Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘MLB’

Where’s the offense?

Posted by mizzou1028 on May 9, 2011

I of course am as big a Rockies supporter as anyone.  I openly campaign for them to get more support nationally.  (The number of ESPN/Fox/TBS appearances is still zero this season, despite the Rockies leading the NL West).  However, if this team wants to maintain their position and get the national respect they deserve, they must start playing to their true capability.  The Rockies have lost seven of their past 10 games largely because their offense has hit a brick wall.  The starting pitching has been outstanding (the starters’ ERA is under 2.00 over the past eight games), yet the Rockies past five games have all featured two runs or less from the Rockies’ bats.  The Rockies are hitting just .216 as a team over the past seven games (.233 on the season).  With runners in scoring position and less than two out, they’re hitting .215.  You get the idea.  The offense needs to wake up, and it needs to do so in a hurry.

The two big stars, the ones who I would think would be more highly regarded nationally if they played on the east coast, are a large part of the problem.  Carlos Gonzalez had another 0-for-4 tonight against the Mets, dropping his average to .233.  So far this season he has just two home runs and 16 RBI, which is not really the production you look for from the number three spot in the order.  As for Troy Tulowitzki, he started off red hot with seven home runs in April, but he his hitting a horrific .074 in May (yes that is correct) after a solid .298 in April.  Of course every hitter hits a slump from time to time, and I am convinced both players will rebound, but they do need to start hitting like the players the Rockies know they are.  The rest of the lineup has had his ups and downs (Ian Stewart really needs a return trip to Colorado Springs – again), but without Cargo and Tulo leading the way, the Rockies have no hope hitting elite pitching.

It’s not as if they’ve gotten mowed down by Halladay, Lincecum, or Josh Johnson in recent weeks either.  It’s been Ian Kennedy, Ryan Vogelsong (who took a perfect game into the sixth), and Chris Capuano.  Tonight against Capuano the Rockies squeaked out a 2-1 win, but in early April they shelled him for nine runs.  I’m not saying it’s time to hit the panic button, but this is starting to become more than just a pothole as Jim Tracy called it.  The starting pitching has been great, and the bullpen has been good most of the year (although it has had its struggles in recent games as well).  Only four teams have scored fewer than the 20 runs the Rockies have plated in May.  The bottom line is the Rockies offense needs to return the form it showed in early April if they want to achieve their goal of winning their first ever NL West title.

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Twins did the right thing

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 26, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I outlined a wasted trip to the ballpark due to the Rockies waiting until the last minute to postpone a game due to rain.   Since then, numerous teams have been guilty of exactly the same thing: gouging their customers for beer and parking for an hour or two before deciding to call the game.  Today however, I applaud the Minnesota Twins for doing the right thing.  A few minutes ago, the Twins postponed tonight’s game against Tampa Bay even though it is not scheduled to start for another five hours.  This will give fans plenty of notice before they waste gas driving to Target Field, and it also means they won’t be out a parking fee for no reason.  I hope that other MLB teams follow suit when it is obvious that inclement weather is going to get in the way.   Minnesota Twins organization, you receive a tip of the cap for your sound decision making.

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East coast bias

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 20, 2011

So far in the early going of the baseball season, I have noticed a not so subtle theme to the ESPN baseball broadcast schedule.  As usual, it is heavy on Yankees and Red Sox and no one else.  Sure, the defending champion Giants got some love in the first Sunday night broadcast of the year, but by and large ESPN is once again operating under the assumption that the Yankees and Red Sox are the only two teams in the league.  In doing so they continue to ignore many other teams that are worthy of attention.  While there are several teams that deserve more national attention this year (Cleveland and Kansas City have two of MLB’s top five records and even die hard fans can’t name their players), I’m going to put on my hometown hat and bat for the Rockies.

In five years the Rockies have appeared on ESPN exactly one time, and that was when they were in town to play one of the network’s beloved east coast teams, the Mets.  Their playoff appearances in the past five years are double the number of times they’ve been on ESPN.  The Rockies have the best record in Major League Baseball as of this writing, and yet are not scheduled for a single appearance on the mother ship this season.  In Colorado’s case it’s not limited to ESPN.  When the Rockies made the World Series in 2007, TBS announcers butchered the pronunciation of Troy Tulowitzki’s name more than once.  Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that the Rox had not been on any national network during the 2007 season.  Thus, the announcers were completely unfamiliar with the team when they made the playoffs.  While it was comical to watch them fall over themselves and laugh at their clear lack of preparation, it illustrated just how much the national networks don’t care about smaller market teams like the Rockies.

