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2012 MLB Predictions

American League East

1. Yankees
The Yankees opened the offseason with a very questionable starting rotation after CC Sabathia, but have since transformed it into a strength. After re-upping with Freddy Garcia early on, they traded for young right-hander Michael Pineda and signed former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda. With one of the league’s most potent offenses and a shutdown bullpen, the Yankees seem to be the best team in the East.

2. Rays
Like the Red Sox, the Rays’ season came down to the very last game. The Rays are all about run prevention, running out an excellent rotation and a shutdown bullpen that Joe Maddon manages very well. The reunion with Carlos Pena will add some pop to a lineup that desperately needs it, and a full season of Desmond Jennings should help as well.

3. Red Sox
The Red Sox undoubtedly have a ton of talent, and had they won one more game last year, their whole season could have turned out drastically different. They’ve replaced Jonathan Papelbon with some new bullpen arms after moving Daniel Bard to the rotation, and still possess arguably the league’s best offense. Unfortunately, they have two teams ahead of them in the division to jump.

4. Orioles
There’s some hope for the future here, but I think they’re still a season away from contending. The bats are there and Baltimore will certainly hit for some power with bats like Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds. The bullpen should be a strength but it’s the starting pitching that needs to improve for the O’s to climb out of the bottom of the division.

5. Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are an improving team that has a lot of potential, but fulfilling that potential will be challenging, especially in this division. Jose Bautista is probably at his peak performance and while guys like Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus have room for improvement, it’s not a given that they’ll translate their tools into production. After Ricky Romero, the starting rotation doesn’t have an arm that you can count on.

American League Central

1. Tigers
Detroit ran away with the division last season and went ahead and got better. They already had the best hitter (Miguel Cabrera) in the division and the best pitcher (MVP & Cy Young Justin Verlander) but decided that Prince Fielder would be an adequate replacement for Victor Martinez. If you asked me which team was most likely to win their division by 15+ games, I wouldn’t hesitate picking the Tigers.

2. White Sox
Thought long and hard about the rest of this division, and it’s pretty close who finishes in spots 2-5. Chicago has some intriguing arms in their rotation, mainly Jake Peavy (health) and Chris Sale (transition to rotation) and should have enough offense to stick around .500 for most of the season.

3. Royals
Their farm system is once again churning out very nice players, and this time they’re locking them up long-term early to try and stabilize some costs. Losing closer Joakim Soria hurt the back end of the bullpen, but if Jonathan Broxton can provide some stability at the end of the game, KC has a chance to put a nice little season together. Offensively, they’re probably the best of the bunch not named the Tigers. But the starting pitching is still an area in need of improvement.

4. Indians
They definitely over-achieved last season, and the offense still is not good. There are far too many regular at bats for guys that are well below league average. The Indians are going to need guys to stay healthy (already a problem) and play above their heads if they want to make any noise in a very weak division.

5. Twins
It’s a shame Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have fought injuries and ineffectiveness the past few seasons. The new ballpark should have been an exciting time for the Twins, but they’ve just kind of wallowed around the past few years. That Carl Pavano is starting Opening Day says a lot about the amount of work their rotation needs.

American League West

1. Rangers
They’re still the cream of the crop out here, with a potent offense, and a ton of pitching depth. Yu Darvish looks to replace the production of the departed CJ Wilson and even if Neftali Feliz doesn’t work out as a starter, they have guys like Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison waiting fill in. After consecutive AL pennants, the Rangers are still the team to beat.

2. Angels
But if anyone’s going to give the Rangers a run for their money, it will be the Angels and their new big name free agent splashes. Joining the team are Albert Pujols who gives them the middle-of-the-order bat that they desperately needed and CJ Wilson who fills out the starting rotation and make the Angels front four one of the best in the game.

3. Athletics
Their big offseason acquisition was Yoenis Cespedes, who put together a fancy highlight video of himself, but still has zero MLB games under his belt. He could be a middle-of-the-lineup game changer or he could wind up hitting a buck-fifty on June 1 for a last place team. The A’s have a ton of young pitching and if those arms pitch up to their potential, they could hang around and make a run for that second wild card spot.

4. Mariners
Even with Jesus Montero, who has managed to stay among baseball’s top prospects despite not having a defined position, Seattle will struggle to score runs. Running the league’s worst offense out in the league’s most pitcher-friendly park is not any way to contend for division titles.

