November 17, 2016
And the winner is: Youth
If once is an anomaly, twice must be a trend. For the second year in a row, one of our youngest members has claimed the Rocky. Following last year’s victory by 14 year-old Caleb Young, the 2016 winner is 15-year old Jack Rose (Caleb’s best friend and my son).
Of course, the winner in 2014 was my then 84 year-old mother-in-law, so perhaps the trend is actually in my household. Although if you look at my score, the trend stops quickly (my blind selection process didn’t work so well).
Jack scored an impressive victory with 44 points, leading the strongest overall performance by our members in the Society’s nine year history. He only picked 4 of the 10 post-season participants, but he correctly predicted that CHI would break the 108 year curse and win the World Series. He also correctly picked Jose Altuve’s second AL batting title and Mike Trout’s second MVP season, finishing with .385 percentage (5th best in B.A.B.E.S. history).
Rob Carington and Walter Stone tied for runner-up with 41 points. Rob would have won the title if Justin Verlander hadn’t been left off two of the BBWAA ballots for the AL Cy Young award, causing him to fall just short of Rick Porcello’s total. (Rob, call Kate Upton!) Walter would have won if he had gone one step farther and picked CHI to win the Series after picking them to win the NL pennant. Alas, Walter (a native Houstonian) went with his heart and picked the Astros to win the Series. Maybe next year!
A very impressive ten other members scored over 30 points. Six correct picks of CHI and many correct selections of the individual awards resulted in many higher point totals than in years past. Perhaps that is another trend.
You can review your own and all members’ results on the Major League Baseball 2016 page. It is never too early to start thinking about next year (even for the World Champion Cubs). Also, 2017 is a World Baseball Classic year. Play starts in 109 days.
November 14, 2016
And you thought last week was an eventful one for the country! Nothing compares to the suspense building around who will win the James L. Walker Award for 2016.
But don’t fear, we will know by Thursday night. http://m.mlb.com/news/article/208781338/mlb-award-winners-previewing-the-week-ahead/.
And if I know the B.A.B.E.S. members like I think I do, the results will only bring varying levels of excitement and a sense of shared accomplishment of a very difficult task. No rioting in the streets, no need for safe spaces on college campuses and certainly no crying at the ball parks, because we all know there is no crying in baseball. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M8szlSa-8o.
November 4, 2016
So 2016 is proving to be a very interesting year – even a historic one in sports (no political commentary here).
A severely diminished but once great quarterback comes off injured reserve in the 15th week of the season to lead his team to the play-offs and ultimately a Super Bowl win in his last game, something he had failed to do twice when he was much healthier.
A historically great NBA team loses a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals (and a chance for back-to-back titles) to a historically great individual player who together with several other really good players gives CLE it’s first championship in almost 50 years.
A historically bad MLB franchise has a great regular season but goes down 3 games to one in the World Series to another CLE team that is an iconic loser thanks to Hollywood. For once, Hollywood really couldn’t lose no matter how this story ended, although TV wasn’t served very well by having the game end at nearly 1 am Eastern time. Of course, no one in Chicago was asleep. (Full disclosure, I fell asleep after CHI scored 2 runs in the top of the 10th. Oh, how I miss those day-time World Series games and the black and white TV hidden in my science teacher’s closet.)
So what is the next historic event in the world of sport? Well, how about the first time we have had 6 members pick the WS champion? That is 4 more than have ever correctly predicted the Series winner before, and they picked a team that had not won one in 108 years! Historic times, indeed.
So we have a higher rate of success this year (or at least a higher number of successes) with 4 members already scoring in the 30’s:
Steve Jacobs (prior winner!), 36
Jack Rose (my son!), 34
Rob Carington (Cubs’ season ticket holder!), 31
Walter Stone (won the first WBC), 31.
A distinguished group, for sure, but not really historic since none of them should be able to top Pat (“Grammy”) Stone’s all-time highest percentage in 2014. https://babesbaseball.com/past-champions/.
Once again the winner should be determined by the individual awards. If I have analyzed the picks correctly, the determining factors will be the MVP voting.
If Kris Bryant wins the NL MVP and Mike Trout does not win the AL MVP, then Rob Carington wins the title. That would be fitting in this Year of the Cubs.
If Anthony Rizzo wins the NL MVP and Jose Altuve does not win the AL MVP, then my son Jack wins. At 15, he is already taller than I am, so I might as well admit that he is smarter, too.
If Rizzo wins the NL MVP and Altuve wins the AL MVP, then Matt Bardwell comes from out of the pack and wins. That would be appropriate since he lives only two L-train stops from Wrigleyville!
Finally, if none of these individuals wins these awards, Steve Jacobs becomes our first 2-time winner of the “Rocky.” That would also be fitting since he is a New Yorker and life-long Yankees fan. Two B.A.B.E.S. titles are the equivalent of 27 world championships, right? And anyway, this is the year that NYY started acting like a smart organization rather than a financial bully, and everyone loved them for it. Like I said, it has been an interesting year in sports.
Enjoy the break, and let me know if I have overlooked your path to capturing the Rocky.
Wait! the Hot Stove League has already started – LAA just acquired Cameron Maybin from DET. Break? What break?
November 3, 2016
Can’t anyone here play this game?
Casey Stengel asked that question about the 1962 Mets who were on their way to the most losses in a MLB season and establishing themselves as one of the worst teams in history. Tonight I found myself asking that same question about the two best teams in MLB this year, two of the best managers ever and even one of the best umpires. All of these participants made silly mistakes for any game of the season but virtually unforgivable ones for a Game 7 of the World Series. I heard the radio and the TV announcers call it an “instant classic” but in my opinion it had to be the ugliest Game 7 in MLB history.
