Tuesday, October 28, 2008


World Series Rantin'

If I'm Bud Selig, I'm replacing this entire World Series umpiring crew before Games Six and Seven, if the Series goes that far. The umps union would obviously throw a fit, but the umpiring in this series has been absolutely horrible, to the point where there has to be some accountability. This is the Fall Classic, after all, and the inability to call these games correctly and call them with such inconsistency is inexcusable. In Game 4, on the Evan Longoria-Jimmy Rollins tag play at third base, Longoria clearly got his glove on Rollins, and it happened right in front of the umpire's face. I mean, what the hell was he looking at?

It isn't just the bad calls and the horribly inconsistent ball and strike calls, though. Last night's game should have been called at least an inning or two before it was finally suspended. The field was a sopping mess, every ball hit in the air was an adventure, and the game had de-evolved into a pure farce by the fifth inning. I understand the rush to get a full five innings in so the game could become official, but what's worse, having to call the game and replay it entirely, or playing through horrid weather conditions to get past five innings and then risk screwing over one team? MLB can thank Carlos Pena for saving them from a total PR nightmare. Can you imagine if the Rays had lost the series in five-and-a-half-innings? It would have been a total fiasco.

I'm thinking all of this has softened much of the interest in the Series at this point. Will anyone care enough to watch a totally anticlimactic final four innings tomorrow? If the Phils win we'll probably see the most joyless World Championship celebration since the 1989 A's.

-Favorite moment of the Series so far: In the top of the sixth inning, with B.J. Upton on first and the infield dirt reduced to little more than a mud-wrestling pit, Tim McCarver repeated like 50 times that the wet dirt severely hurt the Rays because much of their game was based on speed. Hilariously, on the first pitch of the next at-bat (after about ten throw-overs from Cole Hamels, designed to let the mud get even thicker), Upton stole second base easily and later scored the tying run.

Tim McCarver: He's correct about the plainly obvious and brutally wrong about so much more.

--Before Game 3, country singer Tim McGraw*, son of the late Phillies and Mets World Series hero Tug McGraw, spread his late father's ashes on the field before throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Tug, as you probably know, struck out Kansas City's Willie Wilson to end the 1980 World Series, giving the Phils their first World Championship ever and cementing his status as a Philadelphia legend.

Now, in keeping with my strange fascination with Mets players from before I was born, I freaking love Tug McGraw. The guy was famous for being a bit of a nut (Tom Seaver once said he only had 48 cards in his deck), but he was always good for a quote and his boundless enthusiasm and never-say-die attitude ("Ya Gotta Believe!") endeared him to a lot of fans. He ended his career as a player beloved in both New York and Philadelphia, and brother, that's gotta be hard to do. I don't know if he ever wrote an autobiography or a book of any kind, but it's one I'd read in a heartbeat.

I'll leave you with my favorite all-time Tug McGraw quote, when a reporter asked him what he was going to do with his World Series share:

"Ninety percent of it I'll spend on whiskey, women, and other good times. The other 10 percent I'll probably waste."

*I absolutely hate country music, but even I'm man enough to admit that "Dancing When the Stars Go Blue" is an awesome song. Especially when Bono and a hot brunette get involved.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Stankeye World Series Preview

I'm really looking forward to this series. I love to see new teams that aren't exposed as much in the media getting a chance to win it all and, as I mentioned yesterday, the Phillies haven't been to the World Series since 1993 and the Rays haven't done anything, ever. For a guy who is sick of the usual tired Red Sox/Yankee storylines, this is kind of a dream. We get two exciting, good teams (remember 2006 when a crappy Cardinal team somehow blew through the playoffs? Nothing like that this year.) with a lot of homegrown stars and colorful players. The TV goons may have their cyanide capsules ready for consumption, but I'm personally excited and every true baseball fan should be as well.

If you will, let me go on one of my obnoxious digressions. The Rays remind me a lot of the 1969 Mets. The Mets, famously, came into existence as an expansion team in 1962 and set the modern record for futility by losing 120 games. For the next eight seasons, they were the laughingstock of baseball, never winning more than 73 games and losing over 100 five times. They fell down a lot, they couldn't hit or pitch, their gnomish manager fell asleep in the dugout a lot, and for the first eight years or so their most recognizable player was Marvelous Marv Throneberry. They weren't a team, but a punchline.

Amidst all the follies, no one noticed that slowly but surely the Mets were developing a fearsome collection of pitching, a group that included Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Tug McGraw, and Nolan Ryan. Finally, in 1969, this talented core broke out, and the Mets shocked the world by winning 100 games and upsetting the much-favored Orioles in the World Series (you can bet that in the media-saturated world of today, Al Weis would have been awarded a $3 million contract by some team for his "gamerishness" after that series).

