Oct 30, 2007

Boston Reigns Supreme

If someone would have told me five years ago that by 2007 the Red Sox would win not one, but two World Series titles, and that Casey Affleck would play a starring role in a critically acclaimed major motion picture, directed by his brother Ben, without the help of Matt Damon, I would have called you crazy.

Well there is egg all over my face. The Sox are now the ideal that other teams, even the Yankees, strive to be and "Gone Baby Gone" is bringing in bucks and praise from movie goers and critics alike. But I'm not alone. Many pundits felt that the Rockies were poised to complete one of the greatest and most unlikely championship runs in the history of sport. Apologies to the gladiators, perhaps a man named Spartacus Maximus defeated 21 out of 22 tigers on an epic streak of gladiatorednessosity. Unfortunately, however, there are no such records of this, at least not on Wikipedia.

The Rockies, despite playing out of there mind for the better part of a month, proved to be... "Denny Green to the microphone please"... "Who we thought they were!" Yes, the Rockies would have been a third place or fourth place team without the great run in late September when they went 13-1. Lets say they played at a .553 clip, (which was their regular season winning percentage) over those final 14 games. Keep in mind those final 14 games got them to that clip, but never the less, they reasonably should have gone 8-6 over that span. But only 5 fewer wins than they finished with. That would have put them in third place, three games better than the fourth place Dodgers. Now I completely understand that is why you play the game, and that a team on paper can't beat a team on the field. But, at some point every hot black jack player busts. The Rockies had a great ride, but they were by no means a World Series caliber team.

The Red Sox on the other hand are a team built with the sound scouting of Theo Epstein, and his team of Bill James saber-metric disciples. A manger in Terry Francona who is probably as good as anybody at managing games and the personalities in it; Manny, Schilling, Foulke, Pedro. It has a group of young talent that includes the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year, Pedroia, the 2008 AL RoY, Ellsbury, Papelbon, "Yoooouuuuke", Lester, Buchholz, and Okajima. And a core of veteran stars, Many, Ortiz, Beckett, Schilling, Veritek, Lowell, Crisp, and Lugo, that most any team would give their farm system for. Yes J.D. Drew was intentionally left out, but good hit in game 6 buddy.

Boston, enjoy this moment. You have the best baseball team in the "World," the best football team in the Universe, a basketball team that is going to make some serious noise in the "LEastern" Conference, and the Affleck brothers! At least I think they're from Boston, aren't they? Well if they're not just substitute them with the BCS number two ranked BC Eagles.

While this World Series may have been short on drama, it certainly wasn't a post season with out annoyances. Here are my top 10 things I cold have done without.

10. Tim McCarver. He is not funny, not insightful, not even that completely coherent at this point in his life. Joe Buck is bad, but the cocktail of the two of them together is like buttered rum. It isn't any good, but for some reason the thought of it makes you happy and reminds you of Christmas. I guess like McCarver's wit and the postseason they unfortunately go hand in hand. I can do with out Tim McCarver.

9. Dane Cook. Did you notice how they didn't even bother to shoot any new promos once the World Series match up was announced? At least they could have dubbed in some fresh audio. I'm sure in a couple of years, we will all be doing without Dane Cook.

8. Diamondback Fans. Sorry to all my college friends whom I'm insulting now, but if you can't sell out a play-off game, you certainly don't get to boo your team in a play-off gmae. I can do without self-entitled fair weather fans.

7. Roger Clemens' Cingular Ad. Although I found it, as I'm sure most every Red Sox fan did, to be pretty funny considering it was running while his current team was losing and his former team was being crowned champs. How did that move back to New York work out for you Rocket? To quote a t-shirt I saw in Boston once, "Roger Clemens is a pile of Sh*t." You sir, I can do with out. Please, look up the definition of the word, and then retire.

6. Joe Buck. I know I touched on this earlier, but in game two he kept saying the Colorado Rockies have a "group" batting average of... I'm sorry, my dad wasn't an announcer, but I am still pretty sure that there is a more specific word, next time try using this one, team. "The Rockies have a team average," it has a nice ring to it huh? Joe Buck and his shameless endorsements I can do with out. But, I can not wait for some network to pick up the Joe Buck Show, please, someone, anyone pick it up and run it in all of its glory.

5. Applebee's Commercials. I didn't think is was possible to be even more turned off by the idea of eating at an Applebee's, but that was before I heard Wnada Sykes as a talking apple-slash-spokes fruit for the restaurant. I can do with out both Applebee's and Wanda Sykes, I'm sure I'm not alone on this one.

4. Taco Bell's Free Taco. Although it brought us a priceless exchanges between Royce Clayton and Jacoby Ellsbury, how shameless was the in-game interview with the Taco Bell Exec. with Chris Myers. "Uhh, uh, um, uh ... I don't know." Chris Myers? How does FOX, of all the networks, not realize that the American sports viewer, can do without Chris Myers. Was Pam Oliver on vacation?

