MLB 2013 R.I.P.

December 6, 2013

I intended to write a final post reflecting on the 2013 season, but there is a point where recent events are no longer “news” and not yet “history.”  The 2013 MLB season clearly falls into that crack.  It is not news because any baseball fan today is talking about the Hot Stove, not the World Series.  It is not yet historic because we don’t have the perspective of another 10 or 5 or even 3 seasons.  If it happens that BOS wins another championship or 2 or 4 during any of those spans of years, then we will know that 2013 was part of a Red Sox dynastic period.

As if that thought alone was not enough to make NYY fans shiver in the wintry cold, they must at the same time deal with the scorching heat of the 2013 Hot Stove League which is, as Dan Patrick would say, “en fuego.”   Perhaps most Yankee fans don’t feel completely burned by today’s news that Robinson Cano will be wearing teal next year rather than pinstripes. (Most commentators are applauding the Yankees’ restraint – just think about that for a minute!)  However, the realization that a lifelong NYY superstar, and the obvious lynchpin of the roster for the foreseeable future, decided to leave Yankee Stadium to commit to playing the next 10 years of his career in Seattle should certainly cause some burning in the Bronx.

And that is just one story line in a plethora of roster moves teams have made even before the Winter Meetings have begun.  Sorry BOS, but your 2013 World Championship is so yesterday (as is your relationship with Jacoby Ellsbury – did someone say something about Yankee restraint?).  There are so many transactions to discuss that I have to turn my attention to next season and  we will just have to wait to see whether the 2013 actual season or the off-season proves to be the most meaningful.

However, just so we have a historical record to review in the future, I have compiled all my notes from the beginning of the pennant race through to the awards ceremonies (including a new picture of our Royal B.A.B.E. and her proud parents).  I hope you will at least take a few minutes to review what was a truly exciting post-season.   Whether it is regular season, post-season or off-season, there is no doubt that baseball remains sport’s greatest game.

November 26, 2013

Holiday Hardware

In the final report on our 2013 competition I only mentioned the award winners who our members had actually selected, all of whom were logical pre-season selections.  The winners we did not select were, for the most part, also predictable.  Max Scherzer was a surprise, but not a shock.  Michael Cuddyer winning the NL batting title is a little more than a surprise, and the top six finishers could be considered shocking, but the batting title is certainly one award that can be won by a player having an unusually good year.  Here’s proof:  http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batting/_/league/nl.   Otherwise, the winners were well-within expectations, if not obvious.  If you weren’t thinking of Cabrera, Kershaw or McCutcheon, you weren’t thinking.

Although we don’t include them in our competition, the rookie of the year and manager of the year awards were interesting this year.  ROY offered many amazing candidates, and there really should have been a pitcher and player award in the NL so Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig could each win.  I even voted for Fernandez over Kershaw for NL Cy Young.  Yes, I actually got to vote on the awards this year through the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America.  This group is made up of many “mainstream” baseball writers as well as “moon-lighters” like me.  The selections were virtually identical as BBWAA’s, but one category shows that we internet writers are not bound by some old baseball code.  IBWAA voted John Farrell as AL Manager of the Year.  BBWAA selected Terry Francona.  How could you possibly explain that beyond some ancient allegiance to nice guy Tito?

Here are links to both websites with full selections. My ballot departed from the IBWAA winners on 4 of the 10 selections: Fernandez as Cy Young, Puig as NL ROY, Jose Iglesisas as AL ROY and Uehara as the AL Reliever (how could anyone not vote for that guy?).

http://ibwaa.com/

http://bbwaa.com/

November 14, 2013

Rookies Rule!  Even in the B.A.B.E.S!

2013′s MLB season will be remembered as a season of historically great performances by rookies.

-Jose Fernandez dominated hitters like no other rookie pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela, and actually probably even better than him.

Yasiel Puig collected hits at the start of his career faster than anyone but Joe DiMaggio.

Michael Wacha almost carried the Cardinals to a World Series title all by himself (well, he had help from fellow rookies, Shelby Miller and “Baby Pedro” Carlos Martinez).

Jose Iglesias was the starting shortstop for half the season on both ALCS teams – BOS and DET.

Wil Myers actually lived up to his perennial ranking as the #1 prospect  in the minor leagues.

A kid named Sonny Gray out-pitched Justin Verlander in a critical post-season game.

