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Browsing posts from October, 2012

NLCS Game 3 Must-Win For Giants

By bullpenbrian - October 17, 2012 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

I wouldn’t bet on the Giants holding the Cardinals’ lineup in-check for a second consecutive game.

St. Louis has easily scored the most runs (45) and driven in the most RBI (28) with RISP of any team this postseason.

That kind of production can be halted with good starting pitching, which the Giants have plenty, but those Red Birds also have a knack for rebounding quickly from postseason losses.

Only once over its last 4 postseason series have the Cardinals lost back-to-back games: coming in Games 4 & 5 of the World Series at Texas last year, and even that didn’t prevent St. Louis from winning the next 2 contests and the world championship.

So from my perspective, that makes Game 3 a must-win for Matt Cain and the Giants this evening.

Otherwise, if St. Louis wins Game 3 and then simply goes on to trade victories with San Francisco, as they did through Games 1 & 2, the Cardinals eventually take the series in 7-games.

Of course, the Giants would still be alive even if St. Louis wins the next 2 contests, but what are the odds San Fran strings together another 3-game winning streak the likes of what they accomplished vs. Cincinnati in the division series?

We know the Cards will get their runs. The question is, will the Giants score enough runs of their own to win tonight? If they can’t, we can go ahead and pencil St. Louis into the World Series.

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Joe Girardi Wrong For Sticking With Raul Ibanez?

By bullpenbrian - October 17, 2012 - 2:15 am Leave a comment.

I don’t blame Joe Girardi for sticking with Raul Ibanez against Phil Coke in the top of the ninth in Game 3 of the ALCS.

The numbers game suggest Girardi should’ve opted for a right-hander batter, say A-Rod, given righties torched Coke to the tune of .396/.446/.604 during the regular season.

Ibanez, however, has been the best clutch hitter on the Yankees this postseason, and arguably the only hitter on the Yankees in October. Seriously, who else would New York want at the plate with the game-tying run on second base?

If it’s Aroldis Chapman on the mound, it’s a different story. But Coke is far from a ‘lights-out’ closer or unhittable ‘loogy.’

After all, Teixeira and Cano (another left-handed hitter) both singled in front of Ibanez leaving no reason to believe the hot-hitting 40-year-old couldn’t drive in the tying run.

Girardi’s decision to stay with the lefty-lefty matchup is no worse than him choosing to leave Rodriguez, hitting an ice-cold 2-for-23, on the bench.

Ibanez, of course, struck out to end the game. But it was ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ for the Yankees’ skipper.

Let’s not forget, either, how right Joe was turning the table earlier this postseason when he pinch-hit Ibanez for A-Rod. A hero when it worked, the goat when it doesn’t.

Yet, regardless of whether you believe Girardi made the right move or the wrong one, it’s no fault of Girardi’s his team is hitting a ghastly .182 in October.

What’s a manager to do–pinch-hit the entire lineup?

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Former Cubs In The 2012 Postseason

By bullpenbrian - October 16, 2012 - 3:45 pm Leave a comment.

Not much going for former Cubs players in the postseason this year.

Aside from the threesome of Angel Pagan, Ryan Theriot & Xavier Nady in San Francisco, the rest are out of the playoffs.

Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto, deserving or not (depending on your Cubs perspective), couldn’t fend off the A’s in Game 162 for the AL West title. Dempster blew an early 4-run lead and was shelled for 5-ER in 3.0 innings. It forced Texas into the AL play-in game, which they lost 5-1 to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, it’s a shame Paul Maholm, Reed Johnson & Jeff Baker couldn’t advance past Atlanta’s play-in game vs. St. Louis. It would’ve been enjoyable to see Maholm make his first-ever postseason start coming off the best season of his career. And who doesn’t root for Reed Johnson?

The same can be said of Mark DeRosa, whose Nationals fell to those same Cardinals in the division series. DeRosa never appeared in the series, but Chad Tracy appeared in all 5-games, going 0-for-4. And Tom Gorzelanny pitched just 0.1 of an inning, allowing one hit.

Sean Marshall appeared in 3-games for the Reds and shined in his 4.0 innings of no-run, no-hit baseball. But the Reds, of course, squandered it 2-0 series lead to lose 3-straight at home against the Giants.

