Thursday, January 7, 2021

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2021: Free Agent = Chaos Theory

 

MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2021: FREE AGENCY=CHAOS THEORY


Baseball pundits (one of which I’m not...at least professionally... although I enjoy shooting my mouth off just as much as those who are paid for their Hot Air) are constantly examining the free agent market and the trade possibilities and trying to organize baseball in some sort of logical manner.


Team A needs an outfielder and a relief pitcher. Team A has X money so they can’t buy Free Agent B because he wants too much so they will have to be satisfied with Free Agent C or else maybe their Double A prospect E or on second thought they should trade for aging but established star F and convert starting pitcher G into a middle reliever and try an onside kick.


Logic just begets an endless wheel of possibilities and thwarted possibilities. In other words Chaos. Shit is just going to happen.


Everybody was waiting for the Free Agent market to…

1/start hiring people all ready.

2/extrapolate logically in a coherent, progressive manner.


Trevor Bauer would sign with the Mets or somebody, then J.T. Realmuto would go to some contender where they need a catcher, George Springer would go to either the Mets or the Blue Jays as soon as the Yanks re-signed D.J. LeMahieu and all would be revealed.

Ha! I say, and Ha! Again! Zero chance.


Instead, the Padres traded a bunch of prospects to the Rays for Blake Snell. (The poor small market Rays are always ready to trade their very best Starting Ace... whoever the hell it is... at any time.) Then the Padres traded some more prospects to get Yu Darvish...a top three starter from the recently completed season. (The Cubs got spare change for Yu but more on that later.) The San Diego Chicken Fryers completed their coup by signing one of the best Korean position players available, infielder Ha-Seong Kim. This is after GM A.J.Preller exchanged 26 players in September deals to remake the club. And all without even touching their four top prospects! Give that man a hand!


So all of a sudden the Padres have a pitching staff and a team that rivals the Dodgers. Can they be entering the market for Trevor Bauer as well? Even though Trevor has been linked to the Mets fairly convincingly, he is a California boy and might be happier out West. That could mean the Dodgers, the Angels or the Padres. (Maybe the Giants but he might not want to help a rebuilding effort quite that extensive.)


The Dodgers have money for Trevor but they already have a loaded staff. They might pluck him just to block the Padres. Personally, I think Bauer goes to the Angels, who simply HAVE to get their pitching upgraded somehow. One way or the other, the quick removal of Snell and Darvish from the market can only help Bauer, who will get plenty of coin.


Everybody (well, I’m speaking generally) says the Mets didn’t press for catcher Realmuto and got James McCann instead to save money so they could afford both Bauer and George Springer. Now they kind of have to hit on one of those guys or they look stupidly outmaneuvered. Knowing the Mets, they will overpay for Springer, who will fit nicely into the Mets tradition of always signing an aging player (30) who is injury prone. (See Cespedes/Cano etc.)


J.T. Realmuto is probably the jewel of the market this year. He’s a great defensive catcher. I’m not sure why he wasn’t a finalist for the Gold Glove in the NL but ask the GMs who’d they rather have...Realmuto or Tucker Barnhart. (The Gold Gloves have been taken over by Statcast and those freaks are all about pitch framing.) He is the best hitting catcher as well. He has the best arm and shuts down the running game. You don’t find a catcher like that very often. There aren’t that many starting pitcher Aces like Bauer, Snell and Darvish either, but there’re at least ten or twelve. And Springer...well...how many 30 homer guys are in the Bigs right now? Just turn over a rock. I think the Mets got the wrong catcher. McCann is good but Realmuto is a rare one.

J.T. also looks good for the Nationals. Catcher Kurt Suzuki gets hurt a lot and even though he platooned with Yan Gomes effectively, a catcher like J.T. Realmuto would work nicely with their vet starters Strasburg and Scherzer. He could also hit behind Juan Soto. The Nats missed Anthony Rendon (now with the Angels) badly last year, and Soto was a scary good hitter even without protection in the lineup. With help he might be Joe DiMaggio.


Then the Nats news flashes: they trade off some middling players for Josh Bell of the Pirates. Bell was the most fearsome hitter in baseball the first half of 2019, then slumped badly the second half of that season and continued his bummer for all of the short season of 2020. If Bell evens things out this season the Nats have the protection that Soto needs and they have a first baseman to replace the aging Ryan Zimmerman and retiring Howie Kendricks combo. So much for Realmuto going to the Nats.


Meanwhile, just like what they did with Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, the Pirates have sacrificed their best player to another team and gotten nowhere near enough for him. I have no idea what the Pittsburgh franchise is up to, but it’s ugly. Right fielder Polanco got hurt in the off season so now the Buccos have no “name” players on the active roster at all. (Unless you count up and comer third sacker Ke’Bryan Hayes). An historic franchise laid low.


The Phillies had J.T. Realmuto last season but got their asses chapped with a terrible bullpen. The Phils made a big boast two years ago about “overspending” to build a contender and they can’t reverse course now without alienating their already disappointed fans. Giving up on re-signing their star catcher won’t play well in Philliedom. I say J.T. gets a princely sum to re-up there. New General Manager Dave Dombrowski didn’t get hired to stand pat. In addition to Realmuto, the Phils might lose free agent shortstop Didi Gregorious as well, and their pitching is horrible. They will do something.


So far in the National League East, no team has made moves that could bring them up close to the Atlanta Braves, who made a valiant playoff run last season but couldn’t catch up to the Dodgers. Their DH/Left Fielder Marcel Ozuna was a surprise after his less-than-stellar couple of seasons with the Cardinals. He batted .338 with 56 ribbies and led the league (which is saying something in this ridiculous era) with 18 big flies. If the Braves can keep him in their lineup along with MVP Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuna Jr. 2021 might be the year of the Atlanta Politically Incorrects. They signed Charlie Morton from the Tampa Rays to fill out the starting rotation too.


The NL East should be the most competitive division in baseball. Even the Marlins made the playoffs last year. That might have been a mirage, but they seem to have a pitcher or two.


Here’s a quick look at the rest of the teams who might be active in either the free agent or trade market. Remember that there are a lot of never-before-seen variables during this pandemic. The teams all lost money last year playing only 60 games with no live attendance to speak of. Will 2021 bring a full schedule of attendable games? Not likely. Maybe the vaccines get distributed by mid summer but expect social distancing to be necessary at least until autumn. Games will continue to be cancelled because of outbreaks, especially in the spring. This Covid 19 has proven to be a Hell Bitch of a disease and optimistic expectations have been dashed repeatedly. New symptoms. New weird contagion patterns. Sudden hot spot appearances. Scary mutations.


