Oct 24, 2007 

I like the Red Sox In Seven

I like the fact that Colorado's Kaz Matsui has found some redemption in these playoffs. Isn't this the same guy who was trashed in New York for not being the other Matsui in the Big Apple? He was faulted for not hitting enough with the Mets and his range at second was suspect. I don't think the Phillies think he isn't clutch.

I like Josh Beckett (who doesn't?). Take a look at the 1988 World Series when the Dodgers upset the A's. That was the year of Orel Hershider 59 straight shutout innings. Hershiser won two games against the series, including the clincher, but his presence seemed to spook the A's in the other three games and allowed bit players like Mickey Hatcher to beat them.

I like the home teams in this series. As an A's fan, I know that Fenway Park can be a very intimidating setting. Things go horribly wrong at times and the rabid Red Sox Nation will let you know about it. Coors Field reveals disadvantages in the Red Sox defense at left and first. There's a lot of acreage out there for Manny Ramirez to flub a flyball and, because of the DH, David Ortiz will play first until it becomes necessity to put Kevin Youkilis back there. The necessity being the Sox trailing three games to two.

I like Matt Holliday being one of the guys who could get the Rockies off to a good start in Game 1. He's 6-for-14 against Beckett, including 2-for-3 with a homer this year. The best player should be the guy to lead and he's quietly hit four homers in this year's postseason.

I like the Rockies showing no ill-effects from their nine day layoff. They're are white-hot right now, but haven't really stolen a win, except for the one-game playoff. Colorado has played consistent baseball throughout the past month. You don't forget how to play excellent baseball in over a week.

I like Boston getting into the Colorado bullpen. The Rockies should not what befell Rafael Betancourt in Game 7 of the ALCS. He, like the red-hot Rockies bullpen, was untouchable until he allowed the clincher to get out of hand.

I like that Red Sox are becoming the new Yankees. They were always the Yankees. They played up the underdog storyline despite spending just about as much as the "evil empire".

I like the Red Sox winning their second World Series in four years only because they play four games at Fenway.

I like Jonathan Papelbon saving four games and winning the MVP.

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Oct 23, 2007 

Jesus Bats Clean Up For The Rockies


The Red Sox slayed the personification of evil, the New York Yankees, on the way to their first title in 86 years. Now, according to the New York Times, they will need to defeat Jesus Christ to do it again.
The role of religion within the Rockies’ organization first entered the public sphere in May 2006, when an article published in USA Today described the organization as adhering to a 'Christian-based code of conduct' and the clubhouse as a place where Bibles were read and men’s magazines, like Maxim or Playboy, were banned
General Manager Dan O'Dowd, a benefactor himself of the Rockies kindness by not firing him after an abysmal record, tries to sidestep the question of the Rockies religious bent, but not with much effort.
'Do we like players with character? There is absolutely no doubt about that,' O’Dowd said during a recent interview in his Coors Field office. 'If people want to interpret character as a religious-based issue because it appears many times in the Bible, that’s their decision. I believe that character is an innate part of developing an organization, and to me, it is nothing more than doing the right thing at the right time when nobody’s looking. Nothing more complicated than that'
It's interesting to read the small factoids the media reports when an unknown, western-based team with very little history to speak of becomes a national story.

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The Rush To Discredit The Mitchell Report Before It's Released


Fox's Ken Rosenthal does a lot of presupposition in his article today questioning the impartiality of former Sen. George Mitchell and his impending steroid report.

Rosenthal is not a former player, but a highly respected sports journalist who wrote the baseball beat for The Sporting News for many years.

But, by blasting the messengers, whether it's the San Francisco Chronicle's Lance Williams and Mark Fainara-Wada or Mitchell, it begs the question of who really is impartial--the journalist entrusted with reported the facts, but questions the timing of the report or the former Senate majority leader who sits on the board of the Boston Red Sox?
If Mitchell had no prior knowledge of these allegations, then you have to wonder just how well his investigation is going. But the perception of bias might be an even bigger problem.
Why is Rosenthal leading the nascent charge to protect the players? Every former major leaguer, now talking head on ESPN already plays that role. A baseball player could be harboring Osama bin Laden in his locker and John Kruk would still make excuses for him.