Anyway, like the Mets of '69, the Rays went from league whipping boy to league powerhouse in the blink of an eye, and they did it with a bunch of young talent that suddenly came together all at once and broke out. Like those Mets also, their success was based mostly on pitching and defense. The '69 Mets had a below average offense with only a couple of truly good hitters, but any rotation headlined by Seaver and Koosman is going to win you games. The Rays, meanwhile, were ninth in scoring but their pitching was great and their defense was spectacular, and that is where most of the 97 wins came from, LCS home run barrage notwithstanding.

So who is this year's Weis, the crappy-hitting utility player who inexplicably takes down Goliath? I'm looking at you, Bartlett. Will anyone make a jaw-dropping, game-saving catch like Ron Swoboda? Will an unproven, flame-throwing prospect come to the rescue to save a game, a la Nolan Ryan's Game 3 performance in the '69 series (I guess David Price did already save two of the biggest games in Rays history)?

What about the Phils? Will Ryan Howard duplicate Mike Schmidt's (no, not Mike Shit) 1980 postseason heroics? Can Cole Hamels dominate like Steve Carlton? Can Brad Lidge erase the bad memories of Mitch Williams? Will Matt Stairs rival Greg Luzinski in terms of sheer girth? Will I ever stop obsessing about baseball events that occurred years before I was born? Who knows, let's just get on with the preview.

1B: Carlos Pena (.247/.377/.494) v. Ryan Howard (.251/.339./543)

I know it seems like sacrilege to call anybody but Howard the best here, but just look at the facts. Howard did hit 17 more homers than Pena, and that's a lot. However, Pena crushes him in OBP, doesn't strike out as much, is a much better defensive player, and played in the best division in the better league in a tougher park on hitters. Howard has reached Frank Thomas-levels of immobility at first base and he really should be the DH in the games in Tampa. Phils phans are probably going to kill me here but I'll go with a slight Advantage: Rays.

2B: Akinori Iwamura (.274/.349/.380) v. Chase Utley (.292/.380/.535)

Aki is one of those fun little players who always seem to come up big in the postseason, then get way more credit than they deserve for their team's success (see: Bartlett, Jason). He's small, scrappy, plays great D, and he wears his socks high, so who wouldn't love him? I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a big Aki fan. Then there's Utley. No amount of dirt doggedness or quirky footwear can overcome the fact that Utley is a freaking beast, probably the best hitting second baseman in the game and a great fielder to boot. Advantage: Phils.

SS: Jason Bartlett (.286/.329/.361) v. Jimmy Rollins (.277/.349/.437)

If Rollins's 2007 MVP was dubious, then Bartlett's 2008 Team MVP award was batshit insane. Listen, Bartlett is a very good fielder with a helluva lot of range and his bat isn't as bad as people think, but honest to goodness, he's not Ozzie Smith here, people. This MVP craziness comes from what NBA analyst John Hollinger often calls the "Cult of the New Guy". When a team sees a big turnaround from one season to the next, often the media will give most (if not all) of the credit for the team's miraculous 180 to one player acquired in the offseason, even though there are myriad reasons for the team's sudden success. It happened with Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, it happened when Kirk Gibson won a ridiculously undeserved MVP for the 1988 Dodgers, and it's happened with Bartlett. Bartlett's defensive presence was a big factor in the Rays' turnaround, but not the only factor. The amazing improvement in their bullpen and the additions of Evan Longoria and Matt Garza had more to do with the Rays' success than Bartlett.

Anyway, Rollins wants me to stop ranting and talk about him a little. He got hurt early and didn't come close to matching his awesome 2007 numbers, but he's still a dangerous bat, even if I still think he'd be better suited hitting lower in the order. Has anyone else also noticed how much Rollins has cut down on his strikeouts over the course of his career? Amazing. Rollins is twice the player Bartlett is, even if Bartlett will be the recipient of the media love-in for the next week or so. Advantage: Phils.

3B: Evan Longoria (.272/.343/.531) v. The Scourge of Paulie's Life circa 2005-2007 (.249/.302/.402)

You know, I was watching an episode of Two and a Half Men the other day, and it taught me a valuable lesson in restraint. You see, Charlie's housekeeper brought her precocious 16-year-old granddaughter (played by Megan Fox, which is all you need to know) to stay with them for a while, causing all kinds of moral crises and hilarious hijinks for the two single dudes. While this girl was mincing around with barely any clothes on, Charlie and Alan were doing word puzzles an whatnot to keep their minds off of...you know. Of course, Charlie and Alan had to exercise serious restraint, and not even look at the ridiculous hot chick tanning herself on their patio, lest they be taken away for a long, long time.

