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Tag:2010 AL postseason
Posted on: November 2, 2010 3:10 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2010 4:32 pm
 

Yeah, I picked the Rangers, but why do you care?

I picked against the Giants in the World Series, and I was wrong.

There. Are you happy now, Giants fans?

I have absolutely no idea why anyone would care who I picked to win, and even less of an idea why anyone would stop celebrating long enough to berate me for a wrong pick. But there were times over the last week that Giants fans had me convinced they got more pleasure out of me being wrong than they did out of their team winning.

It began after Game 1. It didn't let up, all the way through Game 5.

"It would be nice to see some form of mea culpa from you and the other Brainiacs who predicted a different outcome," wrote Chet, who was at least polite about it.

I'm not sure what this says about Giants fans, but I never got nearly as much e-mail about any of my other wrong picks over the years. And believe me, there have been plenty of them.

Maybe I ought to ask Judge and Prisco if 49er fans are the same way. Maybe it's the Bay Area.

I'm not sure I care. I'm not sure why you care.

But since you do, here it is again:

I picked the Rangers in 5. I was wrong.

Oh well.

Now, can we all look back to what we saw over the last month? Here's what I saw, through three rounds, 17 games witnessed in person, most of the others seen on TV, two train rides and nine flights stopping at seven different airports:

Best game: The very first one, or at least the very first one I covered. It's hard to beat a no-hitter, and in more than two decades of covering baseball, I've never seen anyone pitch as good a game as Roy Halladay did in Game 1 against the Reds.

Best moment: The Giants interrupting their celebration at Turner Field to salute retiring Braves manager Bobby Cox. It was a classy, classy move, and it should make anyone feel better that the Giants got two more chances at celebrating -- both of them uninterrupted.

Best moment II: On the field after Game 5 of the World Series, I was interviewing Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti, who grew up in Northern California, has been with the Giants for years and had never before won a World Series. Just then, the fans gathered behind the third-base dugout started chanting, "Thank you, Giants!" Righetti stopped, almost tearing up. "How cool is that?" he said. Then, thinking about the celebration back home, he added, "They're going to tear up the city."

Best song: No contest. It was the by YouTube sensation Ashkon , the Giants fan who wrote new words to sing along with Journey's Don't Stop Believing. The best line: "I had faith, and I had hope; And thankfully the Padres choked."

Best T-shirt: I never thought about buying one of those claw and antlers shirts that were so popular in Arlington. I did think about getting one of the "Let Tim Smoke" shirts in San Francisco. If you don't get it, check out Proposition 19 on today's California ballot.

Most disappointing team: Plenty of candidates, but it has to be the Twins, who played so well in September to get the best record in the American League, and home-field advantage through the AL playoffs. And they still got swept by the Yankees -- again. The worst part is that the Twins seemed to know what it would take to beat the Yankees. They tried hard to sign Colby Lewis last winter, and they tried hard to trade for Cliff Lee this summer. They didn't get either, and after they lost in three straight, they watched Lewis and Lee win three of the four games as the Rangers ousted New York.

Worst overreaction to a loss: Phillies fans, who sat in absolute disbelief as they watched the final outs in Game 6 against the Giants. The Phillies won 97 games, the most in the majors (for the first time in franchise history). They were the most impressive team entering the playoffs. They have their Big 3 starters ready for another go next year. And because they lost four of six games to the Giants, they're suddenly too old? Come on.

Worst timing for a movie: Isn't that Moneyball movie supposed to come out soon? Any chance they can rewrite it and reshoot it on the other side of the Bay? The Giants pride themselves on being the ultimate anti-Moneyball team, and the AL champion Rangers don't really subscribe to Moneyball, themselves. Funny that in the middle of a World Series between two teams that believe in old-fashioned scouting, the Mets would hire Moneyball founder Sandy Alderson to take over their organization.

Best team: Yeah, as if I'm going to pick anyone but the Giants. They were impressive, with a pitching staff that dominated and a lineup that didn't look good, but did just enough. I'm happy for Cody Ross, Andres Torres and Edgar Renteria, three of the nicest guys I covered in my years on the Tiger beat. I'm happy for Bruce Bochy, one of the best managers in the game, and for plenty of good people in that organization.

Believe it or not, I'm even happy for the Giants fans, especially those for whom this was every bit the lifelong dream that 2004 was for many in New England, or that 2005 was on the South Side of Chicago.

