Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXI: The ALCS and NLCS)

Written by :
Published on : October 21, 2016

 

 

We’ve come a long way. And it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a week. I’ve sat in silence in the nosebleed section of Dodger Stadium, while my beloved juggernaut of a team forgot how to hit. I’ve had a full-on doggypile in my living room. Somewhere in there, the Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant. For this week’s episode, I’m going to give you all of the games from the past week, and my reaction to them immediately after. You get to ride in the roller coaster with me for the ups and the downs. And then feel assured that we still have a long way to go.

 

Thursday, October 13th. NLDS Game 5. The Dodgers beat the Nationals 4-3. They take the series 3-2.

Wow. It’s pretty rare that a Division Series game would be considered an instant classic. But this year, we’d already had Games 1, 3 and 4 of the Cubs-Giants series vie for that title. And now we have what might go down as “The Clayton Kershaw Game” if it weren’t for the fact that that one-hour-and-six-minute 7th inning was one of the most bizarre/unique innings in the history of baseball. I could listen to people dissect every decision by managers, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts, in that inning, forever. And luckily for me, baseball nerds are going to be talking about this one for a long time.

 

Prior to that 7th inning, the game already had its fair share of pivotal moments. The Nationals went up 1-0 in the 2nd, but also stranded runners on first and third. They also had runners on second and third in the 3rd inning, when Roberts brought in Joe Blanton (his set-up guy!) to replace Rich Hill. Blanton got Anthony Rendon to fly out and the Nats squandered another scoring opportunity. In the 4th, Max Scherzer still hadn’t allowed a hit. And he’d end up striking out the side, but it was his 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner in the inning that would be consequential deeper into the game. Yeah. A two-out walk in the top of the 4th, where the runner was stranded. It mattered. And that was all before third base coach, Bob Henley, waved Jayson Werth home in the 6th.

 

 That 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner would come back to haunt Max.

 

That was quite possibly the worst ‘send’ I have ever seen in my life. I know you’re supposed to be aggressive with two outs. I know the bottom of the order was coming up. And I know the Nats had already stranded two guys at third. But even the Dodgers seemed to be going, “What are you thinking???” when the ball was relayed home. I’ve re-watched that play ten times now. And my eyes tell me that Werth had already rounded third when Corey Seager got the relay throw. But in my head, I’ll always remember it comically, like the slowest, most awkward runner on earth was midway between second and third and just kept a-scootin’ on home. Maybe Henley lost the ball in the corner. Maybe Andrew Toles just played it perfectly. Maybe Julio Urias’ pickoff of Bryce Harper in the previous inning cost Werth valuable lead distance from first. Maybe it was just a perfect storm of suck. The juke attempt at the end and defeated facial expression from Werth did not help. The only thing that could have made that worse is if they only lost by one run or something.

 

The very next pitch of the game, in the top of the 7th, was bashed over the wall by Joc Pederson, tying the score at 1. Nobody thinks it was a bad pitch. There was no sign of fatigue or a loss in velocity in Scherzer. It was just a great piece of hitting by Pederson. And Baker still yanked Scherzer after 99 pitches. It might be the first time in history people were complaining for Baker NOT leaving someone in. But why even bring Scherzer out for the 7th if you were just gonna yank him after one ‘mistake’? And now how consequential does that 13-pitch walk to Turner look? Because if he’s at 80-something pitches, he probably gets left in the game. He’d only given up 1 run on 5 hits to that point. This is a guy who will probably win the Cy Young this year. He’s getting paid $15 million. Isn’t this exactly what you’re paying him to be? Instead, the Nats opted to send in the clowns.

 

Ah, the 7th. The Dodgers scored four runs off six pitchers in one inning. Scherzer, Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez. Roberts countered with three pinch hitters and a pinch runner. Harold Reynolds said his scorecard looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. You gotta love National League baseball. The chess match continued in the bottom of the 7th, when Baker called on Chris Heisey to pinch-hit off of Grant Dayton. And Heisey launched a two-run bomb to left, making it 4-3. With one man on and the top of the Nationals’ order coming up, Roberts called for his closer, Kenley Jansen, to make a 9-out save. And Jansen loaded the bases, before striking out Rendon to stave off any further damage. As if that inning couldn’t have gotten any crazier, it was also about the time in the game that Clayton Kershaw got an idea.

 

Before the game started, a reporter asked Roberts if Kershaw would be available to come out of the pen. “Absolutely not,” was the curt response. That reporter was a fucking idiot. Kershaw had thrown 110 pitches two days prior. And THAT was only on three days rest. It would be crazy to ask Kershaw to even consider pitching. But what if it’s his idea? When Jansen came on in the 7th, Kershaw started doing the math in his head and realized that Jansen was going to run out of gas before he got that 9th out. And after the 8th inning, the TV broadcast cut to images Kershaw making his way to the bullpen. It was all the announcers could do to stop from shouting, “No fucking way!” My phone started blowing up with texts.

 

 The Legend of Kershaw grows.

 

Jansen struck out Turner to start the bottom of the 9th. Then he walked Harper. At this point, Jansen was past his career high in pitches and looked like Ali at the end of the fight in Manila. But he stayed in to face Werth. That could have something to do with Werth’s .313/.389/.500 slash line against Kershaw. But Jansen walked Werth as well. And then Daniel Murphy was up next. That’s when Roberts called for Kershaw.

 

I mean, holy shit.

 

Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. But he had a reputation for choking in October. Murphy plucked himself from obscurity last October and then proved it wasn’t a fluke over the course of the 2016 regular season, with one of the best hitting performances in the National League. He hit .438 in this series, for Chrissakes. Plus, Kershaw and Murphy have a history. It was Murphy’s home run in Game 1 of the NLDS last year that started his legend and simultaneously contributed to another Kershaw postseason loss. Then Murphy homered off Kershaw again in Game 4 of that series, exactly a year removed from when he’d be called to the mound with two on, one out and the season on the line.

 

Murphy popped out to second.

 

The next batter was Wilmer Difo, a Dominican pinch hitter whose name, when typed, looks way too much like Willem Dafoe. And Kershaw would strike him out to end the game. The Nationals have still never advanced past the NLDS. According to Sarah Langs, Kershaw’s last professional save was in the Gulf Coast League in 2006. His catcher was current Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen. The team he was facing was the GCL Nationals. And that team’s manager was current Nats third base coach, Bob Henley.

 

 Live it up boys.

 

Add this game to the postseason legend of Dave Roberts. This guy isn’t going to just be defined by one stolen base in 2004. And mark this game as Exhibit A in the postseason narrative shift for Kershaw, who pitched in every game the Dodgers won in the series. Remember, Randy Johnson lost seven playoff games in a row with the Mariners, Astros and Diamondbacks between 1995 and 2001 before his dominance in the 2001 NLCS and World Series made him synonymous with postseason excellence. I feel like Kershaw could do the same. I’m a Cubs fan and I don’t want him to do that. But its not like it’s up to me. Congrats Dodgers. I’ll see you at Games 3, 4 and 5.

 

Friday, October 14th. ALCS Game 1. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-0. They lead the series 1-0.

“If this is what October is like, I want to do this every year.” That’s what Francisco Lindor said after Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. In Game 1 of the ALCS, Lindor’s two run homer off of Marco Estrada was all the Indians needed after Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen silenced a Blue Jays offense that scored 22 runs in three games against Texas. Kluber is now at 13 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. Miller struck out five of the six batters he faced. Allen had a 1-2-3 9th.

 

Game 1 was probably a must-win for the Indians, since Kluber is really their only reliable starter. Especially now that Trevor Bauer has sliced his pinkie finger repairing a drone. You read that correctly. Dude is 25 and makes $2 million a year. He fixes drones, apparently. The positive for Cleveland is that this is their 4th win in a row. And current  projections still favor them over Toronto (FanGraphs gives the Dodgers a slight edge over the Cubs in the NLCS). And even the East-loving pundits, who still aren’t really sure what to make of Terry Francona’s bullpen usage are saying things like, “This is a team that swept a very good Boston Red Sox lineup.” Still mostly just a Red Sox compliment, but baby steps.

