Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A's walk off again... this is nuts

So much for my theory that this 25 game stretch would knock Oakland out of playoff contention.

13 games into the 25 game stretch from hell, the A's have won 10 games and dropped only 3. And my other observation is true: No team puts on a better show.

And now here we sit going into the last day of July with the A's in position for one of the Wild Card slots and a mere four games back in the loss column of Texas.

The A's will win with a flair for the dramatic.
12 out of 51 home games have ended with a walk off win.
23.5% of all home games end with the A's sending the winning run across the plate.

9 of their last 17 home games (or 52.9%) ended with walk off hits.

You can easily say "They can't keep up that pace."

But did you expect them to still be in it at this point?

Going into the last day of July, the Oakland A's are the third best team in the American League, and probably the most exciting.

Not bad for a rebuilding team.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Would a World Series Title Put Dusty Baker in the Hall of Fame? - A Bleacher Report Article

Dusty Baker has his share of critics. Dusty Baker seems to always be second, third and fourth guessed. But if the Reds win the 2012 World Series, guess what?

Dusty Baker will be a Hall of Fame case.

In my latest for Bleacher Report, I break down why the much maligned skipper is a title away from being a legit Hall of Famer.

You can read the entire article HERE.
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Pedro Ciriaco made the Red Sox and Yankees fun again

I had virtually no interest in this Red Sox and Yankees series that just ended.
The Red Sox are a dead from the neck up mediocre team going nowhere this year. The Yankees were on a roll, stampeding to another division title.

Why would I want to watch the Red Sox get their brains beaten in? After Friday night's 10-3 whuppin' by the Yankees, my fears were verified.

Watching the games was going to be a joyless and lumbering exercise of masochism.The team had no life in them.

Or maybe not.

Maybe they will get some new life in them. Maybe the rivalry needed Pedro Ciriaco.

Show of hands. When the Yankees tied Saturday's game in the 8th and then last night's game in the 8th, how many of you thought the Red Sox had a chance of winning?

I am assuming no hands are going up right now.

When the Red Sox found a way to ground into 20 double plays in one game (look it up), did you think they had a game winning rally in them?

With all the big priced players on the field and veterans of post seasons and World Series struggling, it was the most anonymous player, the skinniest Red Sox with the highest number that got the big hits.

He got the 9th inning game winning triple (aided by Curtis Granderson's interesting navigation of centerfield) on Saturday and the bloop go ahead single in the 10th of last night.

Anytime the Red Sox can beat the Yankees bullpen in back to back nights is a good thing. But there is something unexpectedly sweet about Ciriaco being the hero.

It is a strange message to both the Red Sox and Yankee fan bases.
Sure the rivalry does not have much to it this year. The Red Sox aren't winning squat and the Yankees should start printing playoff tickets.

But there are some young players on the Red Sox. Beware. They are getting their experience and when this becomes a rivalry again, some of these young players will be there.
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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Pirates and A's trump Olympics and Red Sox/Yankees

Last night I had the choice of following the liveless Red Sox get their brains beaten in by the New York Yankees or watching the Queen of England pretend she was in a James Bond movie at the Olympics.

Instead I flipped between the Pirates - Astros game and the A's - Orioles game.
Folks, I made the right choice.

My fascination with the Pirates goes back years and I've been writing about their quest for 82 wins so often that you would think I grew up in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, I've been fascinated by the Oakland Athletics who have been the most exciting and thrilling team to watch this past month.

I thought they put on the best show for their fans, but I also wondered if this 25 game stretch against solid teams would ruin their season.

Well so far they are 10 games into that stretch and their record is 8-2.

So I caught up on the two teams last night. Both had back and forth games and I got to listen to not one but two ninth inning come from behind rallies in the same night.

The A's blew an early 5-0 lead and a late 8-6 lead and still rallied in a shocking six run rally off of All Star closer Jim Johnson.

The Astros have cleaned house of recognizable pitchers but still had a lead on the Pirates in the ninth. No worries. Pittsburgh got only one hit but still rallied.

Drew Sutton scored the winning run on a wild pitch and the Pirates were the victors.

