Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXIII: Finally!)

Written by :
Published on : November 5, 2016

 

 

Pardon my tardiness, dear reader. It took me a full day to recover. The longest championship drought in the history of North American sports is finally over. And as the Cubs doggy-piled on the infield grass in Cleveland on Tuesday, I fell to the floor alternately weeping and laughing maniacally. It still doesn’t necessarily feel real. But I want to take you on the journey one last time. So here are my reactions to Games 3-7, directly after they were over. I hope you enjoy it. I know I did.

 

Friday, October 28th. The Indians beat the Cubs 1-0. They lead the Series 2-1.

“Sure as God made green apples, some day the Chicago Cubs are gonna be in the World Series. And maybe sooner than we think.” That was Harry Caray on the final day of the 1991 regular season. And on Friday, fans laid green apples at the base of Harry Caray’s statue at Wrigley Field, because the Cubs played their first World Series game there since 1945. Tickets weren’t cheap. And man,  I really felt like the Cubs were supposed to win this one. I wanted it. Wrigley Field definitely wanted it. But I guess the Indians’ bullpen wanted it more.

 

With the wind blowing out, Carlos Santana in left field and Josh Tomlin pitching, the Cubs still couldn’t score a run. It was the Indians’ 5th shutout of the postseason, which is a record. And it was the 4th time in 8 games that the Cubs have failed to score. Runners were on second and third in the bottom of the 9th with Javy Baez, the star of the NLDS and NLCS up to bat. And he was struck out by Cody Allen to end the game. The Indians moved to 63% to win the Series. The good news is that Corey Kluber is pitching on short rest and the Cubs are favored in Games 4, 5 and 6. The bad news is that the Cubs can’t win the World Series at Wrigley. Now I just hope they can get back to Cleveland.

 

 

Saturday, October 29th. The Indians beat the Cubs 7-2. They lead the Series 3-1.

That was fucking brutal. Corey Kluber strikes again. Goddamnit. The Indians were underdogs against the Red Sox. They were underdogs against the Blue Jays. They were underdogs against the Cubs. Now they’re 10-2 in the postseason and one win away (and 85%) from winning the whole thing. And Kluber would go again in a potential Game 7. I don’t know what to say at this point. LeBron James was down 3-1 in the NBA Finals this year? The Cubs have won three games in a row or more 16 times during the regular season? 18 times, if you count the postseason, including in the last round against the Dodgers? Andrew Miller finally allowed a run? The Cubs handled Drone Finger in Game 2? The Indians have yet to have a long series? Seriously, what??? The Indians have looked like the superior team through four games. I think it’s time for the Cubs to remember who they are. Maybe this wasn’t supposed to be easy. But I’m just not ready for it to be over.

 

Sunday, October 30th. The Cubs beat the Indians 3-2. The Indians lead the Series 3-2.

We’re going back to Cleveland! Aroldis Chapman came on in the 7th inning and got an 8-out save. And I could barely take it. In hindsight, the Cubs made some amazing defensive plays. Everyone is saying that the goofball foul ball that glanced off David Ross’ glove that Anthony Rizzo caught in the 2nd inning looks like the Bob Boone/Pete Rose catch in Game 6 of the 1980 World Series. Jason Heyward made a leaping grab down the right field foul line in the 3rd on Trevor Bauer that even Bauer had to applaud. And then the Cubs’ bats finally came alive in the 4th.

 

Just when John Smoltz was saying the Cubs absolutely had to score in the inning, Kris Bryant homered on the next pitch to tie the game 1-1. Anthony Rizzo doubled on the next pitch and the crowd finally had a reason to go crazy. Then a Ben Zobrist single, an Addison Russell RBI single and a Ross RBI sac fly made it 3-1 Cubs, which is thankfully all they needed. Maybe now the Cubs can get that Josh Tomlin game back that they needed and Short Rest Kluber will finally be brought to justice. Man. Cleveland will be loud in Game 6. They’re down to 76% to win the Series. Kyle Schwarber will be back at DH. And the Cubs are 52% favorites to win Game 6. I still believe. Let’s go.

 

Tuesday, November 1st. The Cubs beat the Indians 9-3. The Series is tied 3-3.

 

With two outs and an 0-2 count in the top of the 1st, NL MVP-in-waiting, Kris Bryant, launched a 433 foot home run into the left field bleachers to make it 1-0 Cubs. Then Anthony Rizzo singled. Then Ben Zobrist singled. And then Addison Russell reached out and poked a fly ball that landed softly at the feet of Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, who badly miscommunicated on what would have been an easy third out. Rizzo scored. Zobrist bowled over Roberto Perez at home and the Cubs were up 3-0.

 

In the 4th, Kyle Schwarber walked to lead off the inning. After Bryant flew out, Rizzo singled again. Then Zobrist singled again. And since Schwarber has the bum knee, he was held at third. Bases loaded. One out. Josh Tomlin yanked. Dan Otero in to pitch. Addison Russell at the plate. Here’s Pat Hughes on the call.

 

“Russell drives one in the air. Deep left center. That’s back near the wall. It’s got a chance! Grand slam! Grand slam, Addison Russell! Cubs lead seven nothing!”

 

My call was just going, “YEAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” in my apartment all by myself, before my wife came home to find me five beers deep and pacing. At 22, Russell was the second-youngest person to ever hit a grand slam in the World Series. The youngest happened to be a 21-year-old Mickey Mantle in 1953. And his 6 RBI tied a single-game record set by Bobby Richardson in 1960, Hideki Matsui in 2009 and Albert Pujols in 2011.

 

Those seven runs would be all the Cubs needed. But Joe Maddon brought Aroldis Chapman on in the 7th once again. Maybe it seemed desperate or like Joe doesn’t trust his bullpen. Maybe Joe remembered Game 5 of the 2008 ALCS, when his Rays were up 7-0 and ended up losing to the Red Sox 8-7. But Rizzo homered in the 9th, the Cubs won 9-3 and we’re going to Game 7. A day that so many Cubs fans have waited their whole lives to see is just one day and 27 outs away.

 

 

The same could obviously be said for Indians fans. And everyone seems to think they have a huge advantage going in to the game. Or 54%, accruing to FiveThirtyEight. Corey Kluber was dominant in Games 1 and 4. They have a well-rested Andrew Miller and Cody Allen coming out of the pen if anything should happen. And Cubs doubters think Chapman’s arm might fall off at some point during the game.

 

But like I said last week when it was Clayton Kershaw, of course it has to be fucking Kluber. And fucking Miller. And fucking Allen. It’s almost too perfect not to be them. Maybe they’re going to the well once too often. Maybe this is just the sort of insurmountable odds the Cubs need to complete the most perfect ending to the least perfect of all 108-year droughts. Maybe. Just maybe. Holy shit.

 

Wednesday, November 2nd. The Cubs beat the Indians 8-7. They win the World Series 4-3.

On October 14, 1908 at Bennett Park in Detroit, Tigers’ catcher, Boss Schmidt, apparently hit a bunt or a dribbler in front of the plate, it was picked up by Cubs’ catcher, Johnny Kling, who threw Schmidt out at first. Orval Overall completed a three-hit shutout and the Cubs were back-to-back World Series champions. That was a really long fucking time ago.

 

I guess everyone has noticed the metaphor already, but what better way to end a 108-year drought than with a little rain. “It was the best rain delay of all time,” according to Anthony Rizzo. And it will forever go down in Cubs lore until the end of time. Or until the Cubs win so much that everyone is sick of hearing about it. Either way. But during the 17-minute delay, the Cubs’ struggling right fielder, Jason Heyward, called a team meeting to remind everybody on the team of who they were and what they’d already overcome to get to this point. And what could have gone down as another chapter in a century-long team misery ended much differently in the bottom of the 10th in Cleveland. A smiling, collapsing Kris Bryant firing Michael Martinez’ infield roller to Rizzo at first. And the curse, the drought, the black cat, Steve Bartman, Leon Durham, that goddamned goat story and 108 years of waiting ’til next year were finally over.

 

 

The Cubs started right away, with Dexter Fowler leading off with a solo shot off of Corey Kluber to make it 1-0 in the 1st. He almost ran backwards all the way to second base. But Cleveland tied the score in the 3rd when Carlos Santana singled in Coco Crisp. In the top of the 4th, with Bryant on third, Addison Russell yelled, “Goddamnit!” when he popped up to shallow center. But Bryant tagged up and slid under the tag of Roberto Perez at home, making it 2-1 Cubs. The next batter, Wilson Contreras, doubled off the wall in right center, scoring Ben Zobrist to make it 3-1. The last batter Kluber faced was Javy Baez, who homered in the top of the 5th, making it 4-1 Cubs. One unhittable pitcher down. Two to go.

 

Andrew Miller was the next pitcher in the game. He was the MVP of the ALCS, the guy critics were saying the Cubs should have given up Kyle Schwarber to acquire from the Yankees at the trade deadline. And he would be the next pitcher who couldn’t stop the Cubs. Rizzo came through with an RBI single to make it 5-1. Everything was looking great. Then Joe Maddon took Kyle Hendricks out of the game in the bottom of the 5th.

 

I didn’t understand the move at the time at all. Hendricks had been dealing. And he was one blown strike call away from striking out Santana and ending the inning. Instead they were bringing in Jon Lester and his throwing yips with a runner on first and removing Contreras from the game for Lester’s 39-year-old personal catcher, soon to be retiring due to issues with concussions. Lester immediately gave up an infield single to Jason Kipnis, which David Ross, that aforementioned 39-year-old catcher, had to field because of Lester’s aforementioned yips. And he sailed the ball high over Rizzo’s head at first. Santana went to third and Kipnis would wind up on second. The next batter was Francisco Lindor. And Lester bounced a pitch into the dirt that bounded off of Ross’ mask and knocked him to the ground. Santana and Kipnis both scored on the wild pitch and the Cubs’ lead was down to 5-3. I turned to my buddy Brendan and said, “Ross is concussed.”

 

 

In the top of the 6th, with Miller still on the mound for Cleveland, Ross got one of those runs back with a solo homer to center, making it 6-3. I was wrong about the concussion. In hindsight, that homer was absolutely huge. And Lester would end up working until Ramirez reached on a two-out infield single in the bottom of the 8th. And that’s when Maddon brought in an overworked Aroldis Chapman from the bullpen. Nothing was making any sense.

 

The Cubs were four outs away from their first world title in over a century. And in the back of my mind, I knew if this lead was going to be blown, there was no better candidate than Chapman. He’d been taxed by the previous two games. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Yankees, he came with 105-mph heat, off-the-field baggage aplenty and the attitude of a pampered diva. He was a rental and never a real Cub, anyway. That’s what they’d all say. His face would be plastered on memes and signs held up by Cardinal fans alongside Billy Sianis’ goat, Ron Santo’s black cat, Leon Durham and Steve Bartman. Another symbol of martyrdom, another scapegoat and another year of fucking waiting.

 

The first batter Chapman faced was Brandon Guyer, who doubled to right center, scoring Ramirez and making it 6-4 Cubs. The next batter was Rajai Davis. Ugh. It still gives me a sinking feeling in my stomach thinking about that at-bat. Rajai Davis wasn’t even supposed to be playing in the game. If it wasn’t for the worst game in Tyler Naquin’s life the night before, he would have been in center and Davis wouldn’t even be standing up there choked up a foot on his bat and screaming a line drive over the left field wall to tie the game at 6. Progressive Field understandably lost it. The first home run Chapman had given up as a Cub couldn’t have come at a worse time. And the camera cut to LeBron James who was scream-flexing in his personal king booth. Why did it have to be like this? Thankfully, after the 9th, the score was still tied. And that’s when the rain came.

 

 

The Cubs had already gotten through Cody Allen in the 7th and 8th. And Terry Francona called for Bryan Shaw to get the final two outs of the 9th. After the 17-minute delay, he’d go back out and pitch the 10th. But that was after the emotional speech from Heyward. That was after the Cubs remembered who they were. Kyle Schwarber led off with a single, and was replaced by pinch-runner, Albert Almora Jr. A 22-year-old replacing a 23-year-old. He’d move to second on Bryant’s deep sac fly. Then Rizzo was intentionally walked. Fox’s cameras had caught Rizzo talking to Ross during the game on Ross’ mic. “I’m an emotional wreck,” Rizzo told him. “I’m in a glass case of emotions.” And when Ben Zobrist doubled to left scoring Almora, Rizzo was holding his head on third in amazement. Then Miguel Montero, the third catcher of the game, singled in Rizzo to make it 8-6. They ended up needing that run desperately, and the hero of Game 1 of the NLCS came through once again. I was really loud in my apartment.

 

Chapman, who was seen openly weeping in the clubhouse during the delay, did not come out for the 10th. It was rookie, Carl Edwards Jr., who got two outs before walking Guyer and giving up an RBI single to Rajai Davis, yet again. Stupid Davis wasn’t even supposed to be playing! And then Maddon brought in Mike Montgomery to face Michael Martinez. And I’ll give you Joe Buck one last time.

 

“This is gonna be a tough play. Bryant. The Cubs…. WIN THE WORLD SERIES!!! Bryant makes the play! It’s over! And the Cubs have finally won it all! 8-7 in 10!”

 

 

Maybe now I can take the time to mention how spooky all those 108-year coincidences are. They’ve been widely reported everywhere already, but it takes 108 outs to win the NLCS and another 108 to win the World Series. The ball itself has 108 stitches. And that’s because the Cubs’ first manager, A.G. Spalding insisted upon it. And his offices were at 108 W. Madison. The Willis Tower in Chicago is 108 stories high. The Cubs’ owner, Tom Ricketts, has his business on 108th street. The Cubs win the World Series in Taking Care of Business and Back to the Future II, which are both 108 minutes long. The trophy is made of silver, which has an atomic weight of 108. The Cubs won in 10 innings. They scored 8 runs. I’ve probably shed 108 tears since.

 

Now I’ve wasted away two straight days of re-watching Cubs highlights and listening to Pat Hughes radio calls and sporadically crying during viewings of the championship parade. What a Series. What a send-off for David Ross, who was carried off the field by his teammates after Game 7. What a legacy for Theo Epstein. And Joe Maddon. And the rest of these young Cubs, who I said all year were like 13-year-old Chinese gymnasts who weren’t old enough to understand the 108-years of pressure.

 

This changes the entire culture surrounding the Cubs, as an organization. It almost changes the game of baseball, itself. It is the last great American sports story. And I’m just glad that I was one of the millions of Cubs fans out there who got to witness history. To finally get to see the end of something and the beginning of another. Man, I love this team. It happened. It really happened. And I mean, I totally believed. But I still can’t fucking believe it. Magic number: 0.

 

 


The Curious Case of Cleveland vs The Cubs

Written by :
Published on : October 29, 2016

 

 

First off, I’m not going to rub our latest win into the faces of Chicago Cubs Fans. I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. Not after their first home World Series game in 71 years. Not after all they’ve been through… Years of turmoil, lost games, Steve Bartmans, Old Style, and goats. The year-round sold out games, the tradition, the rotating cast of Bros that frequent Clark Street bars belting out Living on a Prayer night after night! That horrible deep dish pizza! Talk about constipation! No, but really, as a born and raised Cleveland Indians fan, I have no hatred for Chicago Cubs fans.

 

I’ve only really lived in three cities: Cleveland (Elyria and Lakewood), Chicago (Wrigleyville and South Loop), and Los Angeles (Sherman Oaks and East Hollywood). So, at one point I did consider Chicago a home (But not home home of course). And my two years living in Wrigleyville were filled with great times. I can’t deny that I loved hearing the crowd from my front porch, scalping tickets in the fourth inning to see part of a neighborhood game, drinking that cheap special of Old Style with a shot of Canadian Mist (or what I like to call – the Addison Whore), dancing on the piano at Sluggers, taste-testing deep dish pizza at D’Agostino’s, Giordano’s, and Pisano’s, and inhaling cigars at Around the World Tobacco on Belmont. Chicago holds a special place in my heart and in my lungs. But doesn’t that say something? No matter how many years went by without a World Series or even a postseason, people from near and far love to go watch the Cubs. Cubs culture is just cool. And it didn’t hurt that John Hughes featured Chicago and his teams in most of my favorite childhood movies.

