Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)
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Thursday, October 04, 2007
Top of the 1st
HI THERE, HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE?
In the nine years that I have been writing Billy-Ball I have been trying to keep an objective tone, but it seems that each of you are pretty aware as to who I root for. I’m fortunate that I seem to root for winners so come the post-season I’m deeply invested.
But what if that weren’t the case? Senior National Correspondent Jerry Malitz offers this advice for the lovelorn in his latest edition of…
(A)Musings from the Cheap Seats
HI THERE, HAVEN’T WE MET BEFORE?
Baseball playoff time is here and your favorite team is nowhere to be found, what to do, what to do, what to do? If you are a fan of a team such as the Milwaukee Brewers or Kansas City Royals, who last participated in the post-season in 1982 and 1985 respectively, then this conundrum is part of your normal playoff routine. It’s also becoming an annual rite for fans who root for the Orioles, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, Reds, Pirates, and most of all the Nationals/Expos franchise who lead the pack with 26 consecutive playoff-less years.
For most fans having a rooting interest ratchets up the intensity in watching a game. Have you ever found yourself at a bar watching a sporting event or even an election results with fans of both sides present? It’s tough to stay neutral. Just try toasting a good play, a clutch hit, or a network call for a candidate by clinking glasses with yourself? It’s awkward and no fun at all.
Here we are, Playoffs 2007, and your team is no longer playing. Unless you are a Mets or Padres fan you have had some time to prepare yourself for this. Who by the way should feel worse? Is it the Mets fan who saw their beloved Metropolitans lead them down a shiny yellow brick road that got swallowed up by a massive sinkhole because of lack of maintenance? Or would you rather be a Padres fan and have your future Hall of Fame closer turn your champagne on ice into uncorked Ripple? Either way you guys get a pass this time around.
For the rest of us we get to pick from the Indians, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Phillies, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Rockies, interesting choices for sure. Here is a primer that might help you decide who will be your very own 2007 postseason poster team.
Tradition – If this is your thing you have much to choose from. Of course this can also be a deterrent in picking a team since some traditions get old real fast. Red Sox Nation or Pony Up? The Bronx Bombers and the House that Ruth Built (and remodeled and will tear down)? Wrigleyville, the Harry Carey guest7th inning stretch sing-a-long, the long-suffering Cubs fans? All nice and quaint if you already root for one of those teams but those bandwagons might be a bit overcrowded already. If you want some real tradition try the Cleveland Indians. Other than those long-suffering Cubs fans the Indians have the longest World Series championship dry spell (1948). They also have the best movie about a team, Major League, which popularized `Wild Thing’ as the song of choice for closers.
People Magazine Quotient – These playoffs have many paparazzi choices. The Yankees have the dynamic duo of A-Rod, and Derek Jeter. The Phillies can counter with Jimmy Rollins while the Indians can offer up S.I. cover boy Grady Sizemore. For the new kid on the block though try Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes. If he played on either coast he’d be a household name (oops, both Oakland and Baltimore had him and got rid of him). If you like craziness and dirt on a uniform he’s your man.
What Politicians Might Throw Out the First Pitch – Hilary Clinton already had media events planned for both Shea and Yankee Stadium but one will have to suffice. Trust me, if you are Willie Randolph stay away from Hilary. Still count on seeing Sen. Clinton at the ballpark although not on back-to-back days with Mayor Rudy and his made in the U.S.A baseball glove (if any are still made here). Do you think Obama will be dusting of his glove or clearing his throat for an appearance at Wrigley Field? I am betting on his singing of `Take Me Out’ to get the Cubs going. Of course Mitt Romney has a home in Massachusetts (and New Hampshire and Utah but they have no teams) but I am sure he won’t be putting on a hat if he shows up for a Red Sox appearance. And let’s not forget that wild and crazy guy John McCain. He’ll take the mound with a Diamondback wrapped around his neck when he throws out a first pitch.
Baseball Reasons That You Might Not Know – If you like small ball then the Rockies are your team. They led the majors with 83 sacrifice bunts this year and they also had a major league low of 67 errors. Nobody was close to them in either category. If you are a fan of strikeouts the Cubs are your team since they whiffed a major league high of 1,211 batters. And for pure hitting you can’t beat the Yankees and their A.L. high of 201 home runs to go with a .290 team batting average.
Miscellaneous – The Angels get little respect in Los Angeles/Anaheim. They are more successful in recent history than the Dodgers but they are still #2 in that area. They can use the fans. Before the season started Jimmy Rollins said `The Mets had a chance to win the World Series last year. Last year is over. I think we are the team to beat in the NL East.’ He got grief about that quote all season long yet he was right. He has chutzpah and he backed it up. Good for him. The Rockies play their games in Coors Field. It could be worse; it could be Coors Light or even worse `The Silver Bullet.’
