ALCS Preview

Indians_3 CLEVELAND INDIANS

(99-67; AL CENTRAL CHAMPS/DEF NYY 3-1 in LDS)

VS.

Sox_1 BOSTON RED SOX

(99-66; AL EAST CHAMPS/DEF LAA 3-0 in LDS)

Tale of the Tape…

Catcher: Victor Martinez (CLE) vs. Jason Varitek (BOS): Great catching matchup with these two teams.  Varitek definately has the playoff experience and is the unquestioned leader of the Sox.  But Martinez is the anchor of the Cleveland order.  Advantage: Cleveland

1st Base: Ryan Garko (CLE) vs. Kevin Youklis (BOS): Both guys had good LCS.  Garko is establishing himself as a breakout star in the playoffs.  We also are featuring a matchup of mlbloggers.  Compare them yourself.  Garko or YouklisSmall Advantage: Cleveland

2nd Base: Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) vs. Dustin Pedroia (BOS): Both guys are the young up and comers that the baseball world is finally finding out about.  Pedroia gets the edge as he is the likely AL Rookie of the Year.  Small Advantage: Boston

3rd Base: Casey Blake (CLE) vs. Mike Lowell (BOS): The Indianola native didn’t quite have a very spectacular LDS against New York, but is a serious long ball threat with a flare for the dramatic.  He still pales in comparison to Lowell who has a ring with the 2003 Marlins.  Advantage: Boston

Shortstop: Jhonny Perralta (CLE) vs. Julio Lugo (BOS): Perralta is a solid ballplayer and had a nice LDS, despite as previously mentioned his mother not knowing how to spell the most common of all names.  Lugo is a far cry from Nomahhh or Orlando Cabrera.  Advantage: Cleveland

Left Field: Kenny Lofton (CLE) vs. Manny Ramirez (BOS): Kenny Lofton has been the playoffs 11 times in his carrer and is still looking for his first ring.  He also had a nice LDS.  But Manny is crazy hot after his Game 2 Walk Off and Game 3 Moon shot.  Huge Advantage: Boston

Center Field: Grady Sizemore (CLE) vs. Coco Crisp (BOS): Its Grady vs. the guy Grady replaced.  Sizemore continues to be one of the fastest rising stars in the game.  There is a reason they ditched their old CF.  Huge Advantage: Cleveland

Right FIeld: Franklin Guttierez (CLE) vs. JD Drew (BOS): There is only one thing I know about Franklin Guttierez.  He’s not JD Drew.  Huge Advantage: Cleveland

Designated Hitter: Travis Hafner (CLE) vs. David Ortiz (BOS): Hafner is a very dangerous power threat and had a tremendous LDS, but Big Papi is Big Papi and there is no one on the planet who you’d want to face less than him in a clutch spot.  Advantage: Boston

Starting Rotation: This is a fun matchup.  Sabathia and Carmona vs. Beckett and Schilling.  I like the Indians big two better than Boston’s, but I worry about Westbrook and Byrd more than I do about Matsuzaka and Wakefield.  Its almost a wash.  Almost.  Small Advantage: Cleveland

Bullpen: Keep in mind this rating will not include the closers.  The Indians have set up men that keep coming.  Perez and Betancourt are tremendous.  The Sox have great experience with Timlin and Gagne and the unknown in Okajima. Small Advantage: Boston

Closer: Joe Borowski (CLE) vs. Jonathan Papelbon (BOS): Do I really need to break this down for you?  Borowski is the shakiest closer in the playoffs, and Papelbon has been money for two years.  Huge Advantage: Boston

Manager: Eric Wedge (CLE) vs. Terry Francona (BOS): Is it just me or does Eric Wedge look completely miserable at all times.  Not in the Tony La Russa/Bill Belichick school of not smiling, but the I hate my job school of not smiling.  Francona on the other hand always looks like he is enjoying himself.  Not sure any of that matters, just warrants mentioning.  Playoff edge goes to Francona though.  Advantage: Boston

Other Catergories…

Best Team Ever: 1995 Indians vs. 2004 Red Sox: The 95 Indians continued a half century long curse by failing to win it all after going 100-44 during the season.  The 04 Red Sox ended a Three-Quarter Century curse with one of the most improbable runs in Playoff History.  Advantage: Boston

Biggest Heartbreak: Indians in 95 World Series; Mesa blows lead on Tony Fernandez error vs. Red Sox in 86 World Series; The ball gets through Buckner: This would have been a much easier choice about 4 years ago, but its still the Buckner game by a mile.  2 outs no one on and a lead in the 10th inning of Game 6.  Sox fans still haven’t gotten over it. Disadvantage: Boston

Hometown Fans: Both are great sets of fans.  The Indians fans are nothing if not loyal, but the Red Sox fans are everywhere.  Despite being annoying they love that team and are as rabid as you’ll see.  Advantage: Boston

Stadium: Jacobs Field vs. Fenway Park: The Jake is a nice park and all, and its one of the best of the new era parks.  But there is only one Fenway.  Advantage: Boston

Mascot: Slider vs. Wally the Green Monster: Huge bonus points for Wally for the hilarious Posada/Ortiz SportsCenter commerical.  That and I have no idea what Slider is.  Advantage: Boston

City: Cleveland vs. Boston: Both cities have a nice charm to them, despite huge differences.  Cleveland is blue collar, Boston is white collar.  Boston is not really my style. Way too stuffy.  Advantage: Cleveland

Franchise Icon: Bob Feller vs. Ted Williams: Both are/were big time @$$holes.  Feller was from Iowa which earns him points, but Ted Williams would be on baseball’s Mt. Rushmore.  No question here.  Advantage: Boston

Series Prediction: Oh this is gonna be good.  Real good.  Expect a lot of pitchers duels and a full seven games.  A game seven (if everyone pitches on normal rest) would be Dice-K vs. Westbrook.  Does the Japaneese import finally earn his money?

Cleveland in 7

NLCS Preview

Roxlogo_2 COLORADO ROCKIES

(93-73; NL WILD CARD/DEF. PHILLIES 3-0 in LDS)

VS.

