Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Hunt for October

It is quite conceivable that this year could be down to the last game to determine the post-season participants. Actually I take that back, it seems that it WILL go to down to the very last game. The NL Wild Card is currently between the Houston Astros and the NL East. It may be late enough to bury the Mets (who are about to start a 4 game series against St. Louis) but they're really still within striking distance. The Astros have two series against the Brewers, which could potentially be a post-season spoiling team. The NL East has been beating itself up, well except for the Braves. The Braves swept the Mets in a 3 game series while the Marlins and Nationals traded blows, and the Phillies were swept following two Billy Wagner blow saves. The Braves seemed poised to take the Division Pennant again but the rest is still up in the air. It is possible that the Braves could be the worst team in baseball down the home stretch and not make it, but I don't think anyone, with the MVP year Andruw Jones is having, will even give it a second thought. The best scenario for the Braves would be for the Marlins to take the Wild Card. Their pitching is perhaps the best chance to beat the Cardinals because its only a 5 game series. However the Astros seem to be on a roll, with Pettite, Clemens, and Oswalt on such a tear lately. However...Clemens' back is bothering him worse than before, Pettite's health is in question as well. The Astros need these two pitchers to make quality starts all the way down the home stretch or else they will fade like so many teams (METS) have. It very well may be the most exciting finish that most have seen since the wild card was introduced.

Friday, August 26, 2005

High Expectations?

Just a little while ago I did a write-up on the Braves Rookies, which you can find here, and I mentioned a 21-year-old kid named Jeff Francoeur. Now many of you may have seen, as I did when I went to a news stand, that this week's issue of Sports Illustrated has that very same kid on it. He's the first Brave to appear on a cover since they won the World Series in 1995. That means Furcal's Rookie of the Year award (2000), Chipper Jones' MVP award (1999), or even Smoltz's 55 save season couldn't get the most prominent Braves their, not even the 13 consecutive division titles earned the team a cover issue.

So why this kid? Well his start is unprecedented. Only one player has ever come in this late and played this well, this long. Willie "Stretch" McCovey only, marginally, maybe even came close in 1959. McCovey hit .354, 13 HRs, 38 RBIs, and had an OPS of 1.085. Now Francouer, projected through the day SI went to press, will hit .370, 21 HRs, 64 RBIs, and have an OPS of 1.105. Also add 9 outfield assists in his first 31 games, that's just crazy. So by these standards that is Rookie of the Year for sure. Crosby barely had these numbers last year, and he played more than twice as many games as Frenchie will in his rookie season. That's why there is hype around this kid, and is it well earned? Well yes and no. Yes because he's playing at a level many big leaguers aren't at the moment. No, because there is a list of players that includes the likes of Mark Fydrich, a Detroit Tigers phenom, that burned out and never played the same as they did their rookie year. Now I would assume that this won't happen to Francoeur, unless he gets hurt, because his skill set is so tremendous. Heck, give the kid the attention he deserves, as he is getting it now, and we'll see him play for many more years, perhaps Cooperstown in 25 years or so. I think this kid is special, just watch him play for a couple of games and I think you'll raise the same opinion.


Or rather Lloyd McClendon and Dave Duncan (the instigator). This fight was really over something stupid and its just another issue that will give baseball a bad wrap.

The Post-Gazette reported that Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan asked Pirates reliever if he had purposely thrown high and tight to the Cardinals' Hector Luna the night before; Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon then yelled at Duncan to stop talking to his players, and things escalated. Duncan and Pirates hitting coach Gerald Perry appeared to be restrained by teammates.

Now why does Dave Duncan feel the need to ask? And why does it even matter? I didn't see the previous game in which this pitch was throw but why in the world must he ask? Most pitches are thrown for a purpose. Look at Roger Clemens...he doesn't get his sparkling ERA from pitching nicely. He's notorious for coming in on players (which some people think is wrong) but that is how you pitch, you move people off the plate or you send them a message, so that your next pitch will have a greater effect. This is plain stupid. Duncan should be suspended and fined for his sheer stupidity.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Ageless Wonder

Julio Franco, Braves' first baseman and pinch-hitter extraordinaire, turned 47 years old today. This makes him the oldest, non-pitcher, to ever play the game every day. Here is what Tim Kurkjian discovered and the records that the ageless one holds and may break many more times.