Who would have thought that 2012′s rookie class of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout could be considered a “thin crop”?

Well, since we call ourselves the Best American Baseball Experts Society, it is only fitting that we have some sterling rookie campaigns of our own.  In fact, three of the top four finishers are rookies! (Veterans, time to get busy in our off-season work-outs).

B.A.B.E.S. newcomer Jeff Hamilton has scored the coveted “Rocky” trophy in his very first season.  Jeff’s 43 point total, (.377 avg.) is the fourth highest score in our history.  He correctly selected 5 of the post-season teams (even though TEX let him down) and then secured the title with 3 correct individual selections: Kershaw, Cabrera (MVP) and Cabrera (AL Btg).  Very impressive considering he selected TOR as the World Series Champ.  That should at least keep him humble and bring him back next year intent on picking the WS winner. (For the second year in a row, no one picked that one).

Congratulations also to 2d year member Matt Bardwell for his second place finish with 39 points (no sophomore jinx here). His selection of Mike Trout as AL MVP (2d place) almost gave him the title.

Congrats also to rookie Walter Stone for following up his World Baseball Classic victory in March with an impressive 3rd place finish in the MLB with 36 points.

Finally, special B.A.B.E.S recognition must go to rookie sensation Kara Rose who finished 4th with 33 points.  Her selection of Paul Goldschmidt as NL MVP (who finished 2d in the voting) almost lifted her into a first place tie with Jeff Hamilton.  Her outstanding rookie year in B.A.B.E.S. is topped only by her amazing start at Alamo Heights High School where she was just crowned Freshman Homecoming Duchess.  She is truly a Royal B.A.B.E.!

Kara

(photo courtesy of http://dulcedesigns.photoreflect.com/)

All the results can be viewed here:

http://babesbaseball.com/competition-mlb-2013/

October 30, 2013

BOS – World Series Champions!

Back in 2004 that statement was truly amazing.  Not since 1918 had those words been spoken and many had wondered whether the Curse of the Babe would ever be broken.  That, of course, finally occurred in October, 2004, as BOS swept the Cardinals for their first title in 86 years.  The wait for the next title was only 3 years as BOS again won the Series in a sweep, this time over the Rockies in 2007.

So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to say that the Red Sox are the champions again in 2013, but as I said last week, it is.  No Society member, and no other sports professional that I have found, predicted that BOS would go from last place in the AL East with 93 losses to the World Series title with 108 wins.  That’s an improvement of 39 wins in one season, and that’s truly amazing.  Enough to make this year’s pronouncement of BOS as World Champions almost as shocking as it was in 2004.

October 29, 2013

Finally, a normal game. 

Well, at least one that was not decided by an unprecedented umpire’s call or base-running or fielding blunder.  However, David Ross deserves some abnormal credit for ripping a game-winning double into the left-field corner off Adam Wainwright.  When a journeyman catcher bests a staff ace and former World Series hero, he deserves some time in the sun.  Of course, Jon Lester should get some credit as well.  He out-pitched Wainwright for the second time in this Series and this time apparently without any questions about foreign substances in his glove.

This Series is not over, but STL has given themselves an uphill climb.  Once again they will turn to rookie Michael Wacha, this time to extend their season.  He faces John Lackey who was in the same position as Wacha eleven years ago in the 2002 Series when he pitched for LAA.  That was a Game 7 that turned out well for him and the Angels.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMVAX0Q_CbY.

It will be interesting to see if Wacha can make BOS wait another night for the first World Series-clinching victory in Fenway Park since 1918, when the star PITCHER for the Red Sox was a guy named George Herman Ruth as the Red Sox beat the Cubs (!) in 6 games.  Ruth was the winning pitcher in Games 1 and 4 , pitching 17 innings with a 1.06 ERA.  He only batted 5 times in the Series, with one hit.  I guess other strange things have occurred in other Series.

October 28, 2013

E-PR!

How many different ways can the two winningest teams in MLB this year shoot themselves in the foot in the World Series?  For the 4th consecutive game the losing team made blunders that cost them the game or at least a chance to win the game – a missed pop-up by two gold-glovers, overthrows at 3rd base by a pitcher and a catcher, 3rd baseman interference with a runner.  Physical and mental errors have dominated this Series, and Game 4 provided more of the same.   BOS made two more errors in the field, but it was another mental error by STL that was the story.