Dbacks_1 ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

(93-72; NL WEST CHAMPS/DEF. CUBS 3-0 in LDS)

Tale of the Tape:

Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba (COL) vs. Chris Snyder (ARZ): Torrealba came up with some big hits for the Rox in the LDS.  Snyder hit .143 for the Snakes against the Baby Bears.  Advantage: Arizona

1st Base: Todd Helton (COL) vs. Conor Jackson (ARZ): Neither guy hit very well in the LDS with Helton batting .083 and Jackson hitting .125.  Helton did have a big home run in game 1 and has a heavy experience edge.  Huge Advantage: Colorado

2nd Base: Kazuo Matsui (COL) vs. Augie Ojeda (ARZ): If they gave LDS MVP’s both of these guys might have been the winners.  Matsui had a huge game 2 with a grand slam to go with a double and triple.  Ojeda killed his former team with a .444 average.  Advantage: Colorado

3rd Base: Garret Atkins (COL) vs. Mark Reynolds (ARZ): Atkins is another member of this young Rockies nucleus but only batted .231 in the division series.  Reynolds looks striking like the blonde guy from ******* and had a big homer against the Cubs.  Huge Advantage: Colorado

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki (COL) vs. Stephen Drew (ARZ): Two of the best young shortstops in the majors.  This is very reminiscent of Jeter vs. A-Rod in the 1995 ALDS.  A sign of things to come.  Drew hit .500 in the LDS against the Cubs. Small Advantage: Arizona

Left Field: Matt Holliday (COL) vs. Eric Byrnes (ARZ): The media creation vs. the Guy the media ignores.  Byrnes had a nice LDS, including the homer to ice it in game 3, but make no mistake Holliday is the best player in this series.  Huge Advantage: Colorado

Center FIeld: Ryan Spilborghs (COL) vs. Chris Young (ARZ): Both players are rather unassuming with Chris Young getting the edge due to his knack for the longball.  His homer to lead off game 3 at Wrigley took the Cubbie crowd out of the game right away.  Advantage: Arizona

Right Field: Brad Hawpe (COL) vs. Justin Upton (ARZ): Hawpe a strong middle of the order lefty can cause matchup problems in a run of righties in the Colorado order.  Upton has tremendous upside and had a great LDS.  Small Advantage: Colorado

Starting Rotation: Both teams feature solid aces in Jeff Francis and Brandon Webb, but get shaky after the one spot.  Both staffs were excellent in the LDS and should be up to the task again here. Dont underestimate the big game capability of Livan Hernandez in game 3. Small Advantage: Arizona

Bullpen: Both bullpens are strikingly similar and amazingly solid.  Fuentes anchors the middle relief corp with the Rox along with former Giants closer Matt Herges. The Diamondbacks feature Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon.  Small Advantage: Colorado

Closer: Manny Corpas (COL) vs. Jose Valverde (ARZ): Both guys were nails in the 2nd half and untouchable in the LDS.  The only edge to Valverde is he has done it all year.  Small Advantage: Arizona

Manager: Clint Hurdle (COL) vs. Bob Melvin (ARZ): Both skippers are new to the League Championship Series stage and it should be interesting to see how they handle the pressure.  I have always been a huge Clint Hurdle fan and am glad Colorado gave him a chance to see this thing through.  Small Advantage: Colorado

Other Catergories…

Best Team Ever: 2007 Rockies vs. 2001 Diamondbacks: For right now the 2001 D’Backs are clearly the choice as they got the job done and won it all dispatching one of the great dynasties of all time.  But this Rockie squad continues to jump up the list with every game they win.  Advantage: Arizona

Biggest Heartbreak: Rockies in 95 LDS; 4 run 9th by Atlanta in Game 2 vs. D’Backs in 99 LDS; Walk off series ending home run by Todd Pratt of Mets: The Rockies never really had a chance in the 95 Division Series against eventual World Champion Atlanta.  Anytime you lose a series on a walk off its a big heartbreak.  Disadvantage: Arizona

Hometown Fans: This one is a pretty easy choice.  The Rockie fans have supported that team whenever they win and you can bet that this weekend in Denver there will be 50,000+ screaming Rockie fans every night.  As for the D’Backs there are still 8000 unsold tickets to games 1 and 2.  Advantage: Colorado

Stadium: Coors Field vs. Chase Field: Both newer era ballparks built in the mid to late 90′s.  Of all the stadiums I have been to excluding Busch which is a whole seperate experience Coors is my favorite.  The view of the Rockies is breathtaking.  Gimmie that over a swimming pool every day.  Advantage: Colorado

Mascot: Dinger (COL) vs. Baxter (ARZ): A purple Dinosaur or a Bobcat? I hate mascots that have nothing to do with the name of the team.  Wouldn’t a mountain lion have made sense for the Rockies?  Or a SNAKE for the D’Backs?  I hate them both, but I’ll go with Dinger as he appeared to entertain the kiddies during my trip to Denver.  Advantage: Colorado

City: Denver vs. Phoenix: Both cities are pretty nice, with the view of the Rockies in Denver being its trademark.  That and being "a mile high"  Phoenix is 100 degrees in November and the average age is 91. Advantage: Colorado

Franchise Icon: Larry Walker vs. Randy Johnson: Not much to choose from considering these two teams have been around a combined 25 years.  The Big Unit is a hall of famer however so its hard to pick against him.  Advantage: Arizona

Series Prediction: The Rockies are red hot and just two weeks ago took 2 out 3 from the Snakes in Denver.  They also won the season series 10-8.  I still for some reason just don’t believe in this D’Backs team, and am wondering if the Rox are a team of destiny

Colorado in 6

Indians finish off Yanks, MLB’s first round a dud.

Blake We have made it through the first round of Major League Baseball’s playoffs with realtively little drama.  Both NL series were totally dominated by the two Western Division teams that no one saw coming.  The AL series weren’t much better outside of an amazing Friday Night.  So now we are stuck with Fox’s nightmare scenario for the final four.  The smaller fan base won 3 of the 4 series with the smaller market winning 4 out of 4.  Now instead of the sexy matchup possibilities of Cubs or Phillies against Yankees the best possible scenario from a ratings standpoint is probably Boston/Colorado.  Not exactly Yankees-Dodgers is it?  Still from a baseball fan standpoint these are four very exciting teams. The Red Sox and Indians were the best two teams in the AL all season and should face off in a tremendous ALCS.  The Rockies and Diamondbacks despite you not hearing of any of them will likely give us a very exciting series on the NL side.  Can the D’Backs somehow the NL’s best team in 2007 slow down the red hot Rockies?  We shall see, and we’ll break em down starting tomorrow with my NLCS preview. 