As of this writing, both the Pirates and the A's would qualify for the play in Wild Card game.

As of this writing, they are both young unlikely contenders who are looking at the end of July not as a time to dump veterans but to improve the current roster.

Today former Astro Wandy Rodriguez pitches for the Pirates. Today Bartolo Colon takes his slender frame to the hill and try to win yet another series for the A's.

It's exciting baseball, which is more than you can say of what is happening in the Bronx. And it is better TV than a stunt woman pretending to be the queen parachuting.

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What could possibly get me excited about the Red Sox-Yankees series?

I am at a total loss for what could get me pumped up for the Red Sox playing in the Bronx for a late July weekend series.

These are usually the highlight games of the year. The Red Sox and Yankees squaring off, post season positioning on the line. At the end of the year when they are bunched together, one side can look back and say "Man, if we won that close game in July we'd have another game to work with in the standings."

Remember Jeter dove into the stands and the Varitek - ARod brawl and Bill Meuller's home run all took place in July.

What a difference eight years makes.

The Yankees are a superior team in every aspect of the game.
Seriously, with Ortiz injured, name one position where the Red Sox are clearly better than the Yankees right now.

Good luck with that.
The Red Sox are dead in the water.

If any veteran has as much as a bad hair day, they should be shut down and a kid from Pawtucket should be brought up.

Now if Jon Lester throws a no hitter today or Pedroia hits for the cycle or Adrian Gonzalez hits four homers, then I would that is cool.

If the Yankee bullpen blows a lead, I would laugh.
But there is no long term excitement for this game. This is a good team playing a bad team.

The greatest rivalry in sports?
Well, it is taking a hiatus for a while.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

I didn't realize the Red Sox were playing the Yankees tonight

Let that sink in for a minute.
It wasn't that long ago that I circled Red Sox and Yankee games on my calendar before the season began. I would arrange my schedule around them. I would look forward to them for weeks.

In my single days, I once ended a date early because I felt it was going nowhere but I saw the Sox were beating the Yankees and I wanted to catch the end of it.

And today?
No interest.

Sure I want the Red Sox to win. I'm a Red Sox fan. But this isn't "SAWKS-YANKS!" This is a team having a crisis ridden transition season playing a far superior team.

Let me put it this way.
The Yankees are the best team in the American League.
The Red Sox are a last place team with a losing record.

The Yankees should circle this game on THEIR calendar as an easy win.

Go Sox... but don't expect much enthusiasm from me.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Marlins Need to Trade the Showtime Crew to Another Team - A Bleacher Report Article

Hanley Ramirez was dealt in the middle of the night to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

That is good news for Hanley and Los Angeles.

It is a smart move for Miami.

But as I wrote in my latest for Bleacher Report, it is bad for the Showtime Series The Franchise that is stuck following this disappointing Marlins team as they rebuild.

The best thing for all parties? Send the Showtime crew off to a contender as well!

Read the whole article HERE.

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Monday, July 23, 2012

Will O'Malley Family Spend to Build a Winner in San Diego? - A Bleacher Report Article

Bud Selig wants the O'Malley family to get back into baseball as owners.

In a Bleacher Report article, I break down the Padres TV money, hypocrisy regarding the reaction to the Frank McCourt and potential hope for the Padres future.

You can read the article HERE.

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Here lies the 2012 Boston Red Sox.

I am sitting a hotel room tonight watching the Red Sox and Rangers game on ESPN.
Tim Kurkjian was just talking about how the Red Sox are looking for a starting pitcher for the stretch run.

Great. And when they get that starting pitcher, can they get four more?

The Red Sox are not going to win this game. (As I am typing this, they are down 9-1.)
Their season is over.
I said they were no longer contenders back in April.

But tonight is the final straw.
Don't talk to me about how close they are to a Wild Card spot.
Do not bring up schedule or head to head match ups.
Stop looking at who is coming off of the disabled list.

It is late July and this is a sub .500 team.
Felix Doubront is the team's best pitcher. No offense, Felix, but that is a problem. And Felix got hammered tonight.

