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Baseball Is…


Tuesday morning I woke up and felt
like “connecting” with baseball fans that follow me on Twitter as
well as the folks on Facebook.  Oh, I’ve been connecting with my
“followers” and “friends” for some time…actually since
late May of last year when I finally decided to give social networking a
chance.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d be having
“conversations” with people I really don’t know…it’s the beauty of
the “space” we are currently experiencing.

Having immersed myself into Web 2.0 and
all of its trappings, I found myself a couple of months ago with an idea…a
concept if you will.  While there any number of sites that are out there
that offer a bevy of opportunities to “connect” and
“network” with people, there wasn’t one out there that met my
personal interests…at least not in functionality.  So I figured I’d do
my own…and that’s the “project” I’ve been working on.

Which brings me back to Tuesday
morning.  I love reading all the different articles out there on how
people have connected through social networking and how companies continue to
figure out how and to what extent social media can help them.  Personally,
I was feeling really generous because things have been good lately and I like
to “give”.  Professionally, I wanted a reaction.  I wanted
to see what people would do if I posed a question or thought and whether or not
enticing them would get their attention.

I asked for my “followers”
(I really don’t like that term, but I’ll leave that for another day) and
“friends” to complete this thought:  Baseball is…

I had no idea what to expect.
 For some, it was difficult to answer in 140 or fewer characters (and those
that couldn’t, posted it on my Facebook page).  For others, it was very
easy.  Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate some of the responses
that I received and more importantly, I didn’t think it was going to be as difficult as it was to pick just one for the Jimmy Rollins helmet.  Man, I was dead
wrong.  After spending last night going through all of them, I picked the post by
Matt Rozycki who responded on Facebook
with the following:

Baseball
is more than a game. It’s a science, addiction, and lifestyle all wrapped in
one. Baseball fans don’t root for their favorite team. They breathe with them.
Their hearts beat with them. Baseball fans feel a greater love for their team
than most other people will feel in their entire lifetimes. Baseball isn’t
something that we watch at the end of the day; it’s something that we rush
through our day to get to. Baseball is one of the few things in life that
transcends time.

Nicely done Matt.  As I read
all of the thoughts, I came to the conclusion they needed to be posted so
everyone can see how others view this grand game of ours.  Oh, before I forget…here’s mine:

Baseball
is the essence of my being.  It’s
what I was born into; raised in; and currently immersed in.  It’s not being able to explain to
others just how much you care because there are no words.  It’s what I know and have always
known.  It’s why two of my children
have names such as Mattingly and Hobbs.

Enjoy the following posts and thank you to all for participating.  I loved reading every single one and as
always, I appreciate your interactions in the social space.  Feel free to post more thoughts in the
comments section.  I’m hopeful we
can take our “conversations” to a different place at the end of the month…

Baseball is… 

·          Ultimate
entertainment – age 1-100.  Something
fun for everyone.

·          How I
connect with the important men in my life. And how I make stuff happen with “important” men @ work.

·          LIFE

·          Taking its
time to get here!!!

·          What allows
us to dream…allows us adults to stay young and innocent

·          A
privilege.  Live it, love it,
respect it!

·          My
life-blood during my military career, following my team got me through all the
bad times.  Thank you MLB!

·          Hard to
watch if you’re a Mets fan

·          In our
blood

·          When all
you think, all you and say and you do are in harmony

·          Nirvana in
the dog days of summer

·          The
beautiful mix of tradition, competition and passion that will continue to unify
the world for years to come

·          The best
excuse to talk to your parents, your kids, your family, your friends or the
person next to you

·          The sports
equivalent of comfort food.  What
you come back to when you’re sick of the fancy ****

·          A
language…we communicated to other with our play

·          A
connection to the past, our vision into the future and the life and blood of
America

·          My escape
from the ordinary

·          The reason
I’m single.  Girls have a low
tolerance for guys who spend 8 hours a day watching baseball after work

·          Everything
that football does not have…passion

·          What brings
everyone together regardless of age or race

·          A
motivation – unexplainable – a spiritual event that lifts the soul – A game not
long enough, for each play excites me

·          So much
better during the offseason now that MLB Network exists

·          Life from
childhood memories through adulthood from the calming sights & sounds
provided by the game

·          What binds
our nation together

·          A dream for
some, a reality for others, but essentially it’s a joy for all

·          A
referendum on life, one inning at a time

·          What I look
forward to through the trying times of football season

·          A rush, a
surge, a rage of energy.  A relief,
a retreat, a calming pastime.  A
ball of memories wrapped in one.

·          My sunshine
on a rainy day if the roof is closed. 
A love in my heart around Valentines Day

·          What I wait
all football season for

·          Yankee
Stadium in October

·          Hot dogs
and beer

·          What we
wait for during football season

·          My refuge

·          8 days
away!  Finally!

·          A microcosm
of Life on a 360ft. diamond

·          The reason
I am going to Florida for one week. 
Spring Training baby

·          Better in
Texas with Nolan in and Hicks out! 
“Hello Win Column”

·          Perfection

·          The summer
sun warming your face w/ lemonade, w/ smells of dirt and grass

·          Our
beautiful game for there is as much poetry in it as anywhere in sport.  Oh yes, there is magic on those fields!

·          Standing
out in centerfield looking towards the infield, forgetting everything but the
most wonderful thing

·          An Epic
Story

·          The most
horrible curse that’s even been inflicted upon me

·          A pastime
that keeps us preoccupied for 162 days a year and the reason I am so good at
web design

·          An escape
from having to think about anything else but still able to keep mind engaged
and brain thinking

·          The
fountain of youth.  Where else can
40 year olds play sports?

·          The great
American catalyst.  Nothing brings
people together like baseball. 
Probably the #1 reason 2 strangers will stop and talk

·          The
enduring definition of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

·          My life, my
wife and everything I love to do. 
It is my obsession and it is where all of the money I earn goes

·          The ice in
the drink of life.  Irreplaceable

·          A simple
game that inspires complex strategies, passion and emotions; elation, despair
and unyielding loyalty

·          Something
EVERYONE can love and appreciate

·          The only
sport my wife likes…our vacations: WBC, Spring Training, Road trips

·          Like Jack
Bauer.  Both will keep you on the
edge of your seat wanting more

·          The only
reason why I wake up EVERY morning

·          The best
boyfriend I’ve ever had (We’ve been going steady for 3 years)

·          More than a
game.  It’s a form of art,
utilizing the strategies of chess, yet with an appeal that reaches the heart of
a child

·          The gift
that keeps on giving

·          The place I
can escape the work world and remember when it was always just my dad and I at
the park

·          Less than a
month away

·          The only
reason I would ever listen to what Bud Selig would ever say

·          Forever’s
game

·          About the
love of the game.  It is about
spending time with family and friends, tailgating and eating good food.  Baseball is also Americas pastime and
is the best sport in the US

·          Where I
took my wife on our first date and why I named my sons Ryan & Brett

·          The only
game that can unite a country after September 11
th, be past down
through generations through remarkable stories like how fast Ricky Henderson
truly was and how fast Nolan Ryan could the the ball, and is the only game
where I can convince my wife to skip watching the dang Bachelor because the
Rangers are on the MLB Network

·          Not just a
game…it’s a life.  You have your
ups and downs and you struggle to not strike out and give up.  You live to win!

·          The low and
outside fastball on the black, the 3-2 curveball, the squeeze play in the 9
th,
the foul ball by 2 inches, the bad call at first base, the 4 year old sleeping
during extra innings, and the hot dog vendor yelling something you can’t
understand.  It’s breaking up the
double play, the check swing appeal, the fungo bat, and batting gloves in the
back pocket.  It’s running on a
non-stealing count, getting thrown out trying to take the extra base, trotting
in from the bullpen, and chewing a giant wad of gum.  All in all, baseball is just plain amazing.