Speaking of Tulowitzki, I am convinced he would be of America’s most popular players if he played in New York or Boston.  Because he plays in Colorado, many national pundits don’t appreciate how good he is.  When the Rockies re-signed him this offseason to the tune of seven years and $134 million, many national “experts” scoffed at it.  They claimed the Rockies wasted money foolishly on a player who is not among the elite.  Well, so far this season Tulo is hitting .343 with seven home runs.  Albert Pujols has five.  Tulo also makes a highlight reel play seemingly every night and is the consummate team leader.  I think had Tulowitzki signed that same contract with the Red Sox, it would have been lauded as a great signing by the ESPN folk, but because it’s Colorado they don’t care.

This also has an effect on national fans.  An ESPN.com poll asked fans whether the Rockies were smart or foolish in their decisions to re-sign Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.  While this seemed like a clear no brainer to me to keep two of MLB’s ten most talented players, more than 60 percent of fans nationally thought the Rockies were making bad decisions to give these young players so much money.  I think if these players were on the east coast, national fans would have a much better idea of who Tulo and Cargo are because they would be on ESPN much more often.  Because the Rockies are never on, even big baseball fans in other markets aren’t familiar with what these players can do.

I think the national attitude toward the Rockies can best be summed up by an article in a New York newspaper that suggested the Mets could get well against the “weak Rockies” during a four game series last week at Citi Field.  The article suggested that the Mets would have easy pickings against Colorado.  While this may have true for many years when the Rockies were struggling, times have certainly changed for this franchise in the past five years.  The Rockies ended up sweeping the four game series against the Mets in rather emphatic fashion, so perhaps if the Rockies can continue their high level of play they might finally get the respect they deserve.  Than again, I’m sure ESPN will treat us to 15 more Yankees games before they decide to grace the Rockies with an appearance.

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Is It April Yet?

Posted by mizzou1028 on January 4, 2011

 It’s been really depressing around here the past few months for us Denver sports fans.  The Broncos have just finished their worst season in more than 30 years, the Nuggets know their star player is getting traded and the Buffs failed to qualify for a bowl for the fourth time in the past five years.  At least the Avalanche are winning, but no one notices because the NHL doesn’t get any coverage.  That’s why I can’t wait for the calendar to turn to April, and we can get baseball season started.  Strange as it sounds, the Rockies are the best product in the Denver sports scene, and it may not even be close now that they have locked up their two best players through 2017.

In November the Rockies signed Troy Tulowitzki to a seven year $134 million deal.  They followed that up this week by agreeing to a seven year $80 million deal with Carlos Gonzalez.  What makes the Gonzalez deal so surprising is he is represented by Scott Boras, who is notorious for not allowing his players to accept hometown discounts.  A Boras client almost always lets himself get to free agency, where he can cash in a megadeal on the open market.  I say almost because Gonzalez is the only Boras client I can think of who has actually agreed to stay with his current team.  In any case, Rockies fans should be dancing in the streets celebrating these signings.  Sure the money is staggering, but the Rockies are finally doing what they refused to do for the first 15 years of their existence, lock up their star players.  Look at teams like the Royals, Twins, Padres and other smaller market clubs that never spend the money to retain their best players.  If the Rockies hadn’t made an effort to keep Tulo and CarGo, they would have surely been members of the Red Sox or Yankees in three years.

I find it laughable that national reaction to these signing is not positive.  After all the Rockies are doing what we continually criticize small market clubs for not doing: keeping their best players in the fold.   An ESPN.com poll finds that more than half of fans think this is a bad investment on the part of the Rockies.  I think the only reason that poll is slanted that way is because most national fans have no idea who Tulo and CarGo are.  The Rockies are never on national tv (zero regular season appearances in the last two years), so it’s no wonder people think the Rockies are spending money wildly.  The fact is that if either Tulowitzki or Gonzalez played for a big market team, especially in New York or Boston, they would be talked about as sure fire hall of famers.  Because they play in Colorado, national folks don’t think these are great players. 

This assertion is absurd because I would stack Tulowitzki up against any shortstop in baseball.  He is better defensively than Derek Jeter, has as much pop as Jimmy Rollins, and is in every way the definition of a team leader.  As for Gonzalez, he is a true five tool player.  He can play all three outfield positions flawlessly, can hit for power, and as he proved last season can be a legitimate triple crown candidate.  He is so highly thought of that he was traded twice for All-Stars (Dan Haren and Matt Holliday).  People nationally can think what they like, but I’ll take my chances with Gonzalez and Tulowitzki leading my offense for the next seven years.

Let’s just say that I can’t wait for opening day this year.  I see no reason why the Rockies can’t be a legitimate contender for years to come.  After all, we do need something to look forward to here in Denver.