Jon Lester has an ERA of 5.46. Clay Buchholz has an ERA of 5.19. Each has pitched over 100 innings.

They are not going to catch the Angels, White Sox. Rays nor the A's.

Playing the Rangers on the road tonight, Karl Ravech, Rick Sutcliffe and Aaron Boone kept talking about how little energy was coming from the Red Sox dugout when they briefly had the lead tonight.

They know they are a dead team playing out the string.

It's over, Red Sox fans.
Bow your head and say a prayer for the departed.

There will be life again in 2013.

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Ichiro traded to the Yankees? What?

You read that right.
I wasn't expecting it either.

I quickly wrote about it on Bleacher Report.

You can read the article HERE.

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Why the Houston Astros Should Hire Tony Pena as Their New Manage - A Bleacher Report Article

The Astros are going to make a manager change sooner or later.
In my latest for Bleacher Report, I make the case that they should make their search simple.

Offer the job to Tony Pena.

You can read the entire article HERE.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Seriously... Go to Oakland A's games!

This is getting a bit crazy.
In the A's last 11 games, they had walk off hits in 6 of them.
Recently they have better than a 1 in 2 chance of seeing a game end with the winning run crossing the plate.

I predicted on Bleacher Report that the A's were about to start a 25 game gauntlet that might sink their season. Well, they've won 5 of the first 6 games of that stretch.

Along the way they swept four from the Yankees, all games by one run.
Do you know how many teams have beaten the Yankees four times in one series by one run each game?

Try zero.
Has never happened before.

And oh yeah, 11 out of 50 home games have been walk off wins for the A's.
22% of the games at the Coliseum end with the winning run crossing the plate.

With my Red Sox dead and buried, I am finding more joy following the A's (and Pirates and Nationals). And why not?

They are actually exciting.

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Pound for Pound, the Sabathia/Colon match up is epic

There are a lot of reasons to be interested in the Yankees - A's game this afternoon.
The Yankees are the best team in baseball.
The Athletics are the hottest.

The Yankees are the highest paid team in baseball.
Oakland has the second lowest payroll.

The Yankees have their hopes on winning the World Series but are on a three game losing streak.
The A's had no expectations this year but find themselves tied for a Wild Card spot and can sweep the Yankees.

And the pitching match up is tremendously intriguing.

Both CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon are former Cy Young winners. (Colon won in 2005 and Sabathia in 2007.) Both were teammates with Cleveland and with the Yankees.

Oh let's stop kidding ourselves.
It is fascinating because I can not remember two fatter people facing off against each other.

The only way more tonnage could be in place in this game would be if David Wells and Rich Garces came out of the bullpen.

Look at these two guys. Big bellies and a lot of weight on those knees will be on display today.

Baseball Reference lists Colon at 265 pounds and Sabathia at 290.

That's 555 pounds of starting pitching on the mound.
I hope the mound can handle it.

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Well... that didn't take long, Lester

Earlier today I wrote a piece about how the Red Sox hopes for 2012 are entirely in the hands and arms of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.

They need to pitch like aces.

One pitch into today's game, Lester let up a homer and the Sox were down 1-0.
One innings into it, they were down 5-0.

Gonzalez homered to make it 5-3. Momentum shift?
Nope. Lester let up two more homers and has let up 9 runs in two innings.
9 runs in 9 innings horrible.
9 runs in 5 innings is "send him to the minors" territory.

9 runs in 2 innings? That's "The season is over."

Even if they win, they have lost.
Even if they come back, there is no erasing the awful start by Lester.

One pitch into this game and the season might be over.
If they lose today (and as of this writing they are down 9-3) then they will be a .500 team in late July with suspect starting pitching.

Yeah, sounds like a contender to me.

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Maybe the Nationals just don't like John Lannan

So much for my John Lannan piece.

I thought the Nats were going to slide him right into the rotation, especially after his momentum shifting start the other day.

Instead it is back to Triple-A.

I don't doubt he will be back this year, but man. The Organization just doesn't seem to like him this year.

