SIDEBAR
»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
Walk-Off Walk: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
Apr 27th, 2010 by Dan

Chicago Cubs Kosuke Fukudome

Fukudome ALMOST hit the game-winning walk-off home run. That's enough for me to put a picture of him up today, haha.

It was a light baseball day yesterday with only two teams that matter to me playing baseball. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in the offseason I became a Nats fan. The Marlins will always come first for me, but Washington has made a pretty good case for itself. I love an underdog and I love seeing the pieces of this team come together.

26 April

NPB
No games on Mondays!

NOTE: That’s not entirely true, but they seem to only make up rain delays on Mondays, by my count.

MLB
San Diego Padres (1) at Florida Marlins (10). Josh Johnson does what JJ does best. He doesn’t quite notch the shut out, but a complete game win is always fine by me. JJ’s slider was still hitting in the 90s in the 9th and he even helped himself out going 3-4 with 3 RBIs. What a pitcher. Florida rises to sole possession of second place with an 11-9 record, half a game back from the Phillies (who lost to San Francisco last night).

Washington Nationals (3) at Chicago Cubs (4). Is there anything more anti-climactic than the walk-off walk? The Nats couldn’t find the strike zone in the 10th and walked in the Cubs’ fourth run. Their performance was good enough that Duffy wasn’t ashamed to wear her Nats hat at the game, but it wasn’t good enough. The Nats record falls back to 0.500, 10-10, and they fall to third, half a game back from the Mets and 1.5 from the Phils. I really hope this division stays this competitive all year, I’m loving it right now.

MLB 2010 Season Projections [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Mar 31st, 2010 by Dan

Another year, another season! 2010 looks to be another good one. The Marlins don’t look like they’re about to run away with their division, but the Rays have a fighting chance this year. I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up and go through this division by division like we do every year.

AL East

After a (glorious) season where the Yankees didn’t make it to the playoffs for once, the Bronx Bombers came back with a vengeance and took it all. The Yanks may have lost Damon and Matsui, but they’re still in a strong position in the AL East and look poised to make the playoffs in the division. Players are getting older on that team and the pitching isn’t as strong as they’d like, but, barring some kind of major injury, I stand by that prediction.

The Red Sox also made a few big moves, getting rid of Jason Bay and adding in Adrián Beltré, and they’re projected to have a solid season with strong defense and slightly weakened bat strength. I think a lot of how well they do this year depends on whether or not they’re able to produce runs at the plate with David Ortiz, who did not perform to standards last year.

My favorite in the East, the Tampa Bay Rays, have had a super strong spring. With the best spring record of the AL, they could upset the Yankees or Red Sox if and only if their rotation and bullpen return to 2008 form. The offense is there, the defense on the field is there, it’s just a matter of making outs. Will Rafael Soriano be enough to solve their closer woes? That alone will tell you what this team will do this year.

I’m excited to see what the Orioles put together this year. Their investment in youth is starting to bear fruit as prospects make their way onto the field, but this young, inexperienced team is up against juggernauts in the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. I’m going to call this a building year for the Orioles, even if that’s selling them a bit short. They would have a good chance in any other division, but not the East.

There are few teams in baseball that bore me more than the Blue Jays (:cough: Royals, Pirates, and Padres :cough:). This is a team that acknowledged that they have no chance to make a run of it by trading Roy Halladay to the Phillies.

Projected Standings:
Yankees
Rays
Red Sox
Orioles
Blue Jays

Remember that I’m a Rays fanboy and my positioning makes sense. I think the Rays have a strong chance to take the AL wild card this year.

AL Central

For a while there, this division was the Twins’ to lose. Then the second best closer in the game, Joe Nathan, went down for the season, muddying up the waters. Add in that the team is moving to a brand new ballpark and things could get interesting. Gone are the super-competitive advantages of the Metrodome, replaced by what will be a SUPER frigid open-air ballpark that will take some getting used to. When it comes to Joe Mauer, I’m reminded of the fictional words of Michael Bluth, “You gotta lock that down.” Lucky for the Twins, they managed to get that done with an eight-year, 184 M$ contract. It should help.

I hear a lot about Chicago’s rotation being so vastly improved, but it’s almost always followed by the caveat that Peavy needs to pitch well. It’s been a long while since his 2007 Cy Young campaign and he hasn’t been able to remain healthy. Despite how much Obama loves this team, I can’t stand A. J. Pierzynski and, by extension, the team.

Detroit has a team that I want to love. Those poor guys live in a third world city that is on the verge of absolute collapse. They keep giving Dontrelle Willis chances to succeed (and he might be in the rotation this year), but I’m not sure that they will be able to keep up with the Twins this year thanks to weak pitching. I’ll be keeping an eye on these guys.

The Indians may be on the upswing and ready to bounce back, but I’m not ready to believe that yet. I don’t see much happening for this team.

Kansas City has an awful team aside from Zack Greinke.

Projected Standings:
Twins
White Sox
Tigers
Indians
Royals

AL West

Despite their stupid long name, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have had one of the most consistent teams of the century. They contend every year and make it to the playoffs almost every year. It’s hard to ignore how solid this team is. Unfortunately, they’ve been fighting a war of attrition these past two years with Texas and Seattle getting closer and closer to robbing AL West dominance away from them. They gained Matsui, but lost vital starter Lackey. Will it be enough?

Seattle wants it this year. They went and signed Cliff Lee and even took the risk of signing the volatile Milton Bradley to bolster their bats. Things were looking great for Seattle until Cliff Lee ended up on the DL and Milton Bradley got himself ejected from two straight spring training games. Will they be able to keep it all together and make a real run for the West?

The Rangers are solid, but they have a lot of reliance on players like Josh Hamilton who are very injury prone. They’ve been just short of the playoffs for several years now and they’re real hungry for it.

I have so much apathy for the Athletics. I’m sure their team is pretty good and has a chance this year, but it never seems to pan out for Oakland.

Projected Standings
Mariners
Angels
Rangers
Athletics

I’m going out on a major limb there. I could be dead wrong.

NL East

My favorite division also contains two of my least favorite teams in baseball, both of which are set to have great seasons. Last year’s NL Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, are still just as good with Roy Halladay instead of Cliff Lee. They’ve still got a great lineup with good pitching and, even without their closer, they should still have a solid season. They are The Team To Beat (TM) in the East.

Atlanta, my least favorite team, has got stars in their eyes for Jason Heyward, a top-prospect who made the team this spring. Heyward’s bat, combined with Hanson and Kawakami’s arms, could be very formidable in the East. This is a team that worries me.

The Mets have had such terrible luck recently that it’s almost bound to start swinging back in the other direction…right? With an adjusted outfield to help home runs, their offense might perform a little better, but that injury-riddled team is not looking all that much better this year. If they outperform the Marlins, I’ll be surprised.

Speaking of teams that won’t outperform the Marlins, Washington is almost guaranteed to make marginal improvements this year. Their rotation is still a mess, but veterans like Chien-Ming Wang and Liván Hernández can combine with the brilliance of Stephen Strasburg and the promising performance of Drew Storen and produce what might actually be a major league rotation. The lineup needs some work to score runs, but pitching is infinitely more important for a team that wants to win.

Speaking of a team that emphasizes pitching, we’ve finally arrived at my favorite team, the Florida Marlins. Over the off-season they finalized a strong contract for Josh Johnson and kept Dan Uggla, keeping the rotation and lineups strong. Combined with Hanley Ramirez and Chris Coghlan destroying NL pitching and Ricky Nolasco’s brilliant performance on the mound, this is a solid team with only a few holes that need filling. If Cameron Maybin and Gaby Sanchez live up to their potential, I don’t see much standing in this team’s way. There’s always a question of pitching with the back end of the rotation, but Chris Volstad has been looking good of late and Anibal Sanchez fluctuates, but trends on the better side most times. The real question is in the bullpen where the Fish will be relying on Leo Núñez to close games. I’m not confident in Núñez yet.

Projected Standings:
Phillies
Marlins
Braves
Mets
Nationals

NL Central

The Central has a chance to be interesting this year with strong squads being fielded by St. Louis, Cincinnati, and “this is our last chance for a while” Chicago. St. Louis has the best chance here thanks to strong pitchers Carpenter and Wainwright and their strong offense in Pujols and Holliday. Cincinnati has been a dark horse so many years in a row now that they’d better start performing. The promise of Aroldis Chapman could push them ahead if the offense follows, but otherwise the team has a strong uphill climb. The Cubbies don’t have much time left before they have to start “rebuilding”. If they don’t put together a playoff season this year, it might be a while before we see one happen again. I still love Fukudome, even if the Cubs don’t. He’s a consistent and solid player.

I don’t know much about Milwaukee’s squad this year, but they’re usually a solid team, but I didn’t hear much in the offseason that would convince me they were ready to push ahead of last year’s performance.

