October 2009 Archives

(Since tonight is both Game 3 of the 2009 World Series and the dreaded time change, Walkoff Walk has turned to the sole member of the liveglogging team that lives in a daylight savings-free zone to handle the game tonight. Therefore, Tuffy will be the one to bring FallBack.)

wsg3.jpg I'm bringing fall time back
Them other states just don't know how to act
You think you're saving, but you ain't got the knack
So turn out tonight and I'll pick up the slack.

Take 'em to the time change

Yankees/Phils
You see Game Three now
Baby, I'm your host
I'll let you chime in if your rap's the most
It's just that wombats ain't got time for boasts

Wombat With Superman Tie Take 'em to the liveglog.

Tom Ricketts Is Adorable, Insane

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New Cubs owner Tom Ricketts desperately wants to endear himself to his new team's fanbase. How is he going about doing that? Is it with lots of promotional giveaways and fan-centered events? Err, no. He's actually promising them a World Championship next year. I see no way in which this doesn't end in tears. But we should totally believe him, guys!

(stifles laughter)

Tom Ricketts and his family took ownership of the Chicago Cubs and wasted no time making a promise to the team's long-suffering fans: They will bring a World Series title to a team that has gone 101 years without one.

"I'll be honest. I think we have a team that can do it next year," Tom Ricketts said without hesitation Friday at a Wrigley Field news conference. "The fact is, there is enough talent coming back to this team next season."

Cubs fan have heard that before, of course. For the record, Ricketts doesn't buy the talk of a curse that was put on the team at the 1945 World Series--the Cubs' last appearance--by a man who was ejected from a game with his pet goat.

"There is no curse. There is no curse," Ricketts said. "If anybody on our team thinks he's cursed, we will move him to a lesser-cursed team."

Awww! It's so cute when they try so hard! However, this story gives us a unique opportunity, people. It's rare that one animated GIF from the Internet can so easily encapsulate the thoughts of an entire fanbase, but in this case there is only one thing that Cubs fans can be thinking:

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Home Is Where Your Wins Are

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It seems that there has been a small discussion about the equity of the current "layout" of the MLB playoffs. Specifically, I've heard more than a few people over the last couple of seasons give voice to the notion that the 2-3-2 layout is actually less advantageous to the team with "home field advantage" because they have to play more games in a row on the road then they would get to play at home. I actually partly allude to the advantage of 3 in a row at home in my World Series prediction, but in that situation I was in no way remarking on the fairness of the current layout. Rather, I was voicing my outlook based on the fact that the Yankees lineup would be without the DH for an extended period of time. However, let's dig a little deeper into to recent history to explore this thing called home field advantage.

We'll be looking at the last fourteen years of World Series play. Why fourteen, you ask? Well for starters it's a nice round number and it starts our analysis right after the strike year in 1994. Plus it also encompasses what can be called The Yankees Dynasty so I could privately wallow in my team's previous successes whilst writing this post. And wallowing is all I ask for in this life. Anyway, let's move onto some numbers:

Since 1995, in 74 total World Series games the team playing at home has a win/loss record of 45-29. That in itself seems to be enough to demonstrate that home field advantage is somehow a tangible thing that helps a team win more ballgames. If we poke around a bit more we see that 8 of the last 14 World Champions have clinched victory in front of the home crowd. That number may be a bit less than the popular belief in home field advantage would lead one to believe, but it makes sense when you consider the teams that clinched on the road: The '98 Yankees, '00 Yankees, '03 Marlins, '04 Red Sox, '05 White Sox, and the '07 Red Sox. Four of these six being sweeps will do that to ya!

Historically speaking, 2001 was great evidence that the current layout is fair. In that memorable series, the home team was a perfect 7-0: Arizona won 4 games at Bank One Ballpark and the Yankees went 3-0 in dramatic fashion at Yankee Stadium. 1996 was almost the exact opposite, as the Yankees pulled off a remarkable feat and snatched all 3 games from the Braves in Atlanta before clinching Game 6 of that series at home in NY. If 2009 feels familiar to you, Phillies fans, that's because in 2008 your team also split the first two games with the home AL team. It only remains to be seen whether 2009 will also see the Phillies go on a 3-0 tear at home to clinch the title in Game 5 and have countless poles be greased.

In actuality, only six of the last fourteen World Series have even made it to the point where home field advantage actually played a part (i.e. there was actually the necessity of a Game 6 or 7). 2006 (STL) and 2008 offer some of the most damning evidence against the current layout because each saw the team without advantage win on their home turf without giving their opponent a chance at rebuttal. The cynical among us (read: me) will argue that the chance of rebuttal at home is really quite irrelevant. "A good team should be able to win anywhere!" or words to that effect, would likely be uttered in such a situation. However, the overall record of the home team in recent history suggests that a different layout might actually be more equitable if we're looking to truly award one team the "advantage" of playing at home more often than on the road.

But what is the answer then? Some have suggested a 2-2-1-1-1 setup, like the Stanley Cup, but if a West Coast team ever makes the World Series again (that's a good one, what a card I am!) it would be a travel nightmare. Regardless, even if the teams were located as close as they are now in 2009, there would still be "travel days" in between, and with such a copious number of off days the Series would be drawn out for far too long and we would be subjected to more sleepless nights sans baseball.

Another suggestion has been to simply alter the "order" of the current layout such that it is actually 2-2-3. This takes the "advantage" of 3 consecutive games and places it back in the hands of the team that claims home field before the Series even starts. This actually isn't such a bad idea, at least in my mind. It doesn't have the same off day madness as the first suggestion above. Plus, it guarantees the rebuttal of the home field advantage team except in the extreme case of a sweep. In other words, if the team with home field can win just one of the first four games, they are given the chance to stay alive for the chance to defend themselves again at home. This would seem to most preserve the equity of home field advantage. However, one can also easily argue how equitable the awarding of home field advantage is at all because it is determined by a mid-season publicity stunt... but I digress.

Anyway, folks, what do you think? Should we change the layout of the seven game series? How should we change it? Or should we find a different way of awarding World Series home field advantage to begin with? Why am I asking so many questions?

(All historical World Series stuff is courtesy of Wikipedia)

Weekend Questions

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Thus ends another solid week of broadcasting brilliance and boorishness to a bevy of boozy baseball backers. Thank you for joining us along the ride; be back here tomorrow as 310 to Joba continues our heady World Series coverage. Weekend blogging! What a country!

See you Monday, same WoW channel.

(photo via that slob Tommy Lasorda's Twitpic feed...haha, feed)

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. Today we examine two great World Series starts.

The 2009 version of the Fall Classic has already yielded two classic pitching performances. First Cliff Lee and then A.J. Burnett turned in gems this week in the Bronx, in their own unique ways. Lee's known for his incredible control and ability to throw strikes with any one of his four pitches. A.J. is famous for his electric fastball and one of the best curveballs in the game; his Hammer of Doom.

Lee's outing utter domination of the Yankee bats is due in large part to his ability to mix his pitches. He kept the powerful sluggers from keying on any one pitch by moving the ball around the plate and changing speeds. Burnett, once known as more of a thrower, relied on his fastball as always but kept the Phillies at bay by working well to both sides.

Below I've tracked the first two pitches thrown to each batter by Lee and Burnett during their initial runs through the lineup. Not the movement of the pitch itself, but the change in location from one pitch to the next. Did they "change the hitters eye-level" as Tim McCarver loves to claim? Did they pound inside early to set up soft stuff away late? Find out after the jump!

WWF Wrestlers Vs. Chicago Media All-Stars - 1994

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This week on Classic TV Friday we travel back to Chicago in the summer of 1994. If you'll remember, once August rolled around there wasn't a whole lot of baseball being played in this country. The player strike had taken effect and who would save the country from the dark abyss of a baseball free summer? Who always saves the country in their time of need? Professional wrestlers, of course.

Our video is a charity softball game between a bunch of wrestlers and the "Chicago Media All-Stars." It bugs me they didn't mention any names of the media guys in this post, but Gorilla Monsoon never struck me as a voracious reader. I was searching for Mariotti or that bozo Steve Rosenbloom, but my eyes aren't so good anymore. Plus, who could possibly avert their gaze from Macho Man's flowing shoulder tassles as he rounds first base? Please to enjoy.

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There's been quite a to-do in the Philly blogosphere about the empty seats at Yankee Stadium the past two nights. And why not? The Stadium was only 96% full on Wednesday night, and some fans spent part of the night retreating under cover in the mist. With a five run deficit at a late hour in the ninth, some folks simply got up and headed for the open concourses to watch the last half inning. None of those actions lend themselves to a rowdy playoff atmosphere

Jimmy Rollins, for one, wasn't impressed with the new joint:

Asked if Yankee Stadium were a different atmosphere for a World Series game, Rollins replied, "You'd like to believe so. It's really more of a different atmosphere at our ballpark, which is so loud and rowdy. I expected that when I came here, but I heard one big cheer, and that was on a home run. Other than that," Rollins said before finishing his quote with a shrug of the shoulders.

Don't blame the whole of Yankees fans, Jimmy, for your inability to hear big cheers. Blame the individuals who decided it would be smart to put luxury boxes behind home plate and the dugouts. I'm referring, of course, to the Yankees Legends Suites, the infamous section surrounded by a moat with seat prices in the thousands and corporate fat-cats networking instead of watching the sport. Just 3% of the capacity of the Stadium is seated in these sections, yet they are the face of the game for millions of fans watching on TV.

There should never be a huge luxury box this close to the action in any sport. I'm not implying that teams should give these seats away for free to the "real fans", in fact, the price for these seats should be astronomical. But to provide these folks with a swank sheltered lounge immediately behind the seating area with free foodstuffs and cocktail waitresses at the beck and call only encourages fans to leave the seats. Those empty seats take away from the overall enjoyment for not just the rest of the fans in the park but also makes it seem like Yankee Stadium is half-full of aloof, unstirred ticketholders. That couldn't be further from the truth.

So, I propose that the Yankees re-adjust the fancy schmancy lounge area behind the high-priced dugout section so that the fat cat fans will stay in their seats and cheer on the team. In fact, these folks should be denied any amenities whatsoever, save for maybe a peanut vendor and a mason jar to urinate in. Put the luxury boxes up high, next to the press box, where folks cannot (and should not) be seen. Also, the lounge area should be transformed into a homeless shelter for battered women and children, thus making this a wise P.R. move for the Steinbrenners. WIN WIN.

(Photo courtesy of the good folks at the 700 Level and our pal Dmac)

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Hey, wasn't that 3-1 Yankees victory over the visiting Phillies a well-played, close World Series game? Well, mostly. It was on the verge of being memorable for all the wrong reasons, as two massive umpiring mistakes led to two rallies being killed last night, one for each team. In the bottom of the seventh, first base umpire Brian Gorman incorrectly ruled that Ryan Howard snagged a short-hopped liner which led to an inning-ending double play for the Yankees. The very next half inning, Gorman missed a much closer call by ruling Chase Utley out at first in yet another inning-ending double play.

Yankees fans who felt slighted by the first oopsie might have felt as if the second mistake canceled the first one out. After all, had Gorman made the correct call on both plays, the Yankees might have won 7-5 instead of 3-1. But who knows, really? That's the fallacy of the predetermined outcome playing games with your head, and I don't mean Hungry Hungry Hippos. The two mistakes cannot be merged together to form a morally valid right no matter how much you explain it away. Simply put, we'd be far better off without either bad calls being made.

Folks, I still don't think we need robot umpires in baseball, at least in the same capacity that automation patrols the game of tennis. Tennis courts are all the same dimension and the technology can be ported easily from arena to arena. Each baseball field, however, is wildly and vastly different. Even the New Yankee Stadium, meant to have the exact same dimensions as the old joint, is different in many places along the outfield wall.

Nope, robot umpires will never be the answer in baseball. Instead, we need to appoint a video umpire who would be isolated in a dark room with multiple television monitors, a communication device for relaying the correct calls to the crew chief, and a mason jar to urinate in. This solution makes everyone happy: baseball fans get their instant replay, the umpire union gets 30 new jobs, and the players won't have to suffer through a long delay while the on-field umps huddle up and chit-chat about umpire-y things.

It's a shame that these bad calls are even part of the conversation the day after the two teams put their best out on the field. Pedro Martinez and A.J. Burnett both displayed excellent ability to locate their pitches and change up speeds, Joe Girardi was partially vindicated for his lineup changes as Jose Molina picked off a runner at first and Jerry Hairston collected a seventh-inning single that led to a run, and Derek Jeter showed everyone just how Jeter-y he was when he killed a rally by striking out on a bunt attempt on an 0-2 count. At least the umps got that call correct.

The other day I whined about this Phillies/Yankees matchup and about how I wasn't really rooting for either team. Well tonight, I'm excited because I do have a rooting interest. I'm amped to watch Pedro Martinez face this Yankees squad. I'm more invested in this game than any World Series game since 2007. Seeing him lead the Phillies squad into Yankee Stadium is like watching David Byrne do Life During Wartime at one of his solo shows, or Bob Pollard doing Back To The Lake with the Boston Spaceships. He's older, and his backing band is different, but it's Pedro facing the Yanks in the postseason and it's as close as you'll get to the old days.

So join me below for tonight's glog. It's a special Live Collaboglog, because our intern Darren (above right) further delays his search for an actual job and provides live photoshopping all night.

P.S. While we're talking about music, why the hell does Jay-Z tuck his jeans into his Tims? That looks stupid. See you at 7:57.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, you can't beat what you can't see

  • WHICH version of 52-year-old Pedro Martinez will show up at the Stadium tonight? The one who had a 5.65 ERA against the Yankees in 2003 or the one who had a 6.23 ERA against the Yankees in 2004?

  • DOES Don Zimmer buy into Pedro's recounting of the famed 2003 incident where the elderly Zimmer got thrown to the ground by a cowardly Dominican? I don't think so.

  • WHO'S Pedro's daddy? The answer, of course, is Kris Liakos, who will be bringing back the old school HTML liveglog to Walkoff Walk tonight, with Photoshop assist from WoW intern Darren.

You heard me correctly, WoWies. Be back here at 7:57PM prompt for the liveglog goodness from my life partner Liakos. Same WoW channel.

Is there anything worse than your local news? That's a rhetorical question. Anyway, the answer is yes, the only thing worse than your local news is your local FOX news. Witness:

In this clip, Fox 5 New York anchors Rosanna Scotto and Greg Kelly make fun of former NY guy Mike Jerrick, who now works for FOX in Philadelphia:


Oh, those cards! But Jerrick gets back at them in this HILARIOUS clip which involves a steamroller and some apples. Get ready for some hilarity, folks!


I'm absolutely crying over here! The laughter!

Finally, courtesy of The Fightins', some local broad heads down to Paddy's Pub to drink in the sossed Phillies fans reactions to their big win. Warning: salty language ahead!


YOU CALL THIS JOURNALISM?

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Sure, you could buy a Nissan and get a Brad Lidge-autographed baseball, but is it worth the risk? The car would run perfectly well for a full year and then immediately explode in flames once the one-year warranty ended.

(via Dmac's Philadelphia Will Do from which I will steal all our content today)



Ever see a World Series pitching performance like the one Cliff Lee demonstrated with aplomb last night? Nah, me neither. That was special: ten strikeouts, no walks, no Yankee runner reaching third base until Jimmy Rollins' error in the ninth, and Lee's fancy nonchalant catch of a weak pop fly that you see above. That's stone cold, Clifton! Cliff Lee's first World Series start was so damn good it made CC Sabathia's first World Series start look like Woody Williams' first World Series start in comparison. My point? Cliff Lee was a bat-breakin' strikeout-makin' machine.

But Sabathia wasn't bad, not at all. Big fella huffed and puffed his way through seven solid innings, giving up just two runs on two home runs: one a cheap-o pop fly into the right field corner, the other a booming moon shot deep into the bleachers. Sabathia departed in the seventh inning with a 2-0 deficit; he left his team with a chance to win, yet the Yankees bullpen had other plans.

Being at the game is a different perspective from watching the best camera angles from the comfort of one's couch. But no matter how you witnessed the game, you knew that the bullpen collapse in the seventh and eighth innings did two very bad things: killed a chance for a late inning comeback AND stretched out an otherwise tidy game past the three hour mark. As a Yankees fan, I can't say I was pleased with the loss, but yet I am more disenchanted by the four runs allowed by the 'pen than I am by the offensive struggles or two solo tots by Chase Utley.

By the way, Utley now has more tater tots this postseason than Ryan Howard or Mark Teixeira, yet who gets all the ink?

Other observations from The Stadium last night: first, the Yankees organization handled the first World Series game in the new joint quite well. Fifty thousand people were well-behaved for the most part and the crowds were under control. My one complaint was the scattered mess of metal detectors on the field level, intended to scan everyone heading to their seats and protect the First Lady, causing bottlenecks on the entire concourse. But why not put the metal detectors outside the Stadium and scan everyone? They were only checking folks on the ground floor and not higher up in the main level or luxury level. Why? After all, Lee Harvey Oswald didn't need to be on the ground floor.

(animated giffiness courtesy of dmac)

At this moment Rob is probably trying to figure out if it was a wise idea to get the "2 for $20" deal at Applebee's if one man consumes all the food. Yankee Stadium restrooms beware. With that pleasant image in your mind, join me for tonight's liveglog! Kindly do not tap on the glass of your resident Yankee fan's tank.

Tonight's Questions

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  • DO you want to read the lurid details of the Jamie McCourt lawsuit against her estranged husband? Like hell you do!

  • ARE you going to audition for the new reality show in D.C. featuring the most die-hard Nationals fans? Like hell you are!

  • DID 'Duk pen a heartfelt tribute to a stagnant Old Yankee Stadium on the day the new joint hosts its first ever Fall Classic game? Like hell he did!

  • WILL you join 3:10 to Joba as he liveglogs Game One of the Most Important World Series in Walkoff Walk's short history? Like hell you will!

That's all we have for you today before tonight's big throwdown in the Bronx. Folks, I just want to thank each and every one of you for supporting Walkoff Walk in the 2009 playoffs. I love the Phillies fans who read us and comment; I especially loved meeting all of 'em at the Heist back in July. But right now, I wish nothing but the deepest of disappointment for them and their families, and I know they feel the same way about me.

In fact, if (when) I am irrational and espouse homerish ideals over the next week, I hope you can forgive me. I think I've been pretty good at avoiding that malarkey for the past twenty months.

Come back later and enjoy the liveglog. Same WoW channel. You too, Lobster Dog.

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Let's get the gang together and issue some wild World Series predictions, but instead of declaring a winner AND the number of games the series will go, let's choose between a barnburning close series or a bunch of snoozy cakewalks.

Why this format? Because a team can sweep and still have it be a close series, like if each of the wins is by one run. Last year's World Series only went five games, but four of the games were close, i.e. the winning team prevailed by just one or two runs. To me, that might be better than a World Series that goes seven games with a bunch of blowouts. The individual games matter, too.

Onto the prognosticating:

  • Kris Liakos: Yankees in a close series...because God hates me and Pedro Martinez. And because the Yankees bullpen is lights out.

  • Rob Iracane: Yankees in a close series...because Joe Girardi likes to give away outs like Halloween candies, thus stifling any big Yankees rallies.

  • Drew Fairservice: Yankees in a close series...because they will grind out enough at bats for the suspect Phillies bullpen to expose its supple underbelly. Then, they strike!

  • 3:10 to Joba: Phillies in a close series...because these are two evenly matched teams, but the fact that the Phillies get to play at home 3 games in a row at CBP cannot be understated. Especially when one of those games will force the Yankees to bat Jose Molina 8th and AJ Burnett 9th.

  • Daniel McQuade: Phillies in a cakewalk...because they won't give away hundreds of outs like the Twins and the Angels did, and the ghost of Tomas Perez will haunt the Yankees for stealing his pie-in-the-face gag. (Note: Tomas Perez is still alive.)

  • 'Duk of Big League Stew: Phillies in a close series .... because I'm just a smidge (Lidge?) less confident than Jimmy Rollins.

  • Jonah Keri: Phillies in a close series...because they'll hit a lot of home runs. Nothing kills a rally quicker than a home run.

  • Josh Zerkle of With Leather: Phillies in a close series...because bullpen success is crucial in a best-of-seven series. Plus, I don't want to live in a world where the Yankees are good again.

  • A.J. Daulerio of Deadspin: Phillies in a cakewalk because fuck those Yankee fucks.

Wow, almost everybody thinks this thing will be close. But what I really want to know is the opinion of the WoWies. What do you think will happen? Anyone think we're in for a bunch of blowouts?

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As I'm sure you are all blatantly aware, due to some ham-handed statements by both Rob and me around these parts, I am very much a New Jersey native, dago and a Yankees fan. As such, this World Series preview (note: even calling it this would be most generous) will feature no prognostication or any attempt to consider either of the contending parties as a whole. Rather, we shall be using statistics to consider how the Phillies front four starting pitchers, Cliff Lee, Pedro Martinez, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton, match up against the Yankees lineup. That OK with you? No? Well, I'm doing it anyway.

(pulls on latex gloves)

Let's begin.

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I'll be honest, there are very few things that could leave a chatty jerk like me speechless, but with my team of choice ready to play in the World Series tonight, my nerves and excitement have taken every thought right out of my brain. I can't think of anything to say. Tonight, our pal 3:10 to Joba will liveglog the action for you while I head out to the South Bronx Applebees. Until then, sit tight and get ready for some hot statistical action from 3:10 and Drew, and probably a hilarious video of some sorts.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, ante up for the adventure


Thanks again to our guest writers today, Chief Wahoo and Miller Park Drunk's own Vince. Here, I'll save you the effor: "It's as if the co-editors of this blog don't even write their own pieces anymore rabble rabble rabble!"

Well good news: tomorrow we have no guest pieces planned, just a lot of tense moments leading up to first pitch at Game One, which I will be attending. See you tomorrow, same WoW channel.

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I recently asked our resident Cleveland Indians fan commenter and general gadabout Chief Wahoo to write a guest post for Walkoff Walk in which he remarked on the unique pitching matchup in tomorrow night's game. Here's what he begrudgingly emailed me today:

When I was asked to comment on the impending World Series game one matching up CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee my initial reaction was simple: eat a bowl of fuck. I just couldn't handle it. The distinct likelihood of such a scenario had been quietly bothering me for a while. I did what any good Cleveland fan would do: pretended it wasn't happening and avoid thinking about it. Like any other possible tragedy involving a Cleveland sports team it came to pass. Of course it did.

Realizing I had to deal with the situation I sat down and wrote a lengthy "fan's resignation" letter to Bud Selig. No matter how eloquently I stated my case for divorcing the sport and leaving it behind I could not submit it for publication. I knew I was lying; no way I can avoid watching game one, or the rest of the series, or next season and the one after that for that matter. It's like dating a really hot stripper. No matter how many times she steals your money, does all your drugs and bangs one of your friends you're going to answer the phone when she calls. Besides, it read entirely too much like the "fan's resignation" letter I wrote to Paul Tagliabue when the Browns left town and look where that got me.

So I come back to my original take on the matter, slightly revised: eat a bowl of fuck you fucking motherfuckers. Yeah, yeah, life ain't fair. I get it. Right now I get it a little too much. Yes, sports gods, I understand. Can't you go smite some other fans for a while? Enough of Cleveland being the Job of sporting cities. You push people too far and really, really bad things happen. This kind of protracted punishment is the reason otherwise normal men wind up going out and setting hobos on fire. They just snap. Let's discuss the logical way to prevent such a tragedy from occurring.

The playing field needs to be leveled, people. Baseball has a sickness that is going to kill it if it's not addressed and that disease is the decided competitive advantage high-revenue teams have over all the rest. I know it's been discussed here before but there is still somehow mixed opinion on the matter. This baffles me. Can anyone with even a bit of common sense deny that several teams have a clear edge at succeeding? People like to throw up the Rays as proof that a small market club can succeed. Sure they can. My very own Tribe was one game away from going to the World Series a mere two seasons ago. Matter of fact they had a pretty damned good rotation that year even as a lower revenue franchise. The issue is not the ability to win every once in a while. As things stand it is impossible for the lower revenue teams to capitalize on their success for any amount of time.

The very best the smaller teams can hope for is a good run for a year or two. Any very good player they develop is going to leave as soon as they are an unrestricted free agent. Without some sort of regulation they will leave for a bigger market and larger paycheck. I can't fault the players for making that choice; I once did the very same thing myself. The only option a small market GM has is to try to lock up promising players before they are eligible for free agency. Unfortunately this leaves you open to injury or other misfortune. For every Grady Sizemore there's a Travis Hafner.

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Teams like the Yankees can afford to write off 40 million for four years to Carl Pavano and sign someone else to replace him, my team cannot. The result is that the Tribe can develop talent to the best of their ability and if they get everything exactly right they can make a run at it every six or seven years. Make a mistake or two and you don't even get that. A guy like Cashman, however, can spend like a drunken sailor knowing he's going to contend every year. This doesn't even begin to speak to the advantages the bigger clubs have in scouting and developing young talent, paying bigger signing bonuses, etc. Something's broke and it needs fixing.

I don't necessarily have the answer but I know the current system isn't it. It's not good for the sport to have such a vast gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The situation is not the fault of the Yankees; they are simply benefiting from their own success. Were it a matter of different companies selling widgets I would begrudge them nothing. Baseball is more than that, though, and needs to be treated as the unique business that it is. I attended my first Indians game at the old Municipal Stadium in 1973. This is the first year since then that I didn't catch at least one home game in Cleveland. Mind you, I've lived in New York City since 1986. A lot of time, effort and money have gone into my rooting for the team. I've got a thousand dollars worth of Tribe throwbacks hanging in my closet but right now I couldn't imagine spending a dime on anything baseball related.

You risk losing us, baseball, unless action is taken. Perhaps something akin to the NBA system will work, if not in specifics at least in intent. I know LeBron is leaving town after this season, but at least the club has a fair chance at retaining his services. It's only fair that the Indians have a fair chance at retaining Grady's services before he decides to leave after the 2011 season. Throw us a bone, Bud.

Read more of Chief Wahoo at A Scouting Life, his fantastic blog at Thirteen.org, and on Tumblr

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It's World Series time, so that means it's time for your local rags to pander to both rabid fans AND your dopey Aunt Dolores who wouldn't know a pop fly from a Pop Tart. Hey, the newspaper business is a creaking old dinosaur but don't think it can't get wild, maaannn.