Whatever you do don’t sit on the sidelines without a team to root for. Perhaps you will end up with a different take on the game with a contender in your stable. Nuances that you never bothered with before will suddenly take on a much clearer purpose. As Stephen Stills sang, `If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.’
Visit the archive of Jerry Malitz: http://billy-ball.com/AMusings.htm
Top of the 2nd
Series begins today
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 NYY @ CLE Thu Oct. 4 6:30 pm TBS
Gm 2 NYY @ CLE Fri Oct. 5 5 pm TBS
Gm 3 CLE @ NYY Sun Oct. 7 6:30 pm TBS
Gm 4* CLE @ NYY Mon Oct. 8 6 pm TBS
Gm 5* NYY @ CLE Wed Oct. 10 5 pm TBS
Red Sox lead series, 1-0
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 LAA 0 @ BOS 4 Wed Oct. 3
Gm 2 LAA @ BOS Fri Oct. 5 8:30 pm TBS
Gm 3 BOS @ LAA Sun Oct. 7 3 pm TBS
Gm 4* BOS @ LAA Mon Oct. 8 9:30 pm TBS
Gm 5* LAA @ BOS Wed Oct. 10 8:30 pm TBS
* – if necessary
Diamondbacks lead series, 1-0
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 CHC 1 @ ARI 3 Wed Oct. 3
Gm 2 CHC @ ARI Thu Oct. 4 10 pm TBS
Gm 3 ARI @ CHC Sat Oct. 6 6 pm TBS
Gm 4* ARI @ CHC Sun Oct. 7 1 pm TNT
Gm 5* CHC @ ARI Tue Oct. 9 10 pm TBS
* – if necessary
Rockies lead series, 1-0
Game Matchup Day Date Time ET TV
Gm 1 COL 4 @ PHI 2 Wed Oct. 3
Gm 2 COL @ PHI Thu Oct. 4 3 pm TBS
Gm 3 PHI @ COL Sat Oct. 6 9:30 pm TBS
Gm 4* PHI @ COL Sun Oct. 7 10 pm TBS
Gm 5* COL @ PHI Tue Oct. 9 6:30 pm TBS
* – if necessary
Top of the 3rd
STAR OF THE DAY
No surprise here – Josh Beckett, who threw a four-hitter in the 4-0 victory over the Angels. David Ortiz belted a two-run homer and Kevin Youkilis added a solo shot and got an RBI single from Mike Lowell. Beckett (1-0), baseball’s only 20-game winner since 2005 retired 19 batters in a row at one point. He struck out eight without allowing a walk for his third career shutout in the postseason. He threw 83 of his 108 pitches for strikes. It was Boston’s first postseason shutout since Luis Tiant blanked the Reds in Game 1 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park. John Lackey (0-1) was lifted after giving up nine hits and four runs through six innings for the Angels. The Red Sox have won seven straight postseason games against the Angels. This was Ortiz’s ninth homer of his postseason career, tying him with Jason Varitek for most in club history. He has 30 RBI in the playoffs with the Sox, also a franchise record. Ortiz extended his Division Series hitting streak to nine games, batting .412 in that span
postseason appearance came in 2005 when they were swept by the eventual World Series
THE PRESSURE COOKER
“We’ve been playing playoff baseball the whole month of September,” Rockies reliever LaTroy Hawkins said after the Rox topped the Phils, 4-2. The Rockies finally had the luxury of being able to lose a game and not be eliminated, but they chose not to. Starter Jeff Francis was dazzling for six innings. He struck out the first four Phillies and eight overall, didn’t allow a ball to reach the outfield until the 3rd and made just two mistakes, in a span of five pitches, resulting in solo homers from Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell who went back-to-back. Colorado’s only other playoff win was on Oct. 6, 1995. The Rockies, then a third-year franchise, beat Atlanta 7-5 to temporarily avoid elimination.
The story of the game was how four Colorado pitchers held the top four Phillies hitters 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts, four by Chase Utley. Utley, a .332 hitter, struck out four times for the second time in his career. Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins combined to go 0-for-11 with eight strikeouts.