·          What makes this country
great. No matter your political views, your race, your age, your gender, your
income…etc, baseball is what brings people together for a common good, often
to the tune of 35,000 to 45,000 at a time. Baseball is often the building block
for a son to have a relationship with his father, particularly during the
awkward teen years when “dad can’t understand anything”. It links
generations together–My grandparents are 80 and watch every single televised
game (roughly 159/season), and I can talk about “that play in the top of
the 6th” with my grandfather (or grandmother, for that matter), the next
day. Baseball is universal, and helped begin the healing process for our nation
after 9.11. It pre-dates so many of our national traditions, and is woven into
the very fabric of who we are. I am so proud that, in recent years, we have
started to (officially) share this wonderful game with other nations around the
world. Seriously, I could go on for days.

·          What keeps you from running
off a bridge because you’re stuck in (Dallas) Cowboy nation. The thoughts of
baseball are crucial for survival.

·          Not a hobby…it’s a way of
life…. it’s like looking at the ball and glove and saying hey bud…. let’s
party…Spicolli..circa 1980ish!!!!!!!

·          Baseball is what brings spring
sooner. Knowing catchers and pitchers are reporting makes feet of snow a little
more tolerable.

·          Crazy! It’s the one sport
that I’ll watch on a nightly basis with my husband. The only thing that makes
me crazy enough to stand in 4-inch deep water puddles at the Ballpark in
Arlington while watching a doubleheader against a team like the A’s. The one
sport that makes my husband crazy enough to convince me to name our son that’s
due in June “Nolan Ryan Austin Roberts,” the only sport that I’m interested
enough to have my own fantasy team and learning guys crazy names like Coco
Crisp or Milton Bradley. (thought that was a joke when I first heard his name)
It is a passion of our family and has become part of our identity. Through all
the years of suffering as a Rangers fan we continue to have hope that some day
we will taste victory, and until then I will continue to stand up in pouring
rain and cheer on some guy named Ichiro.

·          What makes my heart
smile…

·          The reason my DVR is
broken…Darn you C.J. Wilson for making me rewind and replay you so much!!

·          As my 3 year old, Aimon,
puts it…”Dad, Baseball is Life.”

·          What has me rushing home
after work to catch the 5 o clock hot stove. Baseball is what keeps me going
whenever everything else in life isn’t going the way I want it to. With loved
ones losing their job, losing hair because you’re so stressed out, living
paycheck to pay check, baseball finds a way to keep you going. Baseball is
life; it’s my passion in life that will never go away.

·          What I’m using right now to
help my son learn how to turn fractions into percentages! Batting averages
rule!

·          Always a great way to help
fill any awkward situation, and create a common unity with complete strangers.

·          Such a great game where you
can have writers/broadcasters/fans/players all tweeting like crazy trying to
find the most clever thing to say during a Twins vs Tigers game in the
metrodome. I’ll never forget watching that game and seeing everything that I
love about baseball all wrapped into one game. It’s the one game where it can
make all of us flat out giddy and it’s the one thing that can get tons of
people all trying to find one thing creative enough to win the amazing gift of
J-Ro’s helmet

·          Spending Super Bowl Sunday
having a good time in a cramped little booth in Secaucus remembering players,
projecting stars and having a good time hearing and telling stories about the
game we love.

·          Hope

·          America’s Pastime and the
best sport out there! It’s Mom, Apple Pie, Hot Dogs and Beer, it’s a love of
the game, it’s the best sport on grass, it’s Spring and Summer altogether…and
it’s the ties that bound me and my family together when I was 4 years old…and
I am still a fan to this day!  I
LOVE BASEBALL!

·          Almost here, thank goodness

·          Summertime!!!!

·          NOT just a bat & a
ball…. it’s got a field, bases, players, fans, food, cheering, umpires,
traditions, boos, music & a well of American passion that will bring a
grown man to tears!

·          Sunday afternoon with the
family and a few cold ones cheering on the home team. It’s the Sunday afternoon
game that I enjoy most!

·          Ballet in the dirt, every
move eloquently mastered.

·           Like spring. It brings the
renewal of life, of warmth, of faith. Everybody has an equal chance, a
fairness, and everything starts out smoothly.

·          Baseball means peace to me
because I’m free to play the game I love. Running, sliding, hitting, catching,
diving and throwing. It’s having fun and being free. I’m free from my medicines
and it brings peace to my heart! …. Baseball is a drug that can cure an
illness!

·          More than just a sport.
Baseball brings great friends, new and old, together to the ballpark and
partake in America’s greatest pastime. When I think of baseball, I think of
unity and gracefulness. As you sit and watch the game, there’s always a chance
you could be watching history, and that is an amazing feeling. Whenever the
season comes around a feeling like no other takes over my body. Indescribable
really. This feeling lasts to the very last pitch of the World Series. I’m a die-hard
Phillies phan, but honestly it’s the game of baseball and all of its grace that
I’m a true fan of. Baseball is more than just a sport, and it has a different
meaning to each individual fan. That’s what makes baseball great.

·          The game that makes very
elderly New England women smile and laugh on a jam packed subway at 11:30 at
night and say, “Wasn’t that GREAT?” on their way home from Fenway. It
is also the game that has made many cranky New Englanders smile when they hear
“Sweet Caroline” because it brings back such fond memories of being
at Fenway. Baseball gives New Englanders hope — hope for spring, hope for
summer, hope for victory, hope for the pennant.

·          The real “Beautiful Game.” There is no rival in the
poetry of sports. It is leather, wood, grass and dirt. It is history and legend
while relevant and modern and it delights in bringing the two together. It is
the magic of Buerhle in ’09, the awe of Carter in ’93, and the hope of Boston
in ’04. It is the mourning when the joy of Pittsburgh was taken from us; the
still shed tears with Gehrig and the courage of Robinson and Doby. It is
Cooperstown, hot dogs, it is “Take me out to the ball game” and
“Sweet Caroline,” and it is the local traditions of every stadium and
fan. It is the unquantifiable beauty of a well-turned double play. It is the
tangible spirit of fans, players, cities and nations. The pride of victory and
the sadness of defeat. It is all of these things and more but it is always the
grandest of old games.

·          Quite a conundrum. For a few lucky ones, it provides for the
family. For most of us, however, it turns our beautiful wives into
“baseball widows” for 9, if not 12 months out of the year. But no
matter how you look at it, baseball is great!!!

·          “Baseball IS All of This and More” – A Poem

Baseball IS…

The Sox versus the Yanks,

And pie-in-the-face pranks.

It’s a few dogs and a few
beers,

It’s a few boos and a few
cheers.

It’s controversy left by
steroids and “juice”,

It’s mound intimidation from
Randy and Goose.

It’s a guy named Cal who
never wanted to sit,

And a transfer named MJ who
could barely even hit.

It’s Boston and New York
always being a buyer.

It’s a robbed fly ball by
some kid named Jeffrey Maier.

Some guy named Joe with no
shoes and no laces,

It’s controversy of
Spiderman being on the bases.

A man named Rickey who was
always “on the go”,

Or that guy Knoblauch who
plain forgot how to throw.

It’s a Pujols moonball that
takes forever before it lands,

It’s Derek Jeter hustling
and diving into the stands.

It’s “Manny being Manny”
and Griffey Jr. – “The Kid”,

It’s that unspeakable thing
that poor Steve Bartman did.

It’s thinking a 3-0 series
lead was nothing but a lock,

It’s a Game 6 gem
symbolized by a bloody sock.

It’s dirt and mud and grass
and hats,

It’s balls and gloves and
cleats and bats…

Baseball is a highlight of
my life…

And complete hell for the
wife.

Baseball is all of this and
more…

…So let’s get the 2010
season started,

 29 teams are waiting to
even the score.

·          Will Smith rap “Just the Two of Us,” re-written for
this special occasion

Just the Two of Us

From the first time the
doctor placed me in my moms arms,

She knew I’d be wearing a
glove on my right arm.

Although questions arose if
I’d be tall enough,

Would I be able to throw
the ball far enough?

From the hospital that
first night,

I started to swing a bat it
was quite a delight.

My mom got kind of upset,

She wanted me to be a
scientist.