That's kind of my dilemma here. I really, really want to make a joke about Pedro Feliz. After all the shit he's taken on this blog, though, I need to lay off, especially since I didn't even have to watch him this year and he's no longer the bane of my Giants fan existence. So I'll take a page from Charlie and Alan and just show a little self-control. Get my mind on something else. Yes, let's talk about Longoria. His glove is even better than Feliz's and his bat speaks for itself, and he's got perennial All-Star written all over him. And Pedro Feliz sucks ass...ah, dammit! Advantage: Rays.

LF: Carl Crawford (.273/.319/.400) v. Pat Burrell (.250/.367./507)

Here's a study in contrasts. Crawford is a greyhound who steals a ton of bases, gets most of his extra base hits with his legs, and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. Burrell is a hulking sloth who draws walks, hits homers, and has less range in the outfield than the Phillie Phanatic with Charlie Manuel strapped to his back. Crawford had a terrible year by his standards but seems to be getting back into form this postseason. Burrell's year was another off the factory line and even with the bad defense he's still more productive than Crawford at this point. Advantage: Phils.

CF: B.J. Upton (.273/.383/.401) v. Shane Victorino (.293/.352/.447)

Victorino is dangerously close to becoming one of those players who is perennially overrated because of one hot postseason, kind of like David Eckstein, which is too bad because Victorino is a good player and I don't want to hate him. It's just that I can't actively like players whom the media fawns over because of one or two good series performances. Upton, meanwhile, is a great player who saw his power completely disappear this season, only to resurface once October rolled around. If it stays for 2009 he's an MVP candidate, for sure. Advantage: Rays

RF: Rocco Baldelli (.263/.344/.475) v. Jayson Werth (.273/.363/.498)

Gabe Gross was so effing bad in the ALCS that I'm kind of thinking Joe Maddon will go with Baldelli even against the Phils' right-handed starters. They'd certainly be better served by it. Werth has always been underrated and he bears a strong facial resemblance to Stewart Copeland. Anybody who looks like a guy who can play drums like this gets extra points in my book. Advantage: Phils.

C: Dioner Navarro (.295/.349/.407) v. Carlos Ruiz (.219/.320/.300)

Navarro is a guy who will live and die by the batting average, kind of like A.J. Pierzynski. Once the bat speed goes one day, it'll all come crashing down and you've got, well, Carlos Ruiz. Yeah...Advantage: Rays.

DH/Bench: The Rays are the odd AL team that won't be hurt much by playing in the NL parks because their DHs just aren't that good. Cliff Floyd is okay, but he's past his prime and wouldn't play in four of the seven games, anyway and I doubt they'll miss his bat much. Meanwhile, the Phillies don't have any appetizing DH options at all. Greg Dobbs is probably going to spot Feliz at third base in a few games and you don't want Feliz DHing (like in this game...just kill me). Geoff Jenkins is terrible. Matt Stairs can still hit a fastball (as Jonathan Broxton can surely tell you), but he's not the masher he once was. Chris Coste might be the best option, and that tells you all you need to know about the Phillie bench. Usually the DH shenanigans present a huge advantage for NL teams in the World Series, but not this time.

I have to say, I love the Rays' bench. They have three or four players like Ben Zobrist and Willie Aybar who can hit in the right matchups and play several different positions. Take Zobrist. He's probably exposed as an everyday player, but he can play seven positions, he's got power (.505 slugging percentage), and he hits lefties. That gives a manager a lot of flexibility. Aybar is the same thing, only with less pop and a better glove*. If the Rays have their druthers about them, they'll get Eric Hinske's bat on the World Series roster, dump Fernando Perez, and use Gross as their defensive replacement. Advantage: Rays

*I'm shocked, shocked, that the media hasn't jumped on Aybar's recent rough past like a bunch of starving jackals. Aybar was once a pretty decent prospect with the Dodgers and Braves but who succumbed to alcohol addiction and pretty much lost all of 2007. He cleaned himself up, earned himself a key role on a World Series team, and now has a chance to be a big factor in getting a Series ring. This is a great story, and I can't believe that we haven't gotten one of those sappy feel-good inserts about it during at least one game. I guess there's still time.