National League East

1. Phillies
Even with the flashy offseason moves by the rest of the division, Philadelphia is still the team to beat. They may not have Four Aces anymore, but the three they do have are still damn good. Halladay, Hamels and Lee will lead the way for a pitching staff that will have a little less to work with while Ryan Howard and Chase Utley recuperate from injuries.

2. Nationals
While the Marlins made most of the big name moves, I think Washington’s young talent taking a step forward does more good in the end. Reliable starting pitching has been Washington’s Achilles Heel the past few seasons, and bringing in veterans Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson to go with homegrown studs Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann should give them some semblance of consistency on the mound. The offense should get a bump from a more typical Jayson Werth season and a return of a healthy Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.

3. Braves
Like the Red Sox, the Braves were just a game away from extending their season past 162 games. But I think they over achieved a little and then didn’t do a whole lot to improve over the offseason. A full season from Michael Bourn will help, but if Jason Heyward and Martin Prado don’t rebound and Chipper Jones spends an extended period of time on the DL, the Braves could find themselves slipping further down the NL East standings than they are used to.

4. Marlins
A chic World Series pick, I just don’t see it. The rotation must have everyone stay healthy and effective, and that’s certainly not a lock given the injury history of Josh Johnson and the Jekyll and Hyde routine of Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano. The offense should be decent enough, but Jose Reyes isn’t a picture of perfect health and I still need to see more consistent effort and production from Hanley Ramirez. Regardless, they shouldn’t expect to be the worst team wearing orange in the NL East this season.

5. Mets
This is a troubled team with no real strength anywhere on the team. The team’s highest paid players are very injury prone and their performances have suffered because of it. The team moved the fences in and lowered them in hopes of jump-starting some of their key players, but more than likely it will hurt their pitchers more than benefit their hitters.

National League Central

1. Reds
The Reds lost their biggest free agent acquisition of the offseason when Ryan Madson went down with Tommy John surgery before ever throwing a regular season pitch for Cincinnati. But with Sean Marshall, acquired in a trade with the Cubs, and Aroldis Chapman, the back end of the bullpen should still be very strong. After Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, the starting rotation lacks dependable depth and other than Joey Votto, the lineup isn’t all that menacing. However, if there is a division where a team can overlook it’s shortcomings, it’s the NL Central.

2. Cardinals
They’ll never replace Pujols’ production or the impact that he had on a game just by being in the stadium. But this is still the defending champion and they’re welcoming Adam Wainwright back into the rotation. Even if he’s not the same guy that finished in the top 3 in the Cy Young balloting in 2009 and 2010, he’ll improve the Cardinals rotation. They picked up Beltran on a very team-friendly deal to help fill the Pujols hole (hah!) but what they really need is for Lance Berkman to repeat his 2011 season and for David Freese to take another step forward and become a threat in the middle of the lineup.

3. Brewers
Ryan Braun should expect a hard time of it this season, with the positive drug test hanging over him and Prince Fielder no longer looming behind him in the lineup. Aramis Ramirez just isn’t the same guy that Fielder is. With Zack Grienke and Yovani Gallardo, the Brewers have the same deal as the Reds, two very good starters but not much after that. And unlike Cincinnati, Milwaukee doesn’t have the strong bullpen to back the rotation.

4. Cubs
Here by the sole virtue that they are not quite as bad as the Pirates and Astros. Apart from Starlin Castro, they don’t have a lot of enviable young talent, and the rotation is a mess behind Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. With a new front office in place, the Cubs should start returning to relevancy, but not this year and not next year. But hey, $18 million outfielder Alfonso Soriano only has three years left on his contract!

5. Pirates
There are only a handful of teams in baseball that could lose AJ Burnett to an injury and have it be a bad thing. But Pittsburgh is one of them. Behind Burnett, the Pirates have a motley crew of reclamation projects (Erik Bedard) and guys that would be more at home in a Triple-A rotation (Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton) than a major league one.

6. Astros
The only reason I’d say they’ll be better than they were last season is because the 106 losses Houston suffered through in 2012 were the most in baseball since the Diamondbacks lost 111 games in 2004. To celebrate their continued disaster, Houston will move to the American League in 2013 where life certainly won’t be any easier.