 

IMG_6353_REV

 

But let’s get to the facts, to the true love, to the devotion, to the sweet, sweet RBI that Coco Crisp whisked to Wrigley right field and got the Cleveland Indians their one and only run to ultimately win Game 3 of the 2016 World Series. Or that smooth criminal pitching from Josh Tomlin. And the eleven lucky and very wealthy Cleveland Indians fans that were able to get tickets at Wrigley and cheer on our guys. As I watched the game and listened to my dad’s post-game show, it was clear how important, how special this moment was to everyone. Every mistake, every victory was amplified by one thousand. It was an event that fans on both sides had waited a lifetime to witness – a World Series in itself for Cubs fans and a series between two of the most deserving, and two of the most ill-fated teams in baseball.

 

They both have arrived to face off after a one-hundred and eight year (Cubs) and sixty-eight year (Indians) World Series victory stretch. And they both want it bad.  Sure, the Cubs are the national favorites, the beloved and notorious underdogs, but Cleveland….Cleveland has somethin’ crazy going on this year! We have broken our championship curse which means, why not win a World Series? And the Cubs have never been closer to breaking their own. To top it off, both teams have f**king awesome pitching (But The Indians may have the upper hand at the moment). Only time will tell who will win, but let me go on record to say I’m #All In with the Windians. And so is Tom Hanks, Stephen King, Drew Carey, LeBron James, and our devoted fanbase.

 

1948

 

I did have the very fortunate chance to attend Game 1 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field this past Tuesday – the same night that the Cleveland Cavaliers also accepted their Championship rings and started the NBA season. The same night that Kenny Lofton of the 1995 Cleveland Indians threw out the first pitch. A day like that will probably not come around again for quite some time. And to share it with my city, my dad and brother, and surprisingly with Cubs fans was kind of perfect. There was a brisk October breeze coming off the lake, but it was still very comfortable. The clouds were casting amazing shadows over the newly revealed statues of Cleveland baseball legends. The smell of bratwurst and hot dogs was in the air. And Cubs and Indians fans were chit-chatting like old friends as they waited for the gates to open.

 

Now, this was before the game started mind you, but I did have my first lady drink of the afternoon on the tab of a visiting Chicagoan who wanted to prove to me that Cubs fans weren’t all that bad. And I love free booze, so I accepted and in turn was immediately disarmed. I thought to myself, could two fanbases really get along during the championship series? Everyone claimed to be grateful to have made it to this point, and to be playing another Midwestern team with a substantial losing streak. It almost seemed too good to be true. But maybe that was because all of the Chicago fans that came to see the game in Cleveland were also the fans that couldn’t afford the tickets at Wrigley (Not to say that Progressive Field tickets weren’t hard to get or expensive, but they weren’t as unattainable…and we luckily had some connections).

 

Maybe these Cubs fans were the working class, blue-collar folk that many Cleveland sports fans relate with. Then I found out how much they were paying for seats alongside us in the upper deck, and realized they had shelled out some major cash for those tickets as well. That all being said, even with the blow-out that went down the first night, I never witnessed any fists thrown, name-calling, or poor sportsmanship – just a good old fashion ass-whooping. To which was reciprocated in Game 2. But boy did I relish in our win that night. The rallying on full-counts, the delicious concessions, our cheer-happy section, and the fact that my brother no longer thought of me as a contributor to the curse – because yes, I was in attendance for a win this time unlike Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Plus it put my dad (@sirfranksnbacon) in a very good mood.

 

XMAS

 

Now that we are up one and just two wins away from a World Series victory, a position my father has been in just two other instances of his life, and I as well, we can temporarily enjoy this moment of hope and relief together. After all, according to those stats nerds out there, we have a sixty-five percent chance of winning the series now. But will it be enough against those pesky Cubbies? We shall see. Just know, us Clevelanders are all very optimistic. Go Tribe!

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXII: The Cubs are in the World Series)

Written by :
Published on : October 27, 2016

 

This has been quite a week for me and my fragile emotions. When I posted last week, I was preparing to head off to Dodger Stadium, get interviewed by WGN and then watch Game 5 of the NLCS. Since then, I’ve cried joyous tears, I’ve gotten champagne-drunk and then had to dust myself off and mentally prepare for one last nervous go-round. And once again I decided to write my reactions after every game, so you could take that ride with me. Enjoy.

 

Thursday, October 20th. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4. They lead the series 3-2.

The Dodgers can take their huge leads off of first and pretend to steal and dance around the base paths all they want. They can bunt all they want too. Jon Lester’s postseason ERA is still 0.86 over 21 innings. The Cubs’ bats also stayed woke (thanks to Matt Szczur’s bats and underwear, apparently), Addison Russell homered for his second night in a row and a bases-clearing double by Javy Baez put the game out of reach yet again. The Cubs have scored 18 runs in their past two games. And now they’re *takes deep breath* one win away from playing the Cleveland Indians in the World Series. Ohmyfuckinggod.

 

 Addison with the homer!

 

As a franchise, the Cubs have infamously been here before. Everybody knows that. And I was at Game 5 of the NLCS at Dodger Stadium when I noticed what a wonderful coincidence it was that Steve Garvey and Eric Karros were chosen to throw out the first pitches before the game. Yes, Garvey played most of his career with L.A. and so did Karros. But the dig, which was probably lost on the Dodger fans who don’t show up until the 4th inning, anyway, wasn’t so subtle to Cubs fans like me.

 

In 1984, the Cubs played the San Diego Padres in the NLCS and took a 2-0 lead in the last best-of-five series the LCS has ever had. The first two games were at Wrigley Field, and the Cubs killed the Padres 13-0 in Game 1. Even pitcher, Rick Sutcliffe, homered in the game. By Game 4 in San Diego, the series was at 2-1. And in the 3rd inning, Garvey doubled, making it 2-0 Padres. Cubs’ catcher, Jody Davis, tied the game in the 4th with a two-run homer. And then the Cubs immediately took a 3-2 lead on Leon Durham’s home run, which was back-to-back. I would have gone insane, if I wasn’t a pre-schooler and completely unaware. But Garvey tied the game again in the 5th with a single. And then he put the Padres ahead 4-3 with another single in the 7th. The Padres were up 5-4 in the 8th, when Davis tied the game yet again with a double to center. But Garvey ended the game in the 9th with a two-run walk-off. The series was tied at 2 and Garvey’s teammates carried him off the field in celebration.

 

The deciding Game 5 would see the Cubs go up 3-0 in the 2nd, before the Padres started chipping away at the lead. In the bottom of the 7th, Leon Durham made his infamous fielding error at first, which would tie the game at 3. Garvey added another RBI in the inning, and the Padres would go on to win the game 6-3 and the series 3-2. Garvey was named NLCS MVP. The first Cubs game I ever went to in my life was the following year. It was Cubs-Padres at Wrigley Field. And one of the only things I remember from the game was how much everybody booed Steve Garvey.

 

 Garvey and Karros. Real clever, Dodgers.

 

2003 is a little bit fresher in everyone’s memory. There was another Cubs NLCS in between 1984 and 2003. But the only real lasting memory of the 1989 NLCS to most baseball fans is that Will Clark’s grand slam off of Greg Maddux in the 4th inning of Game 1. And his lip reading of Maddux prior to the at-bat, is the reason pitchers and catchers cover their mouths with their gloves when they talk to each other to this day. But 2003 is just… ugh. I don’t even want to talk about it. Nor do I want to even have to think about the fact that Game 6 is essentially the exact same scenario as Saturday night’s game. Well, there are some major momentum differences, if that’s even a real thing, but just know that in Game 6 of the NLCS, in that god forsaken 8th inning, Eric Karros was playing 1st base for the Chicago Cubs.

 

For Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS, L.A. has to rely on Clayton Kershaw yet again. Of course it has to be fucking Kershaw. It’s almost too perfect not to be him. And then a potential Game 7 would be Rich Hill. I probably don’t need to remind you that the Cubs have scored 8 runs or more in all three of their wins. And they’ve scored ZERO in their two losses. And I probably don’t need to remind you of who was pitching in both of those zero-run games. Right now, FiveThirtyEight is giving the Cubs a 54% chance of winning the game. They’re at 81% to win the NLCS. And they’re at 51% to win the World Series. So, as they pointed out, the curse is more likely to end than to continue. I have to assume these are not the same flailing bats that got blanked in Games 2 and 3. And I’m hoping for more of the ‘5.84 ERA in the NLDS’ Kershaw and less of the ‘0.00 ERA in the NLCS’ Kershaw. I’m not ready for his postseason reputation to be repaired. And I’m also hoping for the ‘1.32 ERA at home’ Kyle Hendricks and ‘103-mph lights out ‘Aroldis Chapman. And right now I don’t even want to consider the alternatives. 1984 and 2003 still hover out there. But, really, this team just feels different.

 

Saturday, October 22. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 5-0. They win the series 4-2.

It’s still surreal. When Addison Russell cleanly fielded Yasiel Puig’s grounder in the 9th, tossed the ball to Javier Baez for the force out at second and then Baez fired to Anthony Rizzo at first to complete the double play, the Cubs won their first pennant since 1945. And Wrigleyville looked like pandemonium.

 

Really, it couldn’t have gone any better. It was like a bizarro alternate reality version of the 2003 game. A world in which Alex Gonzalez fields Miguel Cabrera’s grounder cleanly, tosses to Mark Grudzielanek at second, who fires to Eric Karros at first. The Cubs get out of that 8th inning leading 3-1. Joe Borowski gets the save and the Cubs go on to play the Yankees (or the long suffering Red Sox, if you want to go there) in the World Series. And nobody ever finds out the name of the doofus fan who tried to catch Luis Castillo’s foul ball.

 

 Celebrate good times.

 

I hate to bring up all of the failings of the past, but Saturday’s game was the first step in wiping the slate clean for a franchise and a fan base who probably always wondered what winning a game like that would actually look like in real life. To not win the World Series since 1948 is one thing. To not even be there since 1945 is another, entirely. But Billy Sianis died on October 22nd, 1970. And exactly 46 years later, his curse is on life support.

 

Kyle Hendricks pitched a phenomenal game. He gave up a leadoff single to Andrew Toles. But then Baez tagged him out on a double play the very next pitch. And after Baez committed a (thankfully) harmless error in the 2nd, Hendricks sat down 17 Dodger batters in a row. He and Aroldis Chapman faced the 9-inning minimum of 27 batters, the first time that had been accomplished in a postseason since Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956.

 

Clayton Kershaw was not as good. The scoring started for the Cubs in the 1st, when Dexter Fowler doubled to lead off the game and then Kris Bryant singled him home. Ben Zobrist’s sac fly would make it 2-0. In the second, Russell opened with a double and was then knocked in by Fowler. And Wilson Contreras’ leadoff home run in the 4th made it 4-0 Cubs, which was a great relief for me, since that 3-0 score had doomed the Cubs too many times in the past. Anthony Rizzo homered in the 5th to make it 5-0 and then Bad Postseason Kershaw was lifted, ending the Cubs’ onslaught.

 

According to FiveThirtyEight, the Cubs have a 63% chance to win the World Series, although Corey Kluber and the Indians are given a 52% chance of winning Game 1. Then again, the Indians were pretty heavy underdogs in both of their previous series. And everyone seems to think the Indians are going to run all over Jon Lester. Rajai Davis led the American League in stolen bases. Jose Ramirez is also a threat. Then there’s Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Coco Crisp. But that also assumes anybody can get on base. Other than Lindor and maybe Lonnie Chisenhall, nobody on that team is hitting. And this is all before we even mention that Ohio-native Kyle Schwarber might actually DH in Game 1.

 

 Wrigleyville getting it in.

 

The Cubs-Indians World Series is a story so good that it doesn’t even need Schwarber’s inclusion. You have the two longest droughts in baseball. Any World Series featuring the Cubs would have massive interest, anyway. But the Indians also have Andrew Miller, the guy the Cubs couldn’t get at the trade deadline because they were unwilling to part ways with Schwarber. I don’t know how this is going to end. And so much of the playoffs is a crapshoot. But what we have is the best team in baseball from the beginning against a team that has benefitted from short series with a depleted staff and an excellent bullpen. I’ve never been here, to this point, before. But I gotta say, I feel pretty good about it.

 

Tuesday, October 25th. The Indians beat the Cubs 6-0. They lead the series 1-0.

Well, add the Chicago Cubs to the list of postseason teams that can’t hit a well-rested Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller or Cody Allen. Kluber (with a little help from the framing of Roberto Perez and the trigger-happy calls from Larry fucking Vanover) struck out eight Cubs in the first three innings. Five of them were called strike threes. The Indians are now 8-1 in the postseason. Terry Francona is 9-0 in the World Series. It was the Indians’ 4th shutout in 9 games. It looked almost exactly like all their other previous ALDS and ALCS wins. And they are now 55% favorites (accruing to FanGraphs and FiveThirtyEight) to win the World Series. Goddamnit.

 

 Game 1 goes to Kluber.

 

There are other ways to look at it. The Indians got 2 runs out of a fluke 1st inning. The Jose Ramirez swinging bunt. The Brandon Guyer bases-loaded HBP. All of the generous calls from Larry fucking Vanover. The wind stopping Kyle Schwarber (he is risen) from homering in the 4th. Andrew Miller escaping from a no-outs, bases loaded jam in the 7th and escaping again in the 8th against Schwarber. But that would probably sound like sour grapes when the reality is the Indians were the first postseason team to take advantage of Jon Lester’s throwing yips, Justin Grimm isn’t very good, the Indians’ pitchers are and Perez (3 HR, .183 AVG in the regular season) happened to play the game of his life. And it’s not like the score was close. I sound like a Dodgers fan.

 

The Cubs’ bats rebounded from that awful Game 3 in Los Angeles, so I’m hoping they can do the same in Game 2 against Drone Finger. Kluber is the best pitcher currently playing in the World Series, but other than Francisco Lindor at short, the Indians really have no other advantages, give or take the heavily-worked Miller. I know that anything can happen in the series. I know that the Indians can equally steal off of Jake Arrieta. I know that the bad Arrieta could show up. But Maddon says his team is fine. FiveThirtyEight has the Cubs at 54% to take Game 2. The Indians were expected to win the first Kluber game, anyway. Drone Finger isn’t that good. And it’s time to finally make Cleveland pay when Kluber’s not pitching on that sweet, sweet full rest.

 

Wednesday, October 26th. The Cubs beat the Indians 5-1. The series is tied 1-1.

So I guess you could say that this two-game Kyle Schwarber DH experiment worked out pretty well. Schwarber had two RBI singles in Game 2, looks like he’s just about ready to unleash some sort of goddamned fury every time he comes to the plate and has everybody wondering how they can keep his bat in the lineup in Games 3, 4 and 5 in Chicago. On top of that, Jake Arrieta took a no-hitter into the 6th. Ben Zobrist stayed red-hot. And the Cubs handed Cleveland their first home loss in the 2016 postseason, as well as Terry Francona’s first career loss in the World Series. All in front of famed Yankees fan, LeBron James.

 

 Schwarber!

 

Okay. This story concludes next week. And I’ll either be making the best out of coming so close and falling short yet again, or on another level of euphoria with a blown-world view and decisions to make on how much 2016 Cubs merchandise one person should own. The Decision, indeed. I hope to be taking my talents to MLBShop.com.

 

If you need more baseball from me, check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. And until then, the Cubs Magic Number is 3.

 

 


2016 – Possibly The Best Year Ever For Cleveland Sports

Written by :
Published on : October 16, 2016

 

 

So we’re here. We are really here. It’s October of 2016, just four months after winning our first major sports championship in 52 years, and we just might get another one. So let me tell you a tale. Go in the backyard and get your fire started because it’s kind of spooky and a little chilling, as we sit with the ghosts of years past. But maybe the ghosts are coming back not to haunt us this time around, but to witness it for themselves. Something truly unbelievable. There’s a Coco Crispness in the air after all. The temperature is finally beginning to cool just as the leaves are starting to turn. The cycle of life is upon us once more. But this time we’ve come back from the dead as team champions once, twice, and maybe three times over.

 

I got home late this past Friday night. The moon was full and bright, casting a glow on the night creatures of Los Angeles. When I entered the gate to my apartment I was greeted by Cat Friend (That’s right. He’s a cat. A black cat in fact). I was getting ready to enter my humble abode when I heard a sound coming from inside. It was muffled through the thick wood of the door, but I could make out this maniacal laughter. And cheering. I heard it over and over. And I knew it could be only one thing:  A replay.

 

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I quickly tuned in to see Francisco Lindor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth that would ultimately win us the game. Holy sh*t, I thought. We won Game 1 of the ALCS. We’ve won four games in a row! And as I sit in my room, writing this article just one night later, we’ve won five in a row! That’s the longest playoff winning streak that the Cleveland Indians have had since their 1920 season when they beat the Brooklyn Dodgers (also known as the Robins back then). The Indians also went on to win the World Series that year in a best of nine series as they used to do it – in honor of their former shortstop, Ray Chapman, who was killed earlier that season from a pitch. Crazy, right? And not to dwell on tragedy or eerie coincidences too much, but the 1995 Cleveland Indians also went onto win the ALCS after two of their pitchers died tragically in a boating accident.

