Results tagged ‘ Phillies ’

The Slippery Slope Of Steroids

romero1.jpgI found out the other day that former Minnesota Twins reliever J.C. Romero (who now plays for the Philadelphia Phillies and was instrumental to their World Series title last year) has been suspended for the first 50 games of the upcoming 2009 baseball season due to testing positive for a banned substance.

Romero’s defense is that the product (6-OXO Extreme) is readily available in most health supplement shops, and in that defense he is correct, creating a new wrinkle in the “war against steroids” in professional sports.

Though it is very difficult for me to sympathize with athletes who defend themselves after testing positive for a banned substance, there has been a rash of incidences lately in which players plead guilty and had a decent case.  Take Pat and Kevin Williams of the Minnesota Vikings, as well as Deuce McAllister and a lineman from the New Orleans Saints of the NFL.  They all faced suspensions for taking banned substances, but their defense was that they were just taking weight loss pills and the banned substance was not listed in the ingredients.  Romero is essentially saying the same thing, as he claims the substance was approved by his team-hired trainers in Philly.

Cases like these are why the steroid problem in professional sports is so hard to untangle.  On one hand, Romero could be a victim of an unscrupulous company.  On the other hand, though, he could just be using the newest defense of ‘roids (“it wasn’t on the label”) and trying to worm his way out of punishment.

Of course, the MLB Players Union supports Romero fully.

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.

Glad For Phillies Players, Disappointed At Philly Fans

Howard.jpgTo be honest, I really can’t say this year that I am glad one team won the World Series over the other.  Being a Twins fan I don’t follow the NL much, so the Phillies (besides their star players) were pretty much a mystery to me, while the Rays only came unto my “baseball radar” screen when they made the playoffs.  Thus, I didn’t know enough about either team to have a rooting interest in either direction.  However, after watching Phils closer Brad Lidge whiff Rays batter Eric Hinske to give Philadelphia its first baseball champion since 1980, there were two things I noticed about the Phils that will always shape how I remember their 2008 championship season:

First, I was very impressed by the genuine excitement and gratitude shown by Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel.  While on the outside “Charmin Chuck” (as he was known when he played for the Minnesota Twins from 1969-1972) seems like a grumpy old codger (I likened him to Tom Kelly in his mannerisms), one could easily tell from his “acceptance speech” while being given the World Series trophy that he is one of the genuine “good guys” of the game of baseball and am I happy for him.  I’m sure Rays manager Joe Maddon is just as genuine of a guy, but he (being young) will likely get another crack at a championship.  Manuel may not be on this Earth much longer so I’m glad he got to experience what it’s like to hoist up a championship trophy.

On the other hand, I was very disappointed with the fans of Philadelphia, as they booed MLB Commissioner Bud Selig when he stepped up to make the trophy presentation.  To be honest, I understand exactly WHY they are booing (I think Selig is a no-backbone goon as well), but is that really the time or place to express your feelings?!  No!!   In what should have been a moment of jubilation, many Philly fans were just looking for something to ridicule, and to me that says a lot about the character of the people who walk into Citizen’s Bank Park on a nightly basis.  I know I’m generalizing here, as many fans didn’t boo Selig, but by and large the lack of sportsmanship was permeating.  Over the last few years I have heard all the stories (e.g. booing Santa Claus at an Eagles game) about the rude behavior of Philadelphia fans, but last night I experienced it first hand and was appalled.

With the baseball season now “closed for the winter” (much like my local DairyLand ice cream shop), I don’t know how much I will be contributing to this blog in the coming months.  I will keep you updated on the happenings involved with the Twins, as well as every once in awhile write on a topic that may intrigue me as it comes across the media.

I started this blog in June of 2008, so I am looking forward to 2009, when I can blog about my favorite team (the Twins!) from beginning to end!

World Series Game Three Preview: The Old Man

Moyer.jpgBarring a rain-out tonight, the pitching matchups for Game Three of the World Series are as follows: Jamie Moyer (PHI, LHP, 2-0, 5.1 IP, 13.50 ERA) vs. Matt Garza (TB, RHP, 2-1, 19 IP, 3.32 ERA).

