Category Archives: Philadelphia

Hello there 2011!

Here we go 2011! With some fantastic off season activity this year, there has been much to talk about. After a winter hiatus from writing, its time to get back into it. I found an essay type description online, and figured that this would be a great place to start my first post of the year.

  1. In the first part, tell us about yourself and why you love baseball.(500 word limit)
  2. In the second part, answer one of the following questions (500 word limit)
    1. Who will win the American and National League Most Valuable Player Awards in 2011? Make a strong case for your selections.
    2. What will be the biggest MLB storyline of 2011? Explain why.

 

Part 1:

There are many reasons to love baseball, and each person has a smaller subset of this large array of reasons that makes baseball special to them. Many people can point to a specific game that their Dad took them too, or a memorable player interaction that their love of the game stems from. My first game, and introduction to baseball happened at such a young age that I do not even remember it. My love, however, stems more from the field that it does from the stands. I grew up playing baseball, and there was nothing that I loved more. 2nd base was my position, and there was nothing more satisfying than making a great defensive play. I loved being in the ready position, waiting for the pitch. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass, the annoying little gnats that inevitably wound up squished on the underside of my cap’s brim, the cool breeze that came in as the sun was setting, and the joyous feeling of knowing we didn’t have to stop as the lights came on.

I couldn’t get enough baseball. I began to watch the Red Sox. I grew up in the 90’s when the Sox were constantly not good enough. I listened to games on WEEI, because I loved the descriptions of the game over the radio.  Eventually, I began to understand “the curse”. It was something I had always known about, but didn’t understand for a long time. It was only after years of constant defeat did I really feel the pain. The late 90’s  were supposed to be our time, the rise of Nomar, our beloved Trot, the acquisition of Pedro. I was head over heels in love with the Red Sox, and the Yankees broke my heart, year, after year, after year. The curse began to take hold of me. My hatred for NY grew immensely, as did my fear of the curse. The crushing defeats continued into 2003, where I had to deal with Aaron Boone of all people.

Then everything changed, and everyone knows the story. In the biggest hole in professional sports the Red Sox won eight straight games to end it all. Pure joy. The curse was over. My baseball love didn’t end there, how could it? I was thirsty for more.  So how exactly does one top breaking an 86 year curse in spectacular fashion?

Enter the 2008 Phillies.  Game 5, part two. As a seasoned baseball fan knows, Game 5 of the 2008 World Series was postponed mid-game due to rain, throwing a wrench into the travel plans of fans everywhere. As luck would have it, this provided me with a free ticket to part two of the game.  I got to walk into a 2-2 tie in the 6th inning, and watch the Phillies win it all. Mayhem. Riots. Another broken fan base had their redemption and I was a part of it. Sweet revenge after the Rays had eliminated my Sox. Baseball is in my blood, and I will never tire of it.

Part 2:

A)   2011 AL MVP: Dustin Pedroia – This is a tough one for me, and I have tried to remove any bias there might be in me as a Sox fan, but this guy tries harder than anyone I have ever seen. In 2010, he took grounders on his knees while he had a broken foot. Already having won the rookie of the year award in 2007 and an MVP in 2008, a gold glove, and three straight all-star selections, he still has the desire to work hard and improve. With the lineup additions of Crawford and Gonzalez he has a great deal of power behind him (presuming he keeps 2nd in the batting order), as well as the return of Ellsbury to the leadoff slot to help his RBI numbers. This scrappy player will not stop short of perfect, and that dedication will win him another MVP award in the next 3 years.

2011: NL MVP: Roy Halladay – The last pitcher to win a MVP was Dennis Eckersley in 1992. This is really a shame. Since 1992 we have entered the steroid era, possibly explaining why no pitcher was awarded the honor due to inflated hitting numbers. It appears, however, that the steroid era is over. 2010 had 7 no hitters, including two perfect games. Roy Halladay threw a perfect game and a postseason no hitter. Since leaving the AL East, Halladay has been absurdly dominant, and will continue to be in 2011. With 9 complete games in 2010, a 2.44 ERA, and 21 wins, it’s a wonder Halladay didn’t get a single first place vote. In all likelihood, this prediction will not come true, but more because the Baseball Writers will all vote for position players in the end. That doesn’t make it right. Consider Halladay, because in the end he will absolutely deserve it.