With post-season home run hero Carlos Beltran (16 in his career) at the plate as the potential tying run with 2 outs, pinch runner Kolten Wong gets PICKED OFF 1st base!  When your team is two runs behind and one of the best home-run hitters in post-season history is at the plate, you are not going to steal. In that situation, you STAY ON THE BAG.   The Bob Lemon quote I referenced yesterday is proven true once again.  And Yogi had something to say about this, also: “90% of the game is half-mental.”   Half-mental is an appropriate description of last night’s play – and it is suddenly becoming typical of the Cardinal Way.

Although the games have been entertaining, we may need to declare this Series the weirdest ever if this kind of play continues.  For the second night in a row, a World Series game ended in a way that had never occurred before in the previous 108 Series.   I can’t wait for tonight’s game to see what else can happen that we can’t presently even imagine.

October 27, 2013

E-2, Deja Vu?

I want to write again that we are truly witnessing a repeat of the 2006 Series when errors cost DET a chance at the title.  And I could support that by reporting that for the second straight game an errant BOS throw from home plate to third base cost the Red Sox the game (although this time by the catcher instead of the pitcher), and for the third consecutive Series game errors were the pre-dominant story (by players and umpires, alike).  Surely these events are worthy of Yogi’s famous baseball adage “it’s like deja vu all over again.”   But think again.

In case you don’t know, “deja vu” means “already seen” in French.   And how can we say that we have already seen an ending like Game 3′s when a World Series game has NEVER ended on a fielder’s obstruction call?   You just thought you had seen it all before…. (see the quote from Hall of Fame player and World Series-winning manager Bob Lemon in the B.A.B.E.S.-worthy quote box).

In this instance, it appears that the umpires correctly applied the rules, but given the situation you have to wonder whether the better judgment would have been to make no call.  Jim Joyce (the man famous for blowing a the call at first base and costing Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010), says it was an “instinctive” call.  Does that mean he didn’t stop to think about the consequences of the call – a walk-off World Series win awarded by the umpire?  He certainly wasn’t thinking about the consequences when he missed the call at first base on what should have been the 27th consecutive out in Galarraga’s perfect game that wasn’t.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=video+of+blown+call+on+perfect+game&FORM=VIRE6#view=detail&mid=B2EAEBD79306DAE3DB9CB2EAEBD79306DAE3DB9C

The batter was clearly out at first, but even if he was clearly safe wouldn’t most umpires err in that instance on the side of the pitcher?

Anyway, whatever Joyce was thinking at third base last night, home plate umpire Dana Demuth did not hesitate to agree with him.  There was no huddle or even discussion among the crew as there was in Game 1 on Pete Kozma’s dropped ball at second base that was originally ruled a catch. In the case of obstruction of the runner, the rules clearly leave the umpire with some discretion, even if it is not necessary to determine that the fielder intended to obstruct the runner. In stating that he made an “instinctive” call, perhaps Joyce was signaling that he wishes he had used more discretion.  I tend to think that the closeness of the play supported the ruling.  Craig was clearly out at home but it was reasonably close play.  The couple of seconds he was detained by third baseman Will Middlebrooks could have made the difference.  If he had been out by 20 feet and the umpires had still awarded him home plate, I would be much more vocal in my criticism.  Although it appears that the call would stand even in that event since the call was made at third base and the rule states that the ball is dead at that moment.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=video+of+obstruction+of+runner+in+world+series&qs=n&form=QBVR&pq=video+of+obstruction+of+runner+in+world+series&sc=0-18&sp=-1&sk=#view=detail&mid=1414F0A5826D31E34F571414F0A5826D31E34F57

In case you are curious, below is the MLB official definition and rule on obstruction.  As a lawyer, I have to admire that the drafters of this rule needed two sections and almost 30 lines of text to govern an event that lasted about 2 seconds.

OBSTRUCTION is the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner. Rule 2.00 (Obstruction) Comment: If a fielder is about to receive a thrown ball and if the ball is in flight directly toward and near enough to the fielder so he must occupy his position to receive the ball he may be considered “in the act of fielding a ball.” It is entirely up to the judgment of the umpire as to whether a fielder is in the act of fielding a ball. After a fielder has made an attempt to field a ball and missed, he can no longer be in the “act of fielding” the ball. For example: If an infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner.

