Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday's Results Surpising

When writing the game picks on Saturday morning, the Fan was troubled concerning the fate of each and every no-hit pitcher after performing the prodigious feat. Despite that inner voice, the Fan still figured the Phillies would find a way to win the game. During that same post, this Fan figured that it was not in the realm of possibility that the Rangers could bounce back from their crumbing loss on Friday. Both beliefs couldn't have been more wrong. The Phillies did not find a way to win the game. They only found a way to drag their bats back to the dugout whiff after whiff. Thirteen times between Lincecum, his set up guy and his closer struck out the veteran Phillies. And the Rangers scored often and early knocking out their second straight Yankee starter and this time the bullpen was perfect.

Now the Yankees head back to their home park to face Cliff Lee, a pitcher they cannot seem to beat and the Phillies have lost their home field advantage and suddenly look a bit old and slow compared to the Giants who don't know any better than to think they are outclassed by their NLCS rivals. Suddenly, both teams look like they are in trouble. Suddenly, the Yankees hopes will be on the old reliable Pettitte and if he fails against Lee, then the Yankees have to hope that Burnett can somehow win game four. Yeesh.

It won't get any easier for the Phillies as they have to face Sanchez, who suddenly is pitching deeper into games and attacking the zone more than ever before. He is just as capable of striking out Rollins three more times and Howard three more times. The Giants' bullpen looks dominant. Brian Wilson struck out four batters out of the four outs he recorded. This has really gotten interesting. Could the Giants and the Rangers actually take out the Phillies and the Yankees?

It certainly seems possible now, doesn't it?

Game Picks - Saturday: October 16, 2010

Well, the Yankees pulled one out last night and the Rangers had their nutmegs grounded into powder. You had to feel for their fans as there were long faces all over that stadium. Can the Rangers rebound? Maybe they get a win in Game Three, or maybe not. But that was one tough loss.

One of the most anticipated match ups in post season history occurs tonight with Halladay versus Lincecum. Talk about marquee names! But this is how the games should go:

- The Phillies over the Giants: Halladay struggled after his first no-hitter (and perfect game) earlier in the season. It was his only rough patch of the season. Will he struggle after his most recent no-hitter. Don't think so. The Giants' line up should be even feebler against him than the Reds were. Lincecum has to be at his very best to win this game. That's a lot to ask.

- The Yankees over the Rangers: Hughes is flat out better than Lewis and with Lewis, the Yankees can field their regular line up and include Berkman. The Rangers bullpen is a mess. Can't see this going any other way.

Yesterday: 1-0
Week: 4-2
Month: 36-26
Season: 1363-1041

Thoughts About Eric Wedge

It appears that the Seattle Mariners are going to hire Eric Wedge as their new manager. Forgive the Fan if he isn't impressed. From most accounts, Wedge is a nice guy. But his seven years in Cleveland were far from awe-inspiring. And it isn't just about performance. It's also about pizazz. Perhaps that isn't fair. A manager doesn't need commanding presence to get the job done. But for a city that has just gone through about the worst season a baseball town can go through, something with a little more pop might have gotten those poor fans a lot more excited. In football, a Wedge is those nameless and faceless guys that hold hands during kickoffs and try to John Deere anybody running up the field. It's an apt metaphor here.

Eric Wedge had one good year of managing the Indians (2007). That year was the only year that the Indians out performed their run differential. During the other six years, the Indians were a staggering 31 games under their Pythagorean win-loss projection. Even if you add in the five games over projection in 2007, Wedge went -26 in this category. This statistic isn't the be all and end all for how to rate a manager, but it's the best we have. Until Mike Sciocia's 2010, he was like +20 for the past four years. Putting this another way, according to this statistic, the Indians should have won 26 more games spread out over seven years than they did.

Simply put, the Indians should have had more than two winning seasons in those seven years. Travis Hafner was still good during the first five. They had Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore and Sabathia and Cliff Lee. Even in 2007 when they made it to the ALCS, they gassed Sabathia and Carmona so they had nothing left. They insisted on using Borowski as closer when they had two better options. They let Jeremy Sowers start seven too many games. As good as it was, it could have gone a whole lot better. And that characterizes Eric Wedge's entire run as manager.

