Sunday, October 31, 2010
Last summer, after a fantastic first half, Wake was selected to participate the All-Star Game in St. Louis, and was excited as any rookie, despite the fact that he was between 10 and 20 years older than many of his teammates. Unfortunately, AL Manager Joe Maddon didn't put Shakey Wakey into the game, and I know I can't be the only Red Sox fan that's still miffed about it.
Despite the fluctuations in ERA for Wakefield from year-to-year, he has managed to pitch a career average 202 innings each season, and even managed 140 frames this season, despite his advancing age and exile to the bullpen. But no matter what was going on between the foul lines, you could always depend on Wakefield to do his fair share - and more - of charity work.
He runs the Wakefield Warriors program, works with the Space Coast Early Intervention Center in Florida, and is an avid supporter of the Jimmy Fund. Tim Wakefield has been nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award eight times, making him sort of like the Susan Lucci of the prestigious baseball/service award, which goes to a player with great accomplishments on the field, and an outstanding dedication to community service off it.
As always, Wake was gracious: "You've probably heard me say this 1,000 times: It really doesn't matter what you do on the field. What matters most is making a difference in someone else's life. Roberto was a class act when it came to that. This is the ultimate. This is the highest. This has nothing to do with baseball. It has nothing to do with your statistics or anything. It has to do with your character. You guys who know me in Boston, I take a lot of pride in my character. This is an award for character, which ultimately is the highest accomplishment I can attain, or the highest compliment you can get from somebody. I'm very honored and humbled at the same time to accept this award."
He went on to note that he felt he really understood Clemente's legacy, having come up in the Pirates' system, and praised the famous outfielder lavishly: "Not only was he a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players ever to play the game, but for what he did off the field, it really epitomizes what I think athletes and people should be like."
Tim Wakefield may not have the sheer physical gifts and talents that the great Roberto Clemente was blessed with, but he has certainly made the most of his own ability, and, perhaps most importantly, Wakefield has used his influence as an athlete to improve the lives of countless others.
It's possible that we have seen Wakefield's last pitch in Boston: though he is under contract for next year, there has been speculation that the Sox would swallow the money in favor of rotation and bullpen flexibility. I hope to see Wakefield continue his work, both on the diamond and off, but if the time has come to say goodbye, at least he's one out with a bang.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The World Series will finally get underway this Wednesday, and since my original prediction is no longer possible (Phillies in six), it’s time to reevaluate. Since all the major sports outlets were hoping for a big market, Philadelphia-New York World Series, there hasn’t been too much conjecture on the possibility of a San Francisco-Texas Fall Classic, and now that possibility has become the reality.
MLB and Fox (who will host the Series) expect a smaller audience for this matchup than they’ve had the past few years, but there’s a few good reasons to tune in even if your team isn’t involved. The Giants have not won a World Series since they departed from New York after the 1957 season. They have, however, won four Pennants in San Francisco (1962, 1989, 2002, 2010), but have yet to seal the deal with a Championship. The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, had never won an AL title until they defeated the Yankees last Friday, and prior to 2010, had won exactly one postseason game in their history. The Rangers are attempting to win their first World Series for new team owner Nolan Ryan (yes, the Nolan Ryan).
On the field the teams are pretty evenly matched. Both the Rangers and the Giants are anchored by a fantastic pitching staff: strong starters, quality bullpens, and dynamic closers. The Giants boast a 3.36 ERA, while the Rangers did about half a run worse at 3.93. This disparity could be almost completely stripped away when you consider that the Giants had the luxury of pitching to pitchers in the nine spot all season while the Rangers had to deal with designated hitters. Star power abounds in both rotations, with names like Cliff Lee, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain, while closers Neftali Feliz and Brian Wilson have developed cult followings in Texas and San Francisco, respectively.
On the offensive side, the Rangers had the best team batting average in the majors, batting .276 for the season, while the Giants hit .257. Rangers team OPS was a robust .757, while the came in just behind at .729. Each team has their fair share of big name sluggers, though Texas has the edge in star power with names like Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, and Vladimir Guerrero. The Giants, for their part, have Aubrey Huff, Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, and ROY candidate Buster Posey.
Game One looks to be an exciting one, as Lee will face Lincecum in a Battle of the Aces. It should be a close one, but I’m taking Lee as the winner, mostly because he will be better rested after Lincecum had to pitch in relief in NLCS Game 6. Lee is 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA this postseason (and 2-0, 0.90 this season with 6+ days of rest), while Lincecum is 2-1, 1.93.