Onto the Joe Torre situation.  It appears that George Steinbrenner will fire the Yankee skipper.  Just plain stupid.  Torre has managed the Yankees 12 times and has won the AL Pennant 6 times and the World Series 4 times .  For you math majors that is 50 and 33.3 percent respectively.  Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, the only other managers who have been in the same place for the past 12 years can’t come close to that resume (Cox 2 pennants, 0 Championships; La Russa 2 pennants, 1 Championship) yet neither of those two managers are in any danger of losing their job.  This sense of entitlement that Steinbrenner and Yankee fans in general have to Championships makes me sick.  What they don’t realize is that anymore having a great team in the regular season and losing in the first round is no more a product of luck than winning 4 championships in 5 years.  Since the playoffs have expanded the Yankees have won 4 times, all of which came before competitive balance.  The Yankees won 20 of their 26 championships when all high school and college players were free agents.  Everyone wanted to play in New York for the Yankees, so they were always able to just reload their team with young players.  The game doesn’t work like that anymore, and George and fans of the Pinstripes have to realize it.  Championships won’t come every year.  They will have to wait their turn like everyone else.  Its a **** shoot tournament.  There is no rhyme nor reason to it.  The Colorado Rockies have just as good a chance to win this thing as the Boston Red Sox.  Penalizing Joe Torre for failing to win the World Series is short sighted and idiodic.  Hiring Tony La Russa, who despite my unwavering worship of him, has had a lot harder time in the playoffs (last year not withstanding) is worse.  If Tony goes to New York he’s a *****.  If New York hires him they are *****’s.  He’s not a New York guy, the media will eat him alive.  The Yankees have the perfect manager for that team and that city.  Unfortunately since he can’t win the World Series every year he’ll be gone.  Thats just too bad. 

Everyone’s Back Against the Wall

Manny So everyone played 2 games and all four series have seen a team jump out to a 2-0 lead.  In 3 of them the home field has held through the first two.  You have to think they won’t all be sweeps.  I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict that one of these four teams that have fallen behind 0-2 will come back to win their series.  Which one you ask?  Lets break em down and make a prediction. 

Rockies vs. Phillies (COL Leads 2-0)

The Phils are certainly in the worst positions of the teams that have dug themselves a hole. The Phillies have lost their first two games at home and now must go to Coors Field and beat the Rockies twice.  Keep in mind the Rockies have only lost once in the last three weeks.  Jamie Moyer pitches this evening in Denver, with Cole Hamels possibly going on short rest in game four if necessary.  I would say if the Phils get it back to Philly they’ll win the series, but they aren’t getting it back to Philly.  In fact I don’t think they make it to game four.  At this point I would say the Phils are most the likely to be swept. 

Cubs vs. Diamondbacks (ARZ leads 2-0)

This is intriguing because the Cubs get back in front of their rabid fans at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs will have a decided edge in pitching matchups over the weekend as they will see Rich Hill (who was incredible at the Friendly Confines) face off with Livan Hernandez.  Hernandez is a big game pitcher but is a shell of the guy who won the NLCS and World Series MVP in 1997.  In Game 4 the Cubs will bring Carlos Zambrano back on short rest to face off with Micah Owings.  That is a huge edge for the Cubs. On the other hand if the Cubs are able to win two games at Wrigley and get back to Phoenix they will have to face Brandon Webb, who they could not hit in Game 1 in a do or die game with Ted Lilly going for them.  Lilly was awful in Game 2 and I would expect more of the same in Game 5.  I would like the Cubs as the most likely to get back to even, only to lose anyway.  Thus breaking the hearts of Cub fans everywhere.  Its just what they do. 

Angels vs. Red Sox (BOS Leads 2-0)

That just had to be a crippling loss for the Angels.  As Man-Ram’s big fly flew over the Monster so did the Angels chances.  Boston had a big aura of confidence going in by virtue of owning the Angels.  Now the Angels must take the dead man walking flight across country to face Curt Schilling on Sunday.  But Jered Weaver, who’s brother was the breakout star of the 2006 post-season, might have a big game start in him.  Back in Cali with the ThunderStix going I would say the Angels are the most likely to get a token win before going down in four games.

Yankees vs. Indians (CLE Leads 2-0)

This really bugs me.  Get it?  Bugs me.  I kill myself.  Anyway Joba finally showed a chinck in the armor at the worst possible time as an insect-aided fit of wildness may have cost the Yanks their season.  But I don’t think this team is done yet.  Lets look at the facts.  The Yankees have been coming from behind all season.  They came back from a huge deficit to defeat the Indians in the regular season.  They came back from a huge deficit to win the Wild Card.  Why wouldn’t they come back from this?   Never thought I’d live to see the day when the Yanks were the underdog, but here we are.  They have a pitching edge they didn’t have in games 3 and 4 with Roger Clemens and Phillip Hughes going against Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook.   Their incredible lineup will hit Byrd and Westbrook.  The Bronx faithful will be crazy loud and will be there to rattle the young Indians.  The Yanks WILL get this series back to Cleveland.  When they get there it will be a Game 1 rematch of Chien-Ming Wang and C.C. Sabathia.  After watching Game 1 why in the **** would I pick the Yanks in a Game 5.  Several Reasons.  If we get there the Yanks will have all the momentum.  Wang’s sinker didn’t sink in Game 1, that is just one of those things that happens from time to time. It won’t happen again in Game 5.  Sabathia was gone after five and the Yanks took good at bats against him.  Given another chance that lineup should wear him down again and get into the Cleveland middle relief corp.  I would say clearly at this point the Yanks are the most likely to come all the way back to win their series.  And if I’m wrong, you didn’t hear it here.   

Phils and Cubs in deep trouble

Valverde_1 Just as a note as I am watching this the D’Backs lead the Cubs 4-2 in the top of the 4th. 

