Results tagged ‘ Cardinals ’

Congrats, St. Louis!


I never got a chance to congratulate the St. Louis Cardinals yet on this blog for winning the World Series, so I wanted to take a moment to do that now.  You knocked off the “juggernaut” (Philly), the “chic pick” (Milwaukee), and arguably the most steady team in the American League (Texas).  Much like in 2006, you surprised us all!!

Especially, though, I was happy for former Twin Nick Punto…

He finally has that World Series ring for all his hustle!

On a related note, I was surprised to hear about the retiring of Tony LaRussa.  Personally, I will always remember Tony for this…

I logged more hours on this baseball sim than perhaps any other video game I have ever played!

LaRussa was a great manager who will always be remember for his strategy, and perhaps his involvement in the Steroid Era.  I think I’ll always say that Bobby Cox was the greatest manager of my generation, but LaRussa isn’t too far behind (just look at those win totals).

Pavano & Punto

Item #1:

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Our veteran leader returns for two more seasons. Don’t expect the next coming of Johan Santana or anything, but Pavano can save a bullpen and give you quality starts when healthy.

Item #2:

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Nick Punto is a St. Louis Cardinal.  The end of an era, for sure.  I’ll always remember Punto for his hustle (especially those head-first dives into first base), even if it did lead to more jammed fingers and other body parts than probably necessary.  Could he hit a lick?  Besides 2006…no.  But he played spectacular defense and could fill in at any position as the heir to Dennis Hocking.  Who will be next in the chain?  I’m betting Matt Tolbert.

Whew…That Was Close

Twins_Tigers_Baseball_sff_181553_game.jpgWhew…the Twins managed to avoid a sweep today at the hands of the Tigers thanks to another solid outing from Carl Pavano and some much-needed clutch hitting (that didn’t produce too many double plays).

With pretty much the entire rotation struggling at this point, Pavano took the rotation on his back and turned in 7.2 IP while allowing just three earned runs.  Heck, he even managed to keep Miguel Cabrera from completely destroying us!

Multi-hit games from Young, Cuddyer (who is finally starting to hit the ball again), and Kubel allowed the M&M-less offense to come out on top.

This was a big win for the Twins, as heading into the break three games back is much better (if only psychologically) than five.

Notes:

-Justin Morneau, due to his lingering concussion symptoms, will not start in the All-Star game (or play whatsoever) on Tuesday night.  Cabrera will start the game, while Paul Konerko of the White Sox has been added to the roster.

-Sad news today in hearing that longtime Yankees PA announcer Bob Sheppard passed away today.  I know that he hadn’t been doing the PA for a few years now, but his recorded broadcast still introduces Derek Jeter to this day.  Younger fans may not remember the name, but the voice will likely be familiar.

Preview: Home-Run Derby!  Here are this year’s participants:

 

National League: Chris Young (Diamondbacks), Corey Hart (Brewers), Matt Holliday (Cardinals), Hanley Ramirez (Marlins)

American League: David Ortiz (Red Sox), Nick Swisher (Yankees), Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Vernon Wells (Blue Jays)

2010 MLB Picks

crystal-ball.jpgMy “official” predictions for the 2010 MLB season (before the season gets too far along and starts to affect my judgement!):

AL East

New York

Boston (Wild Card)

Tampa Bay

Baltimore

Toronto

AL Central

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Detroit

Cleveland

AL West

Los Angeles

Oakland

Texas

Seattle

NL East

Philadelphia

Atlanta (Wild Card)

New York

Florida

Washington

NL Central

St. Louis

Chicago

Milwaukee

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West

San Francisco

Los Angeles

Arizona

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champ: New York

NL Champ: Atlanta

World Series Champ: Atlanta Braves

Questions, comments, rants, profanity-laced tirades?!

The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

Keep On Rollin’ (And A R.I.P.)

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The Twins finished up the Interleague Portion of their season today, beating the Cardinals 6-2 behind a strong start from Francisco Liriano and some big hits from Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel.

Looking back, the Twins (once again) really enjoyed this month of NL play, as (just recently) we were one Nick Blackburn gaffe and two Albert Pujols swings away from sweeping both the Brewers and Cardinals ON THE ROAD.  The Twins haven’t played that well in an opposing ballpark since guys like Mientkiewicz, Rivas, and Guzman were still lurking around!

Now, though, the test will be whether or not the Twins can parlay this Interleague success back over to the AL.  Luckily, the road doesn’t get much easier than in Kansas City, our opponent tomorrow night.

Preview (39-38, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Nick Blackburn (6-3, 3.11) vs. Luke Hochevar (2-3, 5.87). The Royals have nothing without Zack Grienke, and we don’t draw him…sweet.

By the way, this guy died today…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkuReA-AGa8

Unbelievable.  Celebs (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Mays) are dying at an incredible rate these days.

Unfortunately, this just means that this guy…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJEKqI1e714

…is now the “king” of infomercials. Sad.

Can’t Hit? No Matter

5a6848c5-90c1-47c5-a0ce-44cee65f0a09.jpgIf one thing has become crystal clear during the 2009 Interleague Play schedule, besides the fact that the Twins can win on the road when playing the NL, it is that starting pitcher Glen Perkins cannot hit.  He goes up to the plate, takes a few feeble waves, and (in nearly every occasion past, present, or future) goes back to prepare for the next inning on the mound.

