Friday, September 26, 2008

ESPN Rant...

I am sick and tired of ESPN's lame-ass east coast bias. I'm sick and tired of ESPN leading with stories about how the Yankees are out of the playoffs and how the Mets are "choking" again or how the Red Sox (who are already a lock for the playoffs) are still fighting an uphill battle.

The best race in baseball all-season long has been in the AL Central where the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have been trading blows in their battle for first place and a division title. What makes this all the more intriguing is that neither of these teams was given a snowball's chance in hell when the season started.

The Cleveland Indians, last year's AL runner-up, and the Detroit Tigers were both slated to be battling it out to the final days of summer. The Tigers were supposed to score twelve billion runs and the Indians were supposed to finish what they started last year when they ran away with the division and were on the brink of a World Series berth.

Instead what happened was the dismantled Twins--after losing their ace in Johan Santana and the face of the franchise in Torii Hunter--proved all of the naysayers wrong with a combination of solid young pitching and timely hitting. Contributions from new faces played a big role in the Twins battle for AL Central supremacy.

On the other side of the coin are the 2005 World Series Champion Chicago White Sox. The Sox had regressed in the two years following their championship and many people had written them off as possible contenders. Pundits viewed them as not having enough rotation depth or enough youth in their aging lineup to compete. Instead, GM Kenny Williams acquired MVP candidate Carlos Quentin, gold glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera, Cuban import Alexei Ramirez, the enigmatic Nick Swisher and bullpen stabilizers Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink. Pitchers Gavin Floyd and John Danks stepped up and were major forces in the back-end of the rotation and the offense powered it's way to the top of the standings.

So now here we sit...the final week of the regular season. The Yankees are done. The Mets are clinging to a shot at the Wild Card. The Red Sox, essentially, clinched two weeks ago given their five game lead over the next team in the AL Wild Card standings. In the AL Central the Twins and White Sox came into a three-game set at the Metrodome with two and a half games separating them and what happens. The Twins sweep the White Sox in three great games. The third game is full of drama as the Twins rally after being down six to one in the fourth inning and force extra innings. The Twins win with a walk-off in the tenth. Good stuff right. Right.

However, on ESPN--as has been the case for weeks--the AL Central gets no love. During Oregon State's huge upset of USC there is a cut-in, just minutes after the conclusion of the Twins game. I assume it's going to be about the Twins and how they've just taken over first. No,'s a baseball update, but there's no mention of the Twins/White Sox game at all. Instead they show the Mets' ninth inning rally and then they show the Brewers' walk-off grand-slam. Both huge moments, no doubt...and honestly...I'm okay with that. I don't even care if they play those clips first and for whatever reason put more emphasis on a Wild Card race, but whatever. What I do care about is that after showing clips from the playoff racing involving the Mets...they go back to the game. No mention of the Twins/White nothing.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Breaking Down the Playoff Races (09/24/2008)

Tuesday night fans were treated to some very big, very important games with playoff implications galore and as a result saw many teams step it up with big-time performances. Here’s my take on some of the more impressive games.


Mets def. Cubs 6-2

One year ago the Mets were in the midst of a tremendous collapse and when they needed a big-game pitcher they turned to—Tom Glavine?! Sure Glavine might have been the go-to guy in the mid-90s but he is by no means a modern stopper. Johan Santana, however, is exactly that. With a career 57-17 record after the All-Star break and some of the most dominating pitches in all of baseball, Santana is exactly the guy the Mets needed to add this season and last night he proved why. Santana spun eight beautiful innings. He gave up two earned and struck out ten while doing some damage with the stick as well. This is why the Mets traded the top-half of their farm-system to acquire Santana. Interesting note: Santana will be available to go in the season finale Sunday if necessary.