Don’t expect baseball to be immune. And because of that, don’t expect teams to suddenly be willing to shell out the big money for free agents. Young, cheap, controllable players will be the trend for the next few years. Veteran players... even productive ones... will either work cheap or be passed over. Sure, a few big names will get their money...but only from the wealthy teams. The little guys won’t be players for the really big contracts.


NL CENTRAL


It’s a push in this division, where all the teams appear to be going backwards. Chicago was first last year but have traded their best pitcher and look to be ready to say goodbye to their core players like Kris Bryant and John Lester. Chicago took their shot and won their one championship. Now they are cutting salary. Giving up Darvish for a few teenage minor leaguers and Zach Davies was a bad bad sign for Cubs fans. GM Jed Hoyer better be careful if the Cubs fall off the edge of the world.


St. Louis has the deepest pockets in the divison now that the Cubs have spent themselves into a corner. But the Cards don’t have enough impressive young players to transition into a winner now that the old guard (Molina, Carpenter, Wainwright) is shuffling out the door. The Cardinals could trade for Bryant from the Cubs, or maybe Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. They’d have to give up the best young arms in their system though, and one veteran hitter won’t put them over the top.


The Milwaukee Brewers are a team that seems almost dead in the water. They have top pitchers in Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burns and Josh Hader, but they seem to think they can get by with one hitter...Christian Yelich. When Christian was hurt and slumping last year the Brewers offense was non-existent. The Brewmeisters seem willing to let mediocrity prevail.


Pittsburgh Pirates. Ditto.


Cincinnati Reds. I was all behind the Reds to make a splash last year but even though they made the Wild Card round it wasn’t to be. Strangely, the Reds work in a hitter’s park...one of the best in baseball. So they don’t hit. Home runs, yes. 90 of them. But as a team they hit .212. You can churn your barrel- up, launch angle, hard-hit percentages all you want, but a .212 team average means your offense sucks. DH Jesse Winker was their only consistent threat. But their pitching was great! Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray. And good people in the bullpen as well. Well, when they should be going up, the Reds are set to go backwards, because they will definitely lose Trevor Bauer. Joey Votto is a year older and hit .226 anyway. Isn’t there some billionaire Reds fan somewhere who could step in and financially nourish this team?


NL WEST


One factor must now be considered when evaluating free agent possibilities this year: Does anybody want to move to California? They’ve got fire, plague and high taxes. The movie business is going belly up, too. (Feel my pain!) I already discussed Trevor Bauer maybe preferring soCal over the East Coast, and I still think he’ll wind up going closer to home despite the apocalyptic signs. But I don’t think D.J. LeMahieu is interested in a return to Denver and I really don’t see any of the other big names moving west. Not this year.


San Diego must be applauded for at least trying to match up with the Dodgers by adding star pitchers to their young and hungry ball club. The Pads had a team OPS of .798 last year. That’s very good. They batted. .257 and finished 3rd in NL homers with 95. 55 steals was the best in the NL. If they stay healthy, their offense is as good if not better than the Dodgers. Starting pitching is close. But the Dodgers as they are constituted now are not that much better than the Padres. At least there should be a pennant race in the West.


Not that the Dodgers are going to get fat and lazy just because they have finally won a world championship after 32 years. I’m sure they want more and they’ve got the money, the farm system, the young talent, the veteran leadership, the starting pitching and the political will to go get another trophy.

They’ve got Kershaw, Walker Buehler and a returning David Price and Dustin May to outpitch any other team in the game.


The keys for them?

1/Let Mookie lead. He’s a natural charisma magnet. The fans love him, his teammates love him...even the opposing players love him.


2/They should also discourage Cody Bellinger from turning into a pull happy homer hyena who tries to jack every pitch out of sight. Also talk to him about dislocating his shoulder with arm bumps.


3/think twice before letting the Yard Gnome (Justin Turner) walk away to another team via free agency. Along with Corey Seager and (to an extent) Mookie, Justin carried the club in the playoffs. Some older players are worth keeping around for their team presence even if they are moving out of their primes.


4/resist the urge to trade for Arenado or Francisco Lindor. Arenado will disturb the chemistry of your team. You’ve already got enough offense and Arenado hurt his shoulder and hasn’t been right for awhile. I don’t care what you say, he’s not going to put up the same numbers at Dodger Stadium that he has at Coors Field. Nolan will cost too much. And Lindor? How many smiling superstars can one team stand? Okay, it would be nice to have Lindor. Any team would want him. He’s the best shortstop in the game, taking both offense and defense into consideration. But is Corey Seager going to be happy to move over to third or second? He’s pretty good in the field too and he’s given his all for the Bluebloods.


5/instead of another remaking-the-team signing like Betts, this year spend your money on a bullpen. Go sign Liam Hendricks as your new closer. Kenley Jansen is still useful, but he’s not the dominant closer he once was. Fix the bullpen and you can win another world title or four.


Three teams for the penalty box: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, and San Francisco Giants.

These teams play in the wrong MLB division to try to compete with second tier players. If the Padres can rebuild and turn into a winner, so can you guys.


Arizona: Saddest stat of the year... Madison Bumgarner ERA: 6.48.


Colorado: Rockies pitching...last in hits allowed/last in runs allowed/last in earned runs allowed/last in strikeouts/1.490 team WHIP. Why don’t you try loading up on knuckleballers or something?


At least the Giants are trying to retool. Trouble is, the Giants depend heavily on 10 players who are already in their 30s. It’s not a game where you can field a predominantly old club and expect to win anymore.


AL EAST

Ah Yes! The AL East! The Yankees vs. the Red Sox…wait a minute. No longer is the ancient rivalry headline news. The Yanks are still very good but they are making noises that they won’t be plundering the free agent market as in days of yore. And the Red Sox are wallowing in poverty if you listen to them. The only news coming out of Boston is what unknown minor league relief pitcher they’ve hired this week. Let us evaluate:


The Boston Red Sox used up all their starters and can’t replace them without severely busting the salary cap. They have to hope Eduardo Rodriguez can come back from Covid heart inflammation and that Chris Sale likes his new elbow. Nathan Eovaldi has to stay healthy and pitch up to the level of his stuff. Eovaldi had 52 Ks and only 8 walks last season but still had an ordinary ERA of 3.72. He’s better than that. The bullpen was unmentionable in 2020. Only if some of their young pitchers surprise everybody can the Bosox change their fortunes.


There was talk of signing George Springer and then trading Jackie Bradley Jr. That won’t happen. Bradley is too good a center fielder in a ballpark with a very challenging center field. He must save 6 or 7 runs a week climbing the walls and diving to make great plays and he throws like a missile launcher. And JBJ hit better last year (.283/.364/.450 average/on base/slug) Why spend big money for a minimal offensive upgrade and give back all that defense?