The rest of the Central, the Pirates and the Astros, really don’t make an impact in baseball nowadays. Pittsburgh is really a AAAA team and Houston has failed to make any kind of splash in a long while.

Projected Standings:
Cardinals
Cubs
Reds
Brewers
Astros
Pirates

NL West

Colorado made the biggest turnaround I’ve seen since the last time they did it in 2007 to win the wild card last year and make the playoffs. After that strong finish and with LA’s messy divorce keeping them from making significant progress on their team, I see Colorado as the frontrunners in this division.

A messy divorce has been draining Dodger ownership of cash and the ability to run their team. At best, the Dodgers remain as good as they were last year. Realistically, they fall behind the Rockies and maybe even the Giants too.

Solid pitching, but not much offense. It’s been the same story for years now. A strong team only because it keeps the run count down on the opposing team.

What about the Padres?

Projected Standings
Rockies
Giants
Dodgers
Padres

I’m bound to be dead wrong, per usual, but we’ll see how I’m doing in July and again in September. I can’t wait for Sunday/Monday!

Super Ichiban Travel Blog W Jersey Special [II]
Nov 13th, 2009 by Dan

The pride of my trip to Japan no doubt has to be the 12 jersey collection I brought home with me. Here is a quick rundown of each of the jerseys, a little background behind each, and what I think of it. I’m gonna cover them in the order that I got them, so that puts the Giants jersey a little later, even though that was the first game I went to.

Jersey #1 – Orix Buffaloes

The genesis of the Jersey Project began on a ridiculously sunny day outside Skymark Stadium. As you may or may not remember, I collect fitted, official baseball caps at each of the MLB stadiums I go to, so I was looking for something similar to collect at the Japanese parks. Unfortunately, neither of the two teams I’d seen had fitted caps. I had initially ruled out jerseys in the states because I knew how expensive they ran, but then I noticed that the Buffaloes jerseys they had for sale in their outdoor stalls were only ¥3500 (about $40 at the exchange rate I suffered). That was only $10 more than I was used to spending on caps in America!

My first NPB jersey!

My first NPB jersey!

It’s a pretty nice jersey and after I tossed it on in the ballpark I was certain that I’d made a good souvenir choice. The B’s on the front and the Orix patch on the left are both legitimate, sewn on patches. It’s a pretty sharp color scheme too. The white contrasts very nicely with the dark blue and the red/yellow trim around the sleeves and patches looks pretty good. All that said, it’s still kind of a generic jersey. There’s no team name, no city name, no prominent company name. I like it, but the other, more creative jerseys just look better.

Rank: 8 of 12. Solid, but just too generic.

Jersey #2 – Hiroshima Toyo Carp

Hiroshima is a city that’s really dear to my heart. Of all the places I visited in Japan, it left the most lasting effect on me, both from the team spirit and the indomitable spirit of the people who rebuilt the city with vigor. Beyond all that, the team’s most prominent color is red and, to quote Andy Bernard, my blood runs Big Red. Housed in Mazda Stadium, a brand new ballpark with all the amenities, the Carp had one of the more robust team stores filled to the brim with red from boxer shorts (complete with catcher signs over the crotch) to the all-important jerseys and caps.

One of my favorite jerseys.

One of my favorite jerseys.

This time the jersey fetched a heftier fee, ringing up at around ¥5500, if I remember right, with the premium version selling for ¥6500. Concerned with saving money, I’m pretty sure I went with the cheaper edition of the jersey, which is kind of a shame now that I think about it. I’m not sure if the more expensive one actually had sewn on names (or even if the real jerseys do), but the names on the jersey are printed on and it lacks the ridges on the premium jersey. Despite all of that, the Carp jersey gets extra points from me for being red, quite fetching to look at, distinctly Japanese with Hiroshima printed across the front, and it features my favorite Japanese ballplayer, Akihiro Higashide.

This guy hit his 1000th hit with me in the stadium watching. I love this guy.

This guy hit his 1000th hit with me in the stadium watching. I love this guy.

With all of these things going for it (and it being the jersey of my favorite team), one would expect it to top the bill, but I have to take some points away for its cheaper design and printed text. If it weren’t for those things, it would definitely rate higher.

Rank: 3 of 12. Ok, it doesn’t rank all that low, but still, it’s not #1!

Jersey #3 – Saitama Seibu Lions

You all remember how this jersey believes lions, right?

Makes me laugh every time...

Makes me laugh every time...

There’s one thing that the brand-conscious among you will notice right away upon viewing a picture of the jersey. I’ll give you a second to check it out…

Kind of plain, but made with nice material. Whats up with the armpits though?

Kind of plain, but made with nice material. What's up with the armpits though?

That’s right, the Lions are sponsored by none other than Nike, no doubt a deal that was penned (if it wasn’t already in place) following their victory in the Japan Series last year and, wouldn’t you know it, a brand-name jersey costs a lot more than the regular Joe editions pushed by the other teams. Already not a fan of the Lions because they play in the Pacific League in a strange quasi-dome, here I had to pay something like ¥7200 for this jersey. My little quest was starting to get quite expensive and I wasn’t happy about it.

Beyond that, there’s nothing really wrong with the jersey. It’s got a solid, old-school baseball look, but there’s not much to it beyond that. Grey is a terribly bland color (I suppose I could have bought white, but those were even plainer. There weren’t even blue highlights, if I remember correctly. The Saitama patch on the right arm and the Lions-ball-grasped-in-a-paw patch are both pretty generic looking too. The best feature is the “i believe lions,” but you can’t see that if the jersey is buttoned up or even in normal wear. All of that pales in comparison to the bizarre underarm of the jersey. For some godforsaken reason, the jersey does not have full armpits. Instead there are these vents, I guess to help get air to the underarm. I always wear an undershirt, but with these little vents exposing my armpits to the world, this jersey kind of forces the point.

Rank: 7 of 12. What’s up with the armpits on this thing?

Jersey #4 – Tokyo Yakult Swallows

By the time I showed up at Meiji Jingu for the Swallows game, I’d already seen the team play once. Counting that day, I was to see them play three more games. If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that I’m not a fan of this team, but they’ve actually got one of the nicer jerseys that I picked up.

That top red button really sells it for me.

That top red button really sells it for me.

The Swallows have a jersey that’s just different enough from the MLB sets that it really sells the whole “Hey, we play baseball in Japan, not America” thing. From the red accents on the side (can you tell I love red?) to the great patches on both the arms and above the team name, to the coup de grace, the red top button, it’s just a well-designed jersey. I don’t have the other buttons done, but they’re white, not red, which would normally annoy someone so obsessed with symmetry and patterns, but I love it in this case. It’s like the rising sun sits right at the top of the jersey. Best of all, the jersey returned to a more reasonable price. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it was definitely between ¥4000 and ¥5000. I still can’t believe how much I paid for a Lions jersey that doesn’t even have a marketable player’s name on the back.

Rank: 5 of 12. It’s the Rising Sun on my jersey!

Jersey #5 – Yomiuri Giants

The Yankees of Japan. What team do I hate (fourth) most in the states? Which jersey do I loathe from my collection?

This one hurt to buy.

This one hurt to buy.

I’ll admit, this is a jersey I hate for completely non-aesthetic reasons. Aside from being rather plain, I am a fan of the orange and black on the jersey. Beyond that, there is one major reason why I hate this jersey. Make that 12000 reasons. That’s right, I had to pay ¥12000 to get this thing. Why?

1. They’re the Giants. The most popular team in Japan
2. It’s another name brand. Adidas

I dont even know who this guy is...but he does have a great number.

I don't even know who this guy is...but he does have a great number.

Since I didn’t know that I was collecting jerseys on this trip when we saw the Giants the first night, this one comes from the day Dave left and I went to Tokyo Disney Sea. I will say that I saw the jerseys in the store that night and thought they were far too expensive, but here I was, stuck buying the premium jersey. Why? I hear you ask. It’s because there are no non-premium jerseys. Pay less than ¥12000 and you can get a t-shirt that looks like a jersey, but you will never get a jersey. I bit the bullet and bought the thing, but I still get mad thinking about it.

Rank: 11 of 12. Sure, I’m being petty, but it’s my list and my criteria.

Jersey #6 – Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

After paying so much for my Giants jersey, prices became mostly trivial, so my dislike of the Hawks jersey comes not from paying between ¥6000 and ¥7000 for the thing, but more from an aesthetic dislike.

White jersey with yellow armbands. Way to break the creativity bank guys...

White jersey with yellow armbands. Way to break the creativity bank guys...

Uninspired and lazy is what I think when I see this jersey. The most creative part of it is the goofy-looking Hawk mascot on the right sleeve and we all know how I feel about that bird and his kin. Two yellow stripes? That’s the best you can come up with?