Twins def. White Sox 9-3

“Keep the ball in the yard.” That’s the mantra for any team looking to defeat the White Sox. The ChiSox have proven all-season long that they do their damage with the long-ball and a relatively lights-out bullpen. Essentially, they’re the anti-Twins. This year the Twins’ bullpen has been horrendous due to the loss of Pat Neshek and the Twins have the second-fewest home runs in all of Major League Baseball. It was, however, the aforementioned mantra that would prevail on Tuesday night as the Twins only allowed one bomb (Ken Griffey Jr’s 610th) and went on to scorch the White Sox 9-3. The team was carried offensively by Jason Kubel who had a breakout game with two home-runs of his own and a triple. On the hill Scott Baker hurled seven impressive innings to help vault the Twins within a game and a half of the AL Central lead.

Brewers def. Pirates 7-5

Prince Fielder hit a towering walk-off home-run, the type of home-run that seemed oddly reminiscent of David Ortiz’s ALCS bombs in 2004. That one round-tripper could be just what the Brew-Crew need to carry them into the playoffs. Everyone knows that the best teams make the playoffs, but the hottest teams win in the playoffs. The Brewers have been one of baseball’s best teams all-season long and if that homer causes a ripple effect throughout the clubhouse, they may very well be one of the hottest teams playing deep into October.

Red Sox def. Indians 5-4

Cleveland’s Cliff Lee has been outstanding this season. Without a doubt he’s the AL Cy Young winner and--after working his way back from a demotion to Triple-A last season-- he’s earned it. Tuesday night, however, he had one bad inning against the powerful Red Sox lineup and it cost him the win. This game wasn’t big so much because the Red Sox clinched a playoff berth, that was pretty much a given as both of the AL Central contenders faded in the past two weeks. This biggest impact of this game was that it officially put the final nail in the coffin on the Yankees hopes of making a 14th consecutive post-season appearance.

Dodgers def. Padres 10-1

The game itself was a laugher, but it proved the Dodgers’ resiliency in a big way. The D-Backs are getting hot again and the Dodgers were coming off the heels of a tough 1-0 loss to the Giants on Sunday. The Dodgers looked loose given the pressure, which further proves that this year’s mix of veterans and youngsters are blending much better to create a more cohesive clubhouse at the most important time of the year. Joe Torre is pretty much a lock to make the playoffs—barring unforeseen tanking by the Dodgers—and the way he handled this roster is a big reason why.

Rays def. Orioles 5-2, 7-5

The Rays sweeping a double-header when they’re already a lock for the playoffs shows why these guys are going to be scary in the post-season. They know they could be resting starters and playing out the string, but these guys want to win. They want to take the AL East and force the Red Sox to enter the playoff fray as the Wild Card team. I think taking this double-header proves that Tampa Bay is going to be wrecking crew in October, best of luck to whomever wins the Central.

Braves def. Phillies 3-2

The Phillies are not a lock for the playoffs. They have the Mets breathing down their necks in the NL East and then the Brewers in the NL Wild Card chase. This is a team that cannot afford to give away games to Atlanta when their ace is on the hill. Cole Hamels pitched a fine game (7IP/2ER/7K) and only got two runs of support from one of the most potent lineups in the National League. If the Phillies want to be considered a serious championship contender they need to play like one, day-in and day-out. I don’t think this team has the chops and I feel like they’re going to be the odd man out at the end of this weekend.

Cardinals def. Diamondbacks 7-4

Randy Johnson got roughed up by the Cardinals in another must-win game for the D-Backs. The loss serves as a serious blow to Arizona's postseason chances. The D-backs trail the first-place Dodgers by three games in the National League West with just five games remaining. This comes after the D-Backs were anointed the NL Champs back in April and then proceeded to regress through the summer. Any team that is sitting one-game over .500 in the final week of the regular season would normally be long-since eliminated, but as has often been the case in recent years in the NL, it makes them alive—albeit on life-support. In my opinion, we can go ahead and assume that starting this Sunday afternoon Arizona fans can go ahead and start looking forward to Suns basketball.