Archive for the ‘MLB’ category

Thank You New York Giants And Other Thoughts…

January 24, 2012

I don’t know about the rest of you, but the first thing I need to do is thank Kyle Williams and the New York Giants from saving me from a nightmare Super Bowl scenario.  Thanks to Williams second punt return snafu leading to a New York game winning field goal in overtime I now have a team to root for in the Super Bowl.

A big thumbs down goes to Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans and kicker Billy Cundiff.  Because of Evans inability to hold on to a touchdown pass and Cundiff’s best Ray Finkle imitation I have to watch perhaps my least favorite team in the NFL, the New England Patriots gets a shot at yet another championship.

I would’ve liked to have seen New York and Baltimore in the Super Bowl.  Had that been the case all I would’ve been rooting for is a good game.  But I guess having a good guy/bad guy scenario works just as well.  At least it wasn’t the Patriots against the 49ers.  That scenario would’ve been a nightmare for this Raider fan.  Had been that situation I probably would’ve been rooting for New England because at least their gloating would have been taking place three times zones away.  Since I live in central California the prospect of seeing a gloating San Francisco fan on a near daily basis would’ve been too much to handle.

“Who’s got it worse than us?” – Sincerely, Kyle Williams, Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff

All in all I’m happy the NBA is back but frankly it’s painful to watch.  A couple of weeks ago the Bulls and Raptors play to a 77-64 final.  A few nights later the Mavericks and Lakers try to set the game back even further with a 73-70 final.  Last night the Magic single-handedly sent the game back to the Naismith era by scoring only 56 points in a game.

I know the shortened schedule is the reason for some bizarre happenings and some less than top quality performances but the three examples I just mentioned are inexcusable.  Isn’t there any way to fine these teams a games pay?  Clearly they didn’t show up on those respective nights.

After a 10-8 start that includes a 1-6 road record I completely overestimated the Lakers ability to contend for a title.  No team with that bad of a road record can expect to be playing for anything worth while this season except for a higher draft pick.

I can’t figure out if it’s the team needing time to adjust to a new offensive scheme or the team not having the right player personnel to properly execute the new scheme.  One thing I do know is that a team with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should not be this painful to watch on the offensive end.  With the way Bryant is jacking up shots, I feel like I’m watching the 2005-2006 or 2006-2007 Lakers and I don’t understand why.  This team is way more talented than those that featured such legendary never was’ as Kwame Brown and Smush Parker.

How about the Detroit Tigers coming out of nowhere to sign first baseman Prince Fielder?  The deal is for nine years and worth $214 million.  How’s that for protection for Miguel Cabrera who is a top two or three hitter in his own right?  Along with what the Angels and Yankees have done this off-season, the race for the AL Pennant is down to three teams despite pitchers and catchers not reporting for a little less than a month from now.

Today the Raiders hired former Broncos Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen as their new head coach. For Oakland this was the first head coach to be hired with a defensive background since John Madden in the late 60’s.  I don’t know much about Allen but I was a fan of the hiring General Manager Reggie McKenzie so “In Reggie I Trust”.

I’ve been a Los Angeles Kings fan for my entire life and I never ever thought I would see the day that a Kings goaltender would make an all-star team.  So a big congratulations goes to Jonathan Quick for his outstanding season thus far.  Without the outstanding play of Quick, Los Angeles General Manager Dean Lombardi would be standing in the unemployment right along side former head coach Terry Murray.

Thanks for stepping into the clubhouse.

Follow me on twitter @joesclubhouse

The Hot Stove Is On Fire

December 15, 2009

For baseball fans the days between the end of the World Series and the beginning of spring training are highlighted by one rumor after another of a potential trade or a possible free agent signing.  After a certain point you get desensitized to the daily reports of possible destinations for players to stay at or move to.  However when a big domino does fall it still sends a certain shockwave through a fans system.

Today, two of the biggest dominoes fell.  Since last July there have been dozens of reports on potential trade destinations for former AL Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay spanning from the Bronx to southern California and all points in between.  Former Blue Jay General Manager J.P. Ricciardi failed to move Halladay at last years trade deadline because in his eyes potential teams did not “blow him away” with an offer. 

Apparently current Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos has been “blown away” by an offer and according to numerous media outlets has tentatively agreed to move Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies as part of a three team blockbuster trade that involves 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee winding up as a Seattle Mariner.  Toronto would receive top-level prospects from both Seattle and Philadelphia.  In addition to Halladay, the Phillies would end up with a couple of prospects from Seattle for Lee. 

