Saturday, October 27, 2007
Give the Rockies credit. They were game enough to look a 6-0 deficit in the eye and turn it into a one-run nailbiter for a few minutes anyway. Their bullpen was making the Boston bats look ordinary. They had the momentum on their side.
Oh, but it was merely a tease.
Before you could say Pesky Pole, the Red Sox, behind four improbable hits by a rookie who was not even on the team in the heady days of May and June, dusted the Rockies spirited comeback with three runs of their own in the eighth and one more in the ninth for good measure to turn a 6-5 game into a rout and all but crown themselves 2007 World Series champions. Whew! I just said that in one damn sentence.
This was a game for one inning exactly, about when the Rockies MVP Candidate Matt Holliday went yard against the previous unscored-upon Hideki Okajima, to plate three big runs. The Rockies had almost completely erased Boston's 6-0 lead. It looked over in the third when Rockies starter Josh Fogg, called the Dragon Slayer by his teammates for his penchant for beating good teams, didn't even last long enough for his first World Series at bat.
As the crowd went wild, though, manager Clint Hurdle went with the usual reliable Brian Fuentes to keep the Rockies close and hold on to their epic momentum. Alas, it was not to be. A one-out walk to Julio Lugo opened the floodgates and that was all she wrote.
What will the Beantown faithful do now with two World Series titles in four seasons? Makes eighty-six years feel like nothing, don't it?
Wow. This is the same team that looked ordinary against the surging Indians before coming back from a 1-3 deficit to make it to the Big Show's Biggest Show.
Tonight, Jon Lester, Cancer Survivor, goes to the mound with a chance to clinch the World Series, a little more than a year after being diagnosed. Ain't sports grand?
Man, that's gotta be disheartening if you're the Rockies.
You're down 6-0, left for dead and you make a spirited comeback with your bullpen putting up big goose eggs. And before you know it, those Pesky BoSox are rounded the bases again.
From 6-5 to 9-5 and only six outs left.
If the Rockies can recover from this, you gotta give them credit.
Matt Holiday goes yard and whoops, we got ourselves a game now.
Interesting that Francona didn't take out ManRam in this inning during the double switch. Did he see this coming?
Kaz gets on base now with nobody out and steals second and now it's first and third with nobody out. Here come the Rockies?
The Rockies take advantage of two Dice K walks to get back into the game, sort of. Four runs can be overcome at Coors Field you would think.
Two heart-stopping plays in a row -- Spilborghs' drive to the wall (a homer in any other park in the majors probably) and
For once, something useful -- Ken Rosenthal's telling us how Matt Herges pitches differently in the thin
Speaking of the
It's now or never....
But here he is, starting shortstop for a team up 2-0 in the World Series.
Dice K gets out of the inning. That was too easy. The Rockies are looking defeated right now.
That's a big league play on Ellsbury's grounder. Nice job by Atkins. You can't get rid of the ball faster that that.
They just flashed the probably Game 4 starters on the screen. How cool would it be for Jon Lester, who missed half the season recovering from Cancer, to be on the mound for a Sox clinching game? Now that's a story. Though I have a feeling the folks at Fox will overhype to a high vomit level.
That and a nifty catch off a high throw earlier and you can fit him for a Gold Glove.
Also, Manny in left would be a problem if the Rockies could actually hit a ball out there.
7:23 P.M. PST Top of the 5th
Tim McCarver used to be good, despite what anybody says. Seriously. He was awesome. But man, he's gone down hill fast. Who would have thought I would ever long for Joe Morgan?
7:3o P.M. PST Top of the 5th
What are these guys talking about? Craig Biggio is automatic for the Hall of Fame. I mean duh.
7:4o P.M. PST Last of the 5th
Lead off single for the Rockies but Dice K comes back, getting Sullivan on only three pitches. Interesting to hear the Rockies have not had back-to-back hits all series. Wow.
Two on, one out on that excuse-me single. Kaz Matzui up. Perfect storm for Colorado? I mean Kaz seems to have a bead on his countryman.
A few observations.
Josh Fogg, who went off to the showers already, looked really uncomfortable on the mound. Neither Joe Buck or Tim McCarver said anything about it so maybe that's the just the way he looks every time he pitches. Still, he seemed to come out of pitches like he was stepping gingerly -- like he didn't like the footing.
Dice K looks great right now. But it's Colorado and you really need a huge lead to feel comfortable. Still, he got through the important last of the third pretty easily there. Seems like only his countryman seems to be giving him any bit of trouble. But his two biggest contributions were the nice stab he made on Holliday’s bid for a base hit up the middle in the first and of course, his own RBI single in the third. That hit was his first in six major league at bats. And it’s more impressive when you think that when he played in
What's the deal with that Chevy Malibu ad where the jogger runs into the car? That's gotta be really high up on my stupid list. Wow.