Should the early race to discredit the Mitchell Report, which is due sometime after the World Series, be a harbinger to a highly explosive document? Mitchell and his surrogates were unequivocal last week when they should big names would be exposed, apparently far glitzier than the mundane Paul Byrd.

How exactly do you throw 80 mph using human growth hormone? Did he throw in the high 60s before?

Instead of being a shill for the player's association, Rosenthal should wait until the report is released before he create scenarios involving Red Sox players given preferential treatment over other teams.

Let's work on one conspiracy at time, shall we?

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Oct 12, 2007 

I Like The Indians Over The Sox


I like hometown boy C.C Sabathia in this series. It seems like he's been around forever, but he's only 27 and it's time for the national spotlight to shine on the large lefty.

I like Josh Beckett, too. After three straight shutouts in the playoffs, you have to begin to look at him through a historical lens. Dominant pitching in the playoffs is rarefied air, but doing continuing it four seasons after winning the World Series with Florida equals big-time consistency.

I like Cleveland in Game 1, though. I sense the marquee pitching matchups won't make the final storyline. To win, the Tribe will need to make a statement. Usually, this comes from an unlikely source. How about Asdrubal Cabrera? The Cleveland rookie secondbaseman hit just .176 against New York in the Division Series, but hit .283 during the regular season.

I like the Indians stopping Kevin Youkilis. The Sox have Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, but Youkilis is indispensible offensively and, notably, defensively at first base. Crush his exhuberance and Boston's hopes will rest on powerful, one-dimensional superstars whose performance could go either way in short seven game series.

I like this series going seven games because of Cleveland's closer, Joe Borowski. Despite converting a sterling 45 of 53 save opportunities, he retired the side in order just 16 times and a robust 5.07 ERA. He got away withit in the regular season, but in the playoffs when tensions are higher and the opponent's tenacity is sky high problems are likely. The Indians probably won't score enough against Boston's pitching to moot this point and suffer a game or two because of it. INDIANS IN SEVEN.

I don't like the idea of a Cleveland/Colorado World Series, but that's what we will have and believe me, FOX won't like it, either.

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Oct 11, 2007 

High Dose of 'Mojo' Leads Rockies Over D'Backs


That fast moving locomotive from Denver blew past me last week. In truth, I had no intention of ever jumping on that bandwagon, but now, it's a different story.

Move over! Here comes the latest bandwagon-jumper to the Colorado Rockies. Incorrectly predicting that the Phillies would sweep the Rockies instead of the other way around has proven to be one of my greatest misreads ever. I mean, I had the series called except the wrong team. I'm not going to make that same mistake twice, even if continuing a 17-1 streak seems like a tall order.

I'm reserving my World Series pick for later, but the American League champ best book a hotel in Denver in 13 days time.

It's not that Rockies have a leg up at every position except maybe the manager and the big ace Brandon Webb, but because during the wildcard playoff era a certain thing called momentum has proven more potent than three excellent starting pitchers and the best collection of hitters. Every World Series champion from 2001 on has been the benefactor of that certain mysterious substance called "mojo".

It could be many factors including parity or more succinctly because the dreaded Yankees have stumbled every year during this period. Whatever the reason, the Rockies have it starting Game 1 of the NLCS against Arizona.

I agree with everyone who says the key for the Diamondbacks is to get Webb to shutdown the Rockies tonight and in Game 4 and Game 7 on short rest if needed. Isn't this the same logic that many had for the Phillies to beat Colorado? Two Herculean efforts by Cole Hamels and the Phils advance? It didn't work out that way and assumptions like that rarely happen in baseball where anything can happen anytime.