Obviously the trade is a great one for Philadelphia as they’re getting one of the games elite pitchers in Halladay and have reportedly inked him to a three-year extension that will pay him $60 million between 2011-2013.  They did not have the same guarantee Lee would be on their roster past this upcoming season as he is set to become a free agent following 2010. 

Halladay should become even more dominant than he already was in the AL East where he was 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA, 208 strikeouts and nine complete games.  If past trends are any indication of future results (see C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee in 2008 and Lee to Philadelphia in 2009), Halladay should win 20 or more games and the NL Cy Young award next year. 

For Seattle, they get another ace to go along with Felix Hernandez.  That 1-2 punch will obviously make them a force to be reckoned with in the AL West.  Having already signed Chone Figgins away from the division rival Angels, Seattle is letting it known they plan to be a contender next year.   

As for Toronto, congratulations, your team is officially in the toilet.  I say those words based on my personal belief that teams who are contenders get major leaguers in trades while teams in the toilet get prospects.  Even if they are highly touted prospects, they have not proven themselves on the major league level.  Only with the passage of time can we say if this is a good deal for the Blue Jays.  That being said, I will give them credit for getting something for Halladay instead of the nothing they would have gotten when he walked away as a free agent after 2010. 

The other big shoe to drop today was Boston’s signing of free agent pitcher John Lackey to a five-year deal worth between $80-$85 million.  This gives the Red Sox that all important third arm who they feel can match up with the Yankees big three of Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.  Personally, I have mixed feelings on this signing.  As someone who roots for anyone to take down the Yankees I am happy to see a top talent stay out of their grasp but as someone who roots for the Angels, I am extremely disappointed at the fact they’ve failed to re-sign both of their top free agents of this offseason. 

I can honestly say this is something I would not have predicted for the reigning AL West champions.  Although the signing of designated hitter Hideki Matsui away from the Yankees is a nice one, it doesn’t even began to cushion the blow of losing not one but two important pieces to their team not to mention the writing is on the wall that fan favorite Vladimir Guerrero will not be back. 

If recent history has shown us anything it’s that Angels owner Arte Moreno will do whatever it takes to put a contender on the field.  I have no doubt he and GM Tony Reagins have a plan in place but until it comes to fruition, today is undoubtedly a day of disappointment for halo fans.

ALCS Preview

October 16, 2009

Tonight in the Bronx, the ALCS gets underway featuring the clear cut top two seeds in the American League, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Not that past performances are any clear indication of future results but these two teams have met twice before in the playoffs with the Angels emerging victorious both times in 2002 and 2005. 

The Yankees have ran through the American League this season like a hot knife through butter.  However since 2002 the Angels are the only team with a winning record against the Bronx Bombers.  This is clearly the best match up that the AL can offer so lets break down the important components.

Lets start with the offense.    The Yankees pack a huge punch to say the least with seven of their nine starting hitters topping the 20 home run mark.  Their first baseman and former Angel Mark Teixeira lead the way with 39 home runs and 122 RBI.  The always dangerous Alex Rodriguez hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs despite missing 38 games.  Rodriguez is heating up at the right time after hitting .455 with 2 HR and 6 RBI in the divisional series against Minnesota.  The Yankees are loaded with power featuring seven players that are slugging at .489 or higher.  The Yankees have no easy outs and are a routine nighmare for opposing pitchers.

While the Yankees rely on the long ball, the Angels play more of a national league style of baseball relying on speed and a station to station style of offense.  Their leadoff hitter Figgins stole 42 bases while number two hitter Bobby Abreu stole 30 bases.  Four more Angels players stole 10 or more bases this season.  The Angels mix in a nice balance of power and speed.  Kendry Morales who replace Teixeira at first base lead the Angels with 34 home runs.  Morales and Abreu each topped the 100 RBI mark while Hunter finished with 90 RBI despite playing in only 119 games this season.  Vladimir Guerrero proved in the ALDS that he is still a dangerous hitter while Juan Rivera is also a long ball threat.  Despite the fact that both teams feature dangerous line ups, I give the advantage to the Yankees based on their strength at the bottom of their line up.

As for the starting pitching the Yankees will go with a three man rotation that features 19 game winner CC Sabathia, the proven playoff veteran Andy Pettitte and the always dangerous AJ Burnett.  Sabathia and Burnett were big offseason free agent signings that have proven their worth under baseball’s biggest October stage thus far.  Sabathia would be starting on three days rest in game four and has shown signs of eventually breaking down just as he did with Milwaukee in last years postseason.