7.06 When obstruction occurs, the umpire shall call or signal “Obstruction.” If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batterrunner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction. Any preceding runners, forced to advance by the award of bases as the penalty for obstruction, shall advance without liability to be put out. Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls “Time,” with both hands overhead. The ball is immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called.

October 25, 2013

E-1!

Ok, now we know that we are witnessing a replay of the 2006 Series and not the 1918 Series.  In 2006, DET’s pitchers made 5 errors fielding their position (it had been over 6 months since spring training and “pitchers fielding practice”).  Refresher here:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130817&content_id=57313394&notebook_id=57319916&c_id=det

Last night, BOS’s Steve Bresilow made a game-losing error, proving that being the smartest man in baseball does not guaranty performance.   http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/lindsay-berra-smartest-man-in-baseball-craig-breslow-knows-pitching?ymd=20131013&content_id=62905800.

Perhaps it is time for MLB to create a DF – designated fielder.

October 24, 2013

“I don’t believe what I just saw!”

Somewhere Jack Buck may be repeating his famous call of Kirk Gibson’s walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  Unfortunately for Cardinal fans, this time his incredulity would be directed at the Cardinals’ incomprehensible play in the field in Game 1 of the 2013 World Series.  They made errors on three routine plays, two by shortstop Pete Kozma and one by third baseman David Freeze.  The outfielders failed to field balls cleanly on multiple plays and Freeze also whiffed on a relatively easy grounder that was scored a hit.  Most bizarre, however, was the inexplicable freezing of Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina on a pop-up in front the mound allowing the ball to fall to the ground within an arm’s length of both of them!  And those guys have won 4 gold gloves?

Did the 2006 Detroit Tigers secretly dress out as the 2013 Cardinals?  A similar fielding meltdown by the Tigers doomed them in that series against STL.  The Cardinals’ play was so bad and so uncharacteristic of them that I must confess that the 1918 Chicago Black Sox came to mind….  Tune in tonight to see if the real Cardinals return.  For baseball’s sake, let’s hope so.   A win in Game 2 would put all this nonsense behind them, but they certainly did not make things comfortable for their rookie pitcher Michael Wacha.

And I just read where a minor league manager for the Cardinals is accusing Jon Lester of having a foreign substance in his glove last night.  This series just got more interesting, even if for the wrong reasons.  If he were still with us, Jack Buck might hide his eyes.  It will interesting to hear what his son, Joe, has to say.

The umpires also provided a moment of chaos in this weird game.  It’s a bad day at the office when you miss a call ten feet in front of you that every other umpire on the field and millions of Americans saw as obviously incorrect.  Was I the only person who could see that the second base umpire was focused solely on Pete Kozma’s foot and not his glove when he missed seeing the ball tip off Kozma’s glove?  Not sure why Joe Buck and Tim McCarver missed that, too.

Obviously, the human eye can only focus on one thing at a time.  It is easier, of course, to focus on different aspects when you are shown multiple replays.  If you watch the umpire’s head, he is clearly looking directly at the bag, presumably so he would not permit the “neighborhood play” which is so often criticised.  Unfortunately for him, Kozma put his foot on the bag and then just muffed the catch.   Although not expressly permitted, the other umpires conferred and correctly reversed the call.  If only the Cardinals’ fielders had been given do-overs….

October 20, 2013

SEEING RED: BOS v. STL in the 2013 World Series 

(professional embarrassment v. parental pride)

BOS and STL are in the World Series, again! And to a group of fans who call ourselves experts (even the “best” experts), you wouldn’t expect that to be a surprise.  After all, BOS has won two world titles in the last 9 seasons, one of which was over the Cardinals.  STL has won two in the past 7 seasons and was one win away from being back in the World Series last year.  So why did only 2 of us experts predict that either BOS or STL would be in the Series this year?  (On a personal note, should I be proud or embarrassed that both of those selections were made by my children?)

Overlooking BOS is perhaps understandable, considering the Red Sox lost 93 games last year and traded away 3 All-Stars to LAD for 5 players who contributed not one win to the 2013 season.  We all know that Bobby Valentine was a bad fit in BOS, but, seriously, could anyone have anticipated that the key to BOS’s turnaround would be firing Bobby V and trading for John Farrell? (That’s right, they had to give TOR an infielder named Mike Aviles in exchange for the right to hire Farrell as manager.) No one could have foreseen that this would result in BOS having a 104-win season (and still counting) in 2013.    Search the web and let me know if you find anyone that predicted that.  I haven’t.

