Cleveland and…?

This much we know, Tuesday will be a pretty magical night in Cleveland. Not only will the World Series start on the banks of Lake Erie, but the Cavaliers will raise their championship banner when they open the NBA season against the New York Knickerbockers.

But which NL team will be there as an opponent?  Before last night I think the smart money was on LA. Now it has shifted to Chicago, but should it have?

Jon Lester is a wonderful pitcher, especially in the postseason, but Kenta Maeda has had a great “rookie” year. And the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw looming for a Game 6 start and you can bet a Game 7 relief appearance.

So don’t punch that Cubs World Series ticket just yet. But one thing is for sure, the next two or three games of the NLCS should be a lot of fun.

Checking My Predictions

Every April I make my baseball predictions, every October I sort through the rubble of those predictions. This year I wasn’t terrible.

My worst prediction was picking Baltimore for last in the AL East-whoops!  I got half the AL playoff field correct, but none of the division winners  I had picked Toronto, KC, and Houston to win their divisions with Cleveland and Texas as the wild cards. I also picked Houston to make the World Series.

My NL picks were much better.  I struggled again picking division winners, only correctly identifying the Cubs, but I picked every NL playoff team except for the Dodgers.  I also had the Cubs going to, and winning, the World Series.  As someone who comes from a family filled with Cubs fans, that’s where my loyalties will lie this October.

As for the real playoffs, the fields are set.  Baltimore heads to Toronto on Tuesday with the winner going to Texas.  The Mets host the Giants on Wednesday with the winner headed to Chicago.  Boston travels to Cleveland  and LA travels to Washington in the other two series. (Sidebar- what would have happened if Boston won today because they would have been tied in the win column with Cleveland, but 1/2 a game behind because of the Cleveland rain out Thursday.  Would MLB have made Cleveland and Detroit make that game up since home field would have gone to Boston if the two teams were tied?)

I will have a review of the Yankees season tomorrow.


Countdown To Baseball Armageddon?

Cleveland and Detroit waited over four hours today, in miserable conditions, before finally canceling a game that should have been postponed from the start.  Why did they wait so long? Because the Tigers are part of baseball’s nightmare scenario- a five-way tie for the final wild card spot. The odds are tiny, estimated at 0.04%, but the possibility exists. Even without that, we have the possibility for a tie with a smaller number of teams and that is why today’s Cleveland-Detroit game was so important. At 85 wins, Detroit is currently 1/2-a-game behind Baltimore for that final spot. Depending on how the weekend shakes out, today’s game will need to be played if Detroit is within a 1/2-game, ahead or behind, of the final wild card spot. That make-up game would happen on Monday. And if, two or more teams were still tied after it, not a remote possibility, they would need to have a playoff Tuesday- the day the AL Wild Card game is already scheduled for.

Try this scenario on for size. Detroit finishes half a game ahead of Baltimore and Seattle for the final wild card. They have to make up their game on Monday and lose, creating a three-way tie for the final spot. That creates a two-day tournament between the three teams, which means you can’t have a wild card game until Thursday, or the day the ALDS is supposed to start. So then you face the prospect of starting the ALDS, or at least half of it, one-day late and with a team that played at possible three-or-four-consecutive games already. And all of this assumes you don’t have another rain out along the way.

So, expect MLB to wait forever to play any other game that could matter this weekend. That means the Yankees and Red Sox will probably play through the rain drops tonight and the Yankees and Baltimore, with even more rain on the way this weekend, should expect their series to be a lengthy affair. Fun fun!

A Terrible Loss

Reading the news this morning of Jose Fernandez’s death brought me instantly back to August 2nd, 1979. Then it was Thurman Munson, taken far too soon in a plane crash. Today it is Fernandez, taken even sooner in a boat crash. Somewhere in Florida there are plenty of six-year olds who feel the way I did so long ago and my heart goes out to them and everyone affected by this tragedy- especially Fernandez’s unborn child.