First, the New York Post decided it would be hilarious to Photoshop Shane Victorino in a skirt. I'm all for talking trash to one's opponent, but to do something like that is simply embarrassing to all parties involved. At the very least, the ad wizards could have put the Hawaiian native in a grass skirt with a hilarious coconut bra. For shame, New York Post.

Then, the Philly Daily News does an entire cover story on how attractive the Phillies are, while the Yankees are mostly a homely bunch, save for the charming Derek Jeter and handsome (?) Alex Rodriguez. Hot stuff, amirite, ladies? Yecch. Pandering to women and gentlemen of alternative lifestyles in this manner is simply inexcusable. They then proceed to list their favorites on the team:

Charlie Manuel: The Silver Fox. With his Southern accent and cool nature, Manuel is the distinguished lady's choice. Harriette Gubel, 95, a Phillies fan now living in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., loves watching him blow bubbles with his gum. Not only does she keep a photo of Manuel by her bedside and one in her purse, she got to meet the manager in August. "He has a way with him," she said. Age: 65; height: 6 feet 4.

Things I learned from that horrid puff piece: Uncle Cholly leads the league in getting nonagenarians' bloomers all a-flutter, and some folks enjoy being treated like idiots. What a shame for real female fans with actual enjoyment of the actual game.

(via the 700 Level and The Sports Hernia)

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Garrett Jones, Danny Haren, Shin Soo Choo, Wandy Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Up next, Franklin Gutierrez, as written by Vince Morales.

Like any person with a passing interest in baseball I am a huge fan of the blog USS Mariner and hentai. Time and time again the guys at USSM have proven themselves to be much smarter than me and just about everyone else (including the Mariners coaching staff.) It's gotten to the point where when they tell me something, I believe them. I once read an off-topic post then spent the next six months listening to Neko Case, writing haikus and trying to figure out what Linux was. 2007 was a strange time for me. So when they told me that Franklin Gutierrez was good, I didn't care that I had him in fantasy the year before and all he put up was a paltry .248/.307/.383. If the guys at USS Mariner say they love him and he's awesome, then I believe that he is awesome and I love him too. When the Mariners traded their overvalued closer who pretended his name was pronounced differently than it was spelled in a package that brought them Gutierrez back they said:

The trade's not official yet, but I wanted to get this out there before the instant reactions come in and people think we screwed the pooch by trading for a RH outfielder who posted a sub .700 OPS last year.

Franklin Gutierrez is something like one of the top 5-10 defensive outfielders in baseball. Not corner outfielders - outfielders.

There were questions about his bat, which they admitted, but despite those questions they intimated that he was so good with the glove that he could hit like the love child of Franklin Stubbs (Brewers version) and Ricky Gutierrez that his name implied and still be above average. According to USSM he was Mike Cameron 2.0 and being Wisconsin's #1 Mike Cameron fan, this was something that I had to see. So I made the drive to Minnesota and attended the Mariners' 2009 Opening Day game against the Twins.

Besides being completely awestruck by how terrible the Metrodome actually was (that place is like the world's biggest high school locker room), the story of that day was Ken Griffey Jr hitting his first homerun for the Mariners in ten years and the brilliance of Felix Hernandez. When I left that game and when I think back on it now I don't think of Griffey or King Felix or even that I got to meet the man who drafted Ryan Braun, Jack Zduriencik (who is somehow balder in person). All I think about is what I saw in center field because on that day I think I saw a superstar. There were no highlight reel plays that he made that day I can link you to because he made it all look so easy. He ran down balls that even a player as awesome as Mike Cameron couldn't have and he made it look easy.

While there weren't any highlights that day (they would come later) Gutierrez helped to make Felix Hernandez look like the ace he'd become that day. Along with his outfield mates "Death to Flying Things" made up the best outfield defense in the league (+62 UZR) boosting their pitching to an AL best 3.87 ERA despite a staff made up of Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn and a bunch of guys who pitch just like Jarrod Washburn (i.e. not good). The people who had been saying that defense mattered finally had their poster boy. The Robert Pattinson of outfield defense had arrived.

Seriously. Gutierrez was really, really, cheese-fries-in-a-helmet good. If I told you he was the best defensive player on his team that would probably impress you and on a team with Adrian Beltre and ICHIRO! it should. How about if I told you he was the best defensive player in all of baseball last year, would that? Now, what if I told you that Franklin Gutierrez had the best defensive season of ANY player since 2005, is that something you might be impressed by? Because that's exactly what he did. Not only that, but Gutierrez covered so much ground in the outfield that his range factor of 28.7 is the best since UZR was invented in 1932 2002. We're not talking about the best defensive center fielder in the league this season, we're talking about one of the best defensive seasons of all time.

In a season where the story was supposed to be about the most famous Mariner of all time making his return to Seattle to DH (and tickle its superstar), it was Franklin Gutierrez who stole the spotlight and made a name for himself in the legend's old position while doing a better job with the glove than Junior ever did. When people talk about the 2009 Mariners they're going to remember it as when Franklin Gutierrez arrived. Time will tell if he gets the Gold Glove hardware he deserves this season (and if he doesn't the awards are more of a joke than they've ever been (and in a world where Michael Young: Gold Glove shortstop is said with a straight face, that's saying something)), but for now a round of golf and a write up on a low circulation baseball blog by a lower circulation baseball blogger will have to do.

(Oh, and remember those questions about the bat? .283/.339/.425 with 18 HRs and 16 SBs which combined with his defense made him a 5+ win player. I'm pretty sure the Mariners won that trade.)

Read more of Vince at Miller Park Drunk or check him out on Twitter.

(Photo via Flickr user kdirk.)

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Though the reasoning may be not be the exact same, I know there are some other people in the baseball loving populace for whom a Phillies/Yankees World Series is somewhat of a worst case scenario. And it's not the level of play that concerns me, it oughta be a tightly contested series with a dramatic game one matchup. Still, I was frightened, but not surprised, that in Rob's very first post celebrating his favorite team's newly minted pennant... he used the word "blogosphere." Ugh. This is going to be one obnoxious flame war.

The next ten days or so will so feature so many jamooks flapping their gums up and down the 1-95 corridor, the garlic hued spittle that accumulates on the pavement will flood it. I fully expect every Philly or Yankee fan I know, and all those that I don't, to turn into a live action Gashouse Gorilla at the mere suggestion of this series. "No, our (blunt instrument of culture/glorified carnival food/moronic clownish outfielder) is better than (opposing team fan)'s." I'm already sick of it.

But, I digress. Hey, those games start too late! Amirite? I never thought of it before, or heard anyone mention it before, but how are THE KIDS™ supposed to stay up and watch the whole game and become stand up citizens? Surely there's gotta be someone willing to take up the cause of our Nation's Pastime with a cuckoo plan that he's totally serious about. And as is usually the case with these things, it's an old timey columnist from a mid-to-small market newspaper. We love those guys! This time it's Frank Murtaugh* of the Memphis Flyer. He thinks we need a mandatory National Baseball Day in October. Socialism!!

Here's how the holiday would unfold: On the Wednesday that coincides with Game 1 of the World Series, the aforementioned schools and offices would close. Most importantly -- pay attention, Fox -- the game would start at 3 pm eastern time (noon on the west coast). Every child in the entire country with an interest in the game would be able to watch all nine innings, and before dinner. The television fat cats aiming to maximize ad revenue with prime time slots are missing a critical opportunity here: kids are a demographic, too. They -- and more often, their parents -- spend money. Maybe not on cars and beer, but certainly on video games, snacks, movies, and fast food. And when National Baseball Day is marketed the way it should be -- for the kids! -- smart-thinking sponsors will line up to be part of the outreach.

I can't believe he actually said "fat cats." But do you see, that people? He's using logic here. And there are two things you can't argue with: logic and your guts. American business, you're THROWING MONEY AWAY by not supporting a federally mandated day off for people to watch baseball on TV. Instead of working or going school.

Continue reading for even MORE logic, and see Murtaugh reveal a softer, more caring side to life behind his Communist Iron Baseball Curtain.

With colder, wetter weather a part of the mix, wouldn't daytime baseball make sense, simply for the brand of baseball we all want to see from the sport's two best teams? (Baseball hats designed with earmuffs are an abomination.)

Baseball isn't for everyone, and there will be no obligatory viewing on National Baseball Day. Take your kids to a park or movie. If you don't have kids, spend some bonus time with someone you love, maybe a special friend you need to catch up with. Or chill out and start some leisure reading you've been meaning to do. Just remember it was baseball that got you there.

How could we ever forget, Frank? BASEBALL IS A WISE AND JUST LEADER.

But in all seriousness, if kids aren't allowed to stay up to watch a World Series game it isn't baseball's fault and it isn't Fox's fault. It's our nation's fault for breeding a country of dorky overbearing parents who are hardliners when it comes to bedtime.

*Frank Murtaugh should be the name of all cranky old-timey columnists. It's too perfect.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, rules were meant to be rushed


And with that, we wrap up Day One of the World Series Walkoff Walkpocalypse, where editor turns against editor, commenter turns against liveglogger, and guest contributor turns against Dusty Baker. Tune in tomorrow when we continue building up to the underdog Yankees and overhyped Phillies in Wednesday's Game One. Same WoW channel.

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Hey, did you hear? The two biggest rivals of any decent, God-fearing Mets fans have made it to the World Series! Yes, no matter which team between the AL champion Yankees or NL champion Phillies come out on top, the poor saps that have chosen the darker fork in the road and root for the Mets will be a bunch of sad tomatoes.

Or more aptly, they'll be a bunch of sad pumpkin-carvers. After all, the entire Mets fanbase turns into pumpkins every October, amirite? The good people at MLB.com have once again posted pumpkin-carving stencils for each of the 30 MLB teams, including our favorite target of infinite sadness, the Mets. And if you have $10 just lying around, just throw your money away and buy the awful stencils at Target.

But really, if their fans really want to accurately portray their team of choice in jack-o-lantern form, though, they'll have it missing a pop-up, losing millions of dollars in a pyramid scheme, and then they'll jam a huge knife into the face.

This reminds me, I still have to throw out my rotting Arizona Diamondbacks pumpkin from last year. It stinks like Eric Byrnes' underpants.

Sixty-five million dollars buys a lot of Dom Perignon, you know. Chan Ho Park, who once tricked Rangers owner Tom Hicks into giving away $65 mil for five years of ineffectiveness, has finally reached the World Series and celebrated it by spraying champers all over the unwashed masses at Citizens Bank Park. Here's a nicely-edited video of American Taco-lover Park by someone with too much time on his/her hands:


Via our good friend Meech at The Fightins, who will be one sad guinea come next Monday.

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Danny Haren, Shin Soo Choo, Wandy Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Up next, Garrett Jones, as written by Pat Lackey.

On June 30th, Garrett Jones was just a man. He was playing for Triple-A Indianapolis and though he was hitting quite well (.307/.348/.502 with 12 homers in 72 games), players in their fifth go-round at any level don't tend to get more than a passing thought. He was a spring training slugger, a Triple-A All-Star, or any other back-handed compliment given to nice guys that are really just Quad-A players.

Still, when the Pirates traded Nyjer Morgan to the Nationals at the end of June, they needed an outfielder while Lastings Milledge rehabbed his wrist and his general attitude toward life. Jones got the call and on July 1st, he made his first Major League appearance since the end of the 2007 season. He went 0-for-4 and struck out once. Not many people noticed.

On July 2nd, Jones homered. On July 4th, he did it again. July 10th, 11th, 12th. Again, again, again. In the first game back from the All-Star break on July 17th, he took Tim Lincecum deep in the bottom of the first inning and Bobby Howry deep in the bottom of the 14th to give the Pirates a 2-1 win over the Giants. People were paying attention now. He hit three more home runs in July to give him 10 in his first full month as a Pirate. He added 11 more in August and September. The man that was an afterthought on June 30th hit 21 home runs after the first of July.

Jones won't win the Rookie of the Year award. His age (he turned 28 shortly before his call-up), his late call to the bigs, and the relative obscurity of Pittsburgh dwarf those 21 home runs and the .293/.372/.567 that made him one of the best hitters in the National League after he arrive in Pittsburgh.

Instead, Jones got something other than an award. He played on a team so terrible (the Bucs were 26-56 in the 82 games that Jones played) that despite 43 extra base hits, Jones only drove in 44 runs. Instead of being a guy stranded in Triple-A for eternity, Jones became something Bunyanesque in Pittsburgh. Along with Andrew McCutchen, he helped provide a shining light for Pirate fans mired in a sea of impenetrable darkness. Instead of being a guy stranded in Triple-A for eternity, Jones became "The Legend" or simply "GFJ," for the middle name that both opposing pitchers and jubilant, incredulous Pirate fans would substitute after almost every home run.

Jones may or may not be able to replicate his 2009 season, but in some ways he doesn't have to. He began the year as a minor league free agent and ended it as something almost otherwordly. In The Sandlot, the ghost of Babe Ruth twice repeated the mantra, "Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die." No Pirate fan that saw Garrett Jones play this summer will ever forget the bolt of excitement he provided in the one of the darkest years in franchise history.

Pat writes at Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke and at Fanhouse

(Photo via Flickr user jmd41280)

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If there's one thing we New Jerseyans love, it's a big bowl of pasta fagioli with a crusty piece of garlic bread and a glass of cheap Chianti. But if there's another thing we Jersey trash love, it's baseball, pal. This is why the latest World Series matchup featuring North Jersey's favorite Yankees and South Jersey's chosen Phillies will be a veritable Civil War in the country's most diverse (and most awesome) state. Brother vs sister, taylor ham vs pork roll, Springsteen vs Bon Jovi, the whole of this state will be torn apart by a burgeoning new rivalry between MLB's two best teams.

With its own Mason-Dixon line of sorts extending somewhere through Trenton, New Jersey's baseball fans have their top two favorite teams set up geographically. According to a Quinnipiac poll from June, 44% of the state prefers the Yankees and 21% root for the Phillies (the Mets, unsurpringly, finish third at 20%). We Northerners trek across the George Washington Bridge and them Southern folk traverse the Ben Franklin Bridge to witness our favorite teams with fervor.

Forget the metrosexuals in Manhattan: the greatest concentration of Yankees fans in the world is firmly entrenched in North Jersey. Ignore the buttheads in Bucks County: real Phillies fans live across the Delaware in Camden County. Ben Franklin once referred to New Jersey as a "keg tapped at both ends" by the big cities of New York and Philadelphia. It's true: NYC and Philly can't survive without the foamy goodness contained within the Garden State. We are the lifeblood; starting Wednesday, the first blood will be drawn and New Jersey will be on fire.

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Congratulations to the New York Yankees for edging out the Angels 5-2 to win the ALCS four games to two and advance to that magical destination known as the World Series. Congratulations also to the good folks at the MLB.com online shop for letting us fans log on early and buy our AL championship gear.

Yankees. Phillies. World Series. Let's get ready for this entire blogosphere to melt a thousand times over.

Okay, fine. I'm not doing anything so I figure I might as well do a liveglog. Sorry it's late.

Managerial Odds and Ends

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Lest you think I'm all about statistically-minded opinion pieces, there were a few bits of news regarding managerial situations around MLB today. To the wires!

First, Tony La Russa is apparently staying with the Cardinals in 2010, says ESPN:

Tony La Russa is returning to the St. Louis Cardinals as manager on a multiyear contract, sources told ESPN's Buster Olney, but there will be at least one change to his coaching staff.

Sources said Hal McRae, the team's hitting coach, has been fired -- and the leading candidate to replace him is Mark McGwire, the former Cardinals slugger.

The 65-year-old La Russa has been mulling his future since the NL Central champion Cardinals were swept in the division series by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Oct. 10. His two-year, $8.5 million contract expires at the end of the month.

"We're getting closer," La Russa, who has managed the team for 14 years, said earlier Sunday. "But nothing has been decided. I can't tell you anything yet."

When you have Albert Pujols, does one even need a hitting coach? More importantly though, if you were to a hire a hitting coach, would you hire Mark "All Natural" McGwire? Remember, he's not here to talk about the past, something that will make discussing previous ABs with his hitters quite difficult.

Then there's the news that the Indians have named their new manager, and it's Manny Acta:

The Cleveland Indians hired Manny Acta to be their manager, giving him the job about three months after he was fired by the Washington Nationals.

Acta signed a three-year contract with a club option for 2013, Indians spokesman Bart Swain said Sunday. Additional terms were not disclosed.

"I am very excited to become part of the Cleveland Indians family," Acta said. "I look forward to working with this talented group of young men who seem to possess a lot of energy and passion for their work."

I like this move quite a bit actually. I had always been of the opinion that Acta got the short end of the stick whilst in Washington. Then again, what manager in Washington isn't getting the short end of the stick? Acta's a good baseball guy, plus he and I share a lot of similar likes and dislikes!

Programming noise: That's probably it for me today, guys. Thanks again for making this a great weekend. I'll see you again in a week's time. Enjoy the game tonight!

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I feel like it makes sense to get this out at the very beginning: The American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2009 makes me very, very angry. What's truly quite strange though is the fact that this rage is not directed at the voters, the usual recipients of my scorn. In fact, for the first time in a long, long time, I might demonstrate total indifference towards the Writers Association with regards to this particular Rookie of the Year award. You hear that, guys? You're getting a free pass on this one. Heaven help you if you screw up anything else, though.

No, my rage this time is directed at the players. Specifically, why couldn't they play better? Isn't that what they were created in laboratories to do? You see, the problem is we don't have one truly impressive AL Rookie of the Year candidate. Rick Porcello will probably win the "honor" due to our nation's ungodly infatuation with wins, youth, boyish looks, and attempts (either intentional or unintentional) to grow neck beards. If these were the actual qualities on which the candidates for RoY were to be judged, then not even I could find fault with a Porcello victory. Unfortunately these aren't the metrics the Writers Association employs (if they employ any at all...ZING!) and the fact of the matter is that Porcello simply walked too many, struck out too few, and pandered to excellent defensive play behind him to give his ERA a false shine.

The wise among us are calling for Oakland pitcher Brett Anderson and, truth be told, he did have an impressive season that is put into further context if you look at the advanced metrics. If there's anything to knock him for, it's his HR total, but that would just be nit-picking of the highest variety. Anderson is certainly the most deserving candidate, and other outlets have started to jump on board his bandwagon. However, I won't be disappointed if he doesn't win because we all know how that worked out for another Oakland player, and I would prefer the chance to watch Anderson have a few good years before Billy Beane casts him off in favor of "building around cheap, controlled talent."

Which brings us (segue!) to the man they call "Elvis". When I spoke earlier of my frustration in the lack of a candidate that is head and shoulders above the rest of the competition (a la Longoria last season), I was mostly directing this frustration towards Elvis Andrus.

Here's what Andrus is good at:

  • Running - Fella was 33/39 on stolen base attempts this year. Not too shabby, and it bodes very well for his future ability as a run scorer in that monstrous Texas lineup.

  • Fielding - This is where Elvis really shines and I start getting all weepy over good defense. At a demanding position, Andrus posted a superb 8.3 UZR/150 in his first full season wherein he played all but 17 games for his team. That's really quite good for a youngster and his role as a run saver undoubtedly helped to solidify his 3.0 WAR, a figure just behind Anderson (3.8) and way ahead of Porcello (1.9).

  • Having an awesome name - Seriously, look at that thing, it's a wonder to behold. I wish I could be that cool.

Unfortunately, it's not all cute puppies and rainbows for Andrus. As you probably noticed he has one glaring omission from the above listicle: hitting. Not surprisingly, there's a reason for that and it's the fact that he's really not a good hitter. Or at the very least, he was a frustratingly inept hitter in his first season. His lack of patience and little pop is probably keeping Andrus from running away with the award. His OPS+ was a paltry 85. He only wOBA'd .322, a figure substantially down from his minor league totals the year before, and unaided by his low walk rate. Nobody expects Andrus to be a substantial power threat, but he is supposedly the future leadoff hitter for his team, and good leadoff hitters know how to get on base besides slapping the ball all over the park.

What really drives me nuts about this guy though is what he was doing with the bat. Specifically, Andrus hits the ball hard. And he hits it in this fashion a lot. He is 20th in Major League Baseball in LD% (21.9%). The really disturbing thing? With the exception of one man on the top 20 list, every single hitter with a higher LD% than Andrus has a substantially higher BABIP. In other words, Andrus should have been hitting more singles and doubles at the very least, but he was getting robbed by bad luck. So if he gets on the other side of the karmic boomerang and starts to have more hits fall in and draw more walks, Andrus will be the stud the Rangers want him to be. Look at it this way, his WAR already shows him to be valuable, imagine what he could do once he starts swinging the bat. For now though, we're left with a rookie season that was quite good but was held back from being truly great and giving us the unanimous RoY candidate we are probably looking for.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I leaned on the wall and the wall leaned away

AM I bad luck when it comes to the weather at Yankees games? The forecast doesn't look good for an on-time start at Yankee Stadium tonight. This happened last weekend too!

WHO do you like in the matchup tonight if the game happens? Messrs. Andy Pettitte and Joe Saunders are your starters in Game 6.

HOW many profanities will be screamed if the Yankees fail to clinch again? I figure I'm good for quite a few on my own.

WILL you use this post as an open thread to discuss tonight's action? I certainly hope so.

Uncool Update: Of course the game is postponed until tomorrow night. Go about your lives citizens.

That's it for me today, folks. I'll try to be less long-winded tomorrow.
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It was really only a matter of time before my nerdiness made its first appearance on this new stage. Here's hoping you don't mind, but I just couldn't resist.

Steven Levitt, who most of you probably know as the author of Freakonomics, and Kenneth Kovash, who most of you probably don't know at all, released a new paper in September entitled "Professionals Do Not Play Minimax: Evidence from Major League Baseball and the National Football League." Whew! That's a mouthful."But 310ToJoba," you say, "what does that even mean? 'Minimax' sounds like an adult film channel!" I know, I know. The quick and dirty definition of the term is from game theory or decision making theory and it basically asserts that a player in a zero-sum game will select options that minimize their maximum losses. To be overly thorough and clarify even further, a zero-sum game is a situation where the "players" can only benefit at the expense of each other because the possible payoffs from any set of actions is exactly the same. Checkers is an example of a zero-sum game since one player wins and the other player loses. Same with gambling at a casino because the amount that the gambler wins is precisely equal to the amount that the house loses in paying him. Makes sense, right? Not surprisingly the interactions between batters and pitchers are zero-sum games. Either the pitcher "wins" and the batter makes an out, or the batter "wins" and gets on base.

Clearly this is overly simplistic because some hits/walks are more "valuable" to the outcome of a game than others, so simply saying that a hitter "wins" doesn't necessarily mean that the pitcher is doing a bad job. That's where Levitt and Kovash come in. But I'm a skeptical person who has to be an ass and question everything. Wouldn't a pitcher with a good fastball be better served to throw it more often? So follow me after the jump to see what's what.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, heartache is just a lame way of saying I bruised my ribs

  • WHICH Phillies player would you hug if you ran onto the field during the World Series?

  • IF you complained about the would-be five-day gap between the should-have-been end of the ALCS and the start of the World Series, and you don't watch the game tomorrow night, does that make you the world's biggest hypocrite?

  • SHOULD Jamie McCourt sue her estranged husband for sexual harassment and set feminism back 100 years?

That's it, I've wrapped up this week of guest livegloggery and other assorted mischief with a nice, tidy bow. Once again, I'd like to thank Farthammer and Phillas for putting together one of the best guest pieces in baseball blog history. Go back and check the comments, folks. There's some new gems in there.

And of course, thanks again to all our guest gloggers of the week. Dan McQuade and Tuffy are kings among mere baronets.

This weekend, 3:10 to Joba will put your minds at ease. I'll be back on Monday with your official World Series preview, which I guarantee will be interesting one way or another. Same WoW channel.

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Intrigue out in Los Angeles! The McCourts are getting divorced, so Frank has taken the step of firing his soon-to-be-ex-wife. Divorce is really hard for everyone but the lawyers, but in this case, it's about to get real sloppy. Looks like Jamie isn't going down without a fight:

While Frank McCourt is pressing ahead with the business of the team, including Tuesday's announcement of a long-term contract extension for General Manager Ned Colletti, Jamie McCourt is believed to be lining up investors for a possible effort to buy her husband out and gain sole control of the team.

In addition, she was believed to have started calling prominent baseball figures, with the intention of arranging meetings to discuss the direction of the team.

Hopefully for Dodgers fans and for the MLB, this can get settled quickly and painlessly. If not, the team is in a heck of a lot of trouble. Under California state law, if there is no settlement, the assets are to be split 50-50. In that case, Jamie gets Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and James Loney while poor Frank is stuck with Juan Pierre's contract and Tommy Lasorda's leftover pizza crusts. Hardly a fair 50-50 split at all.

But really, nobody is hurt more by a divorce than the kids who must suffer with the thought in the back of their heads, "Is it my fault?" Well, Manny Ramirez, I'm here to tell you that in no uncertain terms, no, it's not. It's totally Joe Torre's fault for letting Vicente Padilla throw all those fastballs.

The Yankees didn't clinch a damn thing last night, but if they had, I doubt none of their fans would have celebrated with such unadulterated glee and stupidity as the Phillies fans in Center City. To wit, a man in a tree being assaulted by roman candles and what not:


Good news, folks: you don't even have to root for the Phillies to win the World Series if you want to see awesome celebration footage like this again in two weeks. If they lose, the jackassery and hijinks will be extra specially delicious.

On a related note, please enjoy the best photo essay I've seen all month, courtesy of David Brown at Big League Stew.

(via Sports Rubbish)

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Well friends, that was anticlimactic. Except for, you know, the many peaks and valleys that lead to a quite enjoyable climax by baseball game standards. Today is the first time that I, as a co-proprietor of a semi-popular baseball blog, have to reconcile the fact that my favorite team blew a chance at clinching the pennant with the fact that there are millions of folks out there who derived an amount of joy that is equal in magnitude to my own misery. A great game? Sure. A game that tore the heart straight out of my chest? Absolutely.