National League West

1. Giants
The Giants will once again run out an impressive pitching staff and once again struggle to provide adequate run support. Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan will be counted upon to contribute power and speed to a lineup that desperately lacks both and Buster Posey will look to return healthy and productive from an unfortunate and severe ankle injury. They won’t score a whole lot, but with their pitching staff and their home ballpark, they won’t have to in order to win the division.

2. Dodgers
With Frank McCourt finally out of the picture, one of the games premiere franchises can get back on the right track. They have a Cy Young winning pitcher and an MVP caliber center-fielder to build around in Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. The new ownership has to decide if Andre Ethier is worth building around, and if not, see what they can get for him in a July trade.

3. Diamondbacks
The NL West is considerably easier to pitch in than the American League, and Trever Cahill should find that out as Ian Kennedy did last year. Jason Kubel will help fill out the lineup, but I just don’t see them carrying their 2011 overachievements into 2012.

4. Rockies
Colorado is working San Francisco’s plan in reverse—the Rockies have more than enough offense to go around, but is counting on 49-year old Jamie Moyer, AL East washout Jeremy Guthrie and rookie Drew Pomeranz to flush out their starting rotation. Even with the humidor, there could be a lot of home runs flying over the wall at Coors Field—for both teams.

5. Padres
Other than the fact that the first names of San Diego’s first five hitter form a complete sentence—CAMERON WILL CHASE JESUS YONDER— I can’t think of a single thing that excites me about the Padres. Cory Luebke looked very good in limited time late last season and Yonder Alonso will finally get extended playing time after being blocked by MVP Joey Votto in Cincinnati for so long.

PLAYOFFS
AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Rangers
AL Wild Card 1: Rays
AL Wild Card 2: Angels

NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Reds
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Card 1: Cardinals
NL Wild Card 2: Nationals

Identifying Each Team’s Best Offseason Move

The completion of the World Series each year brings a time of reflection and planning for MLB front offices. They must assess the state of their team and determine a course of action to follow.

What follows is a compilation of what I believe to be each team’s best move of the offseason thus far. This list may be somewhat premature with players like Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, Erik Bedard and Felipe Lopez still unsigned.

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Atlanta Braves – Reconfiguring their bullpen

The two pitchers that shut down the last two innings for the Braves in 2009 were quickly gone from Atlanta, Mike Gonzalez as a free agent to Baltimore and Rafael Soriano traded to Tampa Bay. Naturally, the Braves needed to reload the back end of their bullpen to continue their attempts to return to October baseball.

Both Billy Wagner and Takashi Saito are coming off impressive returns from injury with Boston and will handle the eighth and ninth innings for Atlanta after serving as more of middle relief options in 2009.

Florida Marlins – Locking Up SP Josh Johnson

Two weeks after the new year, the Marlins quieted any and all trade rumors about their young ace by locking him up to a 4-year, $39 million deal.

Following Tommy John surgery in 2007, Johnson has established himself in the same class as fellow young hurlers Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke. With the Marlins loaded with young talent and Johnson leading the way, the Marlins should be considered as serious playoff contenders.

New York Mets – Signing LF Jason Bay

For a team that ranked dead last in home runs in 2009 and bottom five in slugging percentage, adding a big bat was the Mets number one priority this offseason. Bay is coming off a big season with the Red Sox in which he put up 24 more homers and 47 more RBIs than the Mets leaders.

New York’s pitching must perform well for the Mets to make a run at the playoffs in 2010, but Bay must also spark a moribund offense that just replaced their best hitter (Carlos Beltran) with the league’s most overpaid fourth outfielder (Gary Matthews Jr.)

Philadelphia Phillies – Trading for SP Roy Halladay

The Phillies traded the ace they rented for six months and eventually turned that into arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Regardless of what else you do in any given offseason, if you can obtain the one of the game’s five best pitchers without surrendering your top prospect, that’s your best move.

Halladay moves from a division that contained three of the top seven offenses in baseball, to one that had only one in the top twelve offenses – and that one is the one that now supports him. Expect Halladay to tear through the National League and expect the Phillies to once again, be a title contender.

Washington Nationals – Signing RP Matt Capps

The Nationals, owner’s of the game’s worst record in 2009 had a lot of problem areas to address and the bullpen was arguably the most glaring. They signed relievers Eddie Guardado, Tyler Walker and traded for Brian Bruney early in the offseason, but saved their best acquisition for last.