This entire World Series has been billed of one featuring young, athletic players who will be the future of the game in years to come.  Whereas old stalwarts such as the Yankees and Braves always seemed to make the playoffs in years past, this year has been quite the opposite.  However, Jamie Moyer couldn’t be more different from that promotion.  Moyer is 45 years old and has been pitching in MLB since 1986, right around the birth date of many of his teammates on the Phillies.  Much like Terry Mulholland (I only recollect that name because he played a little while for my Twins), Moyer is blessed with a rubber arm, and managed to win 16 games this season when most people wrote him off as washed up after a disappointing 2007 campaign.

As much as I would like to see Moyer tame the youngsters, I think he will be defeated tonight (or whenever the game is actually played).  Moyer has given the game his all for many years, but I think the youthful exuberance of TB’s kids will be too much for him this time.

World Series Game Two: A Nice “Shield”

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Although I admit I did not watch Game Two of the World Series from first pitch to last-I mostly tuned in and out while doing other household tasks-the thing that caught my eye the most was the solid pitching of Rays starting pitcher James “Big Game” Shields, who held a crafty Philadelphia Phillies lineup to zero runs over five and two-thirds innings.

Shields’ pitching performance may not be the stuff that legends (Jack Morris, Curt Schilling, etc.) are made of, but it is something the Rays have not seen since the inception of the franchise.  To this day, Rolando Arrojo either holds or is dangerously close to holding nearly all of the key Rays franchise pitching records.  Point being, the Rays have never, in the history of their organization, had a shut-down pitcher that could be counted on to win a game, but throughout this postseason James Shields has been exactly that.

After today’s travel day, the Series will continue on Saturday night in Philadelphia (barring the inclement weather that is forecast).  I will preview that matchup later.
 

World Series Game Two Preview: Digging Themselves A Hole

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Although before last night’s opening game of the World Series I predicted that Tampa Bay would beat Philadelphia’s ace Cole Hamels, I knew that there was a pretty good possibility that Hamels would still win, as I was just playing a momentum-based hunch.  However, now down 1-0 in the Series on their home turf, Game Two of the WS tonight is almost a must-win game for the Rays, as they don’t want to dig themselves too deep of a whole and be forced to fight their way out of it while in Philly.

Tonight’s starters (with their 2008 postseason stats) are James Shields (TB, RHP, 2-0, 19.1 IP, 3.72 ERA) vs. Brett Myers (PHI, RHP, 2-0, 12 IP, 5.25 ERA).  Shields has been pretty dominant this postseason, while Myers can be gotten to, so I think this series has a very good chance of being evened up heading into Citizen’s Bank Park on Saturday.

World Series Game One Preview

Hamels.jpgTomorrow night, October 22, the World Series will commence at roughly 7:00 p.m. on FOX.  Pitching matchups for Game 1 are: Cole Hamels (PHI; LHP, 3-0, 22 IP, 1.23 ERA in postseason) vs. Scott Kazmir (TB; LHP, 2-0, 15.2 IP, 4.02).

To me, this is the key game of the series.  While the Phillies seem to have the advantage because of the brilliant ace Hamels, I think that the Rays will knock him off (due to their home field mojo that has propelled them to victory all season long) and thus set the tone for the entire series.

Of course, if Philly does succeed, it would really put the pressure on the Rays to win Game Two before heading to the City of Brotherly Love.

World Series Prediction: The Magic Continues

WorldSeriesTrophy.jpgThe entire season, I have doubted the Tampa Bay Rays, first thinking they would never win the division, and secondly, thinking they would not advance deep in the postseason.  However, now that the Rays have proven me wrong time and time again (and beaten the playoff-savvy Red Sox), they are my pick to host the Commissioner’s Trophy in about a week.

I think both teams are very evenly matched (as pitching is the strong suit of either side), but I’m giving the series to Tampa Bay because of their home field advantage at the Trop.  In a shocking upset, I think that the Rays will defeat Philadelphia Phillies ace starter Cole Hamels in Game One and shake up the Phils a bit.  However, I also see the series advancing to at least a sixth game (as Philly plays well at home too), but likely no further, as the home-town magic will be enough to propel the Phils into the promised land.

So, because of the home field advantage and enough talent to beat Philly’s ace, I predict a Rays world championship in six games.  I’m excited to see what happens…

LF: The Breakout Candidate

YoungSlidingReview.jpgWhen the Minnesota Twins traded promising young starter Matt Garza to the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason, the keystone of the deal was Delmon Young, who had batted .288 and drove in 93 runs during his rookie season in 2007.  From the Twins’ perspective, Young was one of the most promising young talents in the American League.