Ironically, the most impressive part of the Rockies late-season run hasn't been their potent offense, but the excellent delineation of pitching roles. Starter Jeff Francis was impressive for six inning in the Division Series, but that wasn't a surprise he won 17 during the season. Having rookie Ubaldo Jimenez shine was, but you don't have to superstars in the rotation in a short series because there's precedent.

The 1987 Minnesota Twins, an unheralded postseason squad like Colorado, won the World Series ostensibly with one great pitcher (Frank Viola), an over-the-hill curveballer (Bert Blyleven) and a guy nobody heard from before or after the those playoffs (Les Straker). That team got the game to the late innings and brought in three excellent relievers--Joe Klink as the lefty, and Juan Berenguer setting up the closer, Jeff Reardon.

The Rockies are doing the same thing 20 years later with Matt Herges in the seventh, followed by Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas as the closer. None of them are household name but they were the key to kicking the air out of the Phillies' balloon.

Even though the Diamondbacks have Bob Melvin, who has been pushing all the right buttons all year for this young team, I still believe as I did in the Cubs series that this team could be prone to breakdown during the pressure of the NLCS. They're too young and a team led by the often times kooky Eric Byrnes is a bit disconcerting.

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Oct 8, 2007 

Torre Should Quit Either Way


A man who has won four World Series, six pennants, and 12 division titles in 13 years doesn't deserve a win or see you later ultimatum.

But, that's what George Steinbrenner did to Yanks manager Joe Torre after the Bombers lost the first two games of the AL Division Series to Cleveland. The Yankees saved Torre's job Sunday by beating the Tribe 8-4, but that isn't the point and the psychological ploy "The Boss" unleashed on the team's clubhouse barely showed a ripple.

Most know Steinbrenner as Pattonian purely in his own eyes. He fancies himself as the maverick general using every motivational tool to keep the troops moving forward. It's an act New York hasn't seen in a couple years because of his failing health and if successful Steinbrenner will take ownership of more than the team but of the success. The only thing is that Yankees are not going to comeback and beat the Indians not because of the ploy, the coach or the opponent, but because the Yankees are in a transition period that is not in line with winning and making money in the Big Apple.

The truth is Torre should go, but not in such a thankless and rude manner. To his credit he knows what working for Steinbrenner is like by saying, "But the fact of the matter is, it’s what goes with the territory. It’s really not a lot of difference than in the past. If I get caught up in that, I’m really going to have a tough time doing my job, and I don’t think that’s right."

The Yankees have not won the World Series since 2000 not because of Torre's managerial skills, but of a reliance and loyalty to older (expensive) players who were either in their prime during the title years or free-agent signing meant to cover deficiencies in the farm system.

Resigning Roger Clemens this year is not the way doing business if you want to win over the long haul. Pitchers like Mike Mussina make too much and retain too high a presence in the rotation when their value is rated by the past and not the present. Doubling up on star players who play the same position as was the case last year when Gary Sheffield was brought aboard when they already had Bobby Abreu waste money and cause animosity in the clubhouse.

The future is not bleak for the Yankees, but it's not rooted in the Yankees of old. General Manager Brian Cashman while paying unwise contracts to underperforming stars has also pumped life into the farm system and the logical next step for most team's is to begin rebuilding with that new crop of pinstrippers starting with a new manager.

In the past two seasons, they have developed Melky Cabrera, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes with other prime prospects poised to make it to Gotham. Whether they stay with it or revert to picking up the Sheffield's of the baseball world is another story.

Many forecast Don Mattingly becoming Torre's successor, but winning in the future lies surer in the hands of former Florida manager Joe Girardi. Most of the conjecture around Mattingly's ascent is attributed to Steinbrenner's hand in bringing in the popular first-sacker from the 1980s, but it's unclear if Steinbrenner's clout still rules over the ownership group. Girardi has already proven very successful with winning with young talent in Florida. Then again, he also lost his job after winning Manager of the Year when he clashed with the owner. If you can't get along with Jeffrey Loria how can you live with Steinbrenner?