The Nuevo Yorko Yanquis are going to re-sign D.J. They are waiting for all the other interested parties to bid and then they will pay the rate to keep D.J. The New York Yankees don’t let their best hitter and team leader leave the team. They had the best OPS in the league last year (.789) and LeMahieu was a big reason for that. So the offense is already the best in the league. But they might lose Happ, Paxton and Tanaka. They have to get a couple of starters from somewhere. That means Bauer or a big trade with Cleveland (it’s happened before).


The Yanks won’t trade for Lindor either. Why give up young talent when they can wait a year and get Lindor as a free agent? I predict that the Yanks will wind up with Lindor one way or the other unless Lindor just doesn’t like being in New York. But he’d be close to Home Sweet Puerto Rico and he’s a superstar who needs a super team to get more famous. Late update: the Mets traded two infielders and some other guys to the Clevelanders for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. That means two things for the Metskies...giving up two mid-infielders means they are going to try to sign Lindor long-term. Getting Carrasco means they are out of the market for Bauer. He wants $30+ million a year and even the Mets have their limits. Lindor won’t hit as many home runs in New York but he can’t help upgrading the Mets’ chances. And he’s close to Puerto Rico!


One possible move for the Yanks: sign Yadier Molina and let the best defensive catcher of our generation teach Gary Sanchez how to block pitches. Let Yadi catch Gerrit Cole (who doesn’t need the offense and would love to have a real catcher like Yadi) once a week. He’s worth a run and a half off the team ERA. The Yankees have to upgrade at catcher...it’s getting embarrassing. Fix Sanchez or trade him. They aren’t getting offense from Gary anyway. He struck out 64 times in 178 plate appearances! He batted .147!


Everybody says Toronto wants to trade for Lindor but is Frankie going to go to another middling semi-rich team or is he going to cash in AND play for a winner? Remember...you have to pay taxes in Canada and the Jays don’t even have a stadium. They may have to play in Buffalo again if the cross border quarantine stays in effect. Lindor to Toronto is a pipe dream. Even if he got traded there he will walk in his free agent year in 2022. It’s the Yankees or the Mets or the Angels for Frankie...next year. Whoever trades for him this season will get burned when he walks to one of the Alpha Teams as a free agent.


Toronto is all excited about their “Sons of the Samurai” Guerrero, Biggio and Bo Bichette. But last season the big surprises were outfielders Teoscar Hernandez (.919 OPS) and Lourdes Gurriel (.882) along with DH Rowdy Tellez (.886) If the young samurai actually do start producing as they are projected to, Toronto will be a contender. Meanwhile bring in some good arms, Blue Jays. Doesn’t Dave Steib have a kid?


Baltimore finished fourth last year somehow. Boy, are they in a hole. They played a lot of youngsters and these guys did pretty well. Do I spot any superstars to be? Not really. But the Orioles have a great young catcher, a number 1 pick in the 2019 draft… Adley Rutschman on the way up, so maybe they can build around him.


I’ve already talked about Tampa. I think they’re nuts alienating Blake Snell by removing him from one of the best pitched games of the entire playoffs when he’d only thrown 70 odd pitches and had struck out the top Dodgers hitters repeatedly and was absolutely cruising. Fire that manager. Where is George Steinbrenner when you need him?


AL CENTRAL


The worm has turned in the Central. Cleveland and Minnesota are now looking up at Chicago. Kansas City and Detroit are going to be stocking up on high draft choices for a while longer.


Cleveland has to say goodbye to Francisco Lindor...and the legacy of great shortstops like Omar Vizquel and Lou Boudreau. Lindor hits like Boudreau and fields like Vizquel and they can’t keep him in his prime! That’s baseball today folks. They also lose Carlos (“Evil Ways”) Santana. They still have Jose Ramirez. (Unreal OPS of .993!) They keep an exceptional starting staff in Justin Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, Zach Plesac and Triston MacKenzie along with closer Brad Hand. Don’t get too excited though, because the Indians will lose those guys too. Maybe they’ll use them as trade bait and pick up some young players to begin their rebuild. The window is closing fast for them to be a contender.


Minnesota made the playoffs last year and had the distinct honor of losing yet again to extend their history of futility to 18 PLAYOFF LOSSES IN A ROW!!! That’s the longest playoff losing streak in American major sports history. Thirteen of those losses came against the Yankees. This time the Astros had the pleasure of slicing the Twinkies. How do you figure? They should never have left the Baggie- Park. The ghost of Kirby Puckett is rattling his chains. Harmon Killebrew is moaning in the gloaming. And I feel sorry for those of you who never saw Harmon barrell up a fast ball. Oh My Good Lord! Take a look at this swing:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yguEH8uR_Sw


The Twins are a good team in many ways. Their lineup has Josh Donaldson, Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz. They led the league in homers in 2019 and were third in 2020. They have pitching too. Kenta Maeda had a WHIP of 0.750 and a K to BB rate of 80/10! They finished first in their division so what gives with my prediction of a disaster?


Well, the Twinks don’t have many ways of scoring without the home run and Nelson Cruz is an FA. Now, I think they’ll keep Nelson because he is their offensive centerpiece (OPS .992), but if Cruz walks they’ll really feel it. Even if he doesn’t leave he’s 39. How long can he hit like that? Also, the Twins finished in the bottom half of most offensive categories last season. It’s homers or nothing.


Also, the Twin City Wonders are losing 4 or 5 pitchers to free agency. Valuable men like Jake Odorizzi, Rich Hill and Sergio Romo. That’s a lot of pitchers to replace and limited resources to allocate. And no matter what they do, Minnesota is not going to be a destination city for free agents or trade partners. And the Twins don’t have that much money. Free agency could kill them off fairly quickly. They need to win now.


Kansas City is showing signs of life. Thanks goodness! Baseball needs to have some teams that play small ball once in awhile. You know, stolen bases, sac bunts and all that? Defense and liners up the gaps? The Royals still have some gaping holes in their lineup, especially in the outfield and at second, but they have some talent too. Whit Merrifield in right, Adalberto Mondesi at short, Sal Perez at catcher, Mikael Franco at third and Jorge Soler at DH. Those are not superstars but they are close to All Star caliber most of the time. KC also has a few young pitchers developing. You Go Royals!


The Detroit Tigers are financially limited and can’t do anything to effectively upgrade their team until they get Miguel Cabrera (owed 30 mil this year) and Jordan Zimmerman (owed 25 mil last year) off the books. (Jordan is actually off the books this year. Miggy is owed 32 mil a year through 2024. Two formerly great players who are now warning labels for long term contracts.)


Now Hear the Pealing Bells of Resurrection! Welcome back from the Dead, Chicago White Sox! You now have an exciting team on the way to Baseball Glory. Don’t screw it up!