The loss of Fernandez seems harsher because of his personality and his potential. Here was someone who risked his life to get to this country and played the game with a certain kind of joy that you don’t often see.

And he was so good at it! Among starting pitchers, only Randy Johnson (twice), Pedro Martinez and Kerry Wood, have ever had a higher K/9 rate than the 12.5 Jose put up this year. He was 38-17 in his career for a team that only won 45% of their games over the same period. He had a career ERA of 2.53 and an ERA+ of 150 (The average is 100) He was 24, and about to hit arbitration and provide financial security for his family for a long time.

What a sad day.




Deadline Day

Yesterday Brian Cashman told reporters to “stay tuned” about future moves. I am taking his advice to heart and will start a live trade deadline blog at 3pm. I hope you will stop by.

The Best and The Worst

Over on they have a ranking of every team since 1903 using their ELO system. (For those of you unfamiliar with the site, it is run by Nate Silver, a Baseball Prospectus founder who got into political forecasting and runs the site under the ESPN umbrella.) It is a fun list to look at and contained some surprises for me.

1- The 1906 Cubs finished second, to the 1939 Yankees, with the 1927 Yankees finishing 3rd. Not a huge shock that the ’39 Yanks did so well, that was quite a team.

2- The 1998 Yankees were fifth showing how historically great that team was.

3- The 2009 Yankees were 33rd, which really surprised me. I don’t ever remember feeling that team was that good.

4- The 2004 Red Sox ranked 64th while the 2004 Yankees finished 256th. That works with my contention that they were simply better.

5- Before becoming the Yankees, the Highlanders were really bad, but he 1989, 1990, and 1991 Yankees all were near the bottom.  It is worth remembering how badly George Steinbrenner had decimated the team in the late 80’s and how great Gene Michael’s rebuilding job was.

6- The worst team ever was the 1904 Washington Senators, but the second-worst was the 2003 Tigers. Three years later they won the World Series. (Thanks to Greg for pointing out that it was only the ALCS. My brain is not what it once was.)

Anyway, it is a fun list and you can search it by team and year if you want.

Trouble Ahead!

On the surface, facing David Price tonight might be the best thing for the Yankees’ moribund offense. After all, Price sports a 5.76 ERA and has been pretty lucky to win three games so far this year.

But don’t be fooled by the ERA, he has also been the victim of some extremely bad luck. Pick your advanced stat, but I like FIP, which takes the fielding out of ERA, and his FIP is 2.38. That’s in large part to his insane strikeout ratio of 14.0 per 9, but it is validated by the fact that Price has a BABIP of .386. So if Price pitches like he has so far this season the Yankees are in deep trouble and a shutout is on the table.

If they lose tonight they will fall to 8-15. That’s pretty ugly, but not an anomaly. I’ve been away and have some thoughts about why this is happening. I will share them tomorrow.


Another Case For Nets

I wrote a piece last year about the idea of putting up more extensive netting in MLB parks. MLB suggested some more nets this year, but ballparks are still leaving fans dangerously exposed. HBO Real Sports did a great feature on this last night. I can’t link to the whole story, but here is a preview. If you can watch it, I urge you to do so.  The clip gives you a taste of just how much danger you are in sitting behind a dugout.

One of the interesting things the story covers is the lengths that the Japanese baseball leagues go to to ensure fan safety. Every ballpark has nets down to the foul pole. They play announcements throughout the game to remind fans to watch out for foul balls. They have ushers in every section who blow whistles when a foul is hit towards that section.  All that, and they have the nets!

The really horrible part of the story is the various injuries that it documents. It shows the horrific story of a Yankee fan who got smacked by a liner in 2011. It details how the nurses at Beth Israel Hospital, just down the road from Fenway, talk about how they hate home games because they know it means they will be busy. And it estimates that there are 1,700 foul ball injuries a year.

MLB protects itself with the disclaimer on the back of the ticket. Wouldn’t it be nice if they protected us?