I'll do more head-to-head analysis as the Series gets going, but I’m going to go on record right now and pick the Rangers in six games, home field advantage or none.
[This post also appeared in the Trinity Tripod]
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Red Sox Nation will remember his feeling well... I don't think any of us could believe out luck six years ago.
Too much awesome. Nolan Ryan is a bamf, and I hope he's willing to pay Cliff to stick around.
True to form, Craig Sager wore some truly ridiculous and retina-burning ensembles this postseason. Here's hoping the Rangers and/or Giants can douse some more of those awful suits in champagne.
Because of Josh Hamiliton's long-documented struggle with alcoholism, the Rangers doused him in ginger ale instead of champagne. As far as I can ascertain, there was no powdered sugar around, despite Manager Ron Washington's confession of cocaine use early in the season.
Merry bunch of misfits FTW.
As much as I hate Girardi, that ad was hilarious. So was the intentional walk followed by the three-run homer, but for different reasons.
Texas used to be a real country. True story.
Ummm... I totally plan on watching this series. And I'm thrilled with the matchup, despite the fact that the major networks and MLB are going to be crying over the small-market World Series.
[If you are the author of any of these tweets and desire their removal, please let me know and I will take them down.]
Saturday, October 23, 2010
I know a lot of you won't believe me because of my well-documented Yankees-hatred, but I truly wanted the Rangers to win because they deserved to win. They'd clearly been the superior team throughout the series, and they're players and personnel are SO MUCH EASIER TO ROOT FOR.
I'll be watching with interest to see how the Phillies/Giants series plays out, and be back soon with a World Series preview.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
But that was a pipe dream, really. You cannot depend on CC Sabathia throwing two stinkers in one series. He is just too talented for that, and definitely worth every penny the Yankees threw at him (not to mention all the money they must spend to feed him).
That being said, I fully expect Texas to take it. Even if Phil Hughes pitches a gem tomorrow, the Rangers have the trump card, which in this case is an ace (clever, right?). Cliff Lee is as close to unbeatable as it gets in this postseason. His career ERA is 1.44, and the Rangers will even have home field advantage to fall back on.
Yesterday, one of my friends asked me why I care so much about this series, as the Red Sox aren't in it. After telling her that she clearly didn't know me at all, I gave the old line about hating the Yankees, but that's not the most accurate reason. The fact is, I don't really care too much about the team, it's that I really want the fans to suffer.
The entitlement that Yankees fans seem to possess as a group is absolutely astounding, and it's positively infuriating. I've never met a Rangers fan who was in any way annoying, dismissive, or patronizing. Part of this is undoubtedly a consequence of geography: I live in the northeast and go to school in Connecticut, so I don't run into many Rangers fans.
In the last few days, however, the Yankees-related posts I've been seeing on my Facebook feed are downright rage-inducing, which only makes me hope even more fervently for a Rangers victory, if only so that the Yankees "Faithful" would understand that it actually takes some "faith" to be a fan.
So, without further ado, here's a series of screengrabs from "fans" I actually know... their names and those of the commenters have been obscured for privacy's sake, but I'm sure they'll feel your judgment nevertheless:
First of all, this girl thinks she's British. She is from Manhattan. The real point of this one is to totally showcase the sense of entitlement that fans like Green have: it's not "I hope Cashman goes after Lee," it's "Lee is the best so obviously we'll get him, because, like, who else can afford it, lol."
Obviously when the man who won the 2008 Home Run Derby - IN YANKEE STADIUM - goes deep, it's "lucky." The Yankees never lose because they played poorly, it's because the other team got lucky. Thanks for the lesson, pink. I also think he's forgetting about the other SIX runs the Rangers scored that night. Pretty lucky, eh?
Again, obviously the Rangers couldn't be a formidable team: they're not the Yankees! (Or some other big-market team, like Boston, or Philadelphia.) Get a clue: the Yankees and Rangers SPLIT the season series.
Apparently you can only recognize and care about a team when they are winning. This would, I suppose, explain the lack of Washington Nationals fans. Hello, it's called "faith" for a reason.
Only when the Yankees win the game can they be "real." Since real Yankees never lose, the ones who lost three games to the Rangers must have been impostors planted on the field by that diabolical Nolan Ryan.