 

Saturday, October 15th. ALCS Game 2. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-1. They lead the series 2-0.

I’m sensing a pattern here. Indians pitcher keeps a formerly-unstoppable offense silent. Indians’ offense scores a couple of runs. Andrew Miller comes in strikes everybody out for two innings. Cody Allen slams the door. It was the exact same game as Game 1. Why would you change anything?

 

 ANDREW. MILLER.

 

For two games in a row, I thought the Toronto bats looked poised to explode. I was wrong both times. But we’re heading to Toronto, where things could change. If not, Francisco Lindor (who wasn’t even alive when Joe Carter hit that walk-off in 1993) is about to be really famous. And Andrew Miller (plus Buck Showalter) could change the entire way bullpens are designed going forward.

 

Saturday, October 15th. NLCS Game 1. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4. They lead the series 1-0.   

Holy shit, that was beautiful. An 8th-inning gamble by Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, backfired so epically and in such a shockingly unexpected fashion, that I doubt, years from now, many people remember all of the other Cubs awesomeness that happened in this game, prior to that 8th.

 

I doubt they remember Ben Zobrist throwing Adrian Gonzalez out at the plate in the top of the 2nd. I doubt they remember Javier Baez’ heads-up bloop double that put the Cubs up 2-0 in the bottom of the inning. They might not even remember Baez stealing home after he got caught off third base on a safety squeeze. And Dexter Fowler, who had a better game than anyone, made two diving catches, one of which was fucking spectacular. If you mention it at a bar years from now, you might mention that he broke his belt on the play, just to jog a memory or two. Even Joe Buck, who I’d spent years dogging, had a superb night in the announce booth. When Pedro Baez’ molasses pace was sucking the life out of the entire game in the 5th or 6th, he blurted out, “This Pedro Baez is really tough to watch.” But all of that is dust in the wind.

 

The only thing people will probably be talking about years from now (and they will be talking about it), was that 8th inning. Adrian Gonzalez’ two-out, bases-loaded single off Aroldis Chapman tied the game at 3 in the top of the inning. And then the Cubs came to the plate needing the same type of late-inning heroics that won them the Division Series in San Francisco. Joe Blanton was on the hill for Los Angeles. Oh man.

 

Zobrist led off with a double. Then the ice-cold Addison Russell grounded out and couldn’t advance Zobrist to third. Why Joe Maddon didn’t have Russell bunt there is pretty confusing, but I’m already over it. Then the Dodgers intentionally walked Jason Heyward to get to Javy Baez. At the time, everyone I was watching with said, “Uh… thank you.” But Baez flew out. Two down. This is when Roberts started doing his chess match shit that won him the NLDS in D.C. And Blanton intentionally walked Chris Coughlan, since Chapman was next in the batting order. Joe Maddon’s hand was forced. He sent Miguel Montero (a lefty) to the plate to face Blanton (a righty). In theory, Roberts was going to pull Blanton and bring in Grant Dayton (lefty) and then Maddon would burn Montero and counter with the hot-hitting Wilson Contreras (righty). But Blanton stayed in and went up on Montero 0-2. Oh man. Lemme quote Joe Buck one more time.

 

“Here comes the 0-2. Line drive into right, back at the wall, it is GONE!!! GRAND SLAM, MONTERO! Game 1 HERO!”

 

And here’s Pat Hughes on 670 The Score.

 

“Blanton ahead of Montero nothing and two. The windup and the pitch… Montero drives one in the air! Deep right field! It’s got a chaaaaaaaaaance! GRAND SLAM!!! GRAND SLAM, MIGUEL MONTERO!!! CUBS LEAD 7-3!” Then Ron Coomer added, “WRIGLEY FIELD IS SHAKING RIGHT NOW AFTER THE BLAST THAT MONTERO – UNBELIEVABLE!”

 

 

I completely lost it. A hugging, jumping, screaming fit in the middle of my living room that went on for so long that I barely noticed that Fowler hit a solo shot, back-to-back on the very next pitch. I honestly don’t even care how the game ended. I think Anthony Rizzo made a sick defensive play to double off Andrew Toles. Whatever. Nobody will remember. It was another dramatic victory for the Cubs. And their first in the NLCS since 2003. I promptly found a photo of Montero’s shot (the one where Fowler is tossing his bat into the air in the on deck circle) and made it my background photo on Facebook. One win down. And now we face Kershaw.

 

Sunday, October 16th. NLCS Game 2. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 1-0. The series is tied 1-1.

I think we can officially put the whole ‘Clayton Kershaw sucks in October’ narrative to bed. He was dominant through seven innings of a virtual must-win game, limiting the Cubs to two hits in a shutout. And Kenley Jansen struck out four in two perfect innings of relief. Kyle Hendricks made one mistake to Adrian Gonzalez in the 2nd. And that’s the ballgame. I was stuck complaining about Eric Cooper’s bullshit strike zone and occasionally popping out of my seat, like when Anthony Rizzo cranked that massive foul ball or when Javy Baez made a great play at second to force out Josh Reddick and then catch Gonzalez in a run-down. Or when I was convinced Baez hit a two-run bomb in the 7th. According to Statcast, 67% of balls like the one he hit have been home runs at Wrigley this year. Even Kershaw thought it was gone. And Dave Roberts’ annoyingly maniacal laughter after the fact leads me to believe he did too.

 

Kershaw is the greatest pitcher on Planet Earth. But (other than Baez and Kris Bryant) the Cubs just aren’t hitting in the postseason. Like, at fucking all. Ben Zobrist is hitting .182. Dexter Fowler is .167. Jason Heyward is .111. Addison Russell is .045. And Anthony Rizzo – their three hitter – is batting .043. They’ve gotten contributions from the pitchers at the plate. And they went off on Jeff Samardzija for two innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and then the Giants’ garbage bullpen in Game 4. Those bats need to wake up. And hopefully they do. Because I want to be sitting in a silent Dodger Stadium when the Cubs doggypile after Game 5.

 

I still think it might happen. In the last four games, Kershaw and Jansen have pitched more innings than everyone else on the team, combined. They’re 3-1 in those games, which were all one-run wins. But Rich Hill has a 6.43 postseason ERA. He also has blister problems. Kenta Maeda’s postseason ERA is 9.00. It’s like they either get shelled or Kershaw/Jansen save the day. This team just doesn’t have a rotation. If the Cubs can find their bats at all in Los Angeles, we should be moving on. I think.

 

Monday, October 17th. ALCS Game 3. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 4-2. The Indians lead 3-0.

Trevor Bauer’s finger is fucking disgusting. But so is the Cleveland bullpen. I think everybody thought the story of this game was gonna be Jose Bautista’s comments about the mysterious “circumstances” that inhibited the Jays in the first two games of the series (read: strike zone). Especially when his game started with Mike Napoli’s fly ball bouncing out of his glove for an RBI double. And then he led off the bottom of the first taking a called strike three. But it wasn’t too long after that Bauer started gushing.

 

I love that Bauer almost looked like he was trying to hide his pinky from the umpire. It’s still making me laugh picturing some old timer like Joe Niekro pretending it’s not his blood and then using his own wound like a sneaky emery board. But Bauer was out after only facing four batters and Terry Francona would have to rely on his bullpen for the remainder of the game. And I had to assume the Blue Jays would finally decide to hit and the Indians would be drone-fucked.