STL is another story, however.  If SFO hadn’t gone on a historic run to win 6 straight elimination games and 7 straight post-season games last October, STL could be defending World Champions.  They had no real losses to free agency last winter and, clearly, STL has the best farm system in baseball.  Five players from one draft (!) contributed mightily this year.  (The fact that HOU GM Jeff Luhnow was behind most of these draft picks  is about the only positive thing we can say for the Astros right now.  Check back with them in 3 more years).

However, for some reason, only my daughter Alix and my son Jack were true believers in the Cardinal Way.  Although 9 of us put STL in the post-season, only Alix and Jack awarded them the NL pennant (and the World Series trophy, also).  You could chalk that up to my adoption of STL as my favorite team in 2011 when Lance Berkman signed with the Cardinals, but even then you would still have to give the kids credit for following their heart in their selections.  I sure didn’t.

So the only changes in the race for the Rocky following the division and league championship series are that Alix moved up to 4th place with 21 points (right behind her sister, Kara, with 23), and my son Jack moved ahead of his old man, 10-9.  Again, with all 3 of my kids almost certain to finish ahead of me in the rankings, I must confess some degree of embarrassment at my own performance.  If one of them actually wins the Rocky, however, that will certainly turn to pride.  Go Cardinals!

October 11, 2013

MLB’S FINAL FOUR – The Road Remains the Same

Well, just when we thought youth would be served and the status quo upset, veteran pitchers for recently dominant teams showed that the times have not changed just yet.  Sure, it was great to see PIT and CLE back in the post-season, and even greater to see outstanding pitching performances by rookies named Sonny and Danny and Chris and Mike, but when the time came to “win or go home” the familiar names of Justin and Adam (as well as Jake and Clayton) proved that great pitchers with post-season experience are the ticket to a championship series.

Congratulations to DET and condolences to luckless OAK and Billy Beane.  However, when a pitcher throws 30 consecutive scoreless innings against you in the post-season, and you lose 12 of 13 games in which you have the opportunity to clinch a post-season series, the term hapless may be more appropriate.   The Tigers are in their 3rd straight NLCS and will face a similar team in BOS, gritty and looking to bash the ball, but something tells me the Red Sox hitters won’t strike out 57 times even in a 7-game series as OAK did in just 5 games.    It promises to be a historic series, if for no other reason than that the teams have never played in the post-season.  That’s right, BOS and DET have played in a combined 19 post-season series in the 44 years since MLB began division play, but never against each other.

In the NL, two famous franchises meet in the post-season for only the fourth time. STL has the most World Series titles of all NL teams (11), along with 18 NL pennants.  The Dodgers have won 21 NL pennants, second only to the Giants’ 22  (take away Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world and those numbers would be reversed).    STL is in its third consecutive NLCS, built largely on homegrown talent.  Last year, the Cardinals had three games to win one and get into the World Series, and I’m sure they want to remedy that failure.  The Dodgers are trying to prove that George Steinbrenner’s blueprint for World Series titles is still valid, even if NYY no longer follows it.  Should be interesting.

October 8, 2013

MARKET CORRECTION:

So last week when I was reviewing the preliminary point totals I mentioned a few noteworthy selections for which B.A.B.E.S. members deserved special recognition.  Perhaps I got caught up in the feel-good PIT story, or was blinded by CLE’s 10-0 run to the AL first Wild Card position, but somehow I missed the most note-worthy pick and most amazing team turnaround of the season.  Chase Holland deserves major kudos for being the only one of us to pick BOS to win the AL East.(And he might have been the only person on the planet to do so.)

Sure, it is impressive that PIT put its 21-season losing streak behind them (and the dream is still alive for Game 5 tomorrow in STL), but how could I have overlooked the fact that the AL team with the most wins (97) happened to have had 93 losses last year?  I guess the fact that BOS played great all year re-established them as a contender early and completely erased the memory of 2011′s historic collapse and 2012′s almost historic ineptitude.  That, however, does not explain how Chase had the foresight to anticipate a 28 game turnaround even before the season started.  Unfortunately, he went with TEX for the World Champion, but that does not diminish this extraordinary pick.  Well played, Holland. Well played.

And speaking of well played, BOS just played its way into the ALCS by coming from behind to beat TBR.  They scored their two runs on a wild pitch and a broken bat infield single.  Joe Maddon’s magic dust finally ran out.

