Monday, October 4, 2010

Major League Baseball thoughts

Year in Review

Another regular season of baseball is in the books, so that means the postseason is upon us...and the Yankees are in the playoffs.  Surprise, surprise.  They've made it to meaningful October baseball for 15 of the past 16 years.  They draft well, spend exceedingly well, and have a "do whatever it takes" mentality from the front office to the playing field.  You can't look past anyone in the lineup.  If the Yanks can get playoff wins from someone other than C.C. Sabathia or Andy Pettitte, a repeat could be in order.

Captain Derek Jeter wants to play November baseball

What is rather shocking is that the Twins are regulars to the playoffs, winning the AL Central six of the last nine seasons.  Their success is attributable to solid drafting, player development, and excellent coaching from Ron Gardenhire and the rest of his staff.  The Twins don't spend with the big boys, but they play fundamental baseball.  If not for injuries to Justin Morneau, I would pick them to win it all.

The Tampa Rays are an interesting story...up until 2007, they had been the lovable losers.  Then, all at once, years of drafting high paid off with players like Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria coming of age in 2008 under the tutelage of Joe Maddon.  With David Price as their young ultra-talented ace, the Rays are now a legitimate heavyweight in the American League despite an apathetic home crowd and dilapidated stadium (by today's standards).

David Price pitched the Rays to the World Series in 2008 by getting the last out in the ALCS, can he do the same in 2010 as a starter?

The Texas Rangers came out of nowhere this year to dethrone the perennial AL west power, Los Angeles Angels.  Josh Hamilton may have had his off-the-field difficulties, but he plays the game with a youthful enthusiasm that is contagious.  Team president, Nolan Ryan has been a stabilizing force for the organization that was recently in bankruptcy court.  Don't discount Cliff Lee in the postseason.

Over in the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies achieved the best record with an amazing 49-19 record over the past two plus months.  The Phils have an amazing top-end of their rotation (Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels) with all-star talents throughout the lineup - a truly viable candidate to capture its second World Series in three years.

The Roys are tremendous inning-eaters, which will allow Charlie Manuel to use his bullpen judiciously

Bobby Cox has led the Atlanta Braves to an astounding 14 division titles since 1991, along with this year's wild card berth.  Of course, those 15 visits to the playoffs yielded only one championship.  This is Cox's last year at the helm, so there will be a lot of sentimentality supporting him in his final rodeo.  But, the Braves roster is probably the most bereft of talent of any postseason team.  Jason Heyward and Tommy Hanson are going to be stalwarts for this franchise for many years to come, but they're not ready yet.

The Cincinnati Reds are probably the most stunning team in the 2010 campaign.  Most experts had the Reds picked near the bottom of the NL Central.  Never underestimate the power of the toothpick...Dusty Baker has won at every stop in his managing career.  Joey Votto is a supreme talent and the front office spent money wisely in the free agency class to round out the lineup nicely.

The most thrilling race came down the final day of the season when the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres to win the NL West.  The Giants feature a balanced lineup where it seems like every guy hits .280 with 15-20 HR and 70-80 RBI.  If the starting pitchers (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez) put it together, they could be scary this October.

Tim Lincecum needs to find his "stuff" if the Giants are to advance

Gut feeling - Phillies over Rays in five to win the World Series.  The old adage is good pitching defeats good hitting, right?

My View of Baseball

When I was growing up, baseball was a passion.  I played it, imagined what it would be like to hit the game-winning home run in the ninth inning.  I collected baseball cards.  Chalk it up to youthful innocence, but I loved the game.  My team (the Pirates) were actually contenders for many years when I was a youngster.  Now, the Pirates are dreadful.  While they may have a few young pups who can hit, their starting rotation is the pits.  I'm not expecting a turnaround anytime soon.

I can't tell you the last time that I sat down and watched a full nine-inning game on the tube.  The announcers are terrible, the personalities in today's game aren't engaging.  We've endured the steroid era, which has undermined the credibility of the game.  The action in games is just not pulse-pounding.  Maybe it's a lack of rooting interest, maybe it's growing up...or perhaps when the MLB playoffs begin, my sports mind is more preoccupied with NFL football and the start of the NHL hockey.  It's just not the same anymore.

Tim McCarver should have never been allowed to wear a headset

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