After the Pirates surprisingly didn’t tender Matt Capps a contract, the Nationals swooped in and handed the reliever a one-year deal in which he’ll be the favorite for saves in the nation’s capital.

Chicago Cubs – Signing OF Xavier Nady

Signing Nady, who’s coming off a second Tommy John surgery, carries with it a good deal of risk but, being only a one-year deal for low money alleviates some of that risk.

When healthy, Nady has proven to be a more than adequate bat and his power should play well in Wrigley Field, although to be fair, Rafael Belliard’s power would have played well in Wrigley with the wind blowing out.

Cincinnati Reds – Signing LHP Aroldis Chapman

While the risk with the Cuban phenom may have been too high for a big spender, the middle-market Reds needed to take a chance on Chapman.
Talent like his doesn’t grow on trees, and usually it has to go through the amateur draft.

Free to negotiate with whichever team he chose, Chapman landed himself a pretty impressive deal for a player who’s never thrown a pitch for an American team at any level.

Houston Astros – Trading for RP Matt Lindstrom

Realizing that stud closer Jose Valverde was most likely on his way out of Houston, the Astros addressed their vacancy at closer by trading for Marlin reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Lindstrom, who’s production has never quite matched up with his talent, is an excellent project for the Astros to experiment with. They should overlook the ridiculous deal that they gave to Brandon Lyon and let Lindstrom close out their games.

Milwaukee Brewers – Signing SP Randy Wolf

Milwaukee needed pitching, and Randy Wold was one of the better options on the open market for the Brewers to go get. They might have slightly overpaid, in dollars and years, but with Los Angeles declining to offer the hurler arbitration, the Brewers were able to keep their first round pick.

The Brewers have lost some high-end pitching talent in the last few years, and outside of Yovani Gallardo, haven’t been able to adequately replace it using their own farm system. Wolf provides a veteran presence and a strong arm to a young Milwaukee rotation.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Trading for 2B Akinori Iwamura

Iwamura was an inadvertent casualty of Ben Zobrist’s breakout campaign in 2009, but finds himself with an opportunity for playing time in Pittsburgh. All the Pirates forfeited to gain Iwamura was Jesse Chavez, who wasn’t anything more than bullpen fodder.

Iwamura gives the Pirates an able bat that can handle just about any spot in the batting order in addition to a very quality glove at second base.

St. Louis Cardinals – Resigning Matt Holliday

The Cardinals bid against themselves to keep their postseason goat, but Matt Holliday is a good fit for this team. He provides the Cardinals with a dangerous bat not named Albert Pujols.

He lengthens a lineup that without him, doesn’t seem all that imposing. He’s a smart ballplayer and seemed to fit in well in his few months in St. Louis. One fielding gaffe does not a player make, and Matt Holliday’s first 63 games with St. Louis are more indicative of his talent level than his second to last.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Three Way Trade With Tigers, Yankees

Arizona certainly gave up some promising young talent, but got back enough to validate the trade. Edwin Jackson remains under team control for two more years and is coming off quite an impressive season with Detroit.

Ian Kennedy never really found his niche in New York, battling injuries and unfair expectations. But he’ll be given an opportunity to compete for a regular starting job in Arizona and he should lock that job up and perform well at the back end of what promises to be an impressive Diamondback rotation.

Colorado Rockies – Extending RP Huston Street

Huston Street performed well for Colorado after being obtained from Oakland, converting 35-of-37 save opportunities in the regular season. A Division Series meltdown did little to dissuade Colorado from locking up their stud bullpen arm.

Street gives Colorado some stability at the back of the bullpen, something they’ve lacked in recent years. He should provide quality value over the course of the deal if he stays healthy.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Trading OF Juan Pierre

The Dodgers had been looking to unload Juan Pierre almost immediately after they signed him to that ill-advised 5-year, $44 million contract back before the 2007 season.

Shipping off to the White Sox, who seem perfectly content taking on big money, freed up some cash for the Dodgers to extend some of their younger players, like Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton.

San Diego Padres – Collecting Hairstons

The Padres brought back Scott Hairston in a trade that saw Kevin Kouzmanoff head north to Oakland and then signed brother Jerry to come in and play jack-of-all-trades.