I saw a 4-0 deficit turn into a 6-4 lead and turn back into a 7-6 deficit. Others saw a 4-0 lead turn into the deficit back into a lead. There is no more difficult task as a fan than to praise your opponent, but I have to point out that Angels catcher Jeff Mathis was the sparkplug for yet another Angels rally; his leadoff single in the seventh started the switch from 6-4 to 7-6 and turned me from a happy boy to a sobbing mess on my living room floor.

Lots of folks are second guessing Joe Girardi's moves (or lack thereof) that led to the seventh-inning pitching fiasco, and rightfully so. He's a postseason naif. I'm right on board with that criticism but, on the same hand, I forgive him his trespasses as well as the sins of the pitchers who put fastballs right down the happy track to be knocked around like wiffle balls.

Still, one fact cannot be ignored: the Yankees took a road trip to California and took the one game they absolutely, positively needed to win. They're coming home with two more chances to join the Phillies in the chilly World Series, and have one enormous ace looming up their billowy sleeves. I have faith; I just need the Yankees to control the peaks and valleys so I can control my emotions and stay off the floor.

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Alex Rodriguez! John Lackey! Tim McCarver! Are you as pumped as I am for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series? Rob invited me to liveglog this event because "nobody else could," and I accepted because "my girlfriend is at the Leonard Cohen concert in Upper Darby."

I'm going to actually try to use the CoverItLive feature for the first time. Expect incredible failures on my part -- or maybe just more puppy photos that usual in the chat room. Join me after the jump sometime around 7:45 p.m. and we'll get started.

Update: We're live!

Tonight's Questions

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Folks, tonight is Game Five of the ALCS. With an Angels win tonight, we get more LCS baseball this weekend. With a Yankees win tonight, they go to the World Series to face the Phillies. I really do think it's a win-win situation for everyone involved here, except maybe, you know, me.

Please come back at 7:57PM where our best buddy DMac will liveglog the undertakings for your enjoyment while I cower under my bed in fear. Same WoW channel.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user SD Dirk)

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Baseball's century of postseason history has seen its share of dramatic game-ending home runs and amazing comebacks that would boggle the mind of even the most cynical observer. But Chris Chambliss and Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter, despite producing some of the most famous walkoff homers in North American sports history, take a back seat to Andruw Jones in one aspect. You see, Andruw Jones was the proud recipient of baseball's only ever postseason walkoff walk.

In the 1999 NLCS, Jones' Braves faced the Mets in what turned out to be one of the best contested postseason series in history, with every game decided by one or two runs and the teams separated by just three total runs across the six games. Game Five was ended by the famous walkoff 'grand slam single' by Robin Ventura; despite hitting the ball over the fence with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 15th, Ventura was mobbed on the basepaths and never quite made it home.

But it was the deciding Game Six that proved to be the most memorable. The Mets climbed back from deficits of 5-0 and 7-3, and held the lead 9-8 in the eighth inning. After John Franco allowed the tying run in the eighth, the teams went to extra innings for the second game in a row. The teams traded runs in the tenth inning and Braves reliever Russ Springer held the Mets scoreless in the top half of the eleventh.

In the fateful bottom of the 11th, Mets manager Bobby Valentine went deep into his bullpen to use veteran starter Kenny Rogers, who gave up a leadoff double to Gerald Williams. After Bret Boone sacrificed Williams to third, Valentine ordered intentional walks to the next two big hitters, Chipper Jones and Brian Jordan, to set up a force at home and/or an inning ending double play.

That would never come. Andruw Jones stepped to the plate, worked the count full, and then showed what would be the most patience of his career in drawing the walkoff walk, only swinging once in the at-bat:

To hear Mets catcher Todd Pratt describe the fateful at-bat, as related by New York Times writer Murray Chass, is to realize the bad side effects that are a result of trying too hard to get a single result from a hitter:

Todd Pratt, who was catching, said the first pitch from Rogers to Jones was a curveball that was a ball ''all the way out of his hand.'' After that, he said: ''It was just sinker, sinker, sinker. We wanted to get him to hit a ball into the ground so we could get a double play.''

With a 2-0 count, Jones fouled off a pitch, then took the third ball and the second strike.

''He just missed a couple,'' Pratt said. Then the left-handed Rogers went into his motion for his sixth pitch.

''The 3-2 pitch just sailed away from him,'' the catcher said. ''It was supposed to be his sinker. It sailed.''

There would be no mentions of the "walkoff walk" in the New York Times nor would anyone have the foresight enough to post a YouTube video of a prawn on a treadmill. (nor would YouTube be invented for another five years) With that courageous at-bat, Jones sent the Braves to the World Series where they would get humiliated by the Yankees.

So at the heart of Walkoff Walk, we'll always have Andruw Jones and Kenny Rogers as our patron saints for their involvement in producing one of the most unique moments in the long, storied history of our national pastime.

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Not many people doubted that the Phillies lineup of tater tot smashers could bring the team back the World Series for the second year in a row. After all, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Jayson Werth have been there, done that, seen it, tore it up before. But for first-year general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., nothing was guaranteed from Opening Day all the way up to his stint on the platform to receive the National League Championship trophy last night.

True, Ruben inherited a team built at its foundation by a lucky Ed Wade and fine-tuned by a shrewd evaluator of talent in Pat Gillick. And yes, Ruben didn't have to make any exceptionally wild changes to a team coming off a dominating 2008 postseason run. But in the end, Amaro deserves all the credit for three moves that were proved to be both bold and fruitful.

First, he brought in an aging Raul Ibanez to replace fan favorite Pat Burrell. Ibanez was seen as a simple slugger with no defensive aptitude and fading production. Ibanez might have had a down second half of the season, but still ended the season with a career-high .899 OPS and a whopping ISO of .280. His power was never in doubt, and he even finished with a positive UZR, only making 2 errors and recording 9 outfield assists.

Then, two weeks before the trading deadline in July, Ruben signed idle legend Pedro Martinez to a one-year incentive-filled deal to shore up a starting rotation hurt by injury and lack of effectiveness (cough cough Cole Hamels). Pedro rewarded the Phillies faith with nine starts down the stretch in which he went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA and a great 4.63 K/BB ratio.

And then there was Cliff Lee. In a deadline deal that proved to be the top trade of the year, Ruben sent prospect Carlos Carrasco to the Indians in exchange for the 2008 Cy Young winner, who turned around and spent a month pitching like a hybrid of Sandy Koufax and Walter freakin Johnson. Lee stumbled a bit in September, but in the playoffs, he's thrown 24 innings in three starts and allowed but two earned runs. He's been the most dominant pitcher on the National League side of the ledger in October.

Meanwhile, Ruben's counterpart out in Los Angeles is pretty much responsible for a roster that has shown promise by sweeping two straight NLDS matchups against NL Central opponents, but fallen flat once they reach the NLCS against the Phillies. Colletti's biggest off-season moves were re-signing slugger Manny Ramirez to a fat contract, bringing in starter Randy Wolf, and acquiring second baseman Orlando Hudson.

All these moves were positive in the end, but there was a parade of mid-year trades and signings that fell short: Jim Thome, Jon Garland, and George Sherrill all failed to make a difference in the playoffs, while Vicente Padilla's poor outing last night slammed the door on the Dodgers' chances.

Colletti got a tidy extension from the Dodgers earlier this week, but it's truly Ruben Amaro who is the richer man today for accomplishing so much early in his career.

dtrt.jpgAs I'm sure your houseboy informed you by now Bud, the Phillies dispensed with the Dodgers last night to qualify for the World Series. With the playoff schedule as currently constructed, they won't play again for one full week. The New York Yankees take the field tonight with a chance to secure their spot in the Fall Classic. If they do Bud, you must step in. You must move up the start f the World Series.

I know that you're beholden to the TV networks in a serious way. I know Joe Buck is our unholy Lord and master, drinking the blood of the non-believers. I get that Bud. But you, only you in all your bumbling glory, have the power to step in. To do right by the fans &mdash and most importantly the game you love for the bountiful riches it provides you &mdash and move the game up to within two days of the close of the final LCS.

Not only will you help avoid November baseball between two Northeastern teams, you will help preserve the quality of the on-field action. Not only would the chance of snow be lessened by a good 5%*, you would take strides to improve the credibility of your post season.

There are people in this world that view the baseball season as a marathon. A 162 game grind that separates the wheat from the chaff via attrition as much as performance. By adding so many off days between games, you tip the scales in favor of teams with front-heavy rotations (i.e. Yankees, Phillies), allowing them to continually get their top guys set up to start the series. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for best-on-best battles for all the marbles, but this goes against the entire nature of a baseball season.

By moving up the games, you could maintain the valuable momentum gained by having your event at the top of the sportscast. Move the series up the the weekend, or to Monday night. Afraid of football? Anyone who'd rather watch the Redskins over the World Series probably wasn't going to tune in anyway.

Just do it Bud. Throw a bone to the fans of your fair product game. Move the games up in spite of the networks protestations. You don't even have to air them during the day or afternoon when people might watch them. Just spare us the week long analysis of excruciating minutiae.

* - this number was absolutely generated out of thin air

The stolen Image is a Cara Mitchell joint.

So, the Phillies are your 2009 National League Champions but with every pennant in the city of brotherly duh comes a post-game celebration on Broad Street to rival the wildest parties from the height of the Roman Empire. That is to say, if any of those dudes ever fell off a chariot, this is what they'd look like:


I guess they greased the roof of the cabs along with the light poles.

(courtesy of The 700 Level)

The first elimination game of the LCS season is upon us; pull your liveglog blazer right back out of the closet for this one. A Phillies win tonight will send Joe Torre and his Dodgers back to Los Angeles with their tails between their legs for the second straight year; a Dodgers win will put the Phillies on the same flight path. Who you got? Join us below:


Tonight's No Questions Asked

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  • IS tonight a must-win game for the Phillies, since flying back to LA will create wasteful carbon emissions? No questions asked.

  • BUT really, don't the Dodgers need the game even more, since it's an elimination game? Duh, no questions asked.

  • WILL Cole Hamels enjoy a post-game meal at Seasons Pizza regardless of how well he pitches tonight? No questions asked.

  • DOES Joe Torre's bus stop at 82nd street? Again, stop asking these questions.

So tonight, the Phillies will send Cole Hamels to the hill in a quest to eliminate the Dodgers, win the pennant, and spend the next week writing silly songs. The Dodgers counter with Vicente Padilla, who once inspired a Veterans Stadium fan club called "Padilla's Flotillas" but never went to a fan's funeral like Randy Wolf did.

You know the drill by now. Go home and have some pre-game vittles because the game and our tidy liveglog start at 8PM EDT. Same WoW channel.

Our good pal Mike Meech at The Fightins put out a basic request over the Twittersphere earlier today asking for one of his Phillies fans followers to splice together some audio and video to make magic. Here's the results of his request and the efforts of one Nate Stephens:


As 'Duk said this morning, we all hope the Layla piano coda isn't coming up for the Phils. None of us want to see Jayson Werth dangling from a meat-hook in the back of a refrigerated truck.

(courtesy of The Fightins and Nate Stephens)

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Joe Morgan, not content to rest on his laurels of being an award-winning baseball commentator for ESPN and general gadabout, has decided that now would be a great time to invest in an Ohio car dealership. Right, because that's exactly what the millions of unemployed Ohioans need is a new car in the Xtreme Depression. No worries though, he's investing in the top-selling Honda brand with car dealer extraordinaire John Voss:

"The time has come for a Honda dealership in Middletown," Voss said.

The opening date is a while away, but the process for opening a Honda dealership is a lengthy ordeal, Voss said. "It's a strenuous process," he said.

Joe Morgan Honda will cost between $5 million and $10 million to buy, build and open.

Joe Morgan has wanted a car dealership ever since he told Henry Ford how to construct an assembly line. Joe Morgan believes that Hondas are the most consistent of cars and never clog the highways. Joe Morgan believes that modern cars are good enough to sell but nothing will ever match the 1975 line.

Joe Morgan thinks that the unofficial Honda manuals written by Billy Beane are not as effective as the company-produced ones. Joe Morgan thinks that MPG is far less important than the size of the gas tank. Joe Morgan didn't really consider buying a Toyota dealership, as he hasn't seen one live this year.

In related news, Steve Phillips refuses to buy undersized Japanese cars because he can never fit in the back seat with his girlfriend.

(via OMG Reds)

moundy.jpgStop me if you've heard this one before: post-season baseball games run too long and too late into the night. Take it from me, I glogged the crap out of Saturday's five hour marathon and, frankly, I may never be the same.

The newest villain in the fight against sleep: mound meetings. Be they discussions between catcher and pitcher, pitching coach and pitcher, manager/catcher/pitcher, catcher/pitcher/Sajak, calm-eyed shortstop and wide-eyed manager and so forth. We've seen mound meetings for any one of these sundry reasons:

  • Discussion of pitching stratagem
  • Buying time for a warming reliever
  • Buying gold and other commodities as the dollar struggles
  • "Coaching up" sessions for marginal relievers
  • Exhortation of an active catcher to be more like a certain retired catcher
  • Spanglish conversations regarding pitch selection
  • English conversations regarding signs and sign-stealing malfeasance
  • Inquires into physical well-being and status of the human condition

Who is really to blame for all this consorting and micromanaging? You and I, the baseball loving second guesser. The urge to overmanage is strongly ingrained in any good baseballman in the 21st century. They're determined to cover their bases; and more importantly their asses.

The manager knows he can't trust the players to carry out his precise game-plan. The catcher knows the idiot pitcher doesn't pay attention to his perfectly sequenced pitch calls. The pitcher knows the dumb catcher never believed in his legendary curveball. The infielders know the pitcher's a flake that can't be trusted. The bench coach knows (and quickly reminds the manager) the players were BBMing B-list starlets or on the phone making tee times when the team last discussed positional coverage 8 months ago.

Obviously mound meetings aren't the only catalyst for long baseball games. Your particular flavor of agenda dictates the direction you're most likely to cast your scorn. The TV networks (with the league working in concert) have a long, proud tradition of deflecting all blame towards the primadonnas on the field. First it was too much stepping in and out of the box, spending too much time between pitches, taking too long to enter the game from the bullpen or, in a rare populist move, blaming the patient Yankees for working so many full counts and driving away youthful fans.

Each of these causations carry some blame, ranging from trivial to soul-shattering. The networks would never consider forsaking one minute of commercial time between innings as that would represent a horrific loss of revenue. A loss so substantial that only raising ticket prices league-wide by 20% will make up the difference. That's just basic economics, people!

Mound photo courtesy of flickr user Melanie, Still Waiting. Still waiting for the game to end, amirite???

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Sorry, Scott Kazmir, but your ineffectiveness and lack of control just weren't enough to put you on the list with these three chaps:

  • CC Sabathia: Check your box score, and it says that Sabathia dominated the Angels last night with eight innings pitched, five hits, two walks, and just one run allowed. But watch a replay of each of the Angels at-bats early in the game and you'll see a bevy of hard-hit balls, including several line drives that just happened to find their way into the Yankees' gloves. It's a testament to the proper placement of infielders and outfielders alike, and a big fat testament to luck. Still, Sabathia became more dominant as the game went on, recording three of his five K's in his last two innings pitched. Three days rest? Hell, CC eats three days rest for breakfast.

  • Alex Rodriguez: What kind of world are we living in where Alex Rodriguez is performing so darn well that it's not even funny to make clutch jokes about the dude anymore? Just let me sneer in derision for one game, man. A-Rod clubbed his fifth homer of the postseason last night, his third straight game with a dong, and added a single and double to complete the lazy man's cycle. Add in his eighth straight game with an RBI (which ties not only Ryan Howard's active streak but also Lou Gehrig) and you've got the offensive team leader.

  • The Umpiring Crew: Sheesh, where to begin? Was it home plate ump Jerry Layne who, after a bit of prodding from Mike Scioscia's face, decided to finally start calling low strikes for Scott Kazmir? Was it second base ump Dale Scott who missed the call on Kazmir's successful pickoff of Nick Swisher? Or was it crew chief Tim McClelland who had the single worst performance by an umpire in the history of playoff baseball without actually making any calls that affected the outcome of the game? On the play in question, Mike Napoli tagged both Jorge Posada and Robbie Cano as both were within five feet of third base but neither was on the bag, yet McClelland ruled Cano safe.

In the end, A-Rod, Sabathia, and Melky Cabrera's whopping four RBI made any umpiring snafus seem pointless, but let us not stumble over the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. We strive to have every umpiring call correct to remove any sense of impropriety. Otherwise, we'd end up looking as stupid as the NBA and we don't want that.

I think this is my first shot at liveglogging a non-Phillies game this postseason. Yep, the Yankees are playing in their seventh game this postseason and this is the first time I'll be hosting the nighttime party post with them in action. What could possibly go wrong?

Join us below in the magic Cover It Live application:


Tonight's Questions

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  • WILL the Yankees be patient enough to take advantage of Scott Kazmir's historically shaky control problems? Kazmir's 2-1 with a 3.20 ERA against New York this year.

  • OR will the Angels get to CC Sabathia early with some home field cookery? CC dominated the Anaheim hitters in the cold on Friday night but he's on three days' rest here.

  • DOES Mark Teixeira's above-average glovework make up for his lack of batwork in the series? Fella's 1-for-13 with five K's against his former employer.

Come back around 8PM and we'll chat about the ALCS game that, if the Yankees lose, will break my spirit and cause me to shed my sanity like so many layers of clothing. With a ringing endorsement like that, how can you miss it? Same WoW channel.

You simply won't believe your eyes when you watch this video of the Cubby Bear bar in Chicago circa 1984. Cubs fans by day! Punk rock slam dancers by night! Shocking nostalgia!


Okay, okay, maybe the video that everyone is talking about today is really the one where Mariano Rivera allegedly spits on a baseball:


Shocking ephemera! Halos Heaven had the video last night and claims, with associated screengrabs, to prove without a shadow of a doubt that Mariano is a Cheaty McCheaterson. The caption reads:

spit landing, as fox realizes what it is broadcasting and quickly cuts to scioscia (can still see the spit halo on top of the ball)

Then, the folks at Fack Youk get all CSI on their case and figure out that it's all a bunch of hooey.

What's that? Oh, I've just been informed that it's actually the Majestic logo on Mike Scioscia's jacket coming through as FOX faded to the next shot.

Do these hacks at Halos Heaven really think that's been the key to throwing the cutter all these years? Spit directly on the ball and hope no one notices? FOR FIFTEEN YEARS? If it was his super-secret method, don't you think he'd be a touch more discrete about it?

Thanks for doing the heavy lifting, boys.

(Hat tips all around! Chicagoist, Duk's Twooter, the Stew, Matt_T, Fack Youk, and Tommy Craggs)

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I can't stand reading sportswriters complain about late games that turn quickly in the same way that the NLCS did last night. Oh boo-hoo, Jimmy Rollins got a walkoff hit and Jon Broxton blew a save and now you have to rewrite half of your game story. Cry me a river of bad press buffet clam chowder.

Still, at least none of those sleepy journos submitted their "Dodgers win" copy like the lowly MLB.com intern who pushed the publish button a few minutes too early and produced the hilarious screencap.

(via The 700 Level and DarkNemesis618)

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Was yesterday the single greatest day of postseason baseball in the last twenty years? I have no idea, my team lost and I pouted most of the night. But still, let's not ignore the fact that we had two close games, two walkoff doubles, and eight solid hours of all the Tim McCarver and Chip Caray one could handle. There were six lead changes and four ties spread across the twenty innings of fun, eight whopping tater tots, and one big fat blown save to end the night. All in all, if you were lucky enough to watch the entirety of the day on TV, I salute your commitment to televised baseball.

Onto the three big dudes and/or duds:

  • Overmanagin' Joe Girardi: Call it first-year-postseason-manager jitters or call it mere overmanaging, but Girardi was on the receiving end of some of the most intense second guessing this side of the Rubicon. Still, when nearly every analyst, beat writer, and casual fan knew that when Girardi took out David Robertson and replaced him with Alfredo "Sauce" Aceves in the bottom of the 11th it was a mistake before Aceves even threw a pitch, it's not second guessing. It's just foresight. After all, young David Roberston only led the AL in most strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Aceves only led the league in enchiladas consumed during rain delays. With nobody on and two out, Aceves gave up a single and the game-winning double.

  • Jeff Mathis: The reason I never bet on sports? Jeff Mathis (.288 OBP, .308 SLG) has three doubles in three extra-inning at-bats in the past two games. That's a 3.000 OPS, and the dude had the walkoff RBI hit in the eleventh off the aforementioned Aceves to pull the Angels back from the brink. Jeff Freakin' Mathis, who every so-called analyst in the baseballblogosphere ridiculed as a poor substitute for big-boppin' Mike Napoli, was the unlikeliest of heroes.

  • Jimmy Rollins: For a leadoff hitter to perform as badly as Rollins did during the regular season and still keep his job throughout the postseason, it's quite a mitzvah when that dude ends up with the biggest hit of the night. Jonathan Broxton blew the save, Matt Stairs drew a tidy walk to start the rally, and Carlos Ruiz hustled his Octubre buns around the bases to score the winning run, but Rollins deserves the big prize for grabbing the bull by the horns and swinging him deep into the gap for a double.
truegrit.jpgTonight's subtext for Game 4 as the Phillies look to shove this series out of reach at home with Joe Blanton on the mound: which player has the most true grit?

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Well, well, well! The TV is turned to Fox, and while I'm upset that Judge Joe Brown is over, I'm excited to bring you Game 3 of the ALCS right here on Walkoff Walk. The game's slated to begin at 4:13 p.m., or an extra-convenient 1:13 p.m. for those out in California.

While we're waiting to begin, maybe you should go read the playoff diary I've been doing for The Fightins. Or maybe you should get a drink or something, I dunno. Whatever you want!

Today's matchup is Andy Pettitte (for the Yankees) and Jered Weaver (for the Angels). Join me after the jump for the game.

sciosciaface2.jpgIt has been said that the playoffs bring the true character of baseball teams to the surface. That sounds like something that's been said anyway, which means it is halfway to becoming a truism. The true character of the LAA Angels is slowly being revealed by the New York Yankees and the 2009 postseason, and it comes in the form of Gary Matthews Jr.

Gary Matthews Jr. represents the truth about the Angels in a macrosense and the truth about Mike Scioscia in a microsense. The Angels are sold to us a scrappy bunch of upstarts, playing the game The Right Way in a feel-good package. They run and gun, they take extra bases and they play defense. Only one of these things is remotely true. The Angels, as J pointed out on the weekend, have baseball's 6th biggest payroll. The heart of their order (Abreu, Hunter, Guerrero) are all big dollar free agents brought in with owner Arte Moreno's millions. Two of these big money free agents rode into town long after the Angels inked one of the top free agents of 2006: Gary Mathews.

That the Angels can pay Gary Matthews $10 million dollars a year to sit on the bench and stew is astounding, and hardly a plucky underdog thing to do. There aren't many teams in baseball (and none in their division) that can afford such a mistake, let alone go out and pursue better options because Matthews, as it turns out, sucks.

Gary Matthews has become a pretty crappy baseball player. Blame it on a lack of playing time if you will, but he's inability to hit AT ALL cannot be overstated. Perhaps I'm guilty of selection bias (in 15 ABs versus the Jays this year, Matthews had two hits and 7 strikeouts), but I haven't seen Gary Matthews turn in a decent at bat pretty much ever. Yet there was Mike Scioscia, master tactician, calling on Gary to pinch hit for catcher Mike Napoli in the 8th inning with the two men on. Gary struck out, looking very bad in the process.

Scioscia almost HAD to pinch hit with Matthews there, as he had already removed Juan Rivera for a pinch runner earlier in the inning. Never mind that both Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera are among the Angels best hitters, Scioscia played for one run on the road and failed. Matthews later walked and scored (after a bunt!) the go-ahead before striking out with two men on in the 12th. It isn't really Gary's fault that he's not a good hitter, but Mike Scioscia's for continuing to let him do so.

It is easy for me, a self-sniffer, to sit back and question Mike Scioscia's in-game moves. Managing a big league team in high-pressure situations sure isn't easy. But Scioscia seems to possess a lifetime free pass based on the false assumption that he's a miracle worker, extracting wins from a shallow talent pool. The Angels do run and play aggressively on the basepaths, both to their credit and their detriment. As I've said over and again, putting pressure on the defense works against bad teams but good ones will make you pay.

In the post season, when your outs become an even more precious commodity, maybe bunting three times and producing one total run isn't such a hot idea. Perhaps removing two of your best hitters in the same inning isn't a great way to win a game. Maybe Mike Scioscia's record and the context in which he's achieved it is due some scrutiny? Just don't blame Gary Matthews, he's pretty much defenseless.

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Think you know the ins and outs of baseball better than your favorite team's manager? If you're a Reds fan, you might actually be right! But the guys at USS Mariner have created a new iPhone app that will help you amateur sabermetricians accomplish the impossible: being twice as annoying when you second guess your favorite team's decisions at the ballpark. It uses live win expectancy and the run expectation of the current situation to tell you just how dumb Jim Tracy was for calling that double steal.

Be sure to check the App Store for future updates that let you second guess player trades and rate the odor of your own farts.

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This past weekend, two of our best and brightest commenters decided to attend a very special event out on the West Coast. Farthammer and Phillas were kind enough to document their trip to see some former big league stars participate in an old-timey baseball exhibition game. If you've ever wondered what Kevin Maas was up to, here's your chance to find out. Below, please enjoy the words and photos courtesy of Mssrs. Farthammer and Phillas:




Phillas and I, on a tip from Rob, decided to attend the Legends of Baseball Vintage Showdown in San Jose, CA. What is Vintage Baseball, you ask? Well, I will tell you as best I can. Vintage Baseball is comprised of a federation of teams from around the country who decided to play baseball as it was in the late 1800s. Since these teams are made of old white guys with day jobs like "day trader" or "Regional Manager at coupons.com" (actual job listed on the program for a player), it is actually a pretty accurate portrayal of 1890s base ball (it was two words back then).

Normally these teams play one another, but Saturday we got a special treat. The Stogies of Santa Clara County (a regular Vintage team) organized a charity game against some retired "Legends" of baseball. Amongst these Legends are HOFers like Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry and Jeff Kent. They also had Brady Anderson, who is legendary for his sideburns.

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From L-R: Vida Blue, Gaylord Perry, Bill Lee, Lee Smith, Darryl Fatty Fat Fat Evans, Jeff Kent, then a bunch of dudes I can't identify

Lemme give you a run down of some antiquated rules, terms, and equipment used by these jamooks (all research done by Farthammer and phillas was carried out by tracking down officials of the league and interviewing them. When we realized that wouldn't work, we googled.) Please continue after the jump.