Four errors in the field by players and a wild pitch by Jon Lester on which CLE scored two runs! There were many mistakes by the homeplate umpire who seemed to miss the call on every other pitch. There were also several errors in the dugout by managers. Francona left Kluber in too long and Maddon took Hendricks out too soon. Then Maddon paid the price for using Aroldis Chapman in Game 6 with a 5-run lead. He clearly had very little left after 62 pitches over the past 3 games. For a minute I thought Maddon might actually replace Steve Bartman as the most hated man in Wrigleyville. And I always had some doubt about whether Chapman could be trusted when a World Series title was at stake.
But the Cubs held on to win, and that is what will be remembered. As a baseball fan without a personal interest in the outcome of this series, I know that the Cubs victory is good – perhaps even great – for the game, but as one who loves the beauty of the game when played at its best I can’t help but feel that this one fell well short of greatness.
November 2, 2016
The Saddest Day of the Year
That is how MLB.com writer and former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America Tracy Ringolsby has described the day Game 7 of the World Series is played. He feels this way because it is the day when he knows the baseball season has to end and that there will be no more games till next year – four long months.
This year the moniker will be particularly appropriate since one set of fans – either CHI’s or CLE’s – is going to be mightily disappointed. Either the Curse of the Goat will live on or a new Curse of the Tribe will come into brighter focus. We all know about the 108 years since CHI’s last World Series title and 71 years since their last World Series appearance. But these Cubs have shown grit and resilience in coming back from a 3 games to one deficit and even if they falter tonight against CLE’s best pitchers – we know we are going to see Kluber, Miller and Allen – no one thinks that this is the only chance this particular collection of players will have to claim a world championship for the north side of Chicago.
But CLE is another story. They have a good pitching staff that may have pitched above its talent, a dynamic young shortstop who has become a star in this post-season and a nice collection of talented supporting players who together form a solid team. But are they as good as CHI up and down the line-up? No. Do they have the feel of a team that got on a special run and just might steal a championship? Absolutely. But are they likely to be back in this same position next year? I don’t think so.
If CHI wins tonight it will mean that CLE failed to win one game out of three – with two of those being played at home. That would truly be sad. Couple that slow-motion failure with the lightning-like meltdown in the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7 of the 1997 Series (and who knows, CLE’s dominant bullpen might even let them down tonight), and you have the makings of a franchise that could feel jinxed. So close to a title two different times but not able to close the deal. That indeed would be grounds for being very sad, and for much longer than one day.
So amid one team’s and one city’s joy tonight, pause to reflect for a minute on the sadness in the other dugout and opposing city, and remember your own loss at facing the next 120 days or so without baseball. Life can be cruel, even at its moments of greatest joy.
October 29, 2016
Deja vu all over again?
Ten days ago CHI found itself down 2 games to one in the NLCS and facing what most observers considered to be a “must” win in Game 4. They had just been shut out in consecutive games for the first time all season and couldn’t go down 3 games to 1 knowing that Clayton Kershaw was going to pitch against them at least one more time. Joe Maddon and the players said all the right things about not panicking and having to take it one game at a time, observing that “we just need to score some runs and everything will be fine.” Well, they did, and they were – outscoring LAD 23-6 in winning three straight games and capturing the NL pennant for the first time in 71 years. The young 21st Century Cubs showed no signs of the burden of those 71 years of pennantless fever. Therefore, they were not likely to buckle under the 108-year burden of World Series exile, right? We’ll see.
CHI now finds itself in a similar but perhaps even worse position tonight than they were in ten days ago. They trail CLE two games to one, having been shut out in the series twice already (just not in back-to-back games). They had gained home-field advantage with a win in Game 2 in CLE, but promptly gave it back last night in the first World Series game at Wrigley since October 1945, and the first ever held under the lights. If you were watching, and have been reading this page (10/19), you might have noticed that CHI’s weak hitting performance was highlighted by the inability to make contact with the curveball. Seven times an at-bat ended in an out on a curve ball, and five of those were by strike-outs. Deja vu?
Tonight they face CLE’s ace Corey Kluber who has already shut them out in Game 1. (If you are counting, that is 4 shutouts against the Cubs in their last eight games. Pressure? What pressure?) CLE’s pitching staff, by the way, has thrown five shutouts in this post-season, the most in history, and they have done so without their #2 and #3 starters, Carrasco and Salazar who have been injured. As I observed on 10/18 and again on 10/20, this CLE team exhibits championship traits – undaunted by injuries, impervious to assault by more-talented teams and happy to remain out of the spotlight even while posting win after win (now 9-2 this post-season).
So, CHI has a dynamic present as well as a static history to overcome. A loss tonight would put them down 3 games to 1 with 2 out of the next 3 to be played in CLE and with Kluber certain to start Game 7. Can you say “must” win? Can you say “panic in Wrigleyville?” Joe Maddon will say neither, but I wonder what is creeping into the minds of these young 21st Century Cubbies? Could it be a 20th Century Curse? Or the fear of Uncle Charlie? Or just a better opposing team? Or will tomorrow’s story be a redux of Game 4 in the NLCS and a righting of the Ship of Maddon? History does repeat itself all over again, as Yogi taught us. The question is, which history?
October 25, 2016
MLB’s Win/Win WS
I am watching Commissioner Manfred as he is interviewed live at Progressive Field in Cleveland just 2 hours before the first pitch of the 112th World Series. He is a likable guy (which isn’t common for lawyer – I can say that since I am one, too), but even his usual sunny personality would appear glum compared to the excitement in his voice and expressions about this Series. As the chief marketer of his company’s product, he could not have designed a better scenario for this year’s Fall Classic.
