Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Sox in '06

Well hopefully some time on Halloween we will see Theo signed up to a new three (plus) year deal allowing the team to concentrate on what they actually need to do to compete in 2006... While Theo strikes me as an excellent GM, I am hoping that his deal isn't quite as long as this former New Englander's deal - I guess first impressions do count in Indiana!

This site does a nice job of breaking down the free agents by position and of detailing what a mediocre FA class the various GM's will be picking from this year - although my guess would be that this simply means that we will see more 'big name' trades this winter than we have seen for a while.

Some light relief - The Yankees try to emulate Nomar

Nomar saves two in Boston Harbour...

Gary Sheffield wouldn't risk his health for two girls in a harbour. He needs to keep his body in shape for October.
Hideki Matsui would rescue the girls, then refuse to accept any praise until the harbour froze over and no more girls could drown.
Bernie Williams would try to save the girls, but he wouldn't reach them in time.
Bubba Crosby would swim like crazy to save the girls, but the crashing waves would distract him, and he'd swim right into one of the girls and knock her out. He would recover, though, and save the other girl.
Jason Giambi would swim out a bit, get lost, and flail around while he tried to remember how to swim. He'd then swim so fast he created a rip tide, and then swim against the rip tide successfully to bring the girls back in.
Tino Martinez wouldn't even get the chance to save the girls. He'd have to watch Giambi do it.
Robinson Cano would swim out, reach the girls in record time, then swim them back to a deserted island.
Derek Jeter would save them both in incredibly dramatic fashion, while half of Boston mutters about how they could've also done it in their sleep.
Alex Rodriguez might be able to save them, but he might also be too traumatized from the experience of saving the kid in Boston. He'd probably have to call his therapist while the girls drowned.
Jorge Posada would yell for a liferaft, then throw it straight to the girls.
John Flaherty would try to throw a raft out to the girls, too, but he wouldn't be able to reach them and they'd drown.
Ruben Sierra would dive into the water while everyone cheered for him, then drown miserably.
Tony Womack would dash across the water's surface to reach the girls, then realize just too late that he doesn't have enough skill to actually pull the girls out of the water and drown.
Randy Johnson would have to make sure the water temperature was just right, his body had just enough rest, and the distance from the shore to the girls was to his liking. Also, John Flaherty would have to watch.
Carl Pavano WOULD save them, but, y'know, his shoulder...
Jaret Wright would go out to save them, then get hit in the head by three crabs, a shark, and a passing fisherman's boat and drown.
Kevin Brown would flounder out halfway, then drown while complaining about his back. In the process, he would also punch a wave and break his wrist on the force of the water.
Mike Mussina would agonize so long over the exact angle and velocity required to reach the girls that they would drown before he even got in the water.
Chien-Ming Wang would stand there and watch Pavano and Wright botch up their attempts, then jump in and save both girls.
Shawn Chacon would save the girls, but on the way back, he'd be blocked off by the rest of the Yankees trying to do the same. Thus foiled by his own teammates, he and the girls would drown.
Aaron Small would raise his arms, levitate the girls out of the water, and fly them in to shore.
Al Leiter would keep swimming around the girls and would never actually reach them.
Scott Proctor MIGHT save the girls in amazing fashion, but it's more likely he'd drown before he got halfway to them.
Tanyon Sturtze would swim out to the girls, showing amazing swimming form, then flounder and drown on the way back.
Felix Rodriguez would slip on the sand and break his arm.
Tom Gordon would swim out, keep the girls' heads above water, then wait for Rivera to swim out and save them all.
Mariano Rivera would grab Tom Gordon and the girls, then swim farther out to sea, where he would also rescue three children, a newlywed couple, and a crusty old sea dog who lost his leg while wrestling a shark. He would then bring them all to shore in miraculous fashion, but he wouldn't get the recognition he deserved because he wasn't swimming in the water for the whole day like Mark Buehrle, Bartolo Colon and Johan Santana were.
Joe Torre would let the girls stay out in the water too long and drown, then throw Alan Embree into the harbour to drown as well.

Not written by me alas but full credit goes to a guy called Scott, who wrote it and I found it on a girl called Sally's LiveJournal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Show me the cash, man!

Is that possibly the worst pun for a headline I've written? Quite possibly...

Anyway, the crux of the issue is that according to a Newsday report the New York Yankees and Brian Cashman have agreed on a 3yr/$5.5m contract for the GM to return to the Bronx. This deal would make him the highest paid GM in the Major Leagues and would surprise me as I thought that Cash was ready to walk out on the Yankees, but somehow both he and Joe Torre are returning to work under The Boss, much to my shock.

To go along with Cashman, coming back is Lee Mazzilli who'll serve as bench coach, Ron Guidry who'll become the new pitching coach, Sojo moves over to first whilst his space at third will be taken by Larry Bowa. Larry Bowa? This appointment scares me, it really does, just how Anti-Torre could a guy be? Fiery and in your face, I just don't know what to think.

With the GM question seemingly sorted, the Yankees can push on and start on their winter plan. The big problem is in CF and with a thin FA crop it looks like the new CF will come over in a trade, Torii Hunter has been talked about as has Ken Griffey Junior and Joey Gathright but I'd like to see what the Blue Jays would want for Vernon Wells. We know Robinson Cano will be sought after leaving a hole at second base but as Neil H said to me the other night, Texas want shot of Soriano, do we want him back?