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The Phillies were the only team to play last night. No, really, I'm 99% sure the Dodgers didn't even bother taking the cross-country flight to the game because that 11-0 romp might have been the most one-sided LCS game I've seen in years. Sure, the Phillies scored early and they scored often, but the three most important people were all just elements of a very productive split personality:

  • Cliff Lee's fastball: Lee forced James Loney to ground into the inning-ending double play in the second with his hot hot heat. The speedball burned Matt Kemp swinging to end the seventh inning. James Loney was left looking at a strike three fastball to lead off the eighth inning. And on Lee's final pitch of the game, he got J. Russell Martin swinging with the ol' two-seamer to end the eighth.

  • Cliff Lee's curveball: Lee struck out Casey Blake to lead off the third inning on a 76 MPH curveball, making him look simply foolish. He got Matt Kemp swinging on strike three with the curve with Manny on first in the fifth inning. Clifton nailed Rafael Furcal with a swinging strikeout to end the sixth inning.

  • Cliff Lee's changeup: With a runner on in the second, Lee got Kemp to line out softly using a tidy mix of his fastball and changer. The slow gunk got Rafael Furcal swinging in the fourth inning. Lee sent down Manny Ramirez swinging with three straight 83 MPH changeups in the eighth inning.

Overall, Lee recorded 10 strikeouts and eight outs on the ground in his eight innings, plus one mini-rally-killing double play. He threw mostly fastballs on the night but mixed in curveballs, changeups, and sliders with aplomb, making the otherwise hard-hitting Dodgers look like the second coming of the 2003 Detroit Tigers. No pitcher outside of CC Sabathia has been more dominant in the '09 postseason; if the NLCS goes to Game Seven, I fear for the sanity of the Los Angeles Dodgers hitters.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, tell me what you know about dreamin' dreamin'

WHO do you like in tonight's matchup between the Phillies and the Dodgers? Cliff Lee and Hiroki Kuroda are your starting pitchers in Game 3 as we head to Philadelphia with the series tied 1-1. Get your earflaps ready!

ARE you embarrassed for the New York Football Giants? I would be.

CAN I possibly thank you all enough for making me so welcome on my first weekend? I don't think that I could, but know that I am truly appreciative and look forward to doing this again in a week's time.

That's it for me, folks. Hopefully I didn't break anything. Your Weekday Overlords are coming back to blow it out tomorrow. Enjoy the game.

(Image courtesy of the appropriately named throwinrocks!. Because Philadelphia fans are violent, you see.)

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Thus far Playoffs 2009 has taught us many valuable things. For one, bullpens are apparently totally unreliable entities that should only be trusted when there is a most generous lead to protect. For two, teams that are proud of being "fundamentally sound" have a tough time beating teams that are proud of being "really good at baseball." Thirdly, umpires are having themselves one rough October wherein it is nearly impossible to get through an game without having some sort of controversy over a close call or whatnot. For the latest in this fine department, please see Aybar, Erick. Fourthly, Haas Avocados mistakenly think people actually want to buy their products. Lastly, the playoffs have shown us that even small market teams have a chance to go deep into the big dance. But not really. To the bullet points!

  • Yankees (Payroll - $201,449,289, 1st in MLB)

  • Angels (Payroll - $113,709,000, 6th in MLB)

  • Phillies (Payroll - $113,004,048, 7th in MLB)

  • Dodgers (Payroll - $100,458,101, 9th in MLB)

Oh my, isn't that surprising. The four remaining teams are all in the top ten? You don't say! But what does this show us about the current state of baseball? Is revenue sharing the answer? Do we need a salary cap? Or is the answer, rather, a salary floor?

(throws gasoline on tire fire)

What do you guys think?

(All salary figures courtesy of CBSSports)

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Well now, what isn't there to say about last night's only ballgame? Emotions for all parties involved likely ranged from, "holy hell I just want to grab my blankie and go to sleep" to sheer elation mixed with a taste of surprisingly inedible pie. Either way, the Yankees found themselves embroiled in yet another dramatic postseason game this season, and once again they emerged victorious. The victory puts them up 2-0 in the series as they head to Anaheim, where hopefully the weather is warmer and the rain is less rainy. But in this lengthy Game 2 battle between the two teams with the best records in baseball, who was really most important? Let's find out!

  • Alex Rodriguez: What are you thinking, A-Rod? The fans are never going to hate you if you keep doing things to help your team win! What's that? Oh, you don't want them to hate you? I see. In that case, just keep doing what you're doing. Rodriguez continued his transformation from "unclutch" pariah to veritable demigod in this postseason as he bashed a game-tying homer in the bottom of the 11th to keep to tie the game after New York had fallen behind by a score of 3-2. Rodriguez' opposite field dinger kept his team alive for the 13th inning heroics and it was the single most important play in the entire game according to WPA and the nerds. My own homemade metrics confirm this homer as adding the most pants-tightening to the game. Really all A-Rod needed to make his night complete was some more plastic monster!

  • Macier Izturis: Izturis continued what has to be a disturbing trend for the "fundamentally sound" team from Anaheim. His horrendous error in the 13th allowed the Yankees to grab the game and a big 2-0 series lead. As we said yester-morn, the Angels defense has been quite embarrassing so far and they didn't help their cause by adding two more total errors last night. In that sense, Izturis is really just part of a much greater problem, but I already used the "Angels defense" on one of these lists, and Izturis made the error that had the most immediate impact on the outcome of the game, so he gets the nod to be on this meaningful listicle.

  • Jerry Hariston Jr.: Rob's resident object of adoration had never had a plate appearance in a postseason game in his 10+year career until earlier this morning. Hariston roped a single for a hit in the 13th and as a result now has a better postseason batting average than Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, Mickey Mantle, you, me, and everyone in between. However, since it's not the hit itself, but rather how you use it, Hariston makes this list because he scored the game winning run on the aforementioned Izturis error and got the celebratory pie afterwards. That's quite a busy day. Oh and I'm told that if you heard screaming last night that you shouldn't worry, it was just the Iracane household.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, it's up to me now, turn on the bright lights.

WILL the Yankees/Angels tilt start on time tonight at 7:57 PM or will it be delayed, or worse, canceled, due to Mother Nature being a fickle mistress? According to the official Yankees Weather Twitter account the gates are opening on time, but that might just be so they can sell more overpriced rain ponchos!

WHICH A.J. Burnett will show up if the game is played? I know some Yankee fans who are hoping for a repeat of his performance against the Twins and some Angels fans who hope he can barely find the strike zone.

WHERE will you be for tonight's game? I'm not sure if there's a glog going on around these parts. If it turns out that there isn't an official glog, I might come back and set up an open thread for you because I love you all so.

IS Rob going to be mad that I uploaded the above image? It grossly exceeds the image size he mandated before I started. It was an accident, and I'm still learning the ropes! Don't lock me up with Drew!

WHAT would you like to know about your new weekend editor? I'm sorry for not introducing myself more thoroughly in my first post today, but I didn't want to jam you up with foreplay when there was baseball to discuss. But you can ask me in the comments below, if you'd like.

Well that'll do it for day one of the new weekend regime, folks. I'll be back tomorrow for (hopefully) more LCS action and other things. It was a great first day and I appreciate your hospitality. Now, let's all relax.

(Not-real-time image graciously appropriated from Flickr user lobotion.)

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My goodness this alliteration stuff is hard. I would have had this published long ago, but it took me forever to come up with that title.

(shakes fist at previously established WoW memes)

Moving right along, the other big news from baseball last night was number one draft pick / savior of the human race Stephen Strasburg making his Arizona Fall League debut for the Phoenix Dirt Dogs. The Wu-Tang clan approves of this team's nomenclature. So how did young Mr. Strasburg fare against hitters that are nothing like what he'll see in the Major Leagues? Pretty well, actually.

Stephen Strasburg made his grand professional debut on Friday night, pitching in the Arizona Fall League at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, and his 3 1/3-inning scoreless outing may have been a preview of great things to come. Strasburg, taken first in June's First-Year Player Draft by the Nationals, threw 50 pitches -- 32 of them strikes -- for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. He faced 11 Scottsdale Scorpions hitters, walked one, struck out two, allowed a pair of singles and earned the win in his club's 7-4 victory. The two strikeouts came with one out in the first inning and were of the swinging variety.

That's a lot of pitches for only three innings and not that many strikeouts, but that hasn't stopped some people (read: scouts) from starting to jump the gun on the youngster's future. Let the hyperbole commence!

"He's very special," said Tom Romenesko, a former scout for the Astros and once the head of the Padres' Minor League development. "He brings up the intensity level of the rest of the players. There are not many guys who can do that."

Those of you who had "one" in the office pool for "How many games into Strasburg's professional career before people start to laud his intangibles?" are the big winners! Congratulations!

But we can't stop now, this is hype country!

"With his composure and his stuff, there's no reason this kid should not be Washington's opening day starter next year," one major league scout said. "He's better than anything they have. There's no reason for him to spend time in the minors."

Now we've added "composure" to "intensity." Slow down, anonymous scouts, I'm going to get an intangibles nosebleed! Perhaps we should encourage these scouting gentlemen to invest in one of these:

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Being the new guy at Walkoff Walk is no fun, let me tell you. As part of my rookie hazing, Rob has already made me read aloud to him his selection of favorite WoW posts from the past year. If my voice doesn't have just the right inflection to suit his needs, he makes me start over from the beginning. This is a real bitch because he really likes all the interviews. Oh, and last night, I had to relieve Intern Darren for a few hours and guard the supply closet where they're holding Drew. I suppose the close confines have really gotten to our resident Canadian because he kept alternating between screaming the names of advanced baseball statistics and asking me if I could "spare him a scrap of Excel". I don't even want to know what comes next.

Anyway, enough about me, there was important playoff baseball on last night! In the earlier game, the apparently not so "road-ready" Phillies bullpen became the latest example of reliever ineffectiveness during Playoffs 2009 and handed the Dodgers a win to level the series 1-1. Shockingly enough, Brad Lidge was nowhere near the scene of the crime this time! In the nightcap, the Yankees sent their hefty ace to the mound on a freezing cold night in the Bronx and promptly took a 1-0 series lead from the Angels. So here are the three most important people from last night's games, as voted by me, your new weekend editor / hungover college student.

  • Chase Knoblauch Utley: The bottom of the 8th was a half inning I'm sure the Phillies wish they could forget. There were many, many culprits in the implosion and I could just as easily have put newly-unsuitable LOOGY / object of Philadelphia scorn JA Happ in this spot. Happ was, after all, the guy who walked Andre Either with the bases loaded to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead that they would never relinquish. However, to sound totally like those horrendous Chase banking commercials (irony!), it was Utley's throw that nearly hit the fourth row in the stands that kept the Dodgers in the inning. Chutley's fielding gaffe, his second abysmal throwing error in as many nights nonetheless, gave the Dodgers the extra out they needed to eventually load the bases and set up Happ's moment in the KRILL spotlight.

  • The Angels defense: Oof. It was a bad day to be a man of the leather last night. The Angels made three errors in their opener with the Yankees that were undoubtedly integral to the Pinstripes claiming victory. First there was a miscommunication over a routine infield popup in the first that allowed the Yankees to score their second run of the game. Then Juan Rivera made a throwing error for good measure. Starter John Lackey, not content to just watch the antics, decided to take part in the festivities himself and chucked a pickoff attempt that bounced off Kendry Morales' glove into foul territory allowing Melky Cabrera to move into scoring position. Jeter would drive Cabrera home on a ball that the normally suave Torii Hunter badly misplayed allowing Cabrera to score and Jeter to move to second. At that point the Yankees had their 4-1 lead that they would never return. Apparently the Yankees are great at making teams that are allegedly great at fundamentals look fundamentally bad.

  • All the starters from last night: This is more indicative of my own indecisiveness than my inability to count to three. Plus, it allows me to hide my obvious rooting biases by spreading around the love a bit. CC Sabathia pitched like the ace the Yankees thought they were getting when they paid him 850 billion dollars (Note: I'll have to check this figure.) The fella went 8 innings, striking out seven and walking only 1,limiting an Angels lineup that has consistently tormented the Yankees to only 4 hits and 1 run on the evening. John Lackey was only partly to blame for his team's failure as described above as and he managed to keep the Yankees in the park the whole game. The real pitching performances came in the Senior Circuit game though. Pedro Martinez was nothing short of dominant against the potent Dodger lineup and economically worked through 7 innings of two-hit baseball, allowing zero runs and walking no one before getting a potentially early hook from manager Charlie Manuel. His counterpart Vincente Padilla was also pitching phenomenally and made only one bad pitch to Ryan Howard that ended up way in the seats to give the Phillies their only run. Party like it's the early 2000s!

Friday Night Liveglog Club: ALCS Game One

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Hey how's your bird, Mrs. Robinson? It's game one of the ALCS and I'm doing something I never thought I'd do and giving into the horrible A/S/L chatroom abomination that is "Cover It Live" for tonight's glog. Let's seem em put that on their ad material. But see, it's Friday. I'm kinda out of it, I got a soup on the stove and two different bombers of Pretty Things waiting to be cracked open. I'd rather stay a little detatched. If you're looking for engaging, dramatic liveblogging, go back to my masterpiece from last Sunday. It's got Regis.

But tonight, we've got playoff baseball in the new Yankee Stadium, and that just feels like Fall. So join me below and we'll hang out.

Please join new weekend guy 3:10 to Joba as he leads the three-ring circus that is a Phillies liveglog. Be on your best behavior while Weekday Daddy heads out to Yankee Stadium, and no prodding the lone Dodgers fan in the comment section.


TBS PitchTrax: Very Funny

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We've lived about two weeks now with TBS's PitchTrax (above, with Craig Sager and George Lopez added for my amusement) sitting on the screen during every pitch. I have to admit, I was kind of repulsed by it at first; it seemed distracting. But after an inning or two I grew to like it. It doesn't get in the way on my HDTV -- indeed, it's only on the HD broadcast -- and it allows me to bash the umpires, one of my favorite pastimes during a baseball game. Just like the score box in the corner in any sport or the first down line in football, I got used to it. And once I got used to it, I decided it added to my enjoyment of the game.

There's little-to-no information about TBS' PitchTrax on the Internet1. My guess, though, is it's not the great PITCHf/x and is instead the same PitchTrax as the QuesTec product detailed on the company's website. I mean, it has an 'x' at the end! That has to be a copyrighted name.

There have been plenty of complaints on the Internet that it's inaccurate; since we're not getting the right camera angle, I don't think we can tell from television. It is definitely inaccurate on pitches that are too high out of the zone: the PitchTrax box doesn't go high enough and so pitches that are higher than a certain point all get shown as if they were in the same spot. Obviously, pitches on the bottom don't have this problem (as there's a limit to how far down a pitch can be), and pitches way to the left and right are far less common than ones that are way too high, so it's not as much of a problem there.3

Questions of accuracy aside, here's my problem with TBS' use of PitchTrax this postseason.4 As far as I know, none of the announcers have ever mentioned this groovy little feature on any of the network's broadcasts so far. I haven't watched every moment of every game this postseason, but from what I can remember -- and from what I skimmed by on a quick re-viewing of last night's game this morning -- this is true. This leads to situations where an announcer will say a ball was over the plate while -- at the same time -- PitchTrax says it's a ball. Of course, in a way, that's good, because it gives us more ammunition to complain about the announcers (another fine baseball pastime).

So what gives? The way I can see it, there are a couple of options. Let's go over them, charticle-style:

• As I tweeted last night, MLB probably doesn't want the announcers to mention it, because it makes the umpires (and therefore MLB, or maybe even the game of baseball) look bad. In my mind, MLB must nudge producers and announcers to mention or not mention certain things; we've all see how homer-ish our local favorite teams' broadcasts can be, even when on TV stations not owned by the teams. (Have announcers ever criticized the job of their home team's grounds crew, ever?) But... I dunno; the more I think about this, the more I think it's just the stupidest conspiracy theory ever, because they could just not have PitchTrax if they didn't want the umps to look bad.

• Rob thinks the whole set-up is a way for Bud Selig to discredit the umps and lower their salaries or fire them all or replace them with robots or whatever. Intriguing, but you'd think the announcers would mention how inconsistent the strike zone has looked (according to PitchTrax, at least) if this were the case. I like this one, because I want to feel bad for the umpires, since they have a tough, thankless job that has been made even tougher and more thankless thanks to new technologies.5

• And then of course there's option C, which is: The announcers don't have HD cameras, and so they do not know about the new PitchTrax technology. This might explain most of Chip Caray's mistakes this postseason, too. This can be rectified before today's game: I just saw an HDTV for sale at my local CVS (really); quick, somebody head to a drugstore in L.A. and get an HD set for the booth!

• Of course, there's also option D, which might be the best of all: Simple incompetence, which is the simplest explanation and the one that is true many situations. This also explains Chip Caray, of course. This one could also get me off the hook if it turns out that the announcers in a series I didn't really pay much attention to -- Angels-Red Sox, for example -- talked about PitchTrax the entire time and about half this post has been moot.

1 I suppose I could make a call or two, but I already told Rob I'd finish this by 2 and it's already 2:30.
2 That PitchTrax demo also has a note that smokeless tobacco isn't harmless tobacco. Thanks, PitchTrax!
3 Warning: Anecdotal evidence. I think it makes sense, though.
4 Also, it'd be great if the pitches were color coded for balls, looking strikes and swinging strikes. I mean, my copy of MVP Baseball 2005 can do this.
5 Still, they could be a little better at it.

Two More Quick Announcements

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Our new weekend dude 3:10 to Joba will liveglog the 4PM EDT NLCS Game Two while Kris will guide you through the 8PM EDT ALCS Game One. Cancel your pinochle night, Marcia, you've got baseball to watch.

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Starting tomorrow, J from 3:10 to Joba will be taking over the role of Walkoff Walk weekend editor from Drew Fairservice. Please welcome him with the same courtesy that you have shown Drew for the past year and a half, and not the same childish teasing that you show me when I screw up. 310toJoba (as he will be known from here on in) is another dago Yankees fan but he's a sensible one and will not let his fandom interfere with providing you with fair coverage of all 30 teams (except the Mets, of course). He's going to add in his own brand of analysis and humor and will stay on board with us from here on out.

Don't worry though, Drew isn't going anywhere. Seriously, we've got him tied up in the supply closet of the WoW offices with Intern Darren monitoring him 24 hours a day. He'll stay on board in his current role of contributing smart and funny pieces to WoW and generally making the rest of us look dumb in comparison. I want to thank him for the months of service he put in on the weekends while the rest of us were off wine shopping or sampling heirloom pomegranates. Kudos, Drew! You are truly an asset to baseball and the human condition!

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Shin Soo Choo, Wandy Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Up next, Danny Haren, as written by Patrick Sullivan.

Since the start of the 2005 campaign, a number of starting pitchers have exhibited dominance over varying periods of time. Zack Greinke and Tim Lincecum come to mind over the last couple of seasons. Mark Buehrle threw a Perfect Game this year! Did you know Brad Radke had a 5.09 K/BB ratio in 2005? Or that Pedro Martinez was freaking out-of-his-mind awesome for 217 strong innings as a Met that same 2005 season? Remember Jake Peavy and Aaron Harang and Curt Schilling and Brandon Webb and James Shields? How great have Cole Hamels and Jon Lester been over the last few years? Check out Ervin Santana's 2008 numbers if you have a moment.

You get the picture. Pitchers emerge and fade, the better ones vacillating season-to-season in quality anywhere from above average to Cy Young Award candidate; and that's if they're fortunate enough to stay healthy. The best? I mean the very, very best? They get it done every season. Roy Halladay leads this list given Johan Santana's recent injury troubles, although Santana isn't far behind. Roy Oswalt's on it. So is C.C. John Lackey and Felix Hernandez may have a claim.

You know who else is on it? Dan Haren. Dan Haren is one of the very best pitchers in the world, and his performance record since becoming a full-time starting pitcher in 2005 for the Oakland Athletics is astoundingly magnificent, thanks in equal parts to his dominance, his improvement trajectory, his durability and his consistency. Since 2005, only Sabathia has thrown more innings. Of starters with 1,000 innings pitched, only Santana and Halladay have allowed fewer baserunners. Only Santana, Javier Vazquez and Sabathia have struck out more batters. Oh what the heck? Let's just list it out. Since 2005, here are Haren's numbers and where they rank among pitchers with at least 1,000 innings:

IP: 1,108 (2)
ERA+: 127 (7)
Wins: 73 (6)
Strikeouts: 960 (4)
K/9: 7.80 (16)
K/BB: 4.16 (3)
Baserunners: 1,306 (3)

And what about over the last 2 seasons?

IP: 445 (5)
ERA+: 140 (9)
Wins: 30 (8)
Strikeouts: 429 (5)
K/9: 8.67 (6)
K/BB: 5.50 (2)
Baserunners: 484 (2)

Justin Verlander was better than Haren in 2009. Cliff Lee was better in 2008, Erik Bedard better in 2007, Jeremy Bonderman in 2006 and Esteban Loaiza in 2005. Another handful of pitchers will outpitch Haren next year too, and the year after that. But in the aggregate Haren's been as solid as all but two or three pitchers over the last five seasons, and given his make-up as a power pitching control freak with no injury history, he's a good bet to stay on that shortlist of the very best pitchers in baseball for the next five campaigns or so.

Patrick Sullivan regularly contributes to Baseball Analysts. A Bostonian, he'd be cool with the Red Sox acquiring Dan Haren.

(Photo via Flickr user afagen)

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Last night, the road-ready Phillies toppled the Dodgers 8-6 in NLCS Game One, grabbing home-field advantage as the Phils pitchers stranded a bunch of Dodgers runners. Heck, even Brad Lidge did some stranding and came away with a save. Here are the three most important folks from the game last night, as decided by a panel of seventeen judges from all walks of life:

  • Chan Ho Park: Look at that handsome beard! Park did his best Mariano Rivera impression, entering the game in the 7th inning with a runner on and nobody out and retiring all three batters he faced with hot hot heat. Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Casey Blake, the heart of the Dodgers lineup, were eliminated one-two-three, ground out, strikeout, ground out. In fact, Park's beard outshone Blake's beard on the night; Park had his big shutdown inning while Blake went 0-for-5 and left four gentlemen on base. Chan Ho really made our American taco pop.

  • Carlos Ruiz: The Phillies catcher put the team on the board in the fifth with a three-run dong that should have informed Dodgers manager Joe Torre that Clayton Kershaw was in trouble. Torre left Kershaw in the game and the Phillies plated two more runs on Ryan Howard's double. Ruiz ended the night with two hits and a walk to go along with his would-be knockout punch and tidy three RBI. More importantly, Ruiz handled every pitch that came his way, unlike his Dodgers counterpart J. Russell Martin who could not get a handle on Clayton Kershaw's three wild pitches in the fifth inning, an LCS record.

  • George Sherrill: The former Orioles reliever gave up the three-run tater tot to Raul Ibanez in the top of the eighth inning that negated the Dodgers small rally in the bottom half. It was said that the Dodgers would be better served having a "second closer" in Sherrill to set up big boy closer Jonathan Broxton. Instead, Sherrill walked two fellas before grooving a fastball leaving a curveball hanging and giving up the blast. The Dodgers could have recovered from down 5-4 but not 8-4.

Forgive me, but it feels like we were just doing this. Yes, just under a year ago, the Phillies and Dodgers were playing NLCS Game One with Cole Hamels starting...just like tonight! But that game was at Citizens Bank Park and Derek Lowe was going for the Dodgers; oh my how things have changed. Also, it was the night Chief Wahoo spoiled an episode of Survivor, so screw him.

Follow along below, won't you?


Tonight's Questions

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  • DO you have your liveglog dinner jacket ready for Game One of the NLCS? Be back here at 8PM sharp for some good, clean liveglog fun.

  • WHICH Manny Ramirez will show up tonight? The hilarious, easy-going slugger or the shy, withdrawn Gold Glove slap-hitter?

  • DOES Brian Baumgartner, aka Kevin from The Office, need writers to be funny? Yes, yes he does.

  • ANYTHING interesting happen this afternoon?

Okay folks, you know the deal, get yourself home safely from work and ready for the big game at 8PM. Clayton Kershaw! Cole Hamels! Ryan Howard! Andre Ethier! CHIP "FISTED" CARAY! See you then, same WoW channel.

(Photo courtesy of OMGKitty!!!)

CACTUS1.jpgBy now you, loyal fan of baseball and the human condition, have heard of the Arizona Fall League. How could you not have? It's the only quasi-professional baseball league-come-tryout camp with its own Twitter, it must be legit. In some ways, the AFL is proof we live in the Golden Age of Fandom. We watch every pitch, discuss every nuance, second-guess every decision. It's great! Not only that, we also have access to communities in which we can poke fun at the foibles of billionaire owner's wives, pine for robot umpires, and share photos of infants in shellfish costumes to our heart's content.

Our insatiable thirst for knowledge and/or schadenfreude comes at a cost. Who will provide this endless stream of content? Where can newspapers and webpagsites generate fresh copy for the teeming masses ready to fisk at the first scent of laziness? How can sports editors embrace their inner messageboard mouthbreather and scream "FIRST"? Easy: fill up on prospects.

Just as developing and retaining high-level prospects became integral to the success of most Major League baseball clubs, fans interest in the progress of their team's Next Big Thing grew. Once isolated in far-flung corners of corn states and forgotten burghs; fans can now monitor the Second Coming of Aging Player X over the internet; breaking down performances while living and dying with every at bat. Nevermind that the kid is (likely) hung over and (definitely) smells of your kid sister's shower gel, the development of this instant millionaire is IMPORTANT! Only he can rescue your suffering franchise from the throes of mediocrity!

Enter the Arizona Fall League. A place once reserved for dusty scouts to watch rusty ballplayers do their meatmarket dance on dusty fields, the AFL is, suddenly, the focus of the non-playoff baseball world. ZOMG did you hear Stephen Strasburg made his professional debut? Send in the clowns!

And oh how the clowns have arrived. Major newspapers sending their A beat grunts to cover games that amount to public workouts. WoW favorite Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times is on site, reporting on Mariners prospects Dustin Ackley, Josh Fields, and Phillipe Aumont. That's what we're told anyway, smart money is on the Times sending Baker to get some sun before the rainy Northwestern winter lands him on 24 hour suicide watch.