Worse, the Hawks are thinking of changing their jersey next year to be more like the BayStars. Just you wait until I get to that abomination…

Rank: 9 of 12. Stupid mascot and yellow bands.

Jersey #7 – Chunichi Dragons

It’s probably time to call me inconsistent, but I rather like the Dragons jersey. Maybe it’s the old-school look with the linked ‘C’ and ‘D’ or maybe it’s the delicious shade of blue that the team uses (it’s the closest to Cubs blue that I saw in Japan and I love me some Cubs blue), but I really like it.

Its all about letter design.

It's all about letter design.

The player is pretty forgettable, but they don’t really sell Fukudome jerseys in the stadium anymore. I hear he’s a veteran who’s been playing a long time and he had a decent game, but he didn’t call out to me like Higashide or Toritani.

Araki is getting close to the end of his career, but I love his number and the fact that he plays second base.

Araki is getting close to the end of his career, but I love his number and the fact that he plays second base.

Beyond that, I like the wedge-shaped highlights on the sleeves and up the sides, but it’s a shame that the jersey doesn’t really have any patches.

Rank: 6 of 12. A solid effort, but the ones above it either have more sentimental value or sharper designs..

Jersey #8 – Hanshin Tigers

This is a jersey done right. Everything about it just exudes tight design. Pinstripes are a staple of baseball while the black and yellow interact fantastically everywhere they’re paired together.

Sharp.

Sharp.

Even the textures are nice on this sucker, with everything sewn on and a ridged surface, it’s also really nice to feel. Check out that fierce Tiger patch. Scary.

Toritani! My second favorite Japanese baseball player.

Toritani! My second favorite Japanese baseball player.

I almost unintentionally ended up falling in love with numbers and players that were part of the middle infield. While I’ve got a few pitchers thrown in there (and a first baseman), I’m pretty sure most of the jerseys I own with names belong to the middle infield. If that’s not supported by the data, then my favorite ones do, so can it. Takeshi Toritani is a fine shortstop and he was a clutch performer in the games that I saw.

Rank: 2 of 12. The highest ranked “traditional” jersey, this guy just gets it in all the right places. Pinstripes, black accents, yellow trim, and a badass tiger.

Jersey #9 – Hokkaidō Nippon-Ham Fighters

Back-to-back superstar jerseys. The Nippon-Ham I bought has everything going for it that you’d want in a Japanese jersey. How’s about a quick peek before we go over all the highlights.

Worth it just to see the faces as they read Nippon-Ham

Worth it just to see the faces as they read Nippon-Ham

Sure, Fighters jerseys fetch about ¥9000, but you really get what you pay for in this case. When the Fighters moved to Sapporo (they used to play in Tokyo and share the Dome with the Giants) they totally revamped their image and went with this completely non-traditional look. The most glaring difference is the left sleeve. Beyond the nifty, sewn-on patch, it’s an entirely different color from the rest of the jersey (this is the case for the home, away, and interleague versions of the jersey too). That bold accent, coupled with the hilarious Nippon-Ham adorning the front already seal the deal on this being my favorite jersey, but the best part is the player I got.

I was so close to seeing Darvish pitch...

I was so close to seeing Darvish pitch...

Yu Darvish is a superstar. No other pitcher in Japan approaches how great this guy is right now. He was hurt for most of the season, but he even came out to pitch in Game 2 of the Japan Series while hurt. Instead of pitching to his usual velocity, the guy just relied on curveballs and other tricky pitches and still only gave up two runs on one home run. The guy’s a stud on the mound. I really hope he comes to pitch in the states one day.

Rank: 1 of 12. Darvish + the off-color arm = win

Jersey #10 – Yokohama Baystars

From first to absolute worst. I don’t even know where to start with this guy…

Worst. Jersey. Ever.

Worst. Jersey. Ever.

Oh wait, how about the fact that its NOT EVEN A JERSEY! The traditional jersey has buttons. There are no buttons on this jersey. Everything on it is printed, even the cheesy stars on the shoulders that, I kid you not, I did not notice until two minutes before I wrote this sentence. Everything about this jersey screams forgettable.

Is he any good? Who would know on this team.

Is he any good? Who would know on this team.

At the very least Uchikawa is pretty good. He led the league in 2008 in batting average, but, beyond that, I couldn’t care less. He plays for a garbage team.

Rank 12 of 12. I’m so glad I only had to pay ¥4000 for this thing. It’s not even a jersey!

Jersey #10 – Chiba Lotte Marines

When I first saw these jerseys I thought they looked kind of cool. The different colors and zig-zag of the sleeves look kind of cool from far away, but something about this jersey soured me to the idea not long after I got it.

What kind of a jersey sponsor is The Hartford?

What kind of a jersey sponsor is The Hartford?

When you look closely at the jersey, the most bizarre thing pops out at you. They prominently display the logo of The Hartford. An investment firm on a baseball jersey? Just doesn’t feel right.

I think I have more corner infielders than middle. Oh well, I still like the middle fielders more.

I think I have more corner infielders than middle. Oh well, I still like the middle fielders more.

I know I’m being nitpicky here, but I don’t really like the design they chose for the numbers on the jersey. I also don’t like that it cost me ¥11000 and it doesn’t fit all that well.

Rank: 10 of 12. I can’t explain precisely why I don’t like it, but it’s not that great.

Jersey #12 – Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

I was really pulling for the Eagles to make it to the Japan series this year. After seeing them battle back and beat the Hawks with a grand slam and watching Masahiro Tanaka turn in a stellar pitching performance, the team became my favorite in the Pacific League.

Check out the wings on the team name!

Check out the wings on the team name!

Beyond that, just look at what they did with a fairly simple jersey design. There are no fancy patches or color swatches, but they did do something neat with the logo on the jersey. Instead of going with the regal, refined look, they put freaking wings on the thing. It’s sweet.

Tanaka - my second favorite Japanese pitcher.

Tanaka - my second favorite Japanese pitcher.

The plentiful red is always appreciated and so is Tanaka’s name. A fine jersey and one of the better teams I saw on the trip.

Rank: 4 of 12. Wingtips! On the name!

What do you think of the designs? Would you arrange them differently?

About 40 Left. Hurry Up Fish! [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Aug 12th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Baseball, sad as I am to say it, is nearing the end of its season. As pre-season stories begin to flood my RSS reader I can only lament the loss of the pure baseball period. That time of the year where the only professional sport being played in America is my favorite time of year. Turning on Sportscenter will only yield tiny stories and not spend long segments on the state of some team’s offensive line.

I don’t want to keep dwelling on the oncoming football season. Let’s talk some baseball instead.

Billy and Inaugural Marlins

Billy and Inaugural Marlins

Last week I went and attended the first of a three game series in Washington against the Florida Marlins. Josh Johnson was slated to pitch, so I figured I should see their ace rock the Nats. The inexplicable happened and Washington pulled out a win in the 8th inning. It kept getting stranger as the Nats swept the entire three-game series, stealing leads from the Fish rather like they did against the Nats all season long.

Set to roll into Philadelphia after the series, I was hoping for at least a win. You might recall that Florida was swept the last time they played, but, surprisingly, the Marlins pulled three straight wins for the sweep, even defeating Jamie Moyer, who is 13-3 lifetime against the Fish.

Thanks to those games, the Marlins are (as of this writing) sitting 3.5 games behind Philadelphia and 3.0 games back in the wild card behind the Giants, Rockies, and Cubs. The Phils are in Chicago facing those same Cubs, which can only be good for Florida as it will definitely advance in at least one of those races each night those two play.

As the title says, they’ve only got 40 games left. They’d better play some solid baseball if they want to make a playoff run.

Mid-Season Predictions [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jul 22nd, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Here we are at the middle of the 2009 MLB season and things could not be more different than I expected. Dark horse candidates lead wild cards, division standings are mostly in shambles, it’s just not what most anyone predicted.

Let’s take a look at the current standings:

AL East

Yankees
Red Sox 1GB
Rays 4.5GB
Blue Jays 10.5GB
Orioles 15GB

No doubt about it, the AL East has seen a return to past form with the rise of the Yankees after last year’s dismal (for them) results. At the season’s opening it seemed like the Blue Jays might make a run for it, but their strong start quickly eroded away putting them way far behind in the standings. It will be interesting to see who finishes last: Baltimore or Toronto.

The East remains a three-team race this year and the Rays have a lot of ground to make up. I’ll be revising my predictions as follows:

Red Sox
Rays
Yankees
Orioles
Blue Jays

I think the Rays can win the wild card with a strong second half and the Yankees will struggle late in the season to give Tampa Bay the go ahead. Baltimore’s strong youth combined with Toronto’s impending Roy Halladay trade will allow the Os to pull ahead of the Jays.