The Angels have a deeper starting staff with four pitchers who could possibly start in this series with Jon Lackey, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir who was acquired from Tampa Bay in August.  I think this factor will serve the Angels well and the depth will keep their starters fresh as the series goes on.  Because of that I give the starting pitching advantage to the Angels.

As for the bullpens, the Angels closer Brian Fuentes lead the major leagues with 48 saves.  Despite that stat, he has been far from consistent and has shown signs of wear and tear with his ERA a full run higher in the second half of the seaason.  Darren Oliver is a solid set up man who looked good in the ALDS. 

The Yankees feature the arguably the best closer in the game in Mariano Rivera who at the age of 39 finished with 44 saves and a 1.76 ERA.  The Yankees have plenty of capable of middle relievers who can get him the ball in the ninth inning led by youngsters Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.   Because of Rivera and their depth I give the edge to the Yankees.

As for the benches the Angels have plenty of depth with utility infielder Maicer Izturis, back up catcher Mike Napoli and fourth outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.  Yankees back up catcher Jose Molina will catch AJ Burnett and Brett Gardner can provide plenty of speed in key situations.  I give the advantage to the Angels.

This is going to be a hard fought series and could be even better than the World Series.  The Angels will have to get production from their 7-9 hitters to be successful while the Yankees middle relief will face its biggest test to date.  If any team can beat the Yankees, its the Angels.  They are one of the few teams that have a confidence and swagger about them when facing the Yankees.  That being said, I just believe that the Yankees are rolling on all cylinders both offensively and defensively.  My gut tells me that this is their year to once again win it all.

My prediction is Yankees in seven.

NLCS Preview

October 15, 2009

Tonight in Chavez Ravine two familiar foes get ready to battle it out for the National League’s ultimate prize, a trip to the World Series.  Last year the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers  met in the National League Championship Series with the Phillies emerging victorious in five games.

In last years series Cole Hamels and the Phillies pitching staff shut down the Dodgers en route to eventually winning the World Series.  This year the Dodgers pitching staff will have to be up to the task in order to reverse the results.

This years Dodger lineup is very balanced with Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier amongst the many who can beat you on any given night.  For the Dodgers to greatly increase their chances of victory, they’ll need lead off man Rafael Furcal to continue to get on base as well as RBI’s from the bat of first baseman James Loney.  Philadelphia has a very potent lineup of their own lead by slugger Ryan Howard who smacked 45 home runs and drove in 145 runs.  Providing a strong supporting cast for Howard are Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez who each topped the 30 home run mark.   The key for the Phillies offense will be the production of former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.  Victorino was a big key to the Phillies success last year against the Dodgers. 

Los Angeles topped the NL in batting average with a .270 mark while Philadelphia finished .258 which was good enough for eighth in the league.  This tells me that Philadelphia is a very streaky team that could run into trouble at any given time.  Because of their balance one through nine I give the offensive advantage to the Dodgers. 

Pitching wise Philadelphia tends to have the better arms on paper led by former AL Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee.  Lee is 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA since coming over from Cleveland in July.  The key to the Philadelphia staff is Hamels who has been less than impressive all-year long.  If he can recapture any of the form that made him so effective in last years postseason, the Dodgers are in for a long series.  Joe Blanton had a good second half of the season while J.A. Happ has emerged from the shadows to finish his first full big league season with a 12-4 record to go along with a 2.93 ERA. 

The Dodgers pitching has been a question mark all season with Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw both performing below expectations at times during the season.  However Kershaw has heated up as of late.  His performance in Game two of the NLDS was a huge key to the Dodgers eliminating the Cardinals.  Randy Wolf emerged as the unexpected “ace” down the stretch providing a steady hand when the team has needed it most.  I look for him to do the same this series.  I give the slight pitching advantage to Philadelphia.

As for relief pitchers, the Dodgers acquisition of George Sherrill from Baltimore  at the trade deadline has provided their bullpen with great depth and gives them a great 1-2 punch in the eighth and ninth innings.  Ryan Madson has been solid for Philadelphia all season long with a 3.26 ERA while Brad Lidge has been shaky to say the least.  Because of the inconsistency of Lidge I will give the advantage to the Dodgers.

