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.

Dec 23

Wright to play for Team USA ….

WRIGHT: To play for Team USA. PHOTO: Mets

WRIGHT: To play for Team USA. PHOTO: Mets

After Alex Rodriguez opted to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic this spring, and with Chipper Jones expected to be the DH, third base opened up for David Wright. Team USA will have an all-New York left side of the infield with the Yankees’ Derek Jeter at shortstop.

Wright will likely be the only Met playing for Team USA, but the Mets could also send Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado (Puerto Rico), Johan Santana and Francisco Rodriguez (Venezuela), and Jose Reyes (Dominican Republic).

I found it interesting that Phillies Ryan Howard, Brad Lidge and Cole Hamels said they preferred getting their work in during spring training and preparing for the season to play for the team that pays them. Yankees’ CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett said the same thing.

Yes, I am well aware a player can get hurt anywhere, but I’m especially wary about pitchers throwing in game conditions that early in the spring. But, that’s just me. Does anybody have a problem with players leaving teams during spring training to prepare for the WBC and exposing themselves to injury.

Nov 23

Open those wallets.

Do you remember a few weeks ago Commissioner Bud Selig asked the sports’ owners and general managers to be fiscally responsible as to be sensitive to the public during these tough economic times?

As unemployment spirals and prices rise, will the public be receptive to the sport’s shopping season?

Selig wasn’t telling teams not to indulge in the free agent market, but be cognizant and feeling to a public struggling to survive. He couldn’t tell teams not to spend because, after all, that’s collusion and the Players Association already won that battle.

Then the Yankees offered $140 million to CC Sabathia and talk about signing anybody not nailed down. But, this isn’t a Yankees’ rant, as they are only the poster child for the economics of the sport.

Mediocre players – read Oliver Perez – are about to make untold millions, and over the next few weeks teams will announce ticket prices for the 2009 season. Care to guess how many of the 30 teams will lower prices?

It’s not hard.

It’s easy to be cynical of Selig’s plea because he’s always talking about keeping salaries down, but he’s not about to throw his “best interest in baseball weight” around, because baseball’s best interest, at least to the short term thinkers in the sport, is today’s bottom line.

How nice it would be for the sport to place a moratorium on ticket and concession prices for next season, perhaps cut them five percent. That would be a gift to the public who always gives to the game, in both heart and wallet.

That won’t happen, because he can’t order a team to set prices. It won’t happen because he knows the players won’t take less.

It doesn’t work that way. Players are under pressure from the Players Association to take the best deal because it helps other players.

Sabathia, for instance was offered $100 million to stay in Milwaukee, but even if he were giddy happy there, he won’t re-sign and leave $40 million on the table. It’s easy to say, “how much is enough?” But, you’re not the one leaving money on the table, and the truth is, if in the same position you’d do the same.

It’s never enough.

Baseball doesn’t know the meaning of enough as it expands overseas with the reach of a poker player leaning across the table to pull in his chips. The players will get their millions because teams can afford it, and they can afford it because you always foot the bill. Whether it be tickets, or T-shirts, or watching on TV, the public always pays.

And, does so willingly.

Nov 08

On the Table: Room for just one more.

I was thinking about this at breakfast: If the Mets were to sign just one free agent, who would it be? Immediately, I discarded CC Sabathia, K-Rod and Manny Ramirez, because I don’t see them paying that much.

They need bullpen help, and you could look at it a couple of ways. One, is to get reliable starters to shave the BP innings, and if Maine comes back healthy, they’ll have three. Should they sign Lowe, theoretically that’s four reliable starters, which cuts the BP innings, but still leaves you vulnerable on a fifth day and in the ninth inning throughout.

So, if I’m forced to pick one, I’m going with the closer. I know it’s tempting to think K-Rod, but my confidence level in him is he’ll break down. The next best closer on the market is Brian Fuentes. No Mariano Rivera, but who is?

My choice, if to sign just one free agent, is to go with Fuentes to plug the leak in the ninth inning. Seven games got away. If all else remains equal and Fuentes cuts that in half, that should put them ahead of the Phillies.

Remember, this exercise is about adding just one player. If you have somebody different, let’s hear it.

Nov 03

Mets Chat Room: Gathering around the Hot Stove

What's on your mind?

What's on your mind?

Pat Burrell turned down $22 million over two years from Philadelphia and CC Sabathia is about to turn down over $100 million from Milwaukee.

All signs are pointing toward the Yankees getting Sabathia. They don’t appear to have a ceiling. The same can’t be said about the Mets. They’ll have money coming off the books with Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez and Moises Alou going, but they’ll be giving raises to David Wright and Jose Reyes.

Their payroll last year was $143 million, and I don’t see it going much higher.

We can discuss all of that tonight.