The most amazing thing about the baseball playoffs is the suddeness of it.  Just over 30 hours ago the entire city of Philadelphia was in a fit of Phillies fever.  Now their team appears all but dead.  The Cubbies have also put themselves behind the eight ball with a game one loss, and falling behind early here in game 2.  The Yanks and Angels have put themselves in must win situations tommorow.  Like the slogan says, "You can’t script October."

Rockies vs. Phillies (COL leads series 2-0)

How hot is Colorado?  16-1 in their last 17 games as they have put the Phillies backs against the wall and will go for the kill Saturday afternoon in front of a raucous crowd at Coors Field.  Game one featured the best pitcher you’ve never heard of in Jeff Francis shutting down the potent Philly lineup only allowing back to back solo home runs as the Rox won 4-2.  Today the Rox won again playing long ball getting another home run from Matt Holliday and a grand slam from Baby Godzilla Kazuo Matsui.   This series is for all intents and purposes over barring a miracle comeback from the Phighting Phils.  They already have one miracle comeback this year.  Unfortunately for them that might be all they get.  Denver will be nuts on Saturday and I would fully expect the Rox to complete the sweep.  How ironic?  The series viewed as the most even will most likely end up being the most decisive.

Angels vs. Red Sox (BOS leads series 1-0)

If you haven’t completely forgotten about the Marlins run to the 2003 World Championship (and you have don’t worry I don’t blame you) you remember that Josh Beckett had about as good of a pitching post-season of any pitcher in memory.  Well he’s apparantely at it again, and thats gonna be bad news for Boston opponents in the post-season.  Beckett got the Sox off to a flying start with a 4 hit shutout.  Completely dominant.  Big Papi continued to be one of baseball’s best post-season performers with a home run, and John Lackey continued to struggle mightily at Fenway.  The best way to beat the Angels is keep their speed off the bases, and Beckett did a near flawless job at it.  The Angels now face a virtual must win tommorow night at Fenway.  It should be very interesting to see if Dice-K can finally start to live up to the absurd hype he got in the off-season. 

Cubs vs. Diamondbacks (ARZ leads series 1-0)

Last night Sweet Lou may have went to his bullpen too early.  Tonight its starting to look like he is waiting too long.  Ted Lilly has allowed 4 so far, and has 2 on with one out as I type.  Pinella made a critical error in looking ahead in a playoff series.  You cannot play for tommorow in the playoffs.  Especially not in a five game series.  Ride your horse.  I don’t care how good Marmol had been this year (and he had been outstanding) He’s a youngster in his first post-season game, and he looked like it.  Now the Cubs are faced with throwing Z in game four potentially to just force a game five where Webb will face Lilly again.  And if they don’t kick it into gear tonight, they might be done in 3 and Zambrano won’t pitch again.  As I type this Stephen Drew triples into the corner to drive home 2 and make it 6-2.  Its looking more and more like the Cubs go back to Wrigley down 0-2.  Can’t play for tommorow when you don’t know if there will be one.  Shame on Lou Pinella.  I thought he was smarter than that.   On the bright side we appear to be headed towards 1 loss away from the drought reaching the century mark.  Good times indeed!

Yankees vs. Indians (CLE leads series 1-0)

Well that was certainly a beat down now wasn’t it.  The clear turning point was down 4-2 in the fifth the Yanks loaded the bases and only managed one run.  The Indians proceeded to totally blow the game open as Yanks ace Chien-Ming Wang failed to come up big for his team in Game One.  So much for my pick of New York in 3.  So the Yanks are in trouble you’re thinking…Not hardly.  Since the Wild Card system was instituded in 1995 the Yanks have qualified for the playoffs every single time.  Thats 12 LDS’ not including this year.  When the Yanks win game one of the LDS they are 2-5, including the last three times they won game one in 2002, 2005, and 2006.  When they lose the first game the Yankees are a perfect 5-0.  They will send their old designated Game 2 starter Andy Pettite to the hill tommorow late afternoon at the Jake, and as usual I think Andy give the Yanks what they need to get back to the Stadium all even up at one game apiece. 

NLDS Preview

First of all let me quickly touch on last nights thriller in Denver.  Upon further review I am going to go against the popular opinion and say that I believe there is a definate possibility that Matt Holliday was safe at the plate.  He slid underneath Barrett’s foot, which is why he got spiked and it stands to reason he may have gotten his fingertips on the plate.   Other than that congrats to the Rockies for one of the greatest late season comebacks ever.  Everyone wants to harp on the collapse of the Mets, but what the Rox accomplished was truly for the ages…

And now without further ado…the NLDS Preview

Roxlogo COLORADO ROCKIES

(90-73; NL WILD CARD)

VS.

Phillieslogo PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

(89-73; NL EAST CHAMPIONS)

Tale of the Tape:

Catcher: Yorvit Torrealba (COL) vs. Carlos Ruiz (PHI): Yorvit is a decent little hitter and good reciever despite having a first name that reminds me of the hot new Yogurt flavor.  Ruiz is a youngster who has supplanted Mike Lieberthal in Philly.  Small Advantage Colorado

1st Base: Todd Helton (COL) vs. Ryan Howard (PHI): If you aren’t thrilled for Helton finally getting a chance to make it to the post-season with the Rox then you shouldn’t be watching baseball.  That said he isn’t what he used to be and Howard is a slugging maching.  Advantage Philadelphia

2nd Base: Kazuo Matsui (COL) vs. Chase Utley (PHI): Mets fans have to love seeing Kaz playing in the post-season while they sit home.  Utley however is the Robin to Howard’s Batman and really makes the Philly offense go.  Huge Advantage Philadelphia

3rd Base: Garrett Atkins (COL) vs. Wes Helms (PHI): While Holliday is the young stud, and Helton is the aging superstar, quietly Garrett Atkins is turing into quite the player himself.  Wes Helms and his .294 OBP can’t quite matchup.  Huge Advantage Colorado

Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki (COL) vs. Jimmy Rollins (PHI): Tulowitzki is one of the front runners for NL Rookie of the Year.  Rollins is one of the front runners for NL MVP.  Advantage Philadelphia

Left Field: Matt Holliday (COL) vs. Pat Burrell (PHI): Holliday is one of the NL’s fastest rising stars, and in my opinion the NL MVP.  Burrell used to be decent and was a highly touted prospect, but now is nothing more than a strikeout machine with some pop.  Huge Advantage Colorado

