General

What A Wonderful Series

That was awesome. Seven games and it came down to the final inning. How amazing was Madison Bumgarner? He has written himself into the baseball book of legends with that performance.

I do have two questions about that final inning. First, am I the only one who thought Gordon would have scored on his eventual “triple” in the 9th? He seemed to have busted it out of the box and with two misplays on the ball I think he would have gotten in there. Alas, we will never know. (I fully admit that would have been a brutal decision for the third base coach)

Second, how does the batter not see Buster Posey practically standing up behind the plate on a high fastball? To me that is a dead giveaway of the pitch location, but I must be missing something. No matter what, that was a great ending to the baseball season.

******

Watching Madison Bumgarner out there tonight made me think of two things in regards to the 2015 Yankees. First, the Yankees need to make the bets the Giants did on pitchers like Bumgarner. The Giants signed him to a five-year/$35-million deal in 2012 with two additional options for $12-million each, after he had made less than 50 starts in the bigs. That looks like the steal of the century at this point with San Francisco controlling him for the next five years at a total of $52-million, but it was obviously a risk. The Giants know this from the contract they gave Matt Cain, which cost them almost twice as much, but hasn’t come close to providing any value.

Pitchers are inherently unpredictable. But the Yankees would be much, much smarter if they placed their bets on guys earlier in their career than later. The Bumgarner bet cost the Giants a total of $$59-million for seven seasons. The Yankees spent almost three times that amount to lock up Tanaka for seven years. How about approaching Nova and Pineda this offseason and seeing what the cost of a long-term deal would be? Both have risks, but both could be real bargains in the future.

Second, I wonder if Bumgarner showed us a model for the way pitchers in the 21st Century should be handled? I am not suggesting that they pitch 117 pitches on a Sunday and then throw 60-plus on a Wednesday, but considering the cost of pitching, why are throwing days wasted in the bullpen? I don’t know what the exact number is, but maybe a starter could pitch on a Sunday and then throw 20 pitches in a game on Wednesday? Whatever the number, wouldn’t that make more sense than using a guy for 6 innings every five days? I hope the Yankees are smart enough to find out.

That’s Why You Play The Games

I am sure I am not alone in admitting that on July 31st I had the ALCS as a matchup between the Tigers and the A’s. I figured with the additions of Price and Lester both teams would cruise to the playoffs and end up playing each other for the right to go to the World Series. Whoops! Oakland staggered into the playoffs and lost the wild card game. Detroit barely eked out the AL Central crown and just got swept out of the playoffs by Baltimore. It’s funny how that always seems to happen.

And I will bet that very few people had the Royals doing much in the playoffs, yet they are a game away from joining Baltimore in the ALCS.

 

Checking Back

With the Yankees almost officially eliminated and the playoffs essentially set, I wanted to look back at my predictions made before the season. I will break things down by division.

I totally blew the AL East. I picked Tampa and Boston to both make the playoffs and the Orioles to finish last. The only saving grace is I had the Yankees in third at 85-77, which won’t be far off from where they finish.

I picked the Tigers to win the AL Central, but had Cleveland finishing second and the Royals third. Theoretically, that could still happen, but I doubt it. That’s the only thing that will prevent me from picking the division completely correctly as I had Chicago and Minnesota finishing 4-5. I also said Phil Hughes would have a “nice” year. (15-10, 3.61 ERA and 200 IP is pretty nice!)

I got the top of the AL West correct with Anaheim-Oakland going 1-2, but I thought Texas would be better and Seattle worse. I even expected Robinson Cano to be playing meaningless games in August. Whoops!

I picked Oakland to beat Boston in the wild card.

I picked Tampa to beat Anaheim and Detroit to beat Oakland with Tampa winning the pennant.

So, I got three of the six playoff teams, but the ones I missed crippled my “bracket”.

Over int he NL East I had Washington winning the crown with Atlanta second. That can certainly happen, but my assertion that this was a “two-tier” division with Washington and Atlanta being miles ahead of everyone else was clearly wrong.

In the NL Central, I had the Cards winning the division and the Reds beating the Pirates out for a wild card.

The NL West was my best division as I am 5/5 in my picks with only the chance that the Rockies and Diamondbacks switch places threatening a perfect division.

I picked San Francisco and Cincinnati for the wild card with the Giants winning. I picked LA to beat them and the Senators to beat St. Louis with the Dodgers advancing to the World Series and winning it. So, my NL picks are very healthy.

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today…

That the MLB players started a strike that would ultimately wipe out the 1994 season. It’s amazing to think how far baseball has come since that day.

When the strike happened, Bobby Bonilla was the highest paid player in the game at $6.3-million. That’s approximately what the Yankees are paying Ichiro Suzuki this year to be their fourth outfielder. Annual revenue was about $1.9 billion for all of baseball in 1994. Today it is close to $9-billion.  Not surprisingly, average ticket prices have almost tripled from about $10 to nearly $30. (It’s worth noting that inflation since 1994 has been about 61%, so MLB revenues and salaries are far, far ahead.)