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Red Sox fans, it is all on Lester and Beckett

This has been, needless to say, an odd year for the Boston Red Sox.

2012 has been a joyless grind save for a walk off homer here or a winning streak there. Bobby Valentine and the tension he causes has hung over the team from the start. The end of Youkilis' time in Boston was bitter. David Ortiz is probably winding down his time in Boston and John Lackey will probably remain in Fenway.

Injuries, dumb losses, still no games pitched by Andre Bailey and the fact they are only one game over .500 has given the whole season an aura of being lost.

Yet here the Red Sox sit on July 22 only 2 1/2 games out of a Wild Card spot.

It would take a good week to put them in a playoff position.
Maybe they should make a trade and that will put them over the top!

Slow down.

There are two players that hold the entire fate of the Red Sox season in their hands, or their arms more correctly.

Boston needs Jon Lester and Josh Beckett to pitch like front of the line starters. You know, the thing they are PAID to do. If they have a good August and September, the Red Sox could miraculously make the post season.

And so far the odds of that happening are not good.

Lester has been the definition of mediocre this year. His record is 5-7. His ERA is 4.80. His ERA+ is 90. His strikeout rate is down. Batters are getting more hits off of him, especially in scoring position. He is being taken out of games quicker than before.

Beckett started off well and I begged the team to trade him when he had value.

Since then he has had injuries and seems to be good for five or six innings at best.

They need more than that. Clay Buchholz is too inconsistent, Felix Doubront is a nice number four starter but not an ace and Aaron Cook threw a nice shutout that one time but is a number five.

The Angels, A's, White Sox and Rays all have good pitching and are contending for the two Wild Card spots. Even Baltimore's pitching, while sometimes spotty, has been more reliable than the Red Sox.

Think about trying to catch Anaheim or Tampa or the White Sox when they know they can rely on the likes of Jered Weaver, David Price or Jake Peavy while the Red Sox hope Beckett can at least pitch into the seventh.

The Red Sox had their epic collapse in 2011 because they could not rely on Beckett, Lester and Lackey down the stretch. Well there will be no epic comeback in 2012 without Beckett and Lester.

At this point the Red Sox are not asking them to be Cy Young contenders.
Just give the Sox two good months.

Maybe then, there will be hope for this team.

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John Lannan helps the Nats avoid a trade

Virtually every contending team is looking to add an experienced starting pitcher. The first place Washington Nationals (looks odd typing that) need some pitching depth, especially if they are going (insanely) limit Stephen Strasburg's innings.

So yesterday they added a 27 year old left hander who last year won double digit games with a sub 4 ERA. And what did it cost the team? A 33 year old outfielder batting .157 with an OPS+ of 31.

That's a hell of a trade. Especially since the pitcher they got went seven strong innings for the win last night.

Except of course it wasn't a trade. The Nationals designated struggling Xavier Nady for assignment and brought John Lannan up from the minor leagues.

What it really cost the Nationals was humiliation and anger from Lannan at the beginning of the season. And that may have been the most brilliant part of this roster move. With no room in the rotation when the season began, Lannan was the odd man out.

The Nationals sent him to Syracuse and Lannan was angry about it, demanding a trade. They did not trade him, no matter how tempting it would have been. And Lannan did not exactly light Triple-A on fire.

But now he is back, inserted into the rotation partially to give some relief to Strasburg. And Lannan might have a chip on his shoulder, eager to prove that he belongs on THIS level.

If the first game was any indication, humiliating an established pitcher in March might have been the best move in July.

Either way the Nationals got better without sacrificing a player who was even going to be on the roster.

I wonder if they have any more humiliated former big leaguers on the payroll.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

A's Fans Who Show Up Get a Great Show - A Bleacher Report Article

Where do you get the biggest value for your baseball entertainment dollar these days?

In my latest for Bleacher Report, I argue that the A's put on the best show for their fans. Not only do they win more than they lose at home and more than 20% of their home games have been walk off victories, but you never know who is going to get the last hit.

