Saturday, October 31, 2009

Series Continues in Philly

Down the highway they go and now they have a Halloween date night in Philadelphia. Tonight's match up will be a pair of lefties, Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels. With the way Hamels has been pitching this season and in the playoffs in general it would appear the Yankees have the advantage over the Phils.

Actually it would appear that the Yankees have the advantage in the next two games when you consider they are in all likelihood sending CC Sabathia to the mound in Game 4 against Joe Blanton.

But it is not the pitching that worries me about the Yankees. To me it just seems that they have been unable to mount any serious offensive momentum in this year's playoff run. They have only really had two offensive outbursts to speak of. The first was in Game 4 of the ALCS when they clobbered the Angels 10-1. But even then most of those runs came at the end of the game to put it out of reach. The other outburst came in Game 5 when Mike Soiscia made the ill advised move of pulling John Lackey with two outs in the seventh inning.

Other than that the Yankees have gotten by on pitching and a home run here or there. Wait, let me correct that statement, the Yankees have gotten by on exceptional starting pitching and Mariano Rivera while the bats provide just enough offense in most games.

The Yankees need their bats to get going in some of these games. The next two would be the perfect time. Two pitchers are taking the mound for the Phillies who are either A) Inconsistant or B) Not good enough to throw out against the Yankees in the World Series.

Hamels has been bad this postseason. Everyone knows that he has pitched to the tune of a 6.52 ERA in three starts and has allowed six home runs in those three starts. What everyone else may have noticed as well is that for the season Hamels has allowed a batting line of .273/.315/.440. Those numbers are big jumps from his career averages and it seems the World Series hangover is still lingering in Hamels system.

And Blanton, well he is Joe Blanton. Now I know he won a World Series game last year. But he beat Andy Sonnanstine who was absolutely blown up by the Phils and he still allowed two home runs. That's before we even get to the fact that for his career, five Yankees hit over .300 against him including a disgusting .571 from Alex Rodriguez who has two homers in seven at bats against him.

On papar neither match up looks good for the Phillies, but the same could have been said for Game 2 with Pedro on the mound. It is unlikely that any game is a complete blow out. One reason is that it seems unlikely the Yankee offense is going to suddenly start destroying pitchers at this point. The other is that neither team is ever going to really be out of the game. There may be some high scoring affairs, but I doubt any team has a runaway game in Philly.

Trivia Answer

So not one person ventured a guess on the trivia question from a few days ago. Losers! The question was, which NFL player played for a Super Bowl winner in three straight seasons. Keep in mind that no team has won the Super Bowl three straight seasons. The answer: Ken Norton Jr. He won with the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993, then won with the 49ers in 1994. Next time, somebody guess something. Cripes.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Burnett, Yanks Pull Even with Phils

It took A.J. Burnett 11 seasons to finally play in the postseason. It took four starts to finally win his first postseason game, but it was the biggest win of his career. Starring at an 0-2 hole and the disgrace of losing to Pedro Martinez, A.J. manned up like some knew he could and others thought he never would.

Burnett has endured a lot of scrutiny this postseason. More so than normal because of his preferred use of Jose Molina as a catcher as opposed to Yankee stalwart Jorge Posada. Until last night it looked as though Burnett's preference was in no way aiding his performance and of course now it looks genius.

Burnett threw seven innings of four hit baseball, striking out nine and only allowing one run. It could be argued that the run should not have even scored. Alex Rodriguez could easily have snagged that ball and thrown out the sluggish Matt Stairs.

Burnett lacked his usual wildness. He pounded the zone, throwing first pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. It is unlikely that any other pitcher matches Cliff Lee's Game 1 performance, but Burnett's crisp seven inning's will be tough for another pitcher to match with these two teams' lineups.

Aside from Burnett there is little to be said about another Yankee that is good. Sure Mark Teixeira hit a big home run and so did Hideki Matsui. It is nice that Jorge Posada came through with a clutch single off of Chan Ho Park, but really they were facing an old and decrepit Pedro Martinez. The guy didn't have much and it showed. He was constantly in the middle of the plate and the Yankees refused to make him pay for it. And don't even get me started on Derek Jeter bunting with two strikes. Can someone inform him that he has 2,747 career hits and that his career postseason batting average is .311? Just swing the bat already.

And because it didn't amount to anything I wont bother talking about the umpiring mistakes in this game. The umpiring has been ok in the series but slipped a bit last night.

So now we have a proper off-day as the teams hit the highway and head to Philly. This is where the Yankees can get back into the series. Cole Hamels has been inconsistent all year and just plan bad in the postseason. Pettitte has been reliable so the match up probably favors the Yankees.

Oh and Alex Rodriguez has been just awful so far in the series. 0-8 with six strikeouts is pretty dreadful. It looks like he has lost his swing a bit. Rodriguez can be forgiven for his Game 1 performance, but tonight against Pedro he was missing pitches right over the plate and was waving at cheap breaking balls away. That could be bad newsz for the Yankees. Without A-Rod as a force in the middle of that lineup they don't win the ALCS and they need someone to step up for him or he needs to get his groove back or things could get ugly.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lee and Utley Dominate Yanks

So it is apparent that Cliff Lee is disgusting and could be a huge force in the series. Same goes for Chase Utley. It is not like anyone didn't see these two guys coming, both have been close to the best at what they do for the past two or three seasons. Still, it is a bit disheartening that the Yankees would go down so easily in Game 1.

CC Sabathia was good for the Yankees. He was shakey all night but only made two real mistakes, both to Utley. Still seven innings of two run baseball is a solid effort for the big lefty. It is the Yankee bullpen that was the biggest disappointment of the night.