Scott Kazmir (12-8, 3.49) v. Cole Hamels (14-10, 3.09)

James Shields (14-8, 3.56) v. Brett Myers (10-13, 4.55)

Matt Garza (11-9, 3.70) v. Jamie Moyer (16-7, 3.71)

Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38) v. Joe Blanton (9-12, 4.69)

This isn't even close. Even I had questioned the Rays' staff a bit going into the series with the Sox, but, no, these guys are awesome. They throw strikes, they don't beat themselves, and they let the great defense behind them gobble up anything in play. Only Kazmir has command issues at times, but he tends to overcome that by throwing pure filth. Sonnanstine has fly ball tendencies, which could hurt in Philly, but overall this is the major strength for the Rays in this series.

The Phils have Hamels, who is the best pitcher in the series, but behind him there are some questions. No one is sure which Myers will show up at any given time. Will it be the awesome pitcher from the Dodger series or the erratic wife-beater? Moyer has also looked horrible this postseason and it remains to be seen whether or not his slow crap can fool good lineups in the playoffs. I have no confidence in Blanton at all. Hamels gives the Phils the edge in two games, but otherwise this is a big advantage for Tampa. Any chance Charlie Manuel bites the bullet and starts Hamels in Games 1, 4, and 7? Advantage: Rays.


Both teams have very strong pens, but Brad Lidge is the lights-out closer the Rays don't have. With Tampa, there's no clear candidate to turn to when the going gets tough (as we saw in Game 5 of the ALCS) and that could be an issue. I know that closers are overrated and all that, but in a close playoff series I think it's an asset to have an unhittable guy to turn to in crunch time. I love Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, and Dan Wheeler, but they don't fit that description for me. When shit starts to hit the fan for the Phillies, they can turn to Lidge and not have to worry. That alone means Advantage: Phils.

Well, that was certainly long-winded. Will you just tell us who is going to win?

Why not? The Rays, again, were the best team in the best division in the AL. Their pitching staff is one of the best and their team defense is superlative. Their offense isn't great but, as they showed in the Boston series, they can bust some heads if need be. The Phils have a super top of the lineup, but it has some serious holes near the bottom and I don't believe that their pitchers (behind Hamels) can get AL hitters out. I like the Phils and they're the best NL rep since the 2004 Cardinals, but I'm going to have to go Rays in six.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Joe Buck Doesn't Like Baseball

When you tune into the FOX broadcast of the World Series this week and get the sneaking impression that play-by-play man Joe Buck is bored with what is going on, it's because he is. This actually broke a few months back, but Awful Announcing caught a short interview Buck did with Colin Cowherd (a reprehensible case of his own) in which Buck essentially states that he doesn't watch sports anymore and that he isn't much of a baseball fan anymore because of a variety of reasons.

Now, Buck makes a good point about how Americans are turning away from baseball on television and turning more towards football. I don't disagree. Baseball is a horrible sport for TV. It's too leisurely to captivate TV audiences for long and there are way too many things going on on the field to be captured by one camera (it doesn't help that Buck's own network, FOX, is making a mockery of the game). I also totally agree with Buck when he says that there are too many things that slow the game down. Whenever a batter steps out between pitches to go through a bizarre dance sequence a la Nomar Garciaparra it makes me want to scream. I also wish they would limit teams to just two pitching changes per inning and cut down on pitcher-catcher conferences.

However, since Buck is perhaps the most recognizable baseball announcer on the national stage, and in turn acts as the face of the sport for so many fans, shouldn't he really like what he's doing? Isn't it his job, as a sports announcer, to, you know, watch sports? To actually be informed about the players and teams he's covering? When millions of fans hear his voice and realize he doesn't even care about the sport he is representing, what message does that send? If I'm an MLB marketing exec, I'm doing a major spit take upon hearing that interview.

If Buck were anybody but the son of Jack, he'd be gone. It's as simple as that. Is it really too hard to find an announcer who actually loves the game of baseball and put him in front of the microphone for seven games? Why can't FOX get Vin Scully to announce the World Series and add some much-needed integrity to the proceedings? Hell, get Kruk and Kuip, the world needs them right now.

This does give me one career idea, however. If Buck can do well in a medium he doesn't like, maybe I can too. Since I think golf is the most gawdawful boring thing out there, maybe I should develop a cursory knowledge of its players and history and forge a lucrative career as an announcer for that sport.