You can read the entire article HERE.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

A's Strangely Did Not Trade for Kevin Youkilis - A Bleacher Report Article

The A's have been coveting Kevin Youkilis since at least 2002. And in my latest for Bleacher Report, I write about how odd it was that Oakland didn't make much of a play for him. Especially when the Red Sox were asking for so little and paying much of his contract.

You can read the entire article HERE.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Red Sox fans... just enjoy the moments

The Red Sox won a great game tonight. Cody Ross launched a walk off three run homer to win the game in the ninth, taking a victory when the Red Sox were 2 outs from losing to Chicago.

It was a fun game, one where Pedroia, Ellsbury and Crawford all played at the same time.

I was thrilled when I saw the highlights of the win.
And I love Cody Ross and his enthusiasm.

But I didn't scoreboard watch.
I didn't check the standings.

In all honesty, I don't know where the Red Sox are in the Wild Card standings and I don't really care. I have no hopes for this team for any meaningful success in 2012.

Red Sox fans should be happy that the Felix Doubronts and Will Middlebrookses and Pedro Ciriacos are playing well and that Clay Buchholz threw a good game.

This team has gone from winning to losing streaks all year.
Just enjoy the winning streaks and don't focus on October.

Be in the present.

If that results in a playoff berth, then great.
If not, then enjoy the good parts.

This team is not a pennant contender. But they can still be fun, as long as they keep cutting to Valentine on TV.

(He just seems miserable, doesn't he? HE should enjoy the moment.)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Matt Kemp could still win the NL MVP

When the season began, Matt Kemp, who I think should have won the MVP in 2011, looked like a man on a mission. He was going to win the big award this year and carry the Dodgers on his back. His OPS, his batting average, his power numbers, everything looked like he was playing on another level.

The Dodgers were in first place and it seemed like every other game ended with a Matt Kemp homer.

Then his injury and time on the disabled list started. At first the Dodgers didn't miss a beat.
Then they missed beats, fat pitches and scoring any runs.

He is last game before going on the disabled list was May 30.
The Dodgers were 32-18, the best team in baseball.
In his absence they went 15-22, fell out of first and went nearly a week without scoring a run.

Kemp is back, he is hitting and extended the game with an RBI infield hit and won it with a walk off.

If the concept of "absence making the heart grow fonder" can help an MVP vote, then Matt Kemp's time on the DL showed just how valuable he is to the team.

What I am saying is, he isn't bad.

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MLB.com still needs to pander to Petty fans

Last night Kevin Youkilis came back to Fenway and crushed a back breaking three run shot off of Jon Lester.

Manager Bobby Valentine, who basically ran Youk out of town, elected to pitch to him with a base open and lost big time.

They had that clip available on MLB.com for those of us who didn't see it live.
But it is of the White Sox feed. We get to hear Hawk Harrleson do his "Put it on the board, YES" and "Mercy" routine.

But I wanted to hear Don and Jerry from the Red Sox booth call it. I wanted to hear the bitter sarcasm from Jerry Remy and the Red Sox voices acknowledging what happened.

And I'm sure Yankee fans and Youk haters would love to have hear that as well.

I mentioned this before. Baseball fans love to hear pain and misery more than happiness.
Get with it baseball. There is Schadenfreude out there.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Think the Mets need some bullpen help?

The Mets bullpen probably blew three leads since I started typing this sentence.

Think this wasn't demoralizing? They got a three run go ahead come from behind ninth inning jack from Jordany Valdespin, a go ahead double from Josh Thole and a wonderful pitching performance from Jon Niese.

And what are the Mets talking about?
A bullpen that blew ninth and tenth inning leads and sent the Mets to their fifth straight loss and perilously close to .500.

The Mets have been one of those amazing surprising National League teams like the Nationals and Pirates. They could be a real contender. But dropping five games in a row at this point of the year is never a good thing.

Call it a hunch, but I bet a reliever is going to be heading to Queens soon.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The A's Are Experiencing the Calm Before the Storm - A Bleacher Report Article

The A's are one of the great stories of the season.

But as I wrote in Bleacher Report, once they get done with the Twins, their next 25 games will be brutal and could end any hope for a winning season in Oakland.

Read the entire article HERE.

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