BJ Ryan is clearly a guy most Yankee fans just expect to sign but away from him we are in the dark, this could be a very interesting off season for the Bombers and both Jorge Posada and Gary Sheffield do not have no trade clauses...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Would Red Sox fans just shut up?

Here, here and here - the media has decided that one of the main (early) stories of the 2005 World Series is - thank goodness we don't have to put up with those whining Red Sox fans and that Curse nonsense. It really was disgraceful that us Sox fans went around talking about the Curse non-stop... that we whined constantly... no? you neither? This Page 2 story on ESPN has no less than 8 digs at the Red Sox / Yankees in a story that is supposedly a guide to what to watch for in the 2005 Series...

It is one of those things about the media that drives me nuts at times - they write the original story... the Sox are cursed... they write the second, third, four hundredth and five thousandth story to make sure that we know the first story... then the media piles on in a quite unprecedented way with post Curse books celebrating the Sox victory to make sure that they get their share of the pie... and then tell us what a relief it is to not have any whining Red Sox fans at the party this year... incredible!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

No Go for Joe

So Joe is coming back for another term as the leader of the Yankees much to my surprise. However saying that I am delighted that he is back as the leader of this pack and seemingly he has some assurances that the power will shift from the Tampa brain trust back towards him and his people.

The Yankees have made October baseball every year that the Yankees have been managed by Torre, winning four World Championships and appearing in six World Series. However yet again he'll need to appoint a new bench coach with the obvious choice being former Yankee Lee Mazzilli as Joe Girardi agreed to lead the Florida Marlins into the 2006 campaign.

The pitching coach job is also up for grabs but Leo Mazzone will not to that man as he's moving to the Orioles to team up with long-time good friend Sam Perlozzo. The Yankees held talks with the Braves pitching guru but were unable to reach agreement but it seems as though the Birds were always his first choice.

So now it seems as though the Yankees will look towards the White Sox Don Cooper, Dave Kerrigan, former Yankee Ron Guidry or the Giants Dave Righetti. Cooper and Ruidry are thought to be favoured by the Yankee brass but Joe Kerrigan is also highly-tipped to get the job either by choice or by default.

Now all attention turns to Brian Cashman, will he or won't he stay? Time will tell...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Neil speaks, George listens

Well who knew that Neil M directed Yankee policy with regard Joe?

Looks like Joe and Steinbrenner have kissed and made up for now - I still don't know that the dynamic can survive the type of "Congratulations to the Angels and their manager" comments that Steinbrenner can't seem to help making when things don't go right, and
I am not certain that a manager who openly states that he thought about quitting is really the guy who I would want motivating my team when things aren't going well at some point next year.

I also think that the increasing distance between Torre and his last "real" championship - just because Steinbrenner doesn't acknowledge paltry things like AL East titles and AL pennants, doesn't mean we shouldn't - increases the scope for Steinbrenner, the media and, increasingly, fans to question whether Joe is still the manager that we all assume that he is. His bullpen usage, in particular, the last few years has been strange (if you are not one of his 'guys' take a pew), while it is hard to recall the last time he out-managed an opponent?

The coming year could again be Torre's most challenging yet, and given the emotions he expressed about how little he enjoyed the challenges last year, I doubt that is a good thing for the Yankees. Randy Johnson will be a year older and is likely to be even less consistent than he was this year, Sheffield, with his history of histrionics, will be an interesting case to watch in his contract year, while there is the chance that payroll may actually come down for the first time in a long time with the attendant need to get more out of less.

All makes for a fun year ahead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Joe ready to walk?

The longer Joe Torre keeps quiet, the more likely it is that he will not be back in the Bronx for the 2006 season. I am a Torre fan, I want him to come back but when I look at the situation, I struggle to find a reason why Joe himself will want to come back. All his allies are leaving him, Zimmer left two years back, Mel has gone and Cashman is on his way.

He has $13.1m due to him over the next two years and it is hard to walk away from such money, but does he really need it? He and his family are setup for life, he can negotiate a buy-out and have his pick of TV offers should he so desire, and a book on the Yankee years under him would automatically be a best seller and make him a bundle of cash, money should not be an issue.

Also the old guard that have served him so well are gone and/or disappearing fast. Only Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera are contracted to the Yankees next season from the dynasty run. In place of great clutch hitters like Scott Brosius and Paul O'Neill are superstars such as Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield, both great hitters but neither have that never say die attitude that the Yankees used to have. I may be wrong but this team knows losing, the other players didn't know when to give in, certainly in October. I feel that those Yankees believed in each other, these Yankees believe in themselves.

The Yankees were a fun team to manage, they could do it all, they could pitch, play small ball and had the long ball in them, now it is more about managing a clubhouse full of volatile egos and not about managing how to get the team to score more runs than the opposition.

Does Torre need to take all the shit from George anymore? No he doesn't. He needs to do what he enjoys and I don't think that working for The Boss is a very enjoyable experience for him anymore. I'd love to see Joe back but if I was him and had put up with what he has had to then I'd be happy to cut my losses and walk away from the top job and concentrate on my own health and peace of mind.