That night the ball game
was on,

Sure enough Harold Reynolds
hit one gone.

That’s when my mom knew I
was lost in this game,

25 years later and the
Rangers still no ring.

Just the two of us, me and
that Rollins helmet can make it if we try, Just the two of us, (just the two
us)

Just the two of us, until
it’s passed down to my son from the sky Just the two of us, that Rollins helmet
and I

*That has to the be worst
rap ever but that’s as much as I got while sitting in my cubicle here at work

 

WINTER MEETINGS IN THE REAR-VIEW MIRROR

I’ve got to say, the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis were
pretty cool.  It’s a collection of all the General Managers and Managers
of every team in baseball…and for a die-hard like myself, it is almost
nirvana.

The biggest news to come out of the meetings, in my
estimation, was the three-team deal between the Yankees, Diamondbacks and
Tigers.  From the Yankees perspective, they had a need in centerfield and
they addressed it.  And as good a player as I think Curtis Granderson is
and will probably be for the pinstripers, I am a tad concerned about the
decline in plate discipline.  “Grandy” had two solid years in
2007 and 2008 (’07 – .302/38 2B/23 3B/23 HR/74 RBI/122 R/.361 OBP & ’08 -
.280/26 2B/13 3B/22 HR/66 RBI/112 R/.365 OBP and that was shortened because of
the wrist injury he suffered in Spring Training of that year) before becoming
the “power hitter” that he’s become.  I put that in quotation
marks because he’s not your typical power hitter…as listed above, the guy has
flirted with the long ball in his career.  It seems to get magnified
because he did hit 30 big fly’s in what is a spacious home ballpark in Detroit.
 But those 30 HR’s came at the expense of his OBP (.327, full season
career low) and Runs Scored (91, second fewest full-season total).

But does any of that matter?  Not necessarily and
it’s mostly because it’s the Yankees.  It’s clearly understood that if
Grandy doesn’t get the job done in his PA (plate appearance), the Yankees have
8 other studs that can pick-up the slack.  He doesn’t have to worry as
much as say in Detroit, where the only real offense in 2009 was provided by
Miguel Cabrera (that is until the singles-machine Magglio Ordonez showed up in
September).  But he will be the match-up candidate of the year because of
his struggles against left-handed pitching in 2009.  So what you say?  I’m
just saying that in the American League East, there are some talented lefties
as starters as well as the situational guys in the ‘pen.  The bigger concern
for the Yankees?  Which defender is going to show up because towards the
end of 2009, Grandy was taking routes that not even Mapquest wanted to sponsor.
 Was it just bad reads?  Bad eyesight?  Who knows?  But the
Yankees honed in on their guy and they made the move…kudos for pulling the
trigger and filling that need.

For the Tigers it was a move that was predicated on
salary-flex.  I would not be surprised to hear that Dave Dombrowkski’s
wheels started churning on the turn-over his ballcllub as Ordonez’ option was
getting closer and closer.  The $18 million hit that the Tigers will take
with Mags in right field as well as the non-existent offense in 2009 forced the
Tigers into this situation.  Some have chided Dombrowski for moving a
pretty damn good starting pitcher and cornerstone center fielder but when you
have pieces that are attractive to other teams AND they have value, it’s the
time to strike.

I absolutely love the haul that Dombrowski got for trading
Grandy and Edwin Jackson.  Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth from the
Diamondbacks and Phil Coke and Austin Jackson from the Yankees.  From the
pitching standpoint, Dombrowski picked up one, if not, three starting pitchers.
 That’s right, I said it…there’s a potential that Coke could be an option
moving forward in the rotation.  The same goes for Schlereth.  Either
way, the Tigers will start 2010 with a rotation of Justin Verlander, Rick
Porcello, & Max Scherzer (9-11, 4.12 in 30 starts w/ Arizona)…that’s not
a bad front three to have in the American League Central.  If nothing
else, Coke will be a terrific bullpen piece as will Schlereth (I like him as a
possible closer down the road).  As far as Austin Jackson…you always
have to be leery of Yankees prospects but this kid seems to have some good
numbers/makeup.  The Tigers are not the Yankees, in that they’ll give
Jackson first crack at winning the center field job and ride it out.  The
Yankees, as we’ve seen in the past (Melky Cabrera to name one), prefer the
“established” guy.  Oh, almost forgot…I wouldn’t be surprised
to see the Tigers make a couple of other moves.  They’re not done dealing.

Last but not least, the Arizona Diamondbacks.  If you
have a consistent offense and you can play defense and your bullpen is
lock-down solid, then I understand this trade.  Otherwise it’s a brutal
move.  They’ve swapped out Scherzer (who’s several years away from free
agency) for Edwin Jackson (who’s numbers were great in the first half and
mediocre at best in the second half – 7-4, 2.52 pre All Star Game/6-5, 5.07
post All Star Game).  Not only that, Jackson is arbitration eligible and
will probably see his salary jump to the $5-$6 million range…that doesn’t
sound like much, but when you tack on the $1.33 million bonus they gave to
Schlereth as their #1 pick in 2008, you begin to wonder about the fuzzy math
(and on top of that, you’ll have to run through that process again after 2010
unless they give him a 2-year deal or longer to “buy” it out).  

The other piece that the DBacks received came courtesy of
the Yankees.  Pitcher Ian Kennedy.  The thing about Kennedy is that
he’s an unknown.  He had the surgery to take care of an 
aneurysm that he had near his
shoulder…it a surgery that David Cone and Kenny Rogers have come back from.  The
problem with this surgery, more times than not, is that  velocity is
affected.  Could he get it back?  Yes.  Will he get it back?  No
one knows.  At the end of the day, the DBacks felt comfortable enough to
make the call on Kennedy and it was a go…but like I said, it’s a shot in the
dark.

The
Diamondbacks will begin their quest for the National League West with a
rotation of Dan Haren, Brandon Webb (assuming he’s all the way back) and Edwin
Jackson.  That’s a pretty good three.  But this is what comes to
mind…Why has Edwin Jackson been traded so many times?  Are there issues
out there we don’t know about?  Remember, the Rays traded him AFTER going
to the World Series for Matt Joyce…MATT JOYCE (.188 in 11 games with TB
JOYCE)!  Other than that, the Diamondbacks were 27th in Average (.253),
20th in Runs, 22nd in OBP (.324), 1st in K’s (1298), 19th ERA (4.42) and the
2nd worst fielding percentage in baseball (.980 – 124 errors).  They’ve
got a lot of issues to address outside of their front three and that’s not
including how bad their bullpen is.  My point being that you make a move
like this if you’re pretty damn close to winning a division, not when you have
glaring holes throughout.  Maybe the DBacks surprise everyone and go out
and make a multitude of moves and all of a sudden the moves become genius.  UNTIL
then, it looks like a shot in the dark by a General Manager (Josh Byrnes) that
hasn’t proven anything yet other than he has the security (signed through 2015)
make moves like this.  Oh yeah, the National League West includes two
teams that were in the post-season in ’09 (Dodgers and Rockies) and the Giants
who have a “decent” rotation…yep, looks like the DBacks have a
chance.

 

Random Thoughts:

*  I
have no idea what the Nationals were thinking when they handed Pudge Rodriguez
a two-year contract.  At 38 years of age and coming off one of his worst
offensive season, there’s no need to give that type of guaranteed deal.  A
one year with an option would’ve probably been a little more appropriate.  The
other thing is the development of the young pitchers…Pudge has been around
and can give great advice, the Nats better hope he remains engaged throughout
the season in order to be the mentor they’d like him to be for both the arms as
well as their future backstops.

*  Chone
Figgins going to the Mariners makes sense.  I like what Figgy can do when
he’s on both sides of the ball.  Offensively, he’ll slide in nicely in the
2-hole behind Ichiro.  Defensively I see him being at 3B although neither
GM Jack Zduriencik
 nor Manager Don Wakamatsu would commit during the
meetings.  The Mariners are not done with their off-season either…Jason
Bay in left field would be a heckuva move.