Back in 1994 George Steinbrenner was trying to bully NYC into building a stadium in Manhattan for the Yankees while also threatening a move to New Jersey. Ultimately, he got massive tax breaks and other incentives for building a palace in the Bronx. Sadly, that’s what most of the MLB owners have done.

So when you hear the powers of MLB mention how wonderful the labor peace of the past twenty years has been, just remember who really paid for it.

 

I Hope He Grooved One

You know what most baseball fans wanted to see last night? They wanted to see Derek Jeter get a hit in the All-Star Game. You know what most baseball fans could care less about? This stupid idea that the All-Star Game “counts”.

It is ridiculous that home field in the World Series depends on a game where the best players can’t go more than a few innings. MLB should be ashamed of that and they should immediately switch it to the team with the best record in the World Series gets home field advantage. The NHL and the NBA figured that out a long time ago, why can’t baseball?

So I could care less if Wainwright grooved one to Jeter. First of all, even if he did  Jeter has to hit it. Second, why not do it? If Jeter’s last home game finds the Yankees mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and the Orioles are in a position where a win doesn’t matter, I hope a Baltimore pitcher grooves one to Jeter then. I hope the same thing happens when David Ortiz makes his final appearance at Fenway. Denny McLain did it for Mickey Mantle and I imagine other pitchers have done it as well. Baseball is a sport where failure is the norm. Even the greatest hitters make an out more often than they reach base. And that is not how we want to remember them. We want to see them touching them all or racing into second. Just like we saw Jeter do last night.

I Have A Problem

I have a problem with what David Ortiz said the other night about David Price. First, here are his comments:

“I have a lot of respect for the guy, man, but it’s over. I have no more respect for him. Last year we kick his ass in the playoffs, he went off, talking (expletive) about everybody, (Sports Illustrated writer) Tom Verducci and everybody. Players.We kind of got to talk on the phone. We kind of straightened things out. He was kind of upset. Me as a veteran I kind of let him know how things go in this game. Later on he called me and apologized because he knows he was wrong. He apologized in public. He apologized to myself. Everything was cool. So first at-bat of the season against him he threw at me.

I mean, it’s a war. It’s on. Next time he hits me, he better bring the gloves. I have no respect for him no more.

You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You aren’t going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. But when you’re to be acting like a little (expletive) every time you give it up, bounce back like that and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you.

I was going to let him know. I respect everybody in this league and I get the same respect from everybody. If you’re mad because I take you deep twice, let me let you know, I have almost 500 homers in this league. It’s part of the game, son.”

A lot of people are focusing on Ortiz talking about war. Personally, I don’t believe he was literally comparing this situation to war or trying to disrespect troops in any way. War is used as a metaphor in sports by plenty of people and it would be great if they stopped it. War is a horrible thing and should never be trivialized like this. But, the war portion of Ortiz’s comments dominated the story, while the following got almost completely ignored-

You can’t be acting like a little girl out there. You aren’t going to win every time. When you give it up, that’s an experience for the next time. But when you’re to be acting like a little (expletive) every time you give it up, bounce back like that and put your teammates in jeopardy, that’s going to cost you.

There were many things Ortiz could have said here. He could have said, “You can’t be acting like a tremendous ass our there”. Or he could have said, “You can’t be acting like a total jerk”. But he decided to say “little girl” because apparently that is the same thing.  He also added a word for a female dog that is primarily used as an insult to women.

We have to stop this. We have to stop equating being a girl with something bad. And we have to start noticing when people say things like this. It wasn’t that long ago that using a term that questioned a player’s sexuality would have gone almost completely unnoticed. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. But comments like this that equate being a girl with a negative thing persist. I don’t know if David Oritz even realizes the implications of what he said, but it is time he does.

I am the proud father of two girls. I want them to grow up in a world where people judge them by their character. I want them to grow up in a world where they are not limited by their gender. I know I am just like millions of fathers out there in that respect and I hope those numbers will help to change this behavior. Being a “little girl” is not an insult at all. We shouldn’t use it like it is and we definitely shouldn’t teach our children that it is.

The Empire Is Huge

Here is a very cool map breaking down baseball fans by county.

You have to feel for Mets fans. Even in their home county, they are well outnumbered by Yankees fans.

Wishing Doesn’t Make It True

Hank Aaron is a baseball God. He hit .305, hit 755 homers and drove in almost 2300 runs and won three gold gloves. He is clearly one of the greatest players to ever play baseball. But, he is not the all-time leader in home runs.