"Franco is the oldest non-pitcher in major league history (not including stunt appearances such as those by Minnie Minoso). Last season, Franco became the oldest player to get 50 hits in a season, and had more than twice as many RBI (54) as any 45-year-old in history (Pete Rose had 25 in 1986). This season, Franco became the oldest player (by more than four years) to hit a grand slam, the oldest to hit a pinch-hit home run, the oldest to have a multi-home run game and the oldest to steal two bases in one game. If he hits another homer, he will replace pitcher Jack Quinn (1930) as the oldest player ever to do so. And he'll become the oldest to hit 10 homers in a season (Carl Yastrzemski hit 10 in 1983 at 44)."

Really, do take the time to read the full article. It really is impressive what Julio Franco has been able to do without the help of steroids. He is the product of 26 years in the weight room, careful eating habits, and pure natural ability/build.

Monday, August 22, 2005

2005 NL World Series Representatives

The St. Louis Cardinals might be in a tough spot without Scott Rolen in their line-up for the rest of the year. I know the Cardinals have been playing well, seemingly always getting bailed out by Jim Edmonds and Albert Pujols. Rolen was the 3rd #4 hitter in that line-up hitting behind Edmonds. The Cards are playing well right now but come post-season contests and the better teams and pitching could spell disaster for the Cards, considering that Sanders has been out, Walker just came back and might not reach top form again. I still pick them as the favorite in the NL, because the pitching has been suprisingly stellar from Carpenter and Morris. Neither of them gave us any reason to believe they would pitch this way this year. As of late neither one has had thair A-Game against the better teams they've faced. Jason Marquis is not the pitcher his record reflects, he's not as good as his, where Mulder is better than his record reflects. Mulder could possibly be the post-season hero for the Cards in 2005.

It just makes me happy

It is always pleasing to see the Yankees lose, especially when they lose big or because of a monumental incident such as yesterday.

"A dazed and frustrated Johnson allowed home runs to three consecutive batters for the first time in his major league career and four in all during the fourth inning, and the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees 6-2 Sunday to stop a seven-game losing streak." - The rest of the article can be found here.

It makes it even sweeter when it is one of the biggest names that Steinbrenner brings in to be the victim of the loss.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The Home Town Kids

So the Atlanta Braves, counted out by so many people because of big holes are doing it again (knock on wood). It seems to be almost entirely due to John Smoltz, Andruw Jones, and everybody's favorite, the baby braves. The Braves have been carried this past month by a rookie, Jeff Francoeur, or "Frenchie". Francoeur has been unbelievable hitting .360, 10 HRs, 28 RBIs through his first 31 games, an almost unprecedented start. The biggest knock against Frenchie is that he hasn't walked in almost 120 ABs. Yes, that's usually a bad sign of things to come, but this kid is different. He was in the minors for 2.5 years and there is no existing scouting report on him that is accurate. This leaves a lot of clubs guessing how to pitch to him and this late in the season most won't see him but for a series. I'm not saying that the kid will hit like this the rest of his career (otherwise he'd end up with 1200 HRs after 20 seasons) but I am saying that the kid can and will adjust. His entire plate philosophy is "see the ball, attack the ball, and put it in play." Its working, and until pitchers find a whole I would encourage the guy to keep freeswinging, as he is, and enjoy his sucess. To top off this dream start Francouer has 9 outfield assists in ONLY 31 games. Its amazing that teams still try to run on him. I guess the remember the replay of him launching it to the backstop over McCann's head. Of course Jeff Francoeur is not the only rookie, in fact he's one of 9 or 10 I have seen play this year. Brian McCann has been solid behind the plate and is hitting about .280. Ryan Langerhans (OF) and Kelly Johnson (OF) have been up for most of the season and have taken turns contributing. Another suprise is Jorge Sosa, who never amounted to much until he met Leo Mazzone. Sosa had a career losing record and a career ERA over 5.0. This season he has been a magician working out of nail-biting jams every time he goes out, however he is 6-2 as a starter with a pretty decent ERA. Don't count the rest of the NL East out yet, the Marlins have thrown 3 consecutive shut-outs, and all the other teams are still in the Wild-Card race. The Braves need to get Hampton straightened out, Thompson out of the rotation, and Sosa back into it. This will be down to the wire for the NL East champs.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Dirty-Cheating Yankee Scum