After Sabathia held the Phils in check for seven innings, the bullpen utterly collapsed. Phil Hughes looks like he is scared these past few rounds, and Brian Bruney should be nowhere a baseball diamond at this time of year. Combined all four relievers allowed four hits, three walks and four runs.

That simply will not get it done and if the bullpen continues to falter as it has then this could be a short series.

As for Game 2, the Yankees should destroy Pedro Martinez and with A.J. Burnett on the mound this game could easily end somewhere around 11-10. But here is the thing. The Yankees normally destroy pitchers like Pedro. He pitches to contact and can't really strike anyone out anymore. He doesn't have overly powerful stuff and relies on location and deception. These are all characteristics of pitchers the Yankees normally hit, meaning that in a playoff setting he is bound to dominate. Think Kenny Rogers circa 2006 (although he clearly cheated with his pine tar palm) or even Paul Byrd in '07.

No matter how Pedro pitches A.J. Burnett can do a lot to rehab his image after his poor performance in Game 5 of the ALCS. The Yankees need this game and Burnett needs a good showing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

NFL Hyperbolic Statements-Week 7

Bad Brett makes an appearance. The league's best team pulls one out of you-know-where. And some of my formerly prized sports garb may end up at the Good Will.

Worst Turnovers Ever: Twice on Sunday with the Vikes driving for a critical score, Favre handed it back over to the Steelers on Williams Sanoma serving platter. The Steelers take both the fumble and int. for six. Of course the grizzled one has done this too many times to count. It's part of his nature and a trade off that the Packers were willing to live with for years. No problem when Brett is throwing for 30+ touchdowns a season. But what make these the worst of his career are his pathetic attempts at a tackle each time. Granted, he don't get paid to tackle, and an injury to the old man would be cataclysmic, but this looked down right wimpy. He would've had a better chance spitting at Lamar Woodley. And by the way, 51 pass attempts and only 18 rushes for Adrian Peterson against a defense known for tearing QB's limb from limb? The Vikings better not fall too in love with their new toy, Favre. The road to the championship should be traversed on the back of number 28.

Most Awesome Comeback Ever: The Saints were down to the Dolphins 24-3 in the first half of Sunday's game. Drew Brees had three interceptions. It looked like New Orleans was going down for the first time. But any team that makes a Super Bowl run wins two or three games during the season that they have no business winning. This was one of those games for the Saints. They outscored the Dolphins 36-10 in the second half, 22-0 in the fourth quarter. Of course, teams that barely miss the playoffs always have a few games when they snatched
defeat from the jaws of victory. Miami let Indianapolis win on a last minute drive in week two and now this. Instead of 4-2, the Dolphins are 2-4. That doesn't leave any room for error the rest of the year.

Childhood Dreams Crushed: My team, the Washington Redskins, just plain sucks (that's a revelation). A pretty good defense gets the shaft every week from an offense that can't stay on the field for more than ten seconds. I honestly feel bad for Jim Zorn. He was placed in a position where failure was immanent. He was not prepared for head coaching in general, never mind this dysfunctional family of losers that makes the Bundys look like the Waltons. I'm tired. Just tired. It makes me want to jump ship, which of course, to most of fan-dom is punishable by flogging. But in addition when I picked Washington as my favorite team, I was ten. I did not consider the racist nickname I would have to wear on my team garb. So wearing a Redskins shirt is embarrassing in two ways. I don't know if I can do it anymore. My allegiance is now up for sale. Any suggestions? I leave you now with a picture of my favorite Washington player of the good old days, Darrell Green.

Trivia: We all know that no team has ever won three straight Super Bowls. Two, the Dolphins in the '70's and the Bills in the '90's, have appeared in at least three straight. But there is one player who has played for the Super Bowl winner in three consecutive seasons. Who is it? Answer on Friday, 10-30-09.

Restoring My Faith in Humanity: Sesame Street will celebrate its 40th anniversary next month. In a world of frenetic, high fructose corn syrup-fueled kid shows. It's good to know that a smart program like Sesame Street still has its place. It's got a seriously dedicated cast as well. Bob McGrath, who plays Bob naturally, has been there since the premiere. Sonia Manzano, who plays Maria, has been there since 1971. She's won 15 Emmys for her writing on the show. Happy Anniversary guys! You were an important part of my formative years.

Monday, October 26, 2009

ALCS Game 6 Recap

So the Angels did their part to help the pathetic airline industries by hitching a ride back across the country for little to no reason. After making the two teams wait for two days the Yankees and the Angels finally got their shot to conclude their series and see who would get the chance to take on the Phillies in the World Series.

As has happened throughout this postseason, the Yankees began the game by leaving numerous runners on base and allowing Joe Saunders to work out of trouble in the first, second and third. Saunders ran out of magic in the fourth inning when he allowed a lead off walk to Robinson Cano and a single to Nick Swisher. After another ill advised sacrifice bunt by Melky Cabrera moved the runners into scoring position Derek Jeter worked a walk.

That brought up Johnny Damon who had already failed to come through for the Yankees in the second inning with the bases loaded and two outs. This time Damon didn't miss his pitch, lining a two-run single into left-center field. After a Mark Teixeira infield hit, Alex Rodriguez worked a walk to give the Yankees a two-run lead.

The game remained relatively stagnant for the next four innings until, of all things, Mariano Rivera surrendered his first earned run at home during the playoffs since 2000. At that point it seemed that those damn Angels were gonna work a rally, this time against the best the Yankee bullpen had to offer. But in the bottom of the eighth the Yankee bats started scraping together some runs to give Rivera breathing room and with the help of Scott Kazmir's latest implosion this October they did just that.

13 pitches later and another poor at bat by Gary Matthews Jr. the Yankees were celebrating and moving on to the World Series. CC Sabathia now has hardware to dispell any notion he isn't a big game pitcher. Sabathia was every bit the ace the Yankees paid a $160 million for this off-season. He stifled the Angels for eight innings on two separate occasions, once on short rest. The Yankees will need the same thing if they expect to defeat the Phillies.