So a week on...

I have been away doing other things and working on other projects but today I have a day off and a day full of blogging it shall be. A week ago today the Yankees were done for the year, a disappointing loss in Orange County ended what was a hard season for Yankee fans.

This one though didn't hurt half as much as others have and I'll tell you why. This years Yankee team were never that good. They battled hard and had hot and cold spells but the fragile starting rotation really killed this team. Apart from a great run after our 11-19 start and the last three weeks or so of the season, this team was barely .500.

Hitting wise we had a really nice bonus in Robinson Cano coming through and Jason Giambi once again becoming a feared presence in the line-up, but away from that we didn't see anyone else exceeding their expectations. A-Rod was great but I have to say I expect great for the money he is getting paid, Jeter had a good year and both Sheffield and Matsui did what we have come to expect. My boy Jorge had a down year and Bernie is done, much as I hate to say it, he's done. Tino had a hot fortnight but away from that all he ever was to this team was a defensive replacement for Giambi. Womack was always a strange signing and another one of George's failed attempts at bringing in a prototype lead-off hitter, if only he could hit then maybe the plan might've worked!

On to the starting pitching, Randy was not the ace of the staff we all believed he would be. He produced decent numbers but he gave up far too many long balls to ever to effective and that nasty slider we all know he has didn't seem to come with him from the National League. Mussina was great or god damn awful, very rarely anywhere in between. Carl Pavano...Did he ever pitch a good game at home? I remember a couple of gems on the road but really he didn't live up to billing and Jaret Wright's only hope for staying in the Bronx is if Leo Mazzone does come to the Yankees, more on that later. The last man in our opening rotation was...Oh yes Kevin Brown (it took me an age to think of who it was) he is definitely done, more done than Bernie and his time in the Bronx was not the happiest of his career.

So with all the injuries and problems, we had several other starters this year. Three of them came in and were just immense. Wang, Chacon and Small somehow kept the Yankees from coming completely off the rails and kept the juggernaut moving forward. Wang and Chacon are both well and truly in the mix for the rotation next season and I suspect Small will stick around and be the long-man in the Bronx. We also threw out Al Leiter, Tim Redding, Tanyon Sturtze, Darrell May, and Sean Henn as starters this season, did I miss anyone?

On to the pen and it was all about AL Cy Young contender Mo, and Flash was good as well. Below that and it was bad, real bad. The Yankees will undergo changes this off season and after Neighbours et al I shall write about why I think the Yankees will say goodbye to no fewer than five very important non-playing members of this franchise.

Monday, October 17, 2005

NLCS Game 3

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Well I was lucky enough to be in Houston for the last few days, and managed to score tickets for yesterday's game. The Astros won behind a gutsy performance from Clemens, and an interesting performance from "Light's Out" Lidge - who really couldn't have been less lights out.

The Astros chose to keep the roof closed at Minute Maid to enhance the atmosphere, and it really was the loudest stadium I have experienced, though the rally rags were a bit off putting (and of fantastic quality - the guy in front of me ripped his in two celebrating Mike Lamb's HR) - and someone needs to explain to me how the Astros needed "Rally Time", complete with fans putting on rally caps, when they were two runs ahead in the bottom of the 8th... unless it was pep-rally time... with pep-rally hats...?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Decision #1

I guess the first decision the Sox need to make, and the one that will shape the rest of the decisions that are made in 2005/06 (and beyond), concerns the future of Theo Epstein, who has now lost the title of the "Youngest GM in Baseball History" to Jon Daniels (and for a Rangers fans interesting take on the move look here) - if the Boston media are a useful guide, Rangers fans can look forward to 12 month of stories peppered with the words fresh-faced, youthful, baby-faced etc, etc... as well as many, many references to his date of birth.

When Theo signed on, his promise was to turn the Red Sox into persistent post-season contenders (from memory, his claim was 8 out of every 10 post-seasons) and into a $100m player development machine - he has delivered on the first part (though 3 out of 3, means only 5 out of 7 ahead, bad times), and given the positive press that the Sox farm system gets these days he seems to be delivering on the second.

On a simple basis, it is hard to argue that Theo's three years haven't been a major success - three years with at least 95 wins, three years of post-season play, four play-off series victories and oh yeh, one of those World Series things. While the roster that won the World Series still had the fingerprints of Dan Duquette, many of Theo's signings, and roster moves, were critical to that success - Schilling, Foulke, Ortiz, Miller, Mueller, Bellhorn and the Garciaparra / Cabrera trade.

Depending on which of Boston's papers you read over the last couple of days you get a different take - the Globe raises the possibility that Theo might not be back, although it seems mostly a "here is the worst case" story, while the Herald believes it is a done deal.

I guess if you look here, I voted with the majority - it was standing at 91% to 9% last I looked! Though it is worth looking through to see the 'majority' position on all of the team's free agent decisions in the coming close season.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

What is that smell? Oh it's Randy...

As we were told many a time before this pivotal game three, this is why George moved heaven and earth to bring Randy Johnson to the starting rotation. Instead of being lights out though, the lights were never switched on as Randy had nothing. I thought this guy was a sure fire first round Hall of Famer (I know he still is) but this guy has given up home run after home run and again the long ball was his Achilles heel.