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Ubaldo the Magnificent

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 7, 2010

Photo courtesy Matt York - Associated Press

I will admit right up front that I am biased, but I don’t think there has been any question who the best pitcher in Major League Baseball has been this season.  I am aware that C.C. Sabathia has posted more wins, Adam Wainwright has a better ERA, and two other pitchers have duplicated Jimenez’ feat of a no hitter while yet two others exceeded it with a perfect game this season, but Jimenez has done something no one thought would ever be possible.  He has managed to be a true, legitimate staff ace while pitching at altitude and in the bandbox of Coors Field.  Even with the humidor, people still discount the numbers of Rockies’ hitters on account of Coors Field.  While I think this is absurd given that there are numerous ballparks that generate more offense than Coors, I will turn the national pundits’ argument back on themselves and say that pitching numbers in Denver should be rewarded when they are even remotely good.  In the case of Ubaldo Jimenez, his numbers should be labeled as absolutely spectacular.

To say that Ubaldo Jimenez is the best pitcher in Rockies history is like saying Manute Bol would be the tallest person at his high school reunion. No disrespect intended to Jeff Francis or the likes of Pedro Astacio, but Jimenez is so clearly the best pitcher to wear a Rockies uniform that no one else is even worthy of being in the discussion.  Today Jimenez posted a franchise best 18th victory of the season.  He still has roughly five starts remaining this season to try and notch 20 wins.  He would already be there if not for awful run support in several losses this season (Jimenez has been on the wrong end of a 2-0 loss to the Dodgers, a 1-0 loss to the Mets, and a 2-1 loss to the Giants).  Over a two month stretch during April and May, Jimenez was as dominant as pitcher in the history of the game.  At the end of May, Jimenez posted a 0.78 ERA and a 10-1 record.  Jimenez had given up just seven runs over his first 11 starts.  Sure the Rockies were 27-24 after two months, but take out the games Jimenez started, and they were just 16-23 in the other games.  It’s safe to say that he was carrying the club on his back.

In many ways he still is.  It seems as though every time Jimenez takes the mound, he is doing so the day after a Rockies’ loss.  Given the lack of run support he has often been saddled with, he has had to win games by himself much of the time.  It seems ironic today then, that Jimenez picked up a win on a day when he wasn’t his best.  It should say something that I say he wasn’t at his best when he struck out eight hitters on a first place Reds team over six innings.  The bottom line with Jimenez is that even when he is “not at his best” he is still usually better than whoever is starting for the other team that day.  When he is at his best, he is virtually unhittable.

I am always the eternal optimist, and as such when I look at the standings and see that the Rockies find themselves just four and a half games out of the playoffs in spite of a topsy turvy season, I think they can make up that deficit.  Ubaldo Jimenez is a big reason, because I know the Rockies have a legitimate shot to win no matter what lineup he is facing.  If the Rockies can manage to sneak into the playoffs, Jimenez is exactly the type of staff ace that can swing a short playoff series in a hurry.  He could be to opponents what Cliff Lee was to the Rockies in the division series last year.  I know the national media with their east coast bias will probably give the Cy Young to Wainwright or Josh Johnson or someone that’s on national tv every week, but it would be a real crime not to give it to Jimenez.  Something tells me if he pitched for the Mets he would be a lock.

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Updated MLB Power Rankings

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 23, 2010

Back in May, I put a list of MLB power rankings together.  Needless to say, I had some of the teams placed correctly, and some, well…..not so much.  My most egregious errors were putting the Padres and Braves way too low, and I had teams such as the Tigers and Nationals placed too high.  Here is how I see the teams ranked 1-30 as we sit now in late August, and just for fun the ranking from May is in parentheses.

1. (5)  New York Yankeees – The Yankees seem to always have the talent to be up toward the top.  Certainly their payroll has a lot to do with that, but they certainly have the tools to be a major factor in the playoffs as they try to repeat.  The rotation is solid in all five spots, and the bullpen is as good as it gets.  They have to be concerned about the injuries to A-Rod and Lance Berkman, but the rest of the veteran lineup is doing more than enough to pick up the slack.  The team should be money in a short playoff series against virtually anyone.

2. (17)  San Diego Padres – This is without the question the team I misfired most on early in the year.  I thought for sure they would go away.  They haven’t.  Their rotation has been dominant, led by guys many casual fans haven’t heard of.  Even die hard fans are just getting to know Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Wade LeBlanc.  The offense gets the job done with solid fundamentals, and they made a statement that they’re going for it this year by acquiring Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline.  This team is for real, and they are not going away.  They may just win the whole thing.

3. (9) Texas Rangers – The Rangers have the ability to light up the scoreboard offensively on any night.  That ability will get even better once Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler return from the DL.  Their starting pitching has improved greatly over the course of the season, and at the trade deadline they added a true ace in Cliff Lee to anchor it.  There is still a lot of youth on this team, and that could be their downfall against a team with experience, but the talent is definitely there.