Maybe most of the country didn't care, as evidenced by the low ratings. Maybe it wasn't the best World Series ever.

But you could say the same about the 1984 World Series, and as I know from my time in Michigan, a whole bunch of people in that state consider it the best World Series ever.

Years from now, a whole bunch of people in Northern California will say the same about this one.

By then, maybe they'll forget that I picked it wrong. Or, at the very least, maybe they'll forgive me for it.
Posted on: October 22, 2010 12:11 am
Edited on: October 22, 2010 12:17 am
 

Texas leads New York in ratings game, too

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In today's column , I wrote about the opportunity the Rangers have this weekend to establish a new identity and build a new fan base by making it to the first World Series in franchise history. In that column, I mention that for the first five games of the AL Championship Series, the TBS ratings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (21.2) far exceeded the rating in New York (13.9).
I then asked TBS how that rating compared to the other cities during its coverage of the Division Series. TBS televises all Division Series games, and one of the two LCS each year.

The answer was that it's not bad. It's comparable to the best ratings TBS received in any competing city -- and far, far better than the Rangers games got locally in the first round.

The Rangers' local rating was last among the eight teams that played in the Division Series, although that can be explained in part by scheduling that had four of the five games played during the day (including two midweek day games). By contrast, the Phillies, Reds and Twins, whose ratings were the best, played only night games in the first round.

Here are the city-by-city ratings for the first-round games involving local teams:

1. Philadelphia, 24.6
2. (tie) Cincinnati 21.9
2. (tie) Minneapolis-St. Paul 21.9
4. San Francisco 15.6
5. Tampa-St. Petersburg 12.1
6. New York 11.9
7. Atlanta 11.6
8. Dallas-Fort Worth 10.5

And for the ALCS:

1. Dallas-Fort Worth 21.2
2. New York 13.9

The Texas market far outdid the New York market for each of the last three games:

For Game 3, it was 22.1 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 14.5 in New York. For Game 4, it was 26.5 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 17.1 in New York. For Game 5 (which began at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT), it was 18.4 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 12.9 in New York.

Rangers people say that another factor to consider is that cable penetration in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is among the lowest in the country. That makes the low first-round rating more understandable, and the high ALCS rating even more impressive.

Posted on: October 21, 2010 5:10 pm
 

Sabathia, Wilson could pitch again

ARLINGTON, Texas -- CC Sabathia and C.J. Wilson faced off in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series, and again in Game 5.

How about one more time, down the stretch in Game 6?

Sabathia said today that he will be available for the Yankees out of the bullpen on Friday night, and that he thinks he could throw as many as 45-50 pitches. Rangers manager Ron Washington said he wanted to check with pitching coach Mike Maddux, but he thought Wilson could also be available in relief.

"For an inning," Washington said. "I wouldn't go more than one inning."

Sabathia (112 pitches) and Wilson (93 pitches) started Game 5 on Wednesday, so Friday would be a normal "throw day" in the bullpen. Sabathia said he would hold off on throwing his normal bullpen session, so that he could be available if needed in the game.

Sabathia has never pitched in relief as a professional, either in the regular season or the postseason. Wilson was a full-time reliever for the last four seasons, before moving into the rotation this year.
Posted on: October 20, 2010 2:22 am
 

The Bengie Molina World Series?

NEW YORK -- Bengie Molina's Giants are two wins away from the World Series. Bengie Molina's Rangers are one win away.

Bengie Molina is three wins away from being part of two World Series teams in the same season.

"I wouldn't mind that," Molina said, after his three-run home run sent the Rangers to their 10-3 win over the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Molina began the year with the Giants. When the Giants wanted to make room for Buster Posey, they traded Molina to the Rangers, who were in desperate need for a catcher.

"I'm glad it worked out," Molina said. "I think I helped [the Giants] out, but they're in good hands now."

He keeps in touch with Posey, and figures he'll get a text from the Giants rookie congratulating him for Tuesday's home run.

Molina said he was able to watch the end of the Giants' 3-0 Game 3 win over the Phillies on television.

"We watch, obviously," he said. "I'll tell you, I've got a lot of good friends there. I love those guys. They were family."

The Giants are family. The Rangers are family.