Rodriguez deserves mention as a runner-up to Sabathia in that MVP voting, and if not for the Angels giving him the Barry Bonds treatment for the last two games he might have stolen the honor from Sabathia. Five walks in the final two games made sure he didn't have a chance to have a huge impact with his bat. His final line for the series though, .429/.567/.952 was out of this world and should dispel any idea that he can't perform on a big stage.

This win wasn't only big from a historical standpoint for the Yankees, who finally overcame their regular season and playoff demons against the Angels, but also from a strategic standpoint. The Yankees now have all their ducks in a row for the World Series. CC Sabathia will be able to take the ball for Game 1 and the extended rest he is now getting will probably convince the Yankees to use him three times during the Series if necessary.

The World Series analysis will begin shortly, but at least for today, it is time to enjoy what the Yanks have gotten so far and get excited about what is to come.

Yanks Heading to Series

Yankees 5, Angels 2.
Yankees win ALCS 4-2 advance to...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Vintage Baseball

I just finished watching Game 7 of the NLCS on the MLB network between the Braves and Pirates. First of all, if you have access to the MLB network you should take advantage. Their "baseball tonight" style show is much better than anything ESPN is doing. Plus they show classic games like this one all the time. Besides the awesome mustaches, early 90's baseball was fun to watch.

To review, Doug Drabek was pitching against a young John Smoltz and Steve Avery for the NL pennant. Drabek was pitching on 3 days rest and this was his 3rd start in 8 days and he was pitching a shutout into the bottom of the ninth. (Drabek was responsible for 2 unearned runs in the 9th to get the loss.) He threw 129 pitches in Game 7. That is vintage baseball. CC Sabathia has been great, but only 15 years ago, what he does on short rest would be considered normal.

Jim Leyland is forced to bring in Stan Belinda to try to finish the 9th after an error by Jose Lind. (Ironic= Lind wins his only Gold Glove in 1992) Leyland's other option in the bullpen with the bases loaded, I kid you not, a guy named Bob Walk. WALK!! You would think at some point in Bob's life someone would have told him to move from pitcher to the outfield on account of his name alone.

AAA call up Francisco Cabrera, who had 10 ABs all season, singles to score the tying and go ahead run in the bottom of the ninth. Sid Bream scores from second. Now keep in mind, at this point in Sid Bream's career he was running about as well as Vlad Guerrero on a good day. Bream barely beats the throw. The left fielder who's throw is about 3 feet up the first base line, none other than Barry Bonds.

Maybe we can get back to some vintage baseball this postseason and mustaches. Mustaches are never a bad idea.

Another Blow To The Redskins

From the pouring salt in the wound department, The Washington Post reports that Redskins offensive tackle Chris Samuels plans to retire. Although there will be no official announcement until the end of the year, doctors have told Samuels that he could risk paralysis if he continues to play. He suffered a severe neck injury two weeks ago. This is complicated by the fact that Samuels already suffers from a spinal condition.

This is terrible news for a Redskins offense that couldn't move the ball against the New Britain PAL Raiders right now. Of course, Samuels' long term health is the greatest concern. The consequences of continuing to play despite injury have been made frighteningly tangible by recent articles in GQ and other publications regarding post- concussion syndrome. This is not a concussion situation, but clearly the risks must outweigh the rewards were Samuels to continue his football career.

It's a sad day for 'Skins fans as it must be for Samuels. He spent 10 years in Washington and is by far the best player on a sieve-like offensive line. I hope he finds peace with his decision and wish him health and happiness in retirement.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ALCS Game 5

The Yankees will be trying to lock up the ALCS to go to their first World Series since 2003. Getting to the Series would be a huge lift for Yankee fans who have suffered through numerous first round collapses, but the reality is if they make it on to face the Phillies fans will on want a championship and nothing less.

But we get ahead of ourselves as the Yankees must still win one more game and being that that game is on the West Coast it may be a difficult challenge to bounce the Angels from the playoffs in their own house. The match up will be John Lackey vs. A.J. Burnett.

Lackey was better than his line indicated in Game 1. Shotty defense did him in early on and a masterful performance by CC Sabathia kept the Angels from making up for any of their fielding gaffes with their bats. Like any of the Angels pitchers, the Yankees can get to Lackey, but with their season on the line it isn't hard to envision Lackey producing a solid performance to prevent the Yankees from turning the game into a massacre like last night's NLCS finale.

The Yankees will counter with A.J. Burnett. Burnett hasn't been spectacular in the playoffs like Sabathia, but he has been good. In fact he was unhittable for five of the 6.1 he pitched. But like the typical Burnett he lost it for one inning and it cost him. And that will really be what this game is about. Burnett could easily put this series away for the Yankees or we could be watching them fly back to New York for Game 6.

The pitching match up is solid for Game 5 and the Angels are not the kind of team that rolls over and dies. It should be an entertaining game and if not, I'm sure the umpires still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Steve Phillips.... I never would have thought!

I know it is old news, but I really wanted to post this yesterday when I heard, but I was not near a computer to get it done. It seems that Steve Phillips is just as sleazy as he seems on TV.

I have never been a Steve Phillips fan. I always felt his analysis was very biased against New York mostly due to his rather rough departure from the Mets and his constant battle with the Yankees while he was with the Mets. I'm not sure I ever heard a prediction of his that was ever right, so I will be quite glad I will not be seeing him on any upcoming Baseball Tonight episodes.

Although I wish Bobby Valentine got his chance to put him in his place on national TV.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sabathia and A-Rod: Beasts Among Men

Watching both CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez play this postseason has been beyond belief. Both have done everything that Yankee fans could ask for. They have stepped up their game to a different level and they did it again last night.