I know this because I saw that record broken back in August of 2007. I called it a “joyless spectacle” and speculated that one day A-Rod might break the record. (In 2007 we thought he was clean kids)  I wish Bonds had never hit that 756th home run, but I can’t ignore the fact that he did. Whether he did it naturally or unnaturally, Barry Bonds is the home run king. MLB can put on ceremonies to honor Hank Aaron, and they should, but they can’t change that fact.

But what they can do is stop pretending that Bonds and the whole PED era didn’t happen. We need to confront it with some honesty. Pick a date, anytime after 1986 works for me, and admit that players started putting stuff into their bodies to cheat the game. Stop trying to figure out who cheated and who didn’t, we will never know. Put the players who put up the biggest and best numbers into the Hall of Fame and go from there. Do I think Bonds and Clemens cheated? Absolutely, but how do we know that they weren’t the rule rather than the exception? And if almost everyone was doing it, they were clearly better at it than most. I don’t like what they did, but a Hall of Fame that has Ty Cobb and Cap Anson in it can’t start to preach about character and morals. Don’t put an expiration date on that era because as we have learned recently, the cheating is getting more and more sophisticated. MLB has done great work trying to clean up the game, but the truth is that the cheaters have an advantage over them. No matter what anyone says, when you can take a cough drop full of steroids right before a game and then pass a test after it, you can’t say the sport is totally clean.

Why does it matter? Because more than any other sport, baseball is enriched by its history. We look out at Mike Trout and wonder if he is the next Willie Mays. We debate things like Munson or Fisk and Ripken or Smith. It is what brings us back to the park year after year and it belongs to each of us. It’s time for the BBWAA and MLB to stop trying to whitewash it.

The Crystal Ball

I know the season has technically started, but today is Opening Day in my mind. Here’s how I see the 162-game season and beyond unfolding.

AL East

1- Tampa

2- Boston

3- New York

4- Toronto

5- Baltimore

I think Tampa is the best team in the AL East and I expect they will be the only team that cracks the 90-win level in the division. Boston comes in second with the Yankees repeating last year’s 85-77 record. Toronto and Baltimore bring up the rear.

AL Central

1- Detroit

2- Cleveland

3- Kansas City

4- Chicago

5- Minnesota

I didn’t like the Cabrera extension, but he will earn whatever he gets paid this season. The Tigers are the class of the division and I see no reason not to pick them to repeat. Cleveland showed us something last year and while KC is a trendy pick, I am not buying it yet. Minnesota will be lousy, but I bet Phil Hughes has a nice year away from the Bronx.

AL West

1- Anaheim

2- Oakland

3- Texas

4- Seattle

5- Houston

A lot of things went wrong for the Angels last year and I think they rectify those this year with a division crown. Oakland is right behind them, but Texas drops off because of injuries. I wonder how Robinson Cano will enjoy playing meaningless games as early as August 1st? The only thing keeping Seattle out of the basement is the train wreck that is the Houston roster.

NL East

1- Washington

2- Atlanta

3- Miami

4- New York

5- Philadelphia

This is really a two-tier division. Washington and Atlanta are much, much better than everyone else. I think the Nats take the crown this year. I expect it will be a long summer in Philadelphia.

NL Central

1- St. Louis

2- Cincinnati

3- Pittsburgh

4- Milwaukee

5- Chicago

The Cards are consistently excellent and I suspect they win the NL Central again. Pittsburgh snuck up on people last year, they won’t do that again this one and I expect them to drop back a bit and miss the playoffs.

NL West

1- Dodgers

2- San Francisco

3- San Diego

4- Colorado

5- Arizona

A classic rivalry will fight for the crown in the NL West until the end. I say LA gets it.

Playoffs

Wild Card Round

Oakland over Boston

San Francisco over Cincinnati

(Yup, no playoffs in the Bronx this year)

Divisional Round

Detroit over Oakland

Tampa over Anaheim

Washington over St. Louis

LA over San Francisco

Pennant

Tampa over Detroit

LA over Washington

World Series

LA over Tampa

That’s how I see 2014 unfolding, how about you?

 

Blame Detroit!

The Yankees have gotten plenty of blame, most of it deserved, for the salary inflation in MLB. But tonight’s news out of Detroit should change that focus. The Tigers are apparently giving Miguel Cabrera an eight-year extension for $248-million with two additional options on it that could take the deal to $308-million.

Let me be clear, I think Cabrera is either the top, or second-best player in the game. He deserves a massive pay check. But, he is also two years way from free agency and about to turn 31. He is already earning a boatload. This deal makes no sense. When the Yankees handed a huge deal to A-Rod, he was a free agent. Ditto the Mariners with Cano and the Angels with Pujols. Kershaw was only one year away from free agency. So was David Ortiz with the Red Sox. I just don’t get the reasoning for this deal from Detroit’s side. Why give a guy this deal now?

This is just another indication of how much cash is flowing through MLB. Young talent is going to command a higher and higher valuation. Clubs would be wise to lock it up when they can.