Rob Iracane: October 2009 Archives

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)

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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.

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)

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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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.)

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.

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.

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.

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)

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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.
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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.

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.


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!!!)

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.

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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.

...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


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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

| | Comments (20)
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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)

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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.

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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)

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.

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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.

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.

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.