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Monday, October 20, 2008


Best Case Scenario

Well, that’s a bullet dodged. I don’t think I’ve ever refused to watch a postseason baseball series as long as I've been a fan, but if it had come down to the dreaded Red Sox-Dodgers matchup I just may have had to put on the blinders and start preparing myself for the Kings’ valiant run at 25 wins in the NBA. Rooting for the Dodgers is out of the question, but rooting for the Red Sox is nearly as high on the repulsive meter. Due to my up-close-and-personal experience amidst throngs of poorly-hygiened, obnoxious Sox fans, I’d find it almost impossible to form an uneasy alliance with them. Never has a truce been made between two parties that hated each other so since the X-men and Apocalypse put their differences aside to defeat Stryfe during the X-Cutioner’s Song (totally random reference that no one will get? Check!)

Luckily for me and all fans of good in the world, both the Dodgers and Red Sox lost. Instead we get a Phillies-Rays matchup that is already being touted as the most boring bout of blands to ever battle. A lot of people are already pooh-poohing the predicted poor ratings return and are suggesting the World Series will be anti-climactic, but I disagree totally.

First, anything that screws over FOX is fine by me. I honestly don’t give a flying fuck if the ratings for this series are low, because 1) I’ll be watching each game regardless, 2) even if TV ratings are low for this series, baseball is currently setting all kinds of attendance records and is swimming in cash, so thus 3) the only entity being hurt here is FOX which, again, is something we should all be pulling for.

FOX’s baseball coverage is absolutely unwatchable, from the bat-swinging robots appearing at every opportunity to the claustrophobic camera angles supposedly meant to show us every single pore on the pitcher’s face to the boring profiles of the players’ personal lives that, trust me guys, no one cares about. I’d shut it off and listen to the ESPN radio broadcast, but I’m a child of the ‘90’s raised on TV, and I ain’t weaning myself off of it now.

Then there are the announcers. FOX has maybe the worst collection of on-air personalities I’ve ever seen, in any sport. Luckily we were spared Thom Brennaman this postseason (thank you TBS for picking up the ALCS), but there was still plenty of mediocrity to spread around. Much ink has been spilled about how bad the Buck/McCarver tandem is but I personally can’t stand Kevin Kennedy on the pre-game shows. My goodness, his “analysis” consists of nothing but old-fashioned, tired baseball cliches that aren’t relevant anymore and all of his predictions turn out to be all kinds of wrong. I did love when Kennedy asserted after Game 3 of the NLCS that the beanball wars would fire up the Dodgers, then they went on to lose the next two games and the series.

The second reason I like this World Series matchup is that it's just plain good for baseball. For the past decade, ever since the 1994 strike, we've had baseball people (Bud Selig being one of the most outspoken) telling us that it's just impossible for lower market teams to compete with the big, bad Yankees and Red Sox, and thus we need a salary cap and all that. Yet here are the Rays, with the lowest payroll in the AL, in the World Series, fresh off a victory over those big market baddies the Red Sox.

The Rays are a testament to brilliant front office decision-making and should be seen on a national stage by baseball fans everywhere. New ownership came in three years ago, swept out the incompetent Chuck LaMar (who some people, incredibly, want to give a lot of credit for the Rays' current success), and went about molding all the young talent into a winner. Through intelligent scouting, smart drafting, brilliant free agent pickups (Carlos Pena, anyone?) and smart trades (the Garza trade is looking like a heist right now), the Rays overcame their financial handicap and a history as a laughingstock to get within four wins of a World Championship. How is that not a great story?

As for the Phillies, they haven't been there since 1993, they haven't won a Series since 1980 (complete with Tug McGraw's heart-fluttering goofiness), and they have three of the most exciting players in the game in Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley. Most of their best players (including the aforementioned three and Cole Hamels and Pat Burrell) are all homegrown, speaking once again to the idea that success can be won through smart scouting as opposed to just having the most money.

This Series may not have the sex appeal of some over-hyped or convoluted rivalry, but it's a matchup of two baseball teams run the right way. If that's boring, then I guess I'm just a big, uh, bore. And at least it won't be the Dodgers.

*Actually, Apocalypse ended up being killed by his own minions in that fight, so I don't know how well that speaks to my chances, given the sheer numbers that comprise the Red Sox Nation.

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Thursday, October 09, 2008


Quick and Dirty LCS Predictions

When the Giants aren't in the playoffs I tend to take a somewhat apathetic approach to October baseball. I normally root for the National League in the World Series as a rule, and I always root against the Yankees and, more often than not, the Red Sox. Sometimes there's an awesome team, like this year's Rays, that I root for to win the whole thing because I like underdogs and and feel-good stories. Most times, though, I just watch to watch baseball, without a whole lot of rooting interest.

