Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What do you mean, Baker's out?

Who's idea was it to take a team previously managed by Dusty Baker for years and throw Lou Piniella into the mix? You can't find two more different guys. First, we all know that Dusty Baker is probably my favorite topic here. So I'm sad that he's gone. But the Cubs are so soft that when their TV announcers said anything critical about the team, they ran to Baker and complained. They can't take mild, even constructive criticism from their announcers -- how will they take the serious stuff from Piniella? Piniella is one of the most fiery managers in the game, if not the most. Do you remember the start of the D-Rays v. Red Sox Rivalry in 2005? Lou explained away all the hit batsmen by saying, "We didn't throw at guy's heads, but if we're thrown at, we'll defend ourselves." Curt Schilling responded by calling Lou and idiot and claiming that D-Ray players had told him that Lou was the reason they're a lock to lose 100 games every year, and that he makes them throw at guys. Lou responded by saying he's forgotten more baseball than Curt will ever know, he's disappointed that Curt would say such a thing, and he's sure none of his guys would ever say that. Oh yeah, and recall that the 2005 D-Rays had nothing to defend, that they hit three Blue Jays in the next game, and that all those bullet pitches were just pitches that sailed away.

In contrast, Dusty Baker explained away all the walks his pitchers gave out and his batters didn't receive last year by saying that, "walks just clog up the bases." And how about this memorable story?

In a 2004 game against the Marlins, Moises Alou hit a foul ball close to where Bartman was sitting in the 2003 NLCS. After it went into the stands, Marlin's left fielder Miguel Cabrera mocked Alou's angry reaction to Bartman's grab, pouting and stomping around, and basically acting like a small child. Marlin's 3B Mike Lowell said, "It was the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life." The Cubs, however, didn't think it was very funny, and Cabrera got dotted by Cub's pitcher Glendon Rusch in his next at bat. Well, whether or not it was funny isn't up for debate, because it was hilarious. The fact is, the 2004 Cubs are just soft.

And that was two years ago. Nothing has changed. The team whines and cries about the smallest things. In many ways, they're a lot like the post-championship Pistons. In a blog post I saw a few days ago, it was explained that the Pistons lack of success lately is the result of their excessive on-court whining. The only difference is that the Pistons do it because they think they deserve the calls, post-championship as they are. The Cubs, needless to say, are not in that position.

So what's it going to be for the post-Baker era? How's it going to play out? Unless Hendry makes some serious moves, the team is still going to be terrible. But maybe instead of going out on the field knowing they'll lose 90 games and not caring how they do it, they'll go out big. Like, "hey, we know we're still a lock to lose at least 90, but we're gonna be major a-holes about it." So, instead of LaTroy Hawkins pitching in the 9th to protect the lead, but actually giving up the win to Albert Pujols' 3rd jack of the night, (and then, you guessed it, crying about it, in this case attempting to fight Ump Tim Tschida, under "Albert Pujols is good,") we'll just have Ryan Dempster peg Pujols in the skull. The outcome will be the same, but at least they'll have more street cred!

Those D-Rays and Red Sox - May 1, 2005
Yankee OF and Catchup-Part II - May 16, 2006
Red Sox/Yankees, Pujols, and NL West Solutions - May 1, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

AL/NLCS Recaps

I just got back from a Writing Competence Exam that I'm required to take in order to graduate college. You pick one of 10 questions presented to you. I chose the question asking if, since the two teams with the best record in the AL were eliminated in the first round, should we increase the series to a seven-game format from the current five-game format? Let's get something straight - these ten questions were all current event questions to be answered in typical, five-page, persuasive format. There were questions asking about the college's upcoming "Coming Out" week. There was a question asking about Congressman Foley's "deplorable" behavior. Questions of great and worldly importance. And a question about baseball. Well, I think I passed.

Now, look where we are? The Tigers have a 3-0 series lead on an Oakland team that I berated SI for rating as the "2nd best" in all of baseball. Looks like they weren't that far off the mark. Actually, Oakland beat the Twins because, in the all-important Game 3, the Twins sent out tough guy Brad Radke. When your very existence in the postseason is on the line, you don't send out a guy with so many physical problems that, less than halfway through the season, he says "screw it, I'm retiring after this." If he's you're Game 3 stopper, you have no business in the postseason anyway. Taking one step back, the A's made it into the playoffs because, heck, they're in the AL West. If you can take out the pitching-deprived Rangers, the talent-deprived Mariners, and the offensively-deprived Angels, you win. And I know the A's finished with 93 wins, and the Angels with 89. Toronto had 87 wins in a heck of a lot tougher division. If Toronto had played say, eight games, against the Mariners instead of the Yankees, they might have 95 wins. But good job Oakland, I'm sure it means a lot to you guys, even after you get your brains beat in by a very good Tigers team.

This Detroit team is, quite simply, a team that is not going to be beaten right now. This is the kind of team that I play in MVP Baseball 2004, and they make every play. The pitcher will spot every pitch on the corner. The outfielders catch up to every ball. It's like the team is playing on god mode. Now, I'm not saying that the Tigers aren't a good team. They're great. But they're also hot right now, and the postseason is the right time to get hot.

Now, who saw last night's Game 2 of the NLCS? First, let it be known that, in every conceivable way, the NL is a wreck of a league. I simply cannot find the entertainment in any NL Game. There's something about it that just is not exciting. I know it's crazy, but I feel like the parks are darker, the players are more formal, and the excitement level just isn't there. I feel like I'm watching a golf match. (Is it called a match?) I don't expect anything exciting to happen. But when I watch an AL game, I never know what to expect. It's like getting together the 2004-2005 Pacers team; some idiot is going to throw a punch, or fire a gun, or scream at Rick, or freak out at the media. You don't know what will happen, but you know it will be big. In the AL, we have all the drama of Kenny Rogers and the Tiger's bullpen limiting the A's to two hits to go up 3-0 on them and on the brink of a World Series. Meanwhile, in the NL, we have Chris Carpenter pitching as well as John Maine; actually, worse, but only because he was in for one more inning. And then we have a tie game, broken up when the great So Taguchi - who didn't even start - hits a home run. The Cardinals score twice more, and the Mets respond -- as their own stadium empties -- by striking out, and then grounding out twice more to end the game. Fabulous. Did you actually listen to So's Home Run? It was morbid. Shea was silent. The announcers were mildly excited. Now the series is tied 1-1, while the Tigers are about to enter the World Series. It's just boring. However, I won't deny the fact that, since the only NL team I even come close to caring about is the Cardinals, maybe I just don't like it because I don't follow it. Oh yeah, and because every team is awful.

So where do we go from here? Is a well-rested Tiger team better off than a down-trodden, pitching deprived Cardinals or Mets team? The writing is on the wall, people. I just have one question - when is the parade? *Edit, 11-16-08: Opps.