The Lovable Losers against the Iconic Losers. The two longest title droughts in the sport and one of those is the longest in the history of any major sport. As I said, this is the 112th series and it has been 108 years since CHI won! What better way to connect today’s series to the original ones? And if there is another franchise that epitomizes futility, it has to be CLE. Even the two teams that have not reached the World Series – SEA and WAS – don’t represent losing like the Indians. A movie will cement that reputation for you.
So, no matter which team wins, MLB will have a great ending to the 2016 season. Anything that is good for baseball makes me happy. I know that most people will be pulling for CHI, and I will be ok with that, but I am predicting a CLE victory in 7 games, vanishing the ghosts of 1997 and extending those of 1908.
October 22, 2016
Cubs Win! But will Steve Bartman?
So you know by now that the Cubs are going to the World Series for the first time since 1945. It is the headline “Breaking News” feature on both CNN.com and FoxNews.com. (Interestingly, ESPN.com is featuring Penn State’s upset of Ohio State.) I guess when something happens in America only once every 70 years and impacts millions of citizens in one of the country’s largest cities and probably millions more around the country, it should be considered big news. When four generations have gone by since the last World Series appearance, and six or even seven since the last world championship, that is plenty of time for emotion to build up and for fans to have migrated around the country.
I am getting texts from all around the country tonight as my Cubs friends are celebrating and claiming that this removes all the pressure. They are insisting that just getting to the World Series is all that is necessary to remove the trauma of the past 70-108 years. Alex Rodriguez expressed the same feeling about his own first trip to the Series in 1999 – that getting there was all that was important. Personally, I’m not buying that. A pennant is nice but it isn’t even close to winning a World Championship. However, if that is truly all that was needed to remove the city’s trauma, the Cubs management needs to have Steve Bartman honored at Game 3, the Cubs first home game.
Reportedly he has refused all invitations to come back to Wrigley and my guess is that he would turn this one down, too, but I think the invitation should be given. If winning the NLCS lifts the franchise’s curse, then the franchise should do more to lift the curse on Mr. Bartman’s life. Honor him, even if in absentia, and let the Cubs fans finally show him some compassion.
October 20, 2016
CLE is in the World Series for the first time since 1997, and they are no fluke. After winning the AL Central comfortably over the defending World Champion KCR and the perennially good DET, the Indians swept BOS and then dominated TOR, shutting out the potent Blue Jays twice and limiting them to only 8 runs in 5 games. When you consider the entire body of work – 94 regular season wins and a 7-1 post-season record so far – CLE is clearly the best team in the American League.
This proposition is supported by the fact that they reached the World Series without three of their best pitchers. Carrasco and Salazar were out for the entire post-season and Bauer was unavailable for the ALCS. Even so, they still got solid starting pitching (including an impressive 4 1/3 innings from a rookie with only one prior MLB start). And of course the real story of this run is a dominating bullpen and a super-human performance by Andrew Miller. The hitting was timely, just enough as was needed with such great pitching.
I wrote earlier that this team has the feel of something special. Whether it is because of Terry Francona or his collection of very likeable players, I am not ready to declare. Either CHI or LAD could be a tough match up for them, but I doubt that the CLE players have any fear of either. This group is fun to watch and makes me want to watch Major League the movie again. I’m guessing many people will be doing just that between now and next Tuesday night when the Series starts in Cleveland. The World Series in Cleveland? Now that’s a Wild Thing.
October 19, 2016
But can they hit the curveball?
The Cubs had the best record in baseball this year by a wide margin. Their 103 wins were eight more than any other team in MLB and they won the usually very competitive NL Central by 17.5 games. They have the best pitching staff, which not only had the most wins but also led the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA. To go with great pitching, they scored a lot of runs, and a lot more than their opponents – 252 more! Some of that differential was provided by excellent defense (they led the league in DER). So entering the post-season, CHI had to be a favorite to win and for more reasons than just sentimental.
Well, the post-season tends to expose a team’s weaknesses. And that is often accomplished by their opponent’s exhibiting their strength. Of course, when one team’s strength is another team’s weakness, the outcome is predictable. We are seeing just that scenario in the NLCS. LAD’s pitching staff was good all year, with the 5th best ERA and second only to CHI in WHIP. However, no one would compare the Dodgers’ staft to the Cubs’ quartet of aces (or ace-like: Hendricks, Arrieta, Lester and Lackey). Clayton Kerhshaw can’t pitch every night, right?
Kershaw has certainly done his part this post-season with 2 wins, a save and multiple starts on short rest. You can officially remove him from the list of “post-season chokers.” This was evident Sunday night when he shut out the powerful Cubs line-up at Wrigley. He did it mostly with his old-school curve ball. For all their power and run-producing ability, the Cubs were 28th in MLB against left-handers’ curveballs. Kershaw has one of the best from either side, so there was no shame in being blanked by him. Unfortunately for CHI, LAD has a second left-hander with an assortment of curves, journeyman Rich Hill. He, too, shut out the Cubs for 6 innings last night and the LAD bullpen followed suit. Eighteen innings, zero runs for CHI and 2 losses. The team batting average for the series is .156! This poor performance at the plate resulted in the Cubs being shut-out in back-to-back games for the first time all year. Surprisingly, these were the first back-to-back shut-outs in the long and rich post-season of the Dodgers. Does that say even more about the Cubs’ futility?