*  Love the fact the Brewers went out and got Randy
Wolf (even though, like the toolbox that I am, I called him Ben Sheets during
the show the other day…that crap happens and at least I corrected it) and
LaTroy Hawkins this past week.  Still surprised that Wolf was not offered
arbitration by the Dodgers, a team that needs some.  Hawkins continues to
impress with his work out of the ‘pen for the Astros in 2009.  I wouldn’t
mind seeing the Brewers make one more, mid-range move on the rotation.  They
have been rumored with the courting of Mark Mulder.

*  For a team that had no flexibility whatsoever, the
Texas Rangers did a helluva job during the meetings.  Sure they lost a
starter in Kevin Millwood, but they get a pretty “nasty” (Brian
Cashman term) reliever in Chris Ray.  On top of that they go out and sign
Rich Harden to a very club-friendly deal that includes an option for 2011.  In
a perfect world and if their ownership situation were resolved, I’d plug John
Lackey at the top of the rotation and then take your chances.  But that’s
not going to be the case…at least for now.


Just livin’ the dream…

VR

Who’s Your Daddy?

You know that old baseball cliche, momentum is only as good as your next day’s starting pitcher.  If you’re the Phillies, I think you’re feeling pretty good.  I mean, go back to Pedro Martinez’ first start last week in the Bronx.  Was it that bad of a performance?  I don’t think it was.  The guy went 6 innings and allowed 3 runs while striking out 8…in New York…that’s not too shabby for a 38 year old (so says the 41 year old typing this thing).

From the Yankees perspective, you know what you’re going to get out of Andy Pettitte.  Or do they?  I can’t imagine what it’s like to pitch on three-days rest in a World Series.  The reality of the situation is that you can never tell what you’re going to be featuring on a particular night, especially on short rest.  The mind and body might be telling you one thing but until you get out on the mound, you have no idea of what you have at “game speed”…and I think that’s what happened with AJ Burnett the other night and may even happen to Pettitte tonight.  The one thing Pettitte has going for him (unlike Burnett) is the fact he has post-season experience and moxy.  If Pettitte doesn’t have his “best” stuff early, he’ll be able to make adjustments on the fly and attempt to work through it.  And that’s something, I believe, Burnett is still trying to figure out how to do.

So what does Game 6 boil down to?  For the Phillies, I think it’s going to come down to Shane Victorino (.167 in World Series) finally getting on base as well as Ryan Howard AND Raul Ibanez figuring out left-handed pitching.  Victorino, in the Series, has looked like an impatient guy at the plate, chasing pitches out of the zone in order to force the issue…that’s not his game.  As far as Howard and Ibanez, both guys have pulled off lefties the entire series.  And in the specific case of Howard, I think that game 1 against C.C. Sabathia really sent him into a tail-spin that he’s currently in.

For the Yankees…it boils down to Pettitte working at least 6 innings and try to shorten the game as much as possible so that Mariano Rivera can get in the game in the 8th inning…if not sooner (yes, I’m throwing that out there).  On the offensive side, Martinez was extremely effective throughout with his changeup.  Pedro knows how to pitch and he did throw everything and the kitchen sink at the Pinstripers in Game 2, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make adjustments and that’s what Yankee hitters will need to do as well.

Even with all of this, Martinez will be on a short leash…obviously.  If the Yankees can put the hammer on Martinez early in this game, it’s going to be a long night for the Phillies.  Conversely, if the Phillies continue to swing the bats like they did against Burnett on Monday night, that whole momentum thing could really continue to mount and make things extremely interesting in this World Series. 

Conclusion…I think we’re going to Game 7 (my bad, I’m a sucker for the baseball dramatic).

Random Thoughts:

The Tampa Bay Rays traded Akinori Iwamura to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday and in return they received reliever Jesse Chavez.  Iwamura is slated to earn $4.25 million in what is an option year of his contract.  The interesting thing I realized in looking up Iwamura’s contract information on the web is the fact there’s supposedly a clause in there that stipulates the Rays (and I would imagine it’s the Pirates now) sign him to an extension by the end of the deal or release him, effectively granting him free agency early.  If true and the Pirates don’t extend him, I would assume it looks like a one year deal because that clause precludes the Bucs from offering arbitration.  Interesting to say the least.

There were multiple reports out of Texas on Tuesday stating that the Texas Rangers were on the verge of naming former Rockies manager, Clint Hurdle, as their new hitting coach.  The Rangers have talked with four candidates for the job (Rusty Greer, Thad Bosley, Gerald Perry and Clint Hurdle) and all of them are more than qualified for the position.  The one thing I will say on behalf of Clint Hurdle (especially now that I’ve had a chance to work with him at MLB Network) is that he’s an incredibly astute baseball man who’s been a manager and hitting coach throughout baseball.  I think he’d be a great addition to any club that would want his services as he’s a terrific blend of old/new school thinking.

Sticking on the coaching front…the Detroit Tigers have three candidates to choose from as they look for a replacement for Andy Van Slyke, the former big league outfielder who had served as Jim Leyland’s first base coach.  Why is this on my blog?  Because of the three candidates listed, one is my brother.  That’s right people, the new Tigers 1B coach will come from the pool of Tom Brookens, Gene Roof or MIKE ROJAS.  My bro’s been with the Tigers for several years now and is currently their Minor League Field Coordinator.  The guy’s managed at every level in minor league baseball and I think this would be a fantastic move for him should he get the job.

Phillies vs. Yankees – World Series Breakdown

Hey, what do you know?  It’s raining in New York.  But not to worry because the rain is supposed to subside before first pitch…at least that’s the hope.  So as I sit here this morning pondering the World Series, I really cannot come to a definitive conclusion on who will win this matchup.  So I figured I’d just break things down to see if it will help….here goes.

Starting Pitching:  You couldn’t ask for a better game one matchup than C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee.  But this isn’t about breaking down one game, it’s about the rotation.  The Yankees will be featuring Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte and TBD (at least that’s what Joe Girardi wants us to believe).  The Phillies will counter with Lee, Pedro Martinez, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.  I really like the fact that the Phillies have guys that have pitched in the American League (Lee, Martinez & Blanton), which I think goes a long way in throwing out whatever “intimidation” factor there may be.  The problem is that of those three only Martinez (11-11, 3.20 ERA) has fared well in his career against the Pinstripers, Lee (4-4, 5.02 ERA) and Blanton (0-3, 8.18 ERA) have not.  Sabathia has redefined “ace” this post-season while Burnett has shown glimpses of “getting it” and Pettitte is as good as his career numbers indicate when pitching in October.  ADVANTAGE: YANKEES

Bullpens:  We were all led to believe that the Yankees really didn’t have any questions in their bullpen going into the post-season because of the defined roles and the numbers those guys put up.  But in October, it has been a different story for the crew that includes Phil Coke, Damaso Marte, Dave Robertson, Alfredo Aceves, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes.  Mariano Rivera is in a world all his own and shouldn’t be lumped in…but I digress.  For the Phillies, it’s been a question mark all season long.  Everyone knows that Brad Lidge blew a Major League-leading 11 saves, but he has been better in October.  The addition of Brett Myers to the Phillies World Series roster will help neutralize some righties.  Regardless of what I say about the Phillies ‘pen (and it was a very good show that can still be found on occasion on MLB Network), it just won’t measure up to Rivera…Mo, by himself, changes the dynamic of this category.  ADVANTAGE: YANKEES

Infield:  The talk with the Yankees has been how good their infield is because of the addition of Mark Teixeira.  I agree and not only because of this year, but because I saw him for a number of years in Texas progressively get better on the defensive side of the game.  But this isn’t about one man, regardless of how good he’s been.  This is position by position and I think the Phillies stack up just as well as the Yankees.  For what you may lose in the head-to-head battle at first base with Ryan Howard, the Phililes gain at 2B with Chase Utley (even with his hiccups this off-season) and at SS with Jimmy Rollins.  Third base, for me, is a pick-em position…both Alex Rodriguez and Pedro Feliz are a wash for me defensively although I think that Feliz has one of the most powerful, accurate arms in the game at 3B.  ADVANTAGE: PHILLIES