4. (1) – Tampa Bay Rays – Tampa Bay is right there with the Yankees at the top of the AL East.  They have more than enough ability offensively with a potent lineup, but their hitting has been very streaky.  While it has been good enough to produce a ton of runs, they have also been no hit on two occasions this season and were one out away from getting no hit a third time.  Fortunately, the starting pitching, especially David Price, and bullpen are terrific.  That is enough most nights, but the Rays had better the lineup doesn’t hit a low streak in the playoffs.

5. (2) Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies’ biggest problem has been injuries, but they are starting to get guys healthy.  They added Roy Oswalt at the trade deadline to join an already potent rotation, and their lineup can score runs like just about anyone.  Their bullpen is very inconsistent, and while I think it won’t be bad enough to prevent them from winning the NL East, it might be bad enough to allow the Braves to catch them.

6. (6) San Francisco Giants – San Francisco has the pitching (Lincecum, Zito and Cain) to win a playoff series just on that.  They also have really beefed up their lineup, thanks to the additions of Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen.  This team does have the talent to be a real player in the playoffs, but they may still have a hard time catching the Padres, so they may need to get the wild card to make it.

7. (20) Atlanta Braves – Another team that I really underestimated.  The starting rotation is among the best in the league, and so is their bullpen.  The offense took a big blow with the season ending injury to Chipper Jones, but the Braves added Derrek Lee via trade to compensate.  Atlanta has a good mix of young and veteran talent, and they will need to keep overachieving to hold off the Phillies in the east.

8. (3) St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals suddenly find themselves in a dogfight for the NL Central after they had a big lead early in the year.  Albert Pujols has certainly done his thing with 33 home runs, but he hasn’t had a lot of help.  Matt Holliday is not playing to his contract level, and the rest of the lineup has struggled to score runs consistently.  The pitching is very good (Adam Wainwright is an easy Cy Young candidate), and that has kept them afloat.  They need to step up the offense though going forward.

9. (14) Cincinnati Reds – I thought in May that the Reds were putting a nice team together that might be able to make a run next year.  They have sped up the timetable with clutch hitting and a rotation that rarely falters with a really bad game.  If St. Louis doesn’t get its hitting together soon, the Reds may just find themselves in the playoffs.  They must however get better outings from Edinson Volquez, who has been terrible since coming off the DL last month.

10. (4) Minnesota Twins – The drop in the rankings isn’t really due to anything the Twins have done, it’s more of a reflection of other teams playing better than expected.  Minnesota has plenty of good hitting, and the bullpen has overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan at the start of the season.  The biggest issue I see for the Twins is their starting pitching doesn’t quite stack up to the other top teams in the American League.  They have a really good shot to hold the White Sox off for the division title, but I don’t think this team is set up well to win in the playoffs.

11. (21) Chicago White Sox – Chicago has actually done a nice job overcoming a terrible start, and while they still trial the Twins by five games in the central, they have managed to put themselves in contention after middling in last place in late May.  The White Sox have managed to get their starting rotation in good shape thanks to major improvement from Edwin Jackson and Gavin Floyd, and their lineup can score.  The problem is the bullpen, which currently has no suitable closer.  This will be their downfall and why they probably won’t win the division ultimately.

12. (16) Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox have been riddled with injuries all season.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia probably won’t be back, and that will hurt their lineup.  The rotation has been very up and down despite all the big names, and even Jonathan Papelbon has blown several saves.  Boston is trying to get Johnny Damon back to help make a late run, but the Yankees and Rays are too good to get caught.

13. (8) Toronto Blue Jays – It really seems unfair to drop the Blue Jays because they have done better this year than anyone expected.  The rotation has been very good even without Roy Halladay, and the lineup has been blasting home runs left and right.  So why the drop?  They just don’t quite have enough to compete in the AL East, and they are too far back in the standings to have a shot at the playoffs.  This however is a team to watch in 2011.

14. (12) Colorado Rockies – I’m sure I have my hometown team ranked too high, but the middle of the pack seems appropriate for them.  The Rockies have had a lot of good (Ubaldo Jimenez, Carlos Gonzalez), but they have a lot of bad to go with it (the now released Brad Hawpe and horrible pitching from Aaron Cook).  The Rockies are just way too inconsistent offensively, especially on the road.  They also will need to cut down the defensive errors next season.  They’ve made late runs before to make the playoffs, but it seems there is too much ground to make up this time.