 

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All of that aside and of course not to downplay tragedy or winning streaks, this season really isn’t about coincidences or statistical victories. It’s about a new found confidence. It’s about honoring hard work, legacy, and loyalty to our teams like we’ve done all along. But this thing, this strange thing called winning (I’m still not used to it), is spreading like a virus! We’re like rabid zombies coming out at night to soak up these wins in the moonlight, and yes even during the day! We’ve won an NBA championship, an AHL Championship (The Cleveland Monsters win does mean something), a UFC heavyweight title, and now we are on the verge of winning a World Series in one perfectly glorious season!

 

The city of Cleveland is running on Pepsi, Beer, hot dogs, and dare I say happiness? For once in my life I can turn on my father’s post game show (he’s the seasoned ESPN Cleveland Sports Radio Post Game Host, aka @sirfranksbacon), and I can hear the joy in his voice. Yes, joy. Coming from a man who’s built a lifetime around his hometown sports teams only to see them fail time and time again, it has turned him into a curmudgeon of sorts. But not anymore. His hope has been restored. And he is finally living out possibly the happiest year of his life.

 

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For so long the city of Cleveland was defined by its losses. And these memories came back to haunt us each and every year since 1964 (1948 for Indians fans). Many fans blamed it on a curse. My father even tried to remove this curse one fateful summer night by bringing a witch to the stadium, complete with magic and incense, and to no avail! But finally, the curse has been lifted. It took LeBron James and the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers to do so, but I believe we are no longer losers. We are champions. I believe in The Cleveland Indians. I believe in Andrew Miller and Corey Kluber and Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Coco Crisp, all of our team and coaching staff. The tribe is alive. And if you’re from Cleveland, if you’re from anywhere in the US, you gotta love October baseball.

 

One last thing, to sit on as the Indians and Blue Jays take a Sunday to relax… are the Cubs still cursed?

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXX: The ALDS and NLDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 14, 2016

 

Did you think there would be NO drama? Come on. It’s October! We had five-hour games and extra-innings walk-offs. We had tears. We had celebrations. We had sweeps. We have one series that’s not even done yet. Let’s talk about all of it.

 

The Blue Jays swept the Rangers 3-0

Well, add Game 3 of the ALDS in Toronto to the growing annals of Blue Jays playoff history. In the bottom of the 11th, Rougned Odor (of all fucking people) botched a throw to first base on a double play (of all fucking things), allowing Josh Donaldson to race home with a head-first slide, winning the game 7-6 and the series 3-0. As the Rogers Center lost its collective mind, the broadcast cut to a homemade sign that read, “WOULD RATHER GET PUNCHED IN MAY THAN GET KNOCKED OUT IN OCTOBER.”

 

The Rangers pitching in this series was awful. Of the three starters they used, Yu Darvish actually did the “best.” And his 2016 postseason ERA is 9.00. Josh Donaldson, who looked worn down at the end of the regular season, is the hottest hitter in the American League, once again. Edwin Encarnacion isn’t far behind. Either are Ezequiel Carrera or Troy Tulowitzki, for that matter. And Marco Estrada also pitched a gem in Game 1, for a staff that I still think is underrated.

 

 

Oh, and I know that everyone hates Jose Bautista or whatever, but the way he gently sat down his bat when he hit a home run in Game 1 is being grossly overlooked by everyone. First of all, I’m impressed he even had the wherewithal in the moment to think of that. And secondly, that’s so much more shade than any actual bat flip. And it’s dog-whistle enough that dum-dums like Goose Gossage won’t call him “an embarrassment to all Latin players” or whatever garbage shit will come out of his mouth next. I kinda hope gentle bat placements become a thing.

 

Odor’s punch won the early-season battle. Bautista, the Jays and meme generators all over North America won the war.

 

The Indians beat the Red Sox 3-0

It seems like the entirety of the national sports media decided the story of the series was the tearful goodbye of David Ortiz at Fenway Park after Game 3. Not the fact that the team with the best offense in all of baseball was shut down by a team thought to be decimated by pitching injuries. Not even Cleveland’s own beat writers gave the Tribe a fighting chance to make it out of the first round alive. But let’s make sure we focus on the guy we’ve already said goodbye to a thousand times over the course of the six month season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Manfred personally wheels Papi out in every game of the ALCS, NLCS and World Series just so we can keep making sure everyone on the goddamn planet has properly bid this man adieu. He is the 4th-greatest DH of all time, after all.

 

 

Maybe I’m just frustrated by all the old story lines the writers and talking heads try to trot out every October, but if I was an Indians fan, this would annoy the shit out of me. The Indians held the Red Sox to seven total runs in the series. The Sox hadn’t been held to seven runs in a three game series all season long. The Indians also won Game 2 by a score of 6-0 and all anybody really cared about was that LeBron James was there. Or, I guess, that David Price is now 0-8 in 9 playoff starts with a 5.53 ERA. But that was it. Seriously, nobody wants to talk about the team doing any of the actual winning?

 

So what should we talk about? How about Terry Francona’s bullpen usage in Game 1. With Buck Showalter’s non-use of Zach Britton in the Wild Card Game still fresh on everyone’s mind, Tito brought in Andrew Miller in the 5th inning. Miller pitched two scoreless innings and then Cody Allen was brought in to get the final five outs, including Dustin Pedroia’s check swing to end the game. Nerd boners could be seen in the proverbial pants of stat heads across the country. You can dismiss the prospects of Cleveland’s staff in a seven-game series all you want (and I am too). But Miller is the real x-factor coming out of the pen. And you gotta look at a lineup that is averaging 5 runs per game this postseason and wonder what Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis or Lonnie Chisenhall can do against that Jays staff.

 

Or, you know, we could just talk about how wonderful it was that Boston gave Ortiz such a nice send-off (again). The designated hitter position has been around since 1973. And it’s only in the American League. And, again, it’s not every day we say goodbye to the 4th-best one of those of all-time. Jim Thome was better. In Ortiz’ prime, Travis Hafner of the Indians was better. And as he exits, the 2016 Indians’ team was better. I think it’s best we finally turn the page. Speaking of which…

 

The Cubs beat the Giants 3-1

 

God bless my patient wife. She put up with a lot over the course of four games. That includes a room full of screaming thirty-something men when Javier Baez hit the home run off Johnny Cueto in Game 1. The five-hour, blue-balls-inducing marathon of Game 3. The emotional roller coaster comeback of Game 4. And God bless her for whatever horrors lie ahead.

 

This series had everything I love about baseball and everything I hate about baseball all at once. And just when the idiotic narrative had switched back to the magical, never-say-die, Even Year Giants, the Cubs (supposedly feeling 108 years of pressure) completed the biggest 9th-inning comeback in a series clincher in the history of postseason baseball. Madison Bumgarner’s postseason scoreless innings streak also ended at 24 (thanks, Jake Arrieta!). The Giants’ winning streak in elimination games ended at 10. Bruce Bochy has finally lost a playoff series while wearing a Giants uniform. And even if the Even Year mystique of the Giants isn’t quite dead, at least I have two more years before I have to look at people with a straight face while they talk about this shit.

 

That Baez home run came in the 8th inning of an all-out pitchers duel between Cueto and Jon Lester. On a normal day, that ball lands on Waveland. But the wind made sure it was the farthest home run to ever land in the left field basket. David Ross also picked off two runners as the Cubs went on to win their first meaningful game in weeks, 1-0. Game 2 had a solo home run from Cubs’ reliever, Travis Wood. And a two-run single from starter, Kyle Hendricks. When Arrieta hit that three-run shot off of Bumgarner in Game 3, the Cubs’ pitchers had six runs batted in and the whole Giants’ team only had two. Unfortunately for me, my wife, my stress level and hearts and livers across Chicago, the series got a little more interesting from there.

 

 

Conor Gillaspie wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He was replacing the injured Eduardo Nunez when he hit that three-run homer in the 9th off Jeurys Familia in the Wild Card Game. And in Game 3, he launched an improbable two-run triple off of Aroldis Chapman’s 102-mph fastball to give the Giants their first lead in the series. Everyone in TV Land was ready to anoint Gillaspie the New Magical Even Year Giant.

 

In the 9th, Kris Bryant hit a two-run shot off of Sergio Romo, which careened off the cartoon Chevron sign and into the left field bleachers to tie the game. You could probably hear my nutball reaction from blocks away. The same goes for Albert Almora Jr’s game-saving catch in the bottom of the inning. Yeah, Joe Panik mercifully ended the 5-hour epic in the bottom of the 13th. But the fact that the Cubs fought back at the end and didn’t just roll over would be a bit of positive foreshadowing for the following night.

 

I know it’s being sold as a bullpen meltdown, but the ineptitude of the Giants’ pen is something that was right under everyone’s nose, if they hadn’t been distracted by all the magical thinking and hopes and dreams of Gillaspie, and seeing Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field in Game 5. The 2012 San Francisco Giants came back down 0-2 to the Reds in the NLDS and won the whole thing. But this isn’t 2012. Or 2010. Or 2014. Or 1908. Or any other Cubs meltdown year. It’s 2016. Matt Moore pitched a gem. Bochy happened to take him out, leading 5-2.

 

 

He tried Derek Law. Law gave up a single to Bryant. He tried Javier Lopez. Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. He tried Romo again. Romo gave up a two-run double to Ben Zobrist making it 5-4. He tried Will Smith. Smith gave up a two-run single to Wilson Contreras, tying the game at 5. He tried Hunter Strickland. Strickland gave up an RBI single to Baez, putting the Cubs ahead for good, 6-5. Chapman totally redeemed himself. The Cubs are a better team. And they were the ones chanting “we don’t quit” on the opposing team’s pitching mound for another group photo as they move on to the next round. As much as I love Bill Murray, I was sure glad I didn’t have to see him again until the NLCS.

 

The Dodgers and Nationals are tied 2-2

Like David Price, Clayton Kershaw also has a rep for sucking in the postseason. But who would you rather be right now- Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore? Kershaw hasn’t been Kershaw. But the Dodgers have won both of the games he’s pitched. Max Scherzer is going in Game 5 for Washington. And he did give up a Major League-leading 31 home runs this season. But beating him twice in five games is almost too much to ask.

 

 

I’ve learned not to weigh in on who I want the Cubs to face in the NLCS (boy did I want the Mets last year). But Daniel Murphy is hot once again. So is Jayson Werth. Trea Turner could be a nightmare for Jon Lester. I think that’s who we’re gonna get. If it’s the Dodgers, they have a red-hot Justin Turner. They have that bullpen. They have Corey Seager, who is loving the first inning. And they have whatever version of Kershaw exists in October. But I’ll just quote Jake Arrieta, when Cubs’ beat writer, Patrick Mooney, asked him if he wanted the Mets or the Giants in the first round. “Who gives a shit?”

 

The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908. They haven’t even been there since 1945. The Indians haven’t won since 1948. The Dodgers haven’t won since 1988. The Blue Jays haven’t won since 1993. The Nationals have never won. But the Even Year Giants are done. The Big Papi Red Sox are done. Two old story lines have been killed off. And before we end this thing, somebody else’s storied drought will be over too.

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you want more baseball from me, check out Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 8.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXVIII: Jose Fernandez, Vin Scully and the Emotional Week That Was )

Written by :
Published on : September 30, 2016

 

I cried twice this week watching baseball games. Big blubbering tears that I didn’t even try to choke down. Neither time had anything to do with the team I support or much to do with an outcome of an actual game. The first was the culmination of a 67-year career, a beloved grandfather figure saying a heartfelt goodbye to a city and a stadium that has never seen baseball without him. And the second was because of a grieving friend circling the bases in tears after hitting his only home run of the year (an upper deck shot) and then subsequently being consoled by a dugout full of equally-bereaving teammates – a fitting tribute to a young superstar taken too soon by a tragic accident.

 

On Sunday, we all found out about the boating accident death of Jose Fernandez. But the life of Jose Fernandez made the news even harder to accept. Yes, he was the ace of the Marlins’ staff, an elite pitcher in the league. And yes, at 24, his future was unquestionably bright. But it was the passion and the childlike enthusiasm he exuded while playing and his overall love of the game for which he’ll be remembered.

 


Have you seen the GIF of Fernandez snagging Troy Tulowitzki’s lined shot up the middle from 2013? It almost perfectly encapsulates guy’s combination of dominance in performance and personality. Tulo looks on dumbfoundedly before mouthing, “Did you catch that?” And Fernandez (at that point a rookie, all Cheshire grins and swag) replies, “Yes. Yes, I did.” Baseball has seen its fair share of stoic, scowling aces over the years. There was only one Jose.

 

The Marlins understandably cancelled Sunday’s game against the Braves. But the tragic news had reverberated around the league. And tributes sprang up everywhere in dugouts around the country. On Monday, the visiting Mets players greeted the Marlins on the field (all of whom were wearing black ‘Fernandez 16’ jerseys) with hugs and watery eyes before the game. Not too long after, Dee Gordon led off the bottom of the 1st.

 

Some of you may recall the on-court death of Loyola Marymount All-American, Hank Gathers, in 1990. When the team played in that year’s NCAA Tournament, his good friend and teammate, Bo Kimble, who was right-handed, would shoot his first free-throws left-handed in memory of Gathers. Perhaps channeling his best Kimble, Dee Gordon (who bats left-handed) took the first pitch from Bartolo Colon right handed (a la Fernandez) before switching helmets and moving over to the left side of the plate. His first swing resulted in an upper deck shot to right. To that point, Gordon had 8 home runs in his career. He hadn’t hit one since October 4th of last year. And he said he’s never hit a ball that far in his life, even in batting practice.

 

 

The moment Gordon touched home, he pounded his chest and pointed to the sky, overcome with emotion. By the time he reached the dugout and was greeted with a bear hug from hitting coach, Barry Bonds, I was RUINED. It’s a moment that will go down in Marlins’ lore forever. And it was easily the moment of the year for the 2016 season.

 

Earlier this season, when talking about retired baseball numbers, I tagged the Marlins for having two World Series titles and absolutely no history. Jose Fernandez has changed all that. As a Cuban defector, his story already resonated with the fan base in Miami. His last outing against the Nationals was arguably his career best (8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K) and his joy in life can serve as an inspiration to a city rich in Cuban-American culture and to a sport so often bogged down by old school thinking and unwritten rules. For one day we were all Marlins fans. And going forward, that means so much more than it ever did before.

 

The other time I cried was for Vin.

 

I was going to watch Sunday’s Dodgers-Rockies game anyway. It was Vin Scully’s final home game, in a career with the Dodgers that began in 1950. That’s a Bill Murray’s lifetime worth of games. The Dodgers were also looking to clinch the division. And so I knew the game would end in memorable fashion, regardless of the outcome. On top of all that, in lieu of the Fernandez news, I knew turning on the game would give me the audio comfort food I needed to hear.

 

Listening to the greatest announcer in history has been a taken-for-granted pleasure of my entire sports-watching life. And it’s been increasingly more appreciated and pleasurable since I moved to Los Angeles in 2007. That’s when I knew what we had. So watching Sunday’s home finale (the Corey Seager game-tying home run in the 9th, the walk-off division-clincher by Charlie Culberson in the 10th) was one last chance for me to soak it all in. I mean, of course the guy’s final game at home ended like that. Vin Scully’s entire career was surrounded by these types of moments. This guy called perfect games by Don Larsen and Sandy Koufax, the Kirk Gibson home run in the 1988 World Series, Game 6 of the ’86 World Series and almost everything else in between. You can’t just let him walk away with a snoozefest. And then he gave his public farewell to the stadium. And I LOST it.

 

 

Scully, who had been saluted by Dodger batters throughout the game, and who was now being saluted by the Dodgers as a team, played a rendition of “Wind Beneath My Wings” that he’d sung himself. And, holy shit, there was not a dry eye in my house. The team had just clinched the NL West title, mind you. And the team waited respectfully for the song to be over before they sprayed champagne. I mean, only the scummiest of dirtbag Dodger fans could call that corny. And hopefully they were already trying to beat traffic back to Scumville when that happened. The song was motherfucking beautiful. And so is Vin. I’m really gonna miss him.

 

Instead of doing a career retrospective or trying to put his impact on the game or the culture of Dodgers baseball into worlds, I’ll just give you this. Here’s my All-Vin Scully Dodgers Team, 1950-2016. I think it speaks to his tenure and legacy, loud and clear.