Outfield:  Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera and Nick Swisher make up the Yankees trio patrolling the outfield and as good as Swisher’s faux-hawk looks going into this series, I think these guys lose out to the Phillies.  Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino and Jason Werth easily outdistance the Yankees because of their overall athleticism, range and most importantly, because of their ARMS.  ADVANTAGE: PHILLIES

Catchers:  As seasoned a veteran as Jorge Posada may be and as good as Jose Molina has worked with AJ Burnett, I just don’t think it stacks up against the work Carlos Ruiz has put up of late.  Sure, Posada is a guy that hit .285 with 22 bombs this season but he’s been limited defensively for a couple of years now and he has been somewhat exploited with the running game.  Ruiz has stepped up huge with the defensive part of his game, he can limit the running game and his offense seems to rear its head in the post-season.  Most importantly, Ruiz handles that entire staff with ease.  ADVANTAGE: PHILLIES

Bench:  I think in this World Series, more than ever, the benches may be a moot point.  Both teams are extremely deep and talented with their everyday lineup.  Eric Hinske gets added to the Yankees roster and that makes sense, in that they already have two guys that can run in Brett Gardner and Jerry Hairston.  For the Phils, it’s about Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs…along with unassisted triple play man Eric Bruntlett.  ADVANTAGE: PICK ‘EM WITH A SLIGHT TILT TOWARDS PHILLIES BECAUSE OF USE IN N.L.

Managers:  A couple of years ago, people in Philadelphia wanted Charlie Manuel’s head on a platter.  Today, with a World Series title under his belt, he’s beloved.  It’s amazing what winning can do to change the mindset.  Sure Charlie has his quirky style and lingo all his own, but he knows that clubhouse extremely well and relates with his roster.  Joe Girardi is under the gun…but then again, so is any manager that puts on the pinstripes.  With Joe though, he understands it because he’s played in New York and knows what the ultimate job is…WIN.  Girardi has had a tendency to “over-manage/think” things in the post-season.  If he eliminates all of the ancillary distractions (and that 3-ring folder of his) and just manages to his ability, I really think he can be one of the better managers around.  ADVANTAGE: PHILLIES

Intagibles:  With the American League winning the All-Star Game (woo-hoo, one of my favorite topics of discussion), the Yankees have the home-field advantage.  You take the fact that they were the best team in baseball, play extremely well at home and are in the World Series for the first time since 2003, the Yankees have some motivation to bring this one home.  For the Phillies, it’s about repeating as World Champions.  No easy task, but they also understand what it takes to get the brass ring (or in this case, 18K gold ring with hundreds of diamonds in it).  ADVANTAGE: YANKEES

There you have it, my breakdown of the World Series.  What does it all mean?  Absolutely nothing…this is just one toolbox’ opinion.  But I did say that this exercise might help me decide on who’s going to win it all.  It really hasn’t helped one damn bit, but I will make a prediction.  I’ll preface this by saying that this year has allowed me the opportunity to better “understand” Yankee fans and their passion for their team as well as the game.  And I say that because it’s helped me judge the Yankees a little more objectively than I have in the past.  As for the Phillies…my old man played for the Fightin’s in the ’60′s and was part of the 1964 collapse…so I’m somewhat partial to that team just because of history/family.

ALL things being considered (I really have no clue), I’m going to go with the PHILLIES in 6 games.  Don’t ask me how I came to that conclusion.  I think these two teams stack up extremely well and from a baseball perspective, I hope it goes 7 games and it ends in a tie…but that’s not reality.  You can pick either team (ONLY if you don’t live in either Philly or New York City) and not be wrong…it’s a pretty good split and I’m looking forward to it.  I hope you are as well.

Enjoy the World Series…I know I will (even if it means getting crushed by Yankee fans now).

Just livin’ the dream…
VR

World Series 2009 – Let’s Get It On!

Congratulations to the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies for reaching the World Series.  Sure there are going to be “haters” in all facets of life, but this is the match-up that makes the most sense.  How do you say?  Oh my dear friends, let me explain.

Look, the Yankees ARE the most storied franchise in sport…there’s absolutely no debating it (Manchester United fans please step away from the ledge…I like soccer, but you’re not the New York Yankees).  Does that make me happy?  Indifferent is probably the word that is most suitable.  I think having lived in this area for the last 10 months has allowed me to better understand the dynamic of the Yankee fan.  I get it.  But that’s not necessarily the case around the country.  Heck, all that non-Yankee fans see year-in and year-out is the amount of money they “throw” around in order to attract the “best” players in the game…even if it means spending north of $200 million a year.  Does that translate to World Championships?  As we’ve seen over the last several years, the answer has been no.

But it still puts a huge divide among fans that don’t follow the pinstriped Nation.  If their team can’t sign free agent “A” because of limited resources and that free agent signs with the Yankees, that just adds one more disgruntled fan to the “I hate the Yankees” bandwagon.  I get it…I understand what those fans are going through because I have found myself (at times, so don’t kill me) rooting against the Yanks…that may just be attributed more to the fact that I am really a fan of the underdog (<cough> excuse <cough>).

The bottom line is that, as much as you may hate to admit it, the Yankees are good for baseball.  Because of some of the reasons listed above, people will watch.  Fans want to see the almighty team, regardless of their time away from World Series play, fail or succeed depending on which side of the line you fall on.  They WERE the best team in baseball even after their early season struggles, the ARod distraction in spring training, the dreaded “Joba experiment”and a manager that tends to “over-manage”, they persevered and got to the big dance.  They are compelling.

As for the Phillies…what’s there not to like?  Here’s a team that’s looking for its second straight World Series title.  As Dan Plesac said on Sunday night’s pre-game show, the Phillies have the best Halloween costume…they’re an American League team dressed in a National League uniform.  Charlie Manuel has what I like to call a “plug and play” lineup.  He knows what the core lineup is going to look like coming out of spring training and he just fills it out and lets his players perform.

Everyone knew that the Phillies had a good chance of at least getting back to the World Series.  They pretty much kept the same lineup intact from last year except for swapping Pat Burrell for Raul Ibanez in left field.  And even though the Cole Hammels from last year was somewhat non-existent this year, they did get a damn good year out of J.A. Happ (who has a very good chance at winning Rookie of the Year – although I think it’s going to be Chris Coghlan of the Marlins).  We all know about the struggles of Brad Lidge this season, but he’s turned things around in the post-season.  And of course there’s the Cliff Lee/Pedro Martinez factor.

When there was talk this year that the Phillies were making a run at Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays, I said that it made perfect sense in that it would legitimately give the Phils a chance at two, if not three World Series titles and that it was a risk worth taking.  As we know, that didn’t work out…instead they landed Lee and signed Martinez off the scrap heap.  So without unloading their top prospects, the Phils bettered their rotation for ’09 and ’10 (assuming they’re going to pick up Lee’s $9 million option for next year – they better!).  And who knows…with Halladay’s value down going into the off-season, maybe the Phils pursue Halladay once again for the last year of his contract…could you imagine Halladay & Lee at the front-end of that rotation?  Oh my!

People will watch this World Series.  There are way too many good storylines to pass up.  Can the Phillies overcome the Yankees to claim their second World Series title in as many years?  Can the Yankees, with the best record in baseball, finally pick up their 27th World Championship in franchise history?  Regardless of where you fall in all of this, if you’re a baseball fan at heart, you’ll be watching on Wednesday…I know I will be (Twitter overload beware).

Random Thoughts:

*     Congratulations to Manny Acta for getting the managerial gig in Cleveland.  I know it’s very easy to look at the overall numbers for Acta while at the helm in Washington and wonder what the heck the Indians are doing.  But it says a lot about Acta that not only did the Indians have an interest, so did the Houston Astros…so much so that Acta turned down a two-year deal from the ‘Stros to take the Tribe’s 3-year deal.  Acta is a solid baseball man and even though the Indians finished last in the American League Central in 2009, there is some sort of a blueprint in place in Cleveland…something that Acta never sniffed in D.C.