Center Field: Willy Tavares (COL) vs. Aaron Rowand (PHI): Oddly enough a rematch of the center field matchup in the 2005 World Series.  Rowand was a lot better than and he still is.  Huge Advantage Philadelphia

Right Field: Brad Hawpe (COL) vs. Shane Victorino (PHI): Hawpe has some pop from the left side and is another good threat in the middle of the Rox order.  Victorino is a havoc reaker at the top of the Philly order.  Small Advantage Philadelphia

Starting Rotation: Colorado features ace Jeff Francis followed by some young kids and journeymen lefty Josh Fogg.  For the Phils they feature young phenom Cole Hamels at the top of their rotation and also have 93 year old lefty Jamie Moyer.  Small Advantage Philadelphia

Bullpen: Both teams feature stellar bullpens.  The Phils feature Flash Gordon setting up Brett Myers and also former closers Antonio Alfonseca and Jose Mesa.  The Rox feature former closer Brian Fuentes along with Jeremy Affeldt and several other studs.  Advantage Colorado

Closer: Manny Corpas (COL) vs. Brett Myers (PHI): Both closers have only been at the helm for one half of the season, but Myers has been downright unhittable. Huge Advantage Philadelphia

Manager: Clint Hurdle (COL) vs. Charlie Manuel (PHI): Both guys could have been fired at any point.  I’ve always been a big Clint Hurdle fan and thought he was just stuck in a tough job.  Charlie is one of those old baseball guys you can’t help but root for. Small Advantage Colorado

Other Catergories…

Best Team Ever: 2007 Rockies vs. 1980 Phillies: Yes regardless of what happens from here on out this is the best Rox team ever.  They pale in comparision to the 1980 Phils who after close to a 100 year wait finally brought a World Title to Philly.  Advantage Philadelphia

Biggest Heartbreak: 1995 Rox give up 4 in the 9th of Game 2 to go down 0-2 to the Braves vs. Mitch Williams giving up a walk off home run in the 93 Series: What do you think.  Losing game 2 of the division series or losing the World Series on a walk off homer.  Disadvantage Philadelphia

Hometown Fans: They will boo Santa Claus, but give the Philly fans credit they are passioniate.  A bit misguided but passioniate.  The Rockie fans on the other hand…well lets just say the team store had a big day Monday Night.  Advantage Philadelphia

Stadium: Coors Field vs. Citizens Bank Park: Both are pretty much your typical new era parks but Coors gets the edge for the beautiful view of the Rockies beyond the left field wall.  Advantage Colorado

Mascot: Dinger vs. The Phillie Phanatic: Biggest. Mismatch. Ever.  The Phanatic is there with Mr. Met and the San Diego Chicken as the greatest of all time.  Dinger is a cheap Barney the Purple Dinosaur ripoff.  Advantage Philadelphia

City: Denver vs. Philadelphia: Well I lied, this might be the biggest mismatch ever.  The city with the Rockies in the backdrop or a poor man’s New York?  Advantage Colorado

Franchise Icon: Larry Walker vs. Mike Schmidt: I’d love to go homer here and pick Larry, but Michael Jack Schmidt is probably the best defensive third baseman ever, and a pretty **** good hitter too.  Advantage Philadelphia

Series Prediction: Flip a coin and take your pick.  They both come in riding huge waves of momentum, but I think the Rox are riding a little bit more of that Rockie Mountain High

Colorado in 5

Cubs_logo CHICAGO CUBS

(85-77; NL CENTRAL CHAMPIONS)

VS.

Dbacks ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

(90-72; NL WEST CHAMPIONS)

Tale of the Tape:

Catcher: Jason Kendall (CHC) vs. Chris Snyder (ARZ): Hey remember back in the day when Kendall was good?  Me neither.  Chris Snyder provides a little pop which is a little more than his Cubbie coutnerpart.  Advantage Arizona

1st Base: Derrek Lee (CHC) vs. Conor Jackson (ARZ): Derrek Lee suffered a tremendous downgrade in the power department this year, but was still one of the NL’s best hitters.  Jackson is a nice hitter in a platoon with Tony Clark.  Huge Advantage Chicago

2nd Base: Mark DeRosa (CHC) vs. Alberto Callaspo (ARZ): How exactly did Arizona get the number one seed in the NL?  Alberto Callaspo?  DeRosa was a curious signing in the off-season but has certainly filled the 2B position well for the Baby Bears.  Advantage Chicago

3rd Base: Aramis Ramirez (CHC) vs. Chad Tracy (ARZ): Aramis cashed in big time in the off-season and has peformed very well in the middle of the potent Cubs lineup.  Tracy is also a middle of the order guy with good pop.  Just not on par with A-Ram.  Advantage Chicago

Shortstop: Ryan Theriot (CHC) vs. Stephen Drew (ARZ): Theriot has been quite the spark plug for the Cubs since coming up early in the year.  Drew is a great young ballplayer and is certainly motivated for a potential World Series face off with his sister JD.  Advantage Arizona

Left Field: Alfonso Soriano (CHC) vs. Eric Byrnes (ARZ): Soriano has been huge since coming back from a torn quad in August, and is consistently one of the games best offensive player.  Byrnes is a media creation if there ever was one.  Huge Advantage Chicago

Center Field: Jacque Jones (CHC) vs. Chris Young (ARZ):  Jacque Jones was ready to be run out of the windy city in July.  Now he is the starting CF.  Young has the statistical anomly of 32 homers and only 68 RBI.  How is that possible.  Small Advantage Chicago

Right Field: Cliff Floyd (CHC) vs. Justin Upton (ARZ): Floyd has been a major disappointment for the Cubbies in his first season on the North Side.   Justin Upton at 20 years old will have to sip on Apple Cider if the D’Backs advance. Small Advantage Chicago

Starting Rotation: For my money the two best pitchers in the NL are matched up in game one with Carlos Zambrano squaring off with Brandon Webb.  In the two hole the D’Backs have 1997 World Series MVP and the Cubs have 40 million dollar man Ted Lilly.  Advantage Chicago

Bullpen: Two more strong pens in the other NL series.  Carlos Marmol, Kerry Wood, and Bob Howry help the Cubbies get the ball to Ryan Dempster.  Bob Wickman, Tony Pena, and former Cub Juan Cruz get the ball to Jose Valverde for the Snakes  Small Advantage Chicago

