Results tagged ‘ World Series ’

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).

Congrats, Giants!

imagesCAFJXHFZ.jpgTonight, I want to congratulate the San Francisco Giants on their 2010 World Series championship!

Your team may have had to struggle just to make it to October, but once you got there you rode Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and your veteran leadership (how many World Series has Edgar Renteria starred in?!) all the way to the promised land, even knocking off the mighty Cliff Lee to finish things off.

Savor this night, as you never know when it may come again.  However, this squad (even the bit players) will be immortalized along the facility hallways and organization reunions for all-time.

Goliath vs. Goliath

It’s been way too long since I updated this blog, but in part it is because of exactly what I am about to say.  Last week, the New York Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, and I’ll admit that I hardly watched any of it.  Was it because my beloved Twins were knocked off by the hated Yanks?  Partially, I will admit.  But I think the real reason is just because of how depressing it was to see the “haves” of baseball continue to lay the unrequited smackdown on the “have nots”.  This line of thinking was epitomized by the Game One starting pitching matchup:

indians-sabathia.jpg

The Yankees opened the Series with burly lefthander C.C. Sabathia, who had pretty much dominated any opponent sent to face him all season long.  Just two seasons previous (2007), though, old cap-tipping C.C. (the Yanks must have straightened that out along with Jason Giambi’s mustache, Randy Johnson’s dangly hair, and Johnny Damon’s Jesus-mane) had been the star of Cleveland, winning the AL Cy Young award.

Sabathia’s mound opponent in Game One was Cliff Lee:

phils_lee.jpg

Much like C.C., Lee had lead his Phillies with dominating performance after dominating performance down the stretch the throughout the playoffs. But, again like Sabathia, just one year previous Lee won the AL Cy Young while in Cleveland.

So, while most baseball fans may have just seen a great pitching matchup, I saw what is wrong with the very fabric of what was once America’s Pastime (much more on that topic in my next post).  Instead of a level playing field, some teams are given advantages (based no more than upon the geographic territory they happen to inhabit) that allow them to dominate the lesser opponents.  I mean, just imagine how Cleveland fans must have been feeling while watching that Game One?  It would probably be like how you and I (Twins fans) would feel should the Mets ever stop sucking and Johan Santana gets the chance to shine in the postseason.  It is a very helpless feeling, and one that completely turned me off to the rest of the Series.

About the only excitement I got out of it was watching old Pedro Martinez turn back the clock one more (last?) time against the team he will be forever paired with:

pedro-martinez-phillies.jpg Other than that, I don’t have much interest in watching teams steal young talent from around the league and then calling it “high drama” when they invetabily meet in the biggest of games.  I can’t begrudge the fans of either team, as I guess I can’t blame them for their economic advantages, but I personally find it very disheartening.

Coming up next: Why football is quickly approaching my beloved baseball in terms of “favorite sport”.

Boy, This Game Takes You Back Sometimes

ALCS15810260338.jpgAs I watched the Yankees record the final out of the ALCS tonight and advanced to the World Series to face the Philadelphia Phillies, I couldn’t help to be transported back a full decade (or even more) to my youth.

As a youngster in the late 1990s, my Twins were the scourge of the American League, so come playoff time I would always latch onto another team to root for.  This most often ended up being the team playing the Yankees at the time, as I despised their large-market spending and arrogant owner.  Plus, it was always that same core of guys (1996-2001) who were nearly impossible to beat.

A decade+ later, four of those same guys (well five, if you count former Yankee catcher Joe Girardi, now managing the club) are still doing their thing…Derek Jeter still gets all the clutch hits, Jorge Posada keeps chugging along, Andy Pettitte never loses a big game, and Mariano Rivera is absolutely incredible.

Thus, while I still cannot bring myself to actively root for the Yanks, I do have more than a grudging respect for those four players…guys who play the game the right way and deserve any more rings they can get on their fingers. 

Halo(s)

Well, after playing the “Halos” on two consecutive weekends, one thing has become abundantly clear to me…the Twins are absolutely no match for them. Every single time we play them, I fully expect to lose, and get swept in the series at that. The Twins are completely out of their league and would go down just as weekly in a playoff series.