On three days rest Sabathia completely overpowered the Anaheim while Rodriguez continued to pound Angels pitching, and pitching in general this postseason.

The victory left the Yankees one game away from the World Series and it is really Rodriguez that has the Yankees on the precipice of their first World Series in six years.

Rodriguez just has a different look at the plate than before. Every time up he gives off this aura that he is going to pound the ball somewhere. Even the opposing teams are noticing. Rarely do you ever see the opposing manager walk the potential winning run, but that was exactly what Mike Scoiscia did in Game 3 and it was the right move. After his home run off of Jason Bulger in the fifth Rodriguez surpassed his home run and RBI totals from his first four postseason's with the Yankees. His line for this postseason now stands at .407/.469/1.000.

Sabathia has been almost as equally dominant on the other side of the ball. The lefty continues to prove that any previous notion that he lacked the fortitude to win big games was just ludicrous. In three postseason starts Sabathia has three victories, a K:B ratio of almost 7:1 and an ERA of just 1.19. He has pitched into the seventh inning of every start and completed the eighth in the past to trips out to the hill. He has proven he can be every bit the horse he is in the regular in the playoffs if he is not worked into the ground just to get there.

Many speculated the Yankees would only go as far as Sabathia and A.J. Burnett would take them in the playoffs and while Burnett is still a big key to Yankee success, A-Rod has done much to overshadow the stellar Yankee pitching of this postseason and bring the Yankees to the brink of the World Series. If Sabathia continues to pitch the way he has and A-Rod keeps mashing it will be difficult for anyone to slow down the Bombers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Presently I am watching a recap of the Sox 2007 championship on NESN. The Yankees will take the field in game four of the ALCS in moments. Eh, whaddaya gonna do?

ALCS Game 4

Ok here we go into Game 4. CC Sabathia is on the mound hoping to put the Angels in a 3-1 hole. The reality is the Yankees should be looking to move on to the World Series tonight, but no team has ever gone undefeated in a postseason since the installation of the Division Series in 1995.

I wont speak too much about Girardi's over-managemant of the bullpen in Game 3 since it has been discussed ad nauseum for the entire day. I will sum up my feelings by saying Dave Robertson is good and should be trusted more than Girardi is trusting him. Girardi really only trusts Mariano Rivera, and after last night's magic act in the 10th he has thoroughly proven he is from another planet, but I would trust Robertson almost as much as Phil Hughes after his playoff performance so far.

Anyway back to tonight. There will be much talk about Scott Kazmir and his history against the Yankees. While the numbers are good for his career against the bombers, from my experience of watching Kazmir against the Yankees, the key will be how quickly they elevate his pitch count. The Yankees have success against the lefty when the work the count and many times they get him out of the game before the sixth.

There shouldn't be too much worry about Sabathia. The big man has had success on three days rest and the Yankees purposefully under used him September for this very reason. He should be on point again, but the key to the game will be how quickly the bats can get to work on Kazmir.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NFL Hyperbolic Statements- Week 6

A team gets it's heart ripped out, cut to shreds, thrown in a pot of boiling oil, and eaten like fritola. A jerk gets redemption; remains jerk. A finesse team gets a little nasty.

Worst Bludgeoning I've Ever Witnessed: You may think I'm referring to the Pats 59-0 smackdown of the Titans. Don't get me wrong. The Titans flat out quit. Something about that cold, unseasonable New England snow just wrenched the fight right out of them. You don't lose by 59 in today's NFL without somebody giving up. But no... I'm referring to the Eagles pathetic display at Oakland. McNabb with less than 50% complete? A mere 14 rushing attempts? And an 86 yard TD allowed to the back up tight end? Perhaps the Eagles were looking past this opponent and ahead to the meat of their schedule. I guess every team is entitled to one inexplicable loss per season. Perhaps my 'Skins can hand one out next weekend.

Best Defensive Coach Ever: Greg Lewis, Saints. Washington let him go with little fanfare, but I was really upset at that move. The 'Skins D was at its best when Lewis was at the helm. It just goes to show that the NFL is truly a coach's league. Last year the Saints allowed 393 points and were 26th in total defense. This year they're blitzing from everywhere and making opponents feel the pain. This year they're 12th in total D and 6th points allowed. All they need to do is stay decent, and the offense will score plenty of points. My favorite moment from Sunday's game was when they got Eli Manning to move all of his protection pre-snap to the offensive right, but then the Saints blitzed from the left. This team is just fun to watch. What's not to like about a team that scores 40 a game and blitzes like rabid fisher cats every defensive snap? Well, there is one thing...

Least Desirable Redemption Ever: Jeremy Shockey, Saints. Was anyone really cheering for this guy to get revenge on his former team? The team that drafted him and gave him every chance to succeed? I'm sure Schlocky feels wronged in some way even though he's the one who ran his mouth. He's the one who dropped pass after pass. And he's the one who set back Eli's development. I bet Shockey was the kind of kid who liked to steal lunch money.

File this one under WTF: I looked in the candy machine at my office the other day and found a new variety of Snickers; Snickers Charged. This one has added caffeine! If chocolate, caramel & nougat aren't enough to give you a little jolt of energy, you have one serious case of hypoglycemia. Does everything have to have caffeine in it now? What's next? Noodle soup? Celery? Cheeseburgers? Mark my words. Within 12 months' time, you will see the McJolt burger at Mickey D's. It will contain coffee crusted bacon.

The Annoyance Factor

The Sox season is over and yet I am still somewhat interested in baseball. However, I have resorted to rereading articles about the '04 Sox to keep my spirits up. Maybe I am still interested because the Giants just laid an egg in New Orleans or my fantasy football team is in the tank.