Yeah, this all sounds really negative. Granted. There were the same kinds of articles written like this one when the Yankees hired Joe Torre in 1996. Look how that worked out. And perhaps it would have been of little matter who manages the current Seattle Mariners with their current roster problems. Perhaps it will all work out. For the Seattle fans, let's hope so. They have endured enough ridicule. They don't deserve another wedgie. Oops. Couldn't resist.

Dustin Moseley?

The post season has a long history of bringing the unsung heroes out of the woodwork. Remember Gene Tenace? Rick Monday? Billy Martin? It just seems to happen on the big stage when two great teams face each other. All the stars seem to cancel each other out and some guy comes out of no where to be the star. In the first game of the League Championship Series between the Yankees and the Rangers, it was Dustin Moseley, easily the next to last guy in the Yankees bullpen depth chart who pitched two huge innings without allowing a base runner and struck out four of the six guys he faced.

To be sure, poor base running, spotty fielding and bad relief pitching didn't help the Rangers' cause, but they had this game tucked away with a 5-0 lead that chased stud Sabathia after four lackluster innings. Joba Chamberlain pitched an unspectacular inning and then it was up to Moseley, whose sole job was to not let the game get any worse. He didn't. He struck out Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. So it wasn't the weak side of the batting order either. It was yeoman work and without it, the Yankees would never had the chance to win the game.

A real turning point in the game though came when Ian Kinsler, one of the best base runners in the game, made a colossal blunder and got picked off by Kerry Wood. Wood was doing his Lost in Space impression and couldn't find the strike zone. A little rally there after the Yankees took the lead could have changed the entire momentum of the game. But Kinsler was trying to time a steal attempt and got caught. Teixeira almost blew it by tossing the rundown throw to Jeter too early, but Jeter made a great play by deking Kinsler into thinking Jeter was going to throw to first. Kinsler bought it and allowed Jeter to run him down. Another heads up post season Jeter play. There. The Fan said it. Let the teeth gnash.

The play by Kinsler effectively allowed Wood to settle down and get the next two batters. Moreland made it interesting in the ninth with a pinch hit, broken bat base hit against Mariano Rivera, but a two-strike bunt by Andrews, a strikeout of Young and a weak grounder by Hamilton ended the game.

Many will point to the Rangers' relief staff as the goats of the game and that's probably accurate. Darren Oliver's two walks certainly didn't help. But Michael Young HAS to come up with A-Rod's rocket grounder or at least knock it down. He did neither and tried to ole it and the bull got away. When writing the Game Picks post, the Fan said that the Rangers' defense would be a problem in this series and that was example #1.

All in all, the Yankees dodged a bullet on a game that it looked like they were going to lose. The Rangers had much to feel good about for seven innings but the last two innings left them sucking wind.

Friday, October 15, 2010

On Being a Yankee Fan

The Fan's blog buddy, Navin (@eyebleaf), believes that being a fan of the New York Yankees is an easy thing. Yankee fans are spoiled he says. Yankee fans have it easy, he thinks. Yankee fans feel entitled he implies. Don't get the Fan wrong. Navin is the best of his generation when it comes to supporting his passion for sports and his writing profession. Love the guy. But he is dead wrong. Being a fan of the New York Yankees is one of the most conflicting passions of all. Here's why.

First, rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the Roman Empire or for America, for that fact. Most of the world hates you and is just hoping with their dying breaths that you will go belly up with a fork in your belly. If you are not a fan of the Texas Rangers or the Tampa Bay Rays, you still have a mild interest that both of those smart but cash strapped organizations win. But if you are not a fan of the New York Yankees, you hope that the Yankees are humiliated and paraded around the warning track in their scivvys.