*     Speaking of the Houston Astros…they’ll now turn their attention to Brad Mills, Dave Clark or Phil Garner…yes, the same Phil Garner that was fired a couple of years ago from Houston.  Here’s what I don’t get…supposedly Acta was offered the 2-year deal and even after it was brought up that the Indians had offered him 3-years, the Astros would not budge.  WHY NOT?  Regardless if it was Acta or anyone else, how fair is it to give the incoming manager of the Houston Astros only two years to turn things around?  It’s virtually impossible.  This team, going into 2010, still needs a real 3B, SS, Catcher and will have to figure out how the back-end of the bullpen shakes out with both LaTroy Hawkins and Jose Valverde hitting the free-agent market.  On top of that, it’s one of the worst minor league systems in baseball…so talent in the pipeline isn’t going to help immediately.  That’s a job that begs for at least a 3-year deal with an option but I guess when you still have to pay Cecil Cooper $800,000 to sit at home next year, you’ve got to try and figure out how to save that cake somewhere else.  I don’t get it.  Oh yeah, it’s got to be comforting for the guy that gets the job that they weren’t the team’s first choice.  Good luck.

*     It’s been reported that the St. Louis Cardinals are going to hire Mark McGwire as their next hitting coach.  This, of course, is contingent upon Tony LaRussa returning as the skipper of the Redbirds in 2010, which seems very likely.  What I don’t understand is why McGwire?  I know that he played 15 of his 16 years under LaRussa and Tony’s been a huge apologist for Mark, but as hitting coach?  I guess this is where loyalty comes into play and with LaRussa perhaps in the last couple of years of managing before retiring and entering the Hall of Fame, maybe he’s looking for a chance to get Big Mac back into the game and into everyone’s good graces.  I don’t fault him for trying but Mac’s going to have to answer questions…something he hasn’t been fond of doing in the past.  In all of this, it’s Hal McRae that takes the brunt.  McRae spent 5 years as the hitting coach of the Cardinals and if their quick exit from this year’s post-season is the reason…well, that’s just pathetic.  Show me what you’re made of Tony LaRussa…tell us that you just wanted Mark McGwire sitting next to you in the dugout as the hitting coach and THAT’S the reason you hired him…do it with grace and don’t throw Hal McRae u
nder the bus.  Hal deserves it.

Just livin’ the dream…
VR 

A.L. Central Crown via Twitter

I had the pleasure of sitting down on Tuesday night to watch
the Tigers vs. Twins “play-in” game to determine the American League Central
crown.  Never in my wildest dreams did I
anticipate it being one of the best games I’ve ever witnessed.  And as I like to do when watching a game and
just sitting at home, I decided to Twitter a little bit…little did I know that
it would turn into a roller coaster ride. 
I went from using my phone to firing up the laptop so that I had enough
battery life.  One of the things I said
last night was that I was going to take all of my “tweets” from that game just
roll it into a blog post.  So here it is;
my ebbs and flows of watching an unbelievable game in 140 characters or less.  Oh, that’s my commentary/explanations in
parenthesis.

*        
 My daughter on Craig Sager’s uni: ‘daddy, his
purple suit is brutal!’ Thumbs up ONLY on the artist formerly known as Prince (that
was a lot of purple…and I like purple)

*        
@StaceGots that apple didn’t fall far
from the tree
(my response to StaceGots about my
daughter using the word “brutal”)

*        
@Jade2020 believe it (no clue)

*       
Gotta hand it
to the metrodome crew, the turf looks great…u can’t really tell there was a
football game last nt… (it did look pretty good)

*       
@MRosenb926 oh my bad…I liked
that…funny stuff. He almost made a helluva play
(don’t
remember)

*        
@robneyer since when does defense come
into play for gold glove? :)
(big fan of Rob Neyer…he’s
a Jayhawk)

*      
Where the hell
was Granderson playing? Is he holding up the wall in center? Brutal (Curtis has
had some struggles defensively the last week of the season)

     
Seriously Ryan
Raburn? That’s ur best effort? FAIL (Orlando Cabrera HR…it WAS a wall-scraper)

*       
@injuryexpert u wanna bet? Watch the
replay…that was a wall scraper
(this was in regards
to my Raburn comment…@injuryexpert relented)

*        
MLB attendance
this year totaled 73.4 million across baseball…5th highest attendance figure
ever. Not bad considering the times (my Public Service Announcement of the day)

*        
@Bub19406 ha (had
the giggles)

*       
@StaceGots diehard (I think this was about how many times she’d gone to a Yankees game
this year)

*        
With one swing
of the bat, Magglio earns his $18 million payday for 2010 (Mags HR…I bet the
Tigers wish he hits like this next year)

*        
@SI_JonHeyman hey buddy, they didn’t
have a choice. Scott Boras client-trust me, the wrath would’ve been forthcoming
had they just sat him
(just giving Heyman the business…he
said it was  noble of the Tigers to give
Mags the AB’s necessary to qualify for his option)

*        
@YankeeMegInPHL oh man…uecker and
my old man played together at one time…oh the stories he could tell
(this had something to do with who others thought would make the “best”
broadcaster crew for this game)

*        
@rebecca_glass or the “oh, who
the hell cares? Nobody’s listening anyway.”

(Uecker reference from Major League)

*       
holy shizz!
this is an awesome game (I started to get pumped about the game…gotta keep it
clean)

*       
“fisted”
options: jammed, handcuffed, shackled, trade-marked, in-his-kitchen resulting
in flares, doinks, texas leaguers, filets of doink
(the
term “fisted” was a topic of conversation)

*        
@IrvinFromTexas i might bust out a
vest this week in honor of CS
(this was in response to
me wearing a Craig Sager-type suit on set)

*        
we’re at that
point in the game where Jim Leyland is smoking the Nicoderm patches now – (I
was starting to get tired at this point…giddiness is kicking in)

*        
seriously
now…poor planning on our part. you guys should’ve just come over tonight for
the game and we could’ve save battery life
(damn
giddiness has me inviting the world to my house…what a toolbox move)

*        
are you
shizzing me….how bad is that? (well hello again, Mr. Raburn…ball in lights)

*        
A FISTED
TRIPLE! (Michael Cuddyer triple with the hot-button “word” of the night)

*        
@robneyer ur high
(I like Rob Neyer)

*        
@robneyer lay off the patch (I still like Rob Neyer)

*      
ladies and
gentlemen, this is THE BEST GAME OF THE YEAR! (without question)

*       
HOLY
****!>>>I DON’T CARE IF I GET IN
TROUBLE>>>INCREDIBLE….INSANE (I got really excited…my bad)

*       
if i’m Chip
Caray, i’m busting out the Depends cause i’m not going to miss any of this
action (there’s that giddiness again)

*        
RT @graciexo7 @VictorRojas29 you’re the most
hilarious person on twitter, ever. FACT. – YES! my life is now complete…thanx
gracie
(gratuitous line…just wanted to throw that in
there)

*        
with that shizz
bomb i dropped, i picked up 100 #yankees followers…and more importantly, some street
cred
(more like 40 followers, but this answer itself
got a heckuva response)

*        
RT @arshimbo @VictorRojas29 I am @ the Empire
Hotel bar w/ no TV…and I have the Depends on. Thank god for SmartPhones! -
luv my peeps LOL
(now I’m affecting people’s lives)

*        
@YankeeMegInPHL believe it (my favorite saying)

*        
@JasMollica let’s do it…Shizz Bomb
t-shirts will be all the rage in the post-season….get it done son
(my man wants to print up t-shirts with “Shizz Bomb” on them…who
wouldn’t wear that?)