That leaves us, the baseball nerds of the world, waiting with baited breath for the next report to surface or cryptic KLaw tweet to either confirm or deny our belief that big time prospect Jimmy Nocommand is going to save us all from replacement-level hell.

As Keith Law stated above, the AFL is not about results but the tools the players display. Keep that in mind when reading a breathless report from your local J-school graduate turned wizened talent evaluator. This is filler of the highest order, a way for newspapers to get more column inches out of their beat guys before the GM meetings kick off and In-N-Out season starts again in February. Let's do our best to keep our dreaming in check and be thankful the real baseball starts again tonight.

As we did last year for the playoffs, we're going to let you kids noodle around on the virtual blank canvas that is the Dabbleboard. Go knock yourselves out, but try to keep it safe for work so Chief Wahoo doesn't get kicked out of the bar.

UPDATE: The first board was deleted. This one should work. The whole point of this stupid thing was to not have to do any work. Damn you all.

This Guy Is Playing Golf Right Now: Shin Soo Choo

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Wandy Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Kris Liakos is sexy and you should either mail him some money or some port wine. He writes for Walkoff Walk whenever he can snatch some square's computer while their back is turned.

Talking about an athlete's contract year is well worn territory. A guy is about to become a free agent and every at bat/shot/reception is accompanied by the sound of a slot machine unloading. There's nothing extraordinary about it, and despite what most old dudes would have you believe, there's nothing nefarious about it, either. It's human nature to perform with more focus when there's an incentive. But what about when the opposite happens?

What if no matter what a guy did this year, his country was gonna pull the conscription card and pluck him out of his career in the to join the military? In South Korea. Well that's what Shin Soo Choo could be dealing with next year, but had to start answering questions about this Spring.

Choo responded by being the brightest spot in a dismal Indians season, and (with apologies to Chan Ho Park in 2000) turning in the best MLB season by any South Korean in history.

Dude banged out 20 HRs and waltzed to a .394 OBP despite striking out 151 times. A K will not break your back, so let's be clear. He was the ONLY Indian with at least 20 HR and his 285 total bases were almost 60 more than the team runner up, Asdrubal Cabrera. Where would the Indians have been had Shin Soo Choo been taking target practice at a picture of fuckin' Kim-Jong Il? Somewhere worse than their 65-97 record, I'll tell you that much.

Word on the street is that Choo may avoid conscription and be able to stay here in the states. That's good news for him, and good news for the Indians who seem to be lacking any coherent plan for the future. Maybe they can convince the South Koreans to take Jake Westbrook. Just don't count on him to throw any grenades.

Choo!

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Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, shown above with a couple of other fruity loons, are separating. Their press flunky issued a statement that this is "a private matter" but screw them. Frank owns a baseball team and promoted his wife to CEO. Their intimate life is ours now. As per the AP article:

During the Dodgers' division series sweep of St. Louis, the McCourts didn't sit together in the owner's box behind home plate. She sat in the first row and he was in the third, often next to former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda.

Oh my god Tommy Lasorda has ruined another marriage! He's a homewrecking dago!

Note: this is just like when Jon and Kate broke up, except that ball-breaking wench Kate actually comes off as more likable than Jamie McCourt.

Tonight's Question

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  • WHAT are we supposed to do with ourselves between now and tomorrow night at 8PM?

Get your chores done tonight, kids. You'll be busy all weekend. Same WoW channel.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Grant MacDonald)

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Matt P over at the 700 Level takes umbrage with Dinger, the nightmarish purple triceratops-cum-Rockies mascot, for standing directly in the line of the pitcher's eye as the Phillies attempted to close out the ninth inning against Colorado on Monday night. In an attempt to distract the relievers, "Dinger" would wave his hands and spin his ridiculously oversized head as if he were a Duke undergrad trying to prevent Tyler Hansbrough from making a free throw.

But really, if Dinger wanted to distract Brad Lidge, he would hold up Affliction t-shirts and Papa Roach concert tickets. Go read Matt P's screed.

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Adrian Gonzalez, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Next up, Wandy Rodriguez, as written by Eric Nusbaum of Pitchers and Poets.

The Astros didn't finish "just shy" of the postseason. But they did finish only four games back of Cincinnati! And who do they have to thank for that? Lance Berkman? Roy Oswalt? I think not. They were carried to 74 wins by one Wandy Fulton Rodriguez.

The pitcher called Wandy entered 2009 with - at their most optimistic - manageable expectations. Win a dozen games, eat some innings, and try to do something about the eternally forlorn look on your oddly youthful face. But at thirty years old, Wandy did more than fill the middle of a middling rotation. He was (very, very quietly) one of the best left handed starters in baseball.

Before delving into the quirky awesomeness of the Magic Wandy (nickname per wikipedia), here are some 2009 numbers: 205.2 innings pitched; 193 strikeouts to 63 walks; an era+ of 138; and for the sabr-literate folks out there, Wandy's wins above replacement was 4.0, or fifth among all left-handed starters. Better lefty WAR numbers came only from sirs Lee, Lester, Sabathia, and Kershaw. In 20th century baseball, that's 14-12 3.02.

In all likelihood, Wandy is very near his ceiling; otherwise he has already busted his oddly shaped head against it. Back in May, Eric Seidman argued on FanGraphs that it's unlikely Wandy will ever become Mark Buehrle. Well no, but who said he has to be? In every season since he burst forth from the depths of Houston's farm system wielding his magic curveball, Wandy has improved markedly. It's alright to not pitch with robotic consistency, especially if you're still improving into your late twenties and thirties. A little history lesson:

Wandy showed up in 2005, went 10-10 with an unprintable era, and even managed to lose a game one of the World Series in a so-so relief appearance for Roger Clemens. 2006 was summarily awful as well, but 2007 saw signs of something special. His K/BB ratio jumped from around 1.5 his first two seasons to 2.55, and his era dropped well over a run to 4.20. Had he stayed healthy in 2008, somebody might have written this article then. But alas, Wandy's season was cut short by injury despite improvements in basically every category known to man.

Then came 2009 and the quiet but undeniable effectiveness. So how did Wandy improve so much? Why did he do so well this year? One theory is the presence of a new catcher in Pudge Rodriguez. In one interview, Wandy claimed that Pudge helps by giving him a "big target." Helpful, but maybe not quite the mind-blowing wisdom those veteran gold-glove catchers are supposed to impart. Plus, Wandy came up with Brad Ausmus, who is by no means a slouch when it comes to handling a glove and a pitching staff.

Did his stuff get suddenly better? Not really. Wandy has a single exceptional pitch: one of those crazy swooping left handed curveballs that won Barry Zito a Cy Young award and once allowed Kazuhisa Ishii to win 14 games as a rookie despite leading the NL in walks. Otherwise, he started throwing a changeup more often and more effectively this year. Listed at 5-11 and 160, it's no shock that his fastball isn't blowing any minds.

So what it comes down to is that in 2008 and especially 2009, Wandy Rodriguez threw strikes. He walked fewer batters and struck out more. It's impossible to say whether his performance will continue to improve, or whether Wandy has reached a plateau. But no signs point to any kind of a slowdown. It isn't a fluke. He might be 30, and he might never be a star (or Mark Buehrle for that matter), but the man deserves, if not effusive praise, America's begrudged respect. There's a pitcher called Wandy in Houston. Take note.

Eric Nusbaum writes at Pitchers & Poets and helped create the Rogue's Baseball Index

(Photo via Flickr user ThisIsNotApril)

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Umpires have been getting a bad rap this postseason. In his piece for the Wall Street Journal, Jonah Keri posed the question, "Do we need umpires?" and if not, what would replace them? Simply, the answer is robots. Or not. Instead, baseball might consider introducing new technologies that would either aid or replace the human element of calling balls and strikes, fair balls and foul balls, and tossing Milton Bradley and Bobby Cox from games.

Keri mentions tennis as a sport that has blended technology with human judgment:

By all accounts it would be silly to do away with umpires entirely. Even with limitless replays there could still be calls that can't be made. Even if technology could be improved to cover line calls and close plays at first base, someone would have to be on hand in case the system crashed. Grand Slam tennis tournaments use Hawk-Eye, a computer system that tracks the lines with digital cameras but still keeps officials on the court to make final decisions.

To really get it right, baseball would have to put sensors everywhere--from cleats and gloves to the baseball itself. In addition, any diminution of the role of umpires would have to make it through the umpires union, the World Umpires Association.

Ah, the umpire union, the true antagonist to all that is good and holy in the honest sport of baseball. Some folks are more harsh with their criticism but Keri is merely exploring the issue: do we need umpires when they only get 95% of balls and strikes calls correct?

It's close but it's not perfect. Umpires need to continue to be evaluated each off-season for their ability to have a consistent strike zone, and the Zone Evaluation tool should be used to educate and improve, not to shame. But when we look at fair/foul calls and close plays at first base; or home run calls and outfielder traps, umpires get so many calls correct it's almost ridiculous to look at the isolated mistakes, like the one Phil Cuzzi made on Joe Mauer's would-be double.

Ideally, no incorrect calls would be made and the specter of Don Denkinger would be lifted from the game forever. If we were to add technology to correct the few mistakes, it should not be something that eliminates umpires, but rather adds a fifth umpire for every regular season game and a seventh for the postseason. Every single MLB game should have a dedicated umpire in a isolated, dark room full of TV sets that will review every single play and wirelessly communicate with the crew chief if any egregious mistakes were made. Everybody wins from this solution: teams get the right calls made, umpires get more jobs, and Bud Selig will earn the respect of the fans for another creative advancement in the game.

To merely say that umpires are inconsistent and need to be replaced is to completely miss the boat on why they got into the job in the first place: these men and women love the sport and want to preserve its soul. They are the defenders of all that is honest and gentlemanly about baseball, devoting their lives to upholding the rules and the spirit of a game that has changed very little over the past 150 years. To simply dismiss someone who toiled in low-A ball for years with low pay just for the chance to make the big leagues is simply inhuman.

Tonight's Questions

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  • WHO deserves to win the big postseason awards? Make your voice heard via the Internet Baseball Awards.

  • DO you want to participate in something called "WoW Fantasy Basketball"? Drew is running the league and has a few spots open for tomorrow night's big draft; email him at (lloyd at walkoffwalk dot com) if you are interested.

  • IS there anything funnier than the marriage of baseball and LOLcats? I say no.

  • GOT some extra money laying around? Invest in Los Angeles-based party streamer manufacturers, says this egghead.

Tomorrow: more "This Guy Is Playing Golf Right Now", and hopefully some other filler goodness to carry us to Thursday night's NLCS Game One. See you then, same WoW channel.

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Courtesy of Can't Stop The Bleeding comes this link to Dibble Baseball, the official online store of the 1990 NLCS co-MVP.

Not only does Rob Dibble really have t-shirt design down, he also knows pricing: The t-shirt on the left is $40 (or $65 with Rob's signature), while the baseball jersey on the right is $70 ($95 signed). I once bought the signature of former WWF wrestler Virgil for $20, so I think the Rob Dibble signature price is pretty on the mark.

With their low price point I'm pretty sure these t-shirts are almost sold out, so you might want to snatch some up now. Think nasty!

...because the guy they'd be sending to the mound is probably exhausted from all the endorsements he's been doing since last October:


Jeez, I didn't realize such milquetoast dorks drove Camaros.

(via Disney World Blogger Meech)

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Pablo Sandoval, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Next up, Adrian Gonzalez, as written by Adam, aka Phony Gwynn.

Does anybody know a quality masseuse in Southern California/Northern Mexico? They have to be really, really good because Adrian Gonzalez is sore. Sore from chasing his brother Edgar to the hospital. Sore from painstakingly grooming his goatee. Oh, and sore from carrying the Padres' offense for the third straight year. Being a Mexican-American Sisyphus ain't easy, y'all.

Okay, so, I know the Padres weren't "just shy" of making the playoffs. But despite a noticeable lack of - what's that word? - talent, Bud Black's boys scrapped and fought their way to 75 wins and a fourth-place finish, something only the craziest and handsomest of bloggers would've predicted before the season.

Thus, if you're a Padres fan, there's only one thing the announcers can say that is music to your ears: "Adrian Gonzalez comes to the plate." If you hear that, some kind of Herculean feat awaits. Gonzalez missed his third-straight 100 RBI year by just one little sac fly, one duck snort, one measly groundout to second with a runner on third and one out. In other words he had the same number of RBIs as another southpaw slugger with a last name that ends in 'z': David Ortiz. You remember David Ortiz, right? He was pulled out of the Witness Protection Program in late June after missing the first 2 1/2 months of the season bouncing at a nightclub in Peoria, Illinois.

Now how could a guy belt 40 tater tots and not drive in 100? Quick rundown: the Padres were last in the NL in BA and SLG, 15th in OPS and 12th in OBP. David Eckstein was fourth on this team in RBI. Let that sink in for a second. Roll it around on your tongue. Taste the shame.

So when a guy can walk more than he strikes out (including 22 intentional walks, natch), post a .958 OPS, a 163 OPS+, and throw up a .402 wOBA in a park that should be run by the federal government - not to mention play Gold Glove defense - all for the bargain-basement price of just over $3 million a year, it's easy to see why teams like the Red Sox were lining up at the deadline to acquire him. I bet that smooth, oppo-field power swing would look good shooting balls over the Monster, eh Kris?

But for now he's a Padre, for better or worse. We're lucky to have him, no matter how long it lasts. Let's just hope this story has a happy ending.

Phony Gwynn writes at And Here Come the Pretzels and is an unabashed Padres fan living on the wrong coast

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user San Diego Shooter)

LDS Day Six: The Reckoning

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And on the seventh day, we all rested. The League Division Series lasted a seemingly short six days this year with three of four series ending in a tidy sweep and the fourth taking but one extra game. Despite the utter dominance of the winners in the end results, almost every individual game was close; so tight, indeed, that all four clinching games featured a blown save by the losing closer in the ninth inning. (as per 'Duk).

So who better to feature today than those four closers? Last night, Rockies reliever Huston Street, who recorded 35 saves in 37 chances with his good 0.91 WHIP during the regular season, came out in the ninth inning for the second day in a row. This time staked to a two-run lead, Street struck out pinch hitter Greg Dobbs for the first out before Jimmy Rollins singled. Shane Victorino reached on a fielders choice and then Street walked Chase Utley on a full count.

At this point, with lefty world-beater Ryan Howard strolling to the plate, any sane manager would have relieved Street with a southpaw specialist to neutralize Howard's power. Jim Tracy is not necessarily such a creature. Instead of calling on Joe Beimel, Tracy stuck with Street. Howard smashed a double off the right field wall hard enough to score both runners and Jayson Werth followed with the go-ahead single. Street was finally pulled, but the day and the season were lost.

Throw Street into the same pot as Jonathan Papelbon, Joe Nathan, and Ryan Franklin (yes, he blew the save, not Matt Holliday) and you've got a fearsome foursome of folks who famously failed to finish. Shutdown closers are something we take for granted when we see a guy go a year with only a handful of blown saves. A two-run lead can sometimes seem insurmountable when a guy like Nathan is striking out more than a dude per inning, but then something like A-Rod's bat gets in the way, and your day is lost.

Face it, closers are fruitcakes in general and nobody, not even Mariano Rivera, is a sure thing. World champions aren't normally made by preserving one or two run leads in the ninth inning, they're made by blowing your opponent out in the first eight innings and then hoping for the best in the end.

Cliff Lee and Ubaldo Jimenez match wits in a "win or stay home" game for the Rockies. Imagine that, trying your hardest to win a game for the chance to get on a plane and fly to Philadelphia.

That reminds me of a pie-eating contest I once entered, where first prize was a free night in Cleveland. The runner-up won two free nights in Cleveland. /rimshot


Who Would Jesus Boo?

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swingingfriar.png I'm sure we've all been to a baseball game where we wished the people around us were a little quieter. There are plenty of boors -- who usually seem to not understand how the game of baseball is played -- who yell stupid, occasionally racist things at the players, other fans, the umpire, whoever. Don't get me wrong: I love a good heckle, and I understand sometimes emotions get the best of you and you curse when you're not supposed to. Just don't be super annoying, non-stop.

That's not to say, though, that I want a baseball game to be like church. Ballpark food is way better than communion wafers (and, depending on how much one tithes, it's cheaper). Second off, you have to kneel at church, you can't yell out anything but "Amen" or "Praise the Lord!" and long sermons are way longer than any break for instant replay would be. But apparently some people, like "Philadelphia Christian Perspectives Examiner" Lisa Small on the always-hilarious Examiner.com, wish baseball were more like church. Apparently Lisa spends a lot of time thinking about Christian perspectives on rooting for the home team, like during her trip to Game 2 of this year's NLDS in Philadelphia:

My mind was being flooded with thoughts about how fanatical these fans were about the Phillies and I wondered how fanatical they are about our God and Creator. Given what I saw, I thought this was a legitimate question. My intention wasn't to criticize or judge anyone but to simply question how long would these fans sit and get excited over a discussion about our Lord?

I know church attendance is down, but I'm still pretty sure Jesus is more popular than baseball. A politician who isn't a fan of baseball could maybe get elected president; a politician who isn't a fan of Jesus would probably be tarred and feathered.

But I think I'm getting off track here. I think the real question is: What does God think about throwing back home run balls from the other team?

Worldly competition contradicts what Jesus teaches. I was taken back when the Colorado Rockies hit a home run and the Phillies fan who caught the ball threw it back onto the field. I questioned my husband about this and asked him why they would do that? He said they do this because they don't want to keep the ball that represents the opposing team's home run. This reaction demonstrated the kind of sportsmanship we breed and even the lack of love, if you want to go deeper into it. Even if the Rockies were our enemies, we are to love them. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not hate them. I know that hate is a strong word and that many would say they don't hate the opposing team, they are just rooting for theirs. I understand the difference, however, does God differentiate?

I don't know. Isn't God all-knowing and all-powerful? I'm pretty sure an omnipotent creator knows that when I want the umpires to get the calls right at home plate I don't actually hate his guts or want him dead. But maybe she's right, and Chicago Cubs fans will spend an eternity in Hell because they throw home run balls back. This seems like adequate punishment for following the Cubs, actually.

The activity was constant and every second was filled with either a boo, a jump to your feet, making noise, watching the "kiss cam", the "flex cam", being on the "kiss cam" or "flex cam", or waving the rally towel, the symbol of the Fightin' Phils which, by the way, replaced the wave.

I'm not sure how this is un-Christian, but I do think church would be a lot more popular if it had a flex cam and a kiss cam.

Our pal Troy from West Virginia, noted Dodgers fan and occassional stalker, has penned perhaps the greatest baseball parody song in the history of baseball parody songs to taunt Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday. Have a listen:


"Drilled in the gnads, Matt Holliday!" Never has a lyric been written with such care and genius! He's a true wordsmith and songwriting master. That song sounds like it came right out of the Brill Building circa 1965 and Troy is the new generation's Burt Bacharach.

(via Diamond Notes, natch)

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I don't care how many Martinezes and Rodriguezes you have on your team, you simply cannot succeed in baseball without a talented guinea somewhere on your roster, even if it's just Sal Fasano as your bullpen catcher. That's why today, on this most sacred Columbus Day holiday, we celebrate the dagos in Major League Baseball history, from the Tony Conigliarios of yesteryear to the Jarrod Saltalamacchias of today, from the Dom DiMaggios of days gone by to the Jason Giambis currently fighting for their postseason lives.

Even most of the managers who take their teams to the promised land are of Italian-American descent! Look at who gets to celebrate their victories and commiserate their losses over a nice bowl of pasta fagioli and some spicy soppressata: Angels skipper Mike Scioscia, Cardinals consigliere Tony La Russa, Dodgers manager Joe Torre, Yankees head honcho Joe Girardi and even Red Sox capo Terry "Finocchio" Francona.

The Italians have a saying, "A tavola, non s'invecchia" which means "At the table, we do not age." It's true, just look at frequent patron of the pasta plate Tommy Lasorda. He hasn't aged a bit since 1985.

Salut!

pandawatch.jpgAs the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Javier Vazquez, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Next up, Pablo Sandoval, as written by Drew Fairservice.

That Pablo Sandoval was the best offensive player on the Giants was, in and of itself, not much of a feat. The Giants offense was terrible bordering on will-to-live-crushingly bad. The brilliance of their pitching staff was offset and canceled out by the putridity of their offense. But in the middle of their order, in the middle of Bruce Bochy's pathetic coddling of mediocre veteran players, sat the man they call Panda. The Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval.

The cliche barrel usually needs a refilling after an article on Pablo Sandoval. His jolly (read: fat) build makes for much discussion of his joy and/or free-spirited ways. "He's just having fun out there!" is as familiar a refrain as "Bengie Molina ate my ribs" or "Timmy stole my knit cap" when you get around the Giants. The Panda and the Skinny Skater Kid have completely re-invigorated the Giants fanbase, allowing local columnists to go crazy and make outrageous comparisons. That's never a bad idea! (From the SF Chronicle)

On the Excitement Meter, Sandoval bumps the needle higher than any Giant since the young Barry Bonds. To find a Giant with Sandoval's kid-like enthusiasm and joy for the game, say hey, you might have to go back to Willie. Read more:

There we go! Willie Mays! That's fair.

Pablo Sandoval's numbers are much better than fair. They're worth getting excited about. 25 home runs, .396 wOBA, a tidy .943 OPS all accrued in a decidedly pitcher-friendly park. Panda puts up excellent numbers while battling with the demons known as reckless free-swinging. Oh the demons haunt Pablo, the demons perch on his shoulder and whisper "Swing, swing at them all! You can reach it!" So Pablo swung. Near or far he offered at them all.

But he fought and battled his demons. He reduced his out of zone swings from 41.5% in April to 33.5% by September. He learned to work a count and learned to talk a walk, finishing the season with a nearly respectable 8.3% walk rate. More than 12% of his PAs finished in walks for the September, where he really put his new-found patience to good use during the Giants aborted run to the post season.

In addition to being good and fun, Pablo Sandoval also gets to be young and clutch. Too things that you can't control too well on your own but sure appreciate once you've lost them. Sandoval lead his team in win probability added as well as improving his output with the pressure was on. He hit the game-winning home run on the last day of the season and added numerous other walkoff and/or high leverage contributions.

One question nags though: with the Panda's pledge to lose weight over the winter and his increasingly patient ways, does he lose what makes him the Kung Fu Panda? Does he just become another good baseball player with a high batting average on balls in play? Was he lucky this year, with only his righteous fatness buoying his considerable fortunes? In a word, no. Fat or skinny, good or average, fun dudes to hang out with are always going to be fun. Charismatic or energetic dudes will always attract attention and attract fans.

That is what the Panda is, and what he means. He doesn't have to be fat (though it does help the large cuddly bear allusions) and he doesn't have disdain walking. Just having a high-level player who isn't a polished corporate robot is more than enough for most fans, the excellent offense is just icing on the calorie-reduced cake.

AP image courtesy of McCovey Chronicles, who are good people.

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With the Yankees and Dodgers and Angels completing their sweeps over their respective opponents over the weekend, we're down to one division series to analyze. For now, let's look at three folks from yesterday who contributed to their team's success and/or demise:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: What's that? Wasn't Jonathan Papelbon the dude who blew the Red Sox lead with two outs and two strikes on three straight batters in the top of the ninth? Wasn't the parade of Angels hitters who drew walks and hits more important that the Red Sox center fielder? Shouldn't credit be given to Angels closer Brian Fuentes for actually doing a good job with a 1-2-3 ninth for the save? Why am I asking so many hypothetical questions? The fact remains, on Vlad Guerrero's bases loaded, two-run single to center that not only tied the game but gave the Angels the lead, Ellsbury was playing so deep in center field he could smell the exhaust on I-90. Ellsbury was so deep that there was no chance to catch a ball that, had he played in his normal spot, he would have held the Angels to just one run via sac fly and given the Sox another chance.

  • Nick Punto, Twins: The Twins played a risky game of aggressive baserunning all season long; sometimes it worked and sometimes the team fell flat on their face like Punto did last night. Nick Punto committed a conspicuous RIVERA, rounding third base through a stop sign in the eighth inning and killing a rally dead. Just like the Rays in 2008, the Twins lived and died via aggressive baserunning, finishing very high in extra bases taken but also high in outs recorded on the paths. Punto's RIVERA not only ruined a great chance of the Twins winning Game Three, he added to the Jeter Mystique.

  • Jerry Meals and Ron Kulpa, Umpires: Sheesh, do we have to keep talking about this? The Phillies scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning last night thanks to the rare double-missed-call on a Chase Utley "single". Utley smacked an infield hit that actually bounced off his leg; Meals missed the call at home. Rockies reliever Huston Street snagged the baseball and threw to Todd Helton at first just beating Utley; Kulpa blew that one by saying Helton was pulled off the bag. Folks, I've railed against instant replay in the past but all these egregious errors by umpires in the past week have really given fuel to Bud Selig's plan to round up and murder all the umps and replace them with computerized bionic baboons.

How would you like to shame my choices today?

whiteoutAZ.jpgA hastily assembled liveglog for a hastily reassembled schedule for this series. See you after the jump.
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For those of you not listening to FoWoWs Tuffy and Sussman over at the Treehouse Fort or watching Andy Rooney complain about Dominicans or enjoying Peyton Manning's dominance over the National Football League or having a nice Sunday supper of beef larb salad and lemongrass shrimp, this is your place to chit-chat about the Yankees and Twins ALDS game.

Lefty vet Andy Pettitte (who hasn't lost to the Twins since 2001) takes the mound for the Yanks while Carl Pavano continues his renaissance as an actual human being who does actual productive work for the Twins. Were the Yanks to win, we'll finally get to burn down the Metrodome but we'll be stuck with the Phillies and Rockies as the only battle left being fought. You gotta give and take, people.

Best of all, if you are all on your best behavior, Mr. Tuffy will amble back to Walkoff Walk at 10PM to liveglog the Rockies and Phillies game, but even though he's a Left Coaster, there's no guarantee he'll stay awake past the third inning.

Sunday Afternoon Liveblog Club: Angels at Red Sox, Game 3.