Contrast the feelings about the Yankees to the Cubs. Cubs fans are lovable losers. They have hung in there despite disappointments year after year. Most baseball fans feel for Cubs fans. The Red Sox sure screwed this up in a big way. Before 2004, they were in the same boat as the Cubs, but they broke the curse and most of the world was happy for them. But they blew it. Their fans got bloated and obnoxious and that Red Sox Nation thing has turned them into pariahs second only to the Yankees.

But Yankee fans know there is no option but to win. If their team doesn't win, then they know there will be wholesale changes and heads will roll. Any contemplative joy in reflecting on a good season and good stories and nice surprises are trashed in their failure to win it all. If the Yankees win it all, then those nasty Romans rammed it down the world's throat just like the always do by having more resources than any other team. If they lose, then there is mockery at what all those resources brought you. There is no winning for the Yankees fan.

And there is no sympathy. Yankee fans understand that. Nevermind that the team went 0 for the 80s or had the worst team in baseball in the late sixties. It's only from 96 to now that everyone remembers. Most fans hope their teams win. Yankee fans hope their team doesn't lose.

And what if you like the Yankee players? Jeter is universally panned. His poor season in 2010 was glee to many. Nevermind that he still came in the middle of the pack for shortstops in value at his age. He just didn't put up Jeter numbers. He looked less than Jeter-like and people are happy about that. It isn't the Yankee fans' fault that the media has built him up like some kind of megalith. Fans of the Yankees didn't do that. But they bear the brunt of the consequences. Yankee fans when traveling to other parts of the country never say out loud that they love Derek Jeter despite the love and devotion felt to him. They can't.

And imagine if that is how it goes for Jeter fans, how about A-Rod fans? Now there is a guy that people hate. Try rooting for him! You can't go to a bar and say out loud, "Come on A-Rod, hit it out!" The bouncer would be breaking your head on the street corner, and that is after people throw beer in your face.

If the Phillies win, it will be accepted. If the Rangers win, people will be happy for them. If the Giants win, won't those pitchers be amazing. And how about that Buster Posey! But if the Yankees win, there will be no love, no congratulations and no credit. There will be antipathy. How good can that make a Yankee fan feel?

To be fair, Yankee fans have no choice but to fight those feelings and sometimes the defense mechanisms roll over toward smugness and arrogance. Often, those become hateful comments lashing out at Yankee haters on comment boards. That's regretful. And it doesn't help the overall perception. It all goes back to the perception people have of New Yorkers in general. If you ask someone in Kansas what the people of New York City are like and there will be a universal response. Those jerks. But, it would surprise many that a lot of people in New York are nice people. Imagine that.

The Cardinals have won a lot in the last 40 years. But people don't hate them. They may hate Tony LaRussa. But they don't hate the Cardinals. It was hard to hate Tommy Lasorda for very long because he had a charm about him (that hides a dark side). People all loved Bobby Cox despite his many years of success. But none of that applies to the Yankees. They are the hated empire. They are the bullies of the Bronx. They are megalomaniacs of baseball.

And yeah, it all goes back to Steinbrenner. His brashness, his in your face approach to owning the Yankees set the tone for Yankee haters for a generation. It doesn't matter that the TEAM of players for the Yankees (with the possible exception of A-Rod) are a classy bunch of humans that handle themselves with professionalism. Mariano Rivera never makes an Incredible Hulk pose after striking out the last guy of a game. Andy Pettitte (if you'll pardon the HGH flap) has always seemed like a class act. Jeter has the respect of his peers if not the world's baseball fans. But Steinbrenner's actions and stance colored everything. And the media's over-adulation doesn't help either.

No, being a fan of the New York Yankees isn't easy. It's a no win situation. The joy of winning is stolen by the hate thrown and the disappointment of losing is way worse because of the knowledge that there is almost universal joy at the development. This writer acknowledges that it is probably better than being a Pirates or a Royals fan. But it isn't what it's cracked up to be.

Game Picks - Friday: October 15, 2010

And so...finally...after an insane amount of off days...we get to the league championships. The American League starts off tonight. Why both leagues don't start on the same night is easy enough to answer: network money. But anyway, enough with the grousing about how the playoff schedule screws fans to favor the networks, let's just get to the pick.