And if the Giants and Rangers meet in the World Series, Bengie Molina will have helped both of them get there.
Posted on: October 17, 2010 7:17 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 7:22 pm
 

Burnett is a problem, but 3-man isn't the answer

NEW YORK -- Sorry, but the problem isn't that the Yankees are sticking with their plan to start A.J. Burnett in Game 4.

No, the problem is that the Yankees have no real choice but to start A.J. Burnett in Game 4. The problem is that the team with the $200 million payroll still has only three dependable (or somewhat dependable) starting pitchers.

For the second straight year!

The Yankees got away with it last year. Thanks to an extra off day in the American League Championship Series, thanks to fine short-rest work from Andy Pettitte and (especially) CC Sabathia, the Yankees went all the way to a World Series championship using just three postseason starters.

They didn't trust fourth starter Joba Chamberlain, so they simply didn't use him. And they got away with it.

And here they are again, a year later, with the same exact problem. Phil Hughes has stepped in as one of the three (somewhat) dependable starters, but Burnett has stepped into the Joba role as the totally unreliable No. 4. Meanwhile, Javier Vazquez, who was acquired with the idea of avoiding this predicament, is even more useless than Burnett.

The solution? Sorry, it's not a three-man rotation, despite what is being written in many other places (including by our very able bloggers ).

There's a reason that nearly every postseason team for the past three decades has gone with a four-man rotation. There's a reason that all four teams that have gotten this far this year have planned to use four starters.

I know that it's popular to call for starters to go on short rest. I know that the Rangers got ripped for not bringing Cliff Lee back in Game 4 of the Division Series, that Bruce Bochy considered bringing Tim Lincecum back for Game 4 against the Braves, that Charlie Manuel is already being asked about bringing Roy Halladay back for Game 4 against the Giants.

Halladay could no doubt do it. Sabathia can do it.

Most guys can't. Over the last five postseasons, the only guys to start and win a game on three days' rest are Pettitte and Sabathia (once each last year), and Paul Byrd for the Angels in Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS.

For the Yankees to skip Burnett in this series, they'd need to pitch Sabathia on short rest in Game 4, followed by Phil Hughes on short rest in Game 5, followed by Pettitte on short rest in Game 6, followed by Sabathia on short rest again in Game 7.

Isn't it better to try to win with Burnett (as unlikely as that may seem), and then have Sabathia, Hughes and Pettitte strong and on normal rest for the final three games of the series?

If Yankees lose Game 3 on Monday night, I have no doubt that manager Joe Girardi will face even more questions about starting Burnett on Tuesday. If the Yankees lose the series after starting Burnett, plenty of people will blame Girardi.

Sorry, but the problem isn't the four-man rotation. The problem is failing to find four dependable starters.

And if the Yankees lose, that will be one reason why they did.


Posted on: October 15, 2010 12:44 pm
 

The counter-argument on Lee

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There was one thing I knowingly left out of today's column on Cliff Lee, and an alert reader pointed it out.

If you haven't yet read the column, here it is . But in short, my argument was that the Rangers' best chance of keeping Lee as a free agent this winter is to beat the Yankees, and possibly go on to win the World Series this fall. The idea is that he would be more hesitant to leave after winning, and they would be even more motivated (and more financially able) to keep him if they won.

But as even one Rangers person said to me yesterday, there is a little bit of a "double-edged sword" here. And the reader, who calls himself RaiderfanNY, was quick to jump on it.

"Your argument is a good one, that the better the Rangers do, the more Lee will want to stay," he wrote. "But there is a separate -- and better -- argument for why Lee will leave. The worse the Yankees do, the more money they will offer him. If the Yanks win the Series, they may decide their rotation is fine. But if they lose to Texas in 6, they'll offer Lee whatever it takes to reel him in."

It's a valid point, but here's why I don't agree with it: The Yankees aren't going to decide their rotation is fine, even if they go on to win the World Series. A.J. Burnett is still going to be a huge question mark, even if he pitches great in what could be two postseason starts (Game 4 in the ALCS, Game 4 in the World Series). Andy Pettitte is still going to be 38 years old, and in all likelihood he's still going to be considering retirement.

The Yankees are still going to want to add a top-level starting pitcher, and the free-agent market offers only one -- Cliff Lee.