Another factor could be I don't absolutely hate the yankees who seem to be the clear favorite to win the whole mother. Don't get me wrong, I hate the yankees, but this team is only about a 4.5 on the annoyance scale. For most of these guys it is business as usual. There is no annoying showboating our chest bumping. Below I have outlined the three basic categories that represent 2009 yankees.

1) The guys you respect because they play the game the right way. If they played for anyone besides the yankees I would like them. (ex. think of Pujols or Lincecum). Hell, I would love them if they had a 'B' on their caps. But, since they play for the yankees I only find them mildly annoying. This includes Jeter, Rivera, CC, Texeira, Pettitte (aka Jon Lester in about 10 yrs), and I even put A-Rod in this group because Kate Hudson is pretty hot. That is good work Alex.

2) The next group must of met each other at the Manny Ramirez School of being Aloof. These guys wouldn't care if they play baseball in a sandlot in the Dominican Republic or Yankee Stadium. I wouldn't be surprised if they showed up at the stadium on an off day and just laughed it off. I really don't notice these type of guys unless they are beating up on Red Sox pitching. This includes Cano, Cabrera, Matsui, and even the professor of aloofness Johnny Damon. Again not so annoying.

3) The last group is of people who I honestly believe to be a-holes. I don't think my opinion of these players will ever change no matter what uniform they where. We can put Burnett, Joba, Swisher, and Posada on this list. A smile comes across my face whenever one of these guys gets a fastball right between the numbers. They deserve it. Stop being so annoying.

So let's recap; there are only 4 really annoying players on the '09 yanks. That is a great improvement from the days of Paul O'Neill and even Roger Clemens. Maybe the baseball gods will reward the yankees for not being so annoying even though they won 103 games this year. If they do win the series, maybe I will even go to the championship parade. Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Umpires Wearing Down

Rob Neyer has an informative little piece regarding the state of umpiring in the playoffs and why it has been in such disrepair.

It seems like a viable story and as Neyer suggests it calls into question how MLB deals with aging umpires and how they groom the younger corp of boys in blue coming up behind them.

A-Rod Still Clutch , Yankees Walk Away With 2-0 Lead

At the start of the postseason much was made of CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez and their supposed failure to perform in the postseason. Sabathia has put those fears to rest with two spectacular performances and now Alex Rodriguez has continued to build a postseason legacy that may just wipe away all those thoughts that he just can't step up in a big spot.

Yet again last night he hit a huge home run to save the Yankees and tie the game as they trailed with only three outs left against Brian Fuentes. Fuentes may not be a top five closer in baseball. He may not even be in the top 10, but considering the two hitters behind him in the bottom of the 11th and the fact he was down 0-2 in the count makes this home run that much more unbelievable.

It is says something that Fuentes threw the ball exactly where he wanted to. Mathis flashed the glove up and away and Fuentes hit the spot exactly. The only problem is that Fuentes and Mathis must have forgotten the scouting report on A-Rod that says he crushes mediocre fastballs on the outside corner.

A-Rod has been incredible so far this postseason. This must be what so many had envisioned of him when he first donned the pinstripes.

What will be lost in this game is A.J. Burnett. While he was far from the equal of top of the rotation partner CC Sabathia, he was solid into the seventh inning. Aside from a meltdown fifth inning he was nearly unhittable for the first four innings. He threw first pitch strikes to 13 of the first 14 hitters he faced. He was aggressive and few Angels got good wood on his pitches. With the way the Yankee bullpen has been pitching 6.1 innings of two run baseball is a perfectly acceptable performance by Burnett.

Now it falls to Andy Pettitte in Anahiem. The wily veteran will face Jered Weaver who will be a bit of a conundrum going into the game. Weaver doesn't pitch particularly well against the Yankees, but he is exceptionally better at home than on the road.

It should be another tight ball game on but this time devoid of the weather. And what a ridiculous start time. 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT? That's just lame for Angels fans.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yankees-Angels Game 1

Most people during and after the game made note that last night's game had the feel of a role reversal. The Angels were making mistakes while the Yankees continued to try and pressure opposing defenses with running first to third and trying to force them to make plays.

But the story is more about CC Sabathia who continued to show what he can do in playoffs. Really talk about his inability to pitch on the big stage was ridiculous and these first two starts have done much to rebuild his playoff legacy in the right direction. Sabathia's biggest reason for success is his command so far. The big lefty has only walked one batter in his 14.2 playoff innings.

Sabathia even made a big defensive play on a Torii Hunter bunt. A controversial play at the time, for once the umpires could go back to their locker room and be relieved that they actually got one right.

The game also lead to a break out from a couple of the Yankee bats. Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui finally put together a few hits, though one of Matsui's was a blatant error but MLB refuses to acknowledge mental errors. Having a couple more hitters behind A-Rod and Jeter will do wonders for the Yankee offense. At some point they will need their bats to slug it out with an opponent and the sooner they can get some of these hitters out of their funk the better. The good sign last night was that the Yankees were able to hit with two outs as both Jeter and Matsui put runs on the board with two-outs and runners in scoring position.

Tonight will match up Joe Saunders with A.J. Burnett, that is, if they can actually get the game played. This could be one of those games that the Yankee offense needs to step up. It could also be a game fought out between the bullpens as any long delay could knock both starters out of the game early.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Warning:NFL Content

This is just a little plug for a new weekly post I'm going to be doing now that my Sox are at home watching "Two and Half Men" or something... It will be a weekly NFL rundown called Hyperbolic Statements. As we know sports are prone to grand statements, sweeping generalities, and mournful eulogies to the death of Western Civilization. No sport inspires these sentiments more than the NFL. Therefore, I will join the party (in sort of a light hearted way). You'll get the idea once you read the first post. I am killing my weekly NFL power rankings because, quite honestly, it's too much damn work and let's face it, it's been done.