 

C    1997    Mike Piazza
Roy Campanella may be the greatest Dodgers catcher of all-time (and he has 3 MVP awards to show for it), but in ’97, Piazza had a 9.1 WAR, he led the league in OPS+, he hit a ball all the way out of Dodger Stadium and set multiple offensive records for a catcher. Pretty good for a 62nd round pick.

 

1B    1954    Gil Hodges
In 1954, Hodges set the Dodger record for home runs in a season (42), and was also excellent defensively. It’s part of the reason Hodges might have been the only Dodger to never get booed at Ebbets Field. He’s the greatest Dodger first baseman of all time. And, yes, I see you, Steve Garvey.

 

2B    1951    Jackie Robinson
Jackie Robinson is obviously an American icon and 1951 wasn’t even his best season with the Dodgers. But Vin didn’t start with Brooklyn until 1950, okay? Robinson was great in every aspect of the game in ’51 and his 9.0 WAR led the Majors. He also happens to be the greatest Dodger second baseman of all time.

 

 It was always you, Jackie.

 

3B    2004    Adrian Beltre
Shoutout to Ron Cey, but nobody is topping Beltre’s 9.7 WAR and Major-League-leading 48 bombs in his 2004 breakout season.

 

SS    2016    Corey Seager
Seriously. This kid is good. In all 67 years of Scully’s tenure, nobody at short had a 7.5 WAR like Seager has had in his rookie season. Not Pee Wee Reese. Not Maury Wills. Nobody.

 

LF    1985    Pedro Guerrero
For greatest moment, it would have to be Gibson in ’88. And for multiple seasons, it might actually go to Dusty Baker (1976-1983). But in 1985, Guerrero led the league in OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, WAR and wOBA. He finished 3rd in MVP voting, but he really should have won it.

 

CF    1953    Duke Snider
The greatest center fielder in Dodgers’ history had his greatest overall season in 1953, leading the league in SLG, OPS and WAR. He also finished 3rd in MVP voting. Like Guerrero, he also should have won it.

 

RF    2001    Shawn Green
He’d hit four home runs in a game the following year, but in 2001, Green set the single-season Dodger record with 49. You just might not remember it because some other dude hit 73. If you’re not the steroid-era type (and Green might not have actually done any), we could go with 2011 Matt Kemp. Or just whatever-year Andre Ethier. Just know that if I had to do a list like this for my Len Kasper Cubs, the right fielder would be 2009 Kosuke Fukudome, so stop complaining.

 

SP    1965 Sandy Koufax
It’s hard to pin down exactly which Sandy Koufax season to choose, but in 1965, he won the pitchers’ Triple Crown, was the unanimous Cy Young winner, threw a perfect game (his 4th no-hitter) and won the World Series. All while dealing with tremendous pain. And not pitching on Yom Kippur. I love saying that Clayton Kershaw is better than Koufax, but he’s certainly never done all those things. Well, maybe he’s pitched on Yom Kippur.

 

 Sandy being Sandy.

 

Honorable mention to 1963 Koufax, 1966 Koufax, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 Clayton Kershaw. Probably 2016 too, if he didn’t get hurt. 1999 Kevin Brown could be in there. 1971 Don Sutton. Shoutout to Don Drysdale. Shoutout to Fernando Valenzuela. Shoutout to Orel Hershiser. Jesus, Vin has seen some pitching. Of all the Dodger greats, I think he only missed Dazzy Vance (1922-1932). And Dazzy’s famous old-timey fastball probably topped out at 84.

 

RP    2003    Eric Gagne
In 2003, Gagne had 55 saves in 55 chances. That was good enough to tie the single-season NL record. Not that I care about saves. He also got more than half of his outs with K’s, with 100 more (137) than hits allowed (37). It won him the National League Cy Young. Even though I hate when relievers win and it should have gone to Mark Prior of the Cubs instead, that’s still pretty impressive.

 

Let’s go around the league.

 

 

The American League

 

The Rangers, Indians and Red Sox all won their divisions this week. But the Indians suffered another potentially fatal blow with the groin injury of Corey Kluber. They’re already down Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, not to mention Michael Brantley. And now their ace? You almost have to feel bad for them. There probably shouldn’t even be an almost in that last sentence.

 

 The Indians may be celebrating but they’re hurting big time right now.

 

Home field advantage in the American League is probably going to come down between the Rangers (94-65) and the Red Sox (92-66). And after the Red Sox won their 11th game in a row this week, how much do you think Fox and MLB were salivating over the possibilities of a Cubs-Red Sox World Series? Count me in for that one too.

 

The Wild Card is where stuff gets fun. The Blue Jays (89.9%, Magic Number: 3 ) look to be in great position. As long as nobody else gets hurt in their dumb brawls. Pffff, Canadians. The Orioles are next at 66.6% (the percentage of the Beast), and then the Tigers (35.4%) and Mariners (8.0%), with the Astros and Yankees assumed to be done. And with the Royals officially eliminated, that makes it four straight years that a team has won the World Series and then failed to make it in to the postseason the following year.

 

The best arguments this week are over the AL Rookie of the Year and whether or not Zach Britton should be the Cy Young. And you’re probably wondering if I have some opinions. To quote the late, great Jose Fernandez, Yes. Yes, I do.

 

First of all, Zach Britton should not be the AL Cy Young winner. I know his 0.55 ERA is amazing. But I don’t give a shit about saves and he’s only pitched 65.1 innings this season. If Clayton Kershaw isn’t eligible in the National League at 142 innings, then you just have to admit you worship the stupid save stat because you’ve been taught to worship Mariano Rivera. Ugh. Relievers are guys who aren’t good enough to start. They pitch one inning a game. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.

 

 Sorry Zach, but it shouldn’t be you.

 

Kershaw’s WAR is 6.5. Britton’s is 2.4. Also, you can’t really prove to me that Britton (although he’s very good in his role) is better than Andrew Miller. Miller has a higher WAR (2.8), a lower FIP (1.74 to 1.99) and his 1.50 ERA is a full run higher than Britton’s, but it’s still a 1.50 ERA. There’s also a pretty decent-sized list of relievers over the years with a 2.4 WAR, 1.99 FIP and an ERA under 2. Nobody tried to award them with anything. The only reason you hear Britton’s name get brought up so much in the Cy conversation is because there’s no obvious leader amongst the starters and nobody wants to do any actual work (I do. I like it. And right now I’d actually give it to Rick Porcello).

 

Another reason I know that nobody wants to do any work is because absolutely nobody is putting Christopher Devenski of the Astros in to the AL Rookie of the Year conversation. If the arguments for Britton make him so awesome, then Devenski, as the third best reliever in the league after Miller and Britton (2.2 WAR, 2.13 FIP, 1.61 ERA), should be right up there with Gary Sanchez and Michael Fulmer. But he’s not. Sanchez has a 3.2 WAR. Fulmer has a 3.0 WAR. Devenski has a 2.9 WAR. I feel like people just pick a guy or a ‘story’ and then find stats to support their guy or their story, instead of doing the opposite. And that makes Baby grouchy.

 

 

The National League

 

I already told you that the Dodgers clinched this week, but so did the Nationals. And the Cubs secured home field advantage. And just like the Indians in the American League, the National League also has its fair share of injury-decimated teams heading in to October.

 

This week, the Nationals lost Wilson Ramos for the season with a torn ACL, which is a major loss. They also found out Stephen Strasburg will not be ready for the NLDS against the Dodgers. And any start he would potentially make after that would essentially be the playoff version of a rehab start, anyway. Bryce Harper, who was probably already playing hurt, also injured his thumb on a fake tag play by Jung Ho Kang of the Pirates. And Daniel Murphy has been out of the starting lineup with a strained left buttock. I should probably censor myself from posting any ironic glee that I feel about the last one. I mean, I could have just posted, “Nats’ injuries: Murphy’s butt and Harper’s thumb. You figure out how that sort of thing could happen.” But I would never do that.

 

 This is Jayson Werth but it’s probably how the whole Harper’s thumb, Murphy’s butt thing looked.

 

Then there are the Mets, who just found out that Steven Matz is also done for the season. They may have the best shot at clinching a Wild Card (98.6%, Magic Number: 2), but who can say for sure whether or not Noah Syndergaard will be in line for the Wild Card game. Or if they’ll have to go with Bartolo Colon or someone from their entirely made-up pitching staff. Or if they should just pick somebody out of the stands in Queens who looks like they might not have elbow problems, bone spurs or thoracic outlet syndrome.

 

Assuming the Mets limp in the Wild Card, that leaves the Giants (67.6%) and Cardinals (33.7%) to battle it out for the second slot. The Cardinals have a game left with the Reds and then three with the Pirates. And the Giants have one more with the Rockies and then three with the Dodgers, who you have to assume would love to play spoiler against their arch nemesis. As a baseball fan, I should be rooting for a three-way tie and embracing the chaos. As a Cubs fan, I don’t know how thrilled I am about the possibilities of a Cardinals NLDS upset.

 

Finally, I want to mention the sendoff David Ross got on Sunday night. It could have been the third thing I cried about this week. I thought it was a classy move all the way around, by Joe Maddon, by Jon Lester, by the Cubs’ fans and even by Yadier Molina of the Cardinals who got Grandpa Rossy his own little moment at the plate. And then Grandpa Rossy, himself, for hitting that home run. Just in case the game of baseball didn’t have enough Hollywood-worthy moments this week.

 

 So long old man.

 

Well, that’s it for this week. By the next time we talk, we’ll be in the playoffs. If you need more baseball from me, you can check out “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes or the podcast things. Go Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXVII: The Cubs Clinch and I Heavily Insinuate That Madison Bumgarner is a Racist)

Written by :
Published on : September 23, 2016

 

The Cubs were going to celebrate at Wrigley last Friday, no matter what happened. After dominating the NL Central for the entire season, the Cubs became the first team in the Majors to clinch their division last Thursday. But it happened in pretty anticlimactic fashion, following a 5-4 loss to the Brewers and having to wait for the Cardinals to also lose in San Francisco later that night. So Miguel Montero’s 10th inning walk-off homer on Friday was just icing on the cake. Now the celebration could look organic. And they could destroy their new, state-of-the-art clubhouse with champagne, knowing they’d earned it.

 

But there were still 15 regular-season games left to play. And unlike in years past, just making it to the playoffs isn’t going to cut it this time around. This time, the Cubs have expectations.

 

You did it guys!

 

Maybe Saturday’s 11-3 loss to Milwaukee was just a bad hangover. But losing 3-of-4 to the shit-ass Brewers initially made me wonder if it’s better to rest and relax the rest of the way or to stay sharp, even at the risk of injury. If you look over at Boston, the Red Sox started September two games back of the Blue Jays in the AL East. And since then, they’ve braved the Clusterfuck Death Match, going 14-5 so far this month and 10-3 against division rivals. And now they look like THE team to beat coming out of the American League. The Red Sox took the ‘stay sharp’ route and it’s worked out pretty well for them. Not that they had any choice.

 

Joe Maddon says he still wants 100 wins and home field advantage against the rest of the National League (going 3-7 would accomplish both). But you also have to remember that this is a team whose worst stretch was going 9-15 in that grueling 24-games-in-24-days run before the All-Star break. And their best run was probably going 17-5 in April, following a lazy 11-18 Spring Training. I prefer the latter. And so does Joe. So rest up, boys. Let’s pretend it’s springtime. This goddamned curse isn’t gonna reverse itself.

 

The AL East

The Red Sox have won seven games in a row, which hardly seems fair. That 4-game sweep of the Yankees effectively murdered the Baby Bombers’ season. And it looks like they might do the same thing to the Orioles before they leave Baltimore. Hanley Ramirez is the hottest hitter in the American League. David Ortiz is the the third-hottest hitter in the league. And almost everything is clicking for them as a team right now. They’re doing so well, that seemly every bone-headed sportswriter in America wants to throw postseason awards at every player on the team. All week long I heard that Mookie Betts was the front runner for the MVP and that Rick Porcello was leading the pack for the the AL Cy Young. At least that means they’re shutting the fuck up about Zach Britton winning the Cy for the time being, but still. How MVP-y and Cy Young-ish are Betts and Porcello right now? First, let’s look at the MVP race’s most-probables.

 

AL MVP           WAR    wOBA
Mike Trout              8.7    .418
Josh Donaldson     6.9    .402
Jose Altuve            6.5    .392
Mookie Betts          7.3    .379

 

Since the award is for the entire year, I’m giving you their stats for the entire year. And based off of those stats, alone, you can clearly see that Trout has had the best season. But Mike Trout happens to play for the Los Angeles Angels, who are tied for last place in the AL West. And that hurts everyone’s brains because they don’t understand how baseball works.

 

 Sorry, but it should be Trout.

 

You: But how can Trout be the best player if his team stinks?

 

Me: A) I’m showing you actual concrete stats that should already answer that, but B) It’s not Mike Trout’s fault the Angels are bad. They’d be much, much worse without him in the lineup. Just like any team would be better with him. But there are 8 other guys on the field with him at all times, 8 other guys in the batting order and 24 other guys were on the roster the whole year. There’s plenty of opportunities for everyone else on the Angels (not named ‘Mike Trout’) to suck.

 

If you look at the Red Sox, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Dustin Pedoria are also top 10 overall players in the league this season. David Ortiz has also been the best hitter in the league. Hanley has been top 15 in hitting. Xander Bogaerts has had a good season too. On the other hand, the Angels’ next best player after Trout is Kole Calhoun. That’s not Ruth-Gehrig as much as it is Ruth-Kole Calhoun. And since I also know that you’re about to argue that Rick Porcello should be the Cy Young winner, it makes even less sense that Betts would be more valuable to his team than the three gentlemen actually having better seasons.

 

You: But Trout is playing meaningless games. Mookie Betts is in a pennant race and his games mean more.

 

Me: Mike Trout does this in pennant races too. Because this is what Mike Trout does every single year. And are the Mariners, Rangers and Blue Jays still in contention? Because that’s who the Angels have played in 16 of their 19 games in September. Trout’s hitting .310/.446/.500 in the month. Betts is hitting .289/.337/.382. Thank you for sharing. Now go put your head down.

 

AL Cy Young     WAR  FIP    ERA
Corey Kluber            5.2    3.19    3.11
Rick Porcello            4.7    3.44    3.08
Masahiro Tanaka      4.7    3.50    3.07
Chris Sale                 5.2    3.38    3.23

 

The Porcello argument looks a lot more legit than the Betts one. But it just bothers me that people are looking at Porcello’s 21-4 record as some sort of a tie-breaker against Kluber’s 18-9. But I can clearly look at those numbers I actually care about and say, with zero controversy, that Kluber has had a better season than Chris Sale. I cannot do the same as easily for Porcello.

 

 It should probably be Kluber too.

 

Roger Clemens won the MVP and Cy Young for the Red Sox in 1986. Carl Yastrzemski and Jim Lonborg both took home the hardware in 1967. And Betts and Porcello may repeat the feat this year. Even though they shouldn’t. Also, Wade Boggs should have won the MVP in ’86. And Dean Chance should have won the CY in ’67. Wait. That Boggs line defeats my purpose, doesn’t it? Anyway, right now I’d give it to Trout and Kluber.

 

The AL Central

With a broken right hand for Carlos Carrasco and a flexor strain for Danny Salazar, the Cleveland Indians went from being dubbed, “This Year’s Mets” to actually resembling this year’s Mets (so maybe we could call them, “This Year’s This Year’s Mets”?). Salazar could come out of the bullpen for Cleveland in October, but their own beat writers think this thing won’t go past the ALDS.

 

There’s still time for a few more disappointments.

 

I keep looking at the Wild Card standings and see the Tigers a game back of Toronto for the second spot. But every time I believe in the Tigers, they let me down. Maybe it’s lucky for Detroit that the Jays have only taken one series in September and all of their remaining games are against the Yankees, Orioles and Red Sox. The Tigers actually beat the Indians on Sunday (2-13, baby!) so maybe they can make something of their four remaining games against the Tribe with three of them NOT facing Kluber.

 

The AL West

The Rangers are going to clinch the division any day now. And they’re hitting, so who needs pitching, right? Right? Cole Hamels has a 9.88 in September. Yu Darvish hasn’t been much better (7.47). And actually, Martin Perez is their only starting pitcher with an ERA under 5 this month. Yuck.