Of course, as had happened at the second base (Brendan Harris), shortstop (Adam Everett), and third base (Mike Lamb) positions, Delmon got off to a slow start in a Twins uniform, flailing away at unhittable pitches and not hitting anything but singles when he did connect (his first home run didn’t come until June 7).  This was at the same time that Garza was near the league leaders in both wins and earned run average for the AL.

Then, on June 27, Michael Cuddyer (the most powerful right-handed bat in the Twins’ lineup to that point) was essentially lost for the season due to a wrist (and later a foot) injury.  From that point, Young really stepped up and became a force in the Twins’ lineup, finishing with a .290 BA, 80 R, 10 HR, and 14 SB.

Defensively, Young was heavily criticized (yes, this is you Patrick Ruesse) during one portion of the season where he misjudged a few fly balls in the Metrodome.  To me, though, that criticism was entirely undeserved.  First off, Young has a rocket arm out in left (a HUGE improvement over our last full-time left fielder Shannon Stewart).  Second, every rookie has their struggles at the Dome, whether it be with the roof (outfielders) or the turf (infielders).  Yes, Young struggled a little bit, but by the end of the season he saved many more hits, runs, and advancing base runners than he allowed.

The key thing that Twins fans must remember about Delmon Young is that his last name is synonymous with his current status in MLB.  Delmon is only 22 years old, and after his breakthrough rookie season in 2007 he had a bit of a “sophomore slump” in the early goings of ’08.  As the season came to a close, though, it became clear that Young can provide some right-handed pop to the lineup (as well as good speed), making him potentially the starting left-fielder of the Minnesota Twins for many years to come.  I, for one, have no qualms about that.

Playoff Notes:

-What a clutch win for the Phillies last night, with Shane Victorino hitting a late-inning two-run home run to give the Phils the victory.  I predicted the Philadelphia squad to win this series in five games, and right now they are one win from doing exactly that.

-ALCS Game Four Starting Pitchers (Tampa Bay 2, Boston 1): Tim Wakefield (10-11, 4.13) vs. Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38).  Can the Rays win two consecutive games in Fenway Park in October?  I lean towards one, but of course I also doubted their ability to even win one. 

3B: The Platoon

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During spring 2008, the Minnesota Twins were counting on Mike Lamb (like Adam Everett, also acquired from the Houston Astros) to man the hot corner and, more importantly, provide some pop to the offense with his seasoned bat.  Neither occurred (Lamb played below-average defense and hit just .233), and within a few months the platoon of Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris took over the third stop.

Buscher (a lefty) hit .294 in just 218 at-bats and proved to be an RBI machine (47 in 70 games).  His defense was a bit shaky earlier one, but tightened up as the season progressed into September.

Harris (a righty) moved to third after being exiled from both second and short on a starting basis.  Harris played against lefties (and a good share of righties), hitting .265 in 434 at-bats.  Harris tended to be a streaky player, going through stretches where he seemed to get all the key hits, followed by slumps that would find Buscher even starting against left-handers.

Personally, I would like to see the Busch Man installed as the everyday third baseman.  I feel that he gives the lineup more pop, and his defense will only get better.  The key, though, is how Buscher progresses in his development.  At the end of 2008, Buscher struggled for the most part, so perhaps pitchers are figuring him out and now he needs to make the adjustment.  Thus, Harris is very much worth keeping.  If Buscher fails to produce up to expectations, Harris is still a prospect to keep an eye on, as he is still pretty young.

Fan response to the 2008 Twins may lean towards signing a third baseman with a little more pop in his bat than the unproven Harris or the youngster Buscher, but knowing the Twins’ budget a move will almost certainly not be made.  We’ll have to rely on one (or both) of those two players to improve on their ’08 campaign.

Playoff Notes:

-Boy, the Rays sure surprised me by thumping the Red Sox today 9-1.  I never thought I’d see the day when the Tampa Bay baseball organization would make a World Series appearance, but now the world is just two more victories away from that exact feat.

-Right now, the Phillies and Dodgers are just winding down a crazy contest that I believe has featured a lead change every time a run has been scored!  It is currently 7-5 Philly in the top of the ninth, but in a game like this nothing is over until the final at-bat.

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