Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The stage is finally set for this years fall classic as the San Fransisco Giants gave the St. Louis Cardinals a dose of their own medicine and staved off elimination for the sixth consecutive time. 

The scrappy Giants will now face the power arms and bats of the Detroit Tigers this Wednesday evening.

The well rested Tigers, having just swept the inept New York Yankees, will turn to the world's most intimidating pitcher in game one, Justin Verlander.  He has been almost untouchable this postseason and seems to get better with every outing. 

He has a unique ability to get stronger as the innings and pitches mount.  It is not uncommon to see him throw a fastball in the 90's in the first inning and clock it at 100 in the 9th inning.  Verlander, right,  is pure power. 

The rotation for Detroit is set as manager Jim Leyland has stated all along he will use his regular four man rotation, with Anibal Sanchez, Matt Scherzer, and Doug Fister and then see how the series plays out if there are any tweaks. 

This is not the case with the Giants.  They will use Barry Zito in game one and then after that it is a toss up.  If Zito can build off his series turning performance like he had in the NLCS game 5 this would be a huge bonus for San Fran.   

The Giants also have gotten great outings from their other starters like Matt Cain last night and two great outings from well traveled Ryan Vogelsong.  They really though need a rebirth of sorts from the former "Freak" Tim Lincecum, pictured below.

The man lead the league in strikeouts for three consecutive years, '08, '09, '10, and has been a Cy Young award winner.  This season has been a total roller coaster and if he can get back to 80-90% of his past performance the Giants will be tough to beat.  It doesn't sit with just the starting rotation for these clubs.

Lincecum has done well in the bullpen too but we will see going forward where he ends up. 

Each teams bullpen could come down to whether or not either of these teams take the title or not. 

Detroit has struggled in the playoffs in having their games closed out.  Using the term "closer" almost seems funny as they are not closing anything but are really "gently shutting" the door on teams. 

Jose Valverde, who was once a dominate closer, has been all over the place and almost seems to be "waiting" for something to happen.  Rather than taking the stance that nothing will happen. 

He has gotten roughed up in the past rounds and Jim Leyland has stated he is still his guy but hasn't gone back to him.  Leyland has "had a Coke and a smile" since going to lefty Phil Coke to end the game.  He has been a bit shaky but has gotten the job done. 

This could be a real issue going forward if the Giants can keep games close and force Leyland to take his starters out for his relievers.
The Giants, on the other hand, have been quite stellar in the finishing of games department.  They have a very good closer in Sergio Romo, right.  He is a sort of poor man's Brian Wilson.  He has the strong arm, huge beard, and a quirkiness that makes closers unique.  He revels in the opportunity to crush a teams hopes and help his team be victorious. 

Having security in your teams ability to get outs 25, 26, and 27 make the difference between being a World Series champion and a team sitting at home admiring Erin Andrews on Fox.

The position players for both Detroit and San Fran are an interesting group as well.  The Tigers of course are anchored by Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner since 1967 who will need to be his usual self in order for the Tigers to stay effective.  He will be protected in the line up by Prince Fielder and Delmon Young, the ALCS MVP.

A very formidable group in the heart of the Tiger line up. 

Cabrera and Fielder are a huge assets to the Tigers as they both play in the field not limiting their usual offense as the transition to National League rules and no DH.  In years past, teams have struggled to get their best hitters in the lineup without sacrificing their fielding abilities and having them in the lineup daily both hitting and fielding is a plus for Detroit.  

Delmon is able to play the field as well and shouldn't cost the Tigers anything from a defensive standpoint either.  He is definitely no David Ortiz who the Red Sox in years past dealt with his offensive prowess over his defensive liabilities.  

The Giants are led by NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey.  The first two gentlemen have carried the Giants when their backs were against the wall in these playoffs. 

This would not have been the case earlier in the year when Melky Cabrera was their best player and winning All-Star game MVP and helping the National League secure home field advantage.  This is a stupid use of the exhibition, that is for another day, but it benefits the Giants now.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to their second half of the season.

Melky was caught using PED's and bam he is gone for 50 games.  His suspension ended at the beginning of the playoffs but the team didn't want him back.

Chemistry was at an all time high and they didn't want to mess up a good thing. 

If it ain't broke don't fix it.

The actions of the Giants have been wonderful in the wake of this issue and the team almost feeds off of negativity and those who are against them.

Scutaro was demolished in the NLCS when Holliday ran him over on a force out attempt and he bounced back with 14 hits and a .500 batting average.  If he can continue this push and attitude coupled with the backing from Kung Fu Panda himself Sandoval the Giants will do well.

They need Posey to hit like the .336 hitter he was in the regular season.  He is a likely MVP of the National League and he needs to perform like it.  He has been on this stage before and so have some of his teammates.  He isn't a rookie anymore like in 2010 and it will be difficult against the power arms of Detroit.  

I think the difference maker could be lefty Brandon Belt.  He showed some flashes against the Cardinals with some shots to right center and a home run in game 7.  Might be a big contributor with the amount of righties coming at them in this series.

The ultimate winner of this game will come down to who is hot and who is not at the right times.

The Tigers have been off for a number of days and have even called in their internationnal team to keep the team fresh and not complacent.

The Giants are hot and the momentum is building with three straight wins in convincing fashion.

This group of Giants have that "it" factor that really makes a team.  It is a combination of chemistry and talent that wins championships.

They were able to win in 2010 with the same sort of team.  Manager Bruce Bochy is a master with this kind of team.

Fe Fi Fo Fum...

these Giants smell the blood of a Tigerman.

And they will eat them up in 7 games.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hey You Guys!

For the past two years the St. Louis Cardinals have been doing the unthinkable in postseason play.  They are the defending World Series champions and are once again in the thick of the playoffs with a group of guys who defy logic.

This really all started at the end of the season last year when the Cardinals caught fire and were helped by the utter collapse of the Atlanta Braves to get in the playoffs. 

It isn't how you get in the playoffs that matters it is just getting in the playoffs.  Nobody cares if you were a 100 game winner or you limped in the playoffs.  It you are in then you have a chance. 

And these Cardinals ALWAYS seem to have a chance.

This group of what seems to be a rag-tag group of guys were able to fight off elimination against Texas in Game 6 of the World Series last year.  They were down to their last strike and David Freese was able crank the game winning homer and the rest is history. 

They remind me of the Goonies, you remember that movie, this group of misfits who are kind of counted out, misunderstood, and struggling to achieve something great while going through adventure after adventure while searching for a wondrous treasure.  The treasure, though, in this case being a World Series title and they ultimately found it.

But could they do it again?  

Coming into this season, after having such success last year, they were now faced with adversity by trying to replace our generations greatest hitter in Albert Pujols.  You take away not only his offensive production but his stature on the team and city. 

So what do the Cardinals do? 

They replace him in the line up with Carlos Beltran, pictured at right, who had his best season in years!

There must be something in the water down in St. Louis because they seem to do this year in and  year out.  

They have created a culture of winning and an attitude of not giving up no matter what the circumstance.  This belief system has culminated in this seasons run to the NLCS.

They have taken advantage of the new playoff format and found themselves once again thriving.  They don't see themselves as an inferior team, considering they finished 9 games out of the division behind Cincinnati.  They see themselves as a playoff team.

Plain and simple.

They took out the Atlanta Braves in the winner-takes-all one game playoff.  Now all the Braves fans can say what they want about the infield fly fiasco but that didn't cost you the game.  The three errors made by your team cost you the game.  The infield fly issue was just icing on the cake. 

But again the Cardinals just move on. 

Survive and advance. 

Now they faced the best team in the National League, the Washington Nationals.  It was a hard fought first four games and then came game 5.  What happened on this night was almost surreal.  The Nationals hit them hard early but the Cardinals will tell you the game isn't a 4 inning sprint.  It is a 9 inning marathon with twists and turns and they will use ALL of their 27 outs. 

Once again they were finding themselves in a precarious hole and a hole most teams would have felt couldn't be climbed out of. 

Not these Cardinals.  They almost welcome the moment being down 7-5 with two outs in the top of the ninth inning and once again facing elimination. 

They feel no pressure.  I can't remember a team so relaxed in tense moments than these St. Louis Cardinals. 

So, Boom just like that they are up 9-7 after a tremendous rally and the Nationals and their fans didn't know what hit them.  It was like a right upper cut from Mike Tyson.  The knockout blow had been delivered.

They earned the right to face the San Fransisco Giants in the NLCS and the Nationals were left to wonder what the hell just happened.

Chris Carpenter, left, and Lance Berkman, both veteran guys, have been asked about their influence on the team and they both feel the players listen to them and believe what they say.  

Their egos are left at the door and everyone battles as a team.  They are all in this together.  It is refreshing to see such team unity. 

It makes a team built for the postseason because, as you can see with the Yankees, when guys aren't hitting and the fans are ruthless you need your boys in the dugout on your side.   

It doesn't just end with the position players.  The Cardinals have been getting it done with the pitching staff as well.  They obviously have their struggles in the regular season but te bullpen has been a saving grace for the Cardinals this postseason.  They have been shutting down opposing teams and this was never more evident in Game 1 against San Francisco. 

Any time a team can get excellent bullpen work it obviously increases their chances of winning.  They have put together a good group regardless if they weren't supposed to be pitchers or not.   

Their closer, Jason Motte, is a converted catcher for crying out loud.  The Cardinals look for baseball players first and then find them a position.  They have the talent in the starting rotation with a now semi-healthy Carpenter, Wainright is a stud more often than not, Lohse is a consistent winner, and then find a scrap heap pitcher and the Cardinals will make him an All-Star like Lance Lynn.

The Cardinals have the chemistry to make another deep run in the playoffs with the likes of David Freese, John Jay, Daniel Descalso, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Skip Schumaker, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holiday etc... 

These guys have been there and done it. 

They are Goonies.

And Goonies never say die!

Friday, October 12, 2012

No So Alex-cellent Playoffs

courtesy nydailynews.com

The other shoe finally dropped on the otherwise amazing career of Alex Rodriguez. 

Joe Girardi benched the superstar third baseman for the winner-takes-all Game 5 against the Baltimore Orioles.

This decision has been like watching a snail move.  You know it is coming it just has taken a long time to get there.

A-Rod has been completely disappointing in these playoffs with a stat sheet littered with goose eggs and strikeouts.  He is currently hitting 2 for 16 and has struck out 9 times.

9 times!                    

I DO remember him striking out 9 times! 

And so does every Yankee fan out there and especially his manager Joe Girardi.  And he has seen enough.   
A-Rod has had a stellar career and is one of the best baseball players of his generation.  He just has really never produced consistently in October like a person of his stature should. 

 If Reggie Jackson, left, is Mr. October then A-Rod is Missing October. 

And he is missing pitch after pitch after pitch in the seasons most important month. 

He has actually been playing like he is a substitute player and he is obviously not paid like one. 

See his $30 Million dollar annual salary. 

I mean, $30 Million for that kind of production?  The Yankee ownership has to be kicking themselves.  I can hear Dr. Evil saying to the Steinbrenners, "I used to think you were crazy but now I can see your nuts."

For someone to be making bank like that he should be giving his team and his fan base more from the dish than two hits and two walks this post season.

I am not saying that A-Rod hasn't ever produced before in the playoffs, as he did carry the Yankees in 2009 with 6 homers and 18 rbi, he just isn't doing it on a consistent basis. 

He seems to have a real confidence problem right now and is really struggling against right handed pitching.  It also doesn't help his case when he is one of the most scrutinized players in the league in the biggest media city in the world.  Everything he does is magnified.   

The situation isn't going to be getting any better as they will now face a Detroit Tigers pitching staff stocked with right handed power arms.

If he is getting benched against the Orioles' Jason Hammel do you really think he will be successful or playing against, Detroit's Justin Verlander, right, or Matt Scherzer, or Doug Fister?  Even if he would potentially be coming off the bench Detroit's closer is right handed.  Not a good equation for Mr. Rodriquez. 

A-Rod may very well be able to bounce back and show everyone the past series is over and a new beginning is on the horizon.  We don't know but I can't really see it changing for the better.  Not even in a fantasy world. 

When you are a player that has accomplished as much as A-Rod throughout your career you feel like it will always be easy to you.  This game comes naturally and when you start to press and try even harder you tend to do worse.  When your mind comes into your play and you think about your at-bats then your goose is cooked.

These players have an instinctual ability to perform this very difficult sport.  A-Rod, to this point, has been unable to perform and now is thinking too much. 

It didn't help his situation that he was pinch hit for in favor of Raul Ibanez in Game three.  It also didn't help A-Rod's case when Ibanez hit the game tying home run in the bottom of the 9th and then the walk off homer in the 12th to win it.

A-Rod did and said the right things after Raul's heroics, left, but you have to believe deep down it had a crushing effect on his psyche.

Ibanez' innate ability to sit in the dugout the entire game then be called upon to perform and he did just that.  He didn't think about anything other than swinging a bat at a moving ball.  

Which again brings us to Game 5.  The biggest game of the year and your manager has no confidence in you to perform the way you are being paid and he benches you in favor of Eric Chavez.  Who has been even worse than A-Rod having NO hits at all.   

The Yankees obviously didn't need either of their offenses to win Game 5 but the mental makeup of a very accomplished and proud player has been damaged.  

Is it damaged beyond repair?  We don't know until  he is called upon again in a similar situation.  

It will be interesting to see though who is penciled in Joe Girardi's lineup card for Game 1 of the ALCS as that series starts the very next day.  

Baseball players, especially A-Rod, almost need a form of sports Alzheimer's or that Men in Black mind eraser.  If something goes bad, or you make an error, or you strike out, just wipe it from your memory and play on.

This separates the men from the boys and determines who are the postseason heros from the zeros. 

This is what Alex needs to do going forward with his swing and his mind. 

Fix it and forget it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Crowning Achievement

Who's tripping down the streets of the city.
Smilin' at everybody he sees.
Who's reachin' out to capture a moment.
Everyone knows its...MIGGY!

Ok, so I altered these lyrics a bit from the 1967 summer hit, "Windy" from The Association, but it is appropriate for what is about to take place in Major League Baseball after the next two games.     

Something that hasn't happened since the summer of 1967. 

A feat so rare it has only happened 15 times in the history of baseball.  This happens less frequently than a perfect game (23 times total).   

The ever elusive Triple Crown. 

The last player to accomplish this feat was Carl "Yaz" Yazstremski of the Boston Red Sox, pictured right. 

Which brings us to 2012 and Detroit superstar Miguel "Miggy" Cabrera currently sits in the lead of all the major offensive categories after last nights game.  He has an American League leading .329 batting average, 44 home runs, and 137 rbi.

He is not only doing this against all other players in the American League, but he is doing this while putting his team in the playoffs.  He is carrying his team on his back and doing it with ease.  He has always been a very special talent all the way back to first days in the majors with the Florida Marlins. 

He is a truly an offensive dynamo at 29 years of age.  Just think about how difficult it is to lead the league in only one category, let alone, three of them.  This is why it is so rare to accomplish due to there are so many players in the league with different skill sets and abilities. 

For an example, Tony Gywnn, pictured below, was an amazing hitter and was a eight time batting champion.  He was never going to be confused with any of the power hitters in the National League during his hayday.  Which in turn made the sluggers  of his era basically shut out of any chance to challenge the Triple Crown due to Gwynn's ability to hit annually for such a high average. 

This is the rub when you are talking Triple Crown.  You have to be good at everything.  You have to be disciplined enough around the plate that you not only swing at good pitches but lay off the obviously bad ones.  It is well proven that good pitching gets out good hitting, especially in the playoffs, but through the course of a season good hitting destroys bad pitching and Miggy has been soaring in that regard this year. 

What I also like is that he does it with a smile.  He does seem to have fun each and everyday and is truly earning this $21 million salary.  I find it difficulty to justify when players are collecting that much money and then seeing if they have earned it or not. 

When you are leading the league in all offensive categories and at the same time leading your team into the playoffs it almost seems justified. 

Miguel has shown this season he is well deserving of all the accolades that come with being a potential Triple Crown winner.  He has taken his fair share of bites out of opposing pitchers best pitches.  He is also in a well debated argument for who is this years American League MVP.

On a usual year someone like Miguel puts up a season like this and it is a slam dunk runaway they are MVP.  This year is not so easy in some experts minds.  He is up against a rookie phenom named Mike Trout who has taken the American League by storm. 

He didn't start the year with his team but when called up he has played like a 10 year vet.  He is just behind Miggy in batting average and the argument experts use for Trout, left, to be considered MVP lies in the sabermetric stat W.A.R. (wins above replacement) which he currently sits at above 10.  What this means is that Trout gives his team 10 more wins above what a replacement would give.  It is a relatively new stat and can be used to compare generations. 

It is a valid argument.  Trout has the stats this year and also the steady hand in the field to make very amazing plays.  He never seems nervous out on the field.   

I just am old school when it comes to awarding MVP.  If the players team gets in the playoffs then I find more value in that than if an opposing candidates team doesn't get in.  The ultimate goal is getting in the playoffs and winning a championship.  I have stated before I am a Cubs fan and when Andre Dawson won the MVP in 1987 for a last place team it just doesn't seem right.  Good stats or not you take him away from the Cubs that year and they still are in last place.

Getting into the playoffs is huge. 

Of the two candidates only Miggy will be getting in the playoffs and Mr. Trout will be sitting at home waiting until next year. 

I am not denying the amazing season Mike Trout has had.  He will get his own award this year for Rookie-of-the-Year and it will look nice on his mantle.

But in my eyes if Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown that seals the deal. 

He will be my American League MVP. 

And he will be smilin' and reachin' out to capture a moment.

Maybe a World Series moment?