Closer: Ryan Dempster (CHC) vs. Jose Valverde (ARZ): Dempster does a really good Harry Caray impression, but any time I fear the 7th and 8th inning guys more than the closer thats a problem.  Valverde has been nails all year for the D’Backs accounting for 47 saves.  Huge Advantage Arizona

Manager: Lou Pinella (CHC) vs. Bob Melvin (ARZ): Pinella is by far the most experienced NL manager in the field and easily the best.  Melvin has done a great job this year, but he’s no Sweet Lou.  Advantage Chicago

Other Catergories…

Best Team Ever: 1908 Cubs vs. 2001 D’Backs: Since the motion picture had just been recently invented I cannot account for exactly how good the 1908 Cubs were.  The 01 Snakes did have the best 1-2 punch since the ’60′s in Johnson and Schilling.  Advantage Arizona

Biggest Heartbreak: 8th inning Game 6 2003 NLCS Cubs give up 8 runs with the Pennant just five outs away vs. D’Backs give up walk off homer to Todd Pratt in 10th inning of 99 LDS: Ahhhh the Steve Bartman game.  Still brings a smile to my face. The choke job by which all other choke jobs should be measured. This might be the easiest call on the board.  Disadvantage Chicago

Hometown Fans: The sad thing is in all reality both fan bases are made up of Cub fans.  This is really a no contest.  Even though Lee Elia doesn’t care for them you have to go with Cub fan here.  Advantage Chicago

Stadium: Wrigley Field vs. Chase Field: Old, rundown, smells like cheap beer and urine, has never seen the home team win a championship, and still proabably one of the best experiences you can have a baseball fan.  That or you can go swimming in the outfield in Phoenix.  Advantage Chicago

Mascot: Baxter vs. Ron Santo: The Cubs don’t have an official mascot so we’ll go with Ronnie here as the unofficial mascot.  He stammers and studders through every broadcast, but his love for the Cubs is overwelming.  Advantage Chicago

City: Chicago vs. Phoenix: There is a reason there are so many Cub fans in Phoenix. Because the rich old guys in Chicago get the **** out of town and move to Phoenix. Advantage Phoenix

Franchise Icon: Ernie Banks vs. Randy Johnson: Mr. Cub was always a crowd pleaser and the best short stop of his day.  The Big Unit is still collecting a paycheck from the D’Backs despite doing nothing this year.  Advantage Chicago

Series Prediction: I really hate the Cubs, but when I look at this Arizona roster I can’t figure out how they are even here, nonetheless the #1 seed.  As much as it kills me I think the Baby Bears move on

Chicago in 4

American League Playoffs Preview

As we go deep into the night in Denver I being writing this in the top of the 13th inning.  I fully expected to give a report on this terrific game, but that will wait for tommorow as this all-time classic is going.  Instead I’ll go ahead and offer my AL Preview

Sox BOSTON RED SOX

(96-66; AL East Champions)

VS.

Angels_1 LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM

(94-68; AL West Champions)

Tale of the Tape:

Catcher: Mike Napoli (LAA) vs. Jason Veritek (BOS): The Red Sox captain is a veteran of post season’s past.  The Angels catcher has just played over 1 full season.  Huge Advantage Boston

1st Base: Casey Kotchman (LAA) vs. Kevin Youklis (BOS): Both seem to be about the same player.  Youk is basically Kevin Millar v.2.  Small Advantage Boston

2nd Base: Howie Kendrick (LAA) vs. Dustin Pedroia (BOS): Pedroia is the likely AL Rookie of the Year.  Kendrick is the man that LAA decided would replace the legendary Adam Kennedy.  Of course I could also be the guy to replace Kennedy.  Small Advantage Los Angeles

3rd Base: Chone Figgins (LAA) vs. Mike Lowell (BOS): Can someone please explain to me how his name is pronounced Shawn?  Lowell has had some huge hits for the Beantowners down the stretch.  Advantage Boston

Shortstop: Orlando Cabrera (LAA) vs. Julio Lugo (BOS): Remember how good Cabrera was in the 2004 playoffs?  Sox fans do and they’ll never let Lugo forget it.  Huge Advantage Los Angeles

Left Field: Garret Anderson (LAA) vs. Manny Ramirez (BOS): Garret Anderson has been a great player for many years.  Man-Ram is a first ballot hall of famer.  Advantage Boston

Center Field: Gary Matthews (LAA) vs. Coco Crisp (BOS): Gary Matthews is embroiled in a steroid controversy.  Coco Crisp in a ceral controversy.  Okay bad joke.  Advantage Los Angeles

Right Field: Vladimir Guerrero (LAA) vs. JD Drew (BOS): Vlad is one of the best hitters of his generation.  JD Drew is one of the least competitive people on the planet.  Biggest Advantage Ever Los Angeles

Designated Hitter: Juan Rivera (LAA) vs. David Ortiz (BOS): Juan Rivera has played 14 games this year.  David Ortiz is one of the most clutch playoff performers of all time.  Huge Advantage Boston

Starting Rotation: Angels will go with Lackey, Escobar, and Weaver.  Sox with Beckett, Matsuzaka, and Schilling.  Lackey and Beckett will be a great matchup, after that the Angels have a decided edge.  Advantage Los Angeles

Bullpen: Angels will rely on 2002 veteran Scot Shields to get the ball to K-Rod along with a group of unproven middle relievers.  For the Sox they feature Hideki Okajima from the left side, 2004 key Mike Timlin, and the Artist Formerly Known as Eric Gagne.  Small Advantage Boston

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez (LAA) vs. Jonathon Papelbon (BOS): Both are dominant shut down closers, but K-Rod does have the 2002 post season experience.  Papelbon has shown signs of fading.  Small Advantage Los Angeles

Manager: Mike Scioscia (LAA) vs. Terry Francona (BOS): Both have championships on their resume, but I have the feeling there has never been a skipper who was luckier than Terry Francona 2004.  Advantage Los Angeles

Other Catergories…

Best Team Ever: Angels 2002 vs. Red Sox 2004: Curse busters or ThunderStix.  No contest…Advantage Boston