In fact, I will go far enough out on a limb to say that, assuming Torii Hunter returns to health, I consider the Angels to be the favorite to win the whole thing this year. After winning the World Series in 2002 (and beating the Twins in the ALCS to get there…!@#$ rally monkey!), Anaheim has been right in the thick of things every season. However, they always seem to get beat by Boston (or someone else) in the Divisional Series round. What I see different about this season’s team, though, is that 1-9 they can completely dominate an opposing pitcher just by being pests. Whereas in other years they could terrorize only the mediocre pitchers (and thus get beat by the big guns in the big time), this year they have all the bullets locked and loaded. I mean, who has ever heard of this guy…

76ad65c5-0049-4277-b75c-2be41c2fc75b.jpg…until just recently?! Earlier today, he (Kendry Morales) hit two three-run home runs to sink the Twins. Look at it this way…

The three weakest players in the Angels’ lineup today were Gary Matthews, Jeff Mathis, and Sean Rodriguez (who still homered to boot!).  Once Hunter and Vlad Guerrero are back, Matthews and Rodriguez will be back to the bench (where they can probably be the most useful), and I consider Mike Napoli to be a better catcher than Mathis anyway.  Thus, they have a lineup not unlike the 1998 Yankees…work the count, foul off pitches, get to opposing teams’ pen and sink them.

Add that to the great D that Mike Scosia always preaches, as well as a solid pitching corps, and I don’t see who can stop the Halos this season.

Preview (52-53, 3rd, 1.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (8-7, 4.86) vs. David Huff (5-5, 6.39). The Twins have the easiest schedule of all the AL Central division contenders I believe, and that starts now.  If we can’t go into Indian country and take the series, it might be a long September.

A.L. Steals Another One

2009_AS_game.jpg(I was out of town for the A.S. Game, thus am just commenting on things now…)

For whatever reason (probably because of the rich history of the event), I am an MLB All-Star game junkie. I started watching the Midsummer Classic in 1997, the same year the American League began their current winning streak, and have been hooked ever since. I mean, how can a baseball fan NOT be excited about the biggest gather of current stars in the same place, as well as the fact that the actual game means more than any other professional sports’ All-Star games (almost put together). I am also in the minority (at least I think) of people who LOVE the fact that the game determines which league gets home field advantage in the World Series…I would never want to go back to those by-and-large boring contests of the 1990s, where the Home Run Derby and pregame ceremonies far eclipsed the game itself. Thus, this year was no less exciting for me.

 First, there were the always-touching pregame ceremonies…
Stan.jpgOld-time St. Louis Cardinals such as Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendist, Bob Gibson, and Stan Musial (picture above) were honored before the ceremonial first pitch. As a self-proclaimed “baseball historian”, I always find it exciting to see those stars of yesteryear and remember their past greatness on the diamond. It was also quite interesting to see how the metaphorical St. Louis baseball torch is being passed from Stan The Man to Albert Pujols. Stan owned St. Louis since his retirement, and only Pujols has been able to carry that mantra since.

The network then made a big deal about the ceremonial first pitch, as it was thrown out by some guy you probably have heard of…
Barack.jpgLet’s just say that maybe he should stick to hoops (although at least he didn’t bounce it too badly!).

The game then began with the two horses (Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum) taking their respective mounds for either league…
DocLink.jpgRight out of the gate, the National League looked like a circuit that has had its hind end handed to it for a while now, as some fielding jitters allowed the AL to take an early 2-0 lead.

 In the second inning, though, the NL came storming back…
Yadier.jpgYadier Molina singled to score David Wright and Shane Victorino, and was quickly driven home himself when Prince Fielder hit a ground-rule double, giving the Senior Circuit a 3-2 lead.

For the next few innings, the contest was dominated by pitching. Only a Joe Mauer double in the fifth, preceded by a Derek Jeter fielder’s choice, finally tied the contest at 3-3…
MauerJeter.jpgArguably the biggest play of the night, though, came in the seventh inning, when pinch hitter Brad Hawpe sent a towering fly to left-center off the first pitch he saw from Jonathon Papelbon. Carl Crawford drew a bead on the missile, though, and timed a perfect leap to rob Hawpe of four bases…
Catch.jpgThen, right away in the next half-inning, Curtis Granderson tripled off of NL reliever Heath Bell, and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Adam Jones, giving the AL a lead it would not relinquish (not with Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera next out of the pen). Granderson took home MVP honors for his triple and run-scored…
Curtis.jpgSo once again, the 2009 version of the MLB All-Star game was another exciting experience. The game was well-contested and full of tension, while (selfishly) the AL extended its winning streak and will now have home turf come late October. Plus, Joe Mauer (1-3, double), Joe Nathan (1 scoreless inning), and Justin Morneau (two hard-hit outs) had good showings in the game.

Twins Notes:

-Relief pitcher Kevin Mulvey is up, third-string catcher Jose Morales is down, as the Twins want a 12-man pitching staff going forward.

-Late breaking news: Alexi Casilla may still be a bonehead; letting a ball skip right past him on one occasion last night and then failing to cover the base on another. Let’s just chock it up to “I want to impress Gardy” nerves and keep our fingers tightly crossed.

Preview (46-44, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (7-7, 5.42) vs. Scott Feldman (8-2, 3.83). One big key for the Twins in the second half is to have Baker and Liriano pitch better than they did in the first 81. That starts tonight.

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.

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