Oct 13

Can’t Turn Off Television When Cardinals Are Playing; Great Storylines In Final Four

Their streak is now six for victories in elimination games, tying a major league record. Both the Cardinals and Giants have been studies in resiliency during these playoffs, and wouldn’t you know it, they’ve done it with pitching, timely hitting and an emphasis on team.

That’s a formula that always works.

Both are fundamentally sound and are compelling examples of how the Mets should model themselves. Both have stars and a healthy payroll, but both have home grown talent and haven’t broken the bank to reach their levels of excellence. The NLCS should be a dandy and I’m betting seven games.

Not surprisingly, they are the last two World Series champions.

The Giants, who don’t have a great offense but the best pitching in the game, and the Cardinals, who simply know how to survive when it counts, are better stories than the Tigers or Yankees.

When I don’t have a dog in the fight, I root for close games and great story lines. Each team faced elimination and won on the road. The Giants’ main story is whether one of their aces, Tim Lincecum, can regain his form after being sent to the bullpen. The story enveloping around the Cardinals is their ability to defend their title after losing their manager, Tony La Russa, and franchise bat in Albert Pujols.

I wonder what Pujols is thinking these days as he counts his millions.

He probably has some demons and regrets, but they are miniscule compared to what’s haunting Alex Rodriguez. Frankly, I’m bored with the soap opera and all that swirls around the Yankees. They bid against themselves to give him over a quarter of a billion dollars, and he, who conceivably could be breaking down after steroid use, is but a shell of his former self. Don’t forget being torn down by age and injury. I don’t give a damn where he bats in the order.

The Yankees’ pitching has been superb, but their hitting has disappeared and it is annoying listening to their fans clogging up talk radio with their sense of entitlement and nipping at Joe Girardi. Then again, I guess I don’t have to tell you about annoying Yankee fans.

Considering their age and injuries this season, Girardi has done a great job getting the most from his team. He’s pressed all the right buttons so far.

The Tigers, meanwhile, have arguably the game’s best pitcher in Justin Verlander. Him against Chris Carpenter or Matt Cain could be a legendary match-up. Pitching duels in the World Series are always thrilling and intense. I was too young to enjoy Koufax-Ford, but I got to see Lolich-Gibson, Seaver-Palmer and Gooden-Clemens. The Smoltz-Morris duel in Game 7 of the 1991 Series might be one of the greatest games ever played.

The one-two hitting punch of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder isn’t Mantle-and-Maris, but it is the best in the majors. But, it isn’t enough to sustain me this October. Regardless of who comes out of the National League, I’ll go with them.

 

 

 

Oct 07

Interesting Start To MLB Playoffs; Intriguing World Series Possibilities

It has been an interesting start to the baseball playoffs. The play-in games put a different spin on things, but I’m hearing a lot of criticism of the single game format and it would be fairer to have best two-or-three. It probably would, but MLB doesn’t want to take the chance of playing in November.

A possible solution would be to incorporate at least one day-night doubleheader during the season among division opponents only. You would still have the same number of games, but a doubleheader a month would eliminate six days from the calendar, which would give MLB a week to tinker with the format.

There are a lot of interesting story lines. The one that stands out for me would be the fallout should the Cardinals run the table again like last season. In 2011, it was a special story because of how they came from behind during the season to make the playoffs and how they rallied in the World Series. This year would be an asterisk because of the “Infield Fly Game,” which will forever be a part of baseball lore.

It was predictable the MLB hid behind the “umpire’s judgment” clause and didn’t comment on whether it was a good call or not. With all this technology that showed it was a blown call, it is a shame a team is home possibly because an umpire made a bad call.

The Cardinals face the Nationals, with the first two games in St. Louis. I don’t like this format. The Nationals had the best record and shouldn’t open on the road. Who can’t see the Cardinals winning at home and stealing one on the road? There should be a reward for having the best record.

At the start of the season I predicted the Yankees and Giants in the Series and it could still happen. The Reds stole one in San Francisco despite losing their ace Johnny Cueto. He’s questionable for the rest of the series, but the Reds accomplished what they needed in getting at least a split.

In the American League, the Tigers and Orioles need to protect their home field and win the first two. Should they sweep the first two, I can see them taking one on the road. However, it is far harder to think they’ll win two on the road.

Just playing out some possible World Series scenarios that would be interesting.