OH, WHAT A TANGLED WEBB THEY WEAVE
Brandon Webb shut down the Chicago Cubs with his superb sinker to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. Stephen Drew homered in the 4th off Chicago ace Carlos Zambrano, pulled after six innings and only 85 pitches. Right after he left, Mark Reynolds homered on the fourth pitch from reliever Carlos Marmol to break a 1-all tie. Pinch-hitter Conor Jackson added a sacrifice fly, and the Diamondbacks got two scoreless innings from their bullpen. Webb allowed four hits and struck out nine, walked three and hit a batter over seven dominant innings. Arizona setup man Brandon Lyon threw a perfect 8th, and closer Jose Valverde, the NL saves leader with 47 in 54 opportunities this year, walked pinch-hitter Daryle Ward with two outs in the 9th to bring up Alfonso Soriano. Soriano, though, bounced into a game-ending forceout that capped an 0-for-5 night and Valverde picked up another save as the D-backs picked up another win.
Zambrano gave up four hits, struck out eight and walked one before he was lifted by manager Lou Piniella, “He probably could have gone another inning. We’re bringing him back Sunday on three days’ rest,” Piniella said. “I took a shot with my bullpen. It didn’t work today. They’ve done it all year.” Cub fans can complain all they want about the quick hook, but leaving him in would not have produced any runs for them.
NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT
Cole Hamels said the long sleeves he wore caused him considerable problems in his rough 2nd inning, “When I was throwing my changeup the sweat was dripping down in my hands and I wasn’t able to get a good grip on it,” Hamels said. “A lot of change-ups in the second inning they took, and they obviously were not strikes.” Hamels took the long sleeves off after the inning and retired 12 in a row and 14 of his last 15 overall.
HE’S NOT KING OF THE HILL
In Jason Marquis’ only relief appearance this season, against Cincinnati on Sept.30, Marquis gave up four runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning.
IT WASN’T THE LENGTH, IT WAS THE WAIT
Colorado’s Todd Helton had played 1,578 games over 11 regular seasons before making his first playoff appearance yesterday, ending the third-longest such streak among active players. When Jeff Cirillo (1,617) plays for Arizona in the NLDS, the Mets’ Damion Easley (an ex-Ray) will stand alone with 1,593.
Top of the 4th
NO PICK! NO PICK!
A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 23% of Major League Baseball fans expect the Boston Red Sox to win the 2007 World Series; 18% expect the New York Yankees to win it all while 13% believe the Cleveland Indians will wind up on top. The Chicago Cubs are the only National League team to enter double digits at 13% while 8% think the Los Angeles Angels will win, 6% pick the Philadelphia Phillies and 3% name the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies as the likely winner this year. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure who will win.
Twenty percent (20%) of baseball fans are rooting for the Red Sox to win their second title in four years while 19% are pulling for the Cubs to win their first in nearly a century. Eighteen percent (18%) are Yankee fans and 14% would like to see the Indians walk off the field as champions.
Red Sox fans are the cockiest this year as 81% think their team will win it all. Those who follow the Bronx Bombers are number two in cockiness, 72% think their team will pull it off this year. No other teams are even close to this level of confidence. In fact, other than Red Sox and Yankee fans, fewer than half expect their team to win the World Series.
Thirty-two percent (32%) of fans expect the Red Sox to win the American League pennant. Twenty-one percent (21%) pick the Yankees, 20% the Indians, and 16% pick the Angels.
In the National League, 28% pick the Cubs and 27% the Phillies. Twelve percent (12%) pick the Rockies who barely snuck into the playoffs with a dramatic come from behind 13-inning win on Monday. Ten percent (10%) pick the Diamondbacks.
This national telephone survey of 631 Baseball Fans was conducted by Rasmussen Reports October 2, 2007. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 4 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.
Top of the 5th
YOU’RE OUTTA HERE
Andruw Jones had his worst season, but Jones’ agent, Scott Boras, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Andruw took a discount to stay in Atlanta the last time.” That was in 2002, when Jones and his father negotiated a six-year contract for $75 million with the Braves without Boras participating. That’s the contract that is expiring with this season.
Jones, who hit .222 but still had 26 homers and 94 RBIs, has turned negotiations over to Boras this time, though. “I’ll say this,” Boras said. “I’ve been doing this for 32 years and the market place for Andruw Jones, I expect, will be top-tier.” He won’t be getting that money from the Braves though. General manager John Schuerholz announced the decision Tuesday, shortly after breaking the news to Jones during a one-on-one meeting at Turner Field
Sammy S*sa made a successful comeback this season with 21 homers and 92 RBIs, but it’s clear he’ll be looking for a new team.”Right now,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “it’s probably best for Sammy to at least see what’s out there — to see what the market is.” His batting average against lefties was .328, compared to .221 against right-handers.
The Orioles very quickly released pitchers Jaret Wright and Victor Zambrano.