- The Yankees over the Rangers: The Yankees will have trouble with Wilson. He's a tough son-of-a-gun. But so is Sabathia, the Yankees ace who sometimes bends but rarely breaks. The Yankees play better defense and have been here before. Forget about the Rangers recent success against the Yankees. They still have a long history of failure in Yankee Stadium to overcome. Advantage: Yankees.

Tuesday: 1-0
Week: 3-2
Month: 35-26
Season: 1362-1041

Allergic to Bases

Only the Lord knows why this Fan is focusing so much on lousy play lately. Yesterday featured a post about the worst fielding players in MLB this season. Today, the Fan has the overwhelming urge to write a splurge about the eleven worst On Base Percentages in the majors for 2010. Why eleven? Because only eleven finished with an OBP under .300. Why only eleven? Oh, there were a lot more, but these particular eleven managed to get enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title despite the fact that they couldn't get on base. Look, without a homer, you can't score unless you have base runners. So the OBP is an extremely important number. That makes it all the more unfathomable that these guys got so many plate appearances. There were a few on this list that had good years in 2009 and 2010 might have been an outlier. For their career's sake, let's hope so.

Here are your bottom eleven players on the On Base Percentage totem pole:

  1. Jose Lopez - Seattle Mariners: .270. 622 plate appearances, 23 walks, 142 hits. 71 OPS+  Fugly season.
  2. Aaron Hill - Toronto Blue Jays: .271, 580 plate appearances, 41 walks, 108 hits. 79 OPS+. Hill did hit 26 homers but this was a year to forget for Hill. It's hard to understand compared to the year he had in 2009.
  3. Cezar Izturis - Baltimore Orioles: .277 513 plate appearances, 25 walks, 109 hits, only 15 extra base hits. With his 51 OPS+ for a full season, Izturis was easily the most ineffective batter in all the majors this season.
  4. Kevin Kouzmanoff - Oakland Athletics: .283. 586 plate appearances, 24 walks, 136 hits. Should change his name to Kouzmanoffthebases.
  5. Adam Lind - Toronto Blue Jays: .287. 613 plate appearances, 34 walks, 135 hits. With 144 strikeouts, Lind had almost as many whiffs as times on base. He did have a much better second half.
  6. Yuniesky Betancourt - Kansas City Royals: .288. 588 plate appearances, 23 walks, 144 hits. And this was a good year for him.
  7. Alcedes Escobar - Milwaukee Brewers: .288. 552 plate appearances, 36 walks, 119 hits. The Brewers should have kept J. J. Hardy. 67 OPS+. Brutal.
  8. Carlos Lee - Houston Astros: .291. 649 plate appearances, 37 walks, 149 hits. A real down year for the slugger.
  9. Ronny Cedeno - Pittsburgh Pirates: .293. 502 plate appearances, 23 walks, 120 hits. The worst of the Pirates' hitters.
  10. Alex Gonzalez: - Combined Braves and Blue Jays: .294. 640 plate appearances, 31 walks, 149 hits. Had a good slugging year and is the only one on this list that came close to a league average OPS+.
  11. Aramis Ramirez - Chicago Cubs: .294. 507 plate appearances, 34 walks, 112 hits. Better in the second half, but still a real down year for this long-time slugger.

There are several amazing things on this list. First, there are three players that played all or part of their seasons in Toronto. This shows that 18 year old boys are more patient in a whorehouse than the Blue Jays were at the plate. Second, Kouzmanoff, Lopez and Lee all hit into 20 double plays. So not only did they not get on base, they erased 20 others from the bases as well. So if you then take Jose Lopez and subtract twenty base runners from his On Base Percentage, then he would be down to .233!