In a 5-0 hole and with runners on the corners, Joe strolled out a yanked the 42 year-old and he got the ovation he deserved. It was quite simply pathetic but Aaron Small would wriggle out the jam and then the Yanks would battle back and even take the lead.

Small though couldn't be superman for too long and after a perfect fifth, he would give up the tying run in the sixth. Flash came in early and was disappointing loading the bases with nobody out, but that did include a surprising call by 2B umpire Joe West who called a runner safe on a force play, which really should at worse of been a neighbourhood call and out.

I went to bed at 11-6 considering just how late it was over here and I see we pulled one back but that was that. The story was how much our ace sucked and didn't live up to his billing. The Angels were hitting everything he threw and they can eliminate the Yankees tonight when Jarrod Washburn takes the hill against Shawn Chacon.


Well now we know how Angel fans felt in 2004 - and it really isn't good.

It is difficult to be overly analytical at this stage - we have just been eliminated, and it sucks. When I was looking forward to this series I made the point that if the Red Sox pitching staff held the White Sox to 3 - 4 runs a game, we would prevail - well the White Sox were never held to that tally, and 3 losses later...

But this series hasn't just been about our pitching - our hitting went off slightly in mid September and never really got going consistently again. When your pitching staff isn't that strong, you need your hitters to give them occasional relief, and we never had that at any point in this series - the most runs the Red Sox put together in any of the 3 games was... 2... with the bases loaded and no outs tonight, not one single runner moved after the bases were loaded - pop up, pop up, strike swinging - that is not un-typical of what we have witnessed over the last month.

Anyway - I will look at what I think went wrong with this team over the next couple of weeks - but for tonight lets think of what went well...
  • David Ortiz - a stat line here wouldn't even begin to summarize his staggering season.
  • erm...
  • the beginning of the youth movement - Papelbon, Hansen, Meredith, Delcarmen, Ramirez et al made appearances, and the Sox refused to trade prospects at the trading deadline to shore up the bullpen.
It is incredible to think that a team where so little of the upside appeared, and so much of the downside crystallized, still won 95 games, and lost the AL East in name only.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Damn you A-Rod

I can forgive A-Rod for the error in the 6th, it was an easy play but we all make silly errors in life and switch off, that is what he did and I don't want to chastise him for that, but...

He came up in the top of the 7th and earned a walk, the whole world and even Martians knew that he was still annoyed at himself for making that error and was going to run. Sadly for Yankee fans is that the Angels are part of the world and therefore also knew. Escobar kept him close and gave him a lot of attention meaning he never got a decent jump. On a 1-2 pitch the Angels pitched out and guessed right and as Neil H put it 'out by a mile'.

Why he went is anybodies guess but it was an incredibly dumb play. You have the heart of the Yankee order up, Giambi is a big pull hitter so by holding A-Rod on at 1st, he had a bigger hole to try and hit into. Even then Sheffield and Matsui were next and they could drive him home, instead he chose to kill any momentum the Yankees had (and boy did they to get some) and got thrown out by feet instead of inches.

A-Rod may be the best player in baseball but he sure as hell isn't the smartest.

It's E-Split

So it is down to a short two from three series. The Yankees probably should've won last night but it wasn't to be. When Chone Figgins striped Matsui of a clean RBI double down the left field line at 2-0 in the top of the 5th, I felt the momentum had swung and the game was done, I was right.

Wang was masterful but shoddy defense behind him hurt as the Yankees meekly surrendered the 2-0 lead and went into the 9th 5-2 down. Why Al Leiter was ever left in to face Vlad I'll never know, but even more shocking was the fact he retired the slugger. As Neil H pointed out in the last update, I was calling for time zones to be annulled as I was so tired I had to kip before the Yankee game and therefore missed the ChiSox and BoSox. I had planned to have a sleep earlier but it was the final of The Apprentice over here and I saw Kerry Perdue whop Jennifer Massay's butt.

I shall do a separate blog update on A-Rod in a bit but all in all I suppose a split on the road isn't too bad. Randy goes on Saturday night and you'd like to think the Yanks have the advantage anytime he takes the mound, and if he wins we just have to take a split from the final two games and we'll progress.

As for the BoSox, Neil H said Graff's error was terrible, I saw it just now and it really was shocking. They are in trouble but it still wouldn't totally shock me to see it return to US Cell, the problem for the BoSox is that if it does, Matt Clement will go against Jose Contreras and I really like the ChiSox in that match-up.

Your fiscally responsible New York Yankees

It really is galling to hear Joe Morgan wax lyrical about the fiscal restraint of the New York Yankees.

I am watching the Angels / Yankees Game 2 - the start time of 10pm ET, 3am GMT, had Neil M railing against all time zones left of London - and as the Yankees pitched in the bottom of the 5th, Joe was genuinely praising Brian Cashman for not spending much more money when the Yankees encountered pitching problems in mid season... if I was speaking rather than typing, I would be genuinely speechless.