For the record, these are all people who are self-defined "diehards." I'd hate to see how fickle their bandwagoners are.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Of course, I've put a lot of thought into this, and so I immediately answered "Philly."
"No," he shook his head at me. "They're losing to San Fransisco in the NLCS. Tim Lincecum is going to destroy Roy Halladay."
Normally, I enjoy baseball debates, but he had the air of someone who is teaching a stubborn first grader that 1+1 does, in fact, equal 2. I bristled at his tone, and asked him a simple question:
"Really? How many perfect games does Tim Lincecum have under his belt?"
He stared blankly at me, before answering, "Well, none. But how many Cy Youngs does Roy Halladay have? Zero."
I gaped at him in disbelief. "Seriously? Roy Halladay was the Cy Young winner in 2003! In the AL East, no less!"
He then scoffed at the ferocity of competition in that division, calling it overrated, at which point got some backup from another boy in the room:
"Seriously? The three best teams in baseball are in that division!"
"And," I added, "The Red Sox won eighty-nine games with a final lineup that included several players who had started the year in Double-A!"
"So?" The original questioner asked, "The White Sox won more than that and they had injuries!"
At this point, the other members of the (predominantly male) club were staring at us. My friend Steph, the only other girl in the room, and decidedly NOT a baseball fan, was giggling. [This would be a better story if Halladay had shut down the Giants last night, but the Phils lost. Either way, it was not the pitcher's duel most baseball fans were expecting.]
I decided not to correct him. He clearly did not know what he was talking about, and he doubted my credibility as a source in any case (for the record, the White Sox won 88 games in 2010). I'm not sure why he thought I wasn't a reliable source of baseball knowledge, but in the past I've been told that I can't possibly know sports because I am a straight female.
This is ridiculous. I spend 90% of my free time researching, watching, or discussing baseball. I run this blog and another, and I have a veritable library of baseball books. My computer toolbar has six baseball links, one for Twitter (where I discuss baseball), and one for my college's athletics website.
So, clearly my being in possession of a uterus excludes me from intelligent baseball discourse. I'm sorry for wasting all of your time with my yattering about a sport I am biologically unable to understand.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
When CJ Wilson pitched six scoreless, and the Texas bats gave him a five-run cushion, I was still nervous. A five-run lead is not enough when you're going up against the best team money can buy, even when you're at home.
So why is this loss so upsetting? I knew it was coming. With the inevitability of fall sliding into winter, I saw this loss for the Rangers, but I never stopped hoping, not until the final out was made.
This will be tough for the Rangers to bounce back from. Is it possible? Yes, anything can happen in baseball, but a win tonight would have given the Rangers unimaginable momentum heading into the next few days.
But why was this loss so viscerally upsetting? Precisely BECAUSE it was unsurprising. The Yankees are supposed to win. If they don't win the World Series, every year, with a payroll like that, it is a failure. Losing in the World Series? Failure. Getting eliminated in another round of the playoffs? Blasphemy. Missing the playoffs altogether? Unheard of.
It's grating. The Yankees unlimited ability to spend and spend and buy wins that no other team can afford based simply on the size of their captive audience is detrimental to the integrity of the game. It's like if US Steel had been part of MLB. The person with the most money always wins, and I don't know about you, but I'm sick and tired of this storyline.
I think baseball needs a salary cap. I know this is a long shot, and that the player's union would fight a proposal like that to the death, but the sport is suffering because the playing field is anything but level right now. Alex Rodriguez alone made more money this year than the entire roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Yankees represent everything that is wrong with baseball - and even their fans deserve better. The championships they've bought aren't nearly as special as those won by other teams, because the frequency of victory has made pennants commonplace, and even boring.
Tonight's Yankee victory was upsetting on a visceral level, because it represented more of the same: the upstart Rangers, who have only won a single playoff series in team history, getting beaten by the powerhouse Yankees, the Enron of Major League Baseball.
Friday, October 15, 2010
A lot has happened in the last week (basically, everything but me posting. Sorry...). Somehow, every prediction I made for the Division Series' came true. Don't worry, I'm as shocked as you are
Initially, I had picked Texas over New York, but I think the five-game series with Tampa Bay might have hurt their chances. Cliff Lee versus CC Sabathia would have been an epic matchup (and a nice reprise of last year's World Series), but it would have had the added drama of all of Cleveland collectively banging their heads against a wall.