Joe Maddon is not one to panic, but he should start thinking about some of his famous clubhouse work that keeps his players loose. Guess who is pitching for LAD tonight? That’s right, another left-hander, Julia Urias. He’s a rookie, so if he continues the Cubs’ futility for a third-straight game you know something larger is really at play here. For all the talk of the Curse of the Goat against CHI, I find it poetic that the real curse this year may be one that is more widely felt in baseball – the Curse of Uncle Charlie.
October 18, 2016
Even a Julia Child Moment Can’t Stop CLE
If you were watching Trevor Bauer try to pitch last night with 10 stitches in his little finger, you saw a scene that was more reminiscent of Saturday Night Live and Dan Akeroyd than Curt Schilling and the famous Bloody Sock of 2004.
There was certainly more comedy than heroics about Bauer’s performance, right down to his waive to the mocking Blue Jays’s fans as he exited the post-season stage, perhaps to everlasting ignominy.
But even that could not stop this CLE team. Using six relievers to get 25 outs while allowing only 2 runs has put manager Terry Francona on the verge of another improbable World Series run, although the Tribe is only 68 years short of a World Series Title, whereas the Red Sox were at 86 years in 2004. If the rest of the CLE pitching can continue to battle as they have – and leave drone warfare out of the strategy – capturing an AL pennant seems almost certain. That is, unless TOR can come up with its own Dave Roberts moment tonight while trailing 3 games to none.
October 15, 2016
“I shall return” – well, maybe
I wrote yesterday that I would say more about TOR’s manager John Gibbons. I guess I need to do that now since CLE has taken the first two games of the ALCS and allowed the big-hitting Blue Jays to score only one run in 18 innings. Many teams come back from 0-2 in best of four series, of course, but CLE has a look and feel of a team on a roll, an upstart army gaining confidence. TOR’s evacuation of Cleveland to return to Rogers Centre for games 3 and 4, although previously scheduled, has the feel of a retreat. This actually provides a lead-in to my discussion of John Gibbons.
First, he is from San Antonio, my adopted hometown, and graduated from Douglas MacArthur High School, which is about three miles from my home and which causes me to know more than most about the famous U.S. general from WWII. (MacArthur was also was a member of the first graduating class of the Texas Military Academy/Episcopal School of Texas, where my daughter attended for one year. The combination of those two disciplines is a good topic for a future post.)
MacArthur, as you may know, was a successful but controversial commander in the Pacific theater. He was viewed as an outstanding officer even though his forces were being pushed around by the Japanese and in danger of being surrounded. MacArthur and even his entire family were threatened with capture and were forced to flee Corregidor Island on March 11, 1942. Once safely in Australia, MacArthur made a very public promise to the people of the Philippines – “I shall return.” Well, maybe.
One week after his escape, MacArthur was relieved of his command by President Truman for having failed to obey several earlier orders to evacuate. Insubordination was once, apparently, considered a serious offense. Among President Truman’s many difficult and debated actions, removing MacArthur was one of the most criticized. It certainly demoralized the Phippino people – even beyond their then current state.
Finally, after many months in public exile back home, MacArthur was finally restored to his post and eventually led the U.S. troops’ recapture of the islands in a campaign from October, 1944 to August. Promise fulfilled.
Okay, back to John Gibbons. He was manager of the Blue Jays from 2004-2008. During this stint he was combative with many of his players and his results were the definition of average – 305 wins and 305 losses. When the team started the 2008 season poorly, he was fired before the All-Star break. He went into exile, not just returning to lesser positions at the MLB level, but actually dropping as far down as AA, returning to his hometown to manage our Texas League team, the Missions. Finally, after five years and two intervening managers – another San Antonio boy, Cito Gaston, finished his second stint as the TOR manager and John Farrell bailed on Toronto to return to BOS -Gibbons was surprisingly re-hired.
His performance so far as been marginally better than his first tour (335-305), but only one post-season appearance and no championships. We will now see if his return can be as successful as MacArthur’s and result in a third Blue Jay World Series title, or whether another failure could result in his return to exile.
October 14, 2016
MLB’s Final Four – No real surprise, at least to this point
So if we said back in March that the two league championship series would be LAD v. CHI and TOR v. CLE, few would have considered that unlikely. Each of these teams has been in the post-season within the past three years, and three of them competed last year. LAD, in fact, has been in the post-season a franchise record four consecutive seasons and everyone expected the Cubs to have a great team. So we all knew that this quartet could compete for the title, but now the question becomes which of them can actually win it. That is where the surprise could come.
As I observed in my last note, these teams have gone a collective 226 seasons without a World Series title. Of course, CHI is responsible for almost half of those seasons (108) and we all know about the Curse of the Goat. But the other three also have a considerable title drought of their own to overcome – CLE (68), LAD (28) and TOR (22).
And even with these long records of failure, thirteen of you picked one of these teams to win the World Series – CHI (6); LAD (5) and TOR (2). What does it say about the state of MLB, or of the world, that the team with the longest record of futility in the history of sporting endeavor inspired the greatest confidence among B.A.B.E.S. members this year? Or was it faith in Theo Epstein? Or perhaps Joe Maddon? And did you LAD supporters think that Dave Roberts was an improvement over Don Mattingly?
On-field managers have certainly been a focal-point of the games so far, with Buck Showalter being ridiculed and Maddon, Terry Francona and now Dave Roberts getting high praise. Will one of them make the critical decision that wins a championship? Using your ace reliever in the 7th or even the 5th inning? How about stealing second base in the bottom of the 9th inning when your team is down three games to none in the ALCS? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYBZeU46LL4.