Well heck Joe, they had already spent $65m more than the next team and you want to praise their fiscal restraint... you are kidding right? But then his next sentence (repeated more than once) revealed all - he commented on the Yanks $200,000 payroll - and you have to agree, that in pulling together this all time All-Star team, Cashman has done remarkable things getting the whole team to play for less than one major league minimum salary.

Do teams come back from 0-2 holes?

Well I guess over the next 48 hours that we will hear a lot of nonsense about how this team doesn't care that it is 0-2, how this team knows how to get out of that type of hole... except this team doesn't - these aren't your 2004 Red Sox.

Following last night's 'invisible' thrashing, the Sox found a new way to lose tonight - decent hitting and run generation early, terrible at bats later... nice pitching and defense early, one horrible, and incredibly costly, defensive play in the 5th, costing the Red Sox the game. That isn't to say that the White Sox might not have generated more offense had they needed it late, but they didn't need to find out.

The error really was a horrible mental mistake by Graffanino - an easy ball a few paces to his side, no bad hop, just took his eye off the ball as he prepared to flip to Renteria on 2nd base. One out later, AL ROY candidate Tadahito Iguchi deposited a three run bomb into the bullpen in left, allowing the ESPN crew to rabbit endlessly about how you can't give good teams an extra out or two. Thanks guys, nice analysis pointing out the things that ordinary fans just can't see...

This is the third season in a row that the Sox have found themselves with no wiggle room in a series - they fell 0-2 to the Oakland A's in 2003 before the Athletics really decided to push the self destruct button and we all know what passed in 2004. Does this team have the ability to escape again in 2005? My heart says yes, but my head has been telling me all season that this version of the Sox has too many flaws to allow it to repeat as World Champions.

To keep themselves in this series the Red Sox need to score early on Friday and hope that the Tim Wakefield we get on the mound is the one who impressed in September - averaging 8+ innings a start with 7K and a 3+ ERA, not the guy who gave up 7 earned runs in 5 innings on Saturday. Friday's opponent, Freddy Garcia has had a decent year - a 14-8 record with an ERA just under 4, and finished the season strongly aside from a 5 inning effort in mid-September against Kansas that yielded 7 runs.

As with 2004 - the team just needs to win one, it can worry about the next one a day later.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

American Airlines flight 1282

Sometimes you are unhappy to miss any game... sometimes you are happy that the flight from Tampa to New York takes 3 hours... the score wasn't pretty when I got on the plane, and it sure wasn't any better when I got off.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Game one lineup and rotation news

As I predicted over the weekend, the Yankees will go with Bubba Crosby in CF for the opener against Bartolo Colon and the Angels on Tuesday night. The lineup I put together was accurate except Joe has Cano hitting 6th ahead of Posada.

So we are:

Jeter SS
A-Rod 3B
Giambi 1B
Sheffield RF
Matsui LF
Cano 2B
Posada C
Williams DH
Crosby CF

I think most Yankee fans will agree would agree if I said that was our optimum starting 9.

The pitching rotation has also thrown up a surprise as Wang gets the nod in game two above Shawn Chacon, who'll go game four if necessary. I thought Aaron Small had done enough with his magic pixie dust to earn a start but I suspect he is ready to come in if either Moose or Wang struggles early, which must be a concern.

Most of the ESPN experts are going with the Angels, I think it'll be nice to be the underdogs for a change...

ALDS and NLDS Previews

I am completely cream crackered but I thought I'd make a quick blog update on all four series before I went to bed and watch Monday Night Football (Go Panthers - my 2nd team beside my Jags!)

Yankees @ Angels

The Yanks do not have an easy task but it is a task I believe they can pull through. This team has the most grit I have seen in a Yankee team since I started watching the sport back in the 2001 World Series. This team should by right probably not even be in October baseball but have found a way to get there.

A team full of winners, big game players and the emergence of a real talent at second (well with the bat) and with Jason Giambi being a real threat again, this lineup is quite special. Yes the rotation isn't assured and a lot hinges on Mike Mussina's elbow, but his 5-1 (3.00) record in ALDS play is not to be sniffed at.

In the pen the Angels have the edge in middle relief but I have more faith that Flash and Mo can shut it down than Shields and K-Rod even though the numbers are similar. This should really be a great series and as Neil H pointed out to me last night, it will be harder than the Twinkies over the past couple of years, but this team has been through so much, I can't see them falling short of playing for the Pennant.

Yankees in 4.

Red Sox @ White Sox

This whole series depends on one thing - Chicago's starting pitching. If Jose Contreras and his 10.70 ERA against Boston can perform like he has down the stretch and not like he has against the team from Beantown, then the White Sox can win this thing. Freddy Garcia and Mark Buerhle have also pitched well of late.

However the Boston lineup can really turn it on and they do have the best #3/#4 combination in the bigs. The White Sox can play small ball and test that Boston defence, they'll run on the outfielders in the wide confines of US Cellular and that may be huge.

Also the bp's of both teams are not that great, however Chicago's Starters have gone deeper into games than Boston's this season. If Matt Clement, Boomer Wells, and Curt Schilling can get into the 7th and only use Papelbon, Myers and Timlin then that may be vital.

Still, I have this going to a decider and the ChiSox just about holding on in the top of the 9th with the go-ahead runs on base.