Both Hairston brothers are solid, fundamental ballplayers that play hard and produce. They’ll offer versatility and flexibility for San Diego as the Padres try and turn their franchise back around.

San Francisco Giants – Signing UT Mark DeRosa

The Giants have some of the more impressive pitching in the National League, but the offense needed several upgrades to become respectable. DeRosa doesn’t solve the entire problem, but it’s a start.

But the DeRosa signing is trumped for this type of list if the Giants are able to come to a long-term agreement with double Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum.

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Baltimore Orioles – Trading for SP Kevin Millwood

In a classic salary dump, the Orioles brought in Millwood from Texas for disappointing reliever Chris Ray. Millwood will front a young rotation and eat innings.

For a team that’s loaded with some impressive young positional talent, but short on major league ready pitchers, Millwood makes for a nice stopgap until young guns like Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman are ready to take on larger roles.

Boston Red Sox – Replacing Jason Varitek

Boston has had a very impressive offseason, making a handful of smart moves to improve their already impressive club. But their biggest improvement and offseason decision is internal. Moving on from Jason Varitek will do wonders for the offense.

Victor Martinez is an elite offensive player who plays an premium defensive position. While the additions of Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, Marco Scutaro and John Lackey will undoubtedly improve the club, replacing Jason Varitek with Victor Martinez is the biggest upgrade and smartest move.

New York Yankees – Trading for SP Javier Vazquez

Replacing Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui with Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson was an important focus this offseason, but the addition of Javier Vazquez is the biggest reason that the 2010 Yankees might be better than the 2009 Yankees.

Vazquez strengthens a rotation that didn’t have a fourth member that Joe Girardi trusted enough to start a playoff game. Vazquez gives them that arm, and allows the Yankees to continue to carefully monitor young guns Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.

Tampa Bay Rays – Trading for Rafael Soriano

Tampa Bay had an unsettled closer situation in 2009, with twelve different pitchers receiving save opportunities, tops in the league. Using Jesse Chavez, the pitcher they received from Pittsburgh for Iwamura, the Rays brought Rafael Soriano south from Atlanta.

Soriano was lights-out for the Braves saving games in 2009 and should receive the majority of opportunities in Tampa Bay. He’ll be joined by former Atlanta teammate and new Baltimore closer Mike Gonzalez in the AL East.

Toronto Blue Jays – Trading for SP Brandon Morrow

The Blue Jays swapped proven reliever Brandon League for the potentially great Brandon Morrow. Pitchers of League’s quality are fairly easy to find, but Brandon Morrow has the potential to be something special.

Mishandled in Seattle, Morrow was shuffled back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, and was never given an opportunity to properly develop. If the Blue Jays give Morrow the chance to develop as a starter, this deal could end up becoming highway robbery.

Chicago White Sox – TBD

The White Sox made most of their moves during the 2009 season, bringing aboard Alex Rios from Toronto and Jake Peavy from San Diego. Those two players will earn just a shade under $25 million between them in 2010, which has somewhat hindered the White Sox ability to make any major moves this offseason.

They made some minor moves, trading for KC’s Mark Teahen and signing outfielder Andruw Jones, but nothing that I’d label as a great move for them. But they’re certainly in the right division to withstand the inability to make great moves.

Cleveland Indians – Signing Shelley Duncan

Much like the White Sox, the Indians have avoided making any major moves this offseason, but the January 5 signing of former Yankee farmhand Shelley Duncan is a smart move. Duncan has shown immense minor league talent, amassing 55 home runs and 178 RBIs over the past two minor league seasons.

He’s flashed some power in his brief stint with the Yankees in 2007, slugging .554 in 36 games. For a Cleveland team that has a wide-open outfield position alongside Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo, Duncan makes sense as a low-cost, high-reward option.

Detroit Tigers – Signing Jose Valverde

Valverde was excellent as Houston’s closer last season, and with the departure of Fernando Rodney and the unreliability of Joel Zumaya, Detroit had to upgrade. Rodney was shaky but serviceable during his tenure as Detroit’s closer, so Valverde will represent a considerable upgrade for the end of games.

They cut some costs by trading Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson, but also used those savings to bring in some good replacement talent. The Tigers have been hamstrung by some poor financial and personnel decisions, but have made some smart decisions regarding the future of the club.