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Oh, hi there. Welcome to what could be the end of the line for my beloved Red Sox. If they get swept right out today, they deserve it. They've scored a measly one run in the series so far and Saints Lester and Beckett didn't turn in the incredible starts the team needed. If they do come back and take the series it'll be quite the dickpunch to Angel fans everywhere, and it'll all start here. In either case, we gotta get through today. So let's do it together, after the jump, in about 15 minutes. Also, I'll rant about Cardinal fans and clue you in to the ridiculous new cocktail I invented for today. See you then.
coldarch.jpgAs warned by blog co-proprietor Rob Iracane, Tuffy has refused to leave the guest house at WoW and is now running a rogue liveglog of tonight's sole baseball contest. Enjoy. Or not. Y'know, we're not the boss of you.

Tonight's outcome could continue the ongoing dread for TBS executives (and who amongst you isn't concerned with the well-being of TBS executives who foist Chip Caray on us?). The Dodgers could be done with their first-round work tonight if Vicente Padilla continues his adequacy since arriving in the Training Wheels League, leaving Drama's Sister without their second-biggest draw for another week.

The Cardinals will attempt to cut down on House of Payne reruns by jamming Joel Piñeiro on the rubber and hoping he sticks from effectiveness or cold (50 degrees at game time). Joel Piñeiro has an ERA over 5 since September 1. So that's a plan.

Onward: Belliard's in for Orlando Hudson, Tuffy's in for the duration, and hopefully you'll be able to join WoW for Dodgers v. Cardinals tonight. Get fisted after the jump.

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Two more close and exciting games to add to our little collection of 2009 playoff games went down last night. Let's look at the three folks who best (or worst) contributed to the outcomes of the games.

  • Phil Cuzzi, Umpires: Because Joe Nathan and the Twins fans have someone to blame for their abject failure to score runs. The Twins got on base twice as much as the Yankees did; in fact, the Yankees pitchers put 21 Twins on base via hit, walk, or hit batsman. You'd think the Twins would be able to plate more than just three of 'em, but alas, when a team's number two hitter plays like number two, it throws quite the monkey wrench into the situation. Orlando Cabrera went 0-for-5 and stranded five runners, two of 'em in scoring position late in the game. Delmon Young also went oh-fer and stranded five runners. And oh yeah, in that fateful inning when Cuzzi made a HORRENDOUSLY WRONG call on Joe Mauer's would-be double, the Twins wasted a keen bases-loaded, nobody-out situation.

  • Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: A-Rod led the day in WPA by swinging the game wildly in favor of the Yankees with his two-run tying tater tot in the ninth. Fella also added a run-scoring single in the sixth to tie up the game after the Twins drew first blood in the top half of the inning. I still don't think there any such thing as "clutch" as a measurable stat. To say that such-and-such is more clutch than so-and-so is merely observational bias and not truly reflective on the talents of poor Mr. So-and-So. But damn, A-Rod has been clutch in two straight playoff games. It needs to be noted.

  • Jered Weaver, Angels: How is it that the mighty Red Sox have been held to but one run in two games out in Anaheim? No disrespect to John Lackey and Jered Weaver or the Angels defensive unit, but this is a Boston team that finished 3rd in scoring in all the land. Weaver, like Lackey the night before, pitched into the eighth inning and held the Sox at check. Just two hits, two walks, seven strikeouts and one measly run. The only Sock to produce, Jacoby Ellsbury and his two hits and run scored, still struck out twice in the game. With a batting average of .131 (8-for-61) so far in this series, our next "Most Important People" may well be Sunday's starter Scott Kazmir.

Who did I miss?

Join J from 3:10 to Joba as he liveglogs the Twins and Yankees in game two of their ALDS contest. Please be gentle, it's his first WoW liveglog. No matter what, we've got A.J. Burnett! Jose Molina! Joe Mauer! Nick "GASM" Blackburn! It's Oktoberfest in the Bronx:


Weekend Questions

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Be back here at 6PM for the Yankees-Twins liveglog and then we'll have something up for the 9:30 game in which you can register your pleasures and/or displeasures. We'll do the same for the weekend games, but may get a special guest glogger at any moment. Who knows! Be back here always. Same WoW channel.

(World Series score-watching crowd photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

The 1982 World Series featured the Brewers and the Cardinals, back before the two teams shared a division. But more importantly, the 1982 World Series feature awesome laser graphics and a neat disco-dancin' intro, before ABC decided to tone down the Studio 54 a bit in 1983 and play some real snoozy music. Zzzzz.


And hey, an advertisement for Colecovision and a young Dick Enberg. Oh my!

BONUS UNEMBEDDABLE VIDEO: Babe Ruth plays the field, eight whole seconds worth, the only known footage of Ruth playing defense and accumulating a huge negative UZR.

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Russell Branyan, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Next up, Javier Vazquez as written by the Manchester Union Leader's Brian MacPherson, also of One if by Land

It's almost a knee-jerk reaction in Atlanta. Walk into your friendly neighborhood Publix and hang out in the produce aisle and mention the name "Javier Vazquez," and the reaction you get will be almost unanimous: Trade him. Trade him. Trade him. Trade him.

Well, OK, the Braves have a chance to go into next season with an overflowing starting rotation. Tommy Hanson is a stud. Jair Jurrjens is a stud. Tim Hudson has stud-like symptoms. Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe are st--, well, they're signed to lucrative deals through 2011 and 2012, respectively.

The Braves need a bat. The Braves have pitching to spare. Vazquez isn't young and isn't locked into a lengthy deal that ruins his trade value.

It only makes sense: Trade him.

But there are two issues with this:

  1. As Robert Moses Grove once said after descending from Mount ShibePark, thou shalt not ever have too much pitching. Thou also shalt covet thy neighbor's pitching even if thou shalt be blessed with too much pitching.
  2. Javier Vazquez was one of the best pitchers in the National League this season.

"I'm not going to play GM," third baseman Chipper Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm just going to give you my opinion on it: Javier Vazquez needs to be on this team next year. I think we'd all be disappointed if he wasn't."

Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum and Adam Wainwright will dominate Cy Young voting this season, but if you believe in the idea that pitchers only can control walks, strikeouts and home runs, there wasn't a better pitcher in the National League this season than Vazquez.

No Senior Circuit pitcher other than Vazquez had more than 200 strikeouts this season while issuing fewer than 50 walks and surrendering fewer than 25 home runs. Not one. Not Carpenter, who struck out just 144. Not Lincecum, who walked 68. Not Wainwright, who walked 66.

Vazquez struck out 238 and walked just 44. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.41 was far and away better than any other pitcher in the National League - except Arizona's Dan Haren, who, incidentally, gave up 27 home runs.

In his career in the National League, Vazquez has a 4.02 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3.5. Combining Vazquez with Jurrjens and a full season from Hanson, the Braves could go into next season with the best starting rotation in the major leagues.

Frank Wren, it would behoove you to Heed the Advice of Chipper: If you have World Series aspirations next season, hang onto Javier Vazquez.

Brian MacPherson is a sports writer for the Manchester Union Leader and blogs about Boston sports at his fine blog One If By Land

(Photo courtesy of Chris J. Nelson)

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If you watched every minute of all three games yesterday, I salute you. If you followed along with all three of our liveglogs, then I think you need an intervention. No more drinking red wine out of soda cans, fella. Speaking of which, thanks to Tuffy and Sooze for doing such great work in their respective glogs.

Let's take a gander at three individuals who, for better or worse, made a big difference in whether or not their teams succeeded:

  • Matt Holliday, Cardinals: Yes, Holliday made an error. Yes, Holliday should have easily caught that line drive that would have ended the game. Yes, that single glaring misplay will cause the entire city of St. Louis to cast Holliday out as a pariah, sending him to the welcoming arms of Yankees fans next season. But only an impassioned and narrow-minded Cardinals fan would look at the Cards' loss and focus their blame entirely on Holliday. After all, reliever Ryan Franklin gave up the game-tying hit in the inning, then loaded the bases on walks, and gave up the game-winning hit as well. The Cards hitters put 11 runners on base but could only plate two. Tony La Russa was seen picking his nose on the dugout cam. You gotta spread the blame around! But this will always be remembered as the game Matt Holliday tried to catch a baseball with his taint; let it be so.

  • Heidi Strobel, Hamels Family: Sure, Cole Hamels had an ineffective start and yes, he wasn't pulled from the game because his reality-show wife was going into labor. But Heidi was indeed going into labor and Cole had his bags pulled from the team charter so he could rush out to the hospital once he learned the news. Was the pending birth in the back of Hamels' mind all day? Probably. Did that cause him to struggle on the mound? Doubtful. Cole Hamels is a professional pitcher. I can't pretend to know what goes on inside that head, but this is a dude with a 2.26 ERA and 37 K in 41 career postseason innings. As a professional, we can only hope that he separates his personal life from his workaday life on the mound; but then again, all Cole ever wanted was little babies romping on his bed.

  • John Lackey, Angels: Seven innings pitched, four hits, four Ks, one walk, no runs against the hard-hitting Red Sox lineup. Retired Dustin Pedroia on a simple fly out after "Country" Joe West extended the third inning by calling a catcher's interference call. First postseason win for Lackey since the 2002 World Series. First time the Angels have ever won game one of an ALDS series. Like the cheesy backdrop behind the centerfield wall in Angels Stadium, Lackey is the rock of the team.
500x_adenhart.jpgMaking your way to the playoffs today takes everything you've got
Taking a spot in the final eight teams sure would help a lot

Wouldn't you like to beat LA?
Or a place 30 miles away?

Where your team inflicts the pain
And the monkey's quite insane
You wanna be where you can see
The Red Sox win all the games
You wanna be where everybody knows
Gary Matthews' shame.



(The establishment thanks you in advance for being kind enough to drink at home tonight. Liveglog after the jump.)

wtf.jpgWhats up homies. I get the opportunity to liveglog the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dogers this evening, who will face eachother in Game 2 of their NL Division Series.

Let me start off by alerting you to a few hazarous shortcomings I'm dealing with, aside from the obvious. My dog leaped on top of my computer this morning an broke the letter D off. I put it back on, but now I have to push on it really hard to get it to work. Also, I have a limited number of refreshments. But baseball, so yay!

T-minus whenever the hell this other game is over to liveglog goodness.

Your starting pitchers for this evening's playoff game are Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers, who owns a 2.79 ERA with a nice round 8-8 record, against Adam Wainwright for the Cards. Wainwright is making his very first postseason start tonight, after ending the regular season with an impressive 19-8 record and 2.63 ERA.

In addition to starters Cole Hamels and Aaron Cook, the teams will employ the same lineups today, with one exception. Manager Jim Tracy rubbed Brad Hawpe right out and replaced him with the more adept fielder Ryan Spilborghs. Hopefully, that's one fewer miasmic defensive woe the Rockies have to worry about today. Onto the glog:


Quickly:

  • Rockies at Philies, 2:30PM - Rob
  • Cardinals at Dodgers, 6PM - Sooze
  • Red Sox at Angels, 9:30PM - Tuffy
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Baseball runs in the Giles family. So, allegedly, does that other great American pastime of spouse-smacking. Young Marcus emulated older brother Brian by allegedly assaulting his wife; he was arrested yesterday for domestic battery and taken into custody. But the act itself isn't quite as interesting as the venue:

El Cajon Police Acting Lt. Fenton Sue said officers were called to eastbound Interstate 8 at Greenfield Drive at 3:20 a.m. by the California Highway Patrol. The CHP officers were with Giles, 31, and his wife Tracy, 30, who were in a vehicle parked on the shoulder of the freeway , Sue said.

Giles' wife told officers she was making a citizen's arrest on her husband for battery, Sue said. The incident happened near the intersection of I-8 and state Route 67, Sue said.

Arrested on the shoulder of a highway! Classy! It seems like every wacky occurrence in Marcus Giles life happens on the road. He's like Jack Kerouac, but a total and complete dullard. Recall this incident last April when Giles was offered a minor league deal by the infielder-thirsty Los Angeles Dodgers. Yes, I am going to blockquote myself:

Giles accepted, got in his car, and started driving towards the triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas. Somewhere along the line, though, he changed his mind, turned around, and went home. Why? Maybe he has a gambling problem and knew being in Las Vegas was too risky. Maybe he realized his fear of Larry Bowa. Or maybe he doesn't want to end up sleeping with Alyssa Milano.

Zing! Alyssa Milano jokes are always relevant.

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Ben Zobrist, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Next up, Russell Branyan, as written by our pal J from 3:10 to Joba

You are Russell Branyan. In the Year of our Lord, 1998, you made your debut for the Cleveland Indians. Since that fateful September 26th, you have epitomized the term "journeyman" by playing for 8 different teams (some more than once!) to date. In 2001 and 2002, you saw your power numbers increase to new productive levels (16 and 24 dingers respectively), making people believe in your prospect hype that you were the next coming of Mark McGwire. But then the merry-go-round of new uniforms started and things just weren't quite the same. Playing for the Padres and suffering from the occasional injury in 2003, 2005, and 2008 will do that to you, I hear.

However, this year, you vowed things would be different. This year, you promised to force yourself into a team's everyday lineup to show that you were more than just a utility player. You wanted to show the doubters that you could hit quite well, perhaps even better than before, thank you. And that's just what you did by posting a respectable .251 average, a career high 31 homers, and a superb 128 OPS+, all while racking up the most plate appearances, 551, in your entire career. In putting up these numbers, you played a big role in the resurgence of the Mariners back to relevance and made new GM / enemy to spell-checker the world over, Jack Zduriencik look wise beyond his years.

Now the only question is, "What took you so long, dude?" You see, it would appear that Branyan and another hero of this wonderful golfing series, Ben Zobrist, suffer from the same problem, what can best be called "the inexplicable" or "organizational stupidity." To the nerd cave!

If we toss out Branyan's 1998 and 1999 numbers due to lack of plate appearances, you will see that he has wOBA'd above .320 every year to the tune of a .349 career mark in that department. In that same time period, he has posted an OPS+ below 100 exactly once. Say what?

Obviously these numbers aren't Pujols-ian in stature, but it's certainly light years ahead of say, the useless Tony Womack. So it would appear that, like Zobrist, the guy has always been a pretty good hitter, and he definitely showed flashes of power production before being relegated to bench obscurity. In other words, there's really no reason (aside from injury) that Branyan shouldn't have been getting consistent playing time at the major league level, especially against the right-handed pitchers that the fella has killed over his career. But alas, he wasn't given that chance, and a potentially strong asset was left wallowing on the pine until the GM with the complicated surname decided to actually attempt to improve his team and take a flyer on the former big name prospect.

Once given that opportunity for the Mariners, Branyan responded with respectable walk rates, a lower strikeout rate than in the earlier years of his career and started making more contact. With a career HR/FB rate of 21.9%, it's no wonder that more ABs and more contact soon led to balls leaving the park and often doing so in an alarmingly mighty fashion.

So hats off to you Mr. Branyan for your unheralded season, and to you Mr. Zduriencik for reintroducing the man they call "Russell the Muscle" to the baseball world.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Keith Allison)

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Giving credence to the idea that a home field advantage helps wins championships, all three home teams won their LDS games yesterday and took a tidy 1-0 lead in their best-of-five series. The Phillies topped the Rockies 5-1 in a game marred by umpiring mistakes and some wacky windy weather. The Yankees beat the Twins behind solid pitching and sexy line drive hitting. The Dodgers upended the Cardinals despite both teams leaving enough runners on base to fill out the entire cast of West Side Story. Yes, both the Jets and the Sharks and Officer Krupke.

Let's take a gander at three individuals who, for better or worse, made a big difference in whether or not their teams succeeded:

  • Yadier Molina, Cardinals: What is it with catchers this week? First, Tigers backstop Gerald Laird leaves 10 runners on base in the tiebreaker loss to the Twins and now, Molina led the day with six stranded gentlemen. Molina strode to the plate five times and recorded only one hit; naturally the one hit came when no runners were on base. In the first inning and the bases loaded with a run already in, Molina killed an early rally with a GIDP. In the third, he flew out with two on. Fella struck out in the ninth with a runner on first and the team down but three runs.

  • Cliff Lee, Phillies: Clifton Phifer was cool under pressure in his first big-league postseason start despite the swirling Philly winds and the expectations from the WFC crowd. He pitched a complete game win over the hot Rockies and came within one strike and a Troy Tulowitzki double of recording a shutout. Lee struck out five and allowed six hits while walking nobody. Fella even had a single and a stolen base, the first ever by a Philly pitcher in the postseason. Lee's start-to-finish performance erased any worry that a bullpen member would blow that game up; the entire relief staff is now rested and waiting for Cole Hamels to leave the game after five innings today because he hates afternoon affairs.

  • Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: Just kidding, despite the fact that A-Rod recorded two big-time RBI, this final spot has to go to Captain Fantastic himself, Derek Jeter, who went two-for-two with two RBI, two walks, a tater tot, and three runs scored. Going four-for-four in reaching base is exactly the right way to be a leadoff hitter; take note, Jimmy Rollins. Sometimes it's good to watch some pitches fly by and draw a walk! Jeter didn't make any spectacular plays in the infield to help out his pal CC Sabathia; in fact, a couple grounders got by him and became singles. Time to go back for some more fitness training, Jeet.

So, who did I miss?

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, this film is on

  • WASN'T that a great liveglog of the Phillies and Rockies game? Thanks, D-Mac!

  • WILL the 50 MPH wind gusts in the Bronx tonight make the tater tots fly or keep them in the park? Either way, I'm bringing my winter hat.

  • MIGHT the Twins suffer from a bit of a hangover after last night's remarkable and remarkably tiring victory over the Tigers? I don't believe in momentum and I don't believe that tired teams struggle.

  • ARE you going to stay up and watch the late game out in Los Angeles? Our pal Drew is liveglogging that affair over at the Score.

Well, I spent the 2008 postseason rooting for close, fun games (and a little bit for the Phillies to win) since I didn't have a horse in the race, so the 2009 postseason as the co-proprietor of the Internet's 82nd most popular baseball blog should prove to be quite a new experience. Will I be a total obnoxious homer? Or will I provide you, the reader, with a thoughtful postseason baseball blog? Only time (and A.J. Burnett) will tell.

As you read this, I'm comfortably seated in Yankee Stadium, bundled up and ready for action. CC Sabathia may have failed me in the Bon Jovi bet but I am confident that his girth will propel his team to victory today. The Twins counter with Brian Duensing, who went to college with Joba Chamberlain, has never faced the Yankees, and in fact has never been to New York City until today. He's also never read James Joyce's Ulysses.

Feel free to chat about the game in this post, and head over to The Score afterwards to keep Drew company. See you tomorrow with wrap-ups, same WoW channel.

(Yankee Stadium photo courtesy of Flickr user ajagendorf25)

A while back Wezen-Ball posted a 1950 article that complained about the new breed of baseball player that didn't care about the team and only played for the money. "One of his greater ambitions in baseball is to endorse a cigarette," Bob Considine wrote in Baseball Digest, "though he might not smoke a pack during an entire season." In other words, the problem was not with endorsing cigarettes, but endorsing cigarettes without even being a smoker.

I think there's some truth to it, though. Endorsements mean a lot more when it's something the celebrity really loves. (In other words: Tony Stewart is right.) Check out the above ad with Ryan Howard and Jared Fogel for Subway. Ryan Howard lost a lot of weight this year, so clearly he's been eating Subway sandwiches instead of Whoppers.

How long will we be seeing Ryan Howard shill sandwiches this postseason? We'll find out a little bit today when the Phillies play the Rockies to open MLB's postseason. Join me at game-time after the jump for liveglog coverage.

Oktoberfest Party (Girl) #8

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Oh my gosh you guys.

click to see the joegasm in full forceThe Twins have completed their improbable run to the postseason, just a few weeks after sitting seven games behind the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers... not to mention being three games back with just four left to play. Yeah, that was historically bad ass.

HOW did this happen. If I was forced to give you just two words to explain, I'd say Michael Cuddyer. (You know, the cannon-armed right fielder who hit 32 home runs this season and replaced Justin Morneau at first base when the Canadian Crusher went down with a season-ending back injury? Cuddles is the shit.) But since Rob said I could type all I wanted on my favorite team in the whole wide world, I'll add the names Denard Span, Delmon Young, Orlando Cabrera, Jason Kubel and yes, 3-time AL Batting Champion, Joseph Patrick Man Muscles Mauer to the list.

Actually, the entire team has been a big part of this run. Top to bottom, from Span to Nick Punto, production has been their middle name. Slap singles, base-clearing doubles, bunting and running really, really fast, and suddenly, the addition of the old-fashioned home run rounds out their repertoire.

And that's just the offense.

Here is my impression of the casual Twins fan, complete with Frances McDormand voice-over, when it comes to the pitching situation: "Who are these yahoos on the mound? Brian Duensing? Never heard of him. Jeff Manship? That sure is a neat name. Bobby Keppel? Isn't he the toupee-wearing newscaster who wears too much makeup? Yah, that's him."

They went from having one of the best rotations in the division - Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, and Glen Perkins among them - to a who-the-heck-are-these-pitchers kind of staff by August, and it's worked out well. Nick Blackburn and Scott Baker are still hanging around while Carl Pavano has made for a snappy addition to the Manship/Duensing new guy combo.

Duensing, the rookie left-hander who's made only 9 starts in a big league uniform, will take the hill vs. big, fat, terrifying CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees tonight. As long as he doesn't get eaten, he should be okay. I have a feeling both teams will let the longballs do the talking, so Duensing needs to be on his best pitching behavior, which he totally will be.

So... you guys aren't convinced yet, are you. You think they're exhausted from the one-game playoff against the Tigers and that there's no way they can carry this momentum into New York City. Think again! They have Metrodome Magic on their side. Magic that we haven't seen since the days of Kent Hrbek, Dan Gladden, Kirby Puckett, Greg Gagne, and Jack MotherEffin' Morris.

Don't count out the Minnesota Nice. They're on a roll baseball rarely gets to see, and the only thing that can stop them is themselves... and a better team, which hopefully doesn't exist. Go Twins!
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Without too much pomp or circumstance, let's jump headfirst into some poorly-formed playoff predictions that have little basis in reality, because in a short series ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. It's true, even the Royals once won a World Series. Yeah, crazy thought, right?

Dan "Dmac" McQuade:

  • LDS: Red Sox over Angels in 3, Yankees over Twins in 4, Phillies over Rockies in 3, Dodgers over Cardinals in 5
  • LCS: Yankees over Red Sox in 5, Phillies over Dodgers in 6
  • WFS: Phillies over Yankees in 7

Drew "LtB" Fairservice:

  • LDS: Angels over Red Sox, Yankees over Twins, Philies over Rockies, Cards over Dodgers
  • LCS: Yankees over Angels, Phillies over Cardinals
  • WFS: Phillies over Yankees

Kris "Catshirt" Liakos:

  • LDS: Red Sox over Angels in 5, Yankees over Twins in 5, Rockies over Phillies in 3, Cardinals over Dodgers in 3
  • LCS: Red Sox over Yankees in 6, Cardinals over Rockies in 4
  • WFS: Red Sox over Cardinals in 4

Rob "Fruitbat" Iracane:

  • LDS: Red Sox over Angels, Yankees over Twins, Rockies over Phillies, Cardinals over Dodgers
  • LCS: Yankees over Red Sox, Cardinals over Rockies
  • WFS: Yankees over Cardinals

So that's two Phillies over Yankees picks in the World Series, one Red Sox over Cardinals, and one Yankees over Cardinals. Funny, the two of us who didn't pick the Phillies to win the World Series think they'll lose to the Rockies anyway.

I stand by my prediction that the Tigers would have won the World Series had they beaten the Twins last night. Such is the evil curse of the Metrodome, I suppose.

Feel free to add your own predictions in the comment section, or just harass us for our wacky choices.

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Previously, Adam Lind and Prince Fielder.

Next up, Ben Zobrist, as written by Jonah Keri.

The AL MVP debate that launched a thousand blog posts ended long ago. Other than Mark Teixeira's mom, South Bronx Vinny ("Hey Mike, first time, long time") and sportswriters whose baseball learning curve peaked in Cap Anson's prime, everyone's ready to hand the hardware to Joe Mauer.

Mauer led the AL in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. He's carried a team filled with black holes like Delmon Young and Nick Punto to a division title, the absence of his running mate Justin Morneau making the feat all the more impressive. If he hadn't missed the first month of the season, we might be talking about one of the best performances in major league history. As is, Mauer's '09 ranks with Mike Piazza's greatest hits among the best campaigns ever put up by a catcher.

Ben Zobrist was even better.

At least he was according to superawesome stats and analysis site FanGraphs.com. FanGraphs ranks every major league player using a measure called Wins Above Replacement. WAR combines a player's offensive and defensive value, adjusts for park effects, the position he plays and other factors, then weighs that player's value against your typical 25th man or waiver-wire refugee. A one-win player is a good relief pitcher, half-decent fifth starter or a low-end starting position player. A four-win player is All Star-caliber. Anything above that and you're elite.

Mauer was worth 8.2 Wins Above Replacement for the Twins, an astonishing number that's up there with Albert Pujols' best efforts. Yet Mauer ranked just 2nd in the AL, trailing Zobrist and his off-the-charts 8.5 WAR. Zobrist's season was so astonishing that he actually finished a tick above Pujols (8.51 vs. 8.46 WAR). That's right: Ben Freaking Zobrist, by one measure, is the best position player in the world this season.

Let's get some caveats out of the way first. FanGraphs ranks Zobrist's defense alone as more than two-and-a-half wins better than a fringe player. The stat used to measure that number is Ultimate Zone Rating, a solid defensive measuring tool that's up there with anything we have today. But just as you would want three years of ballpark data before compiling park effects numbers, so too does UZR work best when looked at over a three-year stretch. Meanwhile, Mauer gets dinged because catchers' defense is not counted in UZR. Zobrist is a very good defender at second base and right field. We probably shouldn't expect him to be a mix of Frank White and Roberto Clemente for the next 10 years, though.

With all that said, here's what we know about Zobrist. Tall, thin guy, utility infielder for years, always had a good batting eye and the ability to draw a walk, but never showed much power. Taking swings in a Nashville batting cage before the 2008 season, Zobrist met up with an eager young swing instructor named Jamie Cevallos. Cevallos wasn't a major league hitting coach, didn't have any major league clients and couldn't even get into a big league ballpark without a ticket. But Cevallos' approach clicked with his new pupil. Zobrist slugged 12 homers in 198 at-bats last season in part-time duty.