Pagan is arguably having the best postseason for former Cubs while his Giants have advanced to the NLCS. He’s tied with Buster Posey with a team leading 2 HR & 5 RBI through two rounds, in addition to several defensive gems in the outfield.

Theriot and Nady have each appeared in 4-games: The Riot is 1-for-4 with 2 RBI (coming on a bases loaded single in Game 2 of the NLCS) while Nady is hitless in 4 at-bats.

I’ve never particularly enjoyed rooting for Theriot, especially after his back handed comments about the Cubs, and then his world championship spent with the Cardinals.

Pagan, however, has been a pretty good player since leaving the Cubs and joining the Mets before heading to San Fran this year. Go figure the Cubs never found enough playing time for Pagan during his two seasons spent on the North Side (2006-07).

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No Need To Keep Hating On Dusty

By bullpenbrian - October 16, 2012 - 2:45 am 2 comments.

I get tired of Cubs fans reveling in delight at every misfortune Dusty Baker experiences as manager of the Reds, who extended its skipper for 2 more years on Monday.

It seems Cubs fans have developed some sort of self-medicating technique to ease the pain of the past by simply blaming Baker for everything from his 96-loss season in 2005, to the brutal NLCS loss against Florida, to the demise of Mark Prior & Kerry Wood, to just about every other countless Cubs failure during his tenure in Chicago.

Don’t get me wrong, Dusty is responsible for some of that blame. But all of it? Hardly.

The fact of the matter is, nothing will wipe away the heartbreak of coming within five outs of a World Series appearance, or the what-could-have-been careers of Prior & Wood.

What happened, happened. It’s over. Done. History, whether it’s Baker’s cross to bear or not.

But to think of this guy as a bum manager is ridiculous. Baker won 3 NL Manager of the Year Awards before he ever stepped foot into the Cubs’ dugout in 2003…and should’ve won a fourth with the Reds in 2010 (he lost by one vote).

Since taking over the down trodden Reds in 2008, Dusty’s resurrected the franchise to its highest success in 30 years, having won 2 division titles in the past 3 season.

He’s now just one of 6 manager in major league history to have won 3 division titles with 3 different teams (Billy Martin, Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella & Davey Johnson).

No, the playoff success hasn’t been there. And no, Dusty will never be considered a great tactical game manager. But you can’t ignore Baker’s boys love playing for him, or that more often than not, his teams are competing near the top of the league.

Who knows if Baker will ever find enough postseason success to win a world championship. But I hope he does, even if it comes with the division rival Reds while the Cubs are rebuilding (after all, anything is better than another Cardinals championship).

And I understand rooting against Baker may relieve some of your Cubs pain. But isn’t it about time we let the dead bury the dead, move on from Baker’s disappointments, Bartman, Billy Goat Curses, Black Cats and various other hexes as the crux of the Cubs’ postseason futility?

Even if Baker was once the root of all Cubs evil, he no longer is, and hasn’t been for some time. So why keep hating on the man?

Like countless other Cubs managers before him, it didn’t work out, for whatever reasons doesn’t matter. Dusty’s moved on, and as Cubs fans, we should, too.

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March Madness In October

By bullpenbrian - October 15, 2012 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

Baseball’s postseason is facing a dilemma that often challenges March Madness–the tournament has peaked in terms of national interest after the first weekend.

It’s been a sharp decline for baseball since the conclusion of the division series, which couldn’t have been scripted any better given each series reached a decisive Game 5–a first in postseason history.

But the outcomes of those series, unfortunately, has left us with a Final Four lacking virtually any rooting interest from the masses.

Nothing would’ve been more fun, more interesting, than watching the excitement of Moneyball II, the New Red Machine, BUCKleup and Natitude compete against each other for a World Series championship.

Instead, we’re left with another ALCS appearance by the Yankees and a Cardinals team we’ve seen reach the World Series in 3 of the past 6 seasons…and most likely 4 out of the last 7 years once they defeat the Giants in the NLCS (just a tinny little touch of sarcasm).