Kansas City Royals – Trading Mark Teahen

Mark Teahen was what he was. An versatile fielder who brings a little bit of pop to the table, but not much else. Moving him for the more promising Josh Fields and useful Chris Getz was a sensible move for a franchise not known for recent sense-making.

The move is somewhat canceled out by the questionable signings of Rick Ankiel, Brian Anderson and Jason Kendall. The Royals are going to have an uphill battle, but Fields and Getz should help.

Minnesota Twins – Trading for SS J.J. Hardy

The Twins swapped underachieving outfielder Carlos Gomez straight up for the underachieving JJ Hardy. I like this move for the Twins because I believe the probability of Hardy bouncing back is greater than that of Gomez.

Both are outstanding defensive players, but Hardy offers more upside with the bat than Gomez.

Los Angeles Angels – Trading Gary Matthews Jr

GMJ2 parlayed his one good season and one fantastic catch into a 5-year, $50 million jackpot following the 2006 season. When the Angels learned that he wasn’t a very good player, they quickly replaced him with better talent, and he went largely unused on the LA bench.

They were able to move him when the Mets lost Carlos Beltran and the Angels agreed to pay a large chunk of his remaining salary. Moving Matthews Jr. allows the Angels to move forward playing their best players and not worry about a cumbersome contract.

Oakland Athletics – Signing SP Ben Sheets

The Athletics have been historically good at determining pitching talent, and the year off may very well have done Sheets a world of good. On his A-game he’s a dominating ace, but there is the huge injury risk still at play.

Best case scenario, Ben Sheets heads a promising rotation and the team rides that momentum into competing for a division crown. Worst case, Sheets injures himself early and becomes a non-factor. Somewhere in the middle lies the scenario where Sheets pitches decently, but Billy Beane spins him for prospects when the A’s fall too far out of the race.

Seattle Mariners – Extending SP Felix Hernandez

Not much trumps trading for a Cy Young winner and playoff hero. Extending a better and younger pitcher on a team-friendly contract is one of them. Felix Hernandez has established himself as one of the premiere arms in all of Major League Baseball and he’s still just 23.

He’ll make just $6.5 million this year and $10 million the next and is coming off a Cy Young caliber year. In each season since his first full season in the majors (at age 20) he’s started at least 30 games and significantly lowered his ERA each year.

Hernandez is already one of the game’s best, and he’s yet to enter his prime.

Texas Rangers – Signing SP Colby Lewis

Lewis may be an unfamiliar name to even some of the more die-hard baseball fans, and that’s certainly understandable. Lewis was drafter 38th overall in the 1999 draft and eventually made his MLB debut with the Rangers in 2002.

He moved to Japan in 2008 after dealing with obscurity, mediocrity and injuries on his way to playing for five different MLB teams. He posted two extremely successful seasons in the land of the rising sun and signed back on with the Rangers.

For two years and around $5 million, it’s a pretty decent risk for Texas to take.

5 Worst Things About MLB Postseason 2009

umpirefail1. Umpiring
The percentage of missed calls probably isn’t all that much different than that of past postseasons, but the gravity of the boneheaded calls has increased. Phil Cuzzi calls a ball foul that hit a players glove in fair territory and then landed in fair territory. Tim McClelland left his guide dog at home Tuesday night for Game 4 of the ALCS, botching two calls. I’m still not a proponent of any sort of additional instant-replay system, but I would be in favor of better umpires.

2. Broadcasting
TBS can’t make it back from commercial in time for the first few pitches of an inning and FOX can’t straighten out its PitchTrax thing. There are way too many off days as a result of catering to each networks desire to have as much primetime exposure as possible. Plus, TBS sucks. They’re broadcasting the most important National League games of the season after broadcasting about 35 of the least interesting National League games all season. The World Series should not be scheduled to end in November.

3. Announcing
TBS – Chip Caray (unnatural affection for the word ‘fisted’), Ron Darling (political commentator working a baseball game) and Craig Sager (would be appropriately attired in That 70s Show)

FOX – Joe Buck (sucks working a series when you hate hate hate the team that’s winning), Tim McCarver (confirmed senile) and Ken Rosenthal (needs Legolas to find him a box)

ESPN Radio – Jon Miller (bad matchup because the Angels have a lot of Hispanic players, and Jon Miller doesn’t speak Spanish), Joe Morgan (always one play or inning behind) and Steve Phillips (who has a big birthmark on his crotch, right above his penis)

My favorite moment came when Tim McCarver let everyone know that Gary Matthews, Jr. is the son of Gary Matthews, Sr. The jury is still out on Jerry Hairston Jr and Jerry Hairston Sr, however.