This year, though, is a different story. I'm treating the 2008 NLCS like this year's Presidential election. It's too important not to have an educated interest in. You see, watching the Dodgers move on to the World Series is about as repulsive as watching the McCain/Palin clown act raise their arms in victory on November 4th. Just as the country is nearing the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Giants fans are on the brink of a nightmare scenario involving a Dodger team parading around the streets of LA, led by a spoiled man-child and a pornstached cowboy whose injury-hiding ways are only mildly less embarrassing than Monta Ellis's.

So, yes, I'll be watching this NLCS about as intently as I've ever watched a non-Giant playoff series. If it comes down to the pick-your-poison scenario of a Boston-LA series (just like it did in the NBA Finals this year), I may just implode in on myself and take on a new existence in the astral plane just to get away from this crap.

Philles over Dodgers, 4-2

Even if the Dodgers had the lineup of the 1939 Yankees and a pitching staff anchored by the perverted love-child of Tom Seaver and Sandy Koufax, I still wouldn't pick them to win this series. Even if Tommy Lasorda tied me up and waterboarded me with Ultra Slim Fast, I still wouldn't give in and pick the Dodgers. Even if Ned Colletti set his mustache on fire and hopped around ablaze for our amusement on live television, I still wouldn't pick the Dodgers. Even if...well, you get the idea.

The Phillies have a lineup that is miles better than LA's. They've been hotter than LA the past month (for all the talk about Manny, the Dodgers are just 30-25 with him). They're awesome on the road while LA sucks away from Dodger Stadium. Their run differential was way better than LA's. All this could mean nothing in a short series, I realize, but my money would be on Philly even if they weren't squaring off against a team affiliated with Satan.

Red Sox over Rays 4-1 (but I hope I'm horribly wrong)

I really, really want the Rays to win the World Series. They're a fun worst-to-first story and they are the perfect model of how every franchise should be run. They have colorful players (how can you not love Grant Balfour*?) and their roster is made up of a lot of utility guys like Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar, and Eric Hinske who, when utilized correctly, are huge assets due to their positional flexibility and ability to hurt you in platoon matchups. I love players like that, and teams who use them wisely to win. Don't ask me why, but it probably stems from my love of the 1986 Mets, who had a lot of that type of player.

So I love the Rays this season. Unfortunately, the point of this little writeup isn't what I want to happen; it's about making me look smart. I think the Sox are still better in almost every aspect, especially if Josh Beckett is healthy and himself. The Rays' offense is a little sketchy and I don't have a lot of confidence at all that their pitchers can hold down the Boston attack. If Scott Kazmir gets past the fifth inning in any of his starts against the Red Sox and their collection of walk machines, I'll give everybody reading an ITunes gift card (no, not really, but wouldn't that be sweet? Those things are money as Christmas gifts). Pitchers who routinely run up high pitch counts tend to meet an early doom against Boston.

So I really, really want the Rays to win, but every rational baseball fiber of my being says that the Red Sox are just the better team. Hopefully I'm just an idiot and the Rays sweep their way into the World Series and ride through the streets of St. Petersburg in the parade that no one will turn out for.

*In Game One of the White Sox-Rays series, Balfour and Orlando Cabrera got into a little shouting match for reasons that really aren't clear to me. The two were facing off at a crucial point in the game. Seventh inning, bases loaded, two out, Sox down by three. A base hit plates two, an extra base hit ties the game.

Balfour threw his first pitch high for a ball, and Cabrera for some reason kicked dirt at him and started cussing. Balfour dropped some F-bombs of his own, but order was maintained before anything came of the whole back-and-forth. Balfour finally struck Cabrera out on a 98-mph fastball and stormed off the mound yelling for Cabrera to sit down. After the game, all I heard were teammates trying to justify Balfour's behavior by saying, basically, hey, he's a crazy Aussie who gets fired up and loses control in these situations, like the douchebag fiancee in Wedding Crashers. It's just Balfour being Balfour.

Fine. My problem isn't with Grant Balfour. My question: What the fuck was Cabrera doing? He's a light-hitting shortstop facing a guy who is out there throwing 98 mph petrol and the first thing he can think to do is taunt the guy? Not sure here, but I'm guessing when MENSA held tryouts, Cabrera missed the cut. The look on Balfour's face immediately after Cabrera kicked dirt at him was priceless. It was like, "Did this scrub really just do that?"

All the post-game chatter focused on Balfour's nuttiness, but I think he was completely justified in screaming at Cabrera after he blew him away on strikes. If some lousy player kicked dirt at me and started talking shit for no reason like that, I'd be pissed off, too.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Stankeye Award Picks

I was all ready with a big rant about how I really don't care at all about award voting in major league baseball, then I realized that I was about to follow up said rant with my own picks for who should win each postseason award, so I guess that means I care a little. Still, the BBWAA voting on these things is just amazingly idiotic. Only a boob would think that Ryan Howard belongs anywhere near the same conversation as Albert Pujols, but somehow he's a favorite.