Will Dave Roberts the manager be as aggressive as he was as a player? He has been so far. And how ironic would it be if he manages his team to the World Series in his very first season only to face the very manager who sent him into the history books with a steal sign? Terry Francona, now CLE’s manager, was BOS’s manager in 2004.
Or will an unknown be the tactical hero? Does anyone even know who manages TOR? More about him next time, and don’t be surprised if he wins the title over his more celebrated opponents.
October 11, 2016
Full of grit or just full of it?
For fifteen seasons now I have watched a big Texan stand on the pitcher’s mound and snarl and gnash his teeth at batters, umpires, his team-mates out in the field and even his manager on the way from the dugout to the mound. He is, without doubt, a fierce competitor and one of the youngest players ever to win a Game 7 of the World Series. He also has pitched more post-season innings than any active player, which means a lot of managers have faith in him (or perhaps are afraid of him). For me, however, it is really hard to pull for John Lackey. He just always seems angry at everyone and often is. He also doesn’t ever seem to consider that he could be at fault for whatever is happening to him. He inspires in me the same reaction that Andy Murray does on a tennis court – I want to punch him in the face – or for someone else to do it for me. Fortunately, most of the Giants’ line-up did just that tonight, leading to Lackey’s shortest post-season outing in his long career. I enjoyed the game more with him out of it. And I assume that his inner demons were quelled at least temporarily with the Cubs’ epic comeback – or was it the Giants’ bullpen’s epic collapse?
Earlier in the day I watched another big Texan stand on the mound in LA to pitch on short rest for the fourth consecutive post-season. Clayton Kershaw is also a fierce competitor and one of the best pitchers in MLB today and of his generation. However, he also has a dismal 2-6 record in the post-season. He pitched well today but had to watch his bullpen’s collapse as they blew a 3-run lead (all 3 of which were charged to him as earned runs) in only 4 pitches! I am sure he was angry about that and that his heroic effort had gone for naught, but the only emotion he showed was to bow his head in the dugout and run his hands through his long hair – a clear statement but also an understated one.
LAD made it up to him by coming back to get the win – courtesy of another quiet veteran with grit, Chase Utley. Of course, Utley had his own competitive character challenged last season with his take-out slide at second base against PIT. But there he was yesterday, quietly and without emotion delivering the game-winning RBI. That looked very professional to me.
Overall, these three players should be admired, but in my order of respect I rate the quieter ones higher. I don’t really buy the baseball “code” that says a player can’t show emotion at his own success, but I don’t encourage it and I draw the line at the public expression of anger towards your own teammates (whether on the field, in the dugout or in the player’s box on the ATP tour).
The rest of the post-season should be interesting in this regard. One very young and exuberant club has the weight of a century of failure on its shoulders but does not seem to know it yet. Another has an entire country behind it and doesn’t mind being known as the bat-flipping club with beer can throwing fans. Who said Canadians are pacifists?
And don’t forgot the clubs with historical burdens of their own – CLE hasn’t won since 1948, LAD since 1988 (which for the Dodgers must seem like 100 years), and of course WAS, f/k/a MON, has never won a championship.
MLB’s 2016 post-season is shaping up as historic in one way or another, and not just because no one wants any of the candidates to win, although there is that order of respect that creeps into my mind.
October 10, 2016
Don’t tell me baseball isn’t poetic
Those of you who have followed these pages for the past five years know that I love baseball and see in its composition, competition and strategy nearly all the elements of a complex and meaningful life. Sometimes that is evidenced by an epic individual performance (such as any time Madison Bumgarner takes the mound in the post-season), and other times it is seen in small human failures at just the right confluence of events to make us believe that there is a God who directs all things.
Ok, perhaps that is over the top, but it must feel right to all TOR fans who were blessed last night with the sight of the hated Roughned Odor failing to make a fairly routine throw to first on a possible double play ball that allowed Josh Donaldson to score the series-ending run. Could Toronto fans have asked for more poetic justice against a player who shamed their star Jose Bautista earlier this year with a Nolan Ryan-like baseball/boxing exhibition?
TEX manager Jeff Bannister vainly tried to challenge the legality of the slide at second but was denied. There was no interference. And of course we all knew that. Had there been anything improper about it Odor would likely have taken matters into his own hands – or fists. Perhaps he needs to spend a little less time working on his haymaker and a little more working on his turn of the double play. Andrus-to-Odor-to-Moreland is certainly not as poetic as Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, in words or deed. Blue Jays advance.
October 6, 2016
While we all hold our breath for this year’s traditional “unexpected” development near the conclusion of each presidential campaign, MLB has already provided one that was shocking and may have ripple effects well into this post-season and perhaps the next regular season.
If I was asked to pick the MLB manager least likely to make a huge tactical blunder in the post-season, Buck Showalter would be one my top picks, if not the top one. He is such a savvy tactician and, in my opinion, an underappreciated manager. But there is no doubt that he made a very serious error in judgment in failing to use Zach Britton in the Orioles’ loss to the Blue Jays Tuesday night. In an elimination game, how can you go through six (6!) relievers and NOT use the one who had just had perhaps the best relieving season in history? Even if you accept the conventional wisdom that you save your ace for preserving the win, doesn’t that become unwise when the other team gets runners on first and third with fewer than two outs in a walk-off win situation? The game is on the line at that moment – RIGHT on the line, 90 feet from home plate – and I just don’t see how you can fail to put your best pitcher on the mound to combat the threat. That was truly surprising to me and it will be interesting to see if the Blue Jays can use Edwin Encarnacion’s imitation of Joe Carter to propel them to another World Championship. It will also be interesting to see how long this decision haunts Buck.
