNANDEZ: Blows it big time. (AP)

HERNANDEZ: Blows it big time. (AP)

With two outs in the ninth inning, Oakland’s Adam Rosales apparently hit a game-tying home run, only to have Hernandez rule it a double.

No problem, there’s the home run review process, which will surely right this wrong, give Rosales his homer that would tie the game at 4-4, and play on from there.

Only it didn’t happen that way. Hernandez came out and held fast with his call – the wrong call.

“Probably the only four people in the ballpark,’’ Oakland manager Bob Melvin said about the umpire’s non-reversal.

Replays clearly showed the ball struck a metal railing over the padded outfield wall. More to the point, after striking the railing, the ball ricocheted as you know it would when it strikes metal. Umpire supervisor Jim McKean told ESPN.

Had it hit the pad, it would have fallen straight down, as Melvin suggested.

“Our whole team thought it was the wrong call,’’ Rosales said. “The replays showed it hit the railing. With six eyes on it (three umpires watch the video and a fourth stays on the field), you would have thought they’d make the right call.’’

“Everybody else said it was a home run, including their announcers when I came in here later,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t get it. I don’t know what the explanation would be when everybody else in the ballpark knew it was a home run. Clearly, it hit the railing. I’m at a loss. I’m at a complete loss.’’

Well, perhaps we’d get an in-depth explanation from Hernandez by the pool reporter. Only trouble, with arrogance above-and-beyond even most umpires, Hernandez, noted for his shoot-from-the-hip temper, refused to let the reporter record the interview.

Hernandez, using the umpire’s stock get-out-of-jail-free card, said: “It wasn’t evident on the TV we had it was a home run. I don’t know what kind of replay you had, but you can’t reverse a call unless there is 100 percent evidence and there wasn’t 100 percent evidence.’’

Hernandez clearly didn’t want the interview recorded because he could come back and claim he was misquoted. The quote the reporter acquired the old fashioned way was damning enough.

The umpires use the same camera angle used in the broadcasts and have additional cameras. To suggest the reporters had different camera angles is absurd, not to mention a fabrication.

Hernandez was trying to cover up his own ineptitude with an outlandish story. Clearly, he blew the call, threw dirt on the system used to correct mistakes, and compounded his failure by refusing the interview to be recorded and his arrogant answer.

The ball now is in Selig’s court, and with his powers “to act in the best interest of baseball,’’ his reaction should be swift.

The call should be reversed – to hell with it being in the umpire’s judgment – with the game resumed after the home run. Any fines for Melvin and Rosales should be rescinded.

As for Hernandez, he must be fined and suspended for his actions. Selig needs to come down hard on Hernandez. Really hard. And, in the future, any attempt by an umpire to bully reporters by preventing interviews to be recorded should be met with similar punishment.

Feb 20

Don’t Ignore All The Old Baseball Statistics

I was talking with a friend of mine recently and the topic turned to baseball, and in particular, the overwhelming number of statistics in today’s game. Most are relevant, but others are too much. Does anybody really need to know David Wright’s slugging percentage on afternoon games played on Tuesday?

I’m old school, and my first three statistics in evaluating a position player are average, homers and RBI. The game has evolved and there are far more elaborate and sophisticated methods to measure performance. That doesn’t mean all the traditional numbers are obsolete.

I understand the significance of WAR and OPS, but sometimes that’s thinking too much and not as accurate as one might argue.

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Feb 15

Jose Reyes Rips Marlins’ Owner Over Trade

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I read the ESPN story about Jose Reyes being angry with Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria for trading him to Toronto.

Mark Buehrle said the same thing after the trade months earlier.

REYES: Sees it from both sides now.

REYES: Sees it from both sides now.

“I was shocked, because Jeffrey Loria, he always told me he’s never going to trade me,’’ Reyes said. “He always called my agent and said, ‘Tell Jose to get a good place here to live.’ ’’

Reyes said he even met with Loria days before the trade and there was no mention of the trade.

Are you tearing up, yet?

Maybe everything Reyes said is true, but wasn’t there a time when he said he wanted to stay with the Mets and finish he career playing next to David Wright? There was also a time when Reyes said he would do what was best for him and the Mets would do what was best for them.

And, after signing a six-year, $106-million contract with the Marlins he never looked back on the Mets. It wasn’t a pleasant divorce for Reyes from the Mets, and also the fans here who greeted him with boos upon his initial return and mostly apathy later in the summer.

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Feb 10

What To Make Of Schilling, Braun And A-Rod

There are several things I want to bring to the blog on a regular basis, something you can depend on. Beginning with a Sunday column centering on the main story of the week.

It is a shame, but the week leading up to the start of spring training was dominated by stories of PEDs. It will never end. There will always be somebody wanting to gain an edge. There will always be cheating. Is it human nature? Yeah, I think so, sadly.

First, Alex Rodriguez. Is anybody really surprised to hear he’s in trouble again? It’s bad enough to be linked again to PEDs, but to come out and say MLB and the Yankees are out to get him? Why not leave well enough alone?

He already hired a big-time lawyer, so he should let his mouthpiece do the talking for him. Sure, the Yankees will try to void his contract, but the MLB Players Association will make it a costly fight. It’s not my money, but if I ran the Yankees I’d go for it, just to send a message.

Rodriguez was not suspended after his admission, so if he’s suspended this time it will be for only 50 games. Bud Selig needs to take that step.

The decision the Yankees must make is whether they believe Rodriguez will ever be healthy enough to be a viable player again. If they decide no, then they might has well try to buy him out or release him outright rather than have him be a distraction for the next five years.

Either way, it could cost them $114 million. And, no way will Rodriguez retire and walk away from that money.

Ryan Braun is proving to be a disappointment and somebody not to be trusted. Yes, he got off on a technicality, but I’m not buying his reasoning his named popped up in the Florida case because he was getting information for his defense. If you’re Braun, you have access to the best lawyers and medical advise available. Why wouldn’t you seek help from a professional instead of going to a shady clinic in a strip mall, one with a checkered history with MLB? If nothing else, wouldn’t the Players Association give him that advice.

Finally, there’s Curt Schilling, who can be a blowhard at times. Including this one. To come out and accuse a member of the Red Sox staff of suggesting he use PEDs while standing in the middle of a crowded clubhouse is absurd.

Although Schilling didn’t mention any names – only that they were no longer with the organization – didn’t mean it couldn’t be figured out who he was talking about. It is highly unlikely, that in a crowded clubhouse, with media access that this would happen. If such a suggestion were made, it would be in private.