Perhaps this Fan will get off this morbid negative stat kick. But for now, it's too much fun.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Fredi Gonzalez

Heaven help Fredi Gonzolez. First, he had the no-win situation of managing the Marlins with the lowest payroll in baseball, a cheapskate owner and a temperamental superstar shortstop. After pulling off two winning seasons with the Marlins with THAT payroll, Gonzalez got blamed for a mediocre start by the Marlins this year. Now, after all those indignities, he gets to replace a legend for the Atlanta Braves. How can you ever fill those shoes? Joe Girardi has found a way in New York to follow Joe Torre. Girardi has done it with grace and with an affinity for caring about his players that they respond to. But even so, Torre wasn't as entrenched in the Yankees orbit as Bobby Cox was for the Braves. For many people, Bobby Cox WAS the Braves.

It would seem to be a bit unfair to rate Fredi Gonzalez's chances without really knowing the guy. And so the pros and cons that will follow are not just about Fredi Gonzalez, but also for him. In other words, this isn't a post about the pros and cons of Fredi Gonzalez, but also a post about the pros and cons for Gonzalez personally.

Let's start with the positive::

  • Was a combined +7 on his Pythagorean win/loss rating based on the Marlins' run differential. That's excellent.
  • Was twelve games over .500 last year with a team that was last in payroll, couldn't field and had huge holes in its line up and bullpen.
  • He is a minority manager, which is always good for the game in a political sense.
  • Paid is dues big time in the minors and has been managing since 1991.
  • Now leading a team with a warrior mentality with a group of players that really seem to like each other and play hard.
  • Excellent young players in Heyward, Hanson and in the bullpen.
  • Good group of starting pitchers with Hudson, Hanson and Lowe.
  • Everybody seems to like him.
  • Knows the Braves and they know him since he coached for them in the early aughts.
  • Expectations are lowered because the Braves haven't been good of late except for this season.
  • Probably works fairly cheaply compared to some other managerial talent out there.
  • Very good general manager to work with.
  • Was a catcher as a player. Those seem to make good managers.

Okay, now the negatives:

  • Chipper Jones will probably come back one more season. He can no longer field adequately. That presents a headache for Gonzalez. And what if the legend doesn't hit?
  • Never seemed able to get Hanley Ramirez to stay focused and give consistent effort. But then, maybe nobody could accomplish that.
  • Gave Bonifacio 500 plate appearances. Unforgivable.
  • Following a legend. Nothing can compare to that.
  • Left Dan Uggla at second base when he had the chance to move him with Coghlan.
  • Braves have some monetary constraints so they can't just go out and get studs. But, it will seem like glory days compared to Florida's payroll.
  • Hudson and Lowe will be another year older. Neither are spring chickens.
  • Never played in the major leagues. Only got as high as Double A ball. That is sometimes a problem when managing major league players.

Personally, this Fan thinks that Gonzalez will be just fine. Despite the money he had to work with in Florida, he kept them competitive and out performed his run differential. He has nearly twenty years experience including three and a half years in the big leagues. The Braves could have done a lot worse than to select Fredi Gonzalez as their manager.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The 2010 MLB All Clank Team - The Throneberry Awards?

As a card-carrying member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA if you want to sound cool), the organization has been abuzz with post season award voting. While it's always fun to look back on the great performances of the year, sometimes it's even more fun looking at those that weren't so good. And so the Flagrant Fan presents the 2010 All Clank Team. This "all star" team is made up with the players at each position that fumbled and bumbled their way around the diamond more often than any of their peers. Since you already know the Fan's stance on fielding metrics and how unreliable they can currently be, this team had to also look at other factors to get an overall feel for who really stunk the most in the field. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it. Without further ado, here are your All Clank all stars.


National League: Ryan Doumit. It doesn't seem possible that a catcher could have a worse year behind the plate than Doumit did. He should probably change his name to Dumbmitt. Ooh...that was harsh. Sorry. But he only threw out 12% of attempted base steals, he made six errors, added nine passed balls and was rated the poorest fielding catcher by both B-R and Fangraphs. Wow! When those two sites agree on a fielder, that's something! Fangraphs rated him a -15.3 in the field. Woof.
American League: Jorge Posada. If you come to this site with any kind of regularity, could you have expected anything but? How about eight errors in only 83 games behind the plate plus 8 passed balls. He thew out a paltry 15% of base steal attempts. Doesn't receive well and calls a questionable game. Other than that, well....he's hip hip Jorge.