In the opposite extreme, Madison Bumgarner’s shut-out of the Mets in the NL Wild Card game was almost expected. It was perhaps only surprising in that it put him second to only the legendary Christy Matthewson in the number of post-season shut-outs (3). I expected that the number would be higher, but that just goes to show how difficult it is to shut-out a post-season line-up. Still, that was no problem for Bumgarner – that he pitched beautifully and kept the Mets off the scoreboard was no surprise at all. Will the growing legend of MadBum in any post-season – and of the Giants in even-numbered year – be able to perpetuate the mythical curse of the goat against the Cubs? I don’t think I will be surprised if the answer is “yes.”
October 4, 2016
Time flies standing still
So seven months(!) have gone by since my post at the start of the Spring Training. I know baseball’s season is long, but frankly the time seems to have shot by me. It has been a very busy year for me professionally and personally, but as usual, baseball has provided a much-needed diversion. Although the Astros took a baby-step backwards and did not make the post-season, the team is very fun to watch and is clearly set to compete for a championship for several years to come. The top four batters in the line-up could be the same for the next 10 years – Springer, Bregman, Altuve and Correa. How many teams in MLB history have experienced that?
Even as the calendar flipped quickly off the wall, the standings seemed to have a timeless appearance. This year’s post-season teams have no real surprise like last year’s Astros or even NYM. Instead, we have LAD, SFO, BOS, WAS and TEX who have become fixtures in the post-season and who dominated their divisions for most of the season. Even with only five teams in each of the six divisions, there was no pennant race. The margin of victory ranged from 4 to 17.5 games. That’s right, even in a five-team division, one team won by 17.5 games. That team and time can be viewed as synonymous. I am talking, of course, about the Chicago Cubs. And they are the architects of time flying by and yet standing still.
One hundred and eight years have flown by since CHI won the second of its consecutive World Series titles in its third consecutive appearance in the Fall Classic from 1906-08. (Those teams had an infield that included guys named Tinker, Evans and Chance.) In every season since that one in 1908 when Teddy Roosevelt was president, the Cubs have finished the season with a loss. In every season since 1945 when Harry Truman was president (at the end of the season, FDR was president on Opening Day), that season-ending loss occurred before the World Series began. But today the Cubs have the best record in baseball with 103 wins and are the odds-on favorite to win the World Series. If they fulfill those expectations, time will standstill for millions of Cub fans.
March 4, 2016
Starting up where we left off
I am sitting here watching my very first MLB live broadcast of the 2016 Spring Training Cactus League and who should be playing? The same team I watched win the final game of the World Series on October 31, 2015 – Kansas City Royals. Even though the Royals are defending World Champions and have won back-to-back AL pennants, I still feel surprised when I think of them as the best team in the MLB. And apparently I’m not the only one.
The announcer just reminded everyone that FanGraphs predicted that the Royals would win only 72 games last year, even though they were defending AL Champs. What will the prediction be now that they are World Champs? We shall see. I don’t plan to pick them to repeat as champions. Indeed, only 8 teams have been to the World Series at least three consecutive years. Interestingly, one of those teams is the Cubs (1906-1908), and, of course, they have not been back to the Fall Classic since winning the second of two consecutive titles (now 107 years and counting).
So, who you think is the early favorite of the professional “experts” to win the 2016 World Series? Not the reigning champs who have been to back-to-back Series, but rather the team that hasn’t been to the Series in 107 years! Yes, there is going to be a lot of Cubs talk this year, but don’t count out the Royals. They were vocal about feeling “disrespected” by last year’s win prediction. How do you think they will react to losing most of the media attention to CHI? We’ll find out for sure in October, but they currently lead SDO 1-0 in the top of the 5th.
Major League Baseball – 2016
Pat Andriola (36) – NL East/WAS (3); Central/STL; West/LAD (3); Wildcards/SDO; NYM(3); NL LCS/LAD; AL East/BOS (3); Central/DET; West/SEA; Wildcards/CLE(1); TOR (3); AL LCS BOS; WS/LAD; NL MVP/J. Upton; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/TULOWITSKI; AL MVP/Trout (10); AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Edmund Attanasio (19) – NL East/WAS (3); Central/PIT;; West/SFO (1); Wildcards/CHI(1); WAS (1); NL LCS/WAS; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/LAA; Wildcards/KCR; SEA; AL LCS BOS; WS/BOS; NL MVP/HARPER; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/HARPER; AL MVP/Trout (10); AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/TROUT
Matt Bardwell; (28) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI (3); West/SFO (1); Wildcards/STL; LAD (3); NL LCS/CHI (6); AL East/BAL(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/TEX(1); DET; AL LCS HOU. WS/CHI (12); NL MVP/Rizzo; NL Cy Young/Greinke; NL Batting/Posey; AL MVP/Altuve; AL Cy Young/Price; AL Batting/Mi. Cabrera
Lindsey Bradford (26) – NL East/PHI; Central/STL; West/SFO(1); Wildcards/COL; WAS(1); NL LCS/STL; AL East/NYY; Central/KCR; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/BOS(1); MIN; AL LCS NYY. WS/STL; NL MVP/BRYANT(10); NL Cy Young/Kershaw; NL Batting/GONZALEZ; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/MARTINEZ; AL Batting/FIELDER