B) The best storyline of 2011 will be Phantastic Phour in Philadelphia. With possibly the best rotation of all time, they are a giant force that must be taken down. Hands down the favorite for the 2011 W.S. This however, will be a slow storyline and much better in the playoffs. A much less talked about story line will be the Tampa Bay Rays. How will the additions of Manny and Damon for relatively small money impact this team? Can they keep their young, underdog attitude alive? Can they keep Manny from being a cancer? Will Joe Maddon be able to handle the veteran presence? Most importantly, if all of this works out, can they compete with the reloaded Red Sox and powerhouse Yankees? The AL East is once again the strongest division in baseball. Let the games begin.

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Post Season Predictions

Ahh October. Nothing says baseball quite like it. In a season where my Red Sox were decimated by injury, I found it hard to work through the predictions, but the show must go on!

NLDS Reds vs. Phillies

When the Reds first made the playoffs, I was excited for them. 15 years without a playoff appearance for one of the classic baseball franchises. Despite them having five rings, and me never wanting them to have more than my sox, I was really hoping that they would do well. Well, they seem to have run into a Buzzsaw, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are probably the worst draw you can get in this playoff set. Not only are they the #1 team in the majors, but they are super hot. Their 11 game win streak in late September has these guys feeling like they can’t lose. Let’s not forget the absurd Halladay/Oswalt/Hammels rotation either. Roy Halladay is a beast. 2.44 ERA, 21 wins, and a workhorse to boot. This is someone who should have four rings by now, but his career in Toronto wasn’t exactly the fast track to the World Series. He is my favorite for October MVP.

Result: Phillies in 3

NLDS Braves vs. Giants

Unfortunately I don’t like this matchup much. Neither team offers much promise for a deep run in my eyes thus the Phillies are on the fast track to the World Series as a result. Both teams have great pitching, but in the end look for Wagner to lock it down.

Result: Braves in 4

ALDS Yankees vs. Twins

The Yankees showed the world last year that C.C. Sabathia doesn’t need rest. They showed it again this year when his wasn’t affected by the previous October. This, along with their high-powered offense, makes them a very dangerous threat if they can make it out of the first round. Unfortunately for them, Pettitte and Burnett do need rest, and Burnett has been a mess. The Yankee pitching could be their downfall. I flip-flopped 15 times on this one, trying to justify a win for the twins but in the end…

Result: Yankees in 4

ALDS Rangers vs. Rays

Tampa is young, and has seen the scene in the past few years. Cliff Lee seems to be on a post-season roster every year now. I like the Rangers better in a 7 game series to win out over a worn pitching staff. Longoria comes back for the Rays which should help. Provided Longoria isn’t a flop after his little injury break…

Result: Rays in 5

NLCS Braves vs. Phillies

The Phillies are so far gone as Phavorites in the NL. I can’t pick against them. (I promise no more PH=f jokes.)

Result: Phillies in 5

ALCS: Yankees vs. Rays

Destroy the evil empire! This is where their 3 man rotation will come in to play. CC likely pitches three times in this series. Beat him once and the Rays win.

Result: Rays in 7

World Series Rays vs Phillies

2008 Rematch! 2008 Results. Roy Halladay gets his first WS win, ring, and MVP honors. I think the deep postseason runs finally catch up with the Rays who don’t really show up for this one. The Phillies rotation is too good, and their offense is greater than or equal to that of the Rays. Mathematically sounds like winners to me.

Result: Phillies in 5… again.

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Boston’s hot streak not to be Tampared with

On April 19th, the Red Sox were a horrid 4-9. They were just fresh off of a 4 game set with the Tampa Bay Rays where they couldn’t win a coin toss let alone a game. The Sox were banished to 4th place for more than a month, if only because the Baltimore Orioles somehow had only won two games to that point. The Rays were off to a torrid start, holding “best in the majors” honors, which they still hold today. The Yankees are the Yankees, who have kept pace with the Rays to some extent. The Toronto Blue Jays have amassed an offense that nobody saw coming, mashing 79 home runs, 14 more than their closest counterpart. They have scored the most runs in the majors, had the most RBI, and have the highest slugging percentage to go with it.