My All-Star Break suggestion of a LAD/OAK World Series is still possible, but perhaps BOS v. LAD would be better.  I’m sure the networks would be happier and I must admit it would have some interesting angles.

October 1, 2013

THE RACE FOR THE ROCKY, ROUND ONE

I know, last night’s game in Arlington felt like a post-season game, but unfortunately for the 14 of us who picked TEX to be in the post-season, this was officially a regular season game.  So no points earned there.  Of course, the opposite is true for the 16 of us who picked TBR to be in the post-season.  And then for the 9 of us who picked both TEX and TBR to be in the post-season, it was a push (unless, of course, you are a Rangers fan).   The standings after the regular season, including the league batting champs, are now available:  http://babesbaseball.com/competition-mlb-2013/.
The leaders are Walter Stone (26) and Kara Rose and Jeff Hamilton (23), but it is too early to tell whether these positions will hold up, and they probably won’t.  Neither of Walter’s pennant winners even made the post-season – LAA and WAS. In fact, only ONE member (Hudson Stone) still has both of his pennant winners alive (TBR and ATL).  That pretty much sums up the strange year that has been 2013 so far.
However, that doesn’t mean that some B.A.B.E.S. members won’t ultimately live up to the name before this year is over.  Even before the final point totals are calculated, some special honors go to these members for some impressive picks:
Alix Rose correctly picked 5 of the 10 post-season teams in the correct position, including PIT as an NL Wild Card team despite the Pirates having had 21 consecutive losing seasons.
Robert Carington also correctly picked PIT as one of the NL Wild Card teams (and for once he didn’t pick CHI… maybe next year, Robert?).
J.W. Galloway correctly picked CLE as one of the AL Wild Card teams despite the Indians having lost 94 games last year, and they had to close the season with 10 consecutive wins to accomplish it. J. Dub also correctly picked 6 of the 10 post-season teams.
Tom Marchiando also correctly picked 6 of the 10 post-season teams, along with Miguel Cabrera as the AL batting champ.
All notable accomplishments, but then it’s not how you start….
Enjoy October Baseball.

September 30, 2013

Extra Innings

The final day of the 2013 regular season did not have quite the same thrilling ending as we witnessed in 2011, http://babesbaseball.com/2011/09/29/i-dont-believe-what-i-just-saw/, but then it didn’t really have an ending.  We’ll need a game 163 to determine the last participant in this year’s post-season, with TBR taking on TEX at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington tonight.  David Price against Martin Perez sounds promising for Rays fans, but Price’s ERA in the Ballpark is over 10!  You just never know.

There was a little tension in my house yesterday as TBR and CLE were winning and TEX was being shut-out.  Then it got interesting when TBR tried to pull the reverse of 2011 and instead of overcoming a 7-0 deficit against NYY to get into the post-season, they almost blew a 7-0 lead against to TOR to miss the post-season.  Alas, TOR left the tying run on 3rd in the 8th.

Craig Gentry tried to play hero for TEX with a go-ahead two run single in the 5th. Then Josh Hamilton tried to play spoiler for LAA with a game-tying single in the 6th, but his revenge was short-lived as Geovany Soto broke the tie with a double in the bottom of the  6th and then added a homer in the 9th. GEOVANY BASEBALL! and TEX lives one more day.  They had to sweep the final home stand (7 games) just to get to game 163, after they previously lost 7 in a row to start the month of September.  As Ron Washington says: “That’s the way baseball go.” (Speaking of managers, having watched the terrible performance by LAA in this final series I’ll be shocked if we see Mike Scioscia in the Angel’s dugout next year).

We did not get to see the unprecedented 3 team play-off/scramble because CLE took care of business early.  Nick Swisher’s 2-run home run in the 1st inning was all the run support Ubaldo Jimenez needed (2 MORE redemption stories to watch?)  CLE goes into the post-season on a 10 game win streak, longest in over 40 years, and ended up only 1 game behind DET in the AL Central. DET got swept (and no-hit!) by MIA in the final series.  We’ll see if momentum means anything, but that’s post-season series analysis, and I’ll save that for when we know who all 10 teams are.

PLAY BALL.  AGAIN.

September 29, 2013

Win and you’re in (Second Wild Card version)

Whenever you are attempting to accomplish something, you feel better when the goal is entirely within your control.  In baseball, that is why teams always look at the loss column in checking the standings.  So long as you have the same or fewer losses than your opponent, you know that all you have to do is win more of the remaining games and you will obtain your goal of playing in the post-season.