Rob Carington (41) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/CHI(3); West/ARI; Wildcards/NYM (3); PIT; NL LCS/CHI (6); AL East/BOS (3); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/SEA; CLE(1); AL LCS HOU. WS/CHI (12); NL MVP/Bryant(10); NL Cy Young/Greinke; NL Batting/Stanton; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Verlander; AL Batting/Trout
William Cupelo (18) – NL East/ATL; Central/PIT; West/LAD (3); Wildcards/WAS(1); SFO(3); NL LCS/LAD; AL East/TBR; Central/DET; West/OAK; Wildcards/NYY; BOS(1); AL LCS DET; WS/LAD; NL MVP/VOTTO; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/MCCUTCHEN; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/DARVISH; AL Batting/TROUT
Patrick Despain (10) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/ATL; SDO; NL LCS/LAD; AL East/TBR; Central/DET; West/TEX(3); Wildcard/OAK; BOS(1); AL LCS TEX; WS/TEX; NL MVP/A. GONZALEZ; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/MCCUTCHEON; AL MVP/FIELDER; AL Cy Young/DARVISH; AL Batting/CABRERA
Ross Forbes (24)- NL East/NYM(1); Central/PIT; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/CHI(1); SFO(3); NL LCS/LAD; AL East/NYY; Central/KCR; West/TEX(3); Wildcard/TOR(3); HOU; AL LCS TEX; WS/LAD; NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/Goldschmidt; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Hamels; AL Batting/Mi. CABRERA
JW Galloway (24) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/STL; LAD(1); NL LCS/WAS; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/SEA; Wildcards/BAL(3); LAA; AL LCS DET; WS/DET; NL MVP/STANTON; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/RIZZO; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/CANO
Leo Gonzalez (19) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI; West/LAD (3); Wildcards/WAS(1); CIN; NL LCS/NYM; AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/TEX(3); LAA; AL LCS HOU; WS/HOU; NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/Sale; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/CANO
Eric Gouldsbury (9) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/STL; LAD(1); NL LCS/SFO; AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/BOS(1); TEX(1); AL LCS HOU; WS/SFO; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/deGrom; NL Batting/BRUCE; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/PRICE; AL Batting/Bautista
Jeff Hamilton (27) – NL East/MIA; Central/CHI(3); West/ARI; Wildcards/STL; NYM(3); NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/HOU; CLE(1); AL LCS TOR; WS/TOR; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/Goldschmidt; AL MVP/Donaldson; AL Cy Young/Carasco; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Eric Hoffman (29) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/WAS(1); SFO(3); NL LCS/NYM; AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/NYY; LAA; AL LCS HOU; WS NYM; NL MVP/MCCUTCHEN; NL Cy Young/kershaw; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Carasco; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Leanne Horn (26) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/CHI(3); West/LAD(3); Wildcards/ATL; NYM(3); NL LCS/LAD; AL East/NYY; Central/CLE(3); West/HOU; Wildcards/KCR; BOS(1); AL LCS BOS; WS/BOS; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/Kershaw; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Kluber; AL Batting/Mi. Cabrera
Pete Hosey (31) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/PIT; SDO; NL LCS/WAS; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/SEA; Wildcards/BOS(1); CLE(1); AL LCS BOS; WS/WAS; NL MVP/McCUTCHEN; NL Cy Young/SCHERZER (10); NL Batting/STANTON; AL MVP/TROUT(10); AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/CANO
Steve Jacobs (36) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/WAS(1); STL; NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/TEX(1); NYY; AL LCS HOU; WS/CHI (12); NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/deGrom; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Sale; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Tony Liccione (30) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/CHI(1); PIT; NL LCS/WAS; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/SEA; Wildcards/LAA; CWS; AL LCS SEA; WS/SEA; NL MVP/STANTON; NL Cy Young/SCHERZER (10); NL Batting/McCUTCHEN; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/PRICE; AL Batting/CANO
Rip Lowe (10) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/PIT; SDO; NL LCS/WAS; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/LAA; Wildcards/SEA; CLE(1); AL LCS DET; WS/DET; NL MVP/PUIG; NL Cy Young/WAINWRIGHT; NL Batting/PUIG; AL MVP/V. MARTINEZ; AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/MARTINEZ
Tom Marchiando (37) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/PIT; STL; NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/NYY; CLE(1); AL LCS TOR. WS/CHI (12); NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/TROUT(10); AL Cy Young/Keuchel; AL Batting/TROUT
Ray Mileur (25) – NL East/WAS (3); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/PIT; SFO(3); NL LCS/STL; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/OAK; TBR; AL LCS TEX; WS/STL; NL MVP/CRAIG; NL Cy Young/WAINWRIGHT; NL Batting/CARPENTER; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/DARVISH; AL Batting/CABRERA
Jonathan Mitchell (17) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/ATL; PIT; NL LCS/WAS; AL East/TBR; Central/DET; West/OAK; Wildcards/BOS(1); KCR; AL LCS TBR. WS/TBR; NL MVP/TULOWITSKI; NL Cy Young/STRASBURG; NL Batting/TULOWITSKI; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/COBB; AL Batting/HOSMER
Eric Monacelli (22) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3) West/SFO(1); Wildcards/WAS(1); LAD(1); NL LCS/NYM; AL East/TOR(1); Central/CLE(3); West/HOU; Wildcards/KCR; BOS(1); AL LCS/TOR; WS/NYM; NL MVP/HARPER; NL Cy Young/deGrom; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Price; AL Batting/Betts