Biggest Heartbreak: Angels lose 3-1 lead in 86 ALCS vs. Bill Buckner 86 World Series: Amazing these both happened in the same year.  Donnie Moore offing himself or Buckner going into exile?  Disadvantage Boston

Hometown Fans: ThunderStix or the Fenway Faithful?  No contest as much as I hate the Chowder Heads they are passionate.  Advantage Boston

Stadium: Angels Stadium vs. Fenway Park: Another really easy choice.  The best old park in the bigs, or a rock pile?  Advantage Boston

Mascot: Rally Monkey vs. Wally the Green Monster: Gotta go with the Monkey here.  Anything that was so random gets my vote.  Advantage Los Angeles

City: Anaheim vs. Boston: Rich stuffy pricks that can’t pronounce an R or So-Cal’s beaches and babes?  Advantage Los Angeles

Franchise Icon: Nolan Ryan vs. Ted Williams: Nolan Ryan is a great pitcher but last I checked his cap in Cooperstown doesn’t have an A on it.  Ted Williams is one of the five greatest hitters ever.  Advantage Boston

Series Prediction: Its about even, but its a bad matchup for LA.  Lackey doesn’t pitch well at Fenway and the Angels have struggled against the Sox. 

Boston in 4

Yanks NEW YORK YANKEES

(94-68; AL Wild Card)

VS.

Indians_2 CLEVELAND INDIANS

(96-66; AL CENTRAL CHAMPIONS)

Tale of the Tape:

Catcher: Jorge: Posada (NYY) vs. Victor Martinez (CLE): Victor Martinez is an all-star and a big time hitter.  Jorge Posada is 11 wins away from having a hand full of rings  Small Advantage New York

1st Base: Jason Giambi (NYY) vs. Ryan Garko (CLE) Giambi is a legit power threat at all times, and is prone to sweat in any situation.  Ryan Garko is…Ryan Garko  Advantage New York

2nd Base: Robinson Cano (NYY) vs. Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) Robinson Cano is one of the AL’s up and coming young hitters.  Cabrera has a cool first name  Huge Advantage New York

3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez (NYY) vs. Casey Blake (CLE) I love the local boy as much as anyone (Casey Blake hails from the home of That’s a Winner) but gimmie a break.  A-Rod is the best hitter on the planet. Huge Advantage New York

Shortstop: Derek Jeter (NYY) vs. Jhonny Perralta (CLE): Jeter is the modern day Mr. October.  Perralta’s mother didn’t know how to spell the most common American Name.  Huge Advantage New York

Left Field: Hideki Matsui (NYY) vs. Kenny Lofton (CLE) Matsui is a great power threat from the left side.  Lofton is so old he actually started his career with the Kansas City Monarchs. Advantage New York

Center Field: Melky Cabrera (NYY) vs. Grady Sizemore (CLE) Melky has filled in nicely for Johnny Damon as he moves the DH spot, but gimmie a break.  Sizemore is a legit stud.  Huge Advantage Cleveland

Right Field: Bobby Abreu (NYY) vs. Franklin Guttierez (CLE) Bob didn’t have his best year, but I’ll take his experience over Franklin. Advantage New York

Designated Hitter: Johnny Damon (NYY) vs. Travis Hafner (CLE) Hafner has struggled this year but you still wouldn’t want to face him with runners on.  Damon is Damon, pesky, good speed.  Small Advantage Cleveland

Starting Rotation: Indians have Sabathia and Carmona who are studs.  They will also send Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook to the hill.  Wang and Pettie anchor a solid but not spectacular Yankee staff  Advantage Cleveland

Bullpen: I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t heard of a single Indian Reliever.  For the Yanks one word Jobba! One more word…Farnsworth  Advantage New York

Closer: Mariano Rivera (NYY) vs. Joe Borowski (CLE): Can a team with Joe Borowski closing games be considered a contender?  I didn’t think so.  By the way the Sandman is still the Sandman Huge Advantage New York

Manager: Joe Torre (NYY) vs. Eric Wedge (CLE) Torre has 4 World Titles.  Wedge has won the AL Central once.  Huge Advantage New York

Other Catergories…

Best Team Ever: Yankees 1927 vs. Indians 1995: Best Team Ever or a team that couldn’t beat the Braves in the World Series.  Everyone beat the Braves in October Advantage New York

Biggest Heartbreak: Yankees blow 3-0 lead in 04 ALCS vs. Indians blos 9th inning lead in Game 7 of the 97 Series:  The Yanks was the greatest choke ever but they have a few Championships to take their mind off it.  The Indians still haven’t won since 48. Disadvantage Cleveland

Hometown Fans: The crowd at Yankee Stadium provides a tremendous atmosphere at all times.  The crowd at the Jake ran and hid when the team went into an early 00′s slump  Advantage New York

Stadium: Yankee Stadium vs. Jacobs Field: The Jake is nice and all, but this still isn’t close.  The House that Ruth Built  Advantage New York

Mascot: Dandy vs. Slider Who the **** is Dandy you ask?  Check it out here.  I couldn’t find a pic.  Indians have Slider a giant purple….thing Advantage Cleveland

City: The Bronx vs. Cleveland: They don’t call it the mistake by the lake for nothing.  Advantage New York

Franchise Icon: Babe Ruth vs. Bob Feller: Again I’d love to give the local boy some love (Feller hails from nearby Van Meter, IA) but the Babe is the greatest ever. Advantage New York

Series Prediction: New York won all six in the regular season by a combined score of something like 9914 to 1. Get ready for Sox/Yanks III

New York in 3

By the way…WHAT A FREAKIN GAME…Congrats to the Colorado Rockies on completing one of the most amazing comebacks in baseball history winning 14 of their last 15.   

And while were slamming local boys…yes Tim McClelland (from nearby West Des Moines) horribly botched that call.  Such is life though, One has to wonder if Colorado is leading a charmed life.