 

Michael Saunders tied the game in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo shot off Dan Otero. But it was answered in the 4th when Napoli hit a solo shot of his own. Ezekiel Carrera tripled in the 5th and was singled in by Josh Donaldson, tying the game again. But the Indians answered in the 6th with a homer by Jason Kipnis and some great base running by Napoli after he was walked. All the Indians had to do was get to Bryan Shaw, put in Cody Allen in the 7th and let Andrew Miller get the final four outs. Francona looks like a genius. But then again, any manager who has a guy with the ability to strike out 20 batters in 9 innings of postseason work is gonna end up looking pretty good.

 

Corey Kluber is being called on for Game 4 on three days rest. If they win (53% according to FiveThirtyEight), it’s the Indians’ first pennant since 1997. It’s also their 10th win in a row. And everyone will rightfully heap praise upon Miller and the rest of the Indians’ staff. But the longer this team goes into October, the more evident it will be that they’re severely shorthanded. They’ve only started Bauer, Kluber and Josh Tomlin in their 6 postseason games. Now Bauer is drone-fucked. And they’d have to use Ryan Merritt for a potential Game 5. I don’t really know who he is either. The Red Sox and Blue Jays vanished in the first six games (seriously, the Blue Jays have scored three runs and have never had a lead), but I gotta think Cleveland is vulnerable for whoever they face (Cubs???) in the World Series.

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Blue Jays beat the Indians 5-1. The Indians lead the series 3-1.

Well, the Blue Jays finally found their bats. And it started with Josh Donaldson, who also flashed a little leather at third to save a run. I don’t know how much to read in to the fact that Corey Kluber has never pitched on three days rest before. But with Ryan Merritt going in Game 5 for Cleveland and possibly no one (or probz Kluber again) available for them if it goes all the way to Game 7, this thing could have just gotten interesting.

 

 Hey Blue Jays, you got one!

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 6-0. The Dodgers lead 2-1.

What a shitty time to go to my first Cubs postseason game. And good thing I also have tickets for Games 4 and 5. Ugh. I know Rich Hill pitched well this season. I know he pitched well enough in the game. I know Clayton Kershaw was good the game before. But that’s 18 innings in a row for the Cubs without a run. That’s not something that usually happens. The analysis prior to the game, at least by Jess Mendoza of ESPN, was that if the Cubs were going to bust out their slumps in the series, Hill wasn’t gonna be the guy they did it against. She also said the Cubs were gonna play better with their backs against the wall, and unfortunately, I’m probably gonna have to see if she’s right on that front too. I’ve watched the Cubs lose big games before, but never surrounded by so many people so happy about my misery. Fuckin’ Dodgers fans. Being down 2-1 would feel a lot less insurmountable if anyone on this goddamn team felt like hitting. 103 wins just to all collectively slump in October? So grumpy.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 3-0. They win the series 4-1. 

Prior to Game 5, Jose Bautista, who is not everyone’s favorite player, said that Indians’ starter, Ryan Merritt, would be “shaking in his boots” thinking about facing the Blue Jays’ hitters. Merritt is 24-years-old. He was a 16th-round pick out of a community college in Waco. He has an 83-mile-per-hour fastball. Prior to the game, he had one career start and 11 career innings pitched. Keep in mind that, if not for a freak drone accident, he probably wouldn’t be getting his second career start in a potential pennant-clincher. The kid’s from Texas, so he might own boots. But he was certainly not shaking in a goddamn thing.

 

 Believeland again?

 

Merrit pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He retired the first 10 batters of the game. By that point the Indians were up 3-0 off of a double from Mike Napoli and homers from Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp. And then that bullpen came in. Series over. Andrew Miller got MVP honors. The Indians had a little bit of fun with the whole boots comment in the clubhouse and on social media during their celebration. Jason Kipnis told reporters, “That’s why you don’t say dumb shit.” Now is as good a time as any to mention it was also Bautista’s 36th birthday. He batted .167 in what will probably be his last series with Toronto. You’re going to be hearing a lot about 1948, 1997 and the Cleveland Caviliers in the next week. I’ll be worried about what happens if the Indians have a lead on the Cubs after the 5th inning in any of the World Series games. But that thought will have to be tabled for the time being.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 10-2. The series is tied 2-2.

Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo were a combined 3-for-50 in the postseason heading in to Game 4. Regression to the mean is a motherfucker. They each went 3-for-5 with home runs and the Cubs’ bats finally came alive after 21 scoreless innings. Maybe everything was a bit overblown since this is the Cubs we’re talking about. The ’98 Yankees were down 2-1 in the ALCS, for crying out loud. It happens all the time. Cubs fans may even remember the ’84 Padres being down 2-1. Or the 2003 Marlins. This is a fairly normal thing. But the Cubs hadn’t been in this sort of trouble all season long. Yeah, Dodger fans will cry about Adrian Gonzalez being thrown out at home in the 2nd (his hand looked like it was hovering to me). But the Dodgers gave up 10 runs and committed 4 errors. And if it wasn’t for Justin Turner’s grounder taking a bad hop off of Mike Montgomery’s glove in the 5th, the score would have been 10-0. I’d rather be Anthony Rizzo apologizing to Angel Hernandez for trotting to first on a called strike (and homering on the next pitch) than Adrian Gonzalez doing his best Jose Bautista whine impression in the clubhouse after the game. I just hope these bats can stay hot against Kenta Maeda in Game 5 before this series heads back to Wrigley Field.

 

 

Alright. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on the podcast things. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 6. Ohmygod.

 

 


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 XXVI: Rich Hill’s Spoiled Perfection and Kyle Hendricks’ Greg Maddux Impression)

Written by :
Published on : September 16, 2016

 

 

In a week that included the return of Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ pitching performance that everybody wants to keep talking about was actually the following night, when Rich Hill went 7 perfect innings against the Marlins, before being yanked by manager, Dave Roberts. I don’t understand the problem. Granted, there’s only been 23 official perfect games in the history of baseball. And that includes Lee Richmond’s perfecto in 1880 that featured three outs made on ‘foul bounds’ catches. Because apparently, you could catch balls in foul territory on one hop for an out until 1883 for whatever reason. My point is, a perfect game is a real rarity. But if you’re a Dodgers fan, you should absolutely agree with Roberts’ call.

 

First of all, the Dodgers are still in a pennant race. And they need Hill ready to go, not only down the stretch, but also into the postseason. Second, Hill didn’t pitch for over a month this summer because of blister problems. And those blisters haven’t healed 100%. Third, between Hill and Kershaw and the record-tying 25 other players the Dodgers have had on the DL this year, it seems like far too great of a risk to sacrifice a playoff rotation slot just so the fans get to care about something neat for 24 hours. Also, the fact that the Dodgers are somehow in first place with all of that happening is more of a case for Roberts to be the NL Manager of the Year than for any complaining on the part of the shitty fans.

 

Fourth of all (is that a thing?), Hill had six outs to go. That’s still not easy. 13 would-be perfect games have been broken up with two outs in the 9th inning. And 13 no-hitters have been broken up this season, alone, after the 7th.  One was broken up by Corey Seager with two outs in the 9th less than three weeks ago. Not that Dodger fans remember, since they think games end in the 7th inning, anyway.

 

 

Rich Hill and the unwashed masses of dumb baseball fans out there can be pissed all they want. Hill has gone 19 innings in LA without giving up a run. Yasiel Puig still made that circus catch in left. And Hill doesn’t have to walk around with a bloody shirt and missing fingertips, like he’s the killer from Se7en.

 

Speaking of near-no-hitters, Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs took one into the 9th inning at Busch Stadium on Monday. And man, I wanted that one. Stupid Jeremy Hazelbaker with his James-Hetfield-on-meth face and his eight seasons in the minors. But nonetheless, the performance catapulted Hendricks from a semi-anonymous ERA leader into the heart of the National League Cy Young conversation. Before the season started, I remember seeing that Hendricks finished 2015 in the top 15 in the league in WAR and FIP and thinking, “He might be the most underrated pitcher in the Majors.” What I didn’t expect to say was, “By September, he’ll be getting compared to Greg Maddux on the regular.”