 

The NL Wild Card

Jacob deGrom is done for the season. So that ‘easy’ Mets schedule going forward (7 against the Phillies, 3 against the Marlins) is a little deceiving. Especially since they’ve cooled off (swept by the Braves?) and Ender Inciarte is robbing their walk-offs. At this point in the season, the Mets’ rotation was supposed to be Syndergaard-deGrom-Harvey-Matz-Wheeler with Big Sexy coming out of the pen. Now Thor is the only one left standing, with everyone waiting on pins and needles to see if Steven Matz actually starts on Friday.

 

 It’s on you, Thor.

 

The Cardinals’ remaining games are with the Cubs, the Reds and the Pirates (who are back above .500). And those Reds and Pirates games are in St. Louis, where the Cardinals hate winning.

 

The fun part about the third team in the equation, the Giants, is that they have no reason to be optimistic either. Their bullpen still sucks. Johnny Cueto and Brandon Crawford just got hurt. They finish their season with three against the Dodgers (Kershaw-Hill-Maeda). And by that time, Madison Bumgarner could be in jail in San Diego because some Latino made eye contact with him while he was grouchy.

 

Yeah, I went there. I know MadBum and Yasiel Puig have a bit of a history. But this ‘Protector of the Game’ shit has gotten really old. Madison Bumgarner is a hillbilly from Hickory, North Carolina. He has a history of losing his derpy redneck cool whenever a black or brown player does, well, anything. And I’m pretty sure there’s a basket of deplorables he can go climb in to after the Giants’ epic collapse is complete. Stop looking at me, swan!

 


Okay. That’s gonna do it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check out “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. The Cubs’ Magic Number for home field is 3.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXV: The Miracle Mets and Embracing the Clusterf*ck)

Written by :
Published on : September 9, 2016

 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are only six teams in the National League with winning records. Just as a comparison, the American League East, alone, has four. Depending how you look at it, that’s some historic disparity and/or some historic tanking in the senior circuit. That’s probably aided by the fact that a team that has gone an MLB-worst 17-32 since the All-Star break is still currently in possession of the first NL wild card slot. It could also explain why a team that’s 15 1/2 games back in their own division is in a tie for possession of the second. And it could even explain why a team decimated by injuries (they’re missing their first baseman, second baseman and third baseman and one of their two healthy starting pitchers is 43-years-old and 285 pounds) is the other team tied for the second wild card. Welcome to the National League Wild Card race, a battle in which mediocre teams will try to upset the Cubs in the first round.

 

 With Clayton Kershaw coming back, the Dodgers could be scary.

 

No team has ever gone in to the break with the best record in baseball and then followed it up with the worst record in the second half. So you have to assume the Giants will stop unraveling at some point. But they’re not hitting, their bullpen sucks and they also have six remaining games against the Dodgers, who are actually getting Clayton Kershaw back this week and also have an atoning Yasiel Puig, who is very, very sorry. He promises. The Cardinals, who are almost done in the Central, may have hit home runs in 25 straight games. And they also may have effectively ended the 2016 Pittsburg Pirates’ season with three homers in the 9th on Tuesday. But they also have six games remaining against the Cubs. I’d mention their four games with San Francisco, but that’s probably a good thing. Nevertheless, of the three remaining Wild Card contenders, the team with the easiest schedule going forward is actually the New York Mets.

 

With 22 games to play, the Mets have 7 against the Phillies, 6 against the Braves, 3 against the Twins and 3 against the Marlins. As of now, only their three-game series in D.C. will be against a team with a winning record. And I’ll get to why that just got a whole lot less intimidating in a minute. The Mets also have what is known in the business as zero pressure. Sure, their fans probably didn’t expect to be talking about 26-year-old rookie, Seth Lugo, at this point in the season. But he’s 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his first four starts. They probably didn’t expect to be talking about the postseason a month or so ago when they were trailing the Marlins in their own division. But here we are. Twenty-some games to go before the postseason. And two of these teams will have to make it in, however improbable that sounds.

 

 

The AL East

 Go Yankees?

 

Just when I told you that the Blue Jays were the best bet to win the division and that the rest of the division would eat itself, they got swept by the Yankees and everything is back to being a giant clusterfuck. The Red Sox currently lead the division by a game. David Price is 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his last six starts. And every single one of their remaining games will be against teams in the division. The only real disappointment for them this past week is that they called up Yoan Moncada too soon. At one point, he struck out seven times in a row. I could do that! Nobody’s calling me the top prospect in baseball.

 

Of course everything that happens in the East also has huge implications for the AL Wild Card and this weekend’s series between the Orioles and Tigers should be very interesting. Especially Chris Tillman returning on Sunday to face Justin Verlander. Everyone, including me, has been waiting for the Orioles to drop out of contention. But then someone like Ubaldo Jimenez (6-11, 6.19 ERA) will throw a complete game two-hitter, as he did against the Rays on Monday. I give up on trying to out-think this team. I’m ready to embrace the clusterfuck.

 

That also means that I need to give up on my smarty-pants predictions from the first week of the season and actually consider rooting for the New York Yankees the rest of the way. Yeah, that’s like rooting for Darth Vader. But this is like in Jedi when his helmet comes off and you see that he’s just old British stage actor, Sebastian Shaw. In the made-for-TV movie that will be written about the 2016 Yankees, this is the part where they dump A-Rod and Carlos Beltran and their two star relievers and then Ace Frehley kicks in singing, “I’m back in the New York grooooove” over a montage of rookies winning games. Deep-cut pop-culture references aside, some men just want to watch the world burn. Or something.

 

 

The AL Central

The Twins are toast, but Brian Dozier is on fire.

 

Eliminated This Week: The Twins.
Just don’t tell that to Brian Dozier. He’s got 25 home runs and leads the Majors in WAR in the second half.

 

 

The AL West

The Astros remain 2 games back in the Wild Card. Even though they’re only half way done with a 13-game stint against first place teams. If only they weren’t 3-13 against the Rangers this season. The Tigers (1 game out of the Wild Card, 1-11 against the Indians) know what I’m talking about.

 

 

The NL East

 

Eliminated This Week: The Braves.
Uh oh. Wednesday night’s game between the Nationals and Braves was supposed to be a catapult to launch Washington deep in to the postseason. Stephen Strasburg was returning from injury. And with Max Scherzer pitching as well as he has, that would give the Nats a 1-2 punch reminiscent of the 2001 Diamondbacks with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Then in the 3rd inning, all those plans got kicked in the dick. Yeah, the Nationals ended up winning the game in the 11th inning. But the Nationals’ worst nightmares came fruition when Strasburg left early with an elbow injury yet again. At the time I write this, nobody knows the extent of Strasburg’s injury or whether or not he’ll pitch again in the regular season. Or if he’s done, period. But this is awful news for a coasting team that’s essentially gone .500 without him. There’s a bit of a drop off in that rotation after Scherzer and Tanner Roark. So unless someone like Joe Ross or (I don’t know) Lucas Giolito can step up, the once-scary Nationals look like they’re gonna be underdogs in that first-round matchup with the Dodgers.

 

(Update: Strasburg has a strained flexor mass (whatever that is), but doesn’t need Tommy John surgery. There is, however, no timetable for his return. Sounds very Strasburg-y.)

 

Oh, and the Mets signed Tim Tebow to a minor league contract. To quote my friend, Brendan McGowan, from my ‘Go Cubs!’ text message group, “It makes sense bc owners got Ponzied,” and “They’re giving Tebow a $100k signing bonus because talks broke down with Eddie Gaedel.”

 

 

The NL Central

 Now imagine if he does it more than once a season.

 

Eliminated This Week: The Reds, The Brewers.
Every now and then I fantasize about what this Cubs team would look like with Kyle Schwarber in the lineup and/or Jason Heyward actually earning his $184 million contract. And while I can only speculate about the former, I got a glimpse of the latter on Sunday when Heyward tied the game in the 9th against the Giants and then won it in the 13th. Oh well, he’s still hitting .154 in September.

 

 

The NL West

The most beleaguered rotation in the big leagues might have finally glued itself back together again. As I said earlier, Kershaw comes back this weekend. On top of that, Kenta Maeda has quietly had a great season. And Rich Hill has yet to allow an earned run in his 12 innings of work since joining the Dodgers. Earlier this week, the team started four straight rookies (Jose De Leon, Maeda, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart) and they managed to go 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA. De Leon was their 15th starter this season and 7th in 7 days. All that’s probably about to change.  Oh, and remember when they were 14-2 on days Kershaw pitched and 27-34 when he didn’t? They’ve gone 37-24 since he went down, which is the second-best record in the Majors over that period. Add Puig’s .444 average and 1.650 OPS since returning from the time out corner and this team just got really fucking dangerous.

 

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. I’m sure there’ll be more eliminations next week. The A’s, the Padres, the Angels, the Diamondbacks, the Phillies, the Pirates, the Rays and (dare I say) the Cardinals will probably be done in their respective divisions by the next time we talk. If you need more baseball, be sure to check me out on “Comedians Talking Baseball” with Joe Kilgallon on all the iTunes things. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 9.

 

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIV: Wake Me Up When September Ends)

Written by :
Published on : September 2, 2016

 

 

The Royals might be going back the World Series again this year, after all.

 

 

At the beginning of the week, the Blue Jays, the Red Sox and the Orioles were all postseason-bound teams coming out of the AL East. Unfortunately for one or (probably) two of them, there’s still a month left of baseball. And in that month, all three of those teams (plus rookie phenom, Gary Sanchez, and the Yankees) will play each other enough times and beat up on each other enough times that it will leave the door wide open for a team or two from the Central (the Tigers and/or the Royals) or the West (the Astros and maybe even the Mariners) to sneak into October. Let’s just take a look at how many times the Eastern contenders play each other the rest of the way.

 

– Blue Jays vs. Orioles. 3 games.
– Blue Jays vs. Yankees. 7 games.
– Blue Jays vs. Red Sox. 6 games.
– Red Sox vs. Orioles. 7 games.
– Red Sox vs. Yankees. 7 games.
– Orioles vs. Yankees. 6 games.

 

And that’s not even taking into consideration that the AL East doormat Rays have the best ERA in the league since the All-Star break. They’re also good for 6-7 games against the Blue Jays, Orioles and Yankees (and three more with the Red Sox). It’s going to be brutal. On the other hand, that amount of intra-divisional games that will take place for the Royals and Tigers with the mediocre White Sox and the lowly Twins, who have lost 13 straight. And the Astros and Mariners get to play the A’s and the Angels, who also suck. The East is going to fade. And it’s already starting to happen, as the Tigers have tied the Orioles for the second Wild Card slot after the O’s lost two-out-of-three to the Jays.

 

 

The only difference between the other Wild Card contenders and the Royals is that the Royals happen to be the hottest team in the American League over the past month. Since we last spoke, the World Champs rattled off 9 wins in a row, took two-out-of-three from the Red Sox and have won 18 of their last 24 games. And I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but they’ve managed to go to the World Series the past two years. They know how to get there. And they just won’t die. They are Grigori Rasputin holding a plate of slow-cooked ribs, Steven Seagal bebopping to Charlie Parker. I hate to tell you this, but the Royals will probably be back, projections be damned. And we’re just gonna have to get used to it. We’re gonna have to get used to that stupid rally mantis too.

 

Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

So who’s in and who’s out? Well, I think  the Blue Jays are going to win this division. Jose Bautista is back. Aaron Sanchez is rested. And Josh Donaldson is red hot. If you’re betting on anybody in the AL East, that’s your pick. The easiest team to dismiss has always been the Orioles. All along we’ve wondered how long their home run hitting offense could outpace their pitching problems. And that was before Chris Tillman went down with a shoulder injury. They’ve been proving people wrong all year, but I think they’re done. Not that anybody shows up at Camden Yards to care.

 

So the biggest question mark in the East is Boston. People talk about their bullpen like the sky is falling. 70% of their September schedule is on the road. Steven Wright has given up 9 runs his last 10 innings. And Adam Benintendi’s season might be over. On the bright side, Dustin Pedroia is healthy for the first time in years and got 11 hits in a row at one point last week. Mookie Betts is probably the 4th-best player in the league and also became the third player in Red Sox history to hit 30 home runs in a season before his 24th birthday (after Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro). And David Price has a 2.14 ERA in his last four starts. Not to mention that he’s actually 6th in the league in WAR and also 6th in FIP. Your guess is as good as mine. That road schedule though…

 

The AL Central

 

With the Tigers and Royals hot on their heels, the only consistency for the Indians has been Corey Kluber. Their lauded starting rotation had a 5.68 ERA in August, which is second-worst to the Twins in the American League. Kluber’s August ERA was 2.43 and has been 2.04 since the break. On the season, he leads the league in FIP is (barely) second in WAR and is 5th in ERA. That’s your Cy Young, folks. I don’t know why it’s so hard for people. Here’s you: “The American League Cy Young race is a jumble!” Here’s me: “Why don’t you just look at the stats and pick the best guy?” It’s Kluber.

 

Also, I’d be remiss not to mention GUARANTEED RATE FIELD coming soon to the South Side of Chicago. “Hey, youz guys wanna catch a Sox game over at GUARANTEED RATE FIELD?” Just rolls right off the tongue, you know?

 

The AL West

I just want to remind everyone that the first week of the season, I picked the Blue Jays, Royals and Rangers to win their divisions and took the Indians and Astros in the Wild Card. And right now I feel pretty good about my picks, give or take the Tigers. The Rangers just took three-out-of-four from the Indians and swept the Mariners, effectively ending Seattle’s playoff hopes yet again. The Rangers also have a surprisingly-good record against teams above .500, which bodes well for them in October. Because I’m also going to will that Rangers-Jays rematch series to happen. Come on!

 

The NL East

Want to know who my opening week NL picks were? I took the Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers in the divisions. And I took the Mets and Giants in the Wild Card. And maybe since the Royals decided to get back in to the discussion, the Mets decided to get hot too. I know Jacob deGrom’s last two starts have been awful. And Steven Matz might get shut down for the season. But nobody should want to face Thor in the Wild Card. That team’s best-case-scenario staff is still horrifying.

 

 

And just in case any Nationals fans starts to freak out about Stephen Strasburg’s elbow, they should just direct their attention to what Max Scherzer has done his past two outings (5 hits, 1 walk, 21 K’s, 0.12 ERA over 16 innings) and feel a little better. Also, unless last year was a freakish anomaly, don’t we have to assume Bryce Harper is a sleeping giant right now? Just don’t look at his career stat line. Because this year looks pretty similar to the Harper of 2012-2014. And not at all like 2015.

 

The NL Central

Kris Bryant is the NL MVP. He leads the Majors in WAR. And he leads the league in wOBA. Plus, that home run in the 10th inning at Dodger Stadium led the Cubs to another win in a month where they went 22-6. Kyle Hendricks also leads the Majors in ERA with a 2.09. It’s been 1.34 in the second half, 1.28 in August and 1.21 at home on the year. This is a guy that throws 87 miles-per-hour. He’s a pleasant surprise on a staff that also includes Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, who have also been top 10 pitchers in the league. Oh, and did you see Addison Russell’s catch against the Pirates on Wednesday? Wow. The Cubs are gonna shore this division up in the next week or two.

 

The Cardinals still hold the second Wild Card slot, which I hate. But they also don’t win at home (30-37) and don’t have a clear starter for the Wild Card game (I’d go with Carlos Martinez, but I’d guess Mike Matheny picks the struggling Adam Wainwright). Sure, they’re high up on rookies Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver. And Jedd Gyorko leads the league in home runs since the All-Star break. Actually, the Cardinals are tied with the Orioles for the most home runs in the Majors since the break. We’ll just have to wait and see if that’ll be good enough to hold off the Mets, Pirates and Marlins over the last month.

 

 The NL West

 

Well, the Dodgers have stayed in first place, despite every pitcher on their team (including the best pitcher on the planet) being hurt. If you’re counting at home, they’ve had 27 guys on the DL this year, which ties a Major League record set by the last place Boston Red Sox in 2012. But I’m guessing they lost a lot of sympathy when they traded away Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher, A.J. Ellis (and his .194 batting average) for Carlos Ruiz. Why they would you create any drama or make Kershaw cry when their team is playing well is beyond me. I don’t care how much they struggle against lefties. You keep Kershaw happy. Or however happy a guy can be watching from the sidelines with a herniated disc.

 

Believe it or not, the Giants still have the worst record in baseball since the break. The Twins have lost 13 in a row and the Giants would still be a game back in the loss column since July 12th. They’re not scoring runs. They have problems at the back of their rotation. And Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto had ERA’s in the 4’s in the month of August. Matt Moore (and his 133 pitches) came within a Corey Seager bloop of no-hitting the Dodgers last week, and holy shit was that a pleasure to watch with Vin Scully making the call. But they’d better hope MadBum and Cueto can figure this out. Or that Kershaw stays on the sideline. Or that they also don’t get passed by one of the other Wild Card hopefuls in the league. Maybe they only win in even years that end in 0, 2 or 4. You ever think of that?