Nonetheless, Girardi is a former Yankee catcher and protege of Torre far more proven than the sweet-swinging Mattingly whose coaching resume consists of leading a Yankee offense that's tops in the league in hitting. But, really, how hard is that to do when you have Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and, well, I could name the entire lineup.

Either way, today could be the last game for Joe Torre in New York. If you're a Yankee-hater you should root against the hiring of Girardi or risk ruining the next four or five October's watching them in the World Series.

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Oct 3, 2007 

The Mighty Yankees And The Rising Tribe

If there is a team in this year's playoffs that resembles the unlikely champions of the past six seasons--Arizona in 2001, Anaheim in 2002, Florida in 2003 and the White Sox in 2005--it's the Indians.

Much like double-headed monster of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling at the top of the rotation that Arizona used to upset the Yanks, the Indians have Vallejo's C.C. Sabathia and the wiry Fausto Carmona.

The key to this series will be the bullpens. Even though Cleveland has their two aces pitching four of the possible five games, of the two the experience of Carmona could come into play against a high-scoring, veteran Yankees offense.

New York's strength, conversely, is not their starting pitching. Chien Ming Wang is solid and should take well to the pressures of pitching games one and four, but the rotation of Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens or whoever else has a decidedly retro feel and that is not something that inspires hope in a short playoff series.

Cleveland has become a popular boutique pick to win it all and rightly so. They have power and good situational hitting all wrapped up with a blanket of superb, gritty young stars. Ryan Garko, Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and so on and so on, but Cleveland's bullpen will be the icing on the cake.

In the playoffs, history shows that a strong bullpen can shore up many deficiencies. Cleveland has Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt and possibly someone like Jake Westbrook leftover from the shortened rotation. Closer Joe Borowski could be a question mark that will make a trip to the World Series incumbent on limiting the amount of close games he'll have to finish up. INDIANS IN FOUR.

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Veteran Cubs Battle Unproven Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks remind me of the Oakland Athletics circa 2001. Those A's were built with a specific blueprint of patient power hitting, strong pitching and defense played by a largely inexperienced club. Those clubs, probably the peak of the Billy Beane era in Oakland were perennial winners who flopped in the Division Series.

There was a flaw in Oakland's blueprint, they could breeze through the regular season despite playing dreadfully in April and May, but could not win that crucial elimination game. Why? Because their dogma of high on-base percentage hitting and an inability to play any other type of game in October tied their hands. It was also the prevalence of youth, but moreso, inexperience that was the A's downfall.

Whether it was Terrence Long losing a flyball in the twinight sky, a Miguel Tejada baserunning blunder or Eric Byrnes forgetting to step on home plate. Something strange bit this team every October. Arizona is the same type of club. Note, that their leader is the same Eric Byrnes and concerns about beating the Cubs should be raised.

By all accounts, the rebuidling D'Backs are about a year or two ahead of schedule, but they are placing much of the pressure of advancing on budding young stars like Chris Young, Stephen Drew and Jeff Salazar.

After Brandon Webb and Jose Valverde in the bullpen there's not much in between. The Cubs, on the other hand, have veterans throughout the lineup. I like players like Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Derek Lee in a series like this where the possibility of error is lower than Arizona.

I know that many have attributed Arizona's manager Bob Melvin with much of the team's success despite scoring fewer runs they gave up, but I like a savvy old vet like Lou Piniella in the Cubs dugout outmaneuvering the former Giants catcher. CUBS IN FIVE

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Angels And Red Sox Destined To Grit Out Five Games

L.A. ANGELS VS BOSTON (starts Wed.)

This series is destined to come down to the ninth inning of the the deciding fifth game. The Angels might not win Game 1 at Fenway Park against Josh Beckett, but the rest of the series points to the Halos advancing.

We hear so much about Boston's pitching, but think about it would you rather have John Lackey, Kelvim Escobar and Jared Weaver or Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling?