It's real quiet out there in Denver right now.
Stay tuned ...
Here we are, Game 3 in Colorado and the prognosticators are weighing in heavily for the Rockies to win their first World Series game, ever. It makes sense. The odds do not favor a sweep, even with Boston, clearly the superior and more experienced team, up two games to none.
The thinking is that the Rockies, who had the NL’s best home record, are a better team at home and not just because of the mythical “home field advantage”. For starters, the air is thinner in the Mile High City and the ball travels I’m told 9 percent farther in Denver than down here where the rest of us live.
The people who built Coors Field tried to counter this advantage by building a park with an outfield bigger than Central Park. But alas, for the first 13 seasons in the life of the Rockies’ franchise, Coors was known as the place where pitchers went to die. Then last year, someone got the idea to change the baseballs. So they started putting game balls in a controlled atmosphere (referred to as the humidor) to keep them from shrinking and hardening in the thin air. While it’s worked (scoring has been down and the Rockies’ pitchers have had lower ERAs) it wasn’t the only factor in the Rockies’ success.
The Rockies braintrust decided to built a team around defense and pitching, as opposed to just getting a bunch of big bats. They have a very nice, young nucleus of hitters but they also made the fewest errors in the majors in a like forever this season.
The Rockies infield is excellent but they also have some very, very good outfielders, who can cover all that wide open space and have, in the case of Brad Hawp in right field, uber arms.
Willy Tavaras gets to everything in center – he made a couple of stellar plays there in Game 2 – but word late today is he’s being benched for his failure to produce at the plate. Cory Sullivan is also a fine fielder but he’s no Willie the speed demon. Still, the Rockies have a clear advantage in the field, especially since Boston’s left fielder, while being one of the game’s best hitters, is not exactly what one would call a good fielder. And with Manny being shaky in left and David Ortiz forced to play first instead of DH (where he’s been only seven times all season -- 17 times during the last two years), the thinking is that Boston is at a huge disadvantage.
I say it’s a factor but don’t count out the Red Sox. Why? Because they have a great freaking pitching, that’s why. Tonight, the very pricey Dice K gets the start and while he hasn’t exactly lived up to his $103 million price tag, the Japanese import has been one of the better pitchers in either league.
Read Jayson Stark’s column on ESPN.com today if you don’t agree with me. I predict you’ll be as surprised as I was. If you don’t have an ESPN.com Insider’s subscription, I’ll give you the highlights here.
He struck out 201 hitters in the regular season, more than probably Cy Young winner Josh Beckett or Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano and he was sixth in the AL overall.
And, points out Stark, he got all those K’s in only 204 2/3 innings. Better than, among others, Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander. Opposing hitters were .246 against him this year, which is better than Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and C.C. Sabithia, among others.
Further, I think it’s a huge thing that, while the Rockies faced Schilling (and beat him) and Beckett (and beat him) during the regular season, they did not see Dice K. For a pitcher who has 100 different pitches, I think this put the hitters at a disadvantage, particularly on the big stage of the World Series and in an absolutely must win game.
Let us ponder that for a minute.
The Rockies have to win tonight. Sure, they wouldn’t be the first team to come back from a 3-0 deficit in the World Series. Oh, wait. They would be. That’s right, no team in MLB history has ever come back from being down three games to none. And the only time it’s ever been done in a seven-game series was by the Red Sox – the famous 2004 comeback against the Yankees.
So while everybody seems to be calmly expecting the Rockies to win Game 3, I’m not sure they’re considering what a huge hill they have to climb. It’s bad enough they must realize by now that they’re not the best team out there, but now they have to think about what happens if they can’t pull out a win tonight.
The Rockies are at home. They’re supposed to win tonight. They have a lot more to lose than the Red Sox and facing a deceptive pitcher you’ve never seen before only adds insult to injury.
I didn't get to see the game as I was driving from L.A. to S.F. but I listened to it on the radio and watched some of it later on tape.
The Rockies lost Game 2 as opposed to the Red Sox winning it.
Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on three hits, but he also walked five guys, all due in large part because he stopped trusting his fastball. He was clearly intimidated by the Red Sox hitters and paid the price for his refusal to go with got him here in the first place.
Curt Schilling didn't have great stuff but he made great pitches when he had to and he was good enough to get the Sox to their wonderful bullpen. More proof that even when he doesn't have his best stuff, he's one of the great pressure pitchers of our generation.