*        
seriously, just
take all of those tweets tonight and put them together…cause that’s basically
my next blog post
(yea, that’s what I’m doing right
now)

*        
quit beggin’ (Brandon Inge getting “hit” by a pitch – Tigers game-winner?)

      
i’m sorry, stepped
away for a drink..can somebody get me up to speed on the “fisted”
count? (I couldn’t resist)

*       
man o
man…that is such a tough play for a middle infielder…ridiculous (Nick Punto
= the little engine that could)

*        
@jdondlinger great minds dude (gratuitous line)

*       
BOBBY KEPPEL
BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL
BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPPEL BOBBY KEPP
(I
think Bobby Keppel did something good here)

*        
@AmyKNelson :)
(Who doesn’t just smile at Amy Nelson? 
Seriously?)

*        
this game is fistastic…fisticulous…fistane…fistlandish… (it was)

*        
in all
fisteriousness, how much longer can Rodney go? at this rate, he’s gonna have to
forget about the charmin and just go to the bidet
(a
little clubhouse humor…a little appropriate, a little not-so appropriate)

*        
@sgardnerUSAT that would be DOUG
FISTER!
(my answer to Mr. Gardner’s question of who is
Chip Caray’s favorite Mariner?)

*        
man, if this is
what the post-season has in store for us, we’re all in for one helluva
ride…man, I FREAKIN’ LOVE THIS GAME.  (true joy)

*        
#postseasoncelebrationmusictuesday
- “ain’t no stoppin’ us now” by mcfadden & whitehead (I like that
song even though it’s not by Journey)

*        
i bid you all
adieu…i’m glad i got to watch the most fistacular game of the year with all
of you. PRE/POST Game Shows tomm. I’m out
(I was
finally tired…great game and a gratuitous plug…that’s how I roll).

Just livin’ the dream…

VR

My National League Awards

I know that it’s taken me about a week to put together my National League Award winners but at least it’s here and ready to go.  The National League is a little bit different since there are some really tight races that are still ongoing as we hit the last couple days of the season.  With that being said, here are my lock-down selections for N.L. Awards.

N.L. Cy Young: This has been a three-horse race since about a month or so ago…Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Tim Lincecum.  As good of a season as Linecum’s had, he’s not going to win back-to-back Cy Young’s…so you can scratch him off the list.  If there was ever a time when you could split the award and get virtually no argument, it would be the race between the other two guys.  I know, I’m starting to stall…my pick for this year’s Cy Young is Adam Wainwright.  I love the fact Carpenter spent time on the DL this year and has come back with a vengeance…you can even go out and say that his return elevated the rest of the rotation.  But it still falls short in my estimation but only because of the amount of innings thrown.  Wainwright’s a 19-game winner at the time of this post with 221 innings pitched, 204 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.48.  His July/August ERA numbers (1.17 & 1.30 respectively) got him back into this race and he’s been solid since.  Like I said, you can’t go wrong with either guy, but I really like the fact that Wainwright has flourished behind Carpenter and continues to get better with time.

N.L. MVP: Albert Pujols…let’s move on.  Seriously though, it’s been impressive what he’s done year-in and year-out.  The scary thing is he’s getting better with age.  Some will point to the acquisition of Matt Holliday as the reason for the surge, but Sir Albert was already the best player in the league.  But since I brought that up, I thought I’d look at his numbers…in July, Pujols was just putting up ‘OK’ numbers by his standards (.289/4/15/.415 OBP/.485 SLG).  But August and September?  Ridiculous!  In August .317/7/18 and in September, he’s ramped it up to .371/6/22/.458 OBP/.674 SLG.  He just continues to solidify his status as the best player in the game today.  Could he ever win a Triple Crown?  Yes, but he’ll need a Matt Holliday-type player hitting behind him so he could achieve the HR and RBI numbers necessary.

N.L. Rookie of the Year:  Man, this is another great race with plenty of guys to choose from.  Let’s begin with the candidates:  Andrew McCutchen, Chris Coghlan, Garrett Jones, Tommy Hanson, J.A. Happ & Randy Wells.  All very strong candidates and all very deserving of the award, but I’m going with Chris Coghlan of the Florida Marlins.  All Coghlan has done since getting called up is settle into the leadoff role and put up numbers: .314/9/44/.384 OBP/76 Runs all while learning to play left field in the big leagues (2B/3B in the minors).  I truly believe that the insertion of Coghlan into that lineup helped turned that ball club around this year.

N.L. Manager of the Year:  About two weeks ago, I would’ve said that it was Jim Tracy’s award to lose.  But all of a sudden, the Atlanta Braves decided to get hot and it put Bobby Cox’s name squarely in the mix.  You can’t forget the jobs that Tony LaRussa, Fredi Gonzalez and Joe Torre have done as well.  With that all in mind, my manager of the year (win or lose) is still Jim Tracy.  The Rockies started the season 18-28 and ended up firing Clint Hurdle.  Enter Tracy.  Every button he’s pushed has worked magnificently and he has the Rockies on the verge of winning the National League Wild Card and the very good prospect of winning 90+ games and finishing respectfully in the West (remember, that was the division that was about the Dodgers and everyone else).  Tracy’s steady, calm approach has proven to be the right mix for that team…and he’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet in baseball.

Random Thoughts:

*  On Monday, David Ortiz hit a solo HR off Scott Richmond of the Toronto Blue Jays.  At the time, it closed the gap to 11-4 Toronto.  What bothered me (and the guys at the desk on MLB Tonight) was the fact that it took Big Papi just over :30 seconds to round the bases.  :30 seconds!  Are you serious?  Dude, it was a solo home run and your team is still down by 7 runs…how about showing some class and getting around the bases in the proper amount of time?  There’s no need for you to “pimp” every single shot especially when your team is getting smoked.  I’m all for guys having fun in this game, but that was a seriously tired act.

*  There was a story out on Monday talking about Prince Fielder and whether or not the Brewers should consider trading him this off-season.  Last off-season, the Fielder trade rumors were all over the place.  Milwaukee ended up signing him to a 2-year deal worth $18 million.  But the problem still persists…starting pitching.  A starting pitching ERA of 5.24 in the National League is not going to get it done.  Aside from Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers have some serious questions in that rotation.  And before you go dropping Manny Parra’s name on me, check out his over 6.00 earnie.  Fielder would bring you the most in return and his salary bumps to $10.5 next year…I think if there’s a package to be had, then Doug Melvin should go out and get it.  Look, it wasn’t easy for the Texas Rangers to part with Mark Teixeira…but they did and all they got in return was Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones (the first four are in the big leagues and Andrus should win Rookie of the Year).  Those types of deals are out there, you just have to be patient and find it.

Just livin’ the dream…
VR

My American Legaue Awards

Alright…a couple of nights ago on MLB Tonight, Harold Reynolds and I engaged in a little “battle” over the American League Cy Young Award candidates.  I had thrown out there that Zack Greinke, numbers-wise, is probably the guy that deserves to get it (the others I had put out there were Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez).  Harold threw some “stuff” out there (as he so often likes to do to stir the pot a little), one of which was that the “strength of schedule” should come into play when determining the Cy Young Award.  At that point, I checked out…or as my buddy Hawk Harrelson would say, “HE GONE!”

Look, if you’re reading this blog, you’re well aware of the fact that I love to speak my mind…they are MY thoughts and I’m aware that it doesn’t make it right or absolute.  If anything, I like to debate just to get other people’s opinions/thoughts on that particular subject matter.  BUT, when you throw out that USC got hosed from playing in the National Championship game last year because BCS voters were down on the Pac 10 AND then relate that to Zack Greinke and pitching in the Amercian League Central, you’re probably going to get a reaction from me.  So, in my best Harold Reynolds impersonation (theater of the mind people) here it is…”Folks (clap hands)…there’s A LOT (voice-rising) of talented pitchers out there…now I knoooowwww (looking into the camera with the hint of a smirk) some of you are wondering about which guy deserves the Cy Young (hands up with a shrug of the shoulders)…so I’ve put together this breakdown of who I (emphasis on “I” with shrug of shoulders and both index fingers pointing towards chest) think should win it…this is good stuff (clap of hands)…so check it out (point to camera and wink).”