Today we find 3 different teams in that situation in the AL, even though two of teams have one more loss than the other.  CLE (91-70) stands one game ahead of TEX and TBR (90-71).  However, all three of these teams can advance to the post-season by winning their remaining game or games, depending on what happens today. CLE advances with a win (and also with a loss and if either TEX or TBR loses). TEX advances with a win and a TBR loss.  TBR advances with a win and a TEX loss.  TBR and TEX could both advance if CLE loses today and they both win, but that requires further explanation that I will save for tonight after we have the outcome of today’s 3 meaningful games.

Sit back on the couch and enjoy an interesting triple play of post-season roulette as each of the teams gets to load its own gun.

September 25, 2013

Another Redemption Story?

Yesterday I commented on how sports create almost daily compelling personal storylines and unexpected drama.  I was thinking at that time of the irony of Terry Francona being in the visiting dugout at Fenway Park in a post-season series.  Although he seems to be a person without guile, you know it would have to give him great satisfaction to eliminate BOS.  Or perhaps more to the point, the satisfaction would probably spring from his leading CLE past the Red Sox and possibly to the World Series, proving that he doesn’t need Theo Epstein to succeed.

Well, if CLE makes it to the post-season, last night might have been the deciding moment and it was orchestrated by Francona, but was performed by a player who is seeking redemption or renewal himself.  Trailing 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, with one man on and 2 outs, and needing a win to stay ahead of TEX, Francona looked down the bench and saw Jason Giambi.  That’s right, the same guy we saw being tagged out at the plate by Jorge Posada in yesterday’s review of the Jeter Miracle Flip in 2001!  Miraculously, Giambi’s still in the league, though barely (69 games, batting .182, and I could write a long post just about his personal odyssey since leaving OAK after the 2001 season).

But life presents opportunities for redemption everyday, and Francona gave Giambi one last night.  If you haven’t heard, here’s what happened.

http://wapc.mlb.com/cle/play/?tcid=mm_cle_vid&c_id=cle

September 24, 2013

The Curse of Sid Bream becomes the Circle of Life…

Two weeks ago we witnessed the end of the Curse of Sid Bream as PIT finally won at least 82 games in a season for the first time in 21 years.   As you may recall, or can read below for the first time, at that time I asked whether the Pirates could put their woes even farther behind them by actually making the post-season.  If so, could they then reach the World Series, which PIT failed to do in 3 straight NLCS appearances from 1990-92.  And if they could actually get to the World Series, I suggested that we just might be witnessing PIT’s first title run since 1979.

Last night my first question was answered as the Pirates clinched a post-season spot  with a win over another (and continuing) curse victim, CHI.  In an amazing reflection of the play that banished them from the post-season for 21 years, PIT’s return ticket was purchased with a play at the plate, only this time Justin Morneau channeled Derek Jeter, not Barry Bonds, by cutting a wild throw from outfielder Andrew McCutcheon and awkwardly (or beautifully) relaying it to Russell Martin who blocked the plate and tagged out the Cub’s Nate Schierholtz at home for the 27th out.  http://wapc.mlb.com/play?content_id=30882403.  (takes a few seconds to load)

Somewhere Andy Van Slyke must be smiling (and maybe Sid Bream, too).

For you younger Society members who didn’t get the reference to Jeter, check out this link from a play in the 2001 post-season and tell me that history doesn’t repeat itself.

http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=jeter+video+flip+against+Oakland&FORM=VIRE5#view=detail&mid=B5175706B664EF7359A7B5175706B664EF7359A7

The NL Stretch Run Has Become an Interdivisional Scrum….

The rest of the NL post-season picture is just a question of which Central Division team can avoid the wild-card game. STL has the upper hand right now, but either CIN and PIT could pass them.  That seems unlikely since the Reds and Pirates finish with a three game series in CIN, which is likely to become a 4 game series including the NL Wild Card Post-Season game.  Weird, huh?

The AL Stretch Still Offers Some Drama….

In the AL, TEX is choking again and may not even make it to the post-season after having a 91% chance at the start of September (figures lie…).  TBR is playing its usual Cinderella/Houdini role and CLE is trying to exorcise some demons of their own with the help of accomplished exorcist Terry Francona.