With the best division in baseball crushing the competition, including the Sox themselves, the Sox found themselves in a huge hole with massive obstacles to overcome. David Ortiz couldn’t hit and seemingly nobody could pitch, as several starter’s ERA were well over 5 for several starts. The ESPN power rankings had the Sox at 17th, behind teams like the Nationals. The team just wasn’t right, and was in a funk.

Funk out. This team is playing like they can. Since April 19th, the Sox are 23-12. They have overcome the powerhouse offense that is the Jays to take 3rd place. They have been on multiple mini hot-streaks where they win seven of nine games. The offense has been superb considering all the off season talk about how weak the hitting was. There is one team that is second behind the league leading Blue Jays in HR, RBI, Runs and SLG, and it’s not the powerhouse offense in New York. It’s the “sad pathetic offense that will struggle because they lost Jason Bay.”

After a very shaky start, John Lester has his ERA down to a nasty 3.15, and that’s not even best on the staff. Clay Buchholz has shown that he has arrived, and deserves to be in this rotation. Pitching very well into the 8th inning of several games thus far, Buchholz has a team leading 6 wins. Even Daisuke appears to be coming around, taking a no hitter into the 8th against a potent Phillies offense.

Ten days ago, we looked at the Red Sox as they headed to Yankee Stadium. As one of the toughest road stretches of the season, the Sox had to play two in NY, two in Minnesota, three in Philadelphia, and three in Tampa. All of those teams, except the second place Yankees, lead their respective divisions. (Note:  With the second best winning percentage in the majors, the Yankees would be first in any other division.) After a massive comeback, and subsequent rare blown save, the Sox could have taken both games in NY, but was only able to grab one. Since that blown save they have won eight of nine against those elite teams, including the most recent sweep of the MLB’s best Tampa Bay Rays.

The Sox may be 5.5 games back in the division, but counting them out or underestimating them as a threat would be a large mistake for any major league team. Spread the word, the Red Sox are coming.

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What a Choke!

What a weekend for sports! The Boston Celtics knocked off the Cleveland Cavaliers, in LeBron’s last chance before his upcoming free agency to show what he is made of. The Boston Bruins just died in a game 7 that was eerily similar to the series, as they went up 3-0 only to blow it and lose 4-3. The Celtics then went on to win game 1 in Orlando, at times dominating the Magic. Oh yeah, there was some baseball played too, but it wasn’t that exciting in comparison. With some rather big collapses happening, I decided to reflect on some of the biggest (as well as some of my personal favorite) collapses and chokes in history. With a lot of discussion about chokes in sports, I will start with what I used as a definition.

Choke [chohk] (verb,choked, chok·ing, noun) -A choke is a team failing to execute in a situation where they should be more than just a favorite to win. This often occurs in a situation where any par performance would have resulted in a sound victory. Some sort of failure on the team to execute is required. A choke may be viewed in the context of a single game, a series, or a season.

And with that, my top 13.

#13) 2010 NCAA Tournament: Kansas University loses to Northern Iowa in 2nd round

Kansas was not only the favorite to win this game but one of two favorites to win the tournament. Over 80% of ESPN Tournament Bracket players had either Kansas or Kentucky winning. Neither made the final four, but Kentucky wasn’t eliminated in the second round by a 9-seed. Brackets were decimated.

#12) 2007 ALCS: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland loves their collapses, as they were unable to hold a 3-1 series lead against the Boston Red Sox. For a team with 19 game winners C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, as well as future Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, this team was completely unable to close, allowing the Red Sox to steamroll themselves to their 2nd world series in four years.

#11) 1964 Phillies Phold

After a magical season including Jim Bunning’s perfect game (first in the NL since 1880), the Phightin’ Phils had a 6.5 game lead with 12 to play. After losing 10 games in a row, with the first seven at home, the Phillies had sunk to 3rd place, and would not be a part of any postseason activity. Phail.

