Category Archives: MLB

Praise for the Rays

For six grueling months, Tampa Bay outlasted the mighty New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox to win the AL East. Then they beat the 2005 World Series Champion White Sox in the ALDS. And last night, they completed the seven-game series victory over the defending World Series champion Red Sox.

After exorcising the “Devil” in the offseason, the Rays have enjoyed ascension from the AL East cellar to the game’s ultimate throne, the World Series. They’ll host the Philadelphia Phillies.

They don’t wear pinstripes or call Fenway home, but the Rays are a great story for every small-team fan out there. If you’re a fan of the Pirates or Royals, this is the model you’re looking for.

Great scouting, drafting and player development have this young Rays team on the brink of a World Series championship. Manager Joe Maddon will have his hands full with a Phillies team that had no trouble eliminating the L.A. Dodgers in five games.

My pick is the Rays in 6 games, but after predicting just three of eight playoff teams and two of six playoff series correctly, I’m not sure how much stock you should put in my World Series pick.

So let’s put away the Hollywood storyline of Manny and Joe Torre coming back to Boston. That World Series doesn’t exist. The best two teams left in baseball are Tampa Bay and Philadelphia. And it should be a fun series where all the drama happens on the diamond.

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Role Reversal: The New Yankees (plus my LCS picks)

Deal with it, Red Sox fans. It’s not 2004 anymore. Two World Series titles later, you are far from the lovable losers you once were. Instead you are the NEW New York Yankees.

That’s right. Ridiculous payroll. Overbearing fan base that loves to tell you how great they are. Hated by the rest of the league. Playing into October every season (five out of the past six to be exact).

As an A’s fan first and Yankees hater second, let me take this break before the LCS to officially add Red Sox hater to my baseball fan card. It seems only fitting to complete the trifecta. As a Lakers fan, my Celtics hated has never been higher. As a Raiders fan, I can’t stand the Patriots. Now, my anti-Beantown feelings are complete.

The crazy thing is, four years ago, I never would have seen it coming. I loved watching that 2004 team rally to beat the Yankees. It was a historic series, but ever since the Red Sox won that series, the psyche of the average Boston sports fan has shifted from “we’re never gonna win the big one,” to a sense of entitlement “we have to win the big one.”

Now here come the Tampa Bay Rays. Could the culture clash be any more vast? This is a small payroll team built on homegrown talent, playing in its first postseason under manager Joe Madden. I couldn’t name one player on their team aside from the guy whose name reminds me of Tony Parker’s wife, but that’s the point. No one knows wear this team came from.

Can they win a seven game series against the mighty Red Sox in the ALCS? Why not? They held onto the division in the regular season, so they’ll have home field advantage. It’s what I want, but my gut tells me that Boston’s Yankees impression isn’t over yet. My pick is Red Sox in six games.

Hopefully I’m wrong.In the National League, the Dodgers made my Cubs pick look pretty bad. As I said before, I was expecting heartache for Cubs fans, but I thought it would come in the World Series. Now, I’m convinced that the single most influential player in the National League is former Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez. Sorry Philadelphia, my pick is Dodgers in five.

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2008 MLB Divisional Series Picks

I’m happy to say my all-New York World Series prediction won’t come to fruition. But Chicago and L.A. remain in play for a one city World Series.

Since my regular season predictions were so far off, and I haven’t watched a full game all season, I have no real credentials to pick any series winners. But I’m a fan of playoff baseball, so I’ll give it a shot anyway.

My quick picks are below.


Tampa Bay Rays over Chicago White Sox
Rationale: The young Rays never folded under the pressure in the hotly contested AL East and held on to beat the Red Sox for the division title. The White Sox had to win a playoff just to make the playoffs.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim over Boston Red Sox
Rationale: No one has repeated as World Series champions since the Yankees’ three-peat from 1998-2000. Boston will fall short without the likes of Manny Ramirez in the lineup.


Chicago Cubs over Los Angeles Dodgers
Rationale: But fear not Red Sox fans, Manny won’t outlast the first round either. Cubs fans can expect heartache, but not in the first round. Let the stakes build a bit first.

Philadelphia Phillies over Milwaukee Brewers
Rationale: The Phillies bounce back from last season’s quick exit. For the Brew Crew, the problem is simple: they can’t clone C.C. Sabathia.

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Die, Dynasty, Die: The Yankees Miss the Playoffs, But I Won’t Miss the Yankees

The last time the New York Yankees failed to qualify for the playoffs, I was 9 years old. I didn’t own a cell phone, check an e-mail address or listen to an iPod. (I taped radio hits on my cassette player.) Chris Webber was preparing for his rookie season in the NBA, the Raiders were playing in L.A., and I had only played one version of John Madden football—Madden 93 for Sega Genesis, which my friend Zach had.