Aside from Buster Posey, there’s hardly anything exciting about San Francisco, whose most colorful player, Brian Wilson, was lost for the season due to injury, and whose best starting pitcher, Tim Lincecum, has been demoted to bullpen duty. Oh yeah, there’s also the Melky suspension.

Detroit, of course, offers us one of the game’s most dominating hurlers in Justin Verlander, and one of the game’s best sluggers in Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. But the Tigers are largely thought of as underachievers for its lackluster regular season play…and who wants to rally behind that?

It’s fascinating, yet greatly disappointing, how quickly this year’s postseason has lost its luster after all the all the dramatics and thrills from the final two weeks of the regular season through the division series.

If we’re lucky, we might get a World Series Game 7, something that would give baseball fans aside from the MLB Final Four cities a reason to care again. But until then, and if a WS Game 7 even happens, what’s there to root for, what reason do we have to care?

Our postseason brackets are busted, our teams bounced. It’s March Madness in October…and the best, it seems, has already come. At the very least, the first weekend was fun.

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Baseball & Poker Share More Than World Series

By bullpenbrian - October 15, 2012 - 2:15 am Leave a comment.

This was written by Daniel Smith, a lover of baseball & poker.

The game of baseball and the game of poker are very different games. One is team sport with men working towards a common goal and the other is an individual card game where your goal is to take everyone else money. While the games are different, they both have similarities that fans of both can appreciate. Let’s take a look at a few of those similarities.

For starters, both games are considered by some to be somewhat boring by those that don’t understand the game. Baseball games have long periods of inactivity as batters go down in order inning after inning. Suddenly a huge home run can turn a dead crowd into a raucous one.

Poker looks very boring at the onset as most hands are folded with little or no action. Then a big hand develops and a player is all-in for their tournament life. The fans are then on their feet screaming for their player to either hit his card or for his hand to hold. With the closeness of the fans, a few dozen fans can sound like a stadium full.

Next, some venues are considered more sacred or special than others. For example, there aren’t many field left in the game of baseball with the history of Wrigley field. Every cub fan that has visited Wrigley has their own set of memories and wouldn’t trade the field for anything.

Poker players have their own hallowed grounds as well. Many poker players consider the halls of Binion’s in downtown Vegas sacred due to its history and being the original home of the WSOP. Any player that played prior to 2004 would say that Binions is the Wrigley of poker.

Finally, both games have their own World Series. The World Series of Baseballhas crowned the champion of the game of baseball for over 100 years while the World Series of Poker has crowned poker’s World Champion since 1970. In both games, success at the WSOP is what can make the difference between a storied career and a legendary one.

Both baseball and poker have a long history and are games enjoyed by Millions around the world. While they have their differences, their similarities can definitely be appreciated by lovers of both. That may be the reason why many baseball players and fans of the game also love to play poker.

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Final Mr. Cubs Race! 2012

By bullpenbrian - October 14, 2012 - 1:00 am Leave a comment.
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Regular Season Success Means Little In October

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 4:15 pm Leave a comment.

Four teams won 90-plus games after finishing the 2011 season below .500: Nationals (98), Reds (97), Athletics (94) & Orioles (93)–a first in major league history. But, not a one remains in this year’s postseason.

The Orioles, despite a convincing 5-1 win against Texas in the AL play-in game, fell victim to Yankee Stadium’s postseason magic. Or in other words, they blew it.

Baltimore not only let Raul Ibanez beat them once, but twice in Game 3…and then floundered with the bases loaded in the top of the eighth with the tying and winning runs aboard against CC Sabathia in a decisive Game 5.

The Yankees left the door wide open for the O’s to take the series. Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and A-Rod went a combined 9-for-75 (.120) with 26 strikeouts. Baltimore, however, went 8-for-37 with RISP, the worst mark in the AL in the Division Series.

The A’s, conversely, just couldn’t get on base against the Tigers, whose 88 regular season wins were the fewest among AL playoff teams. Granted, the A’s did face Justin Verlander twice, but the Athletics had the fewest hits (30) and most strikeouts (50) of any team in either league in the Division Series.