That was just the warm-up. Zobrist went nuts this season, hitting .297 AVG/.405 AVG/.543 SLG. Forget the numbers for a minute and consider his approach. Zobrist almost never swings at a bad pitch. When he gets one he likes, he hammers it. In the field, he proved invaluable, going from utility man to semi-regular right fielder to the team's starting second baseman when Akinori Iwamura hit the DL. He's been so good that Rays fans can't even settle on a nickname. His monikers have included BenZo, Zorilla, and my fave, Late-Inning Lightning -- so named for not only hitting homers this year, but doing so again and again in huge late-inning spots. His defense might not grace many highlight reels, but it's not unreasonable to expect an athletic converted shortstop to be a big asset with the glove in the foreseeable future.

The 2008 Rays were one of the best stories in recent major league history, going from a laughing stock that had never even had a winning season to AL champions. That Ben Zobrist heads into 2010 as arguably the team -- and the league's -- best player might be even more unlikely. Unlikely, but true.

Keep tabs on Jonah Keri's various writings at JonahKeri.com or email him at jonahkeri@gmail.com.

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user Keith Allison)

Please turn down your volume before enjoying this short video. Minnesotans are quite the vociferous bunch of louts:


Before last night, no team had lost a division lead of three games with four remaining and then not made the postseason. Thanks to the results of one of the single most exciting games in baseball history, the Tigers can now etch their names onto the eternal chokers' trophy alongside the 2007 Mets, the 1978 Red Sox, and the 1964 Phillies.

In a game that saw eleven pitching changes, eight pinch-hitters and pinch-runners, and countless utterances of the word "fisted" by Chip Caray, the Twins prevailed on an Alexi Casilla walkoff single in the bottom of the 12th. After a night of boozin', they'll head out to New York to take on the hated Yankees today. The Tigers will be left with thoughts of "what could have been".

Once Orlando Cabrera put the Twins up 4-3 in the seventh on a two-run tater tot, the game turned into a back-and-forth affair well into extra innings. Magglio Ordonez tied the game up in the eighth on a solo dong; both teams went scoreless in the ninth to send the game into extras.

In the tenth, Jesse Crain hit Aubrey Huff and Don Kelly pinch-ran for the hefty slugger. After Ryan Raburn struck out, Brandon Inge doubled to left and Kelly scored, mostly because Orlando Cabrera's relay throw to home had so little power behind it you'd have thought O-Cabs was powered by a hamster on a wheel.

No matter because Michael Cuddyer led off the bottom half of the tenth with an ill-begotten triple that sailed past a diving Ryan Raburn to the wall in left. He scored on a Matt Tolbert single to tie the game once again and send it to the eleventh. Neither team scored in that frame.

In the twelfth, Twins reliever Bobby Keppel loaded the bases with one out but escaped thanks to a well-placed Brandon Inge grounder and a Gerald Laird strikeout.

Then, in the bottom half of the inning, Jim Leyland refused to bring in his best pitcher and instead sent Fernando Rodney back to the mound for his fourth inning. Carlos Gomez singled, was sacrificed to second, and then scored the winning run on Ramirez' walkoff single.

Five hours later, the game was over. Both teams left twelve runners on base; remarkably, Gerald Laird was responsible for leaving a whopping ten Tigers stranded. Zach Miner gets charged with a blown save for allowing the Cabrera tot while Fernando Rodney, who threw 48 pitches for just the second time ever, took the loss.

If you get a chance to see this game again via replay, skip the first four innings and then sit back and enjoy one of the most classic affairs in baseball history. I was delirious and delusional by the end, but it was worth it.

UPDATE: Big League Stew compiled a top ten list of the best plays with links to MLB.com's video highlights. Go enjoy, you.

Tonight's Question

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  • Was that merely the best game this year or the best in the past ten years?

They say this is not a playoff game, it is merely the 163rd game of the regular season that serves to break a tie between two division leaders. I say p'shaw, this is too a playoff game, since the loser will get played off by Keyboard Cat. Join us below for the liveglog, friend.


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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

Next up, Adam Lind, as written by yours truly.

Forgive me for saying this, Blue Jays fans and Muncie, Indiana natives alike, but your blossoming super slugger Adam Lind reminds me of a young Jason Giambi. I am not implying any connection to steroids or golden thongs whatsoever, but to me, the similarity is uncanny.

Despite his absence from the New York baseball sphere of influence, Giambi remains one of my favorite players to follow. Few players can match his willingness or his ability to draw a walk and literally clog the bases with his barrel-chesty massiveness. Sometimes, he can even knock a dinger!

So when the Blue Jays hired Cito Gaston halfway through the 2008 campaign and brought on a new era of young mashers in Toronto, I immediately compared young Adam Lind to old Jason Giambi in my mind's eye. Their stats may not match up quite yet; Lind is nowhere near his prime, and Giambi may be nothing more than an over-hyped pinch-walker, but I was fascinated nonetheless.

Giambi made his name by mashing homers and using his keen eye to follow sliders right out of the strike zone, thus drawing walks with reckless abandon. Stop clogging the bases! This year, Lind took his next big boy steps towards becoming that Three True Outcomes guy.

Lind's on-base percentage improved from a poor .278 in his rookie campaign in 2007 to a mediocre .316 last year to a stout .370 this year. He's had the opportunity to watch more pitches whiz by his improving eye: he's seen more than a quarter more pitchers per at-bat in 2009 than he did last season. Most importantly, he kept his percentage of plate appearances ending in a strikeout constant while improving that walk rate. He's not watching fastballs burn him on the corner any worse than your average slugger.

Lind finished the year 4th in the AL in SLG (.562), 7th in OPS (.932) and 3rd in RBI (114). He ended up behind only Mark Teixeira in extra base hits thanks to his 35 homers and whopping 46 doubles. Unfortunately, his similarities to Giambi don't end with his plate patience. Fella simply cannot operate a glove with any adeptness. In 475 innings this season in left field, he made just 80 putouts and recorded but one assist. Fella will end up a first baseman or a designated hitter; luckily his bat is more than powerful enough to keep his value high. Powerful enough to hit three tater tots in a game, actually.

Even more excitingly, the man is totally cooking with gas:

"Throughout the summer, or basically from February until the beginning of October -- the end of October, maybe -- everything is made for you, so you kind of get sick of not getting to choose what you get to eat. When I get home, especially the first month and a half, I pretty much make every meal. My girlfriend enjoys cooking, too.

Well, his teammates worsening offense prevented any action deep into October, but at least he's got his All Clad cookware and imported olive oils to warm him up through those cold Muncie nights.

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More information has come out about Miguel Cabrera's late night drunken revelry that led to his wife's desperate 911 call. Turns out that the Tigers organization had banned him from the very bar that got him soused on mojitos Friday night because of an earlier incident.

Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers higher-ups told Cabrera he should not return to the Rugby Grille at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham (it has an 'e' at the end of the word 'grille'...it must be fancy!) because of his earlier misbehavior at the bar:

(In August) a man told Birmingham police that he and an unnamed teen encountered Cabrera at the Rugby Grille on Aug. 31 about 6:30 p.m. Cabrera allegedly asked the teen, who weighs about 300 pounds, "What's up, big boy? You need to work out,"

The teen then asked Cabrera to stop taunting him and said, "Let me be."

But it became confrontational, the man told police: Cabrera allegedly challenged the man and the teen. "'You don't know me or where I am from," he allegedly said. "Let's go right now. I'll fight both of you right now. Let's go outside." At one point, the man told police he felt that Cabrera intimated that he had a gun, saying he was going to go to his vehicle and get his "click-clack" and making a motion with his hands that he interpreted as the racking of a handgun.

Enormously oversized pot, meet enormously oversized kettle. It's just another case of someone with severe body issues dealing with his problems by lashing out at another fatty, or very similar to the time Babe Ruth went into a hitting slump and blamed it on that dastardly President Taft. Still, at least Miggy was picking on someone his own size. Maybe next time he'll avoid the Rugby Grille and hit up T.G.I. Friday's with Allen Iverson.

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Who says 5PM is an odd time to have a baseball game? Rare is the opportunity for us work-a-day folks to skip out early from the typewriter factory to get to our comfy couches and backless barstools and watch a Very Important Elimination Game. And if you choose to take in the game at your local watering hole, you'll make it in time for happy hour. Two dollar well margaritas for everyone!

The Twins and Tigers will play game number one-hundred and sixty-three to decide the winner of the American League Central; the winner hops on an airplane to Laguardia for some ethnic cuisine and to play the Yankees, while the loser whines about not even getting paid overtime for some lousy 5PM game in some dumpy stadium.

Your pitching matchup this evening features young Rick Porcello and less young Scott Baker. Besides the significant monetary difference in their signing bonuses, Porcello and Baker produce quite different results from their pitches. With a sinking fastball and 54% of balls in play coming on the ground, Porcello is one of the top 5 groundball pitchers in the league; Baker at 34% is in the bottom five.

Combine Porcello's affinity for wormballs with the Tigers top-notch infield defense and you've got an equation for success. Baker, however, led his team with 27 tater tots allowed as 10% of his fly balls allowed left the park. A couple ill-placed breaking balls in the strike zone and the Twins will find themselves behind early in their own house.

And yet another reason to tune in today: that dumpy stadium may be hosting its final baseball game today if the Tigers prevail. It might be your chance to say good bye to the Metrodome, which will be imploded immediately following the Twins' elimination from the postseason to make room for the world's largest Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Come back to Walkoff Walk at 5PM EDT and you can help us liveglog the proceedings, airing on TBS and featuring the dulcet tones of Chip Caray, the dullard tones of Ron Darling, and the never-dull jackets of sideline reporter Craig Sager. Yikes, I'd rather not drill a hole in his hotel wall to film the sartorial mess within.

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As the playoffs and award season gets underway, we want to take a gander at some players who had outstanding seasons in 2009 but whose teams ended up just shy of making the postseason and who will (most likely) not pick up any fancy trophies. Quite a consolation prize: a round of golf and a write-up on a low circulation sports blog.

First up, Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers as written by Larry Granillo of the blog Wezen Ball:

There's a certain feeling that crops up for many sports fans every year when awards-time comes around. Whether it's for the Hall of Fame, the All-Star game, or the annual post-season awards (MVP, ROY, etc), it's something that can't be avoided. It's the feeling that fans of a certain player or team get when they know that, although the player or team that they root for has had a season worth celebrating, it is not quite good enough to merit the award.

You hear it all the time: "Bonds is clearly the MVP this year, but it'd be nice if Beltran got some consideration" or "I don't think Harold Baines had a Hall of Fame career, but I'd like to see him stay on the ballot for a few years anyway." Call it the "consideration clause" or the "honorable mention". We as fans just don't like the "yes" or "no" nature of the "Is he a HOFer/MVP/All-Star?" question. There's a gray-area that we think needs to be filled in. Clearly there's no shame in not being the MVP in a year where Albert Pujols or Barry Bonds goes crazy, but the finality of the "no" is hard to get used to. So we try to qualify it, usually with something like "No, but I think he'll get some votes".

All of that is to say that, for Brewers fans, that's exactly how we're feeling about Prince Fielder this year. With Albert Pujols having another MVP season, Milwaukee fans really shouldn't be ashamed that Prince won't wind up with the hardware this year. But that doesn't mean that, when prompted, we won't give you all of the reasons why he could be the MVP if he didn't have the misfortune of competing against the best player in baseball every year. You can consider this post that argument - the lamentation of the silver medalist, if you will.

Here are Prince's final numbers: 46 HR, 141 RBI, 103 R, 110 BB, .299/.412/.602, 164 OPS+. It doesn't matter if you're a fan of the advanced or traditional stats - that's a fabulous line no matter what. He finishes second in the NL in home runs (one behind Pujols) and tied for first with Ryan Howard in RBIs. His walks are also good enough for fourth in the league, while the SLG, OPS and OPS+ numbers are second only to Pujols himself.

In many other years, any of those stats would be good enough for best in the league. As it stands now, it might just qualify him for best offensive season ever for a Brewer - though even that's not as clear-cut as you might imagine. The 141 RBIs and 110 walks are both easy club records (previous records were 126 and 99, respectively), while the 46 HRs are second only to Prince's previous career high set in 2007 (50 HR). The OBP and SLG numbers also put Prince in the top 5 of all-time Brewers seasons, while the OPS+ ties him for second. He is also the only player in the majors to play in all 162 games this season (and only fifth Brewer ever).

So who is Prince's main competition for best offensive season by a Brewer? There are some surprisingly strong seasons from a few unlikely sources - Tommy Harper hit 31 HRs with 104 Rs, 38 SBs, and a 146 OPS+ in 1970; Sixto Lexcano hit 28 HRs with 77 walks, 101 RBIs and a .321/.414/.573 line with a 164 OPS+ in 1979; Paul Molitor scored 114 runs with 41 doubles and a .353/.438/.566 line with a 161 OPS+ in only 118 games in 1987 (that's not all that surprising, I suppose) - but the answer shouldn't be a big shock. In 1982, Robin Yount had 29 HRs, 46 doubles, 210 Hs, 129 Rs, and 114 RBIs with a .331/.379/.578 slash line. Maybe that doesn't seem like as strong a season as Prince's 2009 at first, but, when you consider that it breaks down to 367 total bases (11 more than Prince) and a 166 OPS+, you realize just how fantastic of a season it was. Throwing in defense swings it wildly in Yount's favor, though that's hardly fair to the 260 lb. first baseman.

No matter how you place Prince's season on the all-time Brewers list, though, it's one to be celebrated and enjoyed. Otherwise we're back to where we started, spending too much time trying to rank and qualify his season in relation to others and not enough time appreciating what we saw. Instead of lamenting that he had to share his career year with YAAPMVP ("yet another Albert Pujols MVP"), go back to July and remember when he stole the Home Run Derby crown away from Pujols' in his hometown, or his September walk-off home run and (fantastic) celebration or even to the weekend at Miller Park that he broke the Brewers' single-season RBI and walk records in back-to-back games. It was truly a fun and amazing season for Prince and, no matter what happens this off-season, it's one that we'll remember for a long time, MVP trophy or not. Sometimes that's all that matters.

(Check out Larry's work at Wezen Ball.)

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, it doesn't matter inside the gates of Eden

Your job tonight is to show up at 10PM and listen to three dudes chit-chat about playoff teams, Miggy Cabrera, and general manager intrigue. Here, I will embed the player for you:


Otherwise, we'll let you listen to it tomorrow, sometime before we liveglog the Twins and Tigers tilt, same WoW channel. You too, moustache baby.

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Detroit Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera showed up with some strange marks on his face and neck Saturday morning at Comerica Park and it had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that the Tigers choked away their division lead. Seems as though he and Goodwife Cabrera got into a bit of a tussle when Miggy got himself three sheets to the wind after a night of drinking with White Sox players (read: Freddy Garcia) and came home just before sunrise:

According to the police report, Cabrera's wife, whose name is listed as Rosangel, was upset when the ballplayer woke up the couple's 4-year-old daughter and was talking on the phone when he came home. Investigators noticed his wife had an injury to her lower lip; they noted the injury to the left side of Cabrera's face.

After investigators determined both Cabrera and his wife were "aggressors" in the situation, Patterson said, the first baseman was released. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski picked Cabrera up at the station between 7:30 and 8 a.m. Saturday, he added.

Cabrera registered a .26 blood-alcohol level when tested by police, Commander Mark Clemence said. A person is considered drunk at .08.

Do you have any ideas how many caipirinhas one has to drink before they register a BAC that high? Especially when one is built like a Clydesdale horse, like Detroit's favorite Venezuelan hero is.

Some folks are calling for the Tigers to put Miggy out to pasture for the rest of 2009, playoffs or no playoffs. Here's Big League Stew's Duk arguing his point:

How can anyone trust or root for him after he blew a Breathalyzer test (.26) that was double the number of hours remaining until a Saturday night game that could have prevented the need for the Twins showdown? (The Tigers lost, 5-1.) How can Dombrowski continue to play a player he had to pick up from the police station that morning?

The answers are 1) no one can and 2) he shouldn't. Opponents will argue that taking Cabrera's bat out of Detroit's lineup will only punish everyone further, but there's no guarantee that Cabrera will produce. He went 0-for-7 after showing up to Comerica Park on Saturday with fresh scratches on his face and his mind will be a clouded and distracted one. You can throw out season totals when a player enters a situation like this one, so let the players who were fully on board with winning a division title get the playing time.

Yeah, you can't guarantee that the guy is going to make a positive contribution to the team in the playoffs but, on the same hand, you can't guarantee that his poor performance over the weekend was due to being positively blotto. Baseball players have been showing up to the ballpark drunk, hungover, and stoned since Dutch Leonard invented the frozen lingonberry margarita back in nineteen dickety-two. Cabrera's only problem was creating a ruckus in his family's home, a no-no for sure, but probably not punishable by suspension.

Yet I agree with 'Duk in that the Tigers need not evaluate the situation based on whether they need Miggy's Pujols-esque bat in this crucial playoff game. If the higher-ups decide that his behavior was inappropriate enough to warrant a suspension, then so be it. We don't know all the facts, so let's not be so quick to judge him a drunken wifebeater. For now, he is merely a drunken lout who spends way too much time with Freddy Garcia.

acrylicaward.jpgWith the postseason stuck in that lull between the regular season and the playoffs, we here at Walkoff Walk thought it would be a good time to assault our readers' eyes and brains with some award posts. We proudly present The Second Annual Walkoff Walk Dot Com Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence sponsored in part by nobody because we don't get paid a damn thing to do this website. It's a labor of love.

We've split up our choices by award and stuck both leagues together because we're angry and spiteful men. We've spent minutes and minutes researching stats and whatnot to make these important decisions. Please consider our opinions and then feel free to express your own in the comment section.

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American League MVP

  1. Joe Mauer

  2. Zack Greinke

  3. Derek Jeter

There is no denying Joe Mauer. Sure, he missed the first month of the year but stuffed the next five months so full of statistical goodness that you'd be hard-pressed to find a catcher reach base and smack taters with such aplomb. He's a catcher! And the only AL player to top 1.000 OPS! He led the league in OBP and SLG! He was one of only five players to walk more frequently than he struck out! Did I mention he was a catcher and that he hit 28 home runs despite missing a month of the season? Or that his Twins ran off an unprecedented winning streak after the so-called valuable Justin Morneau stopped playing because he was tired? WHO'S THE 2006 MVP NOW?

Zack Greinke's praises have been sung but really, what reason would the Royals have to exist were it not for Zack's magic deeds? Sure, they tacked a playground onto the back of Kauffman Stadium to bring in the Midwestern rubes, but there was no individual not named Joe Mauer who did more to increase interest in his team last season. And yes, of course pitchers can be MVPs. Otherwise, poor Tony Pena Jr's dreams of becoming AL MVP have been crushed.

Speaking of crushes, Derek Jeter had a great year but loses a couple points for having only his third highest Value Over Replacement Dreamboat of his career.

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National League MVP

  1. Albert Pujols

  2. Chase Utley

  3. Prince Fielder

Bert put up ungodly numbers for seemingly the 27th consecutive season. Perhaps it's time to call the award "The Albert Pujols Most Valuable Pujols in the National Pujols" or something in that vein. He hit 47 homers and drew a career-high 115 walks. Pujols may have finished a few RBI and a couple of batting points shy of the Triple Crown but did magic with an OPS over 1.100 and an above average glove at first base.

Utley carried himself well on a team that featured the star power Ryan Howard, half a season's worth of Raul Ibanez, and an emerging Jayson Werth, and got it done in the field with the range of a young gazelle. He drew a career high 88 walks and decided it would be fun to steal 23 bases this year without being caught once, all while grounding into but five double plays. And yes, he reached first base by getting hit by a pitch 24 times. Value!

Shame that Fielder's prime has come at the same time Pujols is utterly dominating baseball, because he had a career year in 2009. Big fella smacked 46 dongs, collected 110 walks, and wore a hole in a record 32 pairs of size XXXXXL pants. Still, if there were an award for most awesomest home run celebration, Prince would win unanimously. That single moment by your 2009 Milwaukee Brewers restored our faith in flyover country.

acrylicaward.jpgWith the postseason stuck in that lull between the regular season and the playoffs, we here at Walkoff Walk thought it would be a good time to assault our readers' eyes and brains with some award posts. We proudly present The Second Annual Walkoff Walk Dot Com Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence sponsored in part by nobody because we don't get paid a damn thing to do this website. It's a labor of love.

We've split up our choices by award and stuck both leagues together because we're angry and spiteful men. We've spent minutes and minutes researching stats and whatnot to make these important decisions. Please consider our opinions and then feel free to express your own in the comment section.

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American League Cy Young Award

  1. Zack Greinke, Royals

  2. Felix Hernandez, Mariners

  3. Roy Halladay, Blue Jays

Wins are for hausfraus and schoolgirls. 'Wins' are about as important a statistic to a pitcher as 'RBI' are to hitters or 'noodles per square mile' are to gubernatorial candidates. It's just not something useful in evaluating these groups of people. Yes, six AL pitchers collected more wins that Mr. Greinke but not a single one of 'em had anywhere near the dominating performance from April to October.

Greinke (almost) led the league in strikeouts (242), WHIP (1.07), HR/9 (0.43), strand rate (79.3%), and ERA (2.16). Twenty-six of his 33 starts were of the quality variety. He beat every AL team except Tampa, Anaheim, and the Yankees (who he did not face) but most importantly, he did not have a chance to earn some easy wins by playing his own shitty team, the Royals.

King Felix and Roy Halladay each had their own remarkable seasons, each collecting over 200 strikeouts while stranding runners with aplomb. Felix continues to improve as a pitcher but the most important aspect of his 2009 performance was the vast improvement of the defense behind him. The Mariners led the majors in UZR; if the team stays stout with leather in 2010 and Hernandez keeps getting outs of the strike variety, he'll be unstoppable.

Shame about Doc Halladay; were it not for his rising home run rates and the worsening offense behind him, he might have challenged Greinke for the crown.

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National League Cy Young Award

  1. Tim Lincecum, Giants

  2. Javy Vazquez, Braves

  3. Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

Lincecum wins for three distinct reasons: (1) he didn't allow a single home run in over 100 innings pitched at home (2) he struck out all comers, from the best hitters in the league all the way down to the peanut vendors and (3) he won last year and nobody stepped high enough to take the award away from him. Again, he didn't win as many games as his competitors but he also didn't have Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday on his team to provide some offense. Lincecum did his work with the likes of Travis Ishikawa and Randy freakin' Winn 'supporting him; to produce for the Giants, Tim did the best possible thing: he struck out 261 hitters in 215 innings while allowing just 10 homers.

We haven't seen back-to-back performances by a young pitcher since...ugh...Roger Clemens won the AL Cy Young Awards in 1986 and 1987 with his dominating fastball. If we, as fans, are lucky, we can see Lincecum's career last as long as The Rocket's. Hopefully, it will be devoid of the massive douchiness and steroid allegations.

Vazquez nearly matched Lincecum's strikeout rate but also allowed twice as many tater tots. Still, his 1.03 WHIP was third in the league and his 5.41 K/BB ratio was second. He simply did not put runners on base; when they got there, he left 'em there. Carpenter could not match the strikeout rates of either of these dudes but got the job done by allowing only 7 home runs and a mere 38 walks. The Cardinals won the division because Carpenter and his mate Adam Wainwright stranded runners like they were your fat blind date at your cousin's homecoming dance.

Unfortunately, Carp got a late start to the year and was only able to make 28 starts; five more appearances and he could have proved to worth far more to his team.

acrylicaward.jpgWith the postseason stuck in that lull between the regular season and the playoffs, we here at Walkoff Walk thought it would be a good time to assault our readers' eyes and brains with some award posts. We proudly present The Second Annual Walkoff Walk Dot Com Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence sponsored in part by nobody because we don't get paid a damn thing to do this website. It's a labor of love.

We've split up our choices by award and stuck both leagues together because we're angry and spiteful men. We've spent minutes and minutes researching stats and whatnot to make these important decisions. Please consider our opinions and then feel free to express your own in the comment section.

anderson.jpgAmerican League Rookie of the Year

  1. Brett Anderson, A's

  2. Nolan Reimold, Orioles

  3. Elvis Andrus, Rangers

This selection was rather difficult as no AL kid put together a truly terrific season. Brett Anderson pitched really well, leading AL rookie starters in WHIP, strikeout per walk rate, home runs allowed and fancy component numbers like FIP and DIPS. Anderson fell victim to some bad luck (poor strand rates and BABIP numbers) and criminally low run support. He's the best positioned to improve on his numbers down the road while guys like RIck Porcello and Ricky Romero need to improve their control before the league figures them out.

Reimold is a good young hitter though a mediocre defender that figures to be part the Orioles drive for third in the AL East. Andrus played incredible defense at an important position though his offense lacked a bit. Quietly Matt Weiters fits into the same category though his bat really caught fire last in the season. Expect him to live up to the hype next year. Sorry Andrew Bailey, relievers on bad teams don't win exclusive WoW awards. Pitch some more innings and I'll consider your solid numbers legit.

tommyboy.jpgNational League Rookie of the Year

  1. Tommy Hanson, Braves

  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

  3. Randy Wells, Cubs

I slurped Tommy Hanson less than a month ago and I'm completely in the tank for the big Ginger starter, so this should come as no surprise. He threw fewer innings than other NL starters but is the only one with a legit shot at becoming a great not good starter. Big frame, big arm, big whiffs, big results. Excellent breaking pitches, good control and a tiny little WHIP of 1.18. That's plenty of rationale. As an added bonus, if you turn SafeSearch Off and google Tommy Hanson you can have the rest of the afternoon off work because you've been fired.

Andrew McCutchen is really, really good and a lot of fun to watch. He is the anchor of the Official Bad Team Walkoff Walk Is Unabashedly Trying Ground Floor, playing strong centerfield while patiently hitting with power and stealing bases. In other words, he's awesome. Just like the Pirates will be in 8 short years!

Randy Wells pitched well enough in 2009 to force his way into this conversation. He doesn't strike out too many but he won't walk you either. Wells turned himself into a solid mid-rotation guy this year but I think that's about where he'll stay.