Looking at ALCS Pitching Match Ups

So it looks like the Yankees are pretty well set for their rotation and with the Angels announcing their official ALCS rotation we can finally take a look at what each side is bring to the mound. Here are the first two match ups for this weekend.

Game 1 Match Up: CC Sabathia vs. John Lackey
We will start with Sabathia since he will be on the mound first. Everyone knows what the big lefty brings to the table; power fastball, hard slider, change up and an occasional curve. Sabathia did get roughed up by the Angels both times he pitched against them, but both of those starts came before the All-Star break when the big guy had yet to hit his stride with the Bombers in the second half. The Yankees are essentially putting their playoff existence in the hands of Sabathia by taking advantage of their off-days and using him three times if necessary during the ALCS. People like to judge Sabathia by his playoff record and to date he only has two quality playoff starts. The reality is that with his team's season on the line the man became an absolute beast with the Brewers and saved their season. The man can pitch when it counts.

Lackey is someone else who knows how to pitch when it counts. Lackey pitched well this year despite missing a month and a half due to injury. He has the guile to go into most stadiums and win in a hostile environment. Lackey pitched well against the Yankees the one time he faced them, outdueling CC in Anahiem during the first half finale. Lackey is the kind of pitcher that can always hurt the Yankees. He is fearless and he works with good command. The thing is he is hittable and the Yankees can get to him. This will easily be the best match up of the series.

Game 2 Match Up: A.J. Burnett vs. Joe Saunders
We all know what Burnett does. He is very predictable in that he can be unpredictable. Burnett could throw a no-hitter or he could give up seven runs, although I doubt Girardi is giving him that long of a leash in the ALCS. People are constantly worried about Burnett or who is catching him. Really I think his Game 2 performance will be what Burnett does this time around. He will walk a tightrope and give up a few runs, but I think he keeps the Yanks in the game.

Many would have criticized Mike Scoisia if he had let Jered Weaver start Game 2. Weaver isn't particularly good against the Yankees and he is particularly bad away from home. Joe Saunders is definitely a better choice than Weaver but he is not as good a choice as Scott Kazmir. Kazmir is someone who usually gives the Yankees all they can handle. Saunders had one bad start against New York and one good one after he returned from a stint on the DL. Things could go either way for him.

Each match up is close and could go either way. I think the Yankees get the edge in these first two only because of home field advantage. That last at bat will be huge, especially with the Yankees bullpen death. Each game should be close as Sabathia and Lackey probably trade zeros most of the way while Saunders and Burnett see who can put up fewer crooked numbers. I sure both games will take forever with the way the weather looks this weekend. Yet another reason the MLB's idiotic lack of flex scheduling kills the excitement of the playoffs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Umpires vs. Instant Replay

Maybe this article from the Wall Street Journal can settle the umpire argument.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Down go the Twins; Bring on the Angels

Another rally and a another victory locked up the ALDS for the Yankees for the first time since 2004 propelling the Yankees to a match up with the Angels for a berth to the World Series. When you look at the blunders by the Twins this series, it is pretty amazing how quickly things could have gone against the Yankees in Games 2 and 3. This Yankee team is designed to capitalize on mistakes though, and capitalize they did.

Now they move on to an opponent with more talent who will not be as inclined to push themselves into mistakes. The Angels have had their number for years. Ever since Mike Scioscia took the reigns out west the Angels have been a constant thorn in the Yankees side, eliminating them from the playoffs in both 2002 and 2005.

From watching the Yankees play the Angels for the past few seasons, it is easy to see that the Angels play a more aggressive style of baseball that is designed to create confusion and mistakes from the defense. With past Yankee teams that aggressive nature was bound to force someone like a Jason Giambi or Alfonso Soriano into a costly mistake. As these Yankees have proven, the are far less likely to make a mental mistake on defense, at least in the infield. Mark Teixeira has changed the dynamic of the infield defense in a huge way. The outfield on the other hand has been a different story.

Brett Gardner is the best defensive outfielder the Yankees have and beyond him the drop off can be rather steep. Johnny Damon can't throw and now has trouble tracking balls. Nick Swisher can be average in field, but every time a low-liner heads his way there is the distinct possibility of disaster. Melky Cabrera can run down most fly balls and he has a cannon for an arm... if only he had a brain. Cabrera constantly falls into the trap of throwing to the wrong base and that is something the Angels will make him pay for.

The one place the Yankees may finally have an advantage over the Angels is the bullpen. The Yankees have a much improved bullpen from '02 and more importantly '05. They now have power arms that strike out batters late in the game. Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera give the Yankees a tough quartet to beat late in games. The Angels on the other hand have been slipping in the bullpen. This season they have yet to find that one shutdown reliever. The Angels ranked 11th out of 14 AL teams in bullpen ERA. The Yankees on the other hand were fifth in ERA and first in opponent batting average.

The Angels wont go down easy, they never do. But the Yankees may be ready to finally undue the hex the Angels have had them under for years. If I had to proffer a prediction it would be for the Yankees in 6.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sox Succumb to Angels. What now?

So Boston's 2009 season ends without to much of a fight as the Angels unceremoniously dispatch the Sox in three games. Though Beckett and Lester didn't have their A games, they didn't pitch horribly. The real problem was the offense. The Sox hit .158 and scored a mere seven runs in the series, six of which came in the final game. Were these the same Red Sox that finished third in all of baseball in runs? It's hard to believe that this is the same team that started with such a flourish and such lofty hopes. Yes, they won 95 games, but the way things ended, it feels like only 75. The framework will be there for another run in 2010, but there are many questions as Boston heads into the off season.