But, wait! Howard had 146 RBIs! He's mad clutch! Yes, this is why I've stopped caring about who wins MVP and whatnot. If the majority of voters can't figure out that the reason Howard has so many RBIs is that he has three players who are better than he is getting on base for him all the time, the whole voting process is just worthless.

And don't even get me started on the whole MVP-should-be-from-a-winning-team bullshit. I love how the voters use the "if his team sucks, how valuable can he be?" moron-speak to justify not voting for a guy on a losing team who is clearly more valuable than their pet player. Newsflash: No matter how great a player is, he can't help it if the pitching sucks and the hitters around him are garbage. According to this logic, if you put Josh Hamilton on the White Sox instead of Carlos Quentin they would be a losing team and would miss the playoffs.

Ugh, see what this award voting stuff does to me? It gets me riled up, and I'm a laid-back, even-keeled guy! It's just that when I have to open the paper and see Bartolo Colon winning a Cy Young or Justin Morneau winning the MVP, it makes me turn green and go on an unstoppable rampage. Paulie smash! Any-hoo, here are my personal MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year picks, along with who I think will actually get the award.

Who Should Win: Albert Pujols

Pujols was ridiculous this season, leading the league in OPS, total bases, OPS+, VORP, and finishing second or close to the top in just about every other offensive category. His .357/.462./653 line is like something you'd see on the back of Barry Bonds' baseball card. He walked 104 times against just 54 strikeouts! Do you have any idea how crazy that is? Add all that to the fact that he's a tremendous fielder at his position and I think he's far and away the best player in the NL.

Who Will Win: Pujols

Maybe I'm giving the BBWAA too much credit here, but I can't believe even that collection of relics can screw this up. Even though Howard has the lead in homers and has the huge, shiny RBI total, I think enough voters will be put off by the low average and high strikeout totals that common sense will prevail and Pujols will win the award. The fact that the Cardinals were in playoff contention for most of the year will help Pujols's cause as well. Then again, never underestimate a sportswriter's lack of intelligent thought process.

Who Should Win: Joe Mauer

This is sort of a controversial vote, as there are a lot of viable candidates, but I think the hardware should go to Mauer. He plays the toughest position on the diamond at a Gold Glove caliber and led the AL in hitting while doing it. He's just one hell of a hitter, with a .328/.415/.453 line, and he led all catchers in VORP and OBP. Plus, my uncle says I look exactly like him, which gives him extra points in my book. His counting stats, though, probably won't be sexy enough in the voters' minds to give him the award, which is also what killed his MVP chances in 2006.

Who Will Win: Dustin Pedroia

I'd have chosen Morneau if the Twins had made the playoffs, but they didn't, so thankfully we'll most likely be spared that retarded pick. As for Pedroia, the media loves those small, scrappy white guys who supposedly play above their talent, so he'll probably win since he makes a good story. That's not to say he didn't have a great year. He was awesome, hitting .326/.376/.493 and playing a tough defensive position well. I think there are better candidates, but if Pedroia does win, I won't have any quibble.

NL Cy Young
Who Should Win: Tim Lincecum

Duh. He was second in ERA, first in strikeouts by a wide margin, and just an unhittable force all year long. Another point in his favor, as a poster on McCovey Chronicles pointed out, is that he didn't get to face the Giants' lineup at all.

Who Will Win: Lincecum

Again, perhaps I'm giving the writers too much credit, but I think even they can look past Brandon Webb's 22 wins and see that Lincecum was a much better pitcher. Then again, we did get Colon over Johan Santana because of this same stupid thinking in 2005, so maybe I shouldn't get my hopes up.

AL Cy Young
Who Should Win: Roy Halladay

Who Will Win: Cliff Lee

I was going to give my vote to Lee, but upon further review, Halladay was a monster this season. He faced tougher competition than Lee, pitched more innings, and had a lower WHIP, which is a better indicator of individual performance than ERA. I was also all ready to fawn over Lee's K/BB ratio, but Halladay's is even better. Still, Lee has that eye-popping 22-3 record and that should get him the Cy.

Side note: If Francisco Rodriguez wins the AL Cy Young or, even worse, the MVP, which is a very real possibility, I'm denouncing baseball and moving to Nepal to become one of those monks who protect Yeti scalps.