ORIOLES vs, NATIONALS: Two teams horrid for so long are poised for prime time. About 50 miles apart, this has the potential to develop into a real interleague rivalry over time. Washington’s manager, Davey Johnson, used to play for the Orioles. Nobody could have forecast them meeting in the Series. The Nationals have a better rotation, but the Orioles have the better pen. Both hit for power.

ATHLETICS vs. GIANTS: Another potential geographical rivalry. They met before in the Earthquake World Series with the Athletics sweeping. The Giants might have the best rotation in the playoffs, but are already down a game.

YANKEES vs. GIANTS/CARDINALS: The Yankees’ power against the Giants’ pitching would be intriguing. Power vs. power. The New York angle for the Giants is long gone. … A Yankees-Cardinals match-up would feature the two winningest World Series teams in history.

Regardless of the World Series pairings, I’ll watch. I always do. Even when it is the Yankees or Phillies.

Jul 04

Fourth Of July Good Omen For Mets

History dictates that whoever is leading on July 4th will make the playoffs. That’s a good omen for the Mets, who lead in the wild-card chase. By the end of the month, if there are trades, then the Mets will be buyers.

Their top priority is the bullpen as they have enough offense, despite limited power, to get the job done.

Let’s look at the other playoff contenders.

Washington has the best record in the National League and with its pitching could sustain it into the playoffs. The question here is what will happen if, and when, they shut down Stephen Strasburg.

Atlanta could make a run, but the Marlins and Phillies have too many issues.

In the Central, it would be nice to see Pittsburgh hold on, but the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers are still close. This division should be a scramble until the end.

In the West, it is the Dodgers and Giants, with Arizona 5.5 games out.

Things seem more definitive in the American League. I expect the current leaders to hold on, with Tampa Bay, Detroit and the Angels the prime wild card contenders.

Jun 14

Mets Should Not Appeal R.A. Dickey One-Hitter Plus Poll

There shouldn’t be do-overs like this. T.J. Upton bounced a ball slowly to third baseman David Wright last night. Because of Upton’s speed, Wright went to the barehand to speed his thrown and enhance his chances to get Upton.

DICKEY: Missed a no-hitter.

Instead, Wright couldn’t make a clean play and the ball dribbled off his hand. Clearly, a base hit, the official scorer ruled.

If would turn out to be the only hit given up in another R.A. Dickey get, and now the Mets want to appeal the decision so Dickey would have his no-hitter. I would be the Mets’ second of the month after going over 8,000 without one, and it would also be their second tainted if allowed.

Clearly, an umpire ruled Carlos Beltran’s ball was foul instead of a hit in Johan Santana’s no-hitter against the Cardinals.

Sports’ inherent beauty is its unpredictability and to leave matters to chance. If the appeal goes in favor of Dickey, when and where will it stop?

Official scorers are asked to review plays all the time and some of them are reversed. Usually, the procedure is for the scorer to interview all the parties, review the tape and then make a decision.

In this case, we have video of the bobble, but no video of where Upton was at the time. Was he bearing down on the bag or was he loafing? Wright hurrying the play indicates it would have been a close play, increasing the odds of it being ruled a hit.

This whole thing comes off as the Mets begging for a call and they should be above that.

What do you think? Was the play a hit or an error? Voice your comments here and vote in the poll.

 

 

 

Jun 10

Mets, Ike Davis Hitting Skids

It wasn’t that long ago that the Mets were seven games over .500 and a mere half-game out of first place. However, things change quickly when a team loses five of six games.

I mentioned several times during the Mets’ good start that consistency was essential. Get to .500; win series, two of three; avoid losing streaks; keep applying pressure and not getting down when tripped up.

After a good stretch that included winning three straight from St. Louis and getting the franchise’s first no-hitter, the Mets let one get away from the Cardinals, were handled by the Nationals, and lost the first two games of their series against the Yankees.

After Yankee Stadium, it’s three at Tampa Bay and back home to Cincinnati. It’s not getting any easier.

I mention this because every season has its lulls and spurts. Too many times in recent seasons we’ve seen the Mets reel off five, six games in a row. Didn’t they do ten one year? However, because of a lack of pitching or timely hitting they’d turn around and drop five or six. It’s like running in place.

The Mets have made positive strides this season, but to take the next step and make a serious run, they must develop consistency,

A good place to start is always pitching, but for the most part the pitching has been good. Right now, one of their first priorities is to get Ike Davis going. Of all the regular position players in the majors, his average is second worst.

So far, the Mets have eschewed the move of maintenance in the minor leagues. That could change after this road trip.