 

Okay. That’ll do it for this week. Next week, I’m sure we’ll have some mathematical eliminations from the standings (looking at you, Braves, Twins, Brewers and Reds). And if you need more baseball, you can always check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on all the podcast things. Until then, the Cubs’ magic number is 16.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXII: Tex, Prince and A-Rod)

Written by :
Published on : August 12, 2016

 

 

 

This week Ichiro got his 3,000th career hit. Manny Machado hit three home runs in the first three innings of a game. Brandon Crawford had seven hits in a game. Yasiel Puig Snapchatted a sausage party in Des Moines. And Tim Tebow idiotically thinks he can play professional baseball. But I think the week will best be remembered for the emotional departures of Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder. Well, we’ll just see about A-Rod being done.

 

Of the three, Teixeira was the first to announce his retirement. He leaves the game with 404 career home runs. He won a ring in 2009 with the Yankees. He was an excellent fielding switch-hitter. But the injuries kept piling on and Teixeira had to end a career that would fall pretty far short of Hall of Fame caliber. Not that that’s all that matters. But since the question has been asked this week in the media, Tex’s career numbers look less like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera (1-2 in his era) and more like Tino Martinez, Norm Cash and Gil Hodges. He’s even behind Keith Hernandez, John Olerud and Will Clark in his JAWS ranking (which averages career WAR and seven-year peak WAR). That and the fact that he endorsed Marco Rubio for President makes me say no. But I guess since Rubio finished a distant third, it’s only appropriate.

 

 So long, boys.

 

I could pour over the controversial and illustrious career of A-Rod. But with a guy that competitive and that historically self-important, you have to assume sitting on 696 career home runs will drive him even more insane and he’ll wind up on a Major League roster next year. If a Miami or a Tampa Bay will take him. If this is indeed the end for Alex (and his .203 batting average suggests it actually could be), then he retires as the second-greatest shortstop of all-time to Honus Wagner. He won three MVP awards. He was the first overall pick in the 1993 Draft. He’s the all-time leader in grand slams. He’s got over 3,000 hits. He’s a member of the 40/40 club. The youngest player to 300, 400, 500 and 600 home runs. Seven All-Star Games at short. And seven All-Star Games at 3rd.

 

But mostly I’ll remember his career for the huge contracts, the lying about PEDs and the stories of general personal shitty-ness that made Brian Cashman publicly tell him to shut the fuck up, even though he’s one of the inner-circle greatest players of all time. Didn’t he sue his own team and then not pay his lawyers? Doesn’t he have a painting of himself as a centaur over his bed? This fuckin’ guy. A-Rod plays his last game with the Yankees today. But whenever he’s actually done, he’s banished to Bonds-Clemens Island. Or more likely a fancy strip club/whorehouse made of cocaine and HGH.

 

 Prince doesn’t deserve this.

 

Let’s move on to Prince Fielder, who was easily the most likable of the three, but also happened to have the weakest career. Which isn’t really a knock when you’re being compared to Centaur Steroid Monster and the guy selling vanilla ice cream at the Hall of Very Good. Fielder has been a batting practice legend since he was 12-years-old when he hit one into the upper deck of Tiger Stadium. And he won the Home Run Derby twice. As an adult, not when he was 12. But his lousy defense probably knocked him down a few pegs and he’s retiring as the 94th-best first baseman of all-time (according to JAWS), behind guys like Kevin Youkilis, Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena. The eerie thing is, he’s also retiring with the exact same number of career home runs (319) as his estranged father – the one he didn’t like being compared to. Of the three players, I’ll miss Fielder the most. And we’ve lost too many Princes in 2016.

 

Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

I don’t understand why the Yankees are pretending they can still go to the postseason this year. They’re 7 back in the division. They’re 4.5 back in the Wild Card. And three other teams in their own division are ahead of them. They have a 2.9% chance of making the playoffs. Also, they kinda traded away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran. That’s waving the white flag on 2016. So all that being said, why is Joe Girardi being such a bitch about A-Rod?

 

 Why are you being such a dick, Joe?

 

I know I said all of the things I said about A-Rod earlier. But there is such a thing as taking the high road and not creating a pity party soap opera so dramatic that it makes someone like me who doesn’t even like the guy actually consider him a victim. Even Fenway Park chanted his name, Joe. You’re a dick.

 

If pitcher Wins are your thing, Wade Miley is 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA since being acquired by the Orioles. But that’s somehow still an upgrade for the club. That’s how bad Ubaldo Jimenez (6.83 ERA) has been this season. Also, if pitcher Wins are your thing (and we have to talk about this because they really shouldn’t be), J.A. Happ leads the Majors with 16. I’m feeling pretty good about the Blue Jays.

 

I know I’ve bashed the Red Sox a lot this season. But I think that racist David Ortiz bobble head might end up being their own Brady Bunch bad luck tiki. They’ve had injury scares with Steven Wright, Mookie Betts and Big Papi, himself, after that hideous mini-statue was made public. And they like, can’t lose any of those guys. Not that the Tigers and/or Mariners would mind. But the bobblehead also kind of reminds me of something famed character actor, Chelcie Ross, would look at and say, “Up yer butt, Jobu,” before getting hit in the head with a flying bat. Just putting that out there. I feel like this entire paragraph was totally reasonable and valid.

 

The AL Central

Think being a manager isn’t stressful? This week, Indians’ manager, Terry Francona, as well as Giants’ skipper, Bruce Bochy, had to miss games with chest pain and/or rumored chest pain. That being said, Joe Girardi is still a dick.

 

 Terry needs to relax.

 

The AL West

I think this Jonathan Lucroy thing is working out in Texas. So is Beltran, for that matter. And they’d be the hottest team in the league (and 11-2 against the Astros this season) if not for the Seattle Mariners playing peek-a-boo with relevance once again. And I’m not going to say that Mike Trout could end up being the greatest player of all time. But he turned 25 this week and just look at some fun numbers of players Trout’s age.

 

 ABSOLUTE BEAST.

 

All-Time WAR Through Age 21

1. Mike Trout               21.5
2. Mel Ott                    19.3
3. Ty Cobb                   16.1
4. Al Kaline                  15.0
5. Rogers Hornsby      14.6

 

All-Time WAR Through Age 22

1. Mike Trout        29.5
2. Ty Cobb           25.9
3. Mel Ott             25.1
4. Ted Williams     24.8
5. Jimmie Foxx     21.0

 

All-Time WAR Through Age 23

1. Mike Trout            38.5
2. Ted Williams        36.4
3. Ty Cobb               36.2
4. Mel Ott                33.2
5. Mickey Mantle    29.5

 

All-Time WAR Through Age 24

1. Ty Cobb            47.2
2. Mike Trout        45.0
3. Mickey Mantle  41.1
4. Mel Ott              38.6
5. Jimmie Foxx     37.4

 

The NL East

Why would Bryce Harper need a working bat or neck when you have that rotation? This thing is turning in to a bloodbath. And I mentioned Ichiro becoming the 30th member of the 3,000 hit club earlier. But the best part about it is that he told ESPN he plans on playing until he’s 50. So I guess that first ballot induction in Cooperstown is gonna have to wait a while.

 

 3,000 is a big number.

 

The NL Central

The Cubs are in first place on my birthday? Why, that’s only happened in 1984, 1989, 2001 and 2008. Cubs with the best record in baseball on my birthday? This is a first. And since they’ve won 9 in a row and are up 12 games on the Cardinals, I almost don’t care that Tommy La Stella is embarrassing himself by not reporting to Des Moines. I’m sure the Puig videos didn’t make it any more enticing, but still.

 

 It’s a happy birthday for Brido.

 

The NL West

When Clayton Kershaw went down on June 26, the Dodgers were 8 games back of the Giants. So I can’t really downplay how amazing and improbable it is that they climbed back within a game of first place. And that’s why you might actually see Corey Seager walk away with the Rookie of the Year and the NL MVP this year. Right now, I’d give it to Kris Bryant or Daniel Murphy. But enough people are bringing his name up to make me think he’d actually win if the voting was held today.

 

Give Seager all the awards.

 

I will say that I’m not sure whether or not Puig will play for the Dodgers ever again. Even though Josh Reddick has hit .125 since joining the team. Puig may be lighting up the PCL, but apparently everybody hates him about as much as Joe Girardi hates A-Rod.

 

Oh, and the Giants are still the worst team in the Majors since the All-Star break. Jeff Samardzija has come back to Earth. So has Johnny Cueto. And Will Smith has a fucking 13.50 ERA since being dealt from Milwaukee. And that’s without me even mentioning that only one team (Pittsburgh) has scored fewer runs in the second half.

 

And since the Rockies have fallen off their wasn’t-gonna-happen-anyway Wild Card run, it’s only really worth mentioning David Dahl, who is their new Trevor Story. I almost wish his last name was ‘Chapter’ or some shit, so idiots on TV could stumble all over themselves to make that fuck-awful joke again. But Dahl has yet to go O-fer in his young career, starting with a 17-game hitting streak, while hitting .365 with a 1.013 OPS. Looks like the STORY has a new CHAPTER!

 

 How I looked when I heard Tim Tebow wanted to play baseball.

 

Okay. Should I even waste my time on Tebow? Because he played high school baseball and looked muscle-y in a cage? Just know that he didn’t get drafted. Even Michael Vick got drafted. And he hadn’t played baseball since 8th grade. Tom Brady, Russell Wilson, Dan Marino, John Elway, Daunte Culpepper… all drafted. And it’s not like there weren’t baseball scouts in Florida. He also hasn’t played baseball in 11 years. Michael Jordan hadn’t played in 13 years, was a much better athlete and only hit .202 in the minors. Plus, Tebow is 29. You know who else is 29? Andrew McCutchen. That guy is usually awesome. This year he’s hitting 50 points below his career average. Because baseball is hard. And Tebow has absolutely no chance.

 

That’ll do it for this week. If you need more baseball, check me out on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon in all the podcast places. Until then, Adrian Beltre needs 117 hits. And the Cubs’ Magic Number is 38.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XVIII: The First Half in Review)

Written by :
Published on : July 16, 2016

 

 

Can you believe we made it all the way through the first half? We’ve already seen epic brawls, surprise teams, a 20-strikeout game, debilitating injuries, returns from debilitating injuries, historic starts, historic rookies and individual performances that range from career years to retiring veterans to perhaps the greatest pitcher we’ve ever seen in the prime of his career. And also, we saw a home run from big sloppy fatso, Bartolo Colon. So let’s look at the first half that was.

 

The AL East

 

Playoff Teams: Baltimore, Boston, Toronto.

 Big Papi looks to be headed for the playoffs in his final season.

 

The Orioles are the surprise team of the first half, and I dismissed them outright until they became the last remaining undefeated team in the Majors. Everyone thought their pitching was going to be terrible. And it hasn’t been good (ask your Orioles fan friends their thoughts on Ubaldo Jimenez). But they lead the Majors in home runs (as does Mark Trumbo), they also have Manny Machado and while their division lead might not be sustainable, it’s not like the rest of the division hasn’t been extremely flawed thus far either.

 

The biggest story in the division is probably the fact that the 40-year-old, David Ortiz – in his final season –  is the best hitter on a Red Sox offense that leads the Majors in Runs, Hits, Total Bases, RBI, Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging and Baby Powder Walk-Off Parties. The only problem is that, despite some pretty good individual performances from Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, the Red Sox are an even more extreme version of the Orioles (1st in Runs, 19th in ERA). Ask a Red Sox fan about Clay Bucholz. Or possibly, they’re just the Orioles with national media attention.

 

Update: I’ll probably have a lot to say about Drew Pomeranz next week.

 

After two last place finishes in a row, I just didn’t see how adding David Price and Craig Kimbrel (who have both disappointed) would be enough to justify their pre-season projections. And because I felt the baseball media was too giddy to anoint Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts as the heirs to the Big Papi iron throne, I took the Killer B trio as overblown media hype and focused my attention on Pablo Sandoval’s exploding belt. And boy was I wrong.

 

My pick to win the division was the Toronto Blue Jays, who might still be the best team in the East, overall. Josh Donaldson is quite possibly the first half MVP. I’d say they have the second-best pitching in the league, with a standout first-half performance by Aaron Sanchez. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic north of the border, even though Toronto’s first half will probably be best remembered for the strong jaw of Jose Bautista.

 

The Yankees and Rays have mainly been discussed in trade rumors, with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller being the prized possessions before the deadline. I feel like a lot more attention should be given to Masahiro Tanaka, who might have pitched better than anybody in the league in the first half, despite nobody giving a shit. And C.C. Sabathia wasn’t too shabby, either. On the other hand, the previously-lauded Rays’ staff is about as bad as it gets. And I’d look for a lot of their struggling starters to get a change of scenery after July.

 

The AL Central

 

Playoff Team: Cleveland.

 Kluber & Co have got the Tribe cruising.

 

I picked the Indians to win the Wild Card because of their staff, and yeah, it’s been the best in the American League this season. Danny Salazar is probably the first half Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber is right up there and Trevor Bauer could also be in the conversation. All of that pitching, along with a better-than-expected offense (without Michael Brantley), lead Believeland to a 14-game winning streak on the heels of the Cavs winning the city’s first world title in 52 years. And they’re the AL favorites going forward.

 

And yet, prior to the season, I picked the Royals. Because how could I not pick the Royals after they’d gone to the World Series the past two seasons? Sure, they had bad projections. But they always had bad projections. Then they’d just do whatever it is that they do to win. Did you watch the All-Star Game? Eric Hosmer and his faux-hawk might have been annoying as he yelled about the Royals performing on big stages before. But he’s pretty much right. The main difference is that the 2014 and 2015 Royals were relatively injury-free. That totally has not been the case this year, with Wade Davis and Lorenzo Cain currently on the 15-day DL and Mike Moustakas out for the season.

 

With apologies to my editors, other than the Indians, the entire Central has been mediocre. Except for the Twins, I guess, who are fucking terrible. Except, you know, right before the break for some reason. The Tigers are 1-11 against Cleveland. The White Sox have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but don’t score any runs (somebody call Drake LaRoche!). And it’s like a bizarro version of the American League East, where very few teams hit and nobody has a positive run differential, except for the Indians.

 

The AL West

 

Playoff Team: Texas.

 We are all hoping that the Rangers and Blue Jays meet up in the playoffs.

 

The Rangers were my pick in the AL West, solely because they won the division last year and they’d be getting a full season from Cole Hamels and the return of Yu Darvish. And when they were good, they were very good. But the Rangers limped into the All-Star break with Darvish and Derek Holland on the 15-day DL and Colby Lewis on the 60. But that’s not what we want to talk about, is it? We don’t even want to talk about the hot start of Nomar Mazara or the first half of Ian Desmond. We want to talk Roogie.

 

I’d say the most memorable moment of the first half of baseball this season was the Rougned Odor overhand right to the bat-flipping face of Jose Bautista. And, holy shit, do I want a Rangers-Jays rematch in the post-season. And you should too. So we should all pray to the baseball gods (Bill James and Peter Gammons?) that the Blue Jays stay hot and the Rangers can pick up an arm or two before the deadline.

 

Another reason the Rangers need help is because the Astros are creeping. And they were my pick for a Wild Card before the season. But I also took Carlos Correa as my AL MVP, so shows what I know (I meant to say Jose Altuve, I swear). After an awful start, the Astros turned things around. And they actually have better World Series odds than the Rangers currently.

 

Okay. Here are my Top 5’s of the AL first half.

 

Top 5 AL Position Players.

1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays.          5.4 WAR    .424 wOBA
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels.                5.5 WAR    .415 wOBA
3. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros.                     4.3 WAR    .400 wOBA
4. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles.          4.3 WAR    .392 wOBA
5. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox.                     3.3 WAR    .451 wOBA

 

Honorable Mention: Ian Desmond, Robinson Cano, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Kyle Seager.

 

Top 5 AL Pitchers.

1. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees.       3.0 WAR    3.31 FIP    3.23 ERA
2. Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians.             2.4 WAR    3.39 FIP    2.75 ERA
3. Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox.          2.9 WAR    3.48 FIP    3.21 ERA
4. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays.           2.5 WAR    3.52 FIP    2.97 ERA
5. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians.               3.3 WAR    2.95 FIP    3.61 ERA

 

Honorable Mention: Steven Wright, Chris Sale, Trevor Bauer, Jordan Zimmermann, C.C. Sabathia, J.A. Happ, Rick Porcello.