3. Many Bashing. First, the "Who Cares" quote was not properly reported, then it seamed to be his fault the the umpiring crew in Cleveland couldn't do their job and call a home run when the ball landed beyond the fence, and Manny ended up with a single. Then the presumption was that once the series moved to Colorado Many would be held utterly helpless in the vast outfield. Then they kept putting up that graphic that showed how Fenway Park could fit inside of the playing field of Coors. Many bashers, I can do without. But please give me more footage of Many running the bases. He is to unintentional physical comedy what George W. Bush is to unintentional political parity.

2. The girl in Epstein's Suite. I'm sure most of you missed this, but when Fox showed the replay of Epstein's reaction after the final out was made in game seven of the ALCS, you could clearly see a younger woman with her back turned to the field, who for a good five seconds had no idea the Sox had won the pennant. Then, once she noticed that no one was paying attention to her, what I can only be sure was inane babel, she turned around and to see what possibly could of been more important. Then with the genuine spirit only matched by John Edwards' smile she started jumping up and down and clapping her hands. You, my friend, I can do with out.

1. A-Rod. If you can't beat 'em, upstage 'em? That is exactly how it came across, that Alex Rodriguez thinks of himself as bigger than the game no matter how grand a stage, or how big a moment Sunday night may have been for millions of baseball fans everywhere. Have the class to wait until Monday, at least, to announce you want more than $25 million a year. Likely this is the reason A-rod will be heading for his fourth team since 1996 and is still sans a championship ring. A-rod the person? I can do with out. A-rod the player? Sign him up now!

Oct 25, 2007

World Series Games 1 & 2 in Review

Watching the game with the intent of finding good topics, or an interesting angle to write about can cause one to pay, perhaps, too much attention to the details. For example when my family sang me happy birthday (yes the 25th was my 27th) I could of swore they were singing it in melody with the Ford truck commercial with John Fogerty. "This is my biiiiiiiiiiiiiiirthday!"

By the way, did Tim McCarver try to tell us that in his opinion the curve ball of Jimenez would break well in Boston? So, they've been playing baseball in Boston for 150 years, and McCarver still isn't sure if the law of physics apply? Please, if you have an explanation let me know what it is?

But I digress. Game one went much like we expected, with the Rockies showing obvious rust. There is a saying in baseball, usually spouted during the All-Star Break, that goes like this; You take one day off and nobody notices. You take two days off, and you notice. You take three days off and everybody notices. Well, the Rockies took 8 days off both Joe Buck and Tim McCarver noticed. Now that speaks to the truth of the expression.

In game two Ubaldo Jimenez pitched very well for the better part of four innings. And to be honest the case could be made that even though he was tagged with the loss, he may have saved the series for Colorado. Unlike in game one when the Sox pummeled the Rockies, they have to feel like they let game two get away. While any player will tell you its harder to get over losing a close game, it is also true the Rockies proved to themselves that they can play with Boston, in Boston. And heading back to what is sure to be the Rocky Mountain equivalent of hyphy inside of Coors Field on Saturday, this could prove to be just enough to get the Killer H's (or h sounds) Helton, Hawpe, Jimenez, Herges, and Howdoyou Getpickedoffthere in the win column.

Schilling is an absolute blow-hard, but he is one of the best competitors in modern sports. Less than a month shy of his 41st birthday (we're both Scorpio's?) he still has the guile, the intensity, and to be fair, the stuff to compete and succeed when the lights are shining the brightest. Do you think he will break out the bloody sock if he gets another start?

Now that Barry Bonds is semi "retired" and no longer at the top of his game, is there a better at bat to watch from a pure baseball stand point than Manny Ramirez? The man is severely locked when he is at the plate. Part of it is his "who cares" (quote intentionally taken out of context) attitude that keeps him from trying too hard. This is why he is so effective hitting with two strikes. While Big Pappi gets the lion's share of the attention from the media, which he is entitled to, why do you think teams continue to pitch to him in game breaking situations? That's right, because Manny is usually on deck. Ortiz is tremendous, but without Manny, there is no Pappi. Just ask him himself how good he was in Minnesota.

GAME 1 MVP: Josh Beckett

GAME 1 LVP: Jeff Francis. Still no Canadian born pitcher has one a Workld Sereis game. Take that Canadian Dollar!!

GAME 1 Turning Point: Dustin Pedroia's first inning homer. "I'm a Sun Devil Baby." Even though that was most famously uttered by Cuba Gooding Jr. I can imagine Pedroia saying it.

GAME 1 Biggest Question: Why did Beckett pitch 7 innings with a 13-1 lead?

GAME 1 Biggest Question Answered: Can the Rockies pick up where they left off? Answer: a resounding NO.

GAME 2 MVP: OkalBon. (apologies to Mike Lowell)

GAME 2 LVP: Holliday. Despite going 4-4 every little league coach is making sure the runner isn't picked off in that situation, except the little league coach usually isn't a former major leaguer.

GAME 2 Turning Point: Lowell taking third on J.D. Drew's single in the fourth, setting up Varitek's sacrifice fly.

