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 26

Mets’ nightmare comes true ….

The worst case scenario for Mets’ fans of a World Series between their two greatest rivals – the Yankees and Phillies – has reached fruition.

The Mets were left eating the dust of both, and they don’t appear to be in position to challenge either any time soon.

New York City, which some have argued is a National League town, belongs totally to the Yankees, who are in their 40th World Series seeking their 27th championship. Four World Series; two titles for the Mets.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.

YANKEES: Always the Mets' yardstick.


The National League, for the second straight season, is owned by Philadelphia, seeking to become the first repeat champion since the Yankees, 1998-2000.

Many fans I speak to say they won’t watch, saying they don’t know whom to hate more. Selfishly, that’s not good news for me and the blog. Hopefully, the “baseball fan” in them will tune in.

However, the Mets and their fans, instead of lamenting their closed window, which slammed shut after a second straight September collapse in 2008, should step back and learn from their two tormentors.

The Mets, and probably nobody else, will match the October success the Yankees built over the last century. So what? What’s important is now.

Both teams opened new stadiums this summer, but the Yankees brought with them a revamped and retooled team. The Yankees took care of multiple needs last winter and added power in Mark Teixeira and pitching in CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. The Mets, also having multiple needs, but addressed only the bullpen with the belief things will get better with a veteran closer.

Rarely does it work that way, as building one area of a team doesn’t address the other voids. Watch, win or lose over the next week, the Yankees will address their team aggressively in the offseason. They know they don’t have enough starting pitching; they know there are bullpen questions; the outfield is an issue with the possible departures of Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon.

The difference between the Yankees and Mets is that the team in the Bronx has a mission statement every season of WINNING the World Series. Getting there is not enough. And, please, let’s not hear about the Yankees’ unlimited resources. The Mets’ payroll is also formidable, but their approach is not nearly as aggressive.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.

PHILLIES: The team to beat.


As for the Phillies, they’ve also been more aggressive in filling holes than the Mets. The Phillies have a home grown core (Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins) as do the Mets (David Wright and Jose Reyes), but Philadelphia has been superior in filling its holes (Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Cliff Lee).

The Phillies will not stand still, even should they repeat. Unlike the Mets, the Phillies have the minor league resources to package should they decide to pursue Roy Halladay. The Yankees, of course, have always been known to be willing to part with minor league talent to win immediately.

Compounding the Mets’ dilemma with the Phillies, is that they aren’t their only competition in the National League East. Both Florida and Atlanta improved this season to overtake the Mets.

Both the Phillies and Mets, from the front office to the dugout, have a mindset beyond that of the Mets’ thinking, which gives the appearance of settling to become competitive.

The Mets had a good year at the gate, drawing 3.1 million (averaging 38,000), which was seventh in the majors (the Yankees and Phillies finished 2-3). However, rave reviews for Citi Field aren’t what’s important in the big picture. To keep drawing, and even increasing attendance is dependent on the quality of the product on the field.

Eventually, Citi Field will stop becoming a fan magnet, which is what happened in Baltimore and Cleveland when the Orioles and Indians hit the skids. Citi Field is too expensive, and New York City offers so many other diversions, for fans to keep coming out of curiosity.

Right now, Mets’ fans should only be curious about one thing: What is their team going to do to close the gap on the Phillies and Yankees?

Oct 21

Umpires hit new low ….

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Major League umpires show they really are minor league. Although their ineptitude didn’t factor in the outcome of the game, what happened last night in Anaheim can’t be dismissed much longer.

Time for more widespread use of instant replay.

FIRST SWISHER PLAY: Not even close.

FIRST SWISHER PLAY: Not even close.

There were three more blown calls last night in the Yankees’ rout of the Angels. These calls were so bad you have to wonder what these guys were thinking, much less seeing.

“I’m just out there trying to do my job, and I’m doing the best that I can,” third base umpire Tim McClelland said after the game. “Unfortunately, on instant replay, it was two missed calls (by me).”

At least, McClelland was standup about it.

In the fourth inning, replays clearly showed Nick Swisher was picked off at second base, but Dale Scott, who had to have been no more than six feet from the play, ruled him safe. The phrase “out by a mile,” could apply here.

Later that inning, in what would seem to be a classic make up call, McClelland ruled Swisher left the bag early on a what would have been a sacrifice fly hit by Johnny Damon. Again, not even close on the replay, which also showed McClelland out of position.

FIASCO AT THIRD: I still can't believe it.

FIASCO AT THIRD: I still can't believe it.


The next inning, McClelland blew it big time on a play at third when Angels catcher Mike Napoli tagged both Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano, with neither on the bag. McClelland unbelievably called Cano safe.

It’s not as if these guys have an agenda, but you have to wonder when you see calls such as those last night. Maybe, it will take such a bad call that will cost a team the Series before something is done and instant replay is used more widespread.

The Yankees are on the road to another World Series, and they dominated last night. We should be talking about them, and a potential meeting with powerful Philadelphia. Instead, we are talking about the umpires.

That’s not right.

Oct 06

Talkin’ Baseball: Tigers at Twins (AL playoff)

The finality of these one-game playoffs breeds the tension and excitement. On the surface, the Twins carry all the momentum and the Tigers are reeling. It’s the second straight year in which the Twins needed a playoff, with last year saw them losing 1-0 at Chicago.

Twins roll into playoffs.

Twins roll into playoffs.

Few could see this happening a month ago when the Twins trailed Detroit by seven games. A week later, they lost All-Star Justin Morneau to a season-ending back injury and most thought their chances were cooked. And, just last week, they were three down with four to play.

While the Tigers went 11-15 down the stretch, the Twins won 16 of 20 and four straight to force the extra game. They are kind of like the roll the Colorado Rockies were on in 2007. The winner of today’s game gets the Yankees, who had the option of having until after today’s game to decide whether to open the ALDS Wednesday or Thursday.

Tigers stagger into playoffs.

Tigers stagger into playoffs.


Gamesmanship all the way, they chose tomorrow, giving today’s winner no chance to catch its breath.

“Everybody wrote off the Twins, it seems like, a long time ago, especially when Morneau went down,” said Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon. “A team needs to keep fighting and they’ve been one of those special teams for a long time. It seems like they don’t give up. That’s the great thing about baseball. You never know.”

The one thing we do know about today’s game is it will be loud.

My plan is to blog as much of the postseason as I can, and that begins today. I don’t have a favorite in this game. The consensus seems to be Detroit has a better chance to unseat the Yankees than Minnesota.