If CLE hangs on and then wins the Wild Card game, Francona will likely take his team to BOS for the ALDS.  Does sports ever stop creating amazing coincidences and compelling storylines?

September 9, 2013

One Curse Broken…

As far as baseball curses go, it’s not very sinister or even well-known.  In fact, even some of you Society members (all serious baseball fans) may not be familiar with the Curse of Sid Bream, part of which was finally broken last night in Texas. For an insider’s view, you can consult these blogs:  http://mysteriouswalker.blogspot.com/2010/05/curse-of-sid-bream.html http://davethequietobserver.blogspot.com/2007/09/curse-of-sid-bream.html. A brief summary is as follows: Bream is traded to the Pirates in 1985 by the Dodgers. He turns out to be a solid performer over a five-year period as PIT is building a team that will go to 3 straight NLCS (led by a couple of outfielders named Bonilla and Bonds). Pittsburgh, however, declines to resign Bream in 1991 and he signs as a free agent with ATL, which is in year 2 of a phenomenal 15-year post-season run. Of course, ATL and PIT would meet in the 1992 NLCS, and of course Bream would score the series-winning run in a ATL walk-off (or dog-pile) victory.  Despite Bream being the slowest runner in all of baseball and despite the hit by Francisco Cabrera being a sharp line drive , PIT’s left fielder Barry Bonds could not throw out Bream at the plate. http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=3251567&topic_id=0 As a result, a seemingly great PIT team lost in the NLCS for the 3rd consecutive year, leaving Andy Van Slyke in tears in centerfield.  And Andy didn’t know that it would be TWENTY-ONE years until PIT would even finish a season at .500 again, much less return to the post-season (that’s really something to cry about). This statistical oddity was so puzzling that experts and Pirate fans eventually could only explain it as The Curse of Sid Bream. (Of course, in retrospect, “The Curse of Barry Bonds” might be more appropriate.  Bonds left after that season for SFO.) Well, on Monday night in Arlington, Texas, the longest seasonal losing streak in all professional sports history finally ended when Pittsburgh beat the Rangers 1-0 for their 82nd win of the 2013 season. As a long-suffering Rangers fan, the irony of this occurring on Texas’ home field is apparent, even in a time when the Rangers are no longer a perennial loser (though even they never had 20 consecutive losing seasons). It remains to be seen whether PIT can hang on and break the remaining aspects of the Curse – 2) make the post-season and 3) get back to the World Series.  If 2 and 3 happen, you can bet that the memories of 1979′s ”We are Family” title will become the talk of MLB and  The Curse of Sid Bream will become a part of baseball’s past just as the 2004 and 2007  BOS championships buried the Curse of the Bambino.

Note:  Good topic for discussion in a future post – Clint Hurdle to the Hall of Fame? It was once predicted, but as a player not a manager.  

September 1, 2013

Let the Pennant Race Begin

The calendar has turned and the stretch-run has begun with several teams making moves that could be the deciding factor in whether they make the post-season, or enabling them to go far once they get there.  Morneau to PIT could be the latter kind of move, particularly since he adds a veteran’s perspective to the youthful Pirate chemistry.  Michael Young to LAD doesn’t seem as significant, either way.  Given Mattingly’s aggressive disciplinary actions lately, there doesn’t appear to be any need for veteran leadership in the Los Angeles club house.  However, LAD might want Young to move in with Yasiel Puig for the rest of the season.

You can view my initial thoughts about the final month of MLB’s 2013 season, and preliminary review of the B.A.B.E.S. standings, here:  http://babesbaseball.com/2013/09/01/september-song/

August 22, 2013,

I REMEMBER SOMEONE SAYING SOMETHING LIKE THAT…

Compare this commentator’s recent perspective on Bud Selig, http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/buster-olney/post/_/id/2860/time-to-reassess-bud-selig (warning, you only get the teaser unless you are an ESPN Insider, but you’ll still get my point),

with another’s published last December…..

http://babesbaseball.com/2012/12/13/love-your-enemies-part-2-marvin-miller-and-bud-selig/.

No, I am not above saying “I told you so.”  And, I still don’t charge for you to read my posts.

And here is a follow-up to my post of August 5, “Coming Clean, Or Not.” Ryan Braun is talking more about his mistakes but saying less about his culpability:   http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/23269284/brewers-ryan-braun-apologizes-admits-to-using-peds-in-2011

© (JSR – 2013)

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