GAME 2 Biggest Question: Can Hideki Okajima give Terry Francona 2 or more innings on Saturday if needed?

GAME 2 Biggest Question Answered: Can the Red Sox line up be held in check? Yes.

Oct 22, 2007

There's Only One October

In honor of the best postseason in professional sports, (thanks to games almost every day NFL, but not four times a day, everyday, for two months, NBA, NHL) we will keep this to October and the teams who had the privilege of playing meaningful games this month.

TBS = Refreshing. While Steve Stone, Dick Stockton, and Chip or Skip or some other Caray not named Harry leave much to be desired by those of us who have seen more than zero games in our life, I felt it was refreshing change from the onslaught of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver that Fox slams down our face. Ratings bad? Try firing you audio production staff and let Marcel Marceau, rest in peace, do the play by play. By the way I intentionally left out Ted Robinson from above.

I know I am not the first person to point out Buck and McCarver, but Joe Buck doesn't seem to know sports as well as his hair stylist knows highlights. And Tim McCarver is pound for pound the most orange and terrible national analyst who has a regular gig. I think he took his job title as "color guy" a bit too seriously. Let it go grey, it would look distinguished Tim, and don't let Brittney talk you into the fake n' bake tan next time either.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, are we looking close enough at the Colorado Rockies improbable run? Lets recall that the greatest closer, statistics wise, is due a full playoff share by Rockies management. The Rockies were down to their last strike, so to speak, on the second to last day of the season. The Padres were one strike away from clinching their third play-off spot in three years with their will-be hall of fame closer Trevor Hoffman on the mound. The Brewer's and Tony Gwynn Jr. are down to their last strike when the son of the Padre legend laces a triple to clear the bases and the Brewers prevail. Fast-forward to game number 163. The Padres have just scored 2 runs in the top of the fourteenth and again turn to he of 524 saves, Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman retires one batter and the Rockies now have a trip to the post season and a little history too. Now they can stop showing Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla highlights to get the fans in Denver excited.

Quickly now, its getting late. The Cubs are okay, Lou Pinella is fine, this is how baseball works everybody, the Cubs lose.

Diamondbacks, great improvements this year. A lot of young talent, a pretty good manager, and of course addition by subtraction, purple is no longer one of their team colors. Unfortunately for them however, they still play in a blimp hanger.

Phillies. How have you not won anything. What most fans would do for either Rollins, Utley, or Howard. You have all three, and if it weren't for the most epic September collapse in history by the Mets, you would have under-achieved once again. I know your ball park is ridiculous, but move the fences in or something. Give your pitchers a chance.

Angels. Please don't sign A-Rod, you already took the Only world series Giant fans had a shot at, don't take a short stop they should try to sign too.

Yankees. You are 25-31 in your last 7 post season appearances. By the way those all came in the last 7 post seasons. Our collective heart goes out to you. Joe Torre, way to stand up for your self over that weak-sauce contract they offered you. It wasn't your fault Chen Ming Wang pitched more like Too Wong Foo.

The Red Sox and the Rockies should give us a good match up. Sox have home field and experience, but the Rockies have, despite not playing since what seems like the first George Bush Presidency, momentum. The Rockies pitchers have a post season ERA of 2.08! To be fair they haven't faced the likes of Pedroia, Yooooouuuuuke, Papi, Manny, Lowell, okay fine Drew, and so on. By the way Brian Sabean, notice a key element in the Red Sox line up? Yep, you hit it right on the nose, major league hitters. I know I promised no Giants lamentings, but I can't help my self. it is truly a disease.

Well let me leave you with an excerpt from Bill Simmons ALCS Diary that had me cracking up like I had just seen Dane Cook listed on VH1's Douche Bag Count Down, true story. Enjoy.

From Bill Simmons "There's only one October diary:"

11:21: For some reason, I'm thinking about these elaborate home run handshakes that have become all the rage (we even saw some in Game 4). Here are my questions:

Question No. 1: Does someone like Lofton go up to Martinez during batting practice before Game 2 and say, "I thought up a six-part celebration in case either one of us hits a homer, do you have time to rehearse it later?" Is that how it works?

Question No. 2: If you're Ortiz and you have to memorize multiple handshakes for different teammates, does it eventually affect your preparation for the game?

Question No. 3: What happens if you're Drew and nobody asks you to create an elaborate home run handshake with them? Do you feel like a loser?

Question No. 4: At what point does the post-home run handshake scene morph into the scene in "Boogie Nights" when Dirk Diggler takes over the dance floor as everyone performs an elaborate disco routine behind him? We're almost there, right?
(Note: I don't have answers for these questions. Just the questions themselves. Sorry I didn't clarify that earlier.)

Before we go, some impressive revelations shared with me by Tim McCarver during game game 4 of the ALCS. I am paraphrasing here, but Professor McCarver explained that a lead-off home run leads to more multi-run innings than a lead-off walk. Brilliant, we look forward to more discoveries during the McCarver led excavation of baseball obviousness.