The Rangers do, of course, have home field advantage in this series, which means a hell of a lot more when the away games are in Yankee Stadium than it does when they're in Tropicana Field. Yankees fans might be annoying, but they at least show up and pay attention.
If CJ Wilson can keep the lids on the Yankee lineup this evening, and the Rangers serve all-you-can eat Mexican food as the pre-game spread so Sabathia is too full to pitch, I could see Texas taking game one. Really, the Rangers best chance for this series is to concede the games in which Sabathia pitches and shell young Phil Hughes, OLD Andy Pettitte, and the enigma himself, AJ Burnett.
Is it probable? No, not with Cliff Lee resting until game 3. But anything can happen: CJ Wilson could start channeling Cy Young, CC Sabathia might eat a clubhouse attendent and miss game 1 because he's in the slammer, A*Rod might choke (weird, huh?).
Don't mess with Texas, New York. Texas messes back.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
As I've said many times before, most of my friends do not care about baseball. This is fine with me. It is also completely acceptable that many of them do not understand the most basic underpinnings of the game, and that they have no interest in my explanations. To each his own, and all that jazz.
However, I totally flipped out on a friend of mine at lunch today, because he had the gall to make fun of baseball with logic that was not only flawed, but based on ideas which are just WRONG.
Thinking he was being witty (in actuality sounding foolish to anyone who knows ANYTHING about the game), he made some comment about how baseball is boring and/or stupid because a no-hitter is considered amazing, and it's a game in which nothing happens. Silly me assumed he knew what a no-hitter was, and asked whether he thought spectacular defensive plays to preserve a no-hit bid were "boring."
This led to the realization that he had absolutely NO IDEA of what a no-hitter really is. He was under the impression that "no-hitter" meant that no batter made any sort of contact with the ball, and that the whole game was essentially the pitcher and the catcher tossing the ball back and forth, and that it meant that the pitcher would have accumulated twenty-seven strikeouts during the game.
I explained to him that this was, in fact, fallacy in the highest degree, explained the true definition, and added that the record for most strikeouts in a single game is twenty, held by Roger Clemens (twice), Kerry Wood, and Randy Johnson. He continued to argue with me, claiming that some pitcher had struck out twenty-seven "At least once in the last forty years."
At this point, I gave up. Clearly, not only did he have no interest in what was actually true, he couldn't possibly understand the degree of difficulty that would be involved in actually striking out twenty-seven Major League batters, and why any true baseball fan would LOVE to see a game like that, in which, by his definition, "nothing ever happens."
Last fall, in the immediate aftermath of the World Series, my Phillies fan friends were less than ecstatic. Trust me, I told them, I KNOW how badly it sucks to lose to New York. And then came the news of that blockbuster December trade... You know, the one that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, Roy Halladay to Philadelphia, and prospects to Toronto so they could start "rebuilding."
MKy roommate, a casual Phillies fan from South Jersey (VERY different from North Jersey, as I was constantly told), was very upset. She didn't know anything about Halladay, and Lee had been the only bright spot in that lost World Series. "Trust me," I told her, "You will absolutely LOVE Roy Halladay."
[Not to mention how much I was going to love watching his brilliance when it didn't often come against MY team, for a change.]
She was skeptical, but let it go - I'm guessing by now she's forgotten that the conversation even took place. At the time, I at first couldn't believe that she didn't know about the excellence that was Doc Halladay, and then I checked myself: Halladay had never played in the playoffs, and had spent his whole spectacular career buried in the American League East. There was no reason that a casual fan of a National League team WOULD know about him.
Well, they've all heard of him now. After the perfect game in May, Halladay went on to have a shut-down season for the Phils, and last night he tossed a one-walk, no-hit gem in Philadelphia to put the Phillies up 1-0 on the Reds in the NLDS. Oh, did I mention that it was only the second no-hitter in Major League history, after Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956?
And in his first postseason start ever. Yeah, I feel pretty good about that offhanded comment last December: Philadelphia is LOVING Roy Halladay.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Way back in April, I picked Colorado, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Anaheim, Minnesota, New York, and Boston to make the playoffs, which puts my grade at 50%, failure by any professor’s standards. However, in baseball speak, I batted .500, which is impossibly good – it’s all about perspective. (For perspective, Sports Illustrated and Baseball Prospectus were also 4-for-8.)