AL Central

Tigers
White Sox 2GB
Twins 2.5GB
Royals 13GB
Indians 13.5GB

It’s a real surprise to see Detroit go from last place last year to first place this year. I guess the bigger surprise was that they were last place last year despite a strong squad. It’s a strong three team race in this division too. You can count out the surprisingly terrible Indians and predictably bad Royals this year. Will Kansas City ever field a good team in the near future?

The division will wrap up:

Tigers
Twins
White Sox
Royals
Indians

Detroit is really looking to perform this season and I think they have a great chance thanks to superb young pitching. So long as the team keeps hitting, they should be fine, especially if they can make a move before the deadline for more starting pitching. I predict that Mauer will give the Twins the needed boost to stay above the Sox all year long, but, who knows, it might come to a playoff between the teams again, they’re relatively evenly matched.

AL West

Angels
Rangers 3GB
Mariners 5.5GB
Athletics 15GB

The AL West will be one of the most surprising and exciting divisions this year, I can just feel it. LA won’t be able to hold onto their lead and the Rangers are hungry for their first World Series appearance. Seattle has done quite well for itself this season thanks to the steady lead of Don Wakamatsu and, really, all it takes is a good streak to put them in a competitive spot in the west.

Rangers
Mariners
Angels
Athletics

It’s a bold prediction, but I’m going to forecast a late season collapse for the Angels that puts them a hair behind Seattle in the west. We all know Oakland is going nowhere.

NL East

Phillies
Braves 6.5GB
Marlins 7GB
Mets 10GB
Nationals 27GB

I could not be more surprised about the way a division is turning out. NL East was close coming out of the All-Star break, but a sweep of the Marlins by the Phillies blew this wide open. All the East can hope for is a Phillies slump, but with NL competition being what it is, this may not happen. The Mets place in all of this is rather surprising too, but not unbelievable since almost their entire roster is on the DL. They’re practically fielding a AAA team.

Phillies
Marlins
Braves
Mets
Nationals

New York won’t be able to recover from all of these injuries and the Braves won’t be able to pull ahead of the Fish. Philadelphia holds on to the top and Washington is just terrible.

NL Central

Cardinals
Cubs 2GB
Astros 2GB
Brewers 2GB
Reds 5.5GB
Pirates 8.5GB

Is there a closer division in baseball than the NL Central? Four teams within two games of first place has got to be some sort of record. The most surprising story in this division has to be the terrible play of the Cubs after their amazing 2008 season.

Cardinals
Cubs
Brewers
Astros
Reds
Pirates

Predicting this one is almost like flipping a coin. St. Louis has all the pieces they need to go the distance this year, barring injury. I think they have the best chance to do well considering Chicago’s lack of initiative this year.

NL West

Dodgers
Rockies 9.5GB
Giants 9GB
Diamondbacks 20GB
Padres 23GB

After the exciting NL Central, how do we arrive at this mess? The largest first place lead in baseball goes to LA (again) this year, but in the opposite league. The Dodgers are in a dangerous position with such lax competition and could find themselves floundering in the playoffs this year. I’m still amazed that both Colorado and the Giants are leading the wild card race this year. Colorado has been on a tear since changing skippers to Jim Tracy and the Giants seem to have found their niche with standout pitching by Lincecum and Cain. If only these teams found their stride earlier in the season, this division might have been interesting.

AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay
NL Wild Card: Giants

Controversial choices, I know, but I love both of these teams and I hope to see them succeed this year.

The 2009 MLB All-Star Game [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jul 14th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

It’s that time of year again, the MLB All-Star game is upon us! Last night was the Home Run Derby and, despite being in his team’s stadium, Albert Pujols did not quite manage to make it to the third round. Instead the final competition was between Prince Fielder, of the Milwaukee Brewers, and Nelson Cruz, of the Texas Rangers. In the end, Fielder took it and even bashed in a homer over 500 feet.

So begins the liveblogging event of the year! I’ll be making updates through the evening and night.

Time: 1929

I’m really loving the MLB Network coverage of the All-Star game. The network is in its first year and it shows in their broadcast. There are some boom microphone errors and sound issues at times, even a video error or two, but they are enthusiastic about their presentation and having so much fun that it’s just too fun to watch. I hope that the channel sticks around for the long run.

1938

There have already been some great commercials. Pepsi has one of those “Forever Young” commercials with baseball that I’m a fan of and State Farm has a great commercial featuring MLB gear. My favorite part there is when the Cubs baby is being friendly with the Cardinals baby and the parent of the Cardinals baby turns their kid away.

Get the Braves dog! Chase him away!

2001

A lot is being made of St. Louis being the greatest baseball city because the fans are so knowledgeable. I think this is great, but St. Louis felt so abandoned the last time I was there. They have such a rich NL history, between their World Series wins, the legacy of Branch Rickey, Bob Gibson, and, more recently, Albert Pujols.

I hope the game starts soon so I don’t have to keep waxing poetic. Obama’s gonna throw the opening pitch!

They’re showing footage of Obama in the locker room. So cool. He’s just shooting the breeze with these players and some are pretty awestruck. The expression on Ichiro’s face as he has Obama autograph a baseball for him is great.

2008

Introducing the teams now (minus the starting 9 for both teams).

The AL

Trey Hillman
Don Wakamatsu

Adam Jones
Josh Beckett
Kevin Youkilis
Tim Wakefield
Jonathan Papelbon
Mark Buerhle
Victor Martinez
Brandon Inge
Curtis Granderson
Justin Verlander
Edwin Jackson
Zack Greinke
Chone Figgins
Brian Fuentes
Justin Morneau
Joe Nathan
Mariano Rivera
Andrew Bailey
Felix Hernandez
Evan Longoria
Jason Bartlett
Carl Crawford
Ben Zobrist
Carlos Peña
Nelson Cruz

NL

Joe Torre
Tony La Russa

Justin Upton
Dan Haren
Ted Lily (boos? I thought these guys were nice)
Francisco Cordero
Brad Hawpe
Jason Marquis
Josh Johnson
Hunter Pence
Miguel Tejada
Orlando Hudson
Jonathan Broxton
Chad Billingsley
Prince Fielder
Trevor Hoffman
Johan Santana
Francisco Rodriguez
Ryan Howard
Jayson Werth
Freddy Sanchez
Zack Duke
Ryan Franklin
Heath Bell
Adrian Gonzalez
Matt Cain
Ryan Zimmerman

AL Manager and starting lineup:

Joe Maddon (Manager, Rays)

1. Ichiro Suzuki (RF, Mariners)
2. Derek Jeter (SS, Yankees)
3. Joe Mauer (C, Twins)
4. Mark Teixiera (1B, Yankees)
5. Jason Bay (LF, Red Sox)
6. Josh Hamilton (CF, Rangers)
7. Michael Young (3B, Rangers) – should have been Longoria =*[
8. Aaron Hill (2B, Blue Jays)
9. Roy Halladay (P, Blue Jays)

NL Manager and starting lineup:

Charlie Manuel (Manager, Phillies)

1. Hanley Ramirez (SS, Marlins) – GO HANLEY!
2. Chase Utley (2B, Phillies)
3. Albert Pujols (1B, Cardinals) – huge cheers, gigantic Pujols smiles, hat comes off like a curtain call
4. Ryan Braun (RF, Brewers)
5. Raul Ibañez (LF, Phillies)
6. David Wright (3B, Mets)
7. Shane Victorino (CF, Phillies)
8. Yadier Molina (C, Cardinals) – big applause
9.Tim Lincecum (P, Giants) – I love this guy!

They went and mowed the arch and a famous St. Louis building into the lawn. It looks very nice.

2021

5 presidents giving a speech.

Obama, Bush, Bush, Carter, and Clinton.

These speeches are pretty standard political and feel good stuff. Not too bad, nothing too special.

2031

Sheryl Crow sings the anthem. She’s from Missouri. She does a good job! There’s a flyover, as you’d expect.

Stan Musial and Obama are due out next. Pujols is due to catch the first pitch.

Thanks for spoiling the end of the House season FOX. Why are you advertising for September in July?

2037

Stan the Man comes in from RF on a cart carrying the baseball for the first pitch.

88-years-old. Man, we’re lucky this guy is still alive.

It looks like the players are all wearing their team’s actual uniforms. I like that. It shows where they’re from compared to just a league shirt.

Obama comes onto the field in a White Sox jacket to mixed reaction. There are definitely boos mixed in there.

Doesn’t matter, he throws a great strike to the plate, maybe a little low. After the pitch the cheers FAR outweigh the boos.

2044

Some of you readers don’t ever watch commercials anymore, but I, strangely, kind of like them. I inexplicably love the rollover minute AT&T commercials.