Will Lee's price go up the better he pitches? I'm sure his very able agent would say that it will. But in this case, the highest-spending team in baseball is going to be ultra-motivated to sign him, no matter what (barring serious injury). The bigger question, I think, is how motivated he'll be to stay with the Rangers, and how motivated they'll be to keep him.

And I think the answer to both of those questions depends at least in part on what happens in this coming week.

A few other reader questions and comments:

From John:

"What the hell do you mean that the Yankees will see the Rangers without Cliff Lee pitching in Game 1 or 2? News flash -- Game 2 is Saturday. Get a clue."

News flash -- Game 3 in Monday. And Cliff Lee will be starting it.

From Rob:

"While I appreciate the wonderful things Bobby Cox has done, it feels unjust that Cito Gaston retired this season with nowhere near the same amount of media reaction and love. Unfortunately, Cito has never received proper recognition. Could it be because of his color, because he managed up north, who knows?

Cito deserves more credit than he gets for winning back-to-back World Series with the Blue Jays. But Cox is at the end of a 29-year managerial career that included a record 16 postseason appearances. Cito is at the end of a 2 1/2-year second time around with the Jays. It's not the same thing.

From Richard:

"Danny, it's easy to see why you have such sympathy for Conrad. He's a career hack and so are you. You'd be so much better off if you had to come up with only one column a week. Have a nice day. Richard."

From Tom:

"Good piece, Danny. I cringed when I watched Conrad's errors. There is a lot of sympathy, for sure. . . "

Richard, meet Tom. Tom, meet Richard.

And Richard, have a nice day.




Posted on: October 8, 2010 1:25 am
Edited on: October 8, 2010 1:39 am
 

A call for more replay -- and less whining

Please, give us more replay.

If only to stop the whining.

Yes, the umpires have made themselves into a huge story in the first two days of this postseason, and that's unfortunate. But the whining about the umpires should be just as big a story, and that's doubly unfortunate.

It would be great if umpires got every call right (not realistic, but great). It would be fine if increased use of replay could help improve the percentage of correct calls (very possible, although it still wouldn't be perfect).

It would be even better if players and managers would understand that most of the time, the responsibility for losing or winning lies with them, and not the umpires.

The guy who has the biggest beef so far is Bobby Cox, whose Braves lost 1-0 to the Giants in a game where the only run scored after a call that replays showed clearly to be incorrect. Buster Posey was out at second base on his fourth-inning steal. I know that, you know that, Buster Posey knows that and even Paul Emmel knows that, now that he's had a chance to see the replay.

And yet Cox, the all-time ejection leader, didn't argue the call. He said after the game that he had a bad angle from the dugout (even Emmel had a bad angle, and he was a lot closer), and that his infielders didn't protest the call.

The Braves, by all accounts, didn't whine about the call. According to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , even Brooks Conrad, the second baseman who tagged Posey before he reached the bag, quickly pointed out that the Braves "didn't get the job done offensively."

Good for them, because we've had far too much whining.

Earlier Thursday, Joe Maddon was thrown out of the Rays' 6-0 loss to the Rangers. Ron Gardenhire was thrown out of the Twins' 5-2 loss to the Yankees.

Maddon was upset with a swing/no-swing call on Michael Young, just before Young's home run that helped put the Rays away. Gardenhire was upset with a strike/no-strike call on Lance Berkman, just before Berkman's game-winning double.

Replays shown on television suggested that Maddon and Gardenhire had reason to be upset. But let's remember that no proposed replay system would cover balls and strikes, or check-swings.

No matter what, we'll be reliant on umpires making the right decision. As technology gets better and better, we'll have more and more reason to question those decisions.

It's inevitable that we'll have expanded use of replay, sometime, somehow.

But as even Bobby Cox admitted after a bad call seemingly cost him the game Thursday, replay isn't the total answer.

"Let's leave it the way it is," Cox said. "We would be arguing and throwing flags 10 times a night."

Fans actually love the arguments. Last weekend in Atlanta, during the Cox retirement ceremonies, fans cheered loudest when a Cox argument was shown on the video board. In the game that day, when there was a questionable call, the fans began chanting, "Bobby! Bobby!" even though Cox never appeared on the field.

They love arguments. I can't imagine they love whining.

And unfortunately, this postseason has already had too much whining.