 

For the record, I don’t think Kyle Hendricks should be the Cy Young winner. If we exclude Kershaw for the time being, right now, my top 5 looks like this…

 

ERA    FIP    WAR
1. Noah Syndergaard         Mets           2.43    2.25    6.2
2. Jose Fernandez             Marlins        2.99    2.39    5.7
3. Max Scherzer                 Nationals    2.78    3.13    5.3
4. Madison Bumgarner     Giants          2.66    3.19    4.6
5. Johnny Cueto                Giants          2.90    3.11    4.5

 

However, 6-8 would look like this…

 

6. Kyle Hendricks             Cubs                2.03    3.37    3.7
7. Jon Lester                    Cubs                2.40    3.45    3.9
8. Jake Arrieta                  Cubs                2.91    3.48    3.5

 

So the main debate Cubs fans should be having right now is who starts Game 1 of the NLDS.

 

Let’s go around the league.

 

The AL East

Eliminated This Week: The Rays.

 

The Blue Jays got cold at the exact wrong time. They’re 3-9 in September. They look tired. Josh Donaldson is hurt. And manager, John Gibbons, said they’d hit rock bottom. As of now, they still have a slim lead over the Tigers, Mariners, Yankees and Astros for that second Wild Card. So I’m guessing real rock bottom happens when only one of the AL East teams makes it to the postseason. Sure, the Jays (63.1%) and Orioles (66.1%) still have better projections than the other contenders, but here’s a little update on the remaining AL East Clusterfuck Death Match.

 

Red Sox vs. Blue Jays. 3 Games.
Red Sox vs. Orioles. 4 Games.
Red Sox vs. Yankees. 7 Games.
Blue Jays vs. Yankees. 4 Games.
Blue Jays vs. Orioles. 3 Games.
Orioles vs. Yankees. 3 Games.

 

The Red Sox (91.1%) may look like the favorites right now. But this is just a friendly reminder that 10 of their 17 remaining games are on the road. And seven games (Se7en!) against the red-hot Baby Bombers (9.4%) looks spoiler-tastic, if you ask me.

 

The AL Central

Since the Indians look like a lock in the division (Magic Number: 12), maybe we should talk about how Danny Salazar might be done for the season. Nah, let’s argue about who should win the AL Rookie of the Year. Here are the top 5 in WAR.

 

Michael Fulmer               Tigers         2.6
Gary Sanchez                 Yankees      2.4
Christopher Devenski     Astros         2.4
Tyler Naquin                    Indians       2.0
Tim Anderson                 White Sox   1.7

 

 

Fulmer doesn’t quite qualify for the ERA title just yet, but he does lead all AL pitchers with 20 or more starts. So he’s still the guy. That being said, what Gary Sanchez has done in 37 games is amazing. People keep bringing up how, in 1959, Willie McCovey won the NL Rookie of the Year after only playing 52 games. Well, he probably shouldn’t have.

 

Vada Pinson              Redlegs       5.3
Jim Owens                Phillies         4.5
Willie McCovey         Giants          3.1
Joe Koppe                Phillies         2.5
Ernie Broglio             Cardinals     2.3

 

Hey, this Broglio looks like he’s gonna be great! The Cubs should totally trade him for Lou Brock in five years! Anyway, it’s Fulmer unless Sanchez keeps becoming Pudge Rodriguez times Manny Ramirez over the final 17 games of the season. Which he might.

 

The AL West

Eliminated This Week: The Athletics, the Angels.
Should the Rangers worry about their pitching? Right now, they’re 21st in the Majors (4.41) in ERA. That’s worse than the Orioles (4.38), who have an excellent bullpen, but always get criticized for their starters. No other contender has an ERA that high. It’s also hard for me to understand why a team with a +19 run differential has the best record in the American League. If you took away their 15-3 record against the Astros this year, the Astros would actually have a slightly better winning percentage. Too bad for the Astros that those games actually did happen. I’m this close to declaring them dead.

 

 

The hottest team in the Majors happens to be the Seattle Mariners. And they also happen to have what is being declared a soft schedule going forward. 6 against the Stros, 3 against the cold-ass Blue Jays, 3 against the awful Twins and 4 against the almost-as-awful A’s. And most of those are at home. So maybe Kyle isn’t the only Seager who will get MVP votes this year. And maybe they’ll cool off as soon as I post this, just like every other sleeper team has the past few weeks and we’ll go right back to the Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays coming out of the East.

 

The NL East

Eliminated This Week: The Phillies, the Braves (Wild Card).
Not even Stephen Strasburg knows if he’s gonna pitch again this season. And while that might put extra pressure on all the other Nats starters, the team has stayed hot and will probably win the division by the next time we talk. That is, of course, unless the Mets stay hot. And with a schedule like theirs going forward, they probably will. Their upcoming opponents have a combined winning percentage of .424 and a run differential of -449.

 

Maybe now is a good time to mention that Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz will probably be back soon. And with the best chance (75.1%) to win a Wild Card slot and Thor going in that game against the Giants (70.9%) or Cardinals (52.1%), Mets fans are eager to point out that their team is 5-2 against the Cubs this year. Keep looking past everybody, Mets. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year. You all saw how well that went. Also, yes I’m worried. And I’ll explain why in one second.

 

The NL Central

Eliminated This Week: The Pirates.

 

While the Cubs will have to clinch the division at Wrigley Field (oh, how I wanted them doggy-piling at Busch Stadium), they currently have 93 wins, which makes it the first back-to-back 90-win seasons they’ve had since the 1928-1930 Cubs did it in three straight. Their defense is far and away the best in the Majors. Kris Bryant is still the NL MVP. I already talked about their pitching. My only major cause for concern is that they haven’t actually played that well against the remaining contenders.

 

Nationals    5-2
Mets           2-5
Cardinals    8-8
Dodgers     4-3
Giants        4-4

 

The postseason is obviously a crapshoot and I already mentioned the 7-0 record against the Mets last season, but the overall 23-22 record against contenders with a 70-30 record against the bad teams in the haves-and-have-nots league is going to give me tidal waves of anxiety for the next month or so. It’s a problem I’m not used to having. But I guess I’d probably prefer this over eking out another Wild Card slot and having to pitch Arrieta 9 innings against Pittsburgh. Actually, the Pirates hate being in that Wild Card Game so much that they opted out of being good this year just to avoid it.

 

 

The Cardinals are the only team above .500 with a losing record at home. And that’s why they’re probably glad they’re playing this four-game series with the Giants in San Francisco. And in case you were wondering, yes, the Giants still have the worst record in baseball since the All-Star break. Maybe after the series we’ll have a better idea if it’ll be Thor vs. Carlos Martinez or Thor vs. MadBum on October 5th. I’d call Martinez “Tsunami” if I felt like anyone knew that was his nickname. And if it’s Adam Wainwright, I’m gonna have to give him a nickname. Loki?

 

The NL West
Eliminated this Week: The Diamondbacks, the Padres.
Kershaw keeps shaking off the rust. And he didn’t pull a Strasburg, so those are all positive signs for L.A. The only major concern for the Dodgers is how they hit lefties. Or is it? That’s the thing that everybody keeps harping on, but if you look at their potential NL opponents in the postseason, who are we talking about? Gio Gonzalez? The Cubs have Jon Lester, but I kinda doubt they’d start Mike Montgomery in October. And if we look at the Wild Cards, it’s Jaime Garcia, Bumgarner (who they hit) and Matt Moore (who they don’t). It looks to me like they’re gonna be fine.

 

We’re coming down to the wire. If you need more baseball, catch me on “Comedians Talking Sports” with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ magic number is 1.

 

 


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 IV: Whose Number Should Every NL Team Retire Next?)