Cincinnati inexplicitly lost its Division Series after winning the first 2-games on the road at San Francisco, allowing the Giants to become the first-ever National League team to recover from an 0-2 deficit after losing the first 2-games. Not to mention, the Reds had 3 straight home games to close the series in this year’s 2-3 format, but failed to do so.

The Giants hit .185 with RISP for the series, the worst mark of any postseason team in 2012. The Reds, meanwhile, had the highest NL average with RISP (.220), but didn’t drive in runs when it mattered most, including having the tying runs aboard in the final four innings in Game 5.

Ah, then the Nationals, who now famously will be remembered for not only shutting down its best power-arm before the postseason, but also allowing St. Louis to overcome the largest-ever deficit in a winner-take-all game…rallying from 6-runs down in Game 5–four of which were plated in the top of the ninth.

So what does it all mean? Basically, the regular season means little, if anything, when it comes to postseason baseball. Some teams, like St. Louis and New York live for moment, and some teams, like the four above, crumble under the pressure. How else do you explain the slumping Bombers and cockroach Cardinals advancing?

The Reds, with arguably the most formidable bullpen in the majors, were suppose to be battle tested after being swept out of the Division Series in 2010 against the Phillies. The Orioles were figured to be battled tested having survived the tough AL East. Oakland was riding the huge momentum from its thrilling season ending sweep vs. Texas to win the AL West…and the Nationals entered the tournament with the most wins in all of baseball (98).

And not one of them has anything to show for it—eliminated, finished, collapsed.

It’s the teams that advanced who understand the postseason is not the same as the grind of a 162-game regular season schedule, but rather the awareness, ability and determination to not let a summer’s worth of hard work be undone.

Hey, 90-plus wins coming off a losing season, that’s nothing to sneeze at…we’re all happy for ya. But to actually make those wins mean something…you’ve got to make them count in October.

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Cardinals the Anti-Cubs

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 1:15 am Leave a comment.

It’s like the Cardinals are the anti-Cubs. The bigger the moment, the more desperate the situation, the better St. Louis plays. I wonder what that’s like?

Of course, it can’t be ignored the Cardinals’ postseason opponents have crapped down their legs in the process, easing the way for St. Louis to win its last 6 elimination games.

The Nationals are just the latest team to soil its drawers vs. the Cards, joining the Phillies, Brewers and Rangers as recently as last year…and the Braves this postseason.

Oct. 6 Post: Heaven help me if the Nationals fall in line with the rest of the NL when it comes to finishing off the Cardinals. But quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do…everyone else seemingly has.

No team had overcome a 6-run deficit in a winner-take-all game until last night when the Nats unleashed a Cubs-like brain fart allowing 6-runs to score from the seventh-inning on, including 4-runs in the top of the ninth.

I couldn’t be more disgusted with the Nationals’ collapse. Davey Johnson was out-managed, his team out-played and out-willed. Where was Stephen Strasburg, by the way?

And as expected, there were the Cardinals, in ho-hum fashion continuing to do their thing…taking advantage of yet another team’s inability to close out the never-say-die boys from St. Lou.

So I wonder, will another National League team ever stand up to St. Louis, or is this how it plays out for eternity–choke jobs and gift wrapping championships for the Cubs’ most hated rival?

I know, I know…the Cardinals deserve some credit, too. But for heaven’s sake, enough is enough. For the love of baseball, San Francisco, do us all a favor and play an NLCS series that at least makes the Cardinals earn it.

Is that really too much to ask?

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Ricketts Writes Cubs STH

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 12:30 am 2 comments.

Chairman Tom Ricketts wrote to Cubs Season Ticket Holders following the conclusion of the regular season. Here’s my interpretation of the letter in short form. Make of it what you will…(read the letter in its entirety below the jump)

-Many pleasantries.
-You’re important to us as fans.
-Our No.1 goal is to win a World Series.
-We’re spending a ton of money to achieve it.
-This won’t happen overnight.
-We’re trying to be honest about this message.
-Be excited about our unproven minor leaguers.
-We’ve grown the front office with smart people who are good with computers.
-Our new facilities in the Dominican Rep. & Arizona are pretty cool.
-We donated millions of dollars to various charities this past calendar year.
-Thanks for being supportive while we clean up this 101-loss mess.

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