Jose Abreu, the MVP at age 33, played 60 games last year and accumulated 60 RBIs. Admittedly, that means he was red hot but for less than half of a regular season. Still, the other guys who have pulled this off...as many RBIs as games played... are names like Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Hank Greenberg, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams and Manny Ramirez. Good company. Jose led his fellow Cubanos into the Playoffs in 2020 and they should stay a playoff team for the foreseeable. Their pitching may be a couple of years behind the offense though, so the Pale Hose got Lance Lynn to come and help Dallas Keuchel and Luis Giolito until the Down-on- the-Farmers like Michael Kopech arrive. The Sox may be in on one of the good relievers available...Ian Hendricks from the A’s or Brad Hand of the Indians.


The White Sox are in the right division at the right time. I expect them to cruise once they stabilize their pitching staff. The only caveat I must mention is that Tony LaRussa is returning to the dugout to manage the Hosiery. I’m not sure his style will mesh with these young Latin stars. Tony is a hell of a manager but he’s the Leo Durocher type...if you play hard and succeed you are his prize calf, (see Willie Mays) but if you are human and screw up as you learn the game there can be trouble.(see Adolfo Phillips...a sensitive but super-talented centerfielder for the Cubs who was driven out of the game when Leo managed him like a drill instructor who thinks he can verbally abuse his recruit into being a Marine.) For the Adolfo Phillips story read this:

https://www.espn.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=neyer_rob&id=1393671


I think the White Sox need a Daddy to get them started on the road to greatness...somebody like Jim Leyland. But LaRussa knows this game pretty damn well...maybe he can adjust his style and maybe the kids can meet his expectations. We’ll see the first time Yoan Moncada doesn’t run out a ground ball.


AL WEST


The Astros had a losing record in the 2020 Covid Season. And they still finished second in their division. That’s how weak the West really is. The ‘Stros hitters went “Thud”. Altuve, Gurriel, Correa and Bregman all had down years...way down. Only Springer, Brantley and rookie Kyle Tucker carried water. The pitching was pedestrian. The bullpen was just okay, but without Justin Verlander (Tommy John) and Gerrit Cole (Yankee money), the starters were lacking. Zach Greinke was the lynchpin.


So now the Astros are in the same shape as everybody else in their division. Not enough coin to keep all their stars and still add more talent . They had their moment but Houston is not New York, not Boston, not Los Angeles, not Chicago...not even Washington or Philadelphia. They don’t make enough money to be able to go over the limit. So the Slow Bleed begins.


Oakland is like Tampa; they can only be competitive for a couple of years at a time because they can’t keep their good players. They are losing their shortstop Semien, their closer Hendricks and who knows how many others. (They’ve got ten free agents.) Most ominous is the loss of Billy Bean, their small market genius who kept them relevent all these cheapskate years. Billy has had enough.


I can’t believe that the A’s could never figure out how to move to San Jose and make money instead of staying in that gruesome Coliseum.


Five starters in the everyday lineup of the Texas Rangers batted under .200 in 2020. This is what selling out the game of baseball to the Twin Gods of Home Runs and Strike Outs has led to. We get to watch ballgames full of Mendozas.


Seattle is still kicking themselves for that trade for Robbie Cano. He was billed as a team savior. Yeah...he saved the Mariners from honesty and fair play.


The Los Angeles Angels need to get some pitchers and get them now. If they use up Mike Trout’s whole career without getting to the Playoffs they will be consigned to that corner of Baseball Hell where ex Cubs executives are turning slowly on the barbecue while Ernie Banks leans in and whispers in their ear over and over again...”Let’s Play Two...”



Saturday, November 14, 2020

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2020: "The Un-Perfect Storm"

 

MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2020: “THE UN-PERFECT STORM”


Los Angeles Dodger Manager Dave Roberts post-game comment to the media after Game 4 of the World Series with the Tampa Bay Rays: “It was an un-perfect storm.”


To tell you the truth, Game 4 of the 2020 World Series, (aka Year of the Virus) was a great ballgame to watch. The lead changed hands nearly every half inning...there were home runs all over the place... and the game ended with an all time Epic Goat Rope of a Botch-Job Crazy Ass play. Or, as Roberts so aptly described it...an un-perfect storm.


Now, if the Los Angeles Dodgers had gone on to lose the World Series to the tenacious Tampa Bay Rays, that play would go down as one of those special Series-defining plays that fix baseball history in our heads:


1926: Old Pete Alexander comes in with a hangover and strikes out Tony Lazzeri with bases loaded to lead St. Louis over Yankees .

1932: The Babe calls his shot as Yanks trample Cubs.

1936: Tiger fans trash Medwick in the outfield as St.Louis Gashouse Gang triumphs.

1960: Bad hop grounder hits Kubek in throat—Mazeroski cashes it in.

1988: Gibby walks it off.


As it is, this play will fade from memory because it didn’t lead to a fateful turnaround in the fortunes of the Rays. But it could have. It could have entered the pantheon of Dodger Disasters. (You Dodger fans may want to take a few deep breaths before you read this part).


1916: They were the Brooklyn Robins then, and were no match for the Boston Red Sox, who featured a young leftie pitcher named Babe Ruth (Series ERA: 0.64). Lost 4 games to 1.


1920: First series after the Black Sox scandal of 1919 broke, which had Tris Speaker’s Cleveland Indians performing all kinds of “firsts”. First grand slam in a series, first homer by a pitcher, only triple play in series history...all at the expense of the hapless Robins. Lost 5 games to 2.


1941: It was the year of Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and Ted Williams’ .406 masterpiece of a season. The Series, however, is remembered for the horrible thing that happened to catcher Mickey Owen in Game 4.


The Yankees were up 2 games to 1 and losing by a 4-3 score in the ninth inning. Brooklyn (now the Dodgers) had Hugh Casey on the mound, dealing goose eggs since the fifth inning.

The game was being played in the burrough of Brooklyn, and the faithful fans were ready to celebrate when the first two Yankee hitters made out. With Tommy (Old Reliable) Henrich swinging, Casey strikes him out on a dandy curve ball (some say spit ball) in the dirt. Hooray! Series tied 2-2! We’ll moider ‘em tamarrah! Whoops! Owen drops the third strike and it rolls to the backstop. Henrich is safe at first. Next hitter DiMaggio...single. Then King Kong Keller...double off the right field wall. Bill Dickey walks. Joe Gordon doubles to left...that was a quick 4 run rally folks. The Bums is dead. Down 3 games to 1 they go meekly the next day...the beginning of a decade and a half of World Series frustration. (21 year old Pee Wee Reese was in his first full season as the Dodger shortstop...he would be on the losing side in 5 more series vs. the Yankees) Lost 4 games to 1.

*You can watch the disaster unfold here*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anJzGIVapAA


1946: Brooklyn finishes season tied with the St. Louis Cardinals who beat them in the 3 game playoff.