 

Now for the National League.

 

The NL East

 

Playoff Teams: Washington, New York, Miami.

 Syndergaard has me eating crow.

 

If you’ve read this column for a while, you may remember something I wrote back in March saying to call me when the Mets’ front four approaches a 19-20 combined WAR. Even earlier than that, I said that the Nationals’ front four might be even better than the Mets’. Well, here’s how it looked at the All-Star break.

 

Mets (Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Harvey)             10.0 WAR

Nationals (Strasburg, Scherzer, Roark, Ross)             9.6 WAR

 

So, I’m an idiot sometimes. Noah Syndergaard has been amazing, bone spur or not. And Jacob deGrom is quietly having a good year. So if not for a few health scares with Jason Matz and, I don’t know, the fact that they’re losing Matt Harvey for the rest of the season, this staff really could have approached 90’s Braves-level awesomeness. And that’s all without mentioning America’s sweetheart, Bartolo Colon.

 

I picked the Nationals because everyone was so jacked up about them last year and I figured that there was no way their luck would be as bad as it was in 2015. What I couldn’t have predicted was just how good Daniel Murphy was going to be. I really thought October was a fluke. The 14 home runs he hit last season were a career-high. And yes, I still hate him.

 

Despite an underwhelming first half from Bryce Harper (although he started on a goddamn tear), Wilson Ramos has also picked up some offensive slack. Stephen Strasburg (with his new contract) is the only qualified starter in the Majors without a loss. As well as the first NL starter since Rube Marquard in 1912 to win his first 12 decisions of the year. Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers in a game, throwing 80% strikes and making Brad Ausmus a 20K victim for the third time. And all that adds up for the most franchise wins at the break, along with the infamous ’94 Expos.

 

The Mets have been plagued by so many injuries, that the only way to make this fun is to remind you of the things Bartolo Colon has already done this season. That Mays-esque catch off the mound. That home run in San Diego. The reaction of the Mets’ dugout. That time he promised the catcher he wouldn’t swing. Any of the times he runs the bases. And I repeat; that home run he hit in San Diego. It’s almost hard to believe Big Sexy exists sometimes.

 

All that being said, the door is probably wide open for the Miami Marlins to make a run in the second half. They’re getting Dee Gordon back soon. They have Jose Fernandez. And if the Home Run Derby is any indication, Giancarlo Stanton could round out an outfield so good, that Ichiro might have to wait a while before getting 10 more hits.

 

The NL Central

 

Playoff Team: Chicago.

 Looks for the Cubs to get it back together in the second half.

 

From the start, the Cubs were my pick to win it all. And they started so hot and so fun (wacky suits, mariachi bands) that a semi-epic collapse at the end of the first half still had them up 7 on the Cardinals in the division. Of course, there was the season-ending injury of Kyle Schwarber. And the past month of awful pitching. But overall, it’s been amazing. Dexter Fowler was Mr. April. Ben Zobrist was Mr. May. Jon Lester was Mr. June. Somewhere in there, Jake Arrieta threw another no-hitter. And Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could arguably 1-2 in first-half MVP voting. Not that that’s a thing.

 

There was also the Javier Baez walk-off on Mother’s Day. The Travis Wood Game. The first Wilson Contreras at-bat. The game where Bryant had three bombs and two doubles. I just hope that the All-Star break was a reset button for a team that played 24 games in 24 days, that Arrieta can resemble his second-half performance from last year, that they get the help they need in the bullpen and all of their troubles are behind them. Then I can finally get to see the ending to what Sports Illustrated dubbed ‘the last great American sports story’. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.

 

You know, either that, or they could keep tanking and watch the Cardinals and Pirates pass them.

 

The NL West

 

Playoff Teams: San Francisco, Los Angeles.

 MadBum: Killin’ it.

 

All of the ‘Even Year’ dipshits can rejoice. The Giants are the best team in baseball at the half. Not that they were in 2010, 2012 or 2014. Uh oh, you fucking idiots. But Jeff Samardzija and especially Johnny Cueto were great pick-ups for San Francisco. Their front four has a 9.5 WAR, if you’re keeping score at home. And as good as the 20 K game by Scherzer and no-no from Arrieta were, the single best pitching performance in the first half was Madison Bumgarner’s from last week where he allowed 1 hit, 1 walk and struck out 14 in a complete-game shutout (98 Game Score). That would make me the only person on the planet actually talking about MadBum’s pitching.

 

In Vin Scully’s final season with the Dodgers, he might be witnessing the greatest pitcher in team history. Or maybe all-time. Or he could be hurt for a while. I don’t know. But Clayton Kershaw’s first half was so good, that I’d be willing to say he was the National League MVP, Cy Young and then Corey Seager could also let him hold his Rookie of the Year trophy while we’re at it (oh man, remember Trevor Story?). Anyway, the Dodgers’ staff was plagued by injuries. And I still can’t stand their fans. But I’d really love to see Kershaw come back soon and overtake San Fran in the Wins column.

 

Also, I was right about the Diamondbacks.

 

Now for the NL’s Top 5’s.

 

Top 5 NL Position Players.

1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs.                        5.0 WAR    .403 wOBA
2. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs.                   3.5 WAR    .419 wOBA
3. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals.       3.7 WAR    .410 wOBA
4. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals.           3.1 WAR    .414 wOBA
5. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks.          3.1 WAR    .407 wOBA

 

Honorable Mention: Nolan Arenado, Brandon Belt, Corey Seager, Marcell Ozuna, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Wilson Ramos, Freddie Freeman, Christian Yelich.

 

Top 5 NL Pitchers.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers.          5.5 WAR    1.70 FIP    1.79 ERA
2. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets.                 4.0 WAR    2.06 FIP    2.56 ERA
3. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins                        3.9 WAR    2.13 FIP    2.52 ERA
4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants.              3.7 WAR    2.70 FIP    2.47 ERA
5. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants.    3.3 WAR    2.96 FIP    1.94 ERA

 

Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg, Drew Pomeranz, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom, Tanner Roark, Kenta Maeda, Kyle Hendricks, Max Scherzer, Jaime Martinez, Steven Matz.

 

 

Alright. That’ll do it. See you in the outfield for the second half. Check me out on Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, Ichiro needs 10 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 68.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XVII: All-Star Selections)

Written by :
Published on : July 8, 2016

 

With the All-Star Game approaching, the big talk this week was who got snubbed (which is probably unfair to Ned Yost and Terry Collins, since every team, no matter how awful they are, has to be represented) and also who should actually be starting. So let’s take a look at that. First up, the American League.

 

AL Starting Pitcher: ????

Should Start: Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians

 Will it be Salazar?

 

I think it should go to Salazar, especially since Jose Quintana didn’t even make the team. And neither did Masahiro Tanaka, who I honestly haven’t heard one person talk about all year, despite some fantastic stats. Anyway, Salazar is the AL leader in ERA. His FIP is better than Chris Sale’s and Steven Wright’s. And I’d guess those two are his only real competition for the start. Sale does have 14 wins and leads in ESPN’s Cy Young predictor. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he was given the nod. But with all the injuries to the Rangers’ rotation, Cleveland is probably the best team in the American League right now. And the main reason they’re so good is because of their staff. They had a 1.83 ERA during their franchise-best 14-game winning streak and Salazar has been the best of all of them. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re up 7.5 games on Sale and the White Sox.

 

AL Starting Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

Should Start: Perez

 

Good job, fans. It’s not a strong pool, but Perez leads AL catchers in WAR and wOBA.

 

AL Starting First Baseman: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

Should Start: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

 It should be Miggy.

 

You would think that with all these AL Central players I’ve mentioned so far, the division would be a little more competitive. And it probably would be if the Tigers weren’t 1-11 against the Indians. But I digress. If we go ahead and say that Edwin Encarnacion is a DH (which he is), then Cabrera edges out Chris Davis of the Orioles (who didn’t make the team) with slightly better hitting.

 

AL Starting Second Baseman: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Should Start: Altuve

 

After a horrible start, the Astros actually look like they’re gonna make a run at the postseason, after all. And Altuve is a legit MVP candidate. Too bad he can’t also pitch for them.

 

AL Starting Third Baseman: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Should Start: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

 There’s no doubt Manny should be in the game, but maybe not at third base.

 

This race is about as close as it gets (as is the AL East, itself) and Machado and Donaldson are also both MVP candidates. As good as Machado has been so far, Donaldson has been even better. But don’t worry, I have a way to fix this.

 

AL Starting Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Should Start: Machado

 

Machado has actually played eight more games at short than at third this season. So that technically makes him the best shortstop in the league. And don’t cry, Red Sox fans. There’s plenty more room on the roster for your offense. And also, you’re a third place team with 6 All-Stars.

 

AL Starting Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

Should Start: Trout. Bradley. Ian Desmond, Texas Rangers

 

Trout is still the best player in the league. Bradley and Desmond are right up there. But that starting lineup isn’t bad for a Boston team that has fed-up fans calling for their manager to be fired. It’s not like adding David Price (who didn’t make the All-Star team) and Craig Kimbrel (who somehow did) were going to fix the rest of the team’s pitching woes, even if they weren’t both underperforming.

 

AL DH Selection: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

Should DH: Ortiz

Papi should continue to praise whichever gods are giving him such power at such an age.

 

We don’t have to talk about the Red Sox pitching for the time being. Ortiz just passed Ted Williams on the all-time home run list. And since Williams died the year before Ortiz got to Boston, we can assume that all of his frozen powers were transferred over to Big Papi in 2003. Just kidding, he totally did ‘roids.

 

Okay, here are the Top 5 AL snubs this year, according to WAR.

 

1. Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox. (3.1)
2. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees. (3.0)
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays. (2.9)
4. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners. (2.9)
5. Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers. (2.8)

 

Let’s move on to the National League.

 

NL Starting Pitcher: ????

Should Start: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 They say with great hair comes great pitching.

 

With Clayton Kershaw on the DL (and from this point forward, nobody can complain about pitching injuries unless they’re the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers), Collins needs to go with his ace. I can see the argument for starting San Diego native, Stephen Strasburg, but unless the Mets are freaked out about potentially losing Matt Harvey for the season, the clear #2 choice (and the best available pitcher) is still Thor.

 

NL Starting Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Should Start: Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

 

This one is close, but Ramos edges Posey out with slightly better hitting. I suppose that since the Giants now have the best record in baseball (RIP Cubs SuperTeam), they should have somebody in the starting lineup. But since they also denied Madison Bumgarner a slot in the Home Run Derby, they also deserve nothing.

 

NL Starting First Baseman: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Rizzo

 Rizzo deserves this one.

 

Maybe with the Cubs sucking so bad the past two weeks, their entire infield shouldn’t be starting the All-Star Game. These guys need rest, not more games. But Rizzo is actually deserving of this, edging out Wil Myers and Paul Goldschmidt by a hair. And since I always seem to make fun of the Red Sox pitching on here, let me just cop to the fact that the Cubs arms are no longer setting the world on fire. Yeah, yeah. They had to regress at some point. But “The Body Issue” of ESPN the Magazine isn’t the only place the Cubs’ pitching has been showing their asses lately.

 

NL Starting Second Baseman: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

Zobrist was great in like, May. But Murphy has been great the entire first half. Plus, I consider the recently-injured Matt Carpenter a third baseman.

 

NL Starting Third Baseman: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks

 Bryant may be getting the start but it’s Lamb who deserves it.

 

Lost in this whole Bryant vs. Nolan Arenado debate is that fact that nobody in the National League has had a better season than Jake Lamb and/or Matt Carpenter thus far. You know, other than the Carpenter injury. And for all of the complaining I hear from Team Arenado, they need to realize that he’s 4th among NL 3rd basemen in WAR and also 4th in wOBA. And Jake Lamb didn’t even make the team. But I guess since Bryant has already equaled his home run total from all of last season, I’ll figure out a way to get him on the starting lineup.

 

NL Starting Shortstop: Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

If the Dodgers are going to survive without Kershaw this season, it’s going to be because of Seager. He’s got the longest hitting streak in the National League so far. He’s 1st in WAR and second in wOBA among NL shortstops. And I’d actually say, at this point at least, that Seager, Brandon Crawford, Danny Espinosa, Zack Cozart, Aledmys Diaz, Jonathan Villar and Trevor Story would actually be more deserving of a start than Russell. Ouch, Mike.

 

NL Starting Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets. Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Bryant. Cespedes. Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

 Ozuna should be out there for the NL.

 

Listen, Bryant plays a lot of outfield. And he’d actually lead in WAR and be second in wOBA among all NL outfielders. He could replace Fowler, who I don’t want to play if he’s not healthy. And it might not even screw up the All-Theo Epstein Game (9 of the 17 starters are Theo acquisitions) too badly. Also, Marcell Ozuna is a sleeper choice for the NL MVP this year. Especially if mounting injuries can move the Marlins past the Mets in the standings. You know by now I’m rooting for that.

 

Okay. Finally, here are the Top 5 NL Snubs, according to WAR.

 

1. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks. (3.5)
2. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants. (3.3)
3. Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates. (2.8)
4. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals. (2.5)
5. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. (2.4)
5. Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals. (2.4)

 

Okay. See you next week, where I will give a recap of the first half of the season. If you need more baseball, you can check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, Ichiro needs 10 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 70.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XVI: Kyle Schwarber and the Trade Deadline)

Written by :
Published on : July 2, 2016

 

 

August 1st. Put it in your calendar, circle it, smack it, flip it, rub it down, oh no. That’s the MLB trade deadline and, until then, we don’t really know anything about the remainder of the season. So as every baseball pundit in North America ramps up their speculations on who will be buyers and who will be sellers, one potential blockbuster deal seems to be on everyone’s mind.

 

And I absolutely hate it.

 

After the Cubs lost four games in a row (a season high), everyone seemed to be freaking out, declaring the Cubs’ run at a historic season over and even saying it was the Giants and/or the Rangers who were actually the best team in baseball. It also didn’t hurt that the Warriors lost the NBA Finals to the Cavs after a historic season of their own. So with that parallel in mind, it became pretty evident that if the Cubs want to win a World Series this year, they’d need big-time help in the bullpen.

 

 The future.

 

Also during that losing spell, it became pretty evident that Wilson Contreras is the Cubs’ catcher of the future. Contreras unloaded on the first pitch he saw in his Major League debut, driving Wrigley Field insane with giddy thoughts of potential dominance going forward. Then after the standing O, the pinch-hit homer and the curtain call, he had to go back to the bullpen and warm up relievers.

 

Contreras represents yet another rookie and another impossibly-young player to be plugged in to the Cubs’ lineup. But he also represents a giant roadblock for the injured Kyle Schwarber to find a spot on the field when he returns next season. A knee injury basically eliminated his chance at being the Cubs’ everyday catcher, anyway. And he was already a defensive question mark in left field. So I don’t know where you put the guy. And as much as I hate to say it, he’s a DH playing in the wrong league.

 

 This can’t be the final image of Kyle Schwarber as a Cub.

 

So that got everyone thinking. The Yankees aren’t going to the playoffs. They need to rebuild for next year. They also have two amazing relievers they could unload for huge returns. And they have that short porch in right, which could turn Schwarber into trash-goateed Babe Ruth 2.0. So Kyle-Schwarber-for-Andrew-Miller rumors have been swirling around baseball universe, making a nation of Cubs fans, who see a light at the end of a 108-year tunnel, decide if they want to think with their heads or with their hearts.

 

And like I said, I absolutely hate it.

 

Luckily for my heart, my head tells me it’s not going to happen. I mean, I understand it. Especially if it means World Series hardware. But I don’t think the Cubs would trade a beloved and injured young player (the guy who cranked a ball into the Allegheny in the Wild Card game and dropped another on top of the right field scoreboard in the NLDS) for a middle reliever. Want to send Chris Sale or Jose Quintana up north? I can deal with that. But I just think something inside me would die if I had to picture a pouty-lipped Kyle Schwarber getting on a plane to New York with his crutches and walking boot. My heart just couldn’t take it.

 

(UPDATE: Theo Epstein, basically just said a trade involving Schwarber ain’t gonna happen and that the Hulk will be back in a Cubs uniform on Opening Day 2017.)

 

Okay, let’s go around the league and see how everything else is shaping up before August 1st.