The Angels top three can be dominant and consistent while the Red Sox will rely on a proven post season starter, a proven international player and a proven champion on his last legs.

I think the suprise of this series is that Matsuzaka will be the lone bright spot for Boston. He's use to pitching with a lot a rest and has actually thrived. Beckett can be unstable and I wouldn't be surprised if Lackey uses tenacious style of gamesmanship to play some chin music on the Red Sox hitters.

The Angels are scrappy, speeding and consistent. They are tailored made to Mike Scioscia's NL style of baseball. They're going to do little things like hit and running and bunting to put pressure on the Red Sox defense and that's a game plan that will work more times than not in the postseason.

Even though, the Red Sox finally beat out the Yankees for AL East, I don't think this team is as good as past postseason entrants. David Ortiz can be handled nowadays as can Manny Ramirez. Rookie secondbaseman Dustin Pedroia could shine in this series. He's the rightful heir at second to Jerry Remy, Marty Barrett and Jody Reed. ANGELS IN FIVE

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LIVEBLOG: GAME 1 NLDS - Rockies at Phillies

Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA. 80 degrees, cloudy

1. K. Matsui 2B, 2. T. Tulowitzki SS, 3. M. Holliday LF, 4. T. Helton 1B, 5. G. Atkins 3B, 6. B. Hawpe RF, 7. R. Spilborghs CF, 8. Y. Torrealbo C, 9. J. Francis P.

1. J. Rollins SS, 2. S. Victorino RF, 3. C. Utley 2B, 4. R. Howard 1B, 5. A. Rowand CF, 6. P. Burrell LF, 7. W. Helms 3B, 8. C. Ruiz C, 9. C. Hamels P.

////1ST INNING////
COL: The Rockies went down easy in the first, but you get the sense that they were loose and still confident from their long winning streak. In the playoffs, you have to keep an eye on young pitchers. Philly's Cole Hamels looked satisfactory. He's going to have to get that sinker going, though.

PHI: We should be reminded that Colorado's Jeff Francis is also a fine young pitcher who won 17 games this year. I mention it because you can't start your postseason career any better than striking out the side in the first.

////2ND INNING////
COL: Somehow, the wheels fell off Hamels. In hindsight, he seemed to be nibbling in the first....You've got to be careful with veterans like Todd Helton who have been shutout of the postseason for their entire career. It's not surprising that his leadoff triple cracked Hamels concentration. ROCKIES 3, PHILLIES 0.

PHI: Francis struckout Ryan Howard for his fourth straight K. What a message to send to Philly. He struckout the Rollins, Utley and Howard, the main cogs to the Phillies engine.

////3RD INNING////
COL: It was important for Hamels to bounce back with a quiet third. It's possible that he's settled in and the pressure is going to be on Colorado to make due with three or four runs in this one.

PHI: The Phils finally got a hit against Francis, but Rollins--the leader of this team--bounced into a rally-ending double play. Rollins is going to have to shake this team in next few innings.

////4TH INNING////
COL: The Rox went down in order in the fourth. After Hamels walked in a run in the second, he's retired seven straight. If Philly can get something going offensively, that walk to Tulowitzki oddly could be the turning point.

PHI: TBS' Joe Simpson noted that the Phillies have behind in the count 0-2 six times through four innings. Sometimes that could portend for something good offensively because it means the pitcher is around the strike zone, but generally today, Francis is not getting the Phillies to bite on pitches outside the zone. A great debut for Francis.

////5TH INNING////
COL: That's ten straight retired since the walk in the second. A nice play by Phils 3B Wes Helms. On a play like that it's also nice to have a huge target in Howard at first.

PHI: The Phillies have awaken and the crowd is back into this one. Back-to back homers by Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell have the Rockies on the mat. Both homers had the hallmarks of Citizens Bank Park, short blasts that landing in the first row. Nowhere else other than Wrigley Field would those be out...Keep an eye on Rollins. Look at his facial expression--he's pressing already. ROCKIES 3, PHILLIES 2.