Lost 2 games to 0.


1947: A couple of heroic moments had the Brooks thinking that the worm had turned against the Yanks. In Game 4, New York pitcher Bill Bevens had a no-hitter going in the ninth (albeit with 10 walks) when, with 2 on and 2 out, Cookie Lavagetto pinch hit a double off the right field wall for the 1 hit Bevens allowed...and the game winner. In Game 6, Joe DiMaggio, again with 2 on and 2 out, bombed one to the 415 foot mark in left where Al Gionfriddo caught it while smashing into the bullpen fence. It was a famous moment because DiMaggio actually displayed emotion on the field when he kicked the dirt in disappointment. But New York won Game 7 anyway and neither Bevens, Lavagetto nor Gionfriddo ever played another major league game. Lost 4 games to 3.

*For more visuals...*

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2aSI0u7F3A


1949: The Boys of Summer were now assembled. Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella joined established stars Reese, Furillo and Jackie Robinson to form one of the all time great lineups. But they still couldn’t deal with the Yankees, in their first year with Casey Stengel platooning like crazy. Lost 4 games to 1.


1950: Lost the pennant to the Philadelphia Phillies Whiz Kids on the last day of the season when Dick Sisler hit an extra inning 3 run homer against them.


1951: Had a 13 1/2 game lead in August but wound up losing to the Giants in a 3 game playoff when Bobby Thompson hit “The Shot Heard Round the World” to overcome a 4-1 Dodger lead in the ninth.

Lost 2 games to 1. (Some 50 odd years later it finally came out that the Giants had employed an illegal signalling system using a coach with binoculars stationed in the centerfield scoreboard at the Polo Grounds to flash what pitch was coming to the Giant hitters. A weird parallel with the now acknowledged fact that the Houston Astros also cheated to beat the Dodgers (and other teams) in the 2017 Series.)


1952: “It Keeps Right On A-Hurtin’: (Johnny Tillotson). Took a 3-2 game lead into Ebbets Field for the last 2 games against the Yankees and still... Lost 4 games to 3.


1953: Lost 4 games to 2. To the Yankees again. Do you sense a trend yet?


1955: “Man Bites Dog” is the headline in the paper when the Brooklyn Bums finally defeat the Bronx Bombers. High water mark for the Brooklyn version of the Dodgers. Won 4 games to 3.


1956: “A Return to Normalcy”. The boys get Perfect-oed by Don Larsen in Game 5 and get 3-hit by Johnny Kucks in Game 7. Lost 4 games to 3.


1957: The Dodgers last season in Brooklyn. The last game at Ebbets Field was played in front of only 6000+ fans. Duke Snider hit the last homer at the ballpark...his 40th. Sandy Koufax threw the last pitch for the Brooklyn Dodgers on Sept. 29 at Philadelphia. The Dodgers finish third.


1958: Dodgers move to Los Angeles, become one of baseball’s two richest teams. Brooklyn is still heart broken.


1959: The season finishes with a tie at the top between the Milwaukee Braves and you know who. There have been 4 playoffs in the National League before 1969 when the division system started...the Dodgers have been in all of them. 1959 was the only one they won, and the heroes were Larry Sherry, an unheralded relief man who came up from Spokane, and three of the Boys who came west with the team and struck a blow for the snakebit. After winning Game 1, the Dodgers are down 5-2 in their bottom of the ninth in Game 2. Duke Snider and Gil Hodges get hits and Carl Furillo hits a sacrifce fly to tie the game. They win in the twelfth when Hodges is on second with 2 outs and Furillo’s hard grounder up the middle causes Felix Mantilla to throw past first base and allow Hodges to score... L.A. goes to its first World Series. Won 2 games to 0.


1959: Maybe the demons who have tormented the Dodgers with so many near misses and horrible defeats snatched from the jaws of victory etc. have finally been satiated. The Dodgers walk over the Chicago White Sox in 6 games. L.A. bleeds blue.


1962: On the other hand, maybe that old Brooklyn bad luck was just marshalling its forces for the debacle of 1962, a playoff repeat of the Giants-Dodgers wars of the East Coast era.


Ahead all year with Maury Wills setting a stolen base record, the Dodgers lose 10 of their last 13 to blow a 4 game lead over the Gigantics. Sandy Koufax had gone out in July with a circulation problem and is rusty when he starts Game 1. He lasts 1 inning and the Giants go on to win 8-0 with Mays hitting 2 homers.


Game 2 is one of the great games in baseball history. Drysdale gets knocked out in the sixth and the Dodgers look dead in the water down 5-0, not having scored in 36 consecutive innings. Suddenly they score 7 runs in the bottom of the sixth. The Giants come back to tie with 2 in the eighth but lose in the ninth on 3 walks and a short fly to center that scores Wills just ahead of a great throw by Willie.


Game 3. Johnny Podres, the hero of the ‘55 series, against Juan Marichal, The Dominican Dandy. 3 throwing errors have the Dodgers down 2-0 early. It’s 2-1 when the Giants load the bases on 3 singles in the sixth, but Ed Roebuck comes out of the pen and shuts them down with no more runs. A Tommy Davis home run in the bottom of the frame has the Blue Team up 3-2 and in the seventh Maury Wills singles, steals second, steals third and scores on catcher Ed Bailey’s throw into left field. Going into the ninth it’s Dodgers 4 Giants 2.


Roebuck gives up a pinch hit single to Matty Alou and with one out walks McCovey and Felipe Alou to load ‘em up. Willie Mays hits a rocket off Roebucks torso to bat in 1. That brings in a new pitcher, Stan Williams. Cepeda hits a sac fly to deep right to tie the game, and a wild pitch puts two runners into scoring position. Williams walks Bailey to set up the force all around. 45,693 fans are feeling that special kind of suffering only the Dodgers can deliver. Williams walks Davenport with the lead run, then defensive replacement Burright blows a ground ball by Jose Pagan for an insurance run. The Dodgers are out of comebacks and lose 6-4. Lost 2 games to 1.


1963: The bitter Playoff defeat of ‘62 could have crushed a lesser team, but the Dodgers were nothing if not resilient after living through their history. In fact, they were on their way to dominating the decade (along with the St. Louis Cardinals) in the National League. Koufax has learned to take enough off his fastball to keep it in the strike zone but it’s still too fast for the hitters. He also features a forget-about-it curveball to inflict additional pain. Don Drysdale is dominating and the offense features enough stolen bases and sacrifice bunts to win a bunch of 1-0 and 2-1 games.


The Hollywood Bums now face their familiar foe, the New York Yankees in the ‘63 series. Nolo Contendere. Dodger pitchers hold the Yanks to 4 total runs in a 4-game sweep. Meet the new Boss.

Won 4 games to 0.