15. (25) Los Angeles Dodgers – You can’t say they aren’t trying to make a playoff run.  It seemed they brought in everybody at the trade deadline, getting Ryan Theriot, Octavio Dotel and Scott Podsednik.  The problem has been the pitching, usually a strength for this team.  The bullpen has been especially bad with Jonathan Broxton getting removed as the closer for a time.  They’re playing better but are just too far behind to catch the Padres and Giants.

16. (15) Florida Marlins – The Marlins are another team that has way much talent to be hovering around .500.  Josh Johnson is an elite pitcher anchoring the rotation and Hanely Ramirez is an elite player leading the lineup, and while both have been very good most of the season, they haven’t gotten help when they’ve needed it.  This team looks like it’s about to tail off.

17. (11) Oakland Athletics – The A’s don’t have what you would call a sexy lineup, but they have enough to be competitive most nights.  The problem is while they’re competitive, they haven’t been winning consistently enough.  If I could pick a team to finish 81-81, it would be this one.  There is a lot of young talent here, but they seem like they’re going to finish right around .500.

18. (7) Detroit Tigers – I am somewhat at a loss to explain what happened to the Tigers, who nearly made the playoffs last year.  The rotation has really underachieved, and the lineup has been even worse when it comes to run production.  This is mostly the same cast from last year, so it is hard to say why they’ve struggled. Perhaps next year might be different if they keep the team together.

19. (22) Los Angeles Angels – The Angels made a big splash at the deadline acquiring Dan Haren to anchor the rotation, but that hasn’t worked out.  Their lineup has not hit consistently despite being loaded with talent, although losing Kendry Morales to injury was devastating.  This team should rebound next year as well, and could play spoiler to a lot of teams in September.

20. (19) Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers are another team that is not playing near to the level of their talent.  The bullpen has been a big problem, particularly Trevor Hoffman, who may never get to 600 career saves if he keeps blowing opportunities.  The lineup needs to start producing like their talent if this team wants success going forward in future seasons.

21. (27) Houston Astros – Houston strangely enough has played much better since dealing away Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman at the deadline.  It appears that there is enough youth here that the rebuilding is well underway.  If Houston fans are patient, the future could be bright down in Texas.

22. (30) Baltimore Orioles – There isn’t much talent here, but they are playing really hard for new manager Buck Showalter.  They have managed to climb out of the cellar in terms of worst record in baseball, and they have beaten several contending teams in recent weeks.  I sense a good September for them, and a bright outlook for 2011.

23. (28) Seattle Mariners – The Cliff Lee acquisition didn’t work out, but now that he’s gone it seems as if this team is pointed at the future.  There are some good hitters in their lineup (I really like Justin Smoak, acquired in the Lee trade to Texas), and there is a lot of potential in the starting pitching.  They’ve got to get better next year or there is something wrong.

24. (13) Washington Nationals – I had them ranked high in May because they were winning a lot of games.  Obviously that’s tailed off, but there still have some talented hitters.  The future also looks really bright with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  I’ll be curious to see if Adam Dunn is still with the club in 2011.

25. (18) Arizona Diamondbacks – Arizona has a lot of talent.  They also don’t have any consistency.  The lineup is potent at times with numerous hitters capable of mashing home runs, but they also strike out a lot.  The bullpen is terrible, and that alone has cost them numerous games.  The prospects acquired in the Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson deals should help going forward.

26. (10) – New York Mets – This ranking has as much to do with what has happened off the field as on it.  Closer Francisco Rodriguez is a complete embarrassment for punching his father in law, and the Mets were right to terminate his contract.  They also have a lot of money tied up in Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay with nothing to show for it.  Even ace Johan Santana has been really up and down.  This team has too many veteran guys who are past their window of opportunity, and they need to blow it up and start over.

27. (24) Chicago Cubs – The rebuilding is well underway.  Gone are Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, and even manager Lou Pinella, who retired.  They would like to unload Aramis Ramirez’ large contract as well, but he is refusing to waive his no trade clause. They will spend September taking a good look at young talent.  Cubs fans have a century’s worth of patience under their belt, and they’ll need it for a few more years before they are good again.

28. (26) – Cleveland Indians – Cleveland is a team that appears to be lacking any kind of direction.  They don’t any names that jump off the page at any position, save for Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, both of whom are so injury riddled they might not have anything left.  They had better hope that help is coming from the farm system soon.

29. (23) – Pittsburgh Pirates – As always, this team has the feel and look of a Triple A club.  They have young talent, but it seems inevitable that all the good players will be traded when ownership can’t afford them or doesn’t want to pay for them.  They have endured 17 consecutive losing seasons.  To put it another way, they have not had a winning season the Rockies and Marlins came into existence in 1993.