NL Rookie of the Year
Who Should Win: Geovany Soto

Who Will Win: Soto

Just a no-brainer. The rookie catcher OPSed .868 and was a major reason the Cubs blew away the competition in the NL Central.

AL Rookie of the Year
Who Should Win: Evan Longoria

Who Will Win: Longoria

Another easy pick. Perhaps Alexei Ramirez will pick up some idiot votes and make it close, but Longoria's 27 homers and .874 OPS, coupled with his amazing glove, make him the clear winner.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008


Gonna Take You Back to the Past...

I'd like to take a quick moment here to look back at some preseason predictions I made and see if my ability to see into the future is legitimate or just a poorly conceived scam to take money from idiots like Sylvia Browne's. At the very least, I can almost certainly say that I'm a better prognosticator than those damned Web Bots that predicted a global catastrophe today (maybe they were just talking about John McCain's debate performance...oof).

Here's a list of my predicted leaders in a number of categories for the Giants this season, re-printed here from this small post back in March.

BA: Randy Winn, .295
R: Winn, 80
2B: Winn, 36
3B: Dave Roberts, 9
HR: Aaron Rowand, 17
RBI: Rowand, 71
SB: Roberts, 43
BB: Ray Durham, 61
OPS: Durham, .825

W: Tim Lincecum, 12
K: Lincecum, 205
IP: Matt Cain, 223
ERA: Lincecum, 3.12
SV: Brian Wilson, 23

Um, who exactly predicted Dave Roberts to lead the team in steals and triples?

(points finger and whispers) That one.

Uh, yeah, anyway. Here are the actual 2008 Giants leaders. Let's see how well I fared.

BA: Randy Winn, .306
R: Winn, 84
2B: Winn, 38
3B: Fred Lewis, 11
HR: Bengie Molina, 16
RBI: Molina, 95
SB: Winn, 25
BB: Winn, 59
OPS: Lewis, .794

W: Tim Lincecum, 18
K: Lincecum, 265
IP: Lincecum, 227
ERA: Lincecum, 2.62
SV: Brian Wilson, 41

I honestly gotta say, I think I did pretty well for myself here. My advanced powers of the mind are finally manifesting themselves. Uri Geller, eat your heart out. I was almost dead on with the batting average, runs, doubles, and walks, and very close on the home run total. I expected to just be way off across the board. Also, Durham would have led the Giants in OPS if he had enough at bats to qualify, and he also probably would have led the team in walks had he not been traded.

I thought my preseason forecast for Lincecum was wildly optimistic, but he proved me wrong and shattered I think everybody's expectations. It goes to show just how talented the guy is. I thought he'd need another year or two of adjustment before he broke out completely.

I would also like to pat myself on the back a little for this shrewd comment back in March about Brian Wilson:

>>There won't be a lot of wins for Wilson to save, but any Giants victory will probably be low-scoring, so if he can handle the closer's role, a 30-save season isn't out of the question.<<

(pats back as shit-eating grin spreads over face) Wilson didn't save 30; he saved 40, and my theory was absolutely right. The Giant offense wasn't very good, obviously, and when they did win the score was usually 3-2 or 2-1, so Wilson got a ton of save opportunities. In reality, Wilson actually wasn't very good and his season served as a perfect illustration of why the save stat is so freaking stupid, but he did show the ability to "rear back, fill his pants, and throw" 100 mph, as Mike Krukow would say, and there's a quality reliever hiding in there somewhere.

--Over on Bugs and Cranks, I've started a position-by-position recap of the Giants in 2008. Yesterday I talked catchers, and had some flattering things to say about Bengie. Today I talked about first base, and it got ugly. Second base tomorrow and more in the coming week. Check it out.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Quick and Dirty Playoff Predictions

Cubs over Dodgers 3-0

Phillies over Brewers 3-1

Red Sox over Angels 3-0

Rays over White Sox 3-1

What, you really thought I was going to pick the Dodgers to win even a game? For shame. The playoffs are essentially a crapshoot, especially in the first round. Even the crappiest team can beat the best team three out of five times in any scenario. Still, why not throw these out with very little analysis so we can all come back in two weeks and bask in my amazing prognostication powers?

For what it's worth, I think the Red Sox, injuries and all, are still the best team in the playoffs. The Angels won 100 games but preyed on a really awful division and their offense just doesn't impress me at all. The Rays are the team I'm rooting for to win it all, and they should have no trouble with Chicago. Has any team choked it's way into the playoffs quite like the ChiSox this year? They basically handed the Twins the division and then had to scramble to reclaim it in the 163rd game of the year. I also dismissed them in 2005, though, and they went on to win it all, so I guess anything can happen.


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