Tough cookies to complier of wins and player for excellent team J.A. Happ. He's lucky I only penalized him for his slightly fortunate season and not the goofy pronunciation of his "name." Good seasons from Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan fell by the wayside because neither of them could catch a cold. Casey McGehee supplied decent power and a willingness to wear whichever glove fits over his sweaty mitt but that is about it. Also, grown men named Casey are strange and disturbing. If you're in the market for a new one, I recommend Dexter, girls might think you're Jamaican and that always gets results.

(coming up next, the Cy Young Awards)

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I promised you an eighth playoff participant today but the Twins and Tigers refused to settle their differences in the regular season. One hundred and sixty-two games after they started out tied at 0 wins and 0 losses apiece, Minnesota and Detroit remain tied and will tangle in a single-game playoff on Tuesday evening.

Yesterday, Carl Pavano's pitching and Jason Kubel hitting led the Twins to a 13-4 smothering of the weepy Royals, while Detroit held off the White Sox 5-3 behind a pair of tater tots by Ryan Raburn. That Tigers win prevented a sweep by the Fightin' Ozzies and kept thousands of Detroiters from kicking out the figurative chair and finishing the job. Ha, I made a Detroit joke and used the word 'job'.

In the all-important tiebreaker, Detroit will send New Jersey youngster Rick Porcello to the mound while Minnesota counters with Scott Baker the changeup maker. Detroit hasn't won their division since 1987 while the Twins are looking for their fifth division crown of the 2000s. The winner will 'advance' to the Bronx on Wednesday for the opportunity to disappoint millions of Yankees fans, something the Tigers did just three years ago and something the Twins have never done. We'll have that liveglog for you on Tuesday evening, because we are a full-service weblog and you are an avid fan of hilarious polls.

Why Tuesday and not during the day today? Because the Twins are one of just three baseball teams to share their home field with a silly NFL team; the Vikings will host the Packers in a nationally-televised game tonight. Of course, next year the Twinkies will move across the street and play at the open-air Target Field, and the Florida Marlins will soon evacuate Dolphins Stadium, leaving the Oakland A's as the only team forced to play nice-nice with a footballs squadron. But at least the Raiders never have to worry about being asked to host a nationally-televised game and the A's don't have to worry about hosting any sort of "play-off games".

(Coupla chill bros photo courtesy of Flickr user THE DJ Lein)

zackattack.jpgZack Greinke will, barring a miracle of clusterfucktastic proportions, win the Cy Young award for the American League in 2009. He's been outstanding from Opening Day right up until today, the day of his final start. He will not win 20 games, but God willing, that won't keep him from winning the trophy.

Grienke's Royals are a bad, bad baseball team. Losers of 94 games, many years have passed since they played a Meaningful baseball game. Until today. Today, Zack Greinke, Billy Butler, and the 23 living embodiments of replacement level face the Twins in a game that could decide the Twinkies season. The Royals get to play the spoilers, and spoil they well. Because Zack Greinke is amazing and the Twins, well, stink.

Watching the Tigers and Twins do battle this week I was amazed at how bad a team the Twins really are. The Tigers are far from perfect, but the Twins don't strike me a playoff-caliber team. The certainly miss Justin Morneau from the middle of their lineup as any team would. But aside from Joe Mauer, the Twins inspire little in the way of fear. As always, the Twins inspire shrugged shoulders and questions of "how they hell did they win so many games?"

Despite my derision, the bats generate a decent amount of offense. Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer hit home runs while Denard Span picks up singles like your kid sister at the end of "Love in an Elevator." They love giving their precious outs away &mdash for free!&mdash via the sacrifice bunt. They also ground into the second most double plays in baseball! Their pitching and defense are pretty abysmal.

What does all this mean for The Zombie? Sadly, many writers will end up using this high(ish) profile game as a measuring stick for Greinke's Cy Young worth. "He can't win the big game" I'm sure they'll say, noting his less than impressive supporting cast of clowns won/loss record. If Zack shuts the Twins down, crushing their playoff hopes with the zeal of Dayton Moore administering Yuniesky Water Torture on Joe Posnanski, he will hopefully make believers of the scores of writers yet to see him pitch this year (read: the New York media horde.) Here's hoping he converts the few remaining non-believers. He's earned it.

fish_011.gifAs reported by everyone on Twitter (it's a trending topic) the Toronto Blue Jays have parted ways with J.P. Ricciardi effective immediately. From Bluejays.com:

The Blue Jays announced on Saturday that they have dismissed their general manager -- effective immediately -- and that Alexander Anthopoulos, the vice president of baseball operations and assistant general manager, will fill the role.

Young Canadian upstart Alex Anthopoulous has the pleasure of taking over the most futile job in sports. I'l try to have more to say about this tomorrow. Until then I'll be too busy staring into the abyss and wondering if it just blinked.

ichiro1.jpgIt is safe to say Ichiro isn't like most professional baseball players. While his overt weirdness on the field and his cryptic strangeness during the press scrum set him apart from his straight-laced teammates, his choice of video games is weird enough that even Dmac has no clue what he's talking about.

In a Japanese interview he gave (cribbed by Kotaku) Ichiro expressed a great debt to insanely popular and so-Japanese-it's-scary video game Dragon Quest. Ichiro claims to do nothing but play Dragon Quest when healing from injuries. Which is a shame, as I would totally pwn him at Halo 3.

This isn't the first time Ichiro referenced the Japanese role playing game. During the most-recent edition of the World Baseball Classic, Ichiro drew parallels between the tension and pressure of a team progressing through an elimination tournament and his character growing stronger with every equivalent spin of the virtual twelve-sided die in Dragon Quest.

Want more proof Ichiro won't surrendering his Playstation Network username for Mike Carp's Madden '10 league any time soon? Check out his shirt from the Japanse video linked above:

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It takes a certain type of man to wear a button down, collared shirt that doubles as a hoody! I'm going to go out on a limb and assume the average "Interests: hunting, fishing," baseball player doesn't have one of those in his clubhouse locker. Jeez. Can't Ryan Braun spraypaint a cow's skull or a naked manbearpig or something else wacky onto that shirt to make it more MLBPA friendly?

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The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the Colorado Rockies, as penned by Drew "There's a National League Now?" Fairservice.

Can you believe it??? It is Rocktober all over again! Or, if you've spent a lifetime ingesting oxygen-deprived Rocky Mountain air, Rock-Two-Ber. "How on Earth did this happen?", you might ask. The answer: just as it did in 2007. The Rocks stumbled out of the gate in 2009 only to make a delirious* run to postseason with a crazy second half.

For the most part the cast of characters is the same. Minus the manager, of course! The Rox cut that dead weight lose early on, allowing bench coach Jim Tracy to take over and Woody Paige to make this ridiculous pun:

And Jim Tracy should be recognized as the manager of the year for what he did getting the Rox past this first hurdle. (Whoops.)

Whoops indeed Woody. The Rockies decision to trade franchise cornerstone Matt Holliday "paid off" in that the team was still successful despite giving up a fantastic and productive player in exchange for a fly-catching pinch runner and new-found closer Huston Street, who did provide an excellent campaign.

The Rockies are in fine shape for the post season thanks to their strong rotation full of worm-burning machines and plethora of talented outfielders. They have a deep bench with veteran leadership and a patient, balanced offense. They draw more walks than anyone in the NL and knock the ball out of the park with frequency.

They also feature one of the games true stars: Troy Tulowitzki. I have very mixed emotions about Tulo. On one hand, he's a dynamic player on the diamond, coupling excellent defense at a crucial position with tons of power, patience and even a bit of speed. On the other hand, there's an excellent chance he's a detestable douchebag. I can't say for sure, but he puts out way too much white hat vibe for me to give him a free pass. Tulowitzki's overwhelming talent on the field will win out and you will find yourself cheering him on in spite of yourself in no time.

In the end, the Rockies are a scary team if you're anyone else in the National League. They have a legit ace, they can score, and they have the distinct advantage of staging their home games on Hoth. They're already battle tested after playing 3 huge series against the Giants in September. In a word; they're good. If the Rockies again reach the World Series, their American League opposition shouldn't expect a walk over like the Red Sox had in 2007.**

* - delirium is actively discouraged in the Rockies dressing room. "Spin around in a circle until you fall down" is not an acceptable answer to "WWJD?"

** - Just kidding! They'll get killed all the same.

Weekend Questions

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Hey kids, sing it don't say it

One other game of note this weekend: tonight, CC Sabathia takes on the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, with the Kris Liakos vs Rob Iracane Bon Jovi Bet knotted at 139 apiece thanks to Lester's six shutout innings last night. If CC does well, get ready to hear Catshirt howl out "It's My Life" on YouTube. If CC gets bombed, get ready for Rob Iracane to renege on another bet (like Shawn Chacon!)

I'll need no more than one run allowed but Sabathia has a poor history on the road in St. Pete, giving up 8 homers in just 48 career innings there. In comparison, he's allowed but 6 tater tots in New Yankee Stadium over 100 innings of work. Pray for me and my sanity, but if there's a tie, there will be a duet.

Tomorrow: one more Oktoberfest post. Sunday: the regular season will be doneskis. Monday: final Oktoberfest post and the return of the Walkoff Walk Dot Com Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence. You've been warned, same WoW channel.

(Baggiedome photo courtesy of Flickr user photoentropy)

With the 2016 Summer OIympic Games being awarded to sunny Rio de Janeiro and not our own Chicago, the chances that the world's greatest sport returns to the quadrennial quagmire is significantly lessened. Sorry, Cubs fans. There will be no equestrian events at Wrigley Field in the near future. But baseball once had a tough uphill climb to ever be part of the Olympics; it wasn't until 1992 that it was an official, medal-worthy sport and even had a few chances as an exhibition prior to that.

One of those years was 1956 when the Olympics were held in Melbourne, Australia. Below is a short highlight reel of the single exhibition game between a select group of Australian players and some American G.I.'s stationed in the Far East.


The Americans won 11-5 in a game that lasted six innings. According to Olympic baseball historian Pete Cava, the crowd started small but reached 114,000 fans strong by the end of the game. This is believed to be the largest crowd to ever witness a baseball game, or about the same number of folks who attended Marlins games in Miami this year.

lopeztonight.jpg Once again, TBS is televising some of MLB's postseason; this year, TBS has all four divisional series and the NLCS. During the past two postseasons, you may remember, every commercial break had at least one (and sometimes as many as 15) promos for Frank TV, the since-canceled sketch comedy show also airing on TBS. There were so many promos for the show that the Frank TV promos started commenting on the number of Frank TV promos.

This postseason, you won't be annoyed by Frank Caliendo. Now, you might think you'll only be annoyed this postseason by Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, Derek Jeter, Billy Wagner, Buck Martinez, Victor Martinez, Tony LaRussa, Vicente Padilla, Jon Corzine and Chris Christie (if you're in New Jersey), the Los Angeles Times sports department, the Baseball Tonight crew and whatever other baseball players you happen to hate personally. But you'll also have to deal with George Lopez. He has a new talk show on TBS, Lopez Tonight, and I'm sure we won't hear the end of it this postseason.

I have nothing against Lopez. I don't know much about him, but he hates Carlos Mencia and was the Choice Comedian at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards1, so how bad could he be? But I've already seen about 50 promos for his show -- including one with Barack Obama, inexplicably -- and I am positive we are going to see plenty of them during the baseball playoffs.

There are only two words to describe this: Very funny.

1 The Choice Celebrity Pet was Bo, the Obamas' Portuguese water dog. Cat Stairs was robbed!

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There is no greater mystery in this world than the afterlife. Does heaven exist? Is there life after death? Can we ever come back from the dead and get cloned? We're so afraid of dying that we'll do anything to extend our life, even going so far as to have our favorite baseball players' heads frozen just so they can come back one day and teach Jacoby Ellsbury how to hit the breaking ball.

But sometimes, our best-laid plans go awry and science takes a back seat to the ways of the fat, lazy, incompetent American workforce. Larry Johnson, a former executive at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation wrote a whistle-blowin' book alleging that the lab's workers abused and misused Ted Williams' frozen head, even taking pictures with the severed noggin.

According to the chilling report in the New York Daily News:

Johnson writes that holes were drilled in Williams' severed head for the insertion of microphones, then frozen in liquid nitrogen while Alcor employees recorded the sounds of Williams' brain cracking 16 times as temperatures dropped to -321 degrees Fahrenheit.

Johnson writes that the head was balanced on an empty can of Bumble Bee tuna to keep it from sticking to the bottom of its case.

Johnson describes watching as another Alcor employee removed Williams' head from the freezer with a stick, and tried to dislodge the tuna can by swinging at it with a monkey wrench.

The technician, no .406 hitter like the baseball legend, missed the can with several swings of the wrench and smacked Williams' head directly, spraying "tiny pieces of frozen head" around the room.

The technician was obviously Jeff Francoeur.

Oktoberfest Party Boy #6: Boston Red Sox

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The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the Boston Red Sox, as penned by Kris Liakos.

The 2009 Boston Red Sox were a Duncan Yo-Yo of a baseball team. At times during the early part of the season they were thought of as nearly a consensus pick as best team in baseball, yet later in the year found themselves in real danger of missing the playoffs. All this before pulling away to an extent that they could back into the postseason while losing 6 straight. They went into the season dealing with a "surplus of arms" that had them dealing packages of young pitchers in nearly every trade rumor. With the various self immolations of Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brad Penny, John Smoltz and at times Josh Beckett (who at other times was the leading Cy Young Candidate) the team relied on second half emergency starts from Junichi Tazawa and Paul Freakin' Byrd.

All of this played out on the field in one of the streakiest teams I can ever remember watching. A full week would go buy where Boston couldn't buy a win, only to be followed by a 7 day span where they looked unbeatable. There was quite a bit of roster upheaval in early July with Theo Epstein quietly putting together one of the best front office summers in baseball. Our friend Brian MacPherson claims it was the GMs best year in Boston, including 2004. With a glaring hole at short and an aging lineup that could sometimes disappear, they nabbed Alex Gonzalez and Victor Martinez to deal with those respective needs. The cost to the team? Justin Masterson and Chris Carter. Gonzalez interjected the closet thing the Sox have had to consistency at SS since well, Alex Gonzalez, and Victor Martinez has been a revelation to Sox fans that didn't see enough of him with Cleveland.

But this team goes into the playoffs with the same feast or famine M.O. that has been theirs all year. If you weren't aware before this week that "momentum means nothing for the playoffs" the chorus of self-assurance from columnists, fans and even Theo here would have more than made up for it. Of course, it's true. That Silverman column gives concrete examples of teams that turned it around once the playoffs started, but people are talking so much about it, they doth protest too much. The thought of this team just going lights out, ice cold in the first round is too real. Even with Beckett and Lester.

If current momentum means nothing, than momentum from past postseasons means even less. You're going to hear a lot about the Angels having a mental block against the Red Sox in the divisional playoffs. It's all hooey. A ballclub is different each season, and the Angels are too well coached (brainwashed, conditioned, etc.) to buy into any hooey concerning the Sox. Expect nothing less than another high drama first round series with some testiness and some great starting pitching.

If Boston gets beyond that, expect nothing. You'll just have to wait and see which Red Sox show up for the ALCS.

Tonight's Questions

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Hey kids, I walk the boulevard admitting life is hard


  • HOW will Jon Lester fare in his quest to right the Red Sox' sinking ship and raise his ERA+ a bit to help Catshirt with our Bon Jovi bet? CC Sabathia leads 139 to 134.

  • WILL the Orioles end their 13-game losing streak and avoid losing their 99th game of the year against Tampa Bay? That's 99 losses overall, not just against the Rays.

  • DO Penn State students have too much time on their hands? Get back to studying, you slackers!

  • CAN the Pirates take one step closer to 63 wins and thereby avoid losing 100 games for the first time since 2001? It's only Jeff Samardzija, so why not?

Wow, that Twins-Tigers affair turned out to be quite the testy tussle. Jim Leyland, Jeremy Bonderman, and Gerald Laird done got ejected and the benches even cleared after Delmon Young got plunked. RIght now it's 8-3 Twins in the away half of the ninth, if anything amazing happens we'll cover it...tomorrow. Same WoW channel.

(Baseball Project featuring Mike Mills and Bill Berry video via Paste Magazine)

linkpunch gorillaSometimes people write better than us. Each Thursday WoW gives you our favorite baseball links we've come across.

  • Dejan Kovacevic put on his Sherlock Holmes hat and monocle to hunt down the single fan who clapped for the MLB debut at-bat of Pirates player Eric Hacker. Yes, the crowd in PNC Park is so sparse and quite that a single fan clapping resounds all the way up in the press box. PBC Blog.

  • Earlier, Dejan broke down the entire Miguel Angel Sano affair in which the Pirates failed to sign the stud 16-year-old prospect from the Dominican Republic and possibly ruined any future chance to sign any youngsters from the country. PBC Blog.

  • Rob Neyer (who really loves movies) can't stand up for falling down as a Royals fan. He broke down a great play by Jerry Hairston that led to the Royals' demise on Tuesday night and dug Josh Anderson an early grave. Rob Neyer's Sweet Spot.

  • Steve Lombardi interviewed The Chicken, The San Diego Chicken, Ted Giannoulas. Actually, like children, the Chicken is better when seen and not heard, so don't read this interview if you don't want to spoil the magic. Was Watching.

  • Steven Goldman visited the Yankees Legends Seats so we don't have to. Seriously, who would ever want to sit in wonderfully comfortable seats directly behind the dugout and eat tons of waiter-served food for free? What a pain. Pinstriped Bible.

  • Your handy (but not dandy) guide to Oktoberfest beers. Hurry up, Oktoberfest ends as soon as Catshirt posts the Red Sox playoff preview! Serious Eats.

Hey, did you hear? Joe Mauer is tipping pitches to his buddies and Bronson Arroyo has crap on his brim, probably borrowed from Kenny Rogers' crap farm! To wit, here's a video that purports to show Joe Mauer stealing the signs from opposing catcher Gerald Laird:


This is like the baseball version of Oliver Stone's feature film JFK, except 1,000 times more boring and completely devoid of Tommy Lee Jones playing a Southern dandy. Two thumbs down!

Conspiracy theories abound, but we turn to Twins manager Ron "Gardy" Gardenhire to debunk the idea that Mauer was doing anything wrong:

"That's the best they can come up with? Chrysler," Gardenhire said. "Every team in baseball tries to steal signs. Every team in baseball tries to get the coaches' signs, the manager's signs, so ... really that's old stuff."

In other news, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan accused Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo of smearing baseballs with some pine tar that he kept oh-so-conveniently under the brim of his cap. The proof is in the chocolate pudding:

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What is that, a shadow? Arroyo shut down the Cards last night, allowing but one run over 8 1/3 innings, and fared far better than John Smoltz, who had no access to the Rogers crap farm. In fact, Smoltz claims the balls at Great American Ball Park were not rubbed properly before the game started, and were too slippery for his liking. Smoltz also complained about a going problem, which may be a growing problem.

Stealing signs is really just as bad as steroids for the sanctity of the game (read: not bad at all, not even one bit), except tipping pitches is a white person's crime, while only Dominicans and blacks do steroids. So don't expect any finger-wagging columns from the bloviated Bill Plaschkes of the world because baseball players have been stealing signs since before the dawn of Mickey Mantle. It's totally cool if Mickey Mantle did it, right, Lupica?

As for wearing pine tar on the brim of your cap to scuff up baseballs? I don't support any form of 'gamesmanship' that led to the demise of the 2006 Yankees, like allowing Kenny Rogers to smear foreign substances on the baseball, or having a competitive team pay Kyle Farnsworth to pitch.

(both stories courtesy of Deadspin)

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Holy crap, today is the last weekday afternoon of the regular season. I don't want to sound like a hopeless sap but sheesh, this season has scooted along way too fast for my liking. I'd liveglog the Twins and Tigers for you but with Carl Pavano ringing the death bell for Minnesota last night, what's the point?

  • Cardinals at Reds, 12:35PM: Need more evidence that the National League Central is a wasteland of losers? The Reds, at 44-32, are just one game behind the Cards for best intra-division record. With a win today against Chris Carpenter, the Reds will tie that up, will sweep the champion Cards, and will own a 9-7 record against St. Louis on the season. Looks like Catshirt was right about the Reds being a surprise team this year; they could still win 80 games and have some of that 'momentum' heading into 2010.

  • Twins at Tigers, 1:05PM: With a win today, Detroit will wrap up the AL Central crown and plan their flight to New York for the ALDS next week. Kudos, Tigers, for entertaining the Michiganers, but you still couldn't save Saturn. Scott Baker the Mediocre Start Maker will do his best to preserve the Twins' season, but dragging Nick Punto's corpse around should prove to be way too much hard work.

  • Brewers at Rockies, 3:05PM: The NL Wild Card race is all but over, but a win here by Colorado will finally crush the Braves collective trachea. Too graphic? Well imagine this: if the Rox win today and sweep the Dodgers this weekend, Jim Tracy's boys will win the NL West and send Joe Torre out to Philly for another neck-stomping. It's baseball, the clockless game, where drama sneaks up on your self-satisfied ass when you least expect it.

  • Diamondbacks at Giants, 3:45PM: Their season is all but over but San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy won't go down without getting his stud pitcher a second consecutive Cy Young award. Tim Lincecum faces Brandon Webb DAN HAREN OOPS in a real sexy pitchers duel. Webb HAREN has a 216:37 strikeout to walk ratio; Lincecum's is 254:66. Webb HAREN DAMMIT and Lincecum both have 14 wins. I'd vote for both of 'em over the Cardinals duo. In fact, I will support whoever pitches better today in my awards post next week.

oktoberfest.jpg The original Oktoberfest in 1810 celebrated the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen and featured a big horse race. This year, baseball's Oktoberfest celebrates the eight teams that were skilled enough to keep playing deep into October and, if they're lucky, finish the year with a trophy, a platter of sausages, and an imperial pint of Hofbräu. Next up, the Philadelphia Phillies, as penned by Dan McQuade.

The Philadelphia Phillies don't have the most successful history, exactly. Their first season, top pitcher John Coleman went 12-48. Their second year, their top pitcher went 21-25. The Phillies didn't have a pitcher -- any pitcher -- with a winning record until their third season. The Phils lost 100 straight games for five straight years from 1938-1942. They won their first playoff game in 1915, then didn't win another one until 1977.

Things have been looking up recently. After seven straight losing seasons from 1994-2000, the Phillies have had a winning record in eight of the last nine years. And, of course, they won the World Series last year. Now they've clinched their third straight National League East title, something that seemed unthinkable during the dark days of the late 1990s.

And yet, Phillies fans are not exactly champing at the bit for the postseason. Sure, people are excited -- the Phillies Phillies filled Citizens Bank Park to 102.5 percent of capacity this season -- but listen to talk radio and read the newspapers and you'll see that people are worried. (I mean, you listen to talk radio and read the newspapers. I am certainly not doing that.) What made last year's postseason so surreal was how easy the Phillies coasted through. The Phillies went 11-3 last October, didn't blow any games in the eighth or ninth innings and nobody died during the celebration after the Phils won it all. (Okay, so some cops beat some people and some cars got overturned. Look, for Philadelphia that's pretty good.)

Every Phillies fan can already feel that this year is not going to be like the last. The bullpen is a mess. Last year's perfect closer, Brad Lidge, went 0-8 with 11 blown saves and a 7.34 ERA. Ryan Madson blew six more. J.C. Romero allegedly attacked a Tampa Rays fan and only recently returned from the DL; Brett Myers didn't attack anybody this season but he, too, only recently returned from the injured list. Jamie Moyer had an ERA just under 5.00 and is out for the year. Cole Hamels was just above league average (101 ERA+). Cliff Lee was now statistically better in Cleveland, this after looking unhittable in his first five starts with the Phillies. Even Pedro Martinez and J.A. "Jay" Happ got hurt.

Hitting, too, is questionable. Catcher Carlos Ruiz, fresh off a superb postseason, had a disappointing year; he's been hurt too, leaving the Phillies to use extended periods of Paul Bako -- and even someone allegedly named "Paul Hoover." Jimmy Rollins leads the league in plate appearances and at-bats -- and yet only has an 86 OPS+. Matt Stairs went a month without a hit. Eric Bruntlett is one of the team's pinch hitters. Raul Ibanez had a torrid first half but hasn't been the same player since coming off injury. Yeah, the Phillies can rake, but they're not perfect.

All of this will be covered in my upcoming short play, A Panic in Philadelphia.

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In my fantasy world, the Phillies will steal home field advantage from the Dodgers in the season's last few days, get some revenge for 2007 by sweeping the Rockies, sneak by the Dodgers or Cardinals in 6 then plaster either Boston or New York in the World Series so I can send trash-talking, gloating IMs to both proprietors of this site. ESPN might even pay attention to the Fall Classic this time around (but it was pretty nice when they didn't last season).

For now, though, Phillies fans shall panic.

I would be remiss if I didn't post this video from our pal Meech at The Fightins' (read: I went to the Yankees game last night and didn't have a chance to prep some actual content for you today so I will post videos)

Please enjoy veteran umpire Tim Tschida's dramatic interpretation of young pitcher Yorman Bazardo's balk. This is high drama, indeed.


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This is Ricky Nolasco. He ruined the Braves season. Sure, they're still technically alive in the Wild Card race at four games back with four games left and sure, you can point to Matt Diaz getting picked off at third base to end the game as the reason the Braves are sad pandas today, but really, Ricky Nolasco killed a dream.

Nolasco struck out 16 Braves last night, the most K's by a big league pitcher in almost two years, and sassy senior Jorge Cantu collected three hits and two runs to lead the Marlins to a 5-4 win. At one point, Nolasco struck out nine straight Braves hitters, one shy of Tom Seaver's record 10; leadoff 'hitter' Nate McLouth 'led' the losing team with three strikeouts.

The Braves had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth with a tidy rally that produced two runs but crashed and burned miserably when Matt Diaz wandered too far from third base on a passed ball. Marlins catcher Ronny Paulino collected the baseball, fired down to third, and effectively ended the Braves season. Hey, that's a RIVERA!

"I pride myself on making decisions, not always the right ones, but I'm decisive," Diaz said. "Right there, I hesitated and it cost us big. I've never felt this bad about a play. It's a sinking feeling knowing you cost these guys."

Matt Diaz is The Decider. This is not something to brag about, son. Be more proud of yourself for making the right decisions and try not to be a latter-day Lonnie Smith.