As for the benches, the Dodgers are loaded with guys like Juan Pierre, Orlando Hudson, Mark Loretta, Juan Castro.  All of these guys are capable of providing production in the late innings or starting games without the Dodgers skipping a beat.  Pierre was a huge reason for the Dodgers success while Ramirez was serving his 50 game suspension.  He completely changes the Dodgers dynamic by providing them with a second lead off man who can steal bases.  Loretta provided the game winning hit in game two of the NLDS.  Let us also not forget about Jim Thome who has 564 career home runs and is capable of breaking out of his pinch hitting slump at any moment.  The Phillies still have last years Dodger killer Matt Stairs as their primary pinch hitter who lead the majors this year with five pinch hit home runs.  Accompanying Stairs off the bench is fourth outfielder Ben Francisco who hit .278 after arriving in Philadelphia in the July Cliff Lee trade.  Due to sheer volume of solid bench guys, I give the advantage to the Dodgers.

My prediction:  Dodgers in six games

Dodgers Acquire Jim Thome, Jon Garland For Playoff Push

September 1, 2009

Last month I wrote how unexcited I was about the Dodgers non-waiver trade deadline when they acquired reliever George Sherrill from the Baltimore Orioles.  Although it was a wise move by General Manager Ned Colletti that has paid dividends I never get excited about a relief pitcher. 

Fast forward to Monday night, with the years final trade deadline looming the Dodgers made one final splash by acquiring Chicago White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome and Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Jon Garland just before the 9 PM deadline.

Thome who has played both third base and first base in his 19 year career will be a big time bat off the bench the Dodgers will be able to turn to late in games.  Thome has played in the playoffs several times and has appeared in two World Series with Cleveland in 1995 and 1997.  Although he is 39 the guy is still a virtual lock to hit 25-30 home runs and drive in 80-90 runs if he is an everyday player.  In a article by Jim Peltz of the LA Times, Colletti has already gone on record saying  “We’re not bringing him over here to play first base.  We’re bringing him over here to come off the bench and be a great influence in the clubhouse.”

Thome will indeed provide a great influence to the clubhouse.  Younger players like James Loney, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier should benefit the most from his leadership.   Most importantly he is a good friend to Manny Ramirez who as all of us know has a history of being an emotional wild card during his career.

In addition to what Thome  brings to “The Azul” as Fox Sports Radio’s Vic “The Brick” Jacobs likes to say, it takes away from the San Francisco Giants who are in desperate need of a bat.  Considering the Giants operate on a tighter budget than the Dodgers, it’s likely the only way they could made a move for Thome was if he passed through waivers unclaimed which meant Giants General Manager Brian Sabean could have signed him at a reduced rate.  No Giants fan could argue that Thome would not have been a better fit at first base than Ryan Garko who has given them relatively nothing since being acquired from Cleveland in a trade roughly a month ago.  In sports there is addition by addition and addition by subtraction and the Dodgers accomplished both by bringing Thome to Chavez Ravine.

By acquiring Garland the Dodgers pick up a quality fifth starter or someone that could provide them long relief out of the bullpen.  Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP this season on a very poor Arizona Diamondbacks team that is near the bottom in runs scored,  but if you look at his numbers closer he is 4-7 with a 3.56 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP since June. 

Like Thome, Garland has playoff experience including a World Series ring he won with the Chicago White Sox in 2005.  Garland has won 18 games twice in his career and while with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last season he posted a record of 14-8 with a 4.90 ERA.  Garland is the type of pitcher that will not go out and dominate a game but he gives you a chance every time he toes the rubber which is all you can ask for from your starter.  While the need for a starting arm was a definite priority it was also a way of saying “touche” to the Giants acquisition of Brad Penny, a former Dodger who was recently granted his release by the Boston Red Sox. 

These moves should give the Dodgers the boost to finish the season strong while capturing their second consecutive NL West title and provide the team with some momentum entering October.  Should they make the World Series, fans will be ecstatic that the left handed, right handed power hitting combination of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez and JIm Thome will be on display in AL parks.

Trade Deadline: Anticlimactic in Los Angeles

August 3, 2009

Last year at this time the Los Angeles baseball community was still buzzing at the recent trades that had been made.  There was much to be excited about whether you rooted for the Angels or the Dodgers. The Halos had just acquired Mark Teixeira, one of the best switch hitters and defensive first baseman in the game while the Dodgers  more or less “gun and ski masked” one of the most productive bats of the last 15 years in outfielder Manny Ramirez.

Both teams had made impactful moves at the deadline giving their respective fans lots to be excited about.  For the fans that were big on local bragging rights, the possibility of a Freeway Series in October was as real as ever.  We all know how it eventually ended with the Angels losing to the Boston Red Sox in ALDS play while the Dodgers lost to the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.  Although each team came up short of baseball’s biggest prize, both Teixeira and Ramirez were huge factors in their teams success down the stretch a season ago. 