#10) 2007/2008 Regular Season: New York Mets

The Mets have recently become the poster child for late season failures. In 2007, the Mets had a 7 game lead on September 12th, with 17 games left to play. The Mets only won 5 of those 17. They lost 5 of 6 to the 4th place Nationals. This one went down to the last game of the season, only to have Tom Glavine let up seven runs in the first culminating in a great collapse.

The Mets then went out and signed two time Cy Young Award Winner Johan Santana, figuring that this would compensate for any weaknesses associated with their collapse. They went into 2008 as surefire favorites to win the NL East, only to be once again eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of season. This was just the beginning of the issues for the Mets as they would plunge to 4th place and a 70 win season in 2009, a team that was once again predicted to contend for a playoff run.

#9) 2007-2008 Pursuit of Perfection: 18-1 New England Patriots

You may note that in my definition above I said that a choke may be defined as a season and I would like to make that distinction here. This was a choked season which is not to be confused with a choked game. The only reason that they make this list was the potential implications of being the greatest NFL team of all time by obtaining a perfect 19-0 record. The Super Bowl itself does not quite qualify to me as a choke. Sure, the Patriots were up 14-3 going into the 4th quarter, but the Giants’ 14 point run bordered on the miraculous. “The Helmet Catch” was a freak play, something one could probably not reproduce in many attempts.  It turned out to be a game where the clock operators were under as much scrutiny as any coach’s decision. There didn’t seem to be a failure on the part of the Patriots to win the game, but more like a spectacular drive by the Giants to put them over the top. The NFL, probably more any other sport, is one where any team can win on any given day. For this reason, I categorize failure to capitalize on the pursuit of perfection as a choke and not the game itself.

#8) 1942 Red Wings / 1975 Penguins

Any team that has ever been up 3-0 in a series and doesn’t win certainly falls into the choke categories. Both of these teams lost to the higher seeded team in the end, after failing to complete their respective underdog runs. For this reason, they get only slightly more credit than #7.

#7) 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (Hockey): Boston Bruins

They had four chances to beat out the somewhat injured and defeated Flyers, who became only the third hockey team to accomplish such a feat. I thought about ranking this higher, but let us not forget that the Bruins were not a very good team to begin with this season. Two months ago, there were questions as to them even making the playoffs. The Flyers were a lower seed than the Bruins, making this slightly worse than #8. Give it five years for all to settle in, and this will be grouped in the same category as the Wings and Penguins.

#6) 2010 Eastern Conference Semi-Finals (Basketball): Cleveland Cavaliers

In a collapse that left LeBron James without a title in Cleveland, the Celtics may have not only made headlines for themselves, but they may have just cost LeBron a huge part of his legacy.  Cleveland was his city and his team. After numerous opportunities to make a championship run and numerous failures, one can accuse coaching, front office management, and the players themselves.

The fact is that LeBron will take the brunt of this, and Cleveland will suffer if he leaves. For a team that was the best home team in Basketball for several years, they squandered their last two home games. Boston may have earned this win with spectacular defense and a tremendously elevated level of play, but the fact remains that LeBron choked in his abilities to bring a championship to the Cavs.

#5) 1978 Red Sox

Boston held a 14 game lead over the New York Yankees, a lead that would dwindle only to be eventually erased after being swept in a four game set by New York, now referred to as The Boston Massacre. The Yankees forced a one game playoff tie breaker where Bucky Dent, who had hit an average of three HR’s per season in his career; hit a 3 run homer to lead the Yankees to a 5-4 victory over the Sox. The Yankees went on to win the World Series. Bucky ******* Dent.

#4) 1990-1994 Buffalo Bills

The only thing worse than being 0-4 in Super Bowl appearances (Vikings, Bills) is doing it in four straight years. The Bills made their first appearance in the Super Bowl in 1991, only to lose by one point to the New York Giants. They would repeat their Super Bowl run in the next three years losing to the Redskins, and then in back to back years to the Cowboys.