30. (29) – Kansas City Royals – I feel really bad for Kansas City fans as well.  The Royals, like Pittsburgh, trade away their best players year after year, and even when they try to keep good talent (Zack Grienke, Joakim Soria), it doesn’t seem to help them.  They have the combined problem of cheap ownership with management that doesn’t know what they’re doing.  Improvement doesn’t seem to be coming soon in either area.

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MLB Pennant Races

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 12, 2010

With about a month and a half to go in the Major League Baseball season, it seems time to offer some quick predictions on how the rest of the season will go.  I think the races will be exciting and intriguing.

AL East: It’s unfortunate that one team among the trio of the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox will have to miss the playoffs, because all three teams are better than any AL Central offering this year.  Nevertheless, one team will be out here, and I think it will end up being Boston, who currently sits five games behind Tampa Bay, who is currently leading the wild card chase.  Call me crazy, but I think the Rays will overtake the Yankees for the division when it is all said and done.  I still like their pitching, especially David Price, and their lineup, while streaky, is good enough to get runs scored when needed.  The lineup will get even better when Carlos Pena comes off the DL.  The Yankees will easily still make the playoffs as the wild card, for their lineup is especially potent as well.  Their downfall could be bridging from their starters to Mariano Rivera in the 9th inning.

AL Central: We do have a good race here between the White Sox and Twins.  Both teams have solid starting pitching, although I’d give Chicago a slight edge with Mark Buerhle and Gavin Floyd.  I think Minnesota has a better lineup, but they’re finding that hitting home runs at spacious Target Field is a challenge.  Look at Joe Mauer, who has just seven home runs this season after hitting more than 30 last year.  In the end, I think this will come down to the final week.  Two years ago this ended up going to a one game playoff with the White Sox winning the game 1-0.  It could be that close this time as well, but I’ll take Minnesota on a hunch.

AL West: This is over.  Texas has a big enough lead that it would rank as one of the biggest collapses in MLB history if they lost it.  I think the Rangers will be very dangerous in the playoffs because of their potent lineup (about to get even better with the return of Ian Kinsler from the DL).  Their starting pitching has also been surprisingly effective.  If they can keep that up, they might just win the whole thing in October.

NL East: Atlanta has a fairly comfortable lead, although they just got bad news on Chipper Jones, who may have an ACL injury according to reports.  Still, their pitching is outstanding, especially Tim Hudson, and their lineup of young players continues to come through.  Will it be enough to hold of the Philiies?  I still think Philadelphia would be leading the division if they had been able to stay healthy.  With Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in the same rotation, it really shouldn’t be fair.  I think Philadelphia overtakes Atlanta for this division when it’s all said and done, and the Braves will have a hard battle in a crowded wild card race.

NL Central: In light of the brawl earlier this week, we should have an outstanding race down the stretch between the Reds and Cardinals.  Cincinnati to me has been the surprise team this season, but their mix of youth and veterans has been playing well so far.  The key for them will be if they can keep up their surprising pitching.  I think the Cardinals have all the tools to make a run at the World Series, between a lineup that includes Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and a rotation led by Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter.  I think St. Louis will win this race, and they may not even have to sweat it in the final week.  I just don’t see the Reds being able to keep up their pace, particularly after the Cardinals snagged their mojo this week, sweeping them in Cincy after the brawl.

NL West: I think two playoffs teams will come out of this division: San Diego and San Francisco.  It’s only a matter of which one will win the division and which will be the wild card.  I think the Giants are a team that would be a force in the playoffs in a short series because of their rotation, led by Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  The Padres though also have pitching that has been lights out all year, from guys that aren’t big names like Mat Latos and Jon Garland.  The Padres also made big moves at the trade deadline getting Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada to bolster their lineup.  I think the Padres will win this division, and the Giants will get the wild card spot in the NL, holding off the Braves and Reds in a tight race.

I think the Rockies, while having an outstanding season from Ubaldo Jimenez and a coming out party type year from Carlos Gonzalez, just don’t quite have the horses to keep up with the rest of the pack this year.  The rest of the rotation besides Jimenez is just way too inconsistent, and their inability to score runs on the road will ultimately prove to be their downfall.  In the most recent road trip the Rockies endured a string of 21 consecutive scoreless innings over three games, that’s just not going to get it done.  In the offseason they need to add another run producer to help Gonzalez and hope that youngsters Esmil Rogers and Jhoulys Chacin will be ready to take spots in the rotation next season.

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Brawl in Cincinnati

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 11, 2010

This one definitely caught my attention tonight.  This was sparked by comments made by Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips about how he hated the Cardinals.  Check out the video courtesy of Fox Sports Net Ohio.  I had a full video embedded here but MLB took it down from YouTube, so here is the link from MLB.  It’s the best I can do.