That didn’t matter tonight, however, as Perkins was brilliant for seven innings, holding the Cardinals to just four hits and one earned run.  He didn’t strike many batters out (3), but nobody really hit anything hard off of him, either.  The bullpen then shut the door from that point.  Guerrier struggled a bit in the eighth, but with one out Gardy summoned Jose Mijares, who proceeded to throw one pitch, get the double play, and get back in the dugout.

The offense left a few men on base again tonight, but two-hit games from Kubel and Cuddyer proved to be enough.

Perhaps the most telling stat, though, is that Albert Pujols was just 1-4 on the night, and whiffed against Joe Nathan in the final frame.

Notes:

-At one point, a camera showed former Twin Dennys Reyes warming up in the bullpen.  My first thought was, “Geesh, that’s the ugliest guy I’ve ever seen”…

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But then, Ryan Franklin was brought in for the top of the ninth…

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I rest my case.

Preview (38-37, 2nd, 4.0 GB DET): Kevin Slowey (10-2, 4.04) vs. Todd Wellemeyer (6-7, 5.53). Though still a bit of a long-shot, Slowey might just be pitching himself into All-Star consideration.  He doesn’t have the dominating ERA, but a win tomorrow would give him the AL-lead in that category.  Of course, I remember a year or two ago that Kyle Lohse (for the Cards) was something like 12-2 at the break with a similar ERA and didn’t make the Midsummer Classic.  However, if a few guys picked by the managers fall ill or have other conflicts, you just never know.

MLB Predictions: 2009

1908Cubs.jpgEach year, usually after receiving the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview issue, I make a complete set of MLB picks.  It’s always fun to look back at them and see how right/wrong (wrong far outnumbering the right!) I was at the end of the season.  Here they are for ’09:

AL East:

Boston

Tampa Bay (Wild Card)

New York

Toronto

Baltimore

AL Central:

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Cleveland

Detroit

AL West:

Los Angeles

Texas

Seattle

Oakland

NL East:

Philadelphia

New York (Wild Card)

Florida

Atlanta

Washington

NL Central:

Chicago

Milwaukee

St. Louis

Cincinnati

Houston

Pittsburgh

NL West:

Los Angeles

Arizona

San Francisco

Colorado

San Diego

AL Champion: Boston

NL Champion: Chicago

World Series Champion: Chicago

So, after 100 long seasons of waiting, I think this is the year that the Cubbies will finally win the big one.  I just think that their pitching is too good not to make a deep playoff run.

World Series Failing? Let Rivalries Develop

1_61_fenway320.jpgThis week, while reading an article in Sports Illustrated magazine, I came across a rather lengthy article (although I cannot recall by whom) discussing how the World Series needs to re-establish its place as the crown-jewel of the baseball season, as in recent seasons (most dramatically this year) the event has lost huge viewership numbers, even losing to the NBA Finals in some seasons.  The author of the article layed out a few solutions to the problem, such as starting games earlier (so kids and working adults can watch them), speeding up pitching changes, and doing something to take bad weather out of the equation (like mandating that all new parks be built with a retractable roof).  However, I had a much different response to that article that I wanted to share on this blog…

To me, the drop in World Series luster in the recent years has, ironically, been caused by baseball’s biggest accomplishment…parity (eight different teams have played in the World Series the past four years).  Think back to when the World Series was a premiere event…it was because the New York Yankees were dominating and everyone either loved them or loved to hate them.  Realistically, the Yankees’ last playoff hurrah was in 2004 (when the Red Sox made their improbable comeback)…since then, the World Series just hasn’t been the same in terms of viewership (the Sox got a boost from beating the Yanks, of course).

So, at least in my mind, the best way to return to a star-studded World Series again is to let a big-market team dominate the playing field again.  However, I am terribly opposed to that sort of economic structure (despite the excitement it brings to the playoffs, as who didn’t have a rooting interest in the Yankees either way over the past decade?!), so here is what I think is the next best solution…let the natural MLB rivalries develop.

Historically, the ALCS and NLCS series’ have often been more dramatic as the World Series just due to the fact that both teams (being in the same league) know each other so well.  During the late 1990s and early 2000s, such rivalries as Cardinals-Astros, Braves-Mets, Yankees-Red Sox, and even Yankees-Rangers (for Texas’ first-round futility against the Bombers) really fueled the postseason structure, creating steam for a big World Series matchup.  Because, even though the WS does not, by definition, precipitate geographic rivalries, it can be made more exciting by teams that just came off a thrilling victory.  Growing up, I was always very anti-Yankees and anti-Braves (because I despised the advantages of large market teams over “my” Twins), but that “hatred” of those teams made me watch them all the more just to see them get beat!  I think the same principle could apply to MLB today, but we just have to let a few rivalries play out.

For example, Red Sox-Rays (as pictured above) could be big for years to come, while White Sox-Twins also has potential  In the NL, the Phillies and Dodgers may “get up” for each other after that spirited NLCS, while the Cubs and Cardinals are always at each other’s throats.  Plus, who knows where new rivalries will emerge.  Just last year, no one would have ever thought Sox-Rays would turn interesting, but look what happened.  From my experience with the AL Central, the Twins and Royals have quite a rivalry, but it will only gain attention if the Royals win a few more games (Yikes!).

Thus, I don’t think that there is a “quick fix” to restoring luster to the World Series.  I would love to see games start earlier and pitching changes go a bit quicker, but that alone will not restore interest…only teams, players, and the rivalries between them.

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