ChiSox in 5

Astros @ Braves

By far the more intriguing NLDS as the Astros take on the Braves. The big and I mean big boost for the Astros is they start on Wednesday meaning they can setup Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt for games 1, 2 and 3, quite handy huh?

The Braves are throwing out Tim Hudson and John Smoltz first up so we are guaranteed two marquee match-ups in the first two games. The Braves hit much better than the Astros but will the big three going for the Houston ball club in at least four of the five games then how many runs do you need to score? The Houston big three include three of the top five starters for ERA in the NL, Clemens (1st), Pettitte (2nd), Oswalt (5th).

The final reason why the Astros will hold on? Brad Lidge.

Astros to sweep

Padres @ Cardinals

The final series. Honestly the Padres?

Forgo all the crap, this one is going to the Cards but I'm going for a shock...

Cards in 5

I think the Pads will throw out Peavy and he'll win game one and then on short rest in game four, but they have no-one else who is honestly a play-off calibre pitcher.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Yankee view

So we face off with LAA in the ALDS, could've been better, could've been worse. The facts are these though, if you take out Jaret Wright's starts down the stretch (big thing I know but lets be honest, he will not be starting a post season game) then the Yankees are 14 from 16. Bartolo Colon is a Cy Young contender but we (well A-Rod) stung him for 3 big flies and 10 RBI's, we seemed to see him ok.

Our rotation looks set up to be Mussina and Chacon on the road, with Randy and Aaron Small at the Stadium. Mike Mussina would pitch game give if needed back out in Anaheim. Aaron Small isn't confirmed yet but I think he'd get the nod over Wang but Joe could easily go the other way.

I like the match-ups to be honest and the way the Angels have beaten us is through speed and not big hitting. With this in mind I expect to see Bubba Crosby start in CF as they would run on Bernie all day, Bernie himself I think with DH.

So for me...

Jeter SS
A-Rod 3B
Giambi 1B
Sheffield RF
Matsui LF
Posada C
Cano 2B
Williams DH
Crosby CF

I will post more thoughts later on in the day as I have to leave in five minutes to catch my train but I have the Yanks in 4 and over in the battle of the Sox I have Contreras shutting down the Red Sox in game 5 and knocking them out.

Well after all that

Well the Sox easily took care of the Yankees today, with the reward a Division Series matchup against the White Sox - clearly not an easy proposition, but preferable to the cross country trek required to play off against the Angels.

I have read on quite a few blogs today that Sox fans need to get over the fact that we end the season tied, but qualify as runner's up and wild card entry. The thing that does strike me as silly is that three teams end up tied with 95-67 records... we end up tied with the Yankees, but lose the title on the season series... meaning the Yankees play the Angels... the Yankees tied with the Angels but start on the road as they lost the season series to the Angels... but the Red Sox win the season series against the Angels, but will not gain home field advantage in an ALCS matchup with the Angels because we "only" qualify as the wild card team... that lack of home field advantage might yet hurt.

No matter - first up the White Sox, whom the Sox beat 4-3 in the season series, and who have had a strange last month as the Indians first caught, then collapsed against in the last few days. It is difficult to know what to make of the White Sox - perhaps if we hadn't been subject to Guillen's very loud protestations over the course of the season, his promotion of 'smart ball' (bought hook, line and sinker by the mainstream media when the reality is that only one playoff team in the majors hit more HR's and the White Sox were middle of the pack for sacrifices), his loud exclamations of his own contributions when the team was winning and equally loud criticisms of his players when they were losing, they would be an easier team to like.

As has been the case all season, I think the series will come down to how our pitching performs on any given night - our lineup continues to be capable of putting up good numbers against any pitching staff, and if our crew can hold the White Sox hitters to 3 to 4 runs a game, I would expect us to prevail. The Sox pitchers have been reasonable the last month - a team ERA of 4.5 (a number that drops all the way to 4.0 if we exclude all runs accrued in Matt Clement's starts from the calculation), encouraging contributions from rookies Jonathan Papelbon and Craig Hansen, and steady contributions from Mike Myers, Chad Bradford and Mike Timlin. Adding Bronson Arroyo to that mix should ensure that our bullpen isn't the unreliable beast it has been for large parts of the season - but it will in truth come down to our starters going consistently deep in their starts to ensure that we don't suffer some form of bullpen blow up in a game that causes much gnashing of teeth in the post game analysis.

I will leave Neil M to post on the Yanks - Angels matchup, but I think it will be a more difficult test than the Twins have put up the last couple of years, not least because of the loss of home field advantage.

Bold prediction - Red Sox in 4, Angels in 5.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Story of Game 161

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Well a mixed day at the ballpark - bad result, amazing experience in the dugout seats on the 1b side at Fenway.

Wakefield was never really in the game - he pitched poorly enough to give up 7 runs... but pitched well enough to be allowed to give up 7 runs.

RJ wasn't at his best either - he had control issues (or was squeezed - one thing about the park, there is never a k-zone, or a repeat of ball / strike calls), was hit hard by Manny, hit consistantly by Graffanino, but stayed in there to get the ball to Gordon and Mo. From a Sox perspective the annoying thing was our sudden loss of patience with him - he had thrown 85 pitches through 4 innings, but 11 pitches later was out of the 6th. I had thought / hoped that he would be gone after 5, allowing the Sox to get into the Yanks weak bullpen, ahead of the twin headed monster.