#3) 2003 NLCS: Chicago Cubs

Similar to #11, the Cubs squandered a 3-1 series lead. What makes this much worse than the Indians, was that in game 6, the Cubs had a 3-0 lead behind Matt Clement’s three hitter with just five outs to go. Lifetime Cubs fan Steve Bartman interfered with a foul ball off the bat of Louis Castillo, preventing Moises Alou from making the catch. The thread had been pulled, and the unraveling began. Bartman was escorted out of the stadium for his own safety, and has been ridiculed ever since. The Curse of the Billy Goat lives on.

#2) 1986 World Series: Boston Red Sox

It was game 6 and the Red Sox had a 3-2 series lead. After scoring two in the top of the 10th, the Red Sox had a 5-3 lead with two out. They were one out from their first championship since 1918, and one out from defeating the curse of the Bambino. A few hits later it was 5-4. Enter Mookie Wilson. Mookie Wilson was at the plate and fought out a ten pitch at bat. On the 7th pitch of the at bat, Bob Stanley’s wild pitch tied the game at five. Pitch number ten to Wilson was the infamous grounder through the legs of Bill Buckner, scoring Ray Knight to win the ball game. There is no guarantee that had Buckner fielded the ball that they would have won, however their inability to close out this game, as well as game 7, lands them in the #2 spot all time. I refuse to lower this on the list on the basis that the “curse” has been broken, or that Boston has more or less forgiven Buckner. At the time this was an epic collapse, and it should remain so when talking about it.

#1) 2004 ALCS: New York Yankees

The biggest collapse in sports history, as well as my personal favorite, was the New York Yankees failing to close out the Boston Red Sox after a 3-0 series lead with home field advantage. With a lead going into the 9th inning of game 4, Kevin Millar led off with a walk, off of arguably the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Pinch runner Dave Roberts was Boston’s personal savior that night. The entire world knew that Roberts was stealing second, and after several pickoff attempts he went on the first pitch Rivera sent home. Safe.

This was the single turning point, as Bill Mueller would single him in for the tie. David Ortiz would then hit a two run shot in the 12th, giving the Sox their first win in the series. This was just a taste of what was coming. Rivera would blow the save again in game 5, this time with some help from Tom Gordon. Boston went on to win this game in the 14th where David Ortiz was the walk-off star again singling in Damon. Curt Shilling would pitch the “Bloody Sock” game in game 6 in Yankee Stadium, and the Boston bats beat up the Yankees in game 7 to cap the greatest comeback ever. Everything made this series epic. It was Sox/Yanks, it was Rivera, it was David Ortiz, it was long games ending well after midnight, it was the lovable idiots taking down the evil empire, and it was certainly the biggest choke ever.

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Modern Day Ruth

Before reading this post, read this one, as I’ll give all the credit to the On Deck Circle for this topic.

It really got me thinking about how the game has changed. Our athletes our now celebrities, and scrutiny of every move leads to a PR fiasco of epic proportions. See Tiger Woods or Alex Rodriguez. Good for you George Herman, you got your flappers and floozies in pre-TMZ times. You could drink, smoke, and fornicate to your hearts content in an era where people didn’t care what you did outside the diamond.

So how would your career had gone 80-90 years later?

My first question is really, would you even had made the majors? I know this seems silly, he is after all, BABE RUTH! But think about it, he wasn’t the most athletic build, and given his behavioral tendencies, would he have been able to compete with the lifetime driven athletes of today?

Now, if he put up numbers, of course he would make it. Anyone who hits that many dingers gets noticed. So now you have made the modern MLB, and you are “theoretically” putting up the same numbers you did then. Now what?

Now many of ODC’s points come in to play, and oh how many of them are spot on. This guy would be the most loved/hated controversy in baseball. Every fan would love him for every HR, and hate him for his poor ability to be a roll model and responsible face of the game. He would be more controversial than Manny Ramirez, Ocho Cinco, and Terrel Owens combined.  It would be that fiery balance of love and hate that would get him more sportcenter time than Brett Favre. He would be a marketing locomotive, barreling forward at an unbelievable pace, getting money anywhere he could. He would be the face of every razor, car, and deodorant commercial there is.