The point is, it’s been a LONG time since the Yankees missed the postseason. It’s a remarkable feat, especially when you consider baseball’s relatively low ratio of teams to postseason berths. In the NBA and NHL, 16 of 30 make the playoffs (53.3 percent). In the NFL, it’s a bit more selective at 12 of 32 (37.5 percent). Still, nothing compares to Major League Baseball where just 8 of 30 (26.6 percent) make the playoffs.

Every year, October is a chance fans and non-fans alike to rally in their hatred for the Bronx Bombers. Anti-Yankees-sentiment runs deep and, without it, I’m left wondering what this postseason will bring. Sure, there’s Yankees-Lite up in Boston where the Red Sox have gone from the lovable loser to a mirror image of their rivals in a span of just four years. But it’s just not the same.

The 2008 Yankees’ failure is significant for the same reason their success has been downplayed: their unbelievable payroll. Teams like my Oakland Athletics simply do not have the resources to compete on the same financial playing field. That makes it all the more embarrassing for the pinstripes, who couldn’t compete on the actual playing field with the likes of the Tampa Bay Rays this season.

October without the Yankees won’t be the same, it’s true. And, there may even be a piece of me that misses the opportunity to hate them throughout the postseason run, misses the chance to watch them come up short as they have every year since 2000.

But the absence of the Yankees won’t spoil October for me. Oh no, not at all. This is the one time of year that I cannot help but fall in love with America’s pastime, even if it’s clearly past it’s time as the nation’s premier sport.

Yes, even in the midst of the NFL and college football seasons, even as NBA training camps get underway and Midnight Madness approaches, October belongs to baseball when every pitch means a little more and every inning builds the suspense. The World Series is not far away, and this season, I’m already guaranteed a happy ending because the Yankees won’t be playing in it.

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Baseball’s All-Star Performance

It’s not often that baseball reaches “Sleep Can Wait” status, but it happened last night with the MLB all-star game. Major League Baseball’s hallowed grounds, Yankee Stadium, was a fitting venue for what truly turned out to be a midsummer classic (and I only tuned in starting in the 8th inning).

With home field advantage in the World Series at stake, players from the American League and National League played like the game really mattered. There were countless opportunities for players to half-ass their way to defeat, but that would have robbed the fans of a great showcase of the game’s talent.

Admittedly, I don’t watch a lot of baseball. In fact, I haven’t watched more than a scattering of innings all season long. I stay casually invested through daily SportsCenter highlights, but even I was surprised to realize how many all-stars I had never even heard of.

But in place of familiar names like Griffey and Bonds, new faces made an impact. Matt Holiday belted a homer. Evan Longoria showed that the upstart Tampa Bay Rays have some serious players. And longtime underachiever J.D. Drew took home MVP honors.

Justin Morneau, who won Monday’s Home Run Derby, scored the winning run in the bottom of the 15th, sliding in seconds before a tag was applied. It was one of at least a half dozen dramatic plays in extra innings that seemed to feature more stranded runners than a childhood game of pickle in the middle.

The pitching staffs were whittled down to the bone, and the Fox crew cautioned fans to prepare for the worst – another tie game being ended prematurely – as the managers didn’t want to overextend their players.

That problem was avoided, and for one night anyway, baseball lived up to its claim as America’s past time. I battled my eyes to stay awake past the 1:30 a.m. mark because the effort from the stars was something to behold. From Dan Uggla overcoming errors to Miguel Tejada showing age ain’t nothing but a number, this all-star game had it all. And it actually made me excited to watch baseball, even if I won’t get this excited again until October.

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The Baseball Preview For Casual Fans

I maintain that baseball is my third favorite sport. Look, there’s even a baseball in the header graphic. But it’s a distant third behind basketball and football. Distant as in I’d rather watch professional, college and high school basketball/football before Major League Baseball.

So my lack of writing about baseball is not so much about disliking baseball. It’s more about my obsession with basketball and football.

That said, I felt called to write my first baseball column for the site today because, believe it or not, the MLB season began today in the wee hours of the morning as the Oakland Athletics battled the Boston Red Sox in the friendly confines of…Japan? Yes, Japan.

Seven months from now, the A’s and the Sox may reconvene for a chilly October playoff series in the U.S. northeast, but they started their 162-game marathon of a season in the Far East. (For the record, the Red Sox won the game 6-5 in 10 innings.)

It may be a prognosticating faux pas to write a preview column after the games have already begun, but let’s be honest, I don’t really know what I’m previewing to begin with and a one game advantage isn’t going to make much of a difference. In the NFL and NBA, I can rattle of rosters of players like family members. In MLB, I can’t conjure up one name for some teams much less determine the lasting impact of Tampa Bay dropping the “Devil” from their Rays.

But after hours minutes of rigorous research looking up which teams play in which division, I found the courage to predict the finish for the Yankees and Red Sox all 30 Major League teams along with a rationale in great detail 10 words or less.