1965: Will success spoil the Dodgers? Not as far as the Minnesota Twins are concerned. Koufax leads Team Freeway to a brilliant victory, shutting them out in the seventh game on 2 days rest and with a sore elbow that precludes the use of his curve. Won 4 games to 3.


1966: The Dodgers have won 4 of their last 5 World Series. But any hints of cockiness evaporate in a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. L.A. is shut out in the last 3 games. They make 6 errors in Game 3 with Willie Davis making 3 in one inning out in center field. After the season, Sandy Koufax, (who won the pitching triple crown with 27 wins, 317 Ks and a 1.73 ERA) retires with an arthritic elbow. Maury Wills is traded to the Pirates and Tommy Davis to the Mets. The Dodgers are moving on. Lost 4 games to 0.


1974: Los Angeles against Oakland. The first all-West Coast Series. And one of least notable series of all time. (the Series MVP was Oakland’s second sacker Dick Green who goes...0 for 13! Okay...he has a terrific defensive presence.) 4 of the games finish 3-2 with the A’s winning 3 of them. But the Dodgers never seem that close. They couldn’t get the big hits late. This was their first Series featuring their infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey. Lost 4 games to 1.


1977: The Dodgers do their best to re-promote the Yankees as the Big Dogs of Baseball by giving up 3 home runs to Reggie Jackson in Game 6. Lost 4 games to 2.


1978: L.A. wins the first 2 games in California then does the El Foldo as the Yankees batter them around. Lost 4 games to 2.


1981: This year was analogous to this Covid Season we’ve just been through. The players went out on strike and the whole middle of the season was lost. In the re-jiggered Playoffs, the Dodgers beat the Montreal Expos 2-1 behind their rookie pitching phenom Fernando Valenzuela and Rick Monday’s “Blue Monday” 2-out homer off Steve Rogers in the ninth.


They go on to spank the ever-present Yankees in a direct mirror image of the ‘78 series. This time the Yanks win the first 2 games at home and then lose 4 in a row to L.A. Won 4 games to 2.


1988: You remember this one. Kirk Gibson limping out of the dugout and creating a whole new wing in the pantheon of Greatest Baseball Moments? That one at bat dominates the Series, even though Orel Hershiser is the stud that gets the team over the highly favored Oakland A’s in 5 games. It’s a Big, Big Series for the Dodgers…Won 4 games to 1.


...and its good thing because it’s had to last them 32 years! Hard to believe that the National League’s second most dominant team of the ‘40’s (3 Series... 1 behind St. Louis), most dominant in the ‘50’s (5 Series), ‘60’s (3 Series... tied with Cardinals), and second best in the ‘70’s (3 Series...1 behind Cincinnati) hasn’t made it back to the ultimate challenge until 2020! But that’s what the Playoff Era has wrought. So many ways to lose.


All teams suffer disappointment. It’s written into the Law of Averages. Especially perrenial contenders like the Dodgers. I mean, they’ve been to the Big Show 21 times! That’s 21 opportunities to Screw Up in front of a large number of viewers. Which they have done 14 times. Since 1916, the year of the first Dodger Series appearance, the Boston Red Sox have been 10 times and blown it 4 times. So would you rather have been to the Show and gone 7-14 or 6-4?


But if you add up the truly painful moments, the Dodgers win going away. It’s one thing to get beat...it’s another to get crunched when you look like a winner. 1941,1950,1951,1962, and not to mention the Joe Morgan home run that let the Giants knock them out of the division win in 1982, the Ozzie Smith walk off homer to win Game 5 of the 1985 Playoffs followed by the 3-run Jack Clark shot the next game that eliminated L.A. And the curious case of world beater Clayton Kershaw getting hammered in the clutch in multiple Playoffs, especially the back to back homers he gave up to the Red Sox in 2018...


2020 was the eighth straight year of the Dodgers winning the Western Division of the National League. And so, to celebrate, they came up with one of the wackiest and most painful ways to lose a game they had in hand ever seen upon the Hallowed Diamond of Our Dreams. Presenting…


The Un-Perfect Storm.”


The Situation: Dodgers up 2 games to 1 playing in their home-away-from-home park, the new sliding dome thingie they’ve built in Arlington, Texas for the Strangers. (They’ve given it the drab corporate- purchased name “Globe Life Field”. They should call it The Globular Metroplex Ten Dollar Hot Dog Stand.) The Dodgers played their first three Playoff rounds in the same park...a big advantage over the Rays. If the Dodgers win this one, they have Kershaw going in Game 5 knowing that 40 of 46 teams all time have won the Series after going up 3 games to 1.


Justin Turner and Corey Seager homer early and the Bluebloods keep the lead despite dingers from Hunter Renfroe and Randy Arozarena. The latter seems to be the reincarnation of the Toy Cannon, Jimmy Wynn.


Jimmy was a vastly underrated hitter for the Astros (and the Dodgers for 2 good years in ‘74 and ‘75). He hit taters in a brown rice era and he hit them in the Astrodome...where extra base hits went to die.

The Cannon was 5’10” 160 pounds. Arozarena is listed at 5’11” and 185 and just hit an unreal 10 circuit clouts in 86 plate appearances in the Playoffs. He hit them out everywhere in the park. The guy must have wrists like steel cables because he was just flicking balls into the right field seats. That’s some pretty impressive yardwork.


In the sixth, the so-called “best” hitter on the Rays, second baseman Brandon Lowe, hits a go-ahead 3 run shot to left field. (A leftie hitter, Lowe had slumped through the whole Playoffs until he found his opposite field stroke with 2 big flies in Game 2.) But of course, L.A. comes back with a clutch 2-run single by Joc Peterson in the top of the seventh. Tampa ties it in the bottom of the seventh with a moon shot to right by Kiermaier.


The Rays bring in yet another reliever in the eighth...(it doesn’t matter who...they’re all 6’7” with beards and 98mph fastballs.) This one gives up a 2-strike, 2-out single to Series MVP Seager to give the Dodgers a 1-run lead of 7-6 with their once ironclad but now rusty-hinged closer Kenley Jansen coming on.


Kenley strikes out pinch hitter Joshi Tsutsugo whose name will never make the papers until somebody can spell it. It’s right up there with Bill Wambsganss (of the old Cleveland Indians who turned the unassisted triple play in the 1920 Series vs. the Brooklyn Robins, remember? Everything comes around eventually!) Kiermaier singles and pinch hitter Joey Wendle, who has played marvelous defense at third base and shortstop in the Series, continues his offensive frustrations with a liner to left. So two outs and look who is up...Randy “Steel Cables” Arozarena!