A.L. CY YOUNG AWARD: I gave you my candidates above: Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez (Sorry, C.C. and Doc).  It’s a tough decision with it actually coming down to Greinke and Hernandez for me and solely based on the numbers, I’m going with Zack Greinke.  What people are going to begin with is the “Wins” total…currently at 14.  But that’s just a product of his surroundings.  Greinke can’t help the fact he was drafted and developed by the Kansas City Royals.  It is what it is and even with that in mind, he’s been absolutely commanding out on the mound.  The guy has an ERA that’s been hovering around 2.00 (currently 2.14) all season long (the HIGHEST his ERA has been this year is 2.44…back on August 19th); his 6 complete games leads the league (and by the way, 5 of the 6 were 9-inning CG’s with the 8-inning one being against the Angels back on May 9th when he allowed just 4 hits and 1 earned run in a 1-0 Loss – yeah, his bad!); 3 shutouts; he has 224 strikeouts to only 44 walks (9.6 K per 9 innings pitched); has allowed just 180 hits in 210 1/3 innings pitched (.231 batting average against); his WHIP (walks and hits per 9 innings) is a minuscule 1.065, leading the AL.  Through it all, he’s made 30 starts this year and as good as he’s been, the team has managed a 15-15 record in his starts…that’s not on him.  I’ll leave you with one last thing…since he is in the Central, I wanted to see what he had done against the team that is leading the division, the Detroit Tigers?  OPERATION SHUTDOWN: 3-1 in 5 starts with an ERA of 1.00; striking out 42 in 36 innings and two complete games.  So that’s my argument for Greinke…he’s been outstanding this year and the Cy Young Award should go the best pitcher in the league…Greinke’s been that guy for me.

A.L. MVP: For a time, I thought Miguel Cabrera should have been the guy because of his carrying of the Tigers all season long.  But the guy that should and will win it is Joe Mauer.  Even with missing an extended period of time to start the season, Mauer is has been incredible and is on his way to winning his 3rd batting title (no catcher has ever won 3).  He’s kept the Twins in it to the end and even with Justin Morneau on the shelf, Mauer just continues to produce.  Very much deserving.

A.L. Rookie of the Year:  Unlike the National League, the American League award comes down to just a couple of guys for me:  Elvis Andrus, Gordon Beckham and Jeff Niemann.  I thought for having to learn to play 3B in the big leagues, Beckham should be that guy and had he not missed some time, he still might’ve gotten the nod…but it has to be Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers.  The kid came out of spring training and made the team as the shortstop and he hasn’t disappointed:  .273/6 HR/33 RBI/26 SB and most importantly, his fielding percentage is at .967 and he helped that team considerably defensively.  Not bad for the youngest player in the league…yes, he just turned 21.

A.L. Manager of the Year:  I’m not even going to mess around here, Mike Sciossia of the Los Angeles Angels.  “Hey skipper, you’re going to start the year with 3/5th’s of your rotation on the DL…so no John Lackey, Ervin Santana or Kelvim Escobar.  Also, the death of emerging star Nick Adenhart may put a hole in the heart of this team, so we’ll need you to keep things together.  And…oh yeah, one more thing…you’re going to be without Vladimir Guerrero for over 50 games, Torii Hunter is going to miss considerable time, your valuable set-up man Scot Shields is going to be out for the year and Jose Arredondo is going to struggle as the set-up man.  Got it?  Now go get ‘em.”  It may be the best offensive team he’s had there in his 10 seasons, but this is by far the best managing his done as well (and I was witness to 5 years of it as a broadcaster with the Rangers).  It’s no wonder this guy is widely considered the best manager in the game…it’s why he’s locked up through 2018.

“Ya see (clap of hands), that’s a lot of good stuff right there.  That’s it for me (clap of hands with a big smile).  I’ll have the National League next time…be sure to check it out (walk off, doing the Jimmy Rollins finger-pointing at the camera).”

Just livin’ the dream…
VR

I Remember

Like many of us on this date, I sit back and reflect at what was going on the morning of September 11, 2001.  It’s a date that will forever be engraved in the memory bank for not only the loss of life, but also for how vulnerable we all were.

For me it was another typical morning in downtown Newark.  Up early, I decided to get to the Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium to shoot the breeze with Rick Cerone (the former Yankee & owner of the Newark Bears at the time).  Our offices were on opposite sides of the building with Rick’s looking out toward Broad Street and mine butting up against the concourse.  It was a normal morning…bright, beautiful morning with the city bustling.

It wasn’t until I walked down the hall to Rick’s office (we were the only ones there) to say good morning that I realized something was going on in New York City.  Rick always had his TV on with the sound down and he always had his head down looking at spread sheets or looking at the computer (he was, after all, an accounting major at Seton Hall).  When I walked in and said hi, I looked at the television and saw a little puff of smoke coming out of one of the World Trade Center towers.  I asked Rick what happened and he dismissively said that it had looked like a small plane had run into the building (American Airlines flight 11).  I thought it was interesting enough to head over to the concourse to check it out.

See, in Newark, the World Trade Center towers were just to the right of our batter’s eye.  Regardless of how many miles away they were, they appeared as if they were just beyond our fence in the outfield.  At night, they were beautifully lit up and it was part of the “charm” of that ballpark and something we were all very proud to talk about when trying to sell sponsorships.

After walking out on the concourse, I could barely see the “puff” of smoke…it looked larger on TV.  So I took in the brisk morning air, looked around the yard and then went back inside to report to Rick what I really hadn’t seen.  As I walked back into Rick’s office, I first noticed that he was entranced by what he was watching on television…there was a serious look on his face.  Before I could get a word out about what I had just seen, Rick says to me, “another plane has hit the World Trade Center and it wasn’t a small plane.”  That was United Airlines flight 175.  From that moment on, my world almost slowed to a halt…as if my movements were constricted by quick-sand.

My wife also worked at the Bears as the Office Manager and she had just arrived…as a matter of fact, through Rick’s window, we could see some of our employees beginning to park their cars to start the day.  What was supposed to be the beginning of yet another ‘baseball day’, turned out to be anything but.

After dropping several expletives in Rick’s office and in front of my wife, I decided to walk back across our offices towards mine and onto the concourse…my wife in tow.  We stood out on the concourse and this time we could see the smoke.  Joined by a couple of ticket staffers (who’s offices were located down the right field line), we just stood there shocked at what was happening…two planes had crashed into “our” right-center field monuments.  After a few more moments, I hustled back to Rick’s office to see what was going on.  We talked about the gravity of the situation as we watched the pictures on his TV.  We couldn’t believe what was happening and in what seemed to be just a few minutes, there was word on a plane that had crashed into the Pentagon (American Airlines flight 77).

Completely in disarray with almost an entire staff now at work, we didn’t know what to do.  Footage was cutting in and out with reports all over the map of the city of New York being shut down, mayhem ensuing and everyone wondering.  Minutes later…United Airlines flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania.  Two minutes later, at 10:05am, the South Tower collapses.  We’re stunned…silence throughout.  A group of us left Rick’s office and headed to the concourse.  All we could see was a giant cloud of dust…but you could still make out the North tower.  At 10:28am, standing on the concourse and staring beyond our outfield fence, another huge cloud of smoke erupts as the North tower collapses…

Our studio apartment was located in downtown Newark.  Every single night, for what seemed to be 6 months, we’d be sitting in our apartment and the reflections of red and white lights would bounce off the walls as ambulances would continue to pass by.  No sirens, no horns…just the lights…it’s what I remember.

I was raised by two people that had to leave their country to start a new life with new friends and new surroundings while trying to learn a new language.  I understand how excruciatingly painful it was for them to leave family behind so that they could seek out “the opportunity” by coming here.  It is because of their struggles and triumphs that I am deeply patriotic.  This country embraced my parents…and every year on this date, I remember that there are people out there that want to take that away from us.

It’s September 11, 2009 and eight years ago today, my world…our world came to a halt.  To the families of lost ones, I want you to know that I remember…and I’ll never forget.

VR  

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