Top of the 1st – 2047

The NL takes the field! Lincecum’s last outing in Busch Stadium was a shutout. Wow, Lincecum only weighs like 167 lbs.

Busch Stadium has some cool little Cardinal friezes on the trim. Obama likes Maddon’s glasses. He asked Wakefield how to throw a knuckleball and, when asked if he had a good curveball, he said “If I did, I wouldn’t have run for president.”

Ichiro almost hit a homer his first time up. Wow. Went foul. Lincecum has such a great rhythmic windup and delivery. It’s so cool to watch.

Broken bat single. What else would you expect from the great Ichiro?

Ouch. Lincecum just nailed Jeter on the bottom of his fist. That was a loud collision. He wasn’t very happy. Worse off, two on, no outs for the AL.

Joe Mauer grounds to third and they almost get a double play, but Pujols’ foot comes off the bag.

Teixiera hits to Pujols and he botches the catch. AL up 1-0

Bay hits one out to CF and Victorino holds Mauer at third.

Hamilton gets one to Pujols who throws Bay out at second, but they can’t make the DP. AL 2-0.

Young hits it to Wright who gets the third out.

2102 Bot 1st

Hanley’s leading off against Halladay, lucky for the NL. Ramirez and the Marlins have done quite well against the Blue Jays this year. He hits it hard to 2B, but Hill is right there. One out.

Utley up to bat. Grounds to first. A quick one-two, but Pujols approaches. Can he turn this around?

The park is on its feet with a standing ‘O’. He’s got a lot of ground to make up by making that error. Pujols is such a patient hitter. I love that about him. Ball goes right to third and Michael Young finishes off retiring the side.

AL: 2 NL: 0

Top 2nd

Aaron Hill grounds to Hanley and he makes a great catch and out.

Halladay up to bat no. Should be an easy out, so work him hard Tim. Seems that Halladay didn’t even pack a helmet for the at bat. They put a sticker in front of Longoria’s Rays helmet so that he could have a helmet. What a moron. Of course you’re gonna hit Roy. It’s a game in an NL park. Timmy strikes Hallady out looking, but it was a solid at bat.

Ichiro is back up to bat. His at-bat motion is so iconic as e holds the bat out in front of him while the pitcher sets. Ichiro lines right out to Braun. Apparently Obama told Ichiro, after handing back the ball, “Here you go hall of famer.” That will be true, I’m sure of it.

2117 Bot 2nd

Braun steps up to the plate. Obama is now in the broadcast booth. Holy cow. “This is as much fun as I’ve had in quite some time.” Obama’s in a White Sox jacket. He says his wife thinks he looks cute in it. Braun takes it up to CF and Hamilton snags it.

Ibañez now up to bat. Shane hits one to Hill and it’s yet another out for the NL.

David Wright comes out to hit. Obama is reluctant to predict who will win the Series without more information. Wow, he just commented on how terrible the Nationals are. Wright gets a broken bat single to short right. NL finally gets a man on.

Wow, Victorino smacks one into right. Two on, two out. Victorino apparently gave Obama Macademia nuts at the white house.

Molina’s up to bat. Obama is agreeing that the AL has been better of late. Molina takes a base hit up to center. Wright runs it in, the throw to third is wild and Victorino is able to run into home from third on the botched throw. Way to go Molina. They’ve tied it up 2-2 and Molina gets some RBIs. Turns out the ball bounced off of Victorino’s shoulder. Halladay was covering home instead of third.

The NL pinch hits for Lincecum with Prince Fielder. Fielder bashes one into the LF corner and it bounces into the stands. Molina scores on the ground rule double and Fielder stays on second.
3-1 NL. Buerhle is warming up.

The Marlins send Hanley up to plate again. They’re joking that once Buerhle is done, Obama will leave. Hanley hits it back to Hill and gets tossed out at first.

Obama’s headed home. Good times. That was so great to see him just talking baseball like a regular guy.

Top 3rd

Ryan Franklin goes out to pitch for the NL squad against Jeter. Hits a comebacker to Utley and gets tossed out at first.

The catcher, Mauer, steps back up to the plate. I’ve gotta say, I kind of wish Lincecum could have stayed in the game longer. Joe lines out to Pujols who makes a great catch.

Interview with Halladay about what it was like, but the microphone went out. Sad. Teixiera comes right back up to the plate. Franklin almost strikes Teix out, but he barely gets a piece and stays up to bat. Strong grounder to Pujols and he gets the out.

The Taco Bell “If You Like Piña Coladas” commercial is hilarious. I guess I just like Taco Bell Frutista Freeze commercials playing during all-star games. I love the boss with the exploding fist bump.

2135 Bot 3rd

Buehrle is on the mound now and Utley flies out to Hamilton.

Big Al comes back up to bat. He’s got two guaranteed at bats. Maybe third. Teixiera has good positioning to catch the Pujols grounder so Pujols grounds out.

Milwaukee’s basher Braun comes up to bat. Little grounder to Jeter and the NL is back out on the field. The score remains

NL 3 – AL 2

2141 Top 4th

The NL has swapped pitchers to Dan Haren. Apparently he was in the Cards system before he was traded and they regret that. Jason Bay hits one out to Ryan Braun for the first out.

I don’t really think that Josh Hamilton deserves to be in the game today, but he’s on thanks to the way he hit in last year’s Home Run Derby. Hard hit pop fly that’s shy of the warning track. Victorino catches for the second out.

Young angers me because he’s in for Longoria, even though Longoria can’t play. He hits a single and it upsets me.

Haren has such a strange delivery when he doesn’t have anyone on the bag with that hesitation pause. Aaron Hill at bat and Molina contains a wild pitch to hold Hamilton at first. Grounder to Ramirez and it’s half-inning over.

Bob Dylan and will.i.am are not on the same level, sorry Pepsi.

Bot 4th

Ibañez pops out to third and Greinke’s on the mound.

That brings NY Met David Wright up to the plate with one out. Greinke has been fantastic this season and he proves it with a slider that just barely got called a strike on Wright who goes down looking.

Greinke’s a monster on the mound tonight. He gets Victorino to strike out swinging.

I’m pretty excited to see Funny People. Judd Apatow’s a comedic genius, but I wonder how his more serious offering here will do.

2155 Top 5th

Ryan Zimmerman takes over at third for the NL. Brad Hawpe takes RF for Braun. Crawford is up to bat for Greinke, I believe. He’s a speedy fellow. Takes a good pitch into CF and finds himself on first against Billingsley. Will Crawford try to steal?

The left-handed Ichiro will make a throw harder for Molina, but Mo is top notch. All Billingsley has to do is get it to the plate quickly to hold Crawford. Ichiro is also pretty fast, this is a bad situation. Crawford goes, hit-and-run, and Ichiro fouls it back, phew. Crawford’s got such great acceleration. Billingsley tries to catch Crawford sleeping at first, but fails. Utley makes a daring toss to 2nd to get Crawford out and his high toss is well handled by Hanley to get Carl out. The announcers don’t seem to be giving Hanley Ramirez his due. He really stretched to grab that.

Ichiro Suzuki on first. He’s also fast. Jeter at the bat. Quickly works an 0-2 count on Jeter. Billingsley is trying to keep the runners honest with plenty of tosses to first. The ball goes ripping at Pujols and he’s able to keep Ichiro off second, but Jeter’s too fast for the DP.

The hitless Joe Mauer comes up to bat. It’s been a good game so far. I’m loving the close score. Chad Billingsley falls behind Joe 2-0. Saw Jason Bay on the sidelines and, let me tell you, it sure is nice to not have Pedroia in the game with that stupid batting glove nonsense that he subjects everyone to each pitch. Braun kind of jobs to retrieve Mauer’s ball to LF and that allows Jeter to get into home from first base. I suppose it’s not really Ryan’s fault, Mauer’s a left-handed hitter and Ryan was positioned with that in mind.

Baltimore-native Mark Teixiera on base with Joe Mauer on second. Pujols makes yet another fantastic dive to throw out Teixiera for the third out.

NL 3 – AL 3

2209 Bot 5th

Carl Crawford remains in the game and Adam Jones pops in while Edwin Jackson comes up to pitch. Yadier Molina grounds out to Jeter.

Jackson’s success in Detroit is bittersweet for me. He’s doing so well out there that I can’t help but be happy for him, but I wish he were still pitching for the Rays. Ryan Zimmerman makes good contact, but he flies out to Hamilton in center.

Hanley is, thankfully, still in the game, but he grounds out to Michael Young, ending the inning.

I love that line in the Punch-Out Wii commercials, “I’m gonna make him cry like a little girl and then I’m gonna mop the floor with his tears.”

Top 6th

Remember when Gatorade wasn’t called G? Those were better days. Adam Jones is up against Trevor Hoffman and he sends one all the way out to Brad Hawpe in RF. It worried me for a second.

Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton gets himself a single to RF.

Lincecum could use a haircut, but his glorious mane probably gives him strength. Young could have used more strength as he hits into a 4-6-3 double play (that’s 2B Utley, to SS Ramirez, to 1B Pujols).

The Taco bell Roosevelts commercial is dumb, but I’m strangely drawn to it.

2219 Bot 6th

Jason Bartlett is mislabeled as Ben Zobrist at SS and Curtis Granderson is in CF while Victor Martinez is catching and King Felix Hernandez is pitching. The O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, flies out to Adam Jones in right.

The last Pujols at bat of the night. I’m hoping for some power from Albert, but grounds to Bartlett and the NL has two outs. I hope he doesn’t feel to badly, he’s had some great defensive plays.

An NL substitution in place with Justin Upton coming in for Ryan Braun. Upton is Rays player B.J. Upton’s younger brother. Another ball straight to Bartlett and Upton is the third out.

Top 7th

It’s been a great game so far. This tie has got my heart rate at a nice, high level. Go NL! You guys can do it! Pujols comes out for Adrian Gonzalez after a curtain call from his hometown. Francisco Cordero is up to pitch and Aaron Hill flies one to Justin Upton. It hasn’t been mentioned, but Jayston Werth seems to be in CF for Shane Victorino.

Crawford is back up again? Scary. Hits it straight to Miguel Tejada (when did he come in?) and gets thrown out.

Last year’s Derby winner Justin Morneau of the twins comes up to bat and he whiffs for two straight strikes. Line drive to Zimmerman ends the inning and we go into the 7th inning stretch while my keyboard gives me problems every time I try to push the ‘h’ key.

I guess it’s a good thing that they support the country with “God Bless America” now, but I miss “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The lady who’s singing GBA is way over fake tanned. She’s almost orange. Looks like Kevin Nealon in the most recent episode of Weeds. That’s not a good thing, they were making fun of him for it for a lot of the episode. Her name was Sarah Evans. Sarah, you did a great job, I’m not harping on that at all, just, you know, cut back on the fake tanning stuff.

2233 Bot 7th

Looks like Jonathan Papelbon won’t get to close again today. Brad Hawpe comes within inches of a home run, but Carl Crawford robs all chances with his amazing catch. So close.

The Houston Astros send in Miguel Tejada for the second NL batter of the inning. He hits one out to the warning track and the bubblegum chewing Adam Jones gets the ball.

Two exciting hits precede Jayson Werth’s at bat. He doesn’t take the first pitch, unlike the previous two batters. Werth’s goatee makes him look like an evil villain to me. Ugh, now I’m watching Jonatan Papelbon make his stupid lip-pursing ‘O’ that he does before each pitch. I hate that stupid look so much, but it’s just based on Red Sox resentment. Werth works up to a full count. Come on NL, score a run on Papelbon again. Make me happy. Jayson is really keeping this at-bat alive with plenty of foul balls and a full count on top of that. Swing and a miss and the NL goes down with no extra points thanks to Carl Crawford.

2242 Top 8th

Heath Bell of the Padres is now pitching for the NL. First pitch almost hits Bartlett in the head. Wow, that was wild. Bartlett taps one to Tejada who sets and throws Jason out at first.

Curtis Granderson gets up to bat now in the 8th. Bell has a really short, quick windup and throw. It’s awkard and hard to follow. Granderson makes it to third on a triple…great. Now he’s in position for a sac fly. It’s up to you Bell.

For some reason the NL decides to intentionally walk Victor Martinez. I guess it makes sense, setting up for the DP, but everyone on this club is a pretty darn good hitter.

This puts the speedy Adam Jones up to bat and the infield returns to double play depth. I’m feeling pretty tense about all of this, especially as the announcers claim that Heath Bell has never pitched in any all-star situations. He works the count to 0-2 on Jones. If the NL don’t get the DP, they’v egot Youkilis up next. Damned if you do…

Jones gets himself a sac fly and the score becomes 4-3 AL. Ugh.

Now we’ve got the Youkilis up to bat and things could turn ugly. Base hit to center. AL has men on first and second.

Ben Zobrist, the Zorilla, steps up to bat. He has homered from five different positions this season, according to the announcers. Pence strikes him out swinging. Hurts to see, but I’m happy for it.

AL 4 – NL 3

Bot 8th

Brandon Inge is now in the game along with Joe Nathan. Brian McCann is at bat with his glasses. Poor guy had a Lasik procedure go terribly wrong and had to return to glasses. He pops up for an easy out to Victor Martinez.

That brings everyone’s favorite Ryan Zimmerman to the plate. Flies out to cross-town rival Adam Jones.

We’ve got power hitter Adrian Gonzalez at the plate now, hopefully to save the NL. It’s crazy how well this guy hits considering that the Padres play in a hitter hostile park. Nathan walks Gonzalez. Let’s make something happen now.

O-Dog time. Orlando Hudson up to bat. Grounder up the middle deflects off of Bartlett’s glove despite a terrific dive allowing Adrian Gonzalez to get to third.

This allows the NL to put Ryan Howard up to bat. A great pinch hitter for the Phillies, let’s see if he can make something great happen. The shift is put on for Howard. Will the St. Louis native be the key to the NL victory in this game? The stadium is going wild for Ryan. Howard quickly gets to 0-2. Orlando Hudson takes advantage of the up and away pitch to steal second. Two in scoring position now and the count gets up to 2-2. It is tense in my living room right now. Ryan Howard makes a stupid check swing at a ball in the dirt and the NL ruins a great chance. So close! We’ve still got one more inning, don’t worry!

2309 Top 9th

Man, I’m getting tired. Last year I made it much longer, but I wasn’t working then. K-Rod comes up to pitch against Inge who hits a broken bat grounder to Tejada for the 6-3 out.

Crawford remains in the game. I can’t be too mad at the guy for catching that out since he’s a Rays player, but I want the NL to win so badly. K-Rod strikes out Crawford. It was a fantastic pitch.

The AL squad sends Justin Morneau to the plate for their third man of the inning and he knocks one back that Jayson Werth barely catches. What a great play.

2315 Bot 9

It’s crunch time for the NL. We’re down to the final three outs and the scary-good Mariano Rivera is on the mound. Justin Upton grounds out to Bartlett. One down.

The second batter to step up is Brad Hawpe who was robbed a home run his last at bat. The AL dugout seems so cheery. It also seems overfull. Hawpe goes down looking on a pitch to the outside. Brad Hawpe looked lost. Two outs.

Our final hopes rest on Miguel Tejada’s bat. Tejada hits a shallow fly to Zobrist and the AL wins it 4-3.

The streak of losses continues.

It didn’t quite go as long as other years, but that dramatic robbery by Carl Crawford really changed this game.

Maybe next year NL. See you guys for another live blog next year!

June Results [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jun 3rd, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Another month of baseball has passed and it’s a testament to the sport that things have gotten a bit crazy. As I write this on Tuesday, the standings look a little something like this:

AL East

Yankees
Red Sox
Blue Jays
Rays
Orioles

AL Central

Tigers
White Sox
Twins
Royals
Indians

AL West

Rangers
Mariners
Angels
Athletics

NL East

Phillies
Mets
Braves
Marlins
Nationals

NL Central

Brewers
Cardinals
Reds
Cubs
Pirates
Astros

NL West

Dodgers
Giants
Padres
Diamondbacks
Rockies

The biggest surprise would have to be the collapse of the Blue Jays in the face of stiff competition. They are a meager 6-9 in the East and have dropped from their pedestal of 3.5 games ahead at their best to 1.5 games back, amassing a nine-game losing streak to get them to where they are today.

As mentioned by Rob Neyer, the Rays are somehow leading the league in batting average, doubles, homers, RBIs, walks, stolen bases, extra base hits, and they lead the league in runs scored, among other feats. Despite all of this, the Rays happen to lie six(!) games back in the East. Hopefully things start breaking their way soon, they deserve it.

My beloved Marlins sit 6.5 back in the NL East and all the injuries the team is suffering from seem to predict that this won’t change all that much.

Zack Greinke is still murdering batters at a ridiculous pace. His ERA sits at 1.10 after 11 starts and he shows no sign of slowing down. Keep an eye out for him.

Matt Wieters made his debut for Baltimore and he’s doing alright. Expectations are high for the catcher to help turn the team’s fate around.

Evan Longoria is leading the All-Star ballot and I encourage each and every one of you to keep him on top.

Manny Ramirez just might get selected on the ballot, despite being suspended for fifty games following a drug test failure.

The Yankees set an MLB record by allowing no errors in 18 straight games.

Quick me plug: I got my e-mail read on Monday’s ESPN Baseball Today podcast. It was pretty awesome.