Heading into today I am relatively confident - I really can't believe that the Sox can't beat a Yankees team that has no real interest in the result. While it might be sweet for the Yankees to push us into a one game play-off, all it really does is push Clement out a day in the ALDS - and the Sox may yet lose to whoever that first round opponent is anyway.

FIngers crossed that we know all the play-off matchups in a few hours time!

Looking Forward, Looking Back

So the Yankees are in, will the Red Sox join them in a few hours? The Boston ball club need only to win or for Cleveland to lose to clinch the wildcard and a best of five series with the ChiSox starting at 4:05 EST on Tuesday. Should they lose and Cleveland are victorious then they'll play tomorrow at 7:05 EST at Fenway for the right to play Chi Town.

The Yankees have not clinched the #2 seed despite what I wrote last night. Any combination of a Yankee win and an Angels loss today though will mean the ALDS starts in New York. A Yankee loss and an Angel win in Texas would mean game 1 would be on the west coast. Mike Mussina is set to pitch that game for the Yankees, the other starters are yet to be determined.

This is of course all based on Boston winning the W/C. If they don't the Yanks would play the Indians starting in the Bronx on Tuesday night. The only way that couldn't happen is if LAA take the #2 seed (win today and we lose) and then they'ed play the Indians and we'd start out in ChiTown, confused yet?

Mr 'I must of walked under several ladders' Wright takes the mound this afternoon, and I suspect that neither Flash nor Mo will be available even if the game is close. I look to see F-Rod, Proctor, Embree and Leiter in the bp for the Bombers. Also several regulars will be rested says Torre, I think they would include Jeter, Matsui, Sheffield, Giambi, Posada and Cano. A-Rod I look to start at 3rd and Matsui will make an appearance in the 9th to keep up his consecutive game streak in tact.

So my guess at the line-up today is as follows:

Womack lf
Crosby cf
A-Rod 3b
Williams dh
Sierra rf
Martinez 1b
Bellhorn 2b
Flaherty c
Escalona ss

Not exactly frightening but a few players could do with a couple of days off to re-charge the old batteries. All eyes on Cleveland and Boston tonight in the AL to see who'll be that fourth playoff team, both are good sides and both would be a credit to the league.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Fly the flag!

Well for the Yankees, game 161 was the last one that mattered in the regular season, the next one will be in the Bronx against LAA on Tuesday or Wednesday.

A 8-4 win coupled with the ChiSox beating the Indians 4-3 in Jacobs Field gives the Yankees the division and the #2 seed going into October baseball. Three runs in the first gave the Yanks an early lead but in the bottom of the inning Randy decided to try and sneak an 0-2 fastball past Manny on the inside corner, big mistake as the ball wouldn't come back.

Good small ball by the Yanks scored two in the 2nd on two sac flies but in the bottom of the inning Randy and Gary Darling would disagree...a lot. The ump squeezed the Yankees left hander big time but he would get out of it by getting Renteria to strike out swinging.

Solo shots by Matsui and A-Rod eeked out more of a lead but Tony Graffanino and Manny (off Flash in the 8th) would also hit solo shots. Enter the Sandman who allowed a lead-off single but nothing else as the Yankees locked down the East after the Indians had lost around ten minutes before hand.

The Yankees celebrated on the field as they won their eighth straight AL East division title, much to the surprise of many a person after that 11-19 start. The Yankees have played .842 baseball over the last 19 games just when they needed to get hot, I just hope that they can carry the momentum deep into the fall.

New York Yankees - AL East Champs - 1998 - 2005 (and beyond?)

Here we go

The Yankees and the Red Sox know the following:

One win would guarantee them at worst Monday and Tuesday baseball. The Indians shock loss against a ChiSox second string last night means that whatever happens, one win for the Yanks or Sox would give them at worse two one-off playoff matches, how good would that be for baseball?

Last night was a decent game, the Yanks left em loaded in the first and you felt at that moment a real chance had been missed. Wang looked pumped therefore his sinker wasn't sinking until after Varitek's solo shot in the second. Some base-running errors by the Sox (Damon and Nixon) helped the Yanks stay close but you just felt like it wasn't going to be our night.

Plus points though include neither Flash or Mo came in giving them yet another day off after being heavily relied on in recent weeks. The real bonus of the night though was the Indians, who'd of thought they wouldn't beat the ChiSox after they left out seven regulars?

Still...we play ball again later and Neil H will be there, should be fun!

1 down, 2 to go

or three... or four.

Well the Sox win the first game behind a strong outing from Wells, some good bullpen management by Francona, and some weak defense by the Yankees in the 6th inning - the Sox sent eight men to the plate in that inning, scoring three runs, despite only generating two hits.

It really is incredible that these two teams are tied after 160 games, with the Yankees holding a one game advantage in the season series, and the Sox a one game advantage over the last... 69 games - that is two pretty evenly matched teams.

I will try and post some pictures of tomorrow's match-up when I get back from the game - I am hoping that sitting at Fenway will make the viewing experience easier than it was tonight.