Hopefully I’ll be more on the ball in my playoff predictions, but let me first start off with the disclaimer that the playoffs are, in the immortal words of Moneyball author Michael Lewis, “a giant crapshoot.” The Major League Baseball season is 162 games long; it’s a marathon that specializes in wearing teams down and weeding out the weak and injured, letting the elite emerge with the best records. However, anything can happen in a small sample-size like the 5-game League Division Series’, or the 7-game League-Championship and World Series.
That said, I’m going to take a stab at predicting the outcome – after all, there’s a 12.5% chance I’ll guess right!
The playoff schedules weren’t set until Sunday afternoon when the last three teams clinched, and the Division Series’ will start Wednesday, with the AL East champion Rays hosting the AL West champions Rangers, the AL Central champion Twins hosting the AL Wild Card entry Yankees, and the NL East champion Phillies hosting the NL Central Reds. Thursday evening will see the NL West Champion Giants hosting the Wild Card entry Braves.
In the first round I’m taking the Giants and Rangers in 5 games, and Yankees and Phillies in 4. Really, it’s all about pitching, and all four of these teams have a legitimate ACE: Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, and Roy Halladay, respectively. All of these pitchers are capable of absolutely dominating, and the lineups behind them are hardly something to scoff at.
The Championship Series’ should see both New York and Philadelphia defending their 2009 Pennants, with mixed success. Philly and San Francisco match up pretty evenly on paper, but the Phillies should take it in six games. The Giants have Lincecum and Matt Cain, but the Phillies will counter with Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. Sure, you could argue that Halladay has never even been in a postseason game before, but its not like he’s a stranger to high-pressure situations, having pitched in the competitive AL East for most of his career.
As for the American League Pennant, I’m picking Texas in seven games. Again, this mostly comes down to pitching. CC Sabathia is close to a sure thing, but he was beaten last postseason by Cliff Lee (then with the Phillies), and after Sabathia the Yankees rotation is anything but steady. Andy Pettitte is coming off of a torn groin (and he’s 38-years-old), AJ Burnett is an enigma at best, and Phil Hughes has more than doubled his innings from last year. On the other hand, Texas has four reliable starters in Lee, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, and Tommy Hunter. Both lineups are formidable, but the return of Josh Hamilton should tip the scales in the Rangers’ favor.
Because the National League won the All-star game for the first time since 1996 (2002 ended in a tie), the World Series will be hosted by the National League Pennant winner, which in this projection is Philadelphia. The Phillies have distinct advantages in a number of areas: their team ERA is nearly half a run better than the Rangers’ team ERA; they have a wealth of postseason experience, as this could be their third straight NL Pennant; and they have home-field advantage. That said, this should be a close series, going to six or even seven games. The two teams have comparable lineups, and they each boast one of the top-five starting pitchers in the game. The Rangers have the better bullpen, which could allow them to steal a game or two if they can wear down the starters early. However, all things considered, the Phillies should be able to top the Rangers and win their second World Series in the last three years. After all, Philadelphia finished the regular season with baseball’s best record, it would only be fitting if they finished the postseason with baseball’s highest prize.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
However, I'm supposed to be writing an MLB playoff preview for my college newspaper, and I just want everything to be decided so I can meet my deadline. I know this is easier because the Red Sox are out of it, but I really just want the AL Wild Card/AL East race to get decided by tonight, even if it means the Sox will lose the game(s). I want the Giants to beat the Padres tonight to decided the NL West, and the Braves to beat the Phillies and clinch the Wild Card already.
Because of the nature of the playoffs, I'm pretty stuck on even starting this article before I know who's in it and what their records are, and I'm really not a patient person.
Of course, ideally in my world, the Red Sox take both games of the double-header (unlikely, with Wake taking on Pettitte, though I could easily back Matsuzaka over the enigma that is Burnett), while the Rays win - and since they're at Kansas City, it seems plausible.
But even if the Yankees take the division by sweeping the Sox, it's not the end of the world. The Red Sox are going out not with a bang, but with a whimper: Adrian Beltre has gone to be with his wife as she delivers their child, Clay Buchholz is shut down due to a stiff back, and Marco Scutaro is out nursing his respective aches.
So while the Red Sox fan in me is appalled at this attitude, my inner writer just wants everything to get settled - even if it's at the (further) expense of my dearly beloved team. Is this growing up, or am I just losing my soul?