Walt Jocketty is out after 13 seasons as general manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, one year after the team won the World Series for the first time since 1982. Team president Mark Lamping said Jocketty’s departure with a year remaining on his contract was a mutual decision, and that he’d be paid. Team CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. said Jocketty and the Cardinals had “cordially and respectfully parted ways.” Jocketty oversaw the team make seven postseason appearances, one of the best stretches in franchise history. But he has been unhappy since Jeff Luhnow was promoted to vice president of amateur scouting and player development late last season, placing him in charge of the draft and supervision of the farm system. John Mozeliak, assistant general manager the last five years, was appointed interim GM. DeWitt said Mozeliak, who has interviewed for GM openings in Cincinnati and Houston, could be a candidate for the permanent position.
Tony La Russa said Monday that he wants to continue managing, but wasn’t certain if he wanted to remain in St. Louis.
Tom Glavine is likely to decline his $13 million option with the New York Mets by tomorrow’s deadline, giving the pitcher time to think about his future.
Top of the 6th
MR. MET HEADS HOME…
This report from Brookline’s own Conan O’Brian…
Top of the 7th
3:00 pm Colorado at Philadelphia Franklin Morales Kyle Kendrick
6:30 pm N.Y. Yankees at Cleveland Chien-Ming Wang C.C. Sabathia
10:00 pm Chi. Cubs at Arizona Ted Lilly Doug Davis
Al games on TBS
Top of the 8th
DID YOU KNOW?
The Diamondbacks are the first team since the 1906 White Sox to have the league’s best record and worst batting average
Top of the 9th
Best of Five
GAME 1: YANKEES (Wang 19-7) at Indians (Sabathia 19-7), 6:30 p.m. Thursday
GAME 2: YANKEES (Pettitte 15-9) at Indians (Carmona 19-8), 5 p.m. Friday
GAME 3: Indians (Westbrook 6-9) at YANKEES (Clemens 6-6) 6:30 p.m. Sunday
GAME 4: Indians at YANKEES 6 p.m. Monday*
GAME 5: YANKEES at Indians, 5 p.m.** Wednesday*
**-moves to 8:30 p.m. if it’s the only game
Television: All games on TBS
* The Yankees scored 968 runs this season, the most in the majors in seven years and their franchise high since 1937.
* The Yankees finished the season with the AL’s top batting average (.290), most home runs (201), most total bases (2,649), most runs scored (968), most RBIs (929), top slugging percentage (.463), top on-base percentage (.366) and most hits (1,656).
* The Indians had five players hit at least 20 home runs this season.
* No pitcher has won as many games as Chien-Ming Wang over the past two seasons
* Cleveland got more innings from its starters than any other team in the majors.
* The Indians’ closer, Joe Borowski, led the A.L. in saves, with 45.
* The Yankees have a collective .379 average against Borowski.
* Doug Mientkiewicz is finally healthy and there are many who feel he will be an impact player for the Yankees at first.
* Since taking over at second for the Indians, Adsrubal Cabrera has made just one error in 38 games.
* Bobby Abreu reached the 100-RBI mark for the fifth straight season.
* Victor Martinez led the Tribe with 114 RBI this season.
* Hideki Matsui hit just .185 in September.
* C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona have six postseason innings between them.
* Mariano Rivera blew just four of his 34 opportunities.
* On six or more days rest in his career, Chien-Ming Wang is 5-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 10 starts.
* C. C. Sabathia pitched 241 innings this season, 31 more than his previous career high in 2002.
* Sabathia is 1-7 with a 7.13 ERA in his career against the Yankees, but hasn’t faced them since 2004.
* In a major league-high 241 innings this season, Sabathia had 209K’s and a career-low 37 walks.
* Wang went 6-1 with a 2.67 ERA over his final eight appearances.
* Bobby Abreu ranked third in the majors in pitches per plate appearance.
* Cleveland scored the fewest runs of any AL playoff team.
* Joe Borowski had a 5.23 ERA, the highest of any major league pitcher with more than three saves this year.
* Borowski had 15 baserunner-free saves of one inning or more this year, Rivera had 10.
* The Opening Day payroll of the Yankees was $189.6 million first in the Majors and $61.7 million for the Indians, 23rd in the Majors.
* Today’s national anthem will be performed by the Cleveland Orchestra Double String Quartet.
Bottom of the 9th
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Information provided in Billy-Ball has been gathered from A.P. reports, espn.com, sportsline.com, mlb.com and numerous other e-sources. Opinions expressed in Billy-Ball are obviously solely the opinions of the author of Billy-Ball and do not reflect those of source material no matter how off the wall they may be.