 

 

AL East

 

Name me any team over .500 in the division and I’ll tell you they need pitching. And nobody more so than the Boston Red Sox. I have to assume David Price’s ERA will be closer to his FIP in the second half. And Steven Wright has been great when there isn’t any humidity. But having to keep starting Clay Bucholz isn’t any fun for anybody. His baseball card should just be a picture of John Farrell on the bullpen phone.

 

The Orioles, Red Sox and Blue Jays are all projected at around 86-89 wins. But you can’t just out-hit your own pitching forever. Ask the ice-cold Red Sox, whose offense finally came back down to earth the past two weeks. And, sure, the Blue Jays gave up SEVEN home runs against the White Sox this week and still won the game. But that’s fucking stupid.

 

I don’t think the Orioles have the farm system to do a big trade. So they might have to just keep swinging for the fences for the time being (56 home runs in the month of June is an all-time MLB record for the month). But you have to assume Red Sox’ GM, Dave Dombrowski, is going to try to pull off something big (Julio Teheran? Sonny Gray? Gerrit Cole?), because if they don’t, Papi isn’t going to end his career in the postseason. And Dustin Pedroia is going to spend a lot more time on the mound screaming at whoever sucked most recently.

 

 

AL Central

 

You know who doesn’t need pitching – the Cleveland Indians, who have won a franchise record-tying 13 games in a row. June was the best month in their team history. And they are the first team to win this many games in a row since the A’s won 20 in 2002. And no, they haven’t lost since the Cavs ended the city’s 52-year championship drought. Looks like Believeland might have to get ready for another parade.

 

To do that, they probably need another bat. Although they’ve certainly been hitting lately. I don’t think they can count on Michael Brantley doing much, but this dilemma essentially makes the Indians this year’s New York Mets. If I recall correctly, the Mets went to the World Series last year. Great pitching wins in October, after all. And that staff of Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco is pretty great.

 

 

AL West

 

The Astros are actually relevant again. But it might be too late to catch the Rangers, who still have the best record in the league. I don’t know how long that lead will hold with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Colby Lewis on the DL. And the fact that a team who needed help in the pen as much as the Cubs do could now prefer to go after another starting pitcher. But they do have the depth to make some big moves.

 

 

NL East

 How’s he going to mess this up?

 

Let me get this straight, when the Cubs lose four in a row and are only on pace to win 106 games, everybody thinks they’re falling apart. But when the Nationals lose seven in a row, put Stephen Strasburg and Jonathan Papelbon on the DL and have a slumping Bryce Harper, everything is totally chill?

 

I guess it didn’t hurt that the Mets are also having major problems with injuries, need to replace David Wright at third, signed domestic abuser, Jose Reyes and probably have people all over Queens Googling ‘bone spur’ because of Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard. This could be a disaster waiting to happen. Even Zack Wheeler, who is probably trade bait at this point, had a setback in his Tommy John recovery. To say that this team can’t afford any more injuries is like saying Bartolo Colon is entertaining whilst running the bases.

 

For a brief moment, it looked like the best team in the division was actually the Miami Marlins. And picking up Fernando Rodney shows that they’re actually going for it. But everyone is still pretty far back of the Nationals, who ended up sweeping the Mets and have won five straight after their seven-game skid. Daniel Murphy still leads the league in hitting. Lucas Giolito could be a huge addition to the rotation. And they could end up putting Trea Turner in center. The Nats are going to win the division. But I guess I’m just excited to see how Dusty Baker ruins it.

 

 

NL Central

 What will the Cubs do?

 

I can’t really stress enough how much I’d love the Cubs to get help in the bullpen. And they probably miss Dexter Fowler. And they could stand to play a little better defense. And they’ve had some general injury problems, overall. But the good news is, despite going 1-6 last week (the worst stretch in the Maddon Era), the Cubs still have the best record in baseball. And they still have the lowest ERA in the Majors, despite Jake Arrieta proving he’s human in the first half.

 

Maybe they won’t win 116 games. I can accept that. But it’s not like the 2001 Mariners had much to show for doing that either. They’re still up 11 games on the Cardinals. Kris Bryant hit three home runs and two doubles on Monday, for 16 total bases. And he denied the Cubs fans a curtain call on the road. They also played three pitchers in left field and saw Javier Baez hit a grand slam in the 15th inning on Tuesday. Listen, most of the rest of the division is thinking about which players to dump for their rebuild. So things could be worse.

 

One of the most-talked-about teams in the trade market has been the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are tanking at a rapid rate. In their perfect scenario, Gerrit Cole and Francisco Cervelli would be healthy and Andrew McCutchen would be hitting. But since none of those things are true, there haven’t been many players on the team who aren’t being discussed in trade rumors. The thing is, the Pirates have a pretty soft schedule at the end of the season. But they’re still 13.5 back in the Central, 3 games under .500 and 3.5 back in the Wild Card. So basically, we have until August 1st to picture how good Cole, McCutchen, Mark Melancon and Francisco Liriano would look in other uniforms.

 

 

NL West

 World’s Greatest Hitter.

 

I don’t know what I hate more, the ‘even year’ thing, or everybody acting like Madison Bumgarner is hillbilly Ted Williams. He’s hitting .182 for fuck sake. Shouldn’t we be discussing the 1-2 pitching combination of Johnny Cueto and MadBum potentially mixing it up with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester in the playoffs? Instead, this guy is DHing for himself in Oakland (he hit a double, raising his average from .175) while everyone runs to the nearest bathroom stall to jack their dick off. Michael Jordan hit upper deck shots in batting practice, everybody. 12-year-old Prince Fielder did too. I saw a clip of JJ Watt hitting a bomb in Houston last year. So, yes, Michael Jordan, 12-year-old Prince Fielder and JJ Watt are also the best hitters of all time. Shut up.

 

While this week’s post seems to be littered with injuries and team needs at the trade deadline, what better place to close than the Los Angeles Dodgers? That’s a team that already had major rotation problems and then Clayton Kershaw went down on the DL in the middle of a historic season. I know Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be back soon, but the Dodgers probably need to make a big move. And I don’t think Bud Norris is the answer.

 

 

Alright. That’s it for this week. If you need more from me, tune in to Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon and me on iTunes. And in the meantime, Ichiro needs 12 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 74.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode II)

Written by :
Published on : March 8, 2016

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes is almost single-handedly making me want to root for the Washington Nationals in the NL East this year. After the Mets gave Cespedes a $27.5 million salary ($22.5 million more than the hated-but-much-better Bryce Harper makes in Washington), he’s turned their Spring Training camp into a a daily episode of MTV Cribs, with multiple custom cars, two tricked-out Polaris Slingshots and a fire-breathing Lamborghini Aventador. All custom-designed by some guy in Miami who is probably not a total douchebag of the worst kind or anything. Now Cespedes is buying $7,000 grand champion hogs at county fairs, slaughtering them and riding horses to work. We get it, you’re MC Hammer.

 

The thing is, for all the love that Cespedes, the Mets and their pitching staff is getting right now, it was the Nationals who were in their same position this time last season. Now the Nats have Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman back for full seasons. And while Max Scherzer and a healthy Stephen Strasburg may not be deGrom-Harvey-Syndergaard, they’re still pretty fucking formidable. Especially since Scherzer is the best pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw. And despite all the fanfare, Steven Matz’ projections are pretty pedestrian, Bartolo Colon will be 43-years-old in May and Zack Wheeler’s stats don’t really inspire awe right now either.

 

Hate you.

 

There’s a bit of a drop-off in the rotation after the Mets’ Big Three. So I could see an argument why Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross actually round out a better overall rotation than the pitching Murderer’s Row/Greatest Staff Ever in Queens. And I haven’t even talked about Lucas Giolito yet. Call me crazy, but with identical Vegas odds (89.5 wins) and my growing hatred of the 22nd-best hitter in baseball (Cespedes), I am thinking the Nats’ luck can’t be nearly as bad as it was last year. Now somebody just needs to call Dusty Baker and remind not to do to Strasburg what he did to Mark Prior back in Chicago.

 

Around the League

Last week, I named Carlos Correa as my pick for AL MVP. This week, I’ve also made up my mind on my AL Cy Young choice and it’s Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. If you ask me, he should have won the award last year since he had the best FIP and second-highest WAR in the league. But as of now, he’s the best pitcher of the past 2-3 years who still hasn’t brought home the hardware. I think he’s due. And it’d be nice if his teammates scored some runs for him to help in his cause. I’m sure Sox teammate Jose Quintana feels the same way since it’s probably not fun for someone with a 3.18 FIP to go 9-10 on the year. That’s approaching 2015 Corey Kluber-level ridiculousness.

 

In the National Leauge, the Cy Young is always Clayton Kershaw’s to lose. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that. But what do you want me to do – actually pick Clayton Kershaw? That’s no fun. That’s like picking Mike Trout to win AL MVP. It’s actually probably even easier than that. You gotta go bolder sometimes. And so I’m going to chose somebody else who’s never won it, and that’s Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. His projections are among the league leaders (with Kershaw, Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Strasburg and Jose Fernandez), but MadBum is also looking at a league-topping 17-18 wins for the Giants. And that’s how Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel put the award away last year. I’d love to think another very-good-but-never-won-it player, Jon Lester of the Cubs, could have been my choice. But I already got my miracle pitching season out of Arrieta last year, so I can’t be too greedy. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija may be bust risks in San Fran this year, but Bumgarner never is.

 

Death, taxes and MadBum.

 

Also, since the Red Sox-loving media has spent about as much time as it could the past two weeks gushing over David Price and Craig Kimbrel and then crying about Pablo Sandoval’s tummy, this week they seem to have moved on to gushing over Mookie Betts. Next week I assume they’ll move on to Xander Bogaerts. But for now, did you know that Mookie Betts is also the greatest bowler of all time? You didn’t? Well he is. I don’t know how that will help the Red Sox to not finish in last place for the third straight year, but anyway, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts. If you’re a Yankees fun, your current Mookie Betts is Andrew Miller. He’s the reason you can rest assured that the same Aroldis Chapman you were super excited to have signed in the offseason is also the guy you can now be like, “30 game suspension? Pffffff. We have Andrew Miller!” My own personal Mookie Betts this week is Addison Russell of the Cubs. I love my Barry Larkin Starter Kit. And did you see the monster bomb he hit in Arizona in the second game? It went so far that it totally didn’t make me give a shit if he could bowl at all.

 

Alright. We’ve got four weeks to go before the season starts. And I need all of this to distract me from whatever insane shit happened in the 2016 Presidential race this week. I might even suggest Yoenis Cespedes as a third party write-in candidate. A Cuban-born New York billionaire who loves publicity? He’s like all the GOP candidates wrapped into one. Which gives John Kasich another reason to drop out since he doesn’t fit into this equation either. I’d actually be hard-pressed to think of many things inside the Yoenis Cespedes/John Kasich venn diagram. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Four more weeks of Spring Training, baby! And I’ll be heading to Arizona to see the Cubs in three. If you see a Polaris Slingshot in the parking lot, it’s totally mine.

 

 

Angelino in the Outfield (Episode 1)

 

 


5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason

Written by :
Published on : December 21, 2015

 

With Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings wrapped up and Opening Day just a few months away, there were a lot of big names on the move and still a handful of marquee players available. The hot stove was blazing the past few weeks, setting up for a very interesting 2016 season. Here are my 5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason so far. The 5 teams that I think improved themselves the most from last year.

 

 

#5San Francisco Giants 

The Giants have given Bumgarner a lot of help and he is excited.

 

The San Francisco Giants are looking to get back into the post-season after missing out last year. A very successful team over the past decade, the Giants have won two World Series titles under manager Bruce Bochy and still have a very talented team. Led by ace Madison Bumgarner, they added to their arsenal by adding two solid arms in Jeff Samardzija (5 years, $90 million) and Johnny Cueto (6 years, $130 million).

 

The Giants have the potential to have the most talented rotation in all of baseball and may even be the favorites to win the National League West, if not the pennant as well. Veterans Matt Cain and Jake Peavy round out the rotation, with perennial all-star Buster Posey calling the pitches. The Giants also may be interested in signing left fielder Alex Gordon, which would move the Giants way up this list.

 

 

#4Chicago White Sox

 Robin Ventura should be very pleased with how this off season has gone.

 

The Chicago White Sox haven’t made much noise in the American League Central the past few years as they have entered somewhat of a rebuilding mode. Last year, the Chi Sox got only 13 homers from their 3rd base spot, so they went out and sought better hitting from the infield. In a 3-team deal with the Dodgers and Reds, Chicago gave a few young players to get 3rd baseman Todd Frazier from Cincinnati. Frazier is one of the better power hitters in baseball the past couple years, bringing 30+ home runs annually, and will add some major pop alongside first baseman José Abreu.

 

In a previous deal, the White Sox acquired Brett Laurie from Oakland, who is set to play 2nd base. They are hoping he will reach his full potential and be a guy that can find the seats in a hitter friendly ballpark. Lawrie is a reasonably cheap upgrade and Frazier is an absolute steal right now as he is set to make just $7.5 million, and doesn’t hit free agency until after 2017.

 

 

#3- Arizona Diamondbacks

The Greinke signing has been the biggest splash yet this off season.

 

The Diamondbacks needed to make a big move to try and compete with the likes of the Giants and the Dodgers out west, and what a splash they made. Getting potentially the biggest free agent in all of baseball, starting pitcher, Zack Greinke for 7 years in a monster deal. A signing that came out of left field, nobody saw Greinke heading to the desert. Joining Greinke in Arizona will be another quality arm as the Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller from Atlanta for former first round pick Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte.

 

While dealing away two potentially great players, the Diamondbacks get potentially an even better player in Miller. He is a legitimate #2 after posting solid numbers with the Braves last year but was very unlucky with what little run support he received. Also, at just 25 years old, Miller is under team control for another few years.

 

 

#2- Boston Red Sox

 Price and Dombrowski: Reunited in Boston.

 

When Dave Dombrowski joined the front office in Boston, he wasted little time in trying to build another championship roster in Beantown. Headlined by the signing of former Cy Young winner David Price, the Red Sox improved their pitching staff immensely. Coming off one of his best seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, Price signed a 7 year deal worth $217 million but has an opt out option after 3 years. For Boston, they are back into familiar territory looking to win now and they feel they have the pieces to make it happen.

 

Joining Price on the pitching staff, the Red Sox acquired one of the best closers in baseball from San Diego, Craig Kimbrel. Koji Uehara has been lights out in that role for the Red Sox over the last handful of years but with an injury plagued season a year ago, the Red Sox now boast a nearly unbeatable backend of their bullpen.

 

In a trade with Seattle, the Bo Sox also received reliever Carson Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias. Smith is a very reliable bullpen arm who posted a 2.31 ERA in relief with a lot of strikeouts. Elias is more of a backend of the rotation guy who doesn’t have outstanding career numbers. He does have five more years of team control for cheaper than what Wade Miley was earning, and for arguably around the same if not slightly better numbers. Bottom line, with the offense that the Blue Jays has in that division, the Red Sox had to get some pitching to be able to shut them down, and took the ace of Toronto’s staff in the process.

 

 

#1- Chicago Cubs

 The Cubs signed Heyward to overcome his former team, the Cardinals.

 

My winner thus far in the MLB offseason has to be the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein has done a remarkable job since joining the Cubbies front office. After making it to the NLCS last year, it’s looking like World Series or bust for the Cubs this year. The two biggest acquisitions the Cubs made may be more about who they stole them from and not as much about who the players are. Constantly looking up in the standings to the St Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, the Cubs plucked two very talented players from St Louis to hopefully shake the standings up a bit this year.

 

The biggest splash was with the Cubs agreeing to terms with outfielder Jason Heyward for 8 years and $184 million. A pretty large contract possibly considered a bargain considering Heyward is rumored to have turned down some $200+ million offers to sign with Chicago. The other former Cardinal to join the Cubs is veteran starter John Lackey. At 37 years old, Lackey signs a 2-year, $32 million deal with the hopes of building on his already sound postseason numbers. Coming off a year in which he finished the regular season with a 2.77 ERA, Lackey appears to have plenty left in the tank.

 

A familiar face for manager Joe Maddon also joins the Cubs as former Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist signed a  4-year $56 million deal. While this deal may prove to be a little steep for a utility guy at age 34, Zobrist isn’t your average utility man. He can play just about anywhere in the outfield and infield, and he was a key piece in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run last year, as he started most of their games after being acquired at the trade deadline. He’ll see a lot time in the starting lineup again this year and may even see some time in the middle infield helping to take over for Starlin Castro, who was traded to the Yankees in exchange for a talented young pitcher Adam Warren. The Cubs are set up nicely with a lot of young talent to contend for many years to come.

 

 

 


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