Jed Morrison (22) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/PIT; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/NYM(3); STL; NL LCS/WAS; AL East/BAL(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/BOS(1); TEX(1); AL LCS BAL; WS/WAS; NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Hernandez; AL Batting/Cabrera
Dan Nerdahl (35) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/PIT; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/STL; SFO(3); NL LCS/LAD; AL East/BOS(3); Central/DET; West/OAK; Wildcards/BAL(3); LAA; AL LCS BAL; WS/LAD; NL MVP/Puig; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/McCUTCHEN; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/ALTUVE (10)
Gus Pompa (32) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/STL; LAD(1); NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/CLE(3); West/TEX(3); Wildcards/HOU; BOS(1); AL LCS TEX; WS/TEX; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/Scherzer(10); NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Archer; AL Batting/Trout
Alix Rose (13) – NL East/ATL; Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/SFO(3); CHI(1); NL LCS/STL; AL East/BOS(3); Central/CWS; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/OAK; NYY; AL LCS OAK. WS/STL; NL MVP/CARPENTER; NL Cy Young/GOLDSCHMIDT; NL Batting/Posey; AL MVP/AROD; AL Cy Young/SALE; AL Batting/JONES
Carl Rose (17) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/PIT; WAS(1); NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/HOU; CLE(1); AL LCS KCR. WS/WAS; NL MVP/Heyward; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/GOLDSCHMIT; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Keuchel; AL Batting/Trout
Jack Rose (44) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/ARI; Wildcards/MIL; STL; NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/TEX(1); OAK; AL LCS HOU. WS/CHI (12) NL MVP/Rizzo; NL Cy Young/GREINKE; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Keuchel; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Jennifer Rose (16) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/PIT; West/SFO(1); Wildcards/MIA; CHI(1); NL LCS/WAS; AL East/NYY; Central/MIN; West/HOU; Wildcards/LAA; BOS(1); AL LCS HOU WS/HOU; NL MVP/Carpenter; NL Cy Young/Kershaw; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Beltre; AL Cy Young/Keuchel; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Kara Rose (24) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/STL; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/PIT; MIA; NL LCS/LAD; AL East/NYY; Central/KCR; West/LAA; Wildcards/OAK; TEX(1); AL LCS LAA. WS/LAD; NL MVP/PUIG; NL Cy Young/Kershaw; NL Batting/PUIG; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/SALE; AL Batting/ALTUVE (10)
Scott Rose (17) – NL East/ATL; Central/PIT; West/COL; Wildcards/ WAS(1); SFO(3); NL LCS/PIT; AL East/TBR; Central/CLE(3); West/OAK; Wildcards/DET; HOU; AL LCS DET. WS/PIT; NL MVP/STANTON; NL Cy Young/STRASBURG; NL Batting/McCutchen; AL MVP/CANO; AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/ALTUVE (10)
Bruce Ruzinsky (27) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/WAS(1); ARI NL LCS/ARI; AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/HOU; Wildcards/LAA; DET; AL LCS HOU; WS/HOU; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/Scherzer (10); NL Batting/Goldschmidt; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Archer; AL Batting/ALTUVE (10)
David Sanders (33) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/STL; West/SFO(1); Wildcards/NYM(3); LAD(1); NL LCS/SFO; AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/HOU; CLE(1); AL LCS TEX; WS/SFO; NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/KERSHAW; NL Batting/McCutchen; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Sale; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Hudson Stone (28) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/PIT; WAS(1); NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/BOS(3); Central/MIN; West/HOU; Wildcards/KCR; TOR(3); AL LCS HOU; WS/LAA; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/Arrieta; NL Batting/Goldschmidt; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Keuchel; AL Batting/ALTUVE (10)
Madison Stone (38) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/PIT; West/LAD(3); Wildcards/NYM(3); COL; NL LCS/LAD; AL East/BOS(3); Central/KCR; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/HOU; BAL(3); AL LCS HOU; WS/HOU; NL MVP/Goldschmidt; NL Cy Young/Kershaw; NL Batting/Gordon; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Carrasco; AL Batting/Altuve (10)
Pat Stone (14) – NL East/ATL; Central/STL; West/ARI; Wildcards/COL; MIA; NL LCS/ATL; AL East/TOR(1); Central/MIN; West/TEX(3); Wildcards/HOU; KCR; AL LCS/TOR. WS/TOR; NL MVP/TULO; NL Cy Young/Kershaw; NL Batting/MOLINA; AL MVP/BAUTISTA; AL Cy Young/HERNANDEZ; AL Batting/ALTUVE (10)
Walter Stone (41) – NL East/WAS(3); Central/CHI(3); West/LAD(3); Wildcards/STL; SFO(3); NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/TOR(1); Central/KCR; West/LAA; Wildcards/HOU; NYY; AL LCS HOU WS/CHI(12); NL MVP/Harper; NL Cy Young/Greinke; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/Price; AL Batting/Trout
Marc Whyte (10) – NL East/NYM(1); Central/CHI(3); West/LAD(3); Wildcards/WAS(1); PIT; NL LCS/NYM; AL East/TOR(1); Central/DET; West/HOU; Wildcards/KCR; BOS(1); AL LCS HOU. WS/NYM; NL MVP/harper; NL Cy Young/Harvey; NL Batting/Harper; AL MVP/Correa; AL Cy Young/Keuchel; AL Batting/TROUT
Caleb Young (33) – NL East/ATL; Central/CHI(3); West/SFO(1); Wildcards/PIT; PHI; NL LCS/CHI(6); AL East/BOS(3); Central/KCR; West/SEA; Wildcards/CHI; HOU; AL LCS KCR. WS/KCR; NL MVP/GONZALEZ; NL Cy Young/LESTER; NL Batting/GONZALEZ; AL MVP/Trout(10); AL Cy Young/KLUBER; AL Batting/ALTUVE(10)