////6TH INNING////
COL: Fourteen straight down. Hamels's pitch count is getting up there. The seventh should be his last and the Rockies could take their chances with Philly's bullpen.

PHI: Rollins, Utley and Howard are 0 for 8 with six strikeouts. The rest of the lineup can't make up for their lack of production and have a chance in this series.

////7TH INNING////
COL: The Rox finally ran Hamels out of the game. After a shaky start Hamels stats look very, well, Hamel-like: 6 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 7 K. Philly reliever Tom Gordon did a nice job to strand Spilborghs at second. Gordon still has that signature 12-to-6 curveball.

PHI: Francis leaves the game. His stats: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 8 K. Former Giant LaTroy Hawkins enters the game. Nice nine-pitch walk for Greg Dobbs, especially while pinch-hitting. Unfortunately, Ruiz grounded into an inning-ending double play.

////8TH INNING////
COL: The Rox strike first in this battle of bullpens. Matt Holliday hits a homer to left center. J.C. Romero enters the game. His slider is very crisp today as it was evident on Helton's pop up to short. Nice play by Rollins at short. It's amazing how he got off such an accurate throw on that play. ROCKIES 4, PHILLIES 2.

PHI: Set up man Brian Fuentes enters the game for Colorado. After walking the leadoff man and going 3-2 to Rollins, Fuentes retires the side and will give way to Manuel Corpas in the ninth. How can a guy like Utley who hit .332 during the regular season strikeout four times? Nerves? A burgeoning storyline in this series seems to be the pressing of Rollins, Utley and possibly Howard.

////9TH INNING////
COL: Brett Myers enters the game. Is this why Myers is such an enigma? After repeatedly flipping crisp breaking balls for strikes to the first two hitters, he suddenly stopped after giving up an infield single to Torrealba and a single to Cory Sullivan. Now he's missing badly to Matsui.

PHI: Manuel Corpas looked sharp in the ninth, but he did get three pivotal strikes from umpire Dale Scott, two way low and a called strike three clearly inside to Howard. The Rockies win to take a 1-0 lead in this series. Their 15th win in the their last 16.

COL 030 000 010 - 4 6 0
PHI 000 020 000 - 2 4 0
WP-Francis 1-0
LP-Hamels 0-1
SV-Corpas 1
HR-Rowand, Burrell, Holliday.

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Oct 2, 2007 

Phils, Rockies Road To October Mirror Each Other

Something's gotta give in this series. The Phillies just exorcized the ghost's of their infamous 1964 collapse by passing it on to the Mets and the red-hot Rockies enter postseason play winners of 14 of 15.

Both have prodigious power and launching pads for ballparks and pitching with a steep decline past their number one starters. This series is screaming for one team to seriously falter and that team may be Colorado.

What gives?

In Monday's tiebreaker game against San Diego, the Rockies won despite shocking breakdowns on defense. They may be one of the National League's better defensive clubs, but the lack of range and aggresiveness by Matt Holliday and Garret Atkins in that game--the biggest of the year and maybe the franchise--was a concern. Even the impressive rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki flubbed a gimme groundball late in that same game.

Colorado has one of the most attractive lineups one to nine left in the playoffs, but Philly nearly equals it if not for quantity but quality. The threesome of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are a triumvirate that could lead the Phils to the World Series. To do that, Rollins is going to have to continue to personally will this team to victory. He could do that and, in fact, already put his money where's his mouth is by predicting the NL East title back in spring training.

Lack of pitching depth won't be a problem for Philly at least not in this round, but Cole Hamels is the type of pitcher who could dominate a short series. I would almost guarantee two wins from him in each series. Is that enough for Kyle Lohse or Jamie Moyer to pick up the slack? Yes. Many are predicting a Home Run Derby for every game in this series. I think not. PHILLIES IN THREE.


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