This is interesting! The next hitter is Brett Phillips who pinch ran for Ji-Man Choi (a joy to watch Choi!) in the eighth. But he’s a leftie and Kenley is a rightie. Should the Dodgers walk the menace that has become Arozarena and take their chances with a bench warmer whose last at bat was back in September? Or pitch to Arozarena with the rightie to rightie advantage? Or bring in a leftie to get the advantage on Phillips, who is the last hitter available except for the emergency catcher Perez? (Kenley has pitched to the prescribed 3 hitters, thus fulfilling his minimum batters-faced mandate with the new rule).


Dave Roberts decides to pitch to Arozarena and take the chance. I think it’s a mistake. Roberts was risking:

A: losing the game outright by letting the hottest hitter on the Rays beat him.

B: letting Kenley throw a ball in the dirt that advances Kiermaier into scoring position and still have to get Arozarena out or decide to walk him or not all over again.


I think with a hitter that hot you have to take the chance on an undoubtedly rusty bench player like the now famous Brett Phillips.


So Arozarena puts together a cool-headed at bat that ends in a 7-pitch walk. 2-on, 2-out. Here comes Phillips, whose mother must have held him by the heel and dipped him into the River Styx to imbue him with impervious immortality when he was yet a Babe.


He takes ball inside. Then a strike high inside, just barely. Phillips winces at the unfairness of it all. Now another strike, this one outside corner and very close to ball 2. Phillips is getting no help from the ump. Now Kenley has him in jail, but he throws a not-cutting cutter belly button high and almost down the middle of the plate...Phillips pounces on that pitch like the proverbial wolf on a lamb chop.


It’s a liner to short right center! Kenley Jansen sinks to his knees in horror. Chris Taylor, playing center field with Bellinger slightly injured and at DH for the day, scoops the ball and comes up looking at the runners to see where they are. Kiermaier got his jump and is going to score for sure. That’s the tieing run. But Arozarena also got the 2 out jump on that hit and Taylor wants to keep him from going to third (it looks like). Anyway, Taylor takes his eye off the ball and it slips out of his glove webbing and rolls about fifteen feet away toward first base.


Arozarena sees the error and charges around second headed for third. Taylor picks up the ball about the time Arozarena hits third base with the coach sending him all the way. Taylor fires the ball to his cut off man, Max Muncy, who has dutifully stationed himself between first base and the mound, like the good first baseman that he is. A good relay throw will nail Arozarena by twenty feet. It won’t be close. Perhaps sensing this, Arozarena stumbles and does a barrel roll up the third base line. But catcher Will Smith doesn’t notice. Eager to catch the relay throw, he slides up the first base line, which takes him AWAY from home plate. Muncy doesn’t see Arozarena because Kenley Jansen, totally at sea, has backed up toward the third base line and is standing right in front of Randy blocking Muncy’s view.

Muncy makes his throw to Smith a little too far to Smith’s right side..but that’s where Will had set up. Now, thinking that Arozarena is coming into the plate instead of doing his beached seal imitation half way home, he starts making his sweep tag and forgets to catch the ball first. There is no back up because Kenley, whose job it is, is still camoflaging Arozarena up the third base line. Randy scrambles to his feet and scores the winning run with an ever-to-be famous triple pat of precious home plate.


I’ve never seen anybody look so happy on a ball field. Outhouse to Penthouse in 3 seconds.


Let’s count the Bolixes: First up, Kenley’s pitch was terrible considering he was up 1-2 in the count. Way too good a pitch to a hitter who must have been ready to swing at anything close under the circumstances.


Then Taylor looking up before he secured the ball and making the first official error. That’s Bolix Number 2.


Then Jansen wallowing around on his knees on the mound instead of backing up either third or home. As soon as the ball left the infield the pitcher should be heading to back up third to protect from the winning run scoring on a bad throw to third. When he saw Taylor boot it, he should then have run to back up home before Arozarena made his turn and tried to score. Instead, Jansen backed up toward the third base line and stood there in No Man’s Land sucking his big stupid thumb, blocking his fielder’s vision. When Arozarena fell down he rumbled toward the plate very late. Bolixes 3,4,5 and 6.


Muncy’s relay throw was to the wrong side of the plate. Of course, that was where Will Smith was setting up for some reason. Bolixes 7 and 8.


Will Smith dropped the relay throw. Everybody who has ever played catcher or any infield position where you feel you have to hurry to tag the runner has made the same mistake of turning to make the tag before you catch the ball, but in that situation, with the runner supine on the grass, it looked bad...real bad. Bolix 9.


And for good measure, Bolix Number 10...Arozarena fell on his ass and should have been out like men’s garter socks.


After the game Kenley Jansen was full of excuses. (paraphrased) “It wasn’t my fault!” /“It was just luck.” /“Neither hit was hit hard.” /“It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d backed up home”. To which I answer in order: Whose fault was it then? The ghost of Mickey Owen? / That weak 1-2 pitch wasn’t luck...it was lack of skill. / And those soft hits were enough to beat you. / We’ll never know what might have happened if you’d backed up home...because you didn’t back up home you Putz. That was your only job in that situation and you didn’t do it!


That play would be hailed as one of the great Screw Ups of all time had L.A. gone on to lose that Series. But the Dodger pitching and 2-out hitting said otherwise and they triumphed, deservedly. I said going in that the Dodgers needed a big series from either Betts or Bellinger or both. They got very little from Bellinger, who fell in love with his uppercut-pull-everything-to-right swing and had yet another disappointing Series. Betts was a hero on defense and the bases but didn’t hit too much. He had a big double in Game 6 when Rays manager Kevin Cash pulled his starter after 73 pitches.


Blake Snell was sizzling in 5.2 innings, giving up two scratch hits and striking out 9, including the 3 best hitters for the Dodgers... Betts, Seager and Turner... 6 times. For some reason with Betts up and 2 on, Cash pulled Snell, who had the Dodgers offensively disfunctional, to let a right hander face Betts. Cash believes in the stats that say a hitter has the advantage when they’ve seen the same pitcher 3 times in a row. Well Snell had seen Betts twice and fanned him both times. He’s 0 for 5 vs. Snell with 4 K’s. Betts’ average against lefties this year? .205. How do those stats stack up against your precious no-third-time-through-the-order edict Kevin? Mr. Manager of the Year, Sir?


If we left it up to Kevin, there would never be another one-pitcher no-hitter in history.

Somewhere Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan and Madison Bumgarner are laughing.


Also, when the Rays were starving for runs most games of the Series, why did Cash stick with Adames at short, Wendel at third and Zunino at catcher? The bottom of the lineup for the Rays was like a bottomless pit of outs. Adames struck out in every big situation. Wendel was sub-Mendoza as a third baseman and Zunino was Mr. K. All of them were great defensive players but why didn’t Cash at least try to let Wendel play more shortstop and get another good bat into his lineup? You can’t afford that much poverty in your ability to produce runs.