The first thing that comes to mind is that this is such a potentially undignified way for Jason Varitek's career in Boston to come to an end; without so much as a plate appearance in the post season. His contract contains both player and team options for 2010, but my guess is that Theo will just choose to buy him out and let the captain seek his fortune elsewhere. This, of course, is the right thing for Epstien to do, and it would be the right thing even if Victor Martinez wasn't waiting in the wings. Varitek has become both a liability at the plate and in the field as base runners have consistently turned things into a track meet when Tek catches. If this is the way it ends for Jason in Boston, it's far from ideal, but for athletes, the end seldom is.

My next big concern is Jonathan Papelbon. His meltdown in game three was just the culmination of his struggles this season. Though Paps saved 38 of 41 games, anyone who watched him could see that he was toeing a very thin line all season. He walked more batters than he ever has since becoming the Sox closer (24 compared to an average of 12 the last three seasons) and his WHIP was over 1.100, not very good for a closer. His time of dominance may be coming to an end. It will be interesting to see how the Sox treat him in the off season. Will they avoid arbitration again?

Another big concern in the pitching department is Dice-K. They're stuck with him through 2012 and spent a boat load of money. I will be curious to see if he will develop into a legit ace or if he will join the ranks of Mike Hampton and Carl Pavano in the free-agent-pitching-bust hall of crap. I think next season is a make or break year for him.

Finally, will the Sox retain Jason Bay? The word on the street is that he wants to stay in Boston, but we all know money talks. I would love to see the Sox keep him. He fits in well and adds some much needed pop to the lineup. But I'm not sure if the Sox will want to match what he may command in the open market. What will the cost be? Four, five, six years? $80 million? The fact is that while Bay probably has several very productive years ahead of him he is 31 years old. That could mean production until 38, or he could be washed up by 34. You have to straddle that fence very carefully. He is probably more valuable to the Sox than anyone else. I would be fine with five years $70-$75 million.

At least the Sox have some very important pieces in place. Youkilis and Pedroia are firmly entrenched as leaders and the catalysts of the lineup. Beckett and Lester left little question that they are a formidable two headed monster in the starting rotation. And Clay Buchholz emerged as a solid number three. Ellsbury will remain a menace on the bases. There will continue to be age concerns with Lowell and Big Papi, but hopefully their production will be worth their inevitable time spent on the DL. On paper, the Sox will be contenders again, but one thing I just can't shake is that late season swoon, the seemingly apathetic approach to September baseball. Their biggest mistake was the belief in the fallacy that they could simply turn it on just as the leaves turn in October. The Angels were just hungrier. Complacence is dangerous.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Instant Replay is Not the Answer

So as it was replayed 50 times on Friday night, I'm sure that everyone knows that Joe Mauer actually hit a ground rule double in the top of they 11th inning and not a foul ball down the left-field line. If Mauer was given the double then he more than likely would have scored in the top half of the inning and perhaps they would have kept playing into the early morning hours in the Bronx rather than sitting in their hotel rooms in Minnesota right now.

Much has been made about this umpiring flop in particular and the quality of officiating in the playoffs in general, but I'll say this: let it go. Human error is part of the game. Just like Matt Holliday is a pariah in St. Louis for his blunder in Game 2 against the Dodgers and Bill Buckner became the anti-Christ in Boston for years, umpires can have lapses and miss calls. It is the human element of the game and I for one am not going to throw them under the bus for a couple of screwed up plays.

The Twins might not even be in the playoffs if not for a blown call. So how can they complain if one goes against them in a big spot? The reality is Minnesota had the bases loaded and nobody out in that same inning and they could not score a run. Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez each saw one pitch and made an out. Neither swung at a quality pitch or made Dave Robertson make a pitch. So who is really to blame for the Twins inability to score in the 11th? Phil Cuzzi or poor hitting with runners on base?

I understand that from my perspective it is tough to feel the pain a Twins fan might be feeling, but every section of fandom in every sport has had a call go against their team. Sometimes your team out plays the mistake, sometimes it causes them to fall apart, but the reality is that sometimes you have to just look in the mirror for the real reason you did not win.

Leave the umpires alone. They call a remarkable amount of plays the right way and the game is better for having people out there making quick decisions rather than second guessing every close play. I don't know about you, but I don't think I could stand it if Yankee vs. Red Sox games got any longer.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sox Lose Game 1 to Angels.

Not much went right for the Bean Eaters last night. Lester didn't have his best stuff, but really only had one major mistake, the three run homer to Torii Hunter. I'm more concerned with the Sox bats actually. To me, they haven't looked good in months, and last night they looked lost.

Yes, the Sox had to overcome two bad calls at first base. Only one resulted in a run, but it effectively put the game away. But again, it's the offense that really looks terrible at this point. Give credit to Lackey, who is a very good pitcher and was excellent last night. The Sox will have an early exit if all they can manage is four harmless singles each game.

Perhaps Beckett can summon some more post season magic tonight. Going home 0-2 will almost certainly spell doom for Boston in spite of their history of comebacks.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Game 1 Recap: Yankees 7, Twins 2

It didn't start the way the Yankees were hoping. While CC Sabathia had good stuff, he and Jorge Posada failed to get into a groove early on. In the first inning with Denard Span on second and Joe Mauer at the plate Sabathia uncorked a slider when Posada was looking fastball. Sabathia was able to bear down and strike out the AL Batting champ to negate the miscue.

What Sabathia could not prevent was a run from scoring when he and Posada were crossed up a second time in the third. He also couldn't prevent Posada from lallygagging to the passed ball, allowing Mauer to correct his hesitation and score the Twins second run. Posada may not like Jose Molina starting over him on Friday night, but his performance wasn't going to give Girardi too many second thoughts.