American League East
1. New York Yankees: Eight years between World Series wins makes Steinbrenners go crazy.
2. Boston Red Sox: Lovable losers to Yankees’ reflection in less than five years.
3. Toronto Blue Jays: Joe Carter happened in 1993. Nothing’s happened since then.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: No more Devils. No chance of winning division either.
5. Baltimore Orioles: Cal Ripken’s streak only outdone by O’s losses without him.

American League Central
1. Detroit Tigers: I like big bats and I cannot lie.
2. Cleveland Indians: Always the bridesmaid, never the best team in baseball.
3. Minnesota Twins: Twin partings Hunter and Santana leave ‘Sota sorta bitter.
4. Chicago White Sox: 2005 Champs. 2006 Chump. 2007 Chumpier. 2008 Chumpiest?
5. Kansas City Royals: Minor league players playing in a major league park.

American League West
1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Geographically challenged, financially charged.
2. Oakland Athletics: Environmentally friendly baseball: reduce spending, reuse strategy, recycle roster.
3. Seattle Mariners: Where Ichiro is perpetually on base and in scoring position.
4. Texas Rangers: Not the Walker version, unfortunately.

National League East
1. New York Mets: City? Check. Payroll? Check? Championships? Hold that thought…
2. Atlanta Braves: If time is a human construct, consider the Braves immortal.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: Mascot doubles as face of the franchise. Sorry Ryan Howard.
4. Washington Nationals: Check, this is real franchise.
5. Florida Marlins: Owner loves fantasy baseball, starts from scratch each season.

National League Central
1. Chicago Cubs: Cursed and cuddly baby bears haven’t won in a century.
2. St. Louis Cardinals: Same outdated haircut, same winning ball club for LaRussa.
3. Houston Astros: Insert steroids joke/essay/lamentation here.
4. Cincinnati Reds: Remember when Griffey was great? Before Cincinnati.
5. Milwaukee Brewers: At least they’ll win more games than the Bucks…
6. Pittsburgh Pirates: …but these Bucs won’t: All-time losers after this year.

National League West
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Not ‘Arizona Backs,’ Tampa, but Arizona back to the playoffs.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: Torre in Dodger blue won’t be enough.
3. Colorado Rockies: Baseball in the mountains hits a valley this year.
4. San Diego Padres: Did St. Diego really have more than one father?
5. San Francisco Giants: Fewer headlines, homeruns and wins minus Bonds.

1. New York Yankees over 4. Boston Red Sox
2. Detroit Tigers over 3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1. Arizona Diamondbacks over 4. St. Louis Cardinals
2. New York Mets over 3. Chicago Cubs

1. New York Yankees over 2. Detroit Tigers

2. New York Mets over 1. Arizona Diamondbacks

2008 World Series
1. New York Yankees over 2. New York Mets

As a Yankee hater, I feel like the Bronx Bombers have been far too cooperative in recent years with postseason flameouts. I expect a big money brawl (not to be confused with Moneyball) in the World Series with a renewal of the Subway Series. Johan Santana will help the Mets push the series to seven games, but the Yankees will find a way to win in spite of Alex Rodriguez’s penchant for poor playoff performances.

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How Often Do Championship Games Actually Live Up to the Hype?

After watching three of the first four BCS bowl games turn out to be blowouts, I began wondering about the chances that LSU-Ohio State would also be a blowout similar to the Buckeyes-Gators championship from last year. And that got me thinking about championships in general. How often does the final game of the season actually live up to the hype of a championship?
I did some research and compiled tables (see below) from the past nine championship games (the first BCS champion was in 1999) in college football, the NFL, the NBA, college basketball and Major League Baseball. If we set parameters of a “close game” as 7 points or less in football, 6 points or less in basketball, and 2 runs or less in baseball, only 22 of 45 championship-deciding games have been close in the aforementioned sports since 1999.


It’s hard to compare across sports because obviously basketball games are higher scoring than football games, and baseball games are much lower scoring. Perhaps there’s some statistical expert out there who knows how to formulate a stat that could eliminate the variables and compare the scoring margin across the sporting world. But until that person steps forward, I’ll just offer the data and my observations.


Comparing football to football, the BCS championship games don’t quite stack up against the most recent Super Bowls. The average margin of victory in BCS title games is 15.33 whereas the Super Bowl margin of victory has been just 12.0 since 1999.


Judging the World Series and NBA Finals is also difficult because, unlike the other sports, they decide their champion in a series. But judging by the final game of the series, they are slightly more likely to be close games. In the case of Major League Baseball, no deciding game has been decided by more than 3 runs in the past nine years. Unfortunately, five of those years saw the World Series end in a four game sweep, which significantly lessens the drama and intrigue of the closeout game.


The Nielsen TV ratings indicate that the BCS is performing strongly. While the Super Bowl remains the standard by which all televised sporting events are measured, the BCS ratings average is greater than all of the other sports listed.


What does all this mean? I’m not completely sure, but basically it seems to suggest that even if the game Monday night is a blowout, I’ll probably be watching. Yeah, sounds about right.
(Click the images below to view full size.)

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