Written by :
Published on : March 22, 2016

 

During the upcoming 2016 season, Ken Griffey Jr., Pete Rose, Mike Piazza and Wade Boggs will have their numbers retired by the Mariners, Reds, Mets and Red Sox, respectively. And that got me thinking about which players should be next in line for those honors. So sit back, relax and enjoy while I go through all 30 teams and tell you who’s the most deserving. First, let’s do the National League.

 

Braves

 Time to retire #25

 

Retired Numbers: Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones.
The easy answer would be Andruw Jones. But once upon a time the Atlanta Braves used to be known as the Boston Beaneaters and their star pitcher was Kid Nichols, who was the youngest pitcher ever to win 300 games. Granted, I’m sure there’s not a lot of love out there for a guy who retired 110 years ago. But Warren Spahn never pitched in Atlanta either. And Eddie Mathews only played one season there. I could go on, but I feel you judging me. Fine. Have it your way. It’s Andruw Jones.

 

Brewers

Guess it’s gota be him

 

Retired Numbers: Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Bud Selig.
You leave me no choice, Brewers. It’s Ryan Braun. I don’t want it to be, but I can’t say it’s Ben Sheets or Cecil Cooper or Teddy Higuera. So either I close my eyes and pretend I don’t know about the PED issues or how the guy seems like a grade A asshole… or I can just wait until somebody like Orlando Arcia gets called up and becomes the shit. So I guess we wait.

 

Cardinals

 He is a machine.

 

Retired Numbers: Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, August Busch Jr., Ken Boyer, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Whitey Herzog, Tony La Russa, Rogers Hornsby.
It’s Albert Pujols. Did you think it wouldn’t be Albert Pujols? It seems like the Cardinals retire everybody’s number, so I’m kinda surprised they’ve never done Ted Simmons or Jim Edmonds or Ray Lankford or Ducky fucking Medwick. And maybe they’re coming. But Pujols was a monster in St. Louis and they gotta hang up #5. Until then, the other obvious answer is Cool Papa Bell of the St. Louis Stars. Everyone who has a statue outside Busch Stadium also has their number retired inside the stadium except George Sisler (who played for the St. Louis Browns, who are now the Baltimore Orioles) and Cool Papa. Let him in, guys.

 

Cubs

 Make it Dawson

 

Retired Numbers: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Fergie Jenkins.
Cap Anson was a racist piece of garbage and basically the entire reason for baseball’s color line that lasted until Jackie Robinson. So it can’t be him. Ever. And I’m not sure Cubs fans would take kindly to “Sammy Sosa Appreciation Day” yet either. And the Cubs have no real sense of history from 1909 until 1969. So you’d get a lot of confused shrugs for Stan Hack or Gabby Hartnett. And anything involving ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance’ or Three Finger Brown reminds everyone of the Year That Shall Not Be Named. So your best bet here is honestly Andre Dawson or Mark Grace. The Nationals un-retired Dawson’s Expos number when the franchise moved to Washington. And I’m sure the Cubs would love to retire anything ’08 related, if you know what I mean. For Grace, just Google ‘Mark Grace slumpbuster’ to know why he’s a legendary figure on the broey North Side of Chicago. By the way, what if the only way the Curse of the Billy Goat can be broken is if Mark Grace finds Steve Bartman and/or some relative of Billy Sianis and has to sex with the fattest woman they know? Just putting that out there as the potential plot of Field of Dreams 2.

 

Diamondbacks

 Why do you hate Curt Schilling?

 

Retired Numbers: Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson.
So everybody must really hate Curt Schilling, huh? They could try to say that Gonzalez is their best position player in their short history and the Big Unit is their best pitcher. But c’mon. 2001. So unless you can sell me on Brandon Webb or waiting for Paul Goldschmidt, I just assume everyone there hates Schilling. Dude was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Why do you hate Curt Schilling???

 

Dodgers

How is #34 not retired yet?

 

Retired Numbers: Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Walter Alston, Jim Gilliam, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale, Tommy Lasorda, Don Sutton.
The Dodgers have never officially retired Fernando Valenzuela’s number, although his #34 has been out of circulation since his retirement. I think it’s about time. I mean, have you ever been to Dodger Stadium? I’d say about 1/3 of the people there are rocking El Toro’s jersey. And way more people would care about that than if it were say, Zack Wheat or Dazzy Vance, even though they were better players. Oh, and also there’s the whole history of Chavez Ravine and the Dodgers fucking owing him. And I don’t even need to talk about Clayton Kershaw or the rest of the 1988 team. You give that to Fernando.

 

Giants

 Will they ever forgive Barry?

 

Retired Numbers: Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Bill Terry, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Monte Irvin, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw.
Call me crazy, but I have this weird suspicion that it’s not going to be Barry Bonds any time soon. Even though he’s the best player in Major League history to not have his number retired by anybody. And I also don’t think there’d be much support for old timers like Roger Connor or George Davis. Or Travis Jackson and Ross Youngs, even though they’re both in the Hall of Fame and played their entire career with the Giants. So either the collective members of the even-year’d Giants teams of this decade retire (and that means Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner) or we forgive and embrace Barry. You know, whichever comes first.

 

Marlins

 Maybe Stanton, I guess?

 

Retired Numbers: Nobody.
Wow. I guess I agree with the Marlins, since the best player in their franchise history is probably Hanley Ramirez. And Andre Dawson and Mike Piazza are the only Hall of Famers to ever play there. You know, famous Marlin, Mike Piazza. So unless they go with Livan Hernandez from the 1997 team or Josh Beckett from the 2003 team, I guess they could honor Ichiro, should he get his 3000th hit with Miami. Or they could just wait for Giancarlo Stanton to keep being awesome when he’s not hurt. But this is a weird situation for them. This team has two World Series trophies and absolutely zero history.

 

Mets

 Do it for the Straw!

 

Retired Numbers: Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza.
Unofficially, the Mets have also retired the numbers of Gary Carter and Willie Mays. And I’m assuming they’ll eventually make those official. And they’ll probably eventually honor David Wright at some point as well. But you have no idea how bad I wish they’d do something for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. I know, I know. But it’s not even that big of a stretch. Who’s better than those two guys in the history of the Mets that I haven’t already named? Jose Reyes? Please. The ’86 Mets have a special evil place in my heart and in their noses. I think they deserve to be honored.

 

Nationals

 But when will Bryce’s hair get its number retired?

 

Retired Numbers: Nobody.
When the Expos moved to D.C. in 2005, they un-retired the numbers for Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Rusty Staub. So we know we can’t hold out for them or for guys like Steve Rogers, Tim Wallach or Vladimir Guerrero to get honored. But starting in 2005 also means the best player in their franchise history is Ryan Zimmerman. I mean, it will be Bryce Harper. But the Nationals need to take their own lead from outside their stadium (where they have statues of former Senators greats, Walter Johnson and Frank Howard, as well as Homestead Grays great, Josh Gibson) and hook it up inside. Start there. We can talk about Sam Rice and Goose Goslin and Buck Leonard later.

 

Padres

 It’s got to be Peavy

 

Retired Numbers: Steve Garvey, Randy Jones, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman.
How happy am I that the Padres are using brown uniforms this year? Anyway, this is hard. Kevin Brown was silly in ’98, the last year they went to the World Series. But that was his only year on the team. So it has to be Jake Peavy. I mean, I don’t want it to be Jake Peavy. But I won’t condone any celebration of Andy Benes.

 

Phillies

 It should be Chase Utley

 

Retired Numbers: Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Jim Bunning, Pete Alexander, Chuck Klein.
They can’t slap an old timers thing next to Pete Alexander and Chuck Klein for Ed Delahanty or Sherry Magee? Fine. Then they’re going to have to do something for Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. If not also Ryan Howard and Chalie Manuel. See, children. There was a time not so long ago when the Philadelphia Phillies didn’t absolutely suck.