First base

National League: Ryan Howard. Howard really regressed this year in the field, and judging from his past, that's not a good thing. Fangraphs has him at a -12.6. The next closest to him was Troy Glaus of the Braves at -8.2. Howard made 14 errors, which is high for a first baseman.
American League: Michael Cuddyer. This really isn't Cuddyer's fault as Justin Morneau got hurt and somebody had to play over there. Cuddyer didn't make many errors (3) but B-R and Fangraphs both gave him whopping negative numbers in fielding ratings. Konerko was close, but his negative numbers were lower than Cuddyer and spread out over twice as many games.

Second base

National League: Skip Schumaker. Again, this isn't Schumaker's fault. Tony LaRussa insisted on putting this square peg in a round hole. Sixteen errors later, Schumaker scored low in metrics on both B-F and Fangraphs. And unfortunately, Schumaker didn't hit like in the past either.
American League: Chone Figgins: Why would you move an all star third baseman to second base? Dumb, dumb dumb. Nineteen errors were six times as many as Cano. B-R and Fangraphs both agree on the negativity of his fielding season. Plus, he stopped hitting. Awful season.


National League: Hanley Ramirez. Easily led B-R and Fangraphs in negativity at short. It's hard to figure. He never scored this badly before. Was it leg troubles? Head troubles? What? He's better than that.
American League: Jason Donald. This was a pretty tough feat to accomplish in only 46 games at short, but he pulled it off. Those 46 games led to a .954 fielding percentage and he racked up more negative fielding points in a short time faster than anyone else in baseball. If you insist on a full season, then it would be Jason Bartlett, which is a big surprise, but then again, he was just off this year in so many ways over the previous year, it really makes you wonder.

Third base

National League: It's a tie! For a short season, we go with Wilson Betemit, whose name is ironic because everyone in baseball has a betemit than he has. For the long haul, we go with David Wright. Yup. The superstar made a ton of errors and though he was slightly better than 2009, B-R and Fangraphs both give him terrible scores.
American League: Mark Teahan. Teahan might have been the worst player in baseball this year. It got so bad that Ozzie Guillen didn't even want to look at him. he made ten errors at third in just 52 games there. Just brutal.

Outifeld (just one award per league since it's so hard to untangle their positions)

National League: Ryan Spilborghs. Fangraphs had Matt Kemp as the worst, but B-F didn't agree. Both sites agreed that Spilborghs was second, so that works for the Fan. Jonny Gomes was close behind.
American League: Carlos Quentin.  B-F and Fangraphs heartily agree on this one. Quentin's dismal play in the outfield more than replaced Jermaine Dye. In fact, if the White Sox signed Dye, they might have won more games.

There you have it folks, your 2010 MLB All Clank Team. Give them a hand.

Cliff Lee-ds the Way

Was the ending of the series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers ever in doubt? Not as long as there was Cliff Lee standing on the mound at the end of it. Lee, who is turning into one of the best post-season pitchers in the history of baseball, pitched a complete game with (of course) no walks and eleven strikeouts. The 120 pitch masterpiece eliminated any problems that could have been caused by the bullpen and kept the lefty-hating line up of the Bay Rays on their heels.

Joe Maddon had no choice but to put his best power guys in the line up despite the lefty and the results were disastrous. Carlos Pena, likely playing his last game as a Bay Ray, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. Dan Johnson couldn't do anything either. Carl Crawford took an ohfer in likely his last game in Florida too. Evan Longoria, whe despite batting right-handed, and despite being a superstar, has proven that a good lefty can shut him down (he can't hit Sabathia either). And so the Bay Rays only had three or four batters that had any chance at Lee and Lee made it all work to his advantage.