This, of course, set the stage for the Captain. After Melky Cabrera squeaked out an infield single, Derek Jeter drove a 1-0 pitch from Brian Duensing into the left-field seats to tie the game at two. From then on it was all Yankees. Sabathia found his groove and with the bats finding their stroke the Twins couldn't touch him the rest of the way. He struck out eight Twins over his 6.2 innings, dispelling myths that he could not perform on the big stage of postseason play. Sabathia made it a good night in Yankeeland.

Hell even A-Rod was hitting, that's how good things got for the Yankees. But speaking of A-Rod, can this finally stop? The constant analysis of his performance and the state of his psyche is bordering on the absurd. The reality is that players will have ten, sometimes 20 at bat stretches where they can't get themselves together. You can't take such small sample sizes, spread out over several years and say that he cannot perform in the postseason.

With those stigmas wiped clean, the onus now falls on whether A.J. Burnett and his battery mate Jose Molina measure up on Friday night.

In other news the Rockies were knocked around by the Phillies 5-1. Cliff Lee was spectacular and it is hard to envision the Rockies putting up much of a fight against the defending NL Champs. Cliff Lee was on point the entire game. So that is one way for Charlie Manual to avoid using his suspect bullpen. I would have preferred to see Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain dismantle people in the playoffs, but alas Brian Sabean has never been able to put together a decent lineup behind his ridiculous pitching staff.

The Dodgers and the Cardinals squared off in the nightcap. The Cardinals, with Chris Carpenter on the mound, dropped the opener 5-3. The scary thing about playing the Cardinals, aside from Albert Pujols, was facing Carpenter and Adam Wainwright at the top of the rotation. With Carpenter flopping in Game 1 the Cardinals are in bad shape. It seemed that every pitcher that came in for the Cards was scared of the Dodger lineup, consistantly pitching around hitters. The problem is that eventually you have to pitch to somebody.

Bring on the Halos

As I sit watching the Yankees and Twins knotted at 2 in the bottom of the first, I am contemplating the Red Sox first post season game against the Angels tomorrow night. (Though I am off work on Friday I will likely miss the majority of the game since it starts at 9:30, I am fighting a cold and will likely be zonked on Nyquil.) The Sox past post season dominance of the Angels has been well documented. This year could be different though as the Angels love to run and the Sox are downright inept at stopping it.

The key is keeping folks like Chone (god I wish maternity wards could spell check names) Figgins off the base paths to begin with. Of course he will probably get on at some point. But when he does, the pitcher needs to focus on next batter. Don't ignore the runner, but don't become pre-occupied either. You need to just concentrate on getting the next guy out. Figgins isn't going to steal second and third and home. Bottom line, if the Sox pitchers can just focus on getting hitters out, all of the Angels running will be for naught.

Both teams have all-star arms going in game one; Jon Lester for Boston, John Lackey for Anaheim. Lester has no starts against the Angels this year. Lackey had one start against Boston, and although he lost, it was a good outing: 7 2/3 IP, 2 ER, 6 K. I can't envision anything but a tightly contested series. My prediction Sox in 5... why not?

Bring on the Twinkies

Well it took an extra two days and one hell of a playoff game, but the Yankees finally have an opponent for their Division Series. The Twins are the lucky winners of Who Wants to Play the Yankees Sweepstakes. Although I'm not sure you could call them lucky as the match up against the Yankees is a landslide on paper in favor of the bombers.

The bombers have better hitting, better starting and a bullpen that slightly outmatches a solid Twins crew led by Joe Nathan. The Twins are coming off an exhausting run to the playoffs where they had to win 17 0f 21 including a one game playoff. Now they are flying halfway across the country to take on a team they failed to defeat once this season.

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Ron Gardenhire and the Twins ability to constantly compete for a playoff spot regardless of their roster deficiencies or when their owner decides to be absurdly cheap, but can you really choose anybody but the Yankees to win this series? Just look at the Game 1 starters: Brian Duensing vs. CC Sabathia. This is a David vs. Goliath match up in every respect for these two teams except of course for Joe Mauer.

I also think that any Yankee player who previously had post-season struggles (Sabathia/A-Rod) will be able to get beyond them in this time around. Sabathia hasn't worn himself out while carrying his team to the playoffs, and Rodriguez has had a different aura around him since he came back from hip surgery early this season. Both should be ready to step up during this October.

I've learned that in the playoffs, any team can beat any other team in such a short series, which of course is part of the problem with the MLB playoffs, but in this case I can't see the Twins pulling out more than one game. I predict the Yankees in 4.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Case Against The One Game Playoff

Yes it's full of drama, one game for all the marbles and a chance at the World Series. But then what did we go through all these freakin' games for? When division opponents play each other 19 times, the season series should determine the division winner, whose in whose out. In a sport like baseball when the cumulative effect of 162 games is supposed to remove all doubt who the best team is after being tested for 5 months, it's totally unfair for one game to decide something as important and fundamental as a playoff berth. If we're going to allow one game to decide, then we may as well shorten the season to 100 or 50 or even 20 games. A team that wins a season series over 19 games has proven itself the better team and should be allowed to reap the benefits.

As the regular season ends, the leader boards are peppered with Red Sox. Jason Bay finished tied for 3rd in home runs behind Carlos Pena and Mark Teixeira and 2nd in RBI behind Teixeira. Had he been more consistent, Bay could have contended for the MVP. Dustin Pedroia finished 1st in the AL in runs scored for the second year in a row. In a most impressive feat Jacoby Ellsbury lead MLB in stolen bases with 70. This is also the second straight season he's led the AL. On the pitching side, Jon Lester finished 3rd in the AL in strikeouts. I personally didn't think he would develop in to the strikeout artist he became this season.

Well, let the playoffs begin. We'll see if the Sox can put their crummy finish behind them. Bring on the Halos.