 

Pirates

 Give Arky his due!

 

Retired Numbers: Honus Wagner, Billy Meyer, Pie Traynor, Roberto Clemente, Danny Murtaugh, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Ralph Kiner, Paul Waner.
Is there any good reason why the Pirates never retired Arky Vaughan’s number? Or Bob Friend’s? Or Max Carey’s? Or Babe Adams’? Or Fred Clarke’s? You know, other than Carey and Adams hating Clarke, and Clarke being bona fide clubhouse poison during the 1926 season. I looked that up. Anyway, the Pirates need to do a better job with honoring their long history. Because the next best pick is Skinny Barry Bonds until Andrew McCutchen stacks more on to his career numbers. Is the world ready to honor Skinny Barry Bonds?

 

Reds

 Bid McPhee!

 

Retired Numbers: Fred Hutchinson, Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Ted Kluszewski, Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson, Dave Concepcion, Barry Larkin, Pete Rose.
Bid McPhee! Come on! The guy is in the Hall of Fame after playing his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds. They even ripped off his handle bar mustache for their stupid logo. But somehow, they can’t honor the guy by name inside the ballpark. YOUR LOGO IS A BASEBALL DISGUISED AS BID McPHEE, CINCINNATI! Anyway, after Pete Rose, the only position players for the ’75-76 Big Red Machine to not have their numbers retired are the outfielders – George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey Sr. And Foster is just as good a choice as anyone else. Except Big McPhee. They’re seriously killing me the with no Bid McPhee.

 

Rockies

What exactly are they waiting for?

 

Retired Numbers: Todd Helton.
I don’t know what they’re waiting for with Larry Walker. And it’s not like Troy Tulowitzki is coming back any time soon. So unless they’re also hung up on Walker’s home/road splits, they should pull the trigger or just give it to Ubaldo Jimenez for actually having one decent season pitching in the thin air of Denver in 2010.

 

 

That’s it for the NL, stay tuned for the American League!

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


Champ and Chump of the Weekend

Written by :
Published on : September 16, 2015

 

Fans rejoiced this past weekend as the NFL kicked off its 2015 season. Add in a couple big college football tilts and the U.S. Open in New York, and it made for one jam packed weekend in sports. Week 1 in the NFL had some great story lines and some memorable moments. With that in mind, here’s my Champ and Chump of the weekend.

 

Champ: Marcus Mariota

13-16, 209 yards, 4 touchdowns, 0 turnovers. 95.7 QBR, 158.3 Passer Rating in a 42-14 victory over Tampa Bay

All he does is win.

 

In a much anticipated match up featuring the top two quarterbacks taken in the 2015 NFL draft, and the last two Heisman trophy winners, Marcus Mariota looked a lot more NFL ready than Jameis Winston, who threw a pick-six with his first throw. Many doubted Mariota coming into this season, fearing his style wouldn’t translate to the NFL, a trend that has been true with former Oregon quarterbacks in the past. Through one week, Mariota has silenced his critics for now, and the Jameis supporters have to hope that Winston’s career takes off much like the career of a former legend who also started his NFL career with a pick-six—Brett Favre.

 

Honorable Mention:

Michigan State football- Huge win over #7 Oregon avenging last year’s loss in Eugene

Novak Djokovic- Defeated Roger Federer for the US Open Championship, his 10th career major win

Zack Greinke- Pitched 8 scoreless innings vs Arizona to improve to 17-3 on the season, 1.61 ERA, 0.85 WHIP…truly remarkable season, could go down as one of the best seasons ever.

 

 

Chump: New York Giants

Rashad Jennings summing up how the Giants ended the game.

 

On a play that may be scrutinized as much as the Seattle Seahawks bonehead decision to throw the ball at the 1-yard line in last year’s Super Bowl, Eli Manning left many fans scratching their heads yesterday. The New York Giants were just about to shock the defending division champion Dallas Cowboys Sunday night when Eli Manning and company did the seemingly unthinkable. Up 23-20, the Giants had a 3rd and goal at the Cowboy’s 1-yard line with just over 90 seconds left. Out of timeouts, Dallas had no way of stopping the clock. The Giants had them on their heels, all they had to do was punch it in. Hell, they had two chances if they wanted.  Worst case scenario, they come up short on 3rd down and kick the field goal to go up 6 and leave Dallas with under a minute and no timeouts to drive for a touchdown. Another scenario, on a potential fourth down, if the Giants came up short, Dallas would have to go some 99 yards without any timeouts for a touchdown, or some 60 yards for a field goal try with like 45 seconds left. Instead, on 3rd and 1, Eli dropped back to throw, and threw the ball away avoiding the pressure, but ultimately also avoiding the 40 second runoff that may have helped win New York the game. To make matters worse, it has been reported Eli told running back Rashad Jennings to intentionally not score with the hopes of draining the clock. Well, the G-Men may not have won the game but they did win the award for chump of the week.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Adam “Pac Man” Jones- Flagged and fined for slamming Oakland Raider Amari Cooper’s head into his helmet

Florida football coach Jim McElwain- Childish tirade on the sidelines while berating a player

Detroit Lions/Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi- After leading 21-3 at San Diego, the Lions

gave up 30 unanswered points and lost 33-28. Calvin Johnson targeted just 4 times (2 catches)

 


Zack Greinke, Sabermetrics and the Greatest Season of the Past 25 Years

Written by :
Published on : August 17, 2015

 

From June 18th of this year to July 26, Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched 45 2/3 innings without giving up a run. It was good enough for the 4th-longest scoreless innings streak in Major League history. In that period, he struck out 43 batters and only walked 4. Opposing hitters only reached third base twice. It was insanity. That’s around the time I got an email from my friend Rob. The subject was ‘Greinke’ and the body of the email just said, “On pace for best season in the last 25 years?”

 

The short answer was “No.” The dick answer was, “He’s not even the best pitcher on his own team.” But the honest answer is, I’m not even really 100% sure how to evaluate that question. So I started to ask around. I have plenty of friends who profess to be sabermetric nerds and I said, “If you had a vote for the Cy Young Award, what criteria or statistics would you use to make your choice?” The answers I got were all over the place. So I finally did something I’d been putting off for years. I went down the advanced stat rabbit hole, using places like FanGraphs as my Rosetta Stone. So when analysts argue things like Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez for the Cy Young (as they did last year), the stats won’t look like total gibberish. This is what I found…

 

Felix Hernandez

 

Most of you probably already know that wins and losses are not a good judge of a pitcher’s worth. Wins just tell us how many games your team scored more runs than the other team. But what I didn’t know was that ERA (Earned Run Average) and WHIP (Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched) are probably out too. The main thing most of the stat geeks are trying to get across is that once a ball is hit, pitchers have no control over whether it lands in someone’s glove or not. That’s the defense. So not only can a pitcher win games with an amazing offense, they can also look like studs because of amazing defense. Last season, Jordan Zimmermann completed his no-hitter because of a circus catch by Steven Souza. In 1990, Andy Hawkins pitched a no-hitter for the Yankees and still lost the game 4-0 because of fielding errors.

 

One stat for that brand of luck is called BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) and hitters actually have more control over it than the pitchers and fielders. Voros McCracken best explained this stat by saying that in any given Home Run Derby, you’ll see guys hit balls that would clearly be outs in a real game. And those pitchers are TRYING to give up home runs.

 

The league average for BABIP is always .300. So you can actually look at a player’s career BABIP (Greinke’s is .301) to see if their current numbers (Greinke’s is .236, which is the lowest in the Majors) are sustainable. In this case, Greinke looks like he’s been pretty lucky this season, but I still want to evaluate players based on what they’ve actually done.

