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.

Nov 13

Free-agent All-Star Team

If I didn’t do it, you knew somebody would. I’m sure many of you were doing the exercise in your mind. Of the available free-agents, this would make a pretty good team.

1B: Mark Teixeira LAA
2B: Orlando Hudson ARZ
SS: Rafael Furcal LAD
3B: Casey Blake LAD
C: Ivan Rodriguez NYY
OF: Manny Ramirez LAD
OF: Adam Dunn ARZ
OF: Jim Edmonds CHC
OF: Pat Burrell PHI

Starters/
A.J. Burnett TOR
C.C. Sabathia MIL
Derek Lowe LAD
Ryan Dempster CHC
Oliver Perez NYM

Bullpen/
Joe Beimel LAD
Brian Fuentes COL (set-up)
Juan Cruz ARZ
Francisco Rodriguez LAA (closer)

Sep 30

Do you want Delgado back?

Delgado: Wants to return. Few other options.

Delgado: Wants to return. Few other options.

In early June there was no way Carlos Delgado would return to the Mets. The team would undoubtedly give him a $4 million buyout as opposed to picking up his $12 million option.

Then he had a week in one afternoon at Yankee Stadium and never looked back. While the Mets floundered in September, Delgado sizzled, hitting .340 with eight homers and 22 RBI. He finished the season batting .271 with 38 homers and 115 RBI.

Those numbers warrant a return for 2009.

“I’d like to be back. I like this group of guys,” Delgado said. “I think they’re a great team. There’s a lot of talent here. In my stage, you don’t want to be bouncing around any more than you absolutely have to. The decision is in their hands.”

Since the Mets would pay Delgado $4 million regardless because of the buyout, it’s really only an $8 million investment they would be making. That’s not much in the grand scheme of things. The Mets have five days after the World Series to make a decision.

Delgado said he’d like to play several more years, but considering his off-year in 2007 and how long it took for him to get started this season, the Mets would be wise to make him earn the extension and not do anything until the end of 2009.

Should the Mets go the buyout route, there aren’t many appealing options in the free-agent market. Here’s what’s available:

Rich Aurilia (37)
Hank Blalock (28) – $6.2MM club option for ’09 with a $0.25MM buyout
Sean Casey (34)
Tony Clark (37)
Carlos Delgado (37) – $12MM club option for ’09 with a $4MM buyout
Nomar Garciaparra (35)
Jason Giambi (38) – $22MM club option for ’09 with a $5MM buyout
Wes Helms (33) – $3.75MM club option for ’09 with a $0.75MM buyout
Eric Hinske (31)
Doug Mientkiewicz (35)
Kevin Millar (37)
Richie Sexson (34)
Mark Teixeira (29)
Daryle Ward (34)

Should the Mets bring him back or not?