He would most certainly be accused of steroids, even if his figure was less than built. It’s just the nature of the beast. Then again, who knows, his personality may have been one to say, “What the hell I’ll do it.” Imagine the disgusting numbers he would have put up if he did. 100 HR season?

Most importantly, I don’t think he would play for the Red Sox OR the Yankees. NL teams only. You have a pitcher who can hit like that, some NL team would pay the big bucks. Then again, who knows, he basically didn’t pitch after going to the Yankees in 1919 so maybe he would sacrifice that aspect of his game again. I doubt any major league club these days would say, “Oh, you just had 5 seasons of sub 3 ERA? We are going to have you hit full time.”

It’s tough to see a team out bidding the Yankees, but his true value is in the NL, hitting and pitching. If he did play in the AL, can you imagine him closing for the Yankees? After a game where he hits 3 HR’s and 6 RBI, he walks in from first base to the mound for the save. That’s a scary thought. MVP forever.

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Postseason ’07

October. I love it. This is what baseball fans wait all year for. This year has a completely different look to it. Last year was a year where the Red Sox collapsed due to injury, the Tigers were the young guns proving they belong. Only the Yankees and Padres were in the playoffs last year and managed to make it back again this year. That’s right, only 2 teams. The other 6 all missed in ’06 and all have something to prove. Here are my predictions and reasoning for the 2007 Major League Baseball Playoffs.

 ALDS: Angles Vs. Red Sox

Prediction: Red Sox in 4

The Red Sox are in my mind the only team who really can take out the Angles. The Angles are a very strong team, and I do not doubt that they will pull off a win against either Matsuzaka or Schilling, but overall, I think this Red Sox starting rotation is going to keep the big Angles bats quiet. This series could go 5 games, but even if it does, I’m sticking with the Sox on this one. Trust that Beckett will get this team out to an early series lead.

ALDS: Yankees Vs. Indians

Prediction: Indians in 5

Yes that’s right ladies and gentlemen. I’m going to be the bold one here and say that the Yankees will not make it out of the first round of the playoffs. Yes the Yankees have been a hot second season team, and yes they have a fantastic offense, but I’m siding with Sabathia and Carmona. The Yanks will no doubt win 2 games by hitting the ball to the moon, but if we see Sabathia in a game 5 I have to side with the Indians.

ALCS: Indians Vs. Red Sox

Prediction: Red Sox in 7 (Maybe 6)

This is a very tough one for me to call. If this was Red Sox – Yankees, I say Red Sox no problem. I think Cleveland is the one team that can give the Sox real trouble in this playoff race. That being said, I expect this series to be absolutely amazing, some great pitchers duels, but I think the Red Sox and home field advantage will come out on top.

NLDS: Rockies Vs. Phillies

Prediction: Phillies in 3

If you want to talk about a streaking team, the Phillies are it. That combined with a huge Mets collapse got them to a Division Title. They are on fire, and they are all on top of the world right now. Expect them to come out swinging hard and to put up some big numbers in their first few games.

Okay, I know what you are thinking, the Rockies just won the 163rd game of the season in the 13th inning. They are equally pumped right now. The difference is that games 1 and 2 are in Philadelphia. Philly wants a championship and I expect Citizens Bank Park to be just as loud as a Red Sox / Yankees Playoff game in Fenway. Advantage Phillies.

NLDS: Cubs Vs. Diamondbacks

Prediction: Diamondbacks in 4

Youth versus Money. I’m going with youth on this one. I will admit however, I don’t see much of these teams. I get the occasional sports center recap, but on the whole, I don’t know these teams. This is probably the prediction I am most unsure about.

NLCS: Phillies Vs Diamondbacks

Prediction: Diamondbacks in 6 

I would love to see the Phillies win this, I think a Boston-Philadelphia World series would be amazing, unfortunately I think Philadelphia is in for another heartbreak. They just aren’t a world series team this year. Pitching is going to hurt them and the Diamondbacks will advance.

World Series: Diamondbacks Vs. Red Sox

Prediction: Red Sox in 5

Home field advantage, DH, strong lineup, strong rotation, stronger league. Everything here makes me think the National League doesn’t really stand a chance against any of the AL teams.

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