 

Zack Greinke

 

The best way to really evaluate a pitcher is to focus on things they CAN control. That means walks, strikeouts, home runs and HBP (Hit by Pitch). There are a few ways to do it, but I prefer FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) as a starting point. FIP shows what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if they had a league average BABIP. So it takes the role of defense and luck out the equation. It tells you how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how the fielders fielded. Where ERA tells you what actually happened, FIP tells you what should have happened. It’s not perfect, as it doesn’t take into account HR/FB (Home Run to Fly Ball rate) or how good the pitcher is at stranding runners. But almost everyone agrees it’s better than ERA at summing up a player’s overall contribution to run prevention. Just for fun, here are the top 10 FIPs of the past 25 years:

1999 Pedro Martienz 1.39
2014 Clayton Kershaw 1.81
2013. Matt Harvey 2.00
1995 Randy Johnson 2.08
2001 Randy Johnson 2.13
2000 Pedro Martinez 2.17
1990 Roger Clemens 2.18
2011 Roy Halladay 2.20
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.21
1998 Kevin Brown 2.23

 

Greinke’s FIP is currently at 2.63. Kershaw would just miss the list at 2.24. What’s interesting is that Harvey, Halladay and Brown didn’t win the ERA titles in those years. And only half of the list won the Cy Young in those years. Because we’ve all been living a lie.

 

Roy Halladay

 

Now, there’s also xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) that takes BABIP and HR/FB into the equation. It does even more to remove the randomness from a pitcher’s performance. But I feel like if you gave up the home runs you gave up, they should count against you no matter what. xFIP and a few other stats are better predictors of future performances than they are assessing a pitcher’s current value.

 

There are still people who think batted balls can tell us SOMETHING about a pitcher’s actual skill level. Ground balls and fly balls produce outs at the highest rates (74.8% and 77.7%, respectively). While line drives have the best chances of becoming hits (and 73.6% of them will). SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) tries to account for some of the complexity of balls in play, and it ends up being a more accurate ERA estimator than xFIP. Plus, it adjusts for differences in park sizes. Both xFIP and SIERA started getting data in 2002, so let’s look at the best FIP, xFIP and SIERA since then:

 

                FIP                 xFIP                 SIERA
2014 Clayton Kershaw 1.81 2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.08 2014 Clayton Kershaw 2.09
2013 Matt Harvey 2.00 2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.08* 2002 Curt Schilling 2.18
2011 Roy Halladay 2.20 2002 Curt Schilling 2.21 2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.21*
2003 Pedro Martinez 2.21 2002 Randy Johnson 2.44 2002 Randy Johnson 2.38
2002 Pedro Martinez 2.24 2014 Felix Hernandez 2.51 2002 Pedro Martinez 2.42
2015 Clayton Kershaw 2.24* 2011 Zack Greinke 2.56 2015 Chris Sale 2.46*
2004 Randy Johnson 2.30 2014 Stephen Strasburg 2.56 2014 Felix Hernandez 2.50
2009 Zack Greinke 2.33 2015 Chris Sale 2.56* 2014 Chris Sale 2.56
2009 Tim LIncecum 2.34 2014 Corey Kluber 2.57 2015 Max Scherzer 2.57*
2014 Corey Kluber 2.35 2015 Chris Archer 2.57* 2004 Randy Johnson 2.60

 

 

Clayton Kershaw

 

All three stats agree Kershaw’s 2014 season was the best since 2002, and this year, it’s unanimous that Kershaw is the best and Chris Sale is #2. All that being said, xFIP and SIERA are only ERA estimators. They give hypothetical home run and BABIP rates while FIP uses players’ actual home run rate in its math. I don’t want to predict the future as much as I want to show past value.

 

FanGraphs’ WAR (Wins Above Replacement) tells us how many more wins a player would have given his team over a replacement. It’s their total contribution. They use FIP in its calculation, rather than one of the estimators, and also adjusts for park size and how many innings the pitcher throws (something everyone I talked to finds highly important). The problem with WAR is that it’s not precise, since they haven’t figured out how to put SIERA’s balls in play math into the equation. There’s also RA9-WAR, which uses actual runs allowed instead of FIP. It’s just a matter of how much you want to account for defense and luck. Is it better to be lucky or good? I’d say it’s better to be good. So I’ll go with WAR. Here are the top 10 WARs for pitchers in the last 25 years:

1999 Pedro Martinez 11.6
1997 Roger Clemens 10.7
2001 Randy Johnson 10.4
1998 Kevin Brown 9.6
2000 Randy Johnson 9.6
2004 Randy Johnson 9.6
1995 Randy Johnson 9.5
1999 Randy Johnson 9.5
2000 Pedro Martinez 9.4
2002 Curt Schilling 9.3

 

Pedro Martinez

 

Okay. So we have FIP and WAR as pretty good tools in evaluating what a pitcher has done, without luck and fielding involved. Last year’s King Felix vs. Kluber argument could have been summed up by saying Felix had a 2.51 FIP and a 6.0 WAR. Kluber had a 2.35 FIP and a 7.3 WAR. Case closed. The right guy won. So back to the email I got from my friend Rob. Is Zack Greinke on pace for the greatest season of the past 25 years?

 

The short answer is still “No.” The dick answer is still, “He’s not even the best pitcher on his own team.” And the correct answer is, “Good luck beating Pedro in ’99.”

 

 


Most Annoying Fan Bases in Sports

Written by :
Published on : August 5, 2015

 

 

I’ve been all over. So this is the truth. Here is a list of the most annoying fan bases in sports:

 

Bay Area Fans

Don’t you just hate them?

 

Whether you’re a “die hard” Warriors or Giants fan or a fair whether flipper between the Raiders & 49ers, just shut up about all of it. Being a die hard fan of anything by inductive reasoning makes you extremely annoying. The Bay Area is a particularly spoiled sports region that most people don’t think of as a hardcore sports region. The term “sore winners” comes to mind. Don’t forget to recycle those empty fair trade, organic beer cans after you shotgun them while tailgating.

 

Boston

A fan holds up a ‘Free Tom Brady’ sign at a Red Sox game.

 

Another spoiled sports region. All 4 major sports franchises from here have won championships in recent years. The fan base most likely to physically fight you over a minor disagreement. Shout out to Philly fans on violence too.
A city of “die hard fans” meaning they have so little going on in their life that they pour their whole personality into devotions to a team of millionaires. Millionaires competitors who care less about winning than their loyal fans who talk like they all had strokes.

 

Chicago

Put your shirts back on!

 

Shockingly worse accents than people from Boston. The perfect storm of spoiled (Blackhawks, 90s Bulls, Black Sox from not long ago, 80s Bears) and tortured (Cubs, Derrick Rose, current Bears) to combine for an infuriating brand of in-your-face pride & loser’s lamenting. Go eat comfort food from anywhere within 5 feet of you & shut your yapper!

 

New York

Less than a year ago they wanted A-Rods head on a spike in the Bronx. Now it’s all Happy Birthdays and rainbows.

 

Ok, you do have the right to be genuine Yankee fans unlike 85% of Yankee hat wearers. Hearing New Yorkers belly aching about sports is like hearing your rich friend complain about their BMW.  You live in an overwhelming metropolis – find something better to complain about than Carmelo, Gino Smith/Eli Manning & ARod. I’m walking here!

 

Los Angeles

Lakers fans.

 

Similar to NYC fans, but worse because of general vanity & lack of self awareness; not to mention the entitled mentality all fans of big market teams are stricken with. Lakers fans are the hardest to stomach, directly followed by Trojan Fans or Dodger fans* who will beat the living shit out of you then fair-weather Kings fans. What a cross section of fair-weather & spoiled.

*non-violent Dodger fans are legit though

 

Ohio

I hope these drunks aren’t driving after the game.

 

Ohio State fans, the ones who are so enthusiastic/spirited/aggressive/loud – it makes you love U of M even if you have no rooting interest whatsoever. Cleveland fans who burned their Lebron James jerseys & welcomed him back with open arms. Bengals fans when they’re a fringe playoff team. They are the best of the worst, only because they’re consummate losers/silver medalists, but Ohio State fans are the worst braggarts about their success. These fans are those kids who get trophies despite losing.