5164bb354db64dda9eada5c6df772096-257x3004. Fundamentals
Teams like the Twins and Angels supposedly were fundamentally sound. Then Carlos Gomez overran second and cost his team a run, Nick Punto killed a rally by running through a stop sign and the Macier Izturis threw away Game 2 of the ALCS. Go ahead and add Bobby Abreu, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Robbie Cano to the ranks of players that made baserunning mistakes since the Twins were dispatched. Although Cano’s wasn’t so much a running mistake, but rather the way he appeared to be waiting for the bus off third base while Mike Napoli tagged him. Chase Utley’s channeling his inner Chuck Knoblauch and Matt Holliday couldn’t catch an STD from a hooker. Players are forgetting how many outs there are, which base they should throw to and managers are overmanaging.

5. Commercials
The All-New Black Taco! The Black Eyed Peas! Everybody and their sister playing with their new MyTouch. Black Taco again! The George Lopez Show or the Wanda Sykes show! Quit smoking? Erectile dysfunction? Blackberries! Ninja Assassin! Did I mention the Black Taco? Okay then. Back to TBS’ broadcast of the last two outs of the top of the sixth inning!

blackjack2

You Stay Classy, Dustin Pedroia

The Boston Red Sox, despite being heavily favored, were swept out of the American League Division Series by the Angels this past weekend. Boston scored one run combined over the first two games of the series, and then proceeded to blow a 6-2 lead over the final two innings of the series-clinching Game 3.

Dustin Pedroia took the loss in stride like a man, by blaming the loss on Boston’s inability to get big hits and the similar inability to put Anaheim’s betters away late in games.

Oh wait a minute. No he didn’t.

Instead, Pedroia decided to rip the Boston grounds-crew for the problems that the Red Sox ran into in Boston for Game 3.

In the eighth inning, with runners on first and second, and one out, the slow-footed Kendry Morales hit a hard grounder toward the hole between first and second.

Pedroia hustled to his left, but the ball bounced up on him. He could only knock it down and throw Morales out at first. Both runners then scored on Juan Rivera’s single.

Two costly runs that Pedroia knows would not have scored if he fielded the grounder cleanly.

“It took a bad hop,” Pedroia said. “Our infield (stinks). It’s the worst in the game.”

“I’m not lying about that. That is true. I think about those things. That stuff upsets me,” Pedroia said. “My job is to take 1,000 groundballs a day. Other guys’ job is to get the field perfect so we can play baseball.”

I guess Pedroia had already fielded his 1,000 groundball-quota before Morales’ innocent grounder in the eighth inning and was therefore unable to field the 1,001st one cleanly.

There’s no mention in his little hissy fit that the Angels’ second baseman, Howie Kendrick, had no problem fielding his position on the worst infield in the game. It’s good to know that in order for Pedroia to perform as he’s paid to do, every possible aspect needs to be perfect.

In his next contract, I think it may be beneficial for Pedroia to work in clauses that prohibit him from playing if the weather isn’t to his liking, if the infield grass isn’t properly watered or if the opposing team isn’t setting the ball up on a tee for him.

A bad hop (which happen regardless of infield quality) didn’t lose the series for the Red Sox. They were heartily outplayed over the course of three games in every aspect. Boston’s supposed pitching advantage didn’t show as Jon Lester and Josh Beckett were unable to deliver lockdown performances they’ve had in the past.

The Boston offense, outside a Victor Martinez RBI single was non-existent for the first two games. And Boston’s unhittable playoff closer, Jonathan Papelbon was touched up for three runs on four hits and a pair of walks in an inning of work. Pedroia didn’t do much to cure Boston’s offensive doldrums, collecting a single and a double in twelve at-bats. He drove in a pair of runs and scored one during Boston’s three consecutive losses.

So the Angels, who outworked, outhustled and all-around outplayed the overconfident Boston club will move on to take on the Yankees in this week’s American League Championship Series.