I do disagree with the Reds’ announcers: This was not started by Yadier Molina.  This was started by Phillips with his comments the night before.  I also think Phillips said something to Molina before the brawl began.  Surely there will be lots of fines and/or suspensions to come once MLB looks at the tape.  I do think it’s interesting that only managers Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker were ejected and no players, but I think this way the umpires didn’t have to worry about sorting it out and the commissioner’s office will take care of it.  Bottom line: Don’t wake up the sleeping giant.  St. Louis has won the first two games of this critical NL Central series and now has plenty of motivation to bury the Reds.  Brandon Phillips may have just cost the Reds a shot at the NL Central.

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Yes, the Broncos really are 5-0

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 14, 2009

Patriots Broncos Football There has certainly been a lot going on the past few days in the Denver sports scene, hence the lateness of this post.  We will give the Rockies their due for a fantastic season in just a moment, but the Broncos are rapidly becoming the talk of the sports world for being the unquestioned biggest surprise in the National Football League.  With a win over the Patriots in overtime, the Broncos have now silenced critics who said their fast start was a result of an easy schedule (actually three of their five wins have come against teams with winning records).  The Broncos were a team that was universally picked to be horrible primarily because everyone seemed to think they made a colossal error in trading Jay Cutler (for example Sports Illustrated picked them to finish 5-11.  Hell, even Denver Post columnist Woody Paige predicted 4-12).  Well, now that they are 5-0, the Broncos’ start has to be among the most surprising in NFL history.  Fans wanted Josh McDaniels fired before he even coached a game and few seemed to think that he was doing a good job in the offseason.  The Broncos are quickly showing that they are for real, and are quickly making people forget Cutler and Mike Shanahan.

There are many places we could start in dissecting this game, but I think it is necessary to start with Kyle Orton, being that he was one of the primary reasons “experts” were predicting such a bad year for the Broncos.  Start with the fact that Orton posted the second 300-yard game of his career, then that he was named offensive player of the week.  Against the Patriots Orton led not one, but TWO 90 yard touchdown drives (the second one was 98, in the fourth quarter no less).  This is the type of clutch drive that only few are capable of leading, and it is a drive that can sometimes define a quarterback.  Orton spread the ball around the field, finding Eddie Royal 10 times (more than in the previous four games combined), Jabar Gaffney eight times and Brandon Marshall six.  In five games he has only thrown one pick (and I’m not sure that should even really count as it was a hail mary at the end of the first half).  Orton continued to make very smart decisions with the football, not doing more than he was asked to do or was capable of.  Orton is now 27-12 as a starter in his career, and is proving that flashy numbers and rocket arms aren’t the only way to win in the NFL.  He is definitely making people in Denver and around the NFL forget about Jay Cutler in a real hurry.

The Broncos defense is of course also to be commended in this game once again.  In the fourth quarter, the Broncos endured a sequence where they committed not one but two fourth down penalties on special teams (a running into the punter and an offsides), extending a Patriots drive and giving Tom Brady extra chances.  Needless to say, any time you give Brady an extra chance to beat you, let alone two chances, you’re going to be cooked most of the time.  The Broncos had twice forced a New England punt attempt to no avail, finding themselves in need of another stop.  The Broncos defense was able to dig in and get yet another stop, getting enough pressure to force Brady into a couple of incompletions.  Overall, the Broncos held the Patriots to 17 points, and while I realize New England has not been lighting up the scoreboard so far this year, this still proves that the Broncos defense is indeed for real.  I realize also that the following is essentially a sentence I could cut and paste every week, but Brian Dawkins’ presence and importance is not to be underestimated.  He is nothing short of the ultimate leader in the locker room, and he is showing he can still play a little on the field too.

Some other thoughts:

– The Broncos missed Correll Buckhalter Sunday, both for his running ability and his pass catching presence.  Knowhson Moreno did have a nice game, but he needs to hang onto the football.

– Brandon Marshall is back.  Two more touchdowns for starters, but it is clear that he is once again playing with effort and is enjoying the game again.  It’s amazing what winning can accomplish.

– I actually liked the Broncos throwback jerseys more than I thought I would.  I’m not saying they should wear them again, but it is nice once in awhile to see a different look, in this case a VERY different look. I also as I said before liked New England’s throwbacks more than their current uniform.

– New England will really miss Fred Taylor.  Somehow, they will need either Laurence Maroney or Sammy Morris to be effective going forward, but right now the lack of running game is holding their offense back.

– 12 targets for Wes Welker, only 3 for Randy Moss, and that’s without Champ Bailey shadowing Moss.  Not sure if that means anything, it’s just interesting.

– I think both teams look like they are playoff quality right now.