Now lets fast forward to this year.  Much like a season ago, both the Angels and Dodgers were rumored to be be looking for big named players at this years deadline.  Both had been mentioned as participants in the sweepstakes for Toronto pitcher Roy Halladay and Cleveland pitcher Cliff Lee (since traded to Phiadelphia). 

There were also reports that the Dodgers were interested in Cleveland catcher and first baseman Victor Martinez (since traded to Boston) and San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  The one common denominator that the Angels and Dodgers shared was that both were interested in bullpen help having been linked to trade rumors for San Diego closer Heath Bell.

After weeks of build up with numerous reports of trade rumors that had fans both in LA County and Orange County buzzing with anticipation of another blockbuster move that would catapult their team into October glory, the final result of several weeks of hype?  Drumroll please…the Dodgers have acquired reliever George Sherrill from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for two minor leaguers.  Meanwhile, the Angels were unsuccessful in pulling off a trade.  That was the equivalent of hoping for Metallica and then eventually getting a local high school garage band.

While the move was a solid pick up for the Dodgers and one that I had correctly anticipated in a previous blog it’s not one that will have me buzzing for days afterwards and keep me glued to my seat like a Manny plate appearance or a Halladay start. 

Bullpen help is very important for the stretch drive of the regular season and into October but lets face it, its just not exciting. No baseball fan will ever say to another, “Do you remember where you were when (insert name of middle reliever) came in and retired the only batter he faced before giving way to (insert name of second middle reliever)?  Boy was that awesome or what?”

Meanwhile, Angels fans have to be disappointed that they didn’t at least leave the dance with some kind of door prize. Obviously their management felt that the price tag on what they were targeting was not worth the price they were willing to pay. By acquiring Teixeira a year ago, Angels General Manager Tony Reagins has already shown me more of a willingness to pull the trigger than his predecessor Bill Stoneman.  I firmly believe that if the right deal could have been made then he would have done it.

Both Reagins and Dodgers GM Ned Colletti obviously know what they’re doing.  Each has put together a strong roster of talent that should be able to contend for a minimum of a playoff berth for a few years to come. I know that some times in sports, its about the moves that you don’t make as opposed to the moves that you do. However, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that the trade deadline of 2009 was a great 30 day story but with a ho hum ending.

MLB Trade Deadline 2009 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

July 23, 2009

Toronto Blue Jay pitching ace Roy Halladay is undoubtedly the biggest name available in this year’s Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline on July 31.  The Dodgers have been mentioned as a possible destination for the seven time all-star and 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner.

Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi has set a July 28 deadline for any trade involving Halladay to be completed.  Considering the kings ransom that Ricciardi is seeking for the two-time 20 game winner, I just don’t see him winding up in Chavez Ravine.  Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is a shrewed negotiator who doesn’t believe in mortgaging the future for a quick fix.

At last years deadline Colletti parted with Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris in the three way deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox which brought Manny Ramirez to LA.  That’s the equivalent of acquiring one of the biggest bats in the game for “a magic bag of beans”.

According to a recent report by SI’s Jon Heyman, Ricciardi is believed to be interested in a price tag that would include either Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw along with one of their outfielders, either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier and a prospect or two.  Even though Halladay is one of the top two or three pitchers in the game and would undoubtedly give the Dodgers a legitimate “number one” starter, I just don’t see Colletti paying that kind of price tag. 

What I can see the Dodgers doing is trying to add depth to their bullpen in light of recent developments with the toe of closer Jonathan Broxton and fellow relievers Ronald Belisario and Cory Wade currently being on the disabled list.  Another possibility I can envision would be to try and find another back of the rotation starter and move the recently struggling Hiroki Kuroda to the bullpen.  A player to fulfill those needs can be had without the Dodgers having to mortage one of their prized minor league possessions. 

Fortunately for the Dodgers they have the luxury of depth in both their infield and outfield positions with guys like Mark Loretta, Juan Castro and Juan Pierre available to give the usual starters a day off when needed.  Bench play is an important factor in making a postseason run in October.  The first example that comes to my mind is Dave Roberts who came off the bench to get a crucial stolen base for the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS which ultimately helped Boston to win the championship.  A second example is Geoff Blum who hit a home run in the top of the 14th inning that won Game Three of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox. 

The Dodgers will undoubtedly be making a move within the next week but if you’re looking for a blockbuster deal involving a certain pitcher north of the border, I think your eyes are focused on the wrong place.  But what I can see is Colletti making a move to satisfy short term goals without sacrificing long term visions.