Taking my mind off of Game 160

Sorry you need to be a ESPN Insider subscriber to get the full benefit of this over long rant – I have quoted where possible, but I think the “fair use” rules prevent me from quoting too much more!

Bill Simmons is a bit of a legend in Red Sox nation, and his ability to capture, and verbalize, what Red Sox fans are thinking is excellent – that mixed with his generational ability to cross reference to ‘zeitgeist’ pop culture icons from the late 1970’s and 1980’s that (youngish) middle aged guys who think they are still young (i.e. me…) means he gets a lot of airtime for his work..

But despite being the author of the ‘5 Year Grace Period Rule’* his work this season has displayed a lot of the tensions that have afflicted this Sox fan throughout the year – the knowledge that so much was achieved last year and the sense that a great opportunity has been missed this year.

In this piece today, he draws out that missed opportunity through the eyes of Bill Belichick – legendary head coach of the Patriots… and I am going to take issue! I understand what he is trying to do but…

Taking the points in my preferred order (if Bill wants to do the same back, he should feel free to mix up my points to the most damning effect possible ;-))

8. “I hate saying this, but Manny would be long gone.” … “baseball is a much different sport than football; you can win with a loose cannon like Manny”

I agree with Bill here, baseball is a much different sport, with very different challenges, so why try to suggest that Bill would manage his team as if it were a football team?

2. “Belichick would have understood Pedro's significance on and off the field”… “he would have signed him to a fair extension last year”

So Manny would be long gone, but Pedro’s prima-donna act would have been tolerated and rewarded with a fair contract… and Pedro’s contract demands were “fair”

3. “Belichick wouldn't have wasted the team's time, money or energy on an iffy reclamation project like Wade Miller”

Then again, if Belichick had to play 162 games, and could only start Tom Brady every fifth day, you don’t think he would have taken a chance on an iffy #2 type QB for the #5 slot – that sounds exactly like the type of measured chance that Belichick would have taken, only he would have had a strong #6 option available as well. Plus if only Miller had paid off…

7. “the Yanks ended up getting lucky with Small and Chacon? Well, I'm guessing the baseball version of Belichick would have gotten lucky with someone”

Bill gives Theo credit for Olerud and Graffanino but criticizes him for not getting lucky with the pitching staff – so now we are criticizing people for getting lucky in the wrong areas? Tough read. If Theo had traded away Papelbon or Sanchez or Ramirez or Lester for bullpen help there would have been a bullet stating that Belichick would never have traded away prime prospects for quick fix solutions… cake… eat it.

5. “Belichick would have done the David Wells signing but avoided Matt Clement”

Because? Presumably Belichick would have known that Clement would fade in the second half? Or that he would have known that Clement would have gotten hit in the head with a line drive. If anything I think Belichick would have gone the other way – taking the younger, more serious option over the loud mouth, out of shape (good luck for tonight by the way David – I still think the Wells signing was a good pick and am reasonably happy with how it has worked out!), ex-Colts QB, who might have serious issues with the regimented team role that Belichick envisaged.

1. “Belichick never would have gone near Renteria. Ever. Not in a million years.”

Again, because, he would have known that Renteria would have under performed even the most conservative metric assumptions? And nice jibe on the age issue at the end, completely unsubstantiated, but hey, let’s call a player a fraud and hope he doesn’t take it personally!

4. “Belichick would have brought Roberts back.” “I would wager my life on this.”

Bill makes this point in his book as well and he just couldn’t be more wrong – his premise is that Belichick would have over-valued 15 seconds of play by Roberts and stuck with him (while nicely ignoring the fact that Roberts has missed a lot of playing time this year because of his inability to stay healthy). This is exactly the kind of move that Belichick wouldn’t have made as supported by…

6. “Belichick never would have stuck with Bellhorn, Millar, Foulke and Embree for that long out of "loyalty" -- they weren't doing the job”

You are absolutely right Bill, and for the same reason he would have traded Roberts for value in exactly the same way that Theo did – the Sox are not a strong base running team – one key steal in a certain game last year didn’t change the organizational philosophy, and having one player on the team with good base stealing skills would not make us a base stealing team.

Finally, in the biggest piece of revisionism in the article Bill states that

“Belichick has a plan. He sticks to it. He knows what he's doing. He doesn't waste money, doesn't waste time, doesn't waste chances to win a title, doesn't let anyone get in the way.”

The thing that gives so many Sox fans hope is that Theo has a plan, that he has stuck to it, and in his three years has delivered in an unprecedented way – play-off contenders… check… World Series contenders… check… $100 million player development machine… check (well it seems that way – last September Sox call up that made an impact…?)

“the future seems even more nebulous because they have to overhaul more than half the roster, only they have nearly $100 million in potential commitments to 10 players next season … ... and Damon isn't even signed yet”

That is one way of looking at it, or you can look at the prospects that are beginning to arrive and be glad that our roster has the flexibility to accommodate them, and that we still have the payroll potential to bring in a few more faces this year that will make them continue to meet Theo’s plan. Sorry Bill, you need to revisit that 5 Year Grace Period Rule and rethink that piece in its entirety.

* If your team wins a championship you are not allowed to complain about any aspect of that team’s performance for five years.