A Peek Behind The Curtain

I wasn’t around this weekend, but if you missed Michael Powell’s article detailing the ways the Yankees used public financing to build their new ballpark, you should read it now. It’s a potent reminder of how much of that palace was paid for by we the taxpayers.

I love the Yankees and will always support them on the field, but they are a bloodless business machine. Pretty much every professional team is, but the Yankees are really good at it. From $12 beers, $20 for five sliders with french fries, $30 hats, to the incredibly expensive tickets, the new place is a cash machine for Yankee ownership. The Yankees could put some of that back into the community and the city, rip up the tax-exempt financing they received, and pay some property taxes, but they won’t.

That’s the deal we make as sports fans and it is good to remember it. When Hal Steinbrenner says he doesn’t believe you need a $200-million payroll to win a championship he is really saying “I don’t want to spend $200-million on payroll because that is money I could keep in my pocket.” If he ever achieves that goal, do not expect ticket prices to decline or concessions to get cheaper. The owners are the hammers and we are the nails. That’s reality.

Stupid Stuff

Three dumb things that I want to talk about.


9/11 was such an intensely personal event for all New Yorkers and a lot of us took refuge in sports. Ten days after that horrible day the Mets became the first team to play a home game in NYC. It was an incredibly emotional night and when Mike Piazza put the Mets ahead in the 8th with a home run, the crowd erupted in “USA” chants. It was a really great moment. Piazza later signed the jersey he wore and gave it to the Mets for safe keeping.

Well, the Mets SOLD it. It just came to light that the jersey is now being auctioned off by the person who bought it. The Mets originally claimed a mistake was made and the jersey wasn’t meant to be sold, but the jersey was authenticated by the team. Piazza is incredibly upset, as are a lot of people who can’t believe the Mets would be so stupid.


John Oliver makes a living skewering people and he turned his attention to the Yankees. Specifically, their high-handedness when it comes to Legends Seating and their attempts to keep the ‘riff-raff” out of it. Oliver decided a way to level the playing field, albeit temporarily, was to buy three sets of Legends seats and sell them to people for 25-cents each. The one condition was they had to send him a picture of what they would be wearing in the seats, and the more outlandish, the better.

That’s how two guys dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ended up right behind home plate yesterday. The contest continues tonight and tomorrow, so keep an eye right behind home and see what shows up. It is a pretty hilarious bit by Oliver, you have to give him credit.

Thankfully, the Yankees didn’t take the bait, the turtles got to enjoy the game. But the Yankees need to act more humbly. I detailed the real reason behind the paper ticket ban in February and yesterday people had to walk a pretty far distance because of that. The Yankees are in this to make money, that is never in question, but they should be smarter about it and think about their image every now and then.


Finally an on the field incident. Baseball has a rule problem and Joe Girardi and the chief umpire yesterday agree on the solution. Let’s review.

Carlos Correa hits a weak grounder towards first. Betances grabs it and turns to throw to first, but Correa is running inside the baseline and on the grass so he can’t see the firstbaseman.   Betances tries to loft it over Correa, but throws it into right. Girardi claims obstruction, but is overruled because the umpires can’t judge whether it was simply a bad throw or if Betances was actually hindered.

That all makes sense, but the solution, which Girardi and umpire Dana DeMuth agreed on is pretty radical- drill the runner in the back. Girardi wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea, comparing it to an assault. DeMuth said the following:

“Do it. Throw it into the runner’s back. Because then what’s happening? He is impeding.”

Now, you could argue that this is similar to the double-play grounder to second. Why does the runner going into second slide? Primarily because the fielder is going to whip a throw right into their chest if they don’t. Think about it, if you weren’t worried about getting drilled in the chest with the ball, it would make more sense to stand up all the way through the play and obstruct the fielder’s view of first.But you are, so you slide and hope to get into the fielder’s legs to disrupt the throw. I suspect that if you were worried about getting drilled in the back, you wouldn’t run inside the baseline, but that seems like a bad way to handle this. Baseball needs a better way, anyone have any suggestions?