And for our last bit of news, good luck on win number 300 Randy Johnson. The Big Unit will go for win number 300 tonight against the Washington Nationals. There’s also a delightful bit of symmetry in the fact that Randy Johnson was first drafted by the Montreal Expos, the team now known as the Nationals, and will be facing them in this historic game.

Standings and Predictions + Pics from Os vs. Rays on 10 April [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Apr 15th, 2009 by Dan

It’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

15 April may mean the tax man is coming around, but I like to think of it from a better perspective: Jackie Robinson Day. That’s right, on 15 April 1947 Jackie Robinson debuted for the Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers, finally breaking the color barrier in baseball and paving the way for civil rights in America. Jackie Robinson was a hero and I’m glad that baseball honors him each year on this day by allowing players to wear Robinson’s league-wide retired #42.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
-Jackie Robinson

Now for the standings and predictions:

AL East

Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays 0.5 Games Back (GB)
New York Yankees 2.0 GB
Tampa Bay Rays 2.0 GB
Boston Red Sox 4.0 GB

Surprising as the standings are today, I don’t think this can realistically continue throughout the year. The current bottom three are just too good for this to stay like this all year. A more realistic October looks like:

Rays
Red Sox
Yankees
Orioles
Blue Jays

Most of sports news America has the Jays above the Os and the Rays anywhere between first and third. I think the Rays outplay both the Yanks and the Sox and I’ve seen the Orioles do some major slugging. Even with the rotation difficulties they’re projected to have, I think their offense might be able to make up for it, but not enough to beat the Yankees. If the Yankees can’t get their act together with their bullpen and starting pitching (CC is looking better, but Wang is awful), things could be further shaken up.

NL East

Florida Marlins
Atlanta Braves 1.0 GB
Philadelphia Phillies 2.0 GB
New York Mets 3.0 GB
Washington Nationals 6.0 GB

The Nats are off to an awful start, mostly thanks to the incredible Florida Marlins who are a MLB-best 6-1 right now. They’re riding high off of good hitting and pitching, but I don’t think they have the depth to stay that high. Their hitting is a little too inconsistent and the rest of the division is just so darn good. That being said, I don’t think that the Phils can win the East again, mostly thanks to an ailing Cole Hamels, so I see them coming in definitely behind the Mets who have a rebuilt bullpen. Nats will continue to suck. The Braves are good, but I don’t know if they’re contenders yet. We’ll have to see as the season progresses.

Mets
Marlins
Phillies
Braves
Nationals

AL Central

Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox 0.5 GB
Detroit Tigers 1.0 GB
Minnesota Twins 1.5 GB
Cleveland Indians 4.0 GB

Trey Hillman is doing a heck of a job with his Royals so far this year, but I don’t think they can stay atop the Central all year long. I predict that the newly rebuilt and re-motivated Tigers will do much better, Cleveland will continue to suffer from whatever losing disease they have (no starting pitching), and the Twins will suffer some major losses thanks to Mauer’s injury. Here’s how I see it ending up:

Tigers
White Sox
Royals
Twins
Indians

I think I might be wrong with the Twins and Royals, but we’ll see when I reevaluate at the All-Star break.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals 0.0 GB
Cincinnati Reds 1.0 GB
Pittsburgh Pirates 1.0 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 3.5 GB
Houston Astros 4.0 GB

This one is harder for me to predict cause it’s the division I know the least about. The Cubs are on top, as most would predict, partially thanks to my boy Fukudome doing his part again. I really hope he stays strong all year this time. The Cards are tearing it up with Pujols and I think they’re a lock for second in this division. Despite being everyone’s dark horse for the NL Central, I don’t think the Reds can outplay the Cubs or the Cards. Pirates are doing well out of the gate, but for how long? The Astros just stink and the Brewers can’t compete without the pitching they had last year.

Cubs
Cardinals
Reds
Brewers
Pirates
Astros

AL West

Seattle Mariners
Oakland Athletics 2.0 GB
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2.5 GB
Texas Rangers 3.0 GB

If you would have told me at the end of last year that the Mariners would be atop the AL West at any point I would have called you crazy. Some key things have changed out west, making it an open division. Injuries plague the Angels bullpen, the Athletics are just mediocre, and the Rangers stink, but somehow Wakamatsu, the new Mariners skipper, has pulled his team together to make them compete. Maybe it’s the return of Griffey, Jr. or something Wakamatsu’s putting in the water, but the team is jiving together much better and it shows.

Mariners
Angels
Athletics
Rangers

IFF the Angels starting pitching is out for an extended period of time.

NL West

San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers 1.0 GB
Colorado Rockies 2.5 GB
Arizona Diamondbacks 3.0 GB
San Francisco Giants 3.5 GB

The Padres are off to a great, but unmaintainable start. No offense and no pitching means no winning. They’ll fall back in place. The rest of the West is pretty ugly too. San Francisco has great pitching, when Lincecum isn’t sucking, but no offense. The Rockies lost Matt Holliday, and the D-Backs have Webb on the DL. LA is easily the best in the division.

Dodgers
Diamondbacks
Rockies
Giants
Padres

Arizona is only high if Webb comes back soon. Otherwise they can’t hold on.

Those are my early season predictions, but we’ll see how well I’m doing come mid-season and adjust from there.

Pictures from the 10 April game:

Longoria at 3B

Longoria at 3B

View of Camden from our sweet seats

View of Camden from our sweet seats

I like this shot of Aki, even though hes in the background

I like this shot of Aki, even though he's in the background

Preparing for the next pitch.

Preparing for the next pitch.

Sonnanstine getting ready to throw

Sonnanstine getting ready to throw

Rounding the bases

Rounding the bases

Adam Jones hit well that night.

Adam Jones hit well that night.

Looks like a diving miss

Looks like a diving miss

Good swing

Good swing

Scoreboard in the 2nd. Zobrist up to bat

Scoreboard in the 2nd. Zobrist up to bat

Good hit and baserunning

Good hit and baserunning

Domo-kun was at the game too

Domo-kun was at the game too

A vital part of the game experience: park vendors

A vital part of the game experience: park vendors

The end of Hendricksons windup

The end of Hendrickson's windup

Kapler coming in Pete Rose style

Gross coming in Pete Rose style

Im convinced this mental misstep cost us the game. Way to go Kapler...pay attention to the game!

I'm convinced this mental misstep cost us the game. Way to go Kapler...pay attention to the game!

Loosening up to make the calls

Loosening up to make the calls

Nice, Japanese-style swing. Good work Aki

Nice, Japanese-style swing. Good work Aki

AKINORI IWAMURA! Seriously, try cheering that three times fast.

AKINORI IWAMURA! Seriously, try cheering that three times fast.

Infield meeting to slow down the Os. Longoria doesnt pay much attention, but Aki, Bartlett, Navarro, and Peña do.

Infield meeting to slow down the O's. Longoria doesn't pay much attention, but Aki, Bartlett, Navarro, and Peña do.

One of Longorias two homers for the night.

One of Longoria's two homers for the night.

A disappointing loss, but a great time had by me and my friends.

Almost Time… [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Apr 1st, 2009 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

We’ve finally arrived at the last WMQ before the baseball season. Congrats are in order for us all, but I honestly don’t know how we made it so long without our beloved baseball. Here are a few quick notes about things that have been going on:

Everyone’s hurt! From Cole Hamels to Alex Rodriguez, there are tons of stars hurting who might not be ready for Opening Day starts. It’ll be a chance for some younger players to showcase their talent, but, if I were them, I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much, it’ll only be for a month or so this year, then it’s back to the bench or the minors.

Speaking of the minors, David Price has been sent back down. Many call it a travesty, asking “How awesome do you have to be to stay in the show?” but I have faith in the Rays skipper. Joe Maddon is no fool and if he thinks that Price can do with some time in the minors before he comes up, then I think it’s probably not that bad an idea. Look at Evan Longoria, American League Rookie of the Year for 2008. He started last season in the minors in April and then he came up and spanked the AL.

The Marlins are batting former leadoff man Hanley Ramirez at third again this season, an expirement that mostly failed last year. I imagine that the Fish realize that they’ve just gotta make it happen at some point. He’s just got too much power behind his bat to hold him in the one hole.

The Cubbies have selected their closer and it’s NOT Carlos Marmol. A rough spring in both the WBC and Spring Training caused Lou Piniella to select former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg instead. Marmol’s disappointed, but, as I’ve heard from multiple sources, the outs by the set-up man are just as important. There’s no reason to think that his club is spurning him an important job, he’s still gotta make vital outs.