It was a good run by the Bay Rays. They almost parlayed their team speed and aggressiveness along with good pitching to post season glory despite a weak and poorly constructed line up. Maddon did a wonderful job of getting them as far as they went. It will be a miracle if this team can defend next year as they lower payroll. But if anyone can make it work, it will be Maddon.

As for the Rangers, they will have to start their series with the Yankees with their second and third best pitchers before they can get back to Lee. But that just may work out better for them. Lee is better on the road and away from the bandbox they play in Texas. Since the Rangers will have home field advantage, they play the first two in Arlington. Lee will start in Yankee Stadium.

This will be an excellent series. Though the Rangers haven't fared well against the Yankees in recent history, they have the weapons to win. The series keys will be if the Rangers 2-4 starters can keep the Yankees at bay long enough for their great offense to crank. Pettitte will have to be good and Hughes will have to be able to get his breaking stuff over. It appears to this observer that the odds are 50/50 on either team winning.

But for now, the Rangers, with the power and speed of Kinsler, great base running and Lee's masterful performance can savor a tough win over a gutsy team and its genius manager.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Game Picks - Tuesday: October, 12, 2010

Well, that's it for the Braves. And now, the two last teams to be decided are like the last two teams in the television show, "The Amazing Race," performing the last challenge while every other contender has already greeted the host on that funny mat.

Here's how it will go:

- The Rangers over the Bay Rays: Cliff Lee was built for such a game. And the Rangers love their fastballs, thus, the match up against David Price suits them. Either way, this full series works for the Yankees.

Yesterday: 1-0
Week: 2-2
Month: 34-26
Season: 1361-1041

Tons of Irony in Bobby Cox's Last Game

That the Giants could only beat this version of the Braves by a single run in their last two games together doesn't say a whole lot about San Francisco's chances against the Phillies. The last game managed by Bobby Cox will go down as a second straight stinker and finish a brilliant managerial career that, except for the one World Series win, will go down as the MLB equivalent to Marv Levy. That is no knock on Cox. It was a miracle they got into the playoffs at all. But most of his horses were gone and all he had left was one gimpy thoroughbred and a bunch of ponies. And in the end, ironies were abound.

First, the final game was lost on an error by Alex Gonzalez. Gonzalez was the shortstop the Braves received from the Blue Jays in a straight up deal because Bobby Cox and his staff couldn't take Yunel Escobar for another moment. Escobar played well for the Blue Jays and Gonzalez managed an 83 OPS+ with the Braves. But Gonzalez did provide the Braves with good shortstop play during the season. It's just ironic that this season should fall apart because the guy the Braves wanted made a critical error in exactly the wrong time.

Second, Bobby Cox's major league career ended exactly like it began back in 1968 and 1969 when he played his only two years in the big leagues for the Yankees. When he started, he couldn't hit and he was a pretty lousy fielder. At the end, he managed a team that couldn't hit and were lousy in the field. Talk about a full circle!

And last but not least, just like all those years when he had Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, he had all the pitching he needed. Hudson and Lowe were heroic in their efforts. But just like those magical three of the past, good pitching wasn't enough to get the prize.

But, though the final outcome is a bit sad, Bobby Cox won 55.6% of his games as manager in his career with just over 2500 wins. He'll long be remembered as one of the most beloved of all managers. It's just a shame that he had his last hurrah with such a beat up and terrible team. But on the bright side, we'll see you in five years Mr. Cox. Start writing that speech.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Game Picks - Monday: October 11, 2010

One too many errors by poor Brooks Conrad were all the difference for the Braves and for the results for this picker. Without the error, the Braves are 2-1. Instead, the Braves are 1-2. Without the error, this picker was 2-1. With the error, this picker was 1-2. Poor Brooks Conrad. And those plucky Tampa Bay Rays caused the other incorrect pick. They sent the series back to their home, which doesn't make a whole hill of beans difference as there will be as many Ranger fans there as Bay Rays fans. But even so, strange things can happen and they can beat Cliff Lee. It will be interesting.

Only one game today as the Phillies' script was perfectly executed as were the Reds and their season.