The Dodgers were the better team and they won. Off the snide after 32 years. Congratulations and always remember the immortal words of Brett Phillips (God’s Favorite) …


BASEBALL IS FUN! WOW!”

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2020: Who's Got the Mojo?

 

MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2020: WHO’S GOT THE MOJO?


This ultra strange, one-of-a-kind baseball season unfolds in all its eccentric improbability. Now we are dealing with the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, where all the teams that fought so hard to finish first in the division ...are almost exactly equal to the teams that finished second or just barely made it into the playoffs. Talk about a low threshhold of motivation!

The first round is 2 out of 3 with the higher seeded team getting all home games. Anybody can beat anybody 2 out of 3, home park or not. (The Astros promptly went out and proved that against the Twins.)


Some quick thoughts about the playoff setup :

1/ It strongly favors the teams with 2 or 3 strong starters. If you can get two strong starts you might win the whole round.


2/After the Wild Card Round you have a couple of off days to reset, and then you play the rest of the playoffs without days off...(except maybe 1 before the World Series starts?) so that favors a strong team that can eliminate their opposing number quickly and earn themselves some off days to rest their pitching.


3/to win the World Series a team has to win 3 games in the best of 5 divisional series, then win 4 games in the 7 game ALCS or NLCS, then 4 games out of 7 in the World Series. With no off days you better have some depth in your bullpen. And the teams with at least decent pitching in the 3/4/5 spots of their rotation have a lot better chance of surviving the marathon. If you try to play a lot of bullpen games you may be screwed.


4/Look at the teams with 3 strong hitters in the lineup and a couple more guys who can hit one out for you now and then...in this era of no-small-ball you have to hope the launch angle crowd can deliver for you.


5/If you watch the playoffs I hope you like strikeouts. A lot. Atlanta vs. Cincinnati had a 13 inning game with what...37 Ks?


Rundown so far:

YANKEES WIN!...oh goody, the Yanks beat long-suffering Cleveland and we get to slobber all over ourselves and think up new rhymes for Urshela what a happy fellow. MLB is so glad the Yankees rose from the dead and got into the playoffs after they caved in September when all their stars were on the IL.


You thought the Garret Cole vs. Shane Beiber matchup was a classic set up for a double no hitter in the first game or something? Sorry! Beiber coughed up furballs and the Yankees hit them to the moon. Gleyber Torres and Cole owned game one.


That second game in Cleveland was pretty good. Longest 9 inning game in history. Not just playoff games...ALL games ever played. 4 hours and 50 minutes. And add on 76 minutes worth of rain delay. Who needs a life when you can spend it watching one baseball game? 19 total walks in that contest. Most Happy Fella hit a big grandslam to remind the Indians why they never let him play for nine years. Then he started a crucial double play from the seat of his pants later on. Yanks scored two in the ninth to take the lead and sent Chapman out there to nail it down.


Tampa Bay...remember them? Don’t worry about it...nobody else does either. They had the best record in the AL by far and are number one seed in the AL playoffs. The Rays feature a whole lot of real good pitchers and a bunch of hitters nobody ever heard of. All they do is win with this ridiculous combination. They just spanked the young Toronto (now Buffalo) Blue Jays and held serve. Next up...the Yankees and watch the beanballs fly! These two hate each other...especially this year after Aroldis tried to kill somebody.


The Houston Enemies pulled a rabbit out of the hat in Game One against the Twinkies. With the Twins infield in the shift and the runner Carlos Correa getting a huge lead off first, shortstop Polanco pulled his quick throw to second on a ground ball and the error with two outs led to a fateful 3 run rally that beat the home team. That pretty much sealed the Twinkie’s Fate. They didn’t hit at all in the next game and went meekly like lambs to the slaughter. 18 straight playoff game losses for the Twins. At least they didn’t lose to the Yankees again.


That means Oakland/Chicago is the only AL series tied up. Jose Abreu got the Sox off to a strong start with a homer off phenom Jesus Luzardo and the home town team was routed in Game One. Giolito looked way strong in his start for the Chisox. Game Two was the reverse as the A’s got contributions from long-slumbering Khris Davis and Marcus Semian. A’s win that one 5-3. Bassit had a strong start for Oakland. Both these teams live by the home run. Expect quite a few long balls in Game Three later today.


The NL started up a day later than the AL so only 1 game has been played. Dodgers beat up on Milwaukee 4-2. Game 2 is Kershaw vs. Woodruff? And the Brews are short a couple of starters, including Mr. All American Ryan Braun who is being venerated by the media and fans for his stellar sportsmanship and love of humanity. If he does play in Game 2 it will be the first time 5 former MVPs have ever appeared in the same regular season or playoff game. (Braun, Yelich, Betts, Bellinger, Kershaw).


I don’t think L.A. will blow this series but its a weird year.


Chicago Cubbies vs. the Miami Nemesis. The Twins have the Yankees as their special Boogeymen and the Cubs have the Marlins. The Marlins won the first game at Wrigley and lost Starling Marte to a broken hand. Who is the Man for Chicago? Who is Master of Jockstraps? Somebody has to step up on that team. Can’t Justin Heyward give them a weight room Pep Talk or something? They do have Yu Darvish feady to go, and then Lester. But the Marlins are loose, loose loose because nobody thinks they can win.


The Cardinals beat the Padres 7-4 in Game 1. St. Louis scored 4 times in the first with Goldschmidt hitting a 2 run homer. The Cardinals have a great bullpen and they look poised to discipline the upstart Pads, who made some atrocious baserunning mistakes that cost them in the first game.


The most competitive series in the NL should be the Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds. The first game lived up to the hype with a 13 inning zero- zero tie until Freddie Freeman won it with a big hit. The Reds had many many opportunities to score with runners in position with none or one out. They failed every single time. They didn’t bunt even in classic bunt situations, letting their free swingers strike out and fail to advance anybody again and again. A pitiful performance. I don’t know, but if my team was sriking out 19-20 times a game I might try a bunt or two once in awhile.


The Reds also made some truly horrible decisions on the base paths and deserved to lose this game.


I went into this post season hoping for a Series between somebody like the Reds vs. the White Sox just for variety’s sake, but these young teams aren’t looking that good. The Reds have some strong starting pitchers though and could rally. But I think that first game loss will finish them mentally. Especially the way they let it all slip through their fingers. The White Sox have an injured Eloy Jimenez and a seriously slumped up Luis Roberts. Not looking good for a repeat of the famous Black Sox series of 1919, when the Reds beat the Black Sox who were trying to lose games.


So the odds say get ready for Dodgers vs. Yankees...just like everybody predicted...except me.


Somebody will find the mojo...and it could be the Braves, or the A’s or even the Rays. I just hope baseball keeps playing. Are you not entertained?


--Marco