– It was interesting to see the chess match between McDaniels and Belichick.  Clearly both knew each other extremely well, and were trying new wrinkles to outsmart each other.  This was most obvious when timeouts were called in confusion.

– The Broncos have a huge game Monday night in San Diego.  In their last three trips west, the Broncos have lost 48-28, 23-3, and last year 52-21.  The Broncos can take yet another step toward elite status and away from the mediocrity of previous years if they can get a victory.  The Chargers have looked vulnerable lately, so I’m not sure this is entirely out of the question.

– I also want to give the Colorado Rockies their due.  The Rockies were 12 games under.500 in May when they fired manager Clint Hurdle, and naturally no one was expecting anything from this group at all.  I’m honestly not sure what Jim Tracy did to turn things around, but whatever he did, it worked wonders and then some.  He got the guys to play with confidence, and just seemed to always know what buttons to push to make things work.  The Rockies nearly caught the Dodgers in the NL West even though that lead was seemingly out of reach, but did clinch the NL wild card.  While the Rockies lost to the Phillies in four games in the division series, let’s not forget what a wild ride this team had just to get in the playoffs.  I know fans are getting on Huston Street right now for getting the loss in game three and game four, but the Rockies would not have even made the playoffs at all if not for his ability to close games on the clutch.  Hopefully ownership will keep the team together and the Rockies will be able to make another run next season.

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Random Thoughts

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 12, 2009

– I am getting really sick of hearing about steroids and baseball.  We know players cheated.  We know there were more players hopped up on performance enhancers in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s than we’ll care to admit.  I actually applaud Alex Rodriguez for his honesty and coming clean, but baseball has a real problem on its hands that just won’t go away, ever.  It’s not as if Rodriguez is the only player that used.  Odds are he was hitting off home runs off of pitchers who were also using.  Obviously that doesn’t make it right, but it is impossible to know for sure which players used and which didn’t, and how much of an advantage those that used really got. 

– The fact is the steroid era encompasses much of recent baseball history.  Is it practical to wipe out records or to keep some of these players (like Mark McGwire) out of the Hall of Fame?  Be honest, how many Yankees fans are going to refrain from buying tickets at the new Yankee Stadium this season because A-Rod admits he used steroids?  None.  How many Yankee fans will cheer him if he hits 50 home runs and leads the Yankees to a title this year?  All of them.  One of baseball’s problems with this is that the fans don’t seem to be near as appalled as they are made out to be.  Ticket sales are way up, ratings are up, and MLB isn’t exactly a struggling operation.  When teams lose, that’s when fans stop going to the games.  A key player gets busted for steroids?  That doesn’t have near the economic impact as a struggling team, so MLB owners will continue to have this issue on their hands. 

– On the plus side, it’s hard to believe that pitchers and catchers are already reporting this week.  If the Rockies weren’t destined to be so awful in 2009, I might be actually be excited about this.  I just don’t think they got enough in return for Matt Holliday, and if Jeff Francis actually does have shoulder surgery later this month as rumored, the rotation is already in trouble.

– It’s also hard to get excited when the Yankees have an unfair advantage that allows them to buy whatever free agents they want.  MLB needs a salary cap in the worst way, but the players union will never agree to it.

– At least we have college basketball for another month.  Other than the NFL, this is my favorite sport.  The college game is so much better than the NBA in absolutely every way it’s not even funny.  For starters, it’s not about individual players.  The college game relies on a team working together.  This is much more fun to watch than an NBA game where an individual tries to take over while three of teammates are standing around watching.  Plus, it’s hard to beat an atmosphere where the crowd is actually into the game and cares about the outcome.  Not that NBA fans don’t care, but there is a big difference between passionate student sections and corporate yuppies that stroll in around the second quarter and leave midway through the fourth.

– I’m also excited about the college game because Missouri (my alma matter) is finally good again.  After a five year absence from the NCAA tournament, the Tigers are 21-4 and 8-2 in conference play. 

– Most of all, the college games are just more intense, competitive and fun to watch.  I am already looking forward to the NCAA tournament.

– It will also be an interesting off season in the NFL.  There are several receivers who could end up moving (including T.J. Houshmanzadeh and Anquan Boldin, and possibly Terrell Owens) plus there are several other big time free agents out there such as Julius Peppers and Albert Haynesworth.  Free agency opens on the 27th after the scouting combine, so we’ll delve more into offseason movement then.  It will be interesting to see which teams try to make splashes and which don’t, keeping in mind that big ticket signings don’t always guarantee success and in some cases quickly blow up in a team’s face.  Look at the Jaguars, who spent big money on Jerry Porter and Drayton Florence last offseason, and released them both this week.

– I will not believe that Brett Favre is actually retired until I see that he is not on the field playing for some team in week one.

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