The season starts on Sunday, with the Phillies against the Braves. Get ready for a wild one! I’m gonna hold off predictions perhaps until next week, but possibly until the end of the month. We’ll see what happens with my schedule. Ah, baseball, I can almost taste you…

25 Random BASEBALL Things About Me
Feb 22nd, 2009 by Dan

When Schneider tagged me in her version of this I almost pulled a Linus Torvalds (http://torvalds-family.blogspot.com/2009/02/25-things-about-me.html), but instead I decided not to do one at all.

Then I came across two “25 Random Baseball Things” articles and fell in love with the idea as a way to release pent up excitement about the upcoming baseball season. Hope you enjoy it..

1. Baseball was the first team sport I ever played. To this day I don’t really understand what motivated my father to sign me up for the game. My grandfather is afraid of playing catch due to an incident where he got beaned, my dad is mostly apathetic toward sports in general, including baseball, and my older brother hated little league baseball. My best guess is that we were living in the mostly Cuban (at the time) Hialeah where little league baseball is the predominant sport.

2. I always wanted to play catcher as a kid, but I never got the chance to. I wasn’t ever going to be a pitcher, but I figured that catching involved the second most amount of action on the field. Instead most of my time was spent in the outfield, where I did a pretty good job, and one glorious season at second base. Whenever I play softball or baseball, I will usually play catcher or second base, unless the team needs me to play outfield.

3. My favorite team is the Florida Marlins and I still remember going to a game at Joe Robbie Stadium, as it was called then, to see them play in April of 1993. This was the first professional baseball game I ever attended and was the coolest thing that had ever happened to me before then until I actually walked on the field some years later.

4. I very quickly developed an intense hatred for the Atlanta Braves that still sticks with me to this day. It’s no coincidence that I also despise the Florida State Seminoles who share the absurdly racist and obnoxious tomahawk chop chant. Last year I found out that my uncle used to be a Braves fan since they were the closest team to Florida before 1993. I still feel deeply betrayed by this fact, even though he is now a Marlins fan.

5. When my family moved to Oregon sometime in 1995, I experienced something of a baseball Dark Ages that I didn’t really kick until 2003 and didn’t fully kick until last year, despite moving back to South Florida in 1997. Between 1995 to 2003 I went to one AAA baseball game (Portland Rockies), two pro baseball games (Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins), one spring training game (Tigers at Yankees) and watched almost no baseball on tv.

6. I’m very ashamed to say that I maybe watched one or two of the games of the 1997 World Series, neither of which were Game 7. To this day I still root against the Cleveland Indians, partly because of that World Series, partly because they remind me of the Braves, and partly because living with Ohio-native Dean Strelau in 2007 allowed me to gloat about snatching two National Championships away from Ohio State, which led to a general dislike of any team from Ohio.

7. I quit playing baseball and started swimming competitively in 1998, a decision that I regret to this day. Sure, I wasn’t a very good ball player at that point, considering I did it mostly for fun, but I wish I had stuck with it. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t a very good swimmer either.

8. In that final season, my team played in a tournament against a team that traveled over to the states from Japan. We held our own for the first two or three innings, but eventually they got the best of us. I still remember that we had to use Japanese-style balls, but we didn’t have Japanese bats, which had some sort of rough coating on them that made them a bit different. I have a sneaking suspicion that we might have played a little better with access to their special equipment or if we used the standard American baseballs and bats instead.

9. The event that led to my baseball renaissance was the Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 postseason. Bartman will always be a hero of mine thanks to his paving the way for the Marlins 2003 World Series victory. I will gleefully ask any Cubs fan about how devastated they felt back in 2003 to be robbed of a pennant.

10. When the Marlins made it to the World Series in 2003 I wore a Marlins jersey that I’ve owned since the mid-90s to school. I’ll never forget that day, because in first period AP Statistics, Dan Gollins called me a front runner because he’d never seen me wear any Marlins paraphernalia before. I stand by the fact that I’ve been a Marlins fan since their inaugural year and I still get mad thinking about him calling me that, but I also kind of understand where he’s coming from and begrudgingly admit he’s got something of a point.

11. Speaking of the 2003 World Series, I have distinct memories of watching two of the seven games at Cornell during a campus visit that DPE flew me up for. I watched one of the games in the now-destroyed Class of ’26 with two Yankees fans. The other I watched in my brother’s apartment down on Gunn Hill.

12. This is a complicated one: I attended middle school and one year of high school down in South Florida at Cooper City High and the rest of them up in Central Florida at Sickles High. After prom at Sickles, I was invited down to Cooper City for prom with my old friends as my ex-girlfriend’s date, much to the ire of my current girlfriend. I still remember being quite insensitive as I called my girlfriend from their prom and told her that I wanted so badly to stay an extra day so that I could go with Josh Kushner to see the Marlins play the Diamondbacks that Sunday (23 May 2004 – http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO200405230.shtml) because Dontrelle Willis was pitching against Randy Johnson. Better sense prevailed and I ended up going home as scheduled. The Marlins lost 4-3 that day and I’ve still yet to see Randy Johnson or Dontrelle Willis pitch in person.

13. The first Orioles game I went to was on 27 July 2005 against the Texas Rangers (http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL200507270.shtml). I’m pretty sure it was Sammy Sosa Bobblehead Night, although I could be wrong. It was a Wednesday, so I was worried about how long it would take me to get home cause I had work in the morning, but I figured it wouldn’t be that bad. After a 97-minute rain delay, the game FINALLY got underway. The Os and Rangers tied up the game in the 9th and the game ended in the 11th with the Rangers winning 11-8. I got home at 0200AM, but that baseball game is one of the best I’ve ever experienced.

14. One of my goals in life is to see a baseball game played in every ballpark. So far I’ve seen games in Joe Robbie Stadium/Pro Player Stadium/Dolphin Stadium (Marlins), the Kingdome (Mariners), Tropicana Field (Rays), Camden Yards (Orioles), RFK Stadium (Nationals), and Shea Stadium (Mets). Of these stadiums, the Kingdome, Shea, and RFK no longer house their respective teams, the Marlins will be leaving Dolphin Stadium by 2010ish, and the Rays are trying to get a new stadium approved leaving me with one solid stadium visited out of thirty. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

15. Once I’ve visited all the MLB stadiums, barring further stadium moves, I have decided to undertake the much more ambitious and difficult goal of seeing a game in all 13 Nippon Professional Baseball stadiums. I’ve only been to Japan once and Okinawa doesn’t have a baseball team, but I will get this done some day. Koshien Stadium here I come!

16. I am absolutely opposed to the DH rule in baseball. To me, it makes sense that any player who takes the field should have to bat for himself. Sure, it allows aging players or players with poor defense to have a spot on the roster, but I just think it takes away from the spirit of the game to have a guy whose only job is to bat while you have a whole group of guys whose only job it is to pitch. You could argue that pinch hitters serve that role in the NL, but the rules state that those guys have to step onto the field after they hit, unless there’s another substitution. Lack of a DH promotes greater strategy in baseball, period.

17. Rookie of the Year was the first baseball movie I ever saw. I’ve also seen Little Big League, A League of Their Own, Major League, Mr. Baseball, Hardball, and The Sandlot. My Netflix queue includes Field of Dreams, Mr. 3000, The Bad News Bears, and Fever Pitch. I think A League of Their Own and Little Big League are my two favorites.

18. I have a man-crush on 2008 Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria.

19. I’ve been to two games at Tropicana Field, one when the team was known as the Devil Rays and one after the name change. I was initially totally opposed to the name change, but it’s amazing what a name change, color scheme change, and a winning season will do for a team and their venue. The Trop is still one of the worst stadiums I’ve ever been to, but it was a lot more fun to go this past year.

20. I boo Darek Jeter when he comes up to bat for absolutely no reason. In retrospect, I should have been booing A-Rod this whole time.

21. There’s something about eating a hot dog in a ballpark that makes it taste infinitely better.

22. I always semi-rooted for the Devil Rays, but I definitely jumped on the Rays bandwagon this year and I fully intend to continue to root for them as my AL team. My NL team is, of course, the Marlins. I will actively root against the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, and Indians. In the All-Star game, a non-Braves/Phillies game, or any Interleague game, I will root for the National League team. I don’t mind rooting for the Cubs unless they are in the postseason. I think it’s funny that they haven’t won a World Series in 100 years and I want the streak to continue.

23. My favorite ballplayers through the years: Benito Santiago, Chuck Carr, Cris Carpenter, Brian Harvey, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis, Hanley Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Lowell, and Evan Longoria

24. I have never caught a foul ball, ground rule double, or home run in the stands. It’s a selfish thing to do as a grown man, but I’m not sure I’d be able to give any ball I caught in the future to a kid at a game. Wouldn’t it be enough to give the second or third away?

25. Once they are old enough to enjoy it, I plan to take my recently adopted little brothers and sister to a ball game in the hopes that it will inspire the same love for the game that I have in them.

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa