Oct 28

World Series Keys ….

I suppose it was going to come down to this all along, the Phillies against the Yankees in the World Series.

The Yankees, with the home field advantage because of the ridiculous All-Star Game gimmick, are considered the favorites. Would they be if the Phillies had the home field? I’m not so sure.

Looking at the match-ups, both teams are riding a hot ace and scorching bat, with the Phillies’ Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard against the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez.

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES

KEYS TO THE WORLD SERIES


In looking at the match-ups, I’ll give the edge to the Yankees at catcher (only when Jorge Posada plays), shortstop (Derek Jeter lives for these moments and third base (Rodriguez seems to have shaken the October blues).

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies at first (I recognize the year Mark Teixeira had, but Howard is a monster), second (Chase Utley, for my money is one of the best players in the game), and all three outfield positions.

The starting rotations and bullpens are relatively even. Mariano Rivera is better than Brad Lidge, but Rivera can be negated because the bridge to him is tenuous. The Phillies’ offense is superior to that of Minnesota and the Angels, and once in the Yankees’ bullpen there’s no guarantee we’ll see Rivera.

Here are some of the more notable keys to this World Series:

1. KEY: Is Brad Lidge back from the dark side?
BREAKDOWN: Lidge blew 11 save opportunities this summer, but has been perfect in the postseason. If he’s regained his touch this is a huge factor to the Phillies.

2. KEY: Which superstar will have the bigger series?
BREAKDOWN: Both Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez tied Lou Gehrig’s record with RBI in eight straight postseason games. Rodriguez appears to have shaken his October blues, but there is one more round. Both have the ability to carry a team.

3. KEY: Will the Phillies be able to run on the Yankees’ catching?
BREAKDOWN: Philadelphia led the majors with an 81 percent success rate in stole bases. Once Chase Utley gets on, if he wants second it is his (23-for-23). The Phillies also like to run with Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins. Surprisingly, the Yankees were second. The Phillies can run on anybody, but they haven’t seen a move as good as Andy Pettitte’s.

4. KEY: Will the Phillies limit Mariano Rivera’s appearances?
BREAKDOWN: If Rivera gets four save opportunities, it’s a good bet the Yankees will win their 27th World Series title. However, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the bridge to Rivera, has been rickety. Therefore, it is essential the Yankees will get innings from their starters to limit the bullpen exposure.

5. KEY: Will Cole Hamels return to prominence?
BREAKDOWN: Hamels, last year’s World Series MVP, had a miserable season. He’s pitched well in spots, but too often is vulnerable to the big inning.

6. KEY: Does Pedro Martinez have an encore in him?
BREAKDOWN: Assume for a moment CC Sabathia continues his roll in Game 1 and beats Cliff Lee. The Phillies would then need Martinez big time in Game 2 as falling down by two games would make defending their title difficult.

7. KEY: Will CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee continue to roll?
BREAKDOWN: Both have been virtually untouchable in the postseason and rightfully assume their roles as a No. 1. The Series could turn on who stumbles first.

8. KEY: Is there a rebound series for Mark Teixeira?
BREAKDOWN: Teixeira carried the Yankees for much of the season and had a hot ALDS against Minnesota. The Angels handcuffed him, but gave away that edge with their faulty defense. A hot Teixeira gives the Yankees another superstar bat.

9. KEY: Whose second level stars perform best?
BREAKDOWN: Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez vs. Johnny Damon, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher. Both teams are loaded and both have the marquee names, but those on the undercard are also vitally important.

10. KEY: What happens in the AJ Burnett and Joe Blanton games?
BREAKDOWN: Both starters have the capacity to pitch big and small. To win a series, a team needs a solid start from its No. 3 and No. 4 starters.

Oct 28

Annie Savoy and Steinbrenner ….

NOTE: Annie Savoy (not her real name) has been a friend of this blog since I started covering the New York Mets. We have corresponded off-line and I have learned of her fascinating background in the world of horse racing. She emailed me this story this morning with the intent of me sharing it with you.

George Steinbrenner and me -

I think this might be the right time to mention one of the times I spoke with George Steinbrenner. It was at the traditional dinner dance held the evening before the 1980 Belmont Stakes, at Belmont Race Track in New York where I was running a horse in the Belmont stakes for the first time.

The Belmont is the third of thoroughbred horse racing’s Triple Crown Races, the first being the Kentucky Derby and the second being the Preakness. These are the class races open only to three year old horses whose prize money to date has made the top ten list for their class.

Ever traditional, the dinner dance attracts the owners, trainers and jockeys who will be on the program for the Belmont Stakes as well as various other noted horsemen and women. It’s a very nice, formal event.

Right before the dancing started, George Steinbrenner who owned Kinsman Stables in Ocala, came over to our table to see me. Always the gentleman, he gave me a hug and said “my wife told me to be sure and wish you luck tomorrow from both of us – she has the same name as you do, so we follow your horses with special interest”. He then took a seat at our table, and talked with everyone there about horses, not baseball.

I’ve never forgotten that night, nor the George Steinbrenner I knew from the racing business and still saw around the major races and Saratoga in August.
Nowadays, George is finding success with another sport in another venue, and I want to wish him good luck this week, and hopefully a return to good health.

He deserves it all.

Oct 27

Off-the-field match-ups ….

While half the Internet world is looking for a photo of former Mets GM Steve Phillips, the other half is looking for photos of the wives and girlfriends of the Yankees and Phillies.

Mrs. Cole Hamels.

Mrs. Cole Hamels.


Such scouting reports, if you will, are all over the Internet with the obvious blessings of the players and teams. This one comes from COED Magazine.

One interesting moment in playoff history came when Yankee Fans – always a courteous and classy lot – taunted Cleveland Indians outfielder David Justice with chants of “Hall-ie Ber-ry, Hall-ie Ber-ry,” when after the couple separated.

One of the most humorous magazine pieces I’ve read was several years ago when a men’s magazine broke down Derek Jeter’s run production according to who he was dating at the time. Funny stuff, which no-doubt the future Hall of Fame shortstop wasn’t thrilled to see.

Oct 27

World Series notebook ….

Expect to see the Phillies use Raul Ibanez as the DH for at least Game 1 of the World Series against lefty CC Sabathia.

GIRARDI: Has some decisions to make.

GIRARDI: Has some decisions to make.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is undecided about going with a three-game rotation. Chad Gaudin could get a start in Game 4. No doubt, Girardi might be thinking he’s pressing his luck by going with Sabathia on three days rest again.

Girardi also said the Eric Hinske could be activated for the Series. The Yankees may also opt to add a reliever. To accommodate, the Yankees would likely go back to carrying two catchers instead of three.

POSADA: Still wants to catch Burnett.

POSADA: Still wants to catch Burnett.

Jose Molina is still on for starting behind the plate to catch AJ Burnett. Don’t expect the Yankees to use Jorge Posada as the DH when Molina catches because if he has to replace him behind the plate the Yankees would lose the DH.

After a horrendous regular season in which he blew 11 save opportunities, Brad Lidge returned to form in the playoffs with three saves and a victory without giving up a run. A strong Lidge gives the Phillies a similar presence to what the Yankees enjoy with Mariano Rivera. Of course, nobody matches Rivera, but if Lidge is on his game and the Phillies lead late, the odds are against a blown save that would bring Rivera into the game.