 

Portland

Fair weather as fuck in a city with pretty fair weather. And I’ll never get behind a team that does this:

Recycle

 


Who’s Buying and Who’s Selling at Baseball’s Trade Deadline

Written by :
Published on : July 28, 2015

 

As baseball enters the final couple months of the regular season, teams are preparing for the stretch run by assessing their chances of contending for the post-season and contemplating what additions are necessary to increase the odds. For many teams, their last chance to climb in the standings is via baseball’s trade deadline which occurs Friday July 31st this year.

 
Last year, the deadline didn’t disappoint as we saw many big names moved creating for some very fun divisional races. Guys like David Price, John Lester, Yoenis Cespedes, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel all found new teams, and some of those guys ironically find themselves on the trading block again this year.
This season, we see a lot of familiar faces atop their respective divisions but also a couple of surprises which could make for a very interesting few days before the deadline. Already, we have seen a couple big names dealt as last year’s American League Champ, the Kansas City Royals, acquired ace Johnny Cueto to fill a much needed hole in their rotation, and then perhaps the biggest surprise team of the year, the Houston Astros, received left handed starter Scott Kazmir from Oakland.

 

Johnny Cueto was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City on July 26th.
Johnny Cueto was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City on July 26th.

The Houston Astros aren’t the only surprise team this year; the New York Mets also came into the season with low expectations, yet find themselves very much in the thick of the playoff race. Both teams have a ton of young talent, but face the difficult decision of whether it would be wise to part with a prized young prospect to remain in the hunt, or to stand pat and build around their prospects for brighter years to come. Houston has more to offer realistically, and thus has a better chance of being a buyer this week, although they may have already got everything they were looking for in Kazmir.

The Buyers

The three teams that I think will be looking to buy this week are the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals. Entering the 2015 season, Washington and the Dodgers were given some of the best odds in all of baseball to win the Fall Classic and yet both are in a dogfight to remain atop their divisions. The Yankees came into the season with a lot more question marks, not knowing what they would get from an oft-injured rotation and Alex Rodriguez in his return from a yearlong steroids suspension. All three teams still may need to make an addition to help improve their chances come October.
The Yankees are on a roll and appear to be running away with the American League East, which of course would clinch them a playoff berth, but if they plan on making a deep run in the playoffs, they need to upgrade their starting pitching. As a team, they have only 42 Quality Starts, and no true ace to anchor the rotation heading into the playoffs. Nathan Eovaldi is having the best season with a 10-2 record, but yields an Earned Run Average of over 4.00. Longtime ace C.C. Sabathia is yet to find any sort of rhythm and has just 4 wins, making a strong case that come playoff time he would be demoted to the bullpen when teams go down to four man rotations. As a team, the Yankees rank 21st in team ERA and I look for them to target guys like Cole Hamels, Mike Leake or Dan Haren. All three are currently on teams that could be looking to sell and all three players could instantly bolster the pitching staff.

 

The Yankees could look to trade for Cole Hamels
The Yankees could look to trade for Cole Hamels.

Los Angeles has all the talent to win the World Series already and may not need to make a move, but after faltering the last couple  Octobers, they may want to add to an already explosive arsenal. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are both pitching as well as anyone in baseball (36 Quality Starts combined) and are a very daunting, dynamic duo to start a series against. After those two however, the Dodgers have young and inexperienced starters. They have a very deep lineup that features both veterans and youth, as well as a lot of talent on their bench. Like the Yankees, I expect the Dodgers to address their starting pitching but I envision them swinging for the fences and getting a guy like David Price from the Detroit Tigers. A rotation with Kershaw, Greinke and Price would all but make the Dodgers the team to beat in the National League, and when you have Madison Bumgarner in your division, you have to do anything you can to out duel him and the defending champion Giants.

 

Could David Price's next destination be Los Angeles?
Could David Price’s next destination be Los Angeles?

In Washington, hopes remain high even though fans probably didn’t think the division would be this close come the end of July. With the New York Mets hanging close, the Nationals can’t afford to take their foot of the gas. Washington has a very strong rotation, arguably the deepest in all of baseball, but offensively they rank in the middle of the pack in many categories. Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate but could use another bat around him if the Nats plan to come out on top in the NL. I look for the them to target guys like Jay Bruce, Justin Upton or even Ryan Howard.

 

Justin Upton's bat could be used in Washington.
Justin Upton’s bat could be used in Washington.

The Sellers

As far as sellers go, three teams that I envision selling and having something substantial to offer are the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Detroit Tigers. It’s been another dreadful season in Philadelphia and one by one it seems they are shopping the members of their 2008 World Series team. In Cincinnati, we’ve already seen their ace, Johnny Cueto, traded to Kansas City and could see a few more big name players packing their bags as well. One of the biggest disappointments this season has been the Detroit Tigers. World Series contenders the last handful of years, we saw Detroit make multiple big moves in the past year that many thought would get them their first championship since 1984. An underachieving starting staff and weak bullpen have made the Tigers a sub-.500 team that needs to retool.
Cincinnati has a lot of teams calling inquiring about starter Mike Leake, who could provide a nice shot in the arm to a team’s pitching staff the rest of the season. With an 8-5 record, Leake has had an ERA consistently in the mid 3.00’s the past few seasons. Out of the bullpen, the Reds have the most feared closer in baseball in Aroldis Chapman. A flame thrower who routinely touches 103 mph from the left side would be an incredible gain for a contending team.

 

The Reds could get significant return on a trade involving Chapman
The Reds could get significant return on a trade involving Chapman.

 

It’s been seven years since the Phillies have won the World Series and the Fighting Phils appear to be ready to go through a complete rebuild. Starting pitcher Cole Hamels is receiving the most attention, and should garner even more interest following his no-hitter this week in Chicago. Hamels has been very consistent over his career, even while Philadelphia has struggled in recent years. He has been one of the bright spots; never posting an ERA over 3.65 since 2009, even while having the distraction of hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors every year around this time. Jonathan Papelbon has also been consistent throughout his career and is still one of the more reliable closers in baseball. With an ERA under 2.00, Papelbon would be a great add to a contender’s bullpen.

 

Will Jonathan Papelbon be traded by Philly before the deadline?
Will Jonathan Papelbon be traded by Philly before the deadline?

The Detroit Tigers are still very much alive for the post-season but seem to be trending downward quickly. With so many teams still alive in the American League, the Tigers just don’t have the pitching staff to stay within reach much longer and being without their best hitter for a few more weeks due to injury doesn’t make anything easier. They have been buyers the last few years at the deadline causing them to lose a lot of their top prospects, which makes buying this year a very difficult feat. For these reasons I look for the Tigers to sell and get themselves ready to compete immediately next season. David Price was acquired by the Tigers at the deadline last year and has the 3rd lowest ERA in the American League this year. Price has looked very much like when he had won the Cy Young a few years ago, and is potentially the top target out there for buyers this year.

 

At the plate, Yoenis Cespedes is near his career high in batting average and still possesses the same wide range of skills as when he was touted a 5-tool player when he first defected to the United States five years ago. Batting anywhere from second to sixth in for the Tigers, Cespedes would be a great pickup to a team that needs some pop in their lineup.

 

Could Cespedes' time as a Tiger already be coming to an end?
Could Cespedes’ time as a Tiger already be coming to an end?

The final couple of months of baseball should be very fun to watch, and come playoff time will showcase some of the best teams and players in all of baseball. It will be very interesting to see if the buyers can jump those who decide to stand pat as they fight for the post-season. One thing is for sure though, last year’s World Series ending in a Game 7 with the tying run just 90 feet away will be tough to beat.

 


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