There was even whining after the most memorable game of the postseason so far, Roy Halladay's Wednesday night no-hitter against the Reds. That night, Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera complained about home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone, even though Hirschbeck has always been a pitchers' umpire, and he wasn't any more generous than usual.

But Cabrera seemed to be on his own. The whining Thursday was worse.

The Rays, who embarrassed themselves by the way they played in two home losses to the Rangers, embarrassed themselves further by seeming to place the blame Thursday on the umpires. Maddon's tirade was bad enough, but the display later by catcher Kelly Shoppach was totally uncalled for.

As for Gardenhire, his problems with umpire Hunter Wendelstedt go back years, as colleague Scott Miller pointed out . It wasn't a great idea to assign Wendelstedt to a Twins playoff series.

The Rays aren't down two games to none because of bad umpiring, or a lack of replay. The Twins aren't down two games to none to the Yankees because of bad umpiring, or a lack of replay.

Roy Halladay didn't throw a no-hitter because of bad umpiring.

And even the Braves, who watched the Giants' lone run score after a seemingly bad call by an umpire, never scored a run themselves.

It was a bad call. I get that.

Some expanded replay would help. I get that.

But replay or no replay, there will be calls that don't go your way.

Can we stop whining about it?




Posted on: October 7, 2010 5:52 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 10:32 am
 

Rays have a chance...to be embarrassed

Down two games to none and headed for Texas, the Rays are in trouble. But they're not done.

They still have a chance. But right now, they've got an even better chance at ending the year in embarrassment.

There's no other way to put it. Two games into a Rays postseason that was supposed to remind us of 2008, the Rays are instead reminding us of the 2009 Cardinals, or the 2008 Cubs, or any number of other teams that promised so much entering October and delivered so little.

Two games in, after Thursday's 6-0 loss to the Rangers, the Rays have been awful at the plate, disappointing on the mound and below-par in the field. Worse yet, they seemed to spend more effort Thursday complaining about umpires than they did on getting back in this series.

Maybe Michael Young did swing at that Chad Qualls pitch in the fifth inning Thursday. Maybe he didn't.

Sorry Rays, but it wasn't first-base umpire Jerry Meals who decided this game by saying Young didn't swing. It wasn't Meals who began the fateful fifth by hitting Matt Treanor with a pitch (that was James Shields). It wasn't Meals who then threw the pitch that Young turned into a massive three-run home run (that was Qualls).

And it wasn't Meals who made the questionable call to start the struggling Shields in what Rays third baseman Evan Longoria called a "must-win" Game 2. No, that was Maddon, who seems to have relied too much on numbers and too little on what he has seen.

Aocording to Ed Price of AOL FanHouse , Maddon's faith in Shields relied on the pitcher's high BAbip, or batting average on balls in play, which suggested that Shields had been more unlucky than bad this year. The numbers also showed that Shields walks weren't up this year, and that his strikeout rate was.

And yet, when Shields got in trouble in the fifth inning, with two on and one out in a game the Rays trailed 2-0, Maddon brought out a fairly quick hook. At that point, you figured, he understood that his eyes were telling the truth, no matter what the numbers said.

It's a little unfair to make this all about the Rays, because the Rangers deserve real credit for their two games to none lead.

C.J. Wilson was outstanding in Game 2, just as Cliff Lee was in Game 1. And the Rangers, despite very little prior postseason experience, have looked very much like a team ready to play at this time of year.

Up two games to none, and with the outstanding Lee ready to pitch Game 5, if the series even gets that far, the Rangers are in great shape to advance. The presence of Lee would mean a big storyline in the American League Championship Series, too, since he would either be facing a Yankees team he beat twice in the 2009 World Series (and will be the favorite to sign him this winter) or a Twins team that badly wanted to trade for him in July.

But the Rangers still need one more win to get there, and that's far from guaranteed.

We know that the Rays are much better than they've shown. We know that Game 3 starter Matt Garza is capable of dominating, and has done it before in the postseason (remember Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS against the Red Sox). We know the Rays are capable of winning three straight games, because they've done it 12 times already this season.

We also know that if they don't win Game 3 Saturday, they're going home and thinking about this series for the rest of the winter, and maybe for the rest of their lives.

With Carl Crawford almost certain to leave as a free agent and with the payroll allowed to rise to an unsustainable level, the Rays went all-out to win in 2010.

Instead, they're on the verge of a most embarrassing loss.



Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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