If you have watched any sports television show or picked up any sports-section in any newspaper (except for maybe the NY Times) then you probably know about the Bush-League play by Alex Rodriguez. Yes, it was A-Rod, the man who only wanted to win, but still the owner of the largest contract in Baseball. He is a cheater and dishonest individual exposed in the most humiliating of ways, losing to the Red Sox on national TV. A-Rod broke one of the most important rules in the MLB rule-book that is essential because it insures safety for the players on the field. He sissy-slapped, interfered, grabbed or anything else you would like to call it, Arroyo’s glove because he was a dead duck at first and he was losing. He was “surprised” that the umpires came together and called him out for interference which effectively killed a Yankee rally. Alex was never remorsful, apologetic and all he did say was "I guess I should have just run [Arroyo] over." And I thought he was decent person.

Oh, and A-Rod really needs to stop wearing white-batting gloves.

Its About Time..The Red Sox Return to the WS after 17 Years

Wow…I don’t even know where to begin. The playoffs have been sensational. Unfortunately my hometown team lost in 5 to the Astros, but the Red Sox, as all of you know, stunned 56,000 Yankee fans last night. The ALCS and NLCS have been the best championship series that I have ever witnessed.

The Boston (never fail to disappoint in the postseason) Red Sox made the most remarkable recovery in the history of this wonderful game. After getting their buts kicked in three straight they turned the tables after 1:00 AM Monday morning for good. The first three games showcased nine ice-cold Red Sox hitters who finally kicked into high gear with a 3-0 deficit. The Red Sox won because the team gels well (unlike the Yankees), the team has fun playing baseball, and the team has heart. The Yankees are an assortment of stars who put an “I” into team and approach every game with the expectation to win (due only to $191,000,000). The Red Sox approach a baseball game with fun and energy that is absent from the New York line-up.
It is inevitable that the New York Yankee’s payroll will exceed the $200,000,000 barrier as a direct fall-out of this series.

I cannot imagine how humiliating it was for Joe Torre and the Yankee’s front office to see such a colossal amount of money play so poorly. $25,000,000, in the form of Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez, gave up 8 runs to the Red Sox before that game was to the 5th inning. $54,000,000 in the top 3 spots of the batting order failed to collect more than 1 hit in 9 innings last night. But man was it sweet. The Yankees are owner to now a second horrific record (in the same year, the first being 22-0 loss to the Indians) that they wish would never see the light of day. The own the biggest choke in Baseball History. So much for many of the Red Sox’s failures in the past, and so much for the 1969 and 1971 orioles getting stunned in the World Series. The Yankees can now claim the worst loss in Baseball.

I will write again after the conclusion of the “forgotten” NLCS.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Home Sweet Home: The Expos have landed

According to a Washington city official, the Montreal Expos will relocate the the nation's capital. It has been 33 years since D.C. has had a MLB team, the Senators, who became the Texas Rangers 33 years ago. This should add some stability to the ballclub and hopefully be a boost of morale for the team. The move won't be official unless Baltimre Orioles owner, Peter Angelos, is fully compensated for any lost business and fanbase. A sports network will be established to air the Orioles and the new D.C team.