9 Teams…1 Champion?

Helton So we’ve played 162 and 7 teams have qualified for the dance.  21 teams have been sent home for the winter.  And two teams will play a do or die game tommorow night in Denver in front of 50,000 crazy fans who may or may not have just discovered their home town had a team two weeks ago.  The playoff preview will have to wait for tommorow when the field of 8 is finally set.  How bout them Rockies.  Everyone wants to talk about the Mets epic collapse.  Don’t get me wrong, it was historic.  But how about Colorado.  Two weeks ago if you were a Rox fan you had to think…"Our only chance is to win em all"  And for all intents and purposes that is what they did.  13-1 the final two weeks of the season to force a do or die one game playoff in front of their home crowd.  Unreal.  Tommorow night at 6:30 PM on TBS the Rockies will send Josh Fogg to the hill and he will oppose the reeling Padres’ ace Jake Peavy.  The pitching matchup definately heavily favors San Diego, but the home field advantage and momentum favors the Rockies.  Padres’ manager Bud Black made a controversial decision today to hold back ace Jake Peavy.   Tony La Russa made the same move last season on the final day holding back Chris Carpenter.   It worked for La Russa, it may have backfired on Black.  Sure the Pads have Peavy going in the playoff tommorow, but they seem to me to be dead mean walking flying into Denver tommorow.  Saturday afternoon they were set to clinch with Trevor Hoffman on the mound in the ninth.  Then Tony Gwynn, Jr. of all people laces a triple to tie the game.  Its tough to bounce back from that.  Do yourself a favor and tune into this game.  It is only the 7th one game playoff in baseball history. 

Prediction: Rockies, 3 Padres, 2

Tommorow: I will recap the Rox/Friars playoff game and preview the AL Playoffs,  Tuesday Night its the NL Preview,  Then Wedensday the fun begins.

Unlike the Cardinals I am not dead…

No, I did not go and jump off a building in September as the Cardinals proceeded to fold up like cheap lawn furniture.  Honestly running a fantasy football league, work, and just plain apathy towards September baseball caused me to take a self imposed break from the blog.  Just because the Redbirds will not be participating in the 2007 Postseason does not mean I can’t enjoy it.  In fact I can probably enjoy the playoffs themselves more because I won’t have so much invested.  That said before I jump into my 2007 pennant race/playoff thoughts let me tie up a few loose ends on the 2007 Redbirds.   

It was obvious that the Rick Ankiel HGH scandal was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The Cards through smoke and mirrors fought hard to pull themselves back into the NL Central race, but the Ankiel scandal (which was total B.S. by the way) coupled with Rolen’s season ending injury, Duncan’s injury, Mulder’s ineffectiveness just put the team over the top.  Bottom line is they completely ran out of gas after fighting to get so very very close to the top of the division.  I am incredibly disappointed we won’t get a shot to defend our crown in October, but its for the best.  Albert gets an extra month to get healthy and this team just plain wasn’t very good.  Its time for a complete overhaul of the starting rotation (Wainwright excluded) and plug in some parts for the outfield.  I’m not sure what to expect in 2008, but I am cautiously optimistic.  Remember in 2004 after missing the 2003 playoffs the Birds re-tooled to win 105 games and the NL pennant. 

Now then the fun part, I’m gonna re-tool the blog for the post-season a new name and a new format.  Only for the playoffs though.  Thats a Winner returns in February 2008.  This will be all about the baseball post-season.  The best playoff system in sports.  Lets first look at the pennant races as we head down the final weekend.   The NL East looks to be Philadelphia’s to lose.  It should be interesting to see if the Amazin’s can get off the mat, but these look like 2 teams going in opposite directions.  They both play bottom feeders in the NL East.  I think Philly sweeps the Nats and wins the East without needing a play in game.  In the Central as much as it kills me, and as much as they are trying to give it away the Cubs are gonna win this thing.  The Cubs have given the Crew every opportunity the past two nights and their inability to get one of the last two has cost them the NL Central Title.  The West is what will really be fun to watch.   If the Rox sweep the D-Backs this weekend and win the West by winning their last 14 games in a row where would that rank on the list of all-time great comebacks?   It isn’t even Arizona tanking…Its just a red hot Colorado team.  Matt Holliday is my pick for NL MVP if they pull this off.  Coors Field should be rocking this weekend like it hasn’t rocked since the days of the Blake Street Bombers in the mid-90′s  That will be fun to see.  As for San Diego they are lurking as well.  There are some really outrageous tiebreaker scenarios that could play out next week.  I’m the kind of person who cheers for mass hysteria so I’m really hoping for the four way tie.  Think about this for a second.  If the Mets, Phils, Rockies, and Padres all finish with identical records they would all have to go into essentially a double elimination tournament while the Cubs with anywhere from 4-6 less wins sit back and watch the carnage.  How exactly does that seem fair?    Anyway, check back next week for the new look blog and to all a Happy October. 

Hello .500 and Hello 2nd Place

Duncan828 Finally the Cards have made it back to .500 and Finally Rob has made it back to his blog.  Lots of stuff going on, most important was drafting a fantasy football team Sunday.  Pre draft strategizing was taking most of my down time so no time for a post.  Now with the Cards back into 2nd place, back to only 2 games out of first, its time to get back to posting.  So what did we have in the week I was gone.  Well the Cards suffered a mini-skid with a two game losing streak losing Thursday and Friday against Florida and Atlanta before bouncing back to take the final two against the Braves.  Today the Cards started the final stretch of the season, a trecherous 35 game 34 day stretch to end the season.  Chris Duncan busted out of his slump HUGE today with a 3 run bomb in the first inning and driving in 4.  Tony La Russa tied Red Schoendist for the most wins in Cardinals history at 1041.  Braden Looper was outstanding pitching 7 shutout innings.  Tony La Russa has said all year we can’t talk about the pennant race til we get to .500.  Well we’re here, and hopefully we aren’t below it again this year.  Keep pushing, keep winning, first place could be ours as soon as Thursday.  Unbelievable.  I declared the Cardinals dead on August 5th.  I was absolutely correct.  That Cardinal team died on August 5th.  The team that couldnt get clutch hits.  The team that couldn’t pitch.  The team that had no heart.  They were replaced the next day in St. Louis by a team that was relentless.  A team that refused to lose.  A team that isn’t going down without a fight.  A team proud to defend their World Championship.  Since August 5 the Cards are 13-6 and have made up 6 games of their 8 game deficit.  The Cards have made the crazy run they needed to get back in it.  Now they just need to be a little bit better than Chicago.  I think they can, and I think they will. 

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