- The Giants over the Braves: The Braves had their chance and now it's simply Bumgarner versus Derek Lowe. Lowe's post season heroics notwithstanding, he's pitching on short rest. The Braves will get a long rest after this one.

Yesterday: 1-2
Week: 1-2
Month: 33-26
Season: 1360-1041

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Game Picks - Sunday: October 10, 2010

A perfect record couldn't last forever. And thanks to a gritty and gutsy performance by the Tampa Bay Rays, it didn't. The Rays showed character to get a win in this big series and since Cliff Lee will not pitch on short rest, anything could happen today. Hunter is good, but he's not untouchable. In the other game, the Twins never had a chance against the Yankees. Forget all this talk about the Yankees getting in the Twins heads. It was simply a case of one team being much better than the other. Over and out.

Three more games on tap for Sunday:

- The Braves over the Giants: The Braves are great at home. Sanchez is the Giants' most unreliable starter and Hudson shouldn't have trouble with the Giants' line up.

- The Phillies over the Reds: Shouldn't be a contest here. Hamels over Cueto and the Phillies get the sweep.

- The Rangers over the Bay Rays: This game is so close to call. Wade Davis is the Bay Rays Phil Hughes. On any given night he could be lights out. But going with the Rangers' line up at home.

Yesterday: 1-1
Week: 16-8
Month: 32-24
Season: 1358-1039

A Sublime Moment

This post won't be a wrap up of the third game of a three game sweep by the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins. Even now, the stratosphere is lighting up about Cano's heroics or the Thames homer or the Phil Hughes performance. Perhaps there will be a dozen or more stories on the failure of the Twins to execute once more against the Yankees, their utter failure to hit with men on base. Why compete with all of that? This Fan wants to focus instead on one sublime moment that meant little to the overall game.

The game was really over before the moment occurred. It began in the Twins' dugout at the end of the eighth inning. The camera focused on Ron Gardenhire talking to Jim Thome, who would be the first batter in the top of the ninth against Mariano Rivera. Perhaps the Fan could be all wrong about this. For all this Fan knows, Gardenhire could have been talking to Thome about anything. But in the Fan's fertile mind, they were discussing Thome's upcoming at bat. Here's how it might have gone:

Gardenhire: "This guy has been in your kitchen all week. He's been breaking your bats. Either cheat inside to get the barrel on it or wait for a pitch you know you can drive."
Thome: Got it, Skip. Will do."
Gardenhire: "Right. Don't let him get you inside. Don't let him eat you up. Now go get him."
Thome: "I'll do my best."

So future Hall of Fame slugger, Jim Thome, went up to the plate and he was expecting Rivera to do what Rivera always does and bust him inside. Thome saw the first one was that same inside cutter and Thome stayed off of it. "Don't let him eat you up," Thome repeated like a mantra. That was strike one.

Thome dug back in there expecting another inside cutter. Instead Rivera painted the outside corner with a back-door cutter. It was a perfect pitch and Thome wasn't expecting it. Strike two. Then Thome was 0-2 and in a heap of trouble. "Don't let him eat you up," he repeated again, and he dug back in there.

The next pitch would be an inside cutter. Thome just knew it would be. "I hope if it's a good one, I at least foul it off." He waited, knowing it was coming. It didn't. Rivera threw another back door cutter but it was just off the plate. Thome took it for a ball. "He's coming inside this time," Thome told himself as he dug back in there.

Thome waited, sure the pitch would be inside. Rivera went into his wind up and threw another perfect back-door cutter, outside black. Paint. Thome took the pitch and the umpire rang him up. With his bat on his shoulder, Thome looked out at Rivera stunned. He started walking to the dugout all the while with his eyes on Rivera. A small half-smile appeared on his face. "That son of a gun," Thome said in his mind as he walked back to the dugout. Thome never had a chance.

After nine innings and a myriad of moments, that was the moment that caught this writer's attention. It was the sublimest of all moments. It was the essence of what makes baseball the best sport on earth.