Major props to Hideki Okajima who was just lights out great, proving once again that he is one of the better set up guys in all of baseball. If he’s back to his mid-season form (after scuffling a bit toward the end of the season) than this is going to be a very short series.
Matt Holliday may pile up some more hardware before this is all said and done but his getting picked off of first with Todd Helton at the plate as the go-ahead run in the eighth was just unforgivable. I know what he was thinking cause he told the press afterward that he was trying to “sneak” a stolen base, catch the Sox off guard.
But the Red Sox were not surprised, in part I bet because the Indians tried the same thing during the ALCS and were successful. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice... well you know.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Seriously. I told you the Rockies pitchers would have their hands full. Okay, so I didn't expect them to walk in three runs in a row but if you really think about it, those runs were no big thing. The game was over by then. Truthfully, it was over in the bottom half of the first inning after Josh Beckett retired the Rockies on three K's and then the little Red Sox who could (Dustin Pedroia) went yard over the Green Monster before the Rockies defense could get comfortable.
I think the off days hurt the Rockies. Their timing was bad at the plate. They looked rusty and when you add the glaringly bright lights of your first World Series game as a player (only one Rockies player had been there before), it just adds up to a long, long, long night. I swear my dog could have predicted the outcome of this game.
Game 2 is the big game. Duh.
Really, it is. Schiling is beatable this season and it's unlikely he'll pitch as well as he did in Game 6 of the ALCS. From the Rockies point of view, they had to go in thinking Game 1 was the mulligan. Beckett being Beckett, the eight-day layoff and being the visitors besides -- it's a lot to overcome, even for a team that was so hot. But it's a long series and really all you have to do is win one game in the other guy's house.
So you got the rusty, first-time jitters, best-pitcher-in-baseball game out of your system. You just go out there and take Game 2.
Sounds so freaking easy, don't it?
The Red Sox are on a roll right now and I'm not sure there's anybody Colorado could put out on the hill who could shut them down. I mean the one game they lost in the last five they've played, they scored 7 runs. So they're gonna score. Which means the Rockies have to start hitting. And they have to do it against Curt Schilling, who until his very civilian last couple of seasons, was the closest thing baseball had to, well to Josh Beckett.
I can see the Rockies winning Game 2.
But I doubt it. Seriously.
But the postseason has been nothing if not dramatic, at least on one side of the baseball world. In the National League, the playoffs have been so undramatic, that the Pennant winner has been sitting on their ass for eight days. In the every night a different game world of pro baseball, that's a long freaking time to be playing catch.
There's been a lot of speculation about whether the Colorado Rockies will be effected by their long layoff, which included a workout in four inches of freshly fallen snow (which begs the question why are we playing the World Series so late in October?). Last year, the Detroit Tigers, arguably the better WS team had six days off before facing the the St. Louis Cardinals and lost 4-1 in a very one-sided series that turned on the Tigers' mental mistakes. This has been repeated a lot since the Rockies swept the Diamondbacks out of the playoffs last week, with the theory being that too much time off is a bad thing.
If this turns out to be the case, the Rockies should blame Major League Baseball and the networks who broadcast the games (this year, Fox and TBS) because there's just too many days off in between games. I would like to take this opportunity to rue the day that TBS won the rights to broadcast playoff games. They put together their broadcast booths like they had everybody's leftovers to chose from. I like Bob Brenly and Tony Gwynn isn't bad but they need to be paired with guys who know how to call a game and Chip Carey is not one of them. Who thought I would long for the days of Thom Brennaman? There's been a lot of criticism about these guys so one hopes they work harder to get a better group in for next year.
Back to the series. The AL playoffs were a lot more interesting, what with the Indians facing the Yankees in the Joe Torre Future series (and we all know what happened there) before taking a 3-1 lead over the Boston Red Sox. Just when it looked like curtains for Beantown, the Red Sox reeled off three straight dominant wins in sending the Indians home disappointed for the 49th straight year.
I'd like to toot my own horn, even though it's hardly worth tooting, because at the start of the playoffs, I picked the Rockies to face the Red Sox in the World Series. I even picked the Rockies to sweep the Phillies (for reasons I admit that had more to do with my disappointment with my Mets than anything else). If Boston beats the Rockies, and I think they will, I'll have a perfect picks-wise. I mean it's only worth minor bragging rights and a small amount of cash from the pool I'm in but heck, it doesn't take much to make me happy.
So I have to pick the Sox, even though the Rockies are in the midst of one of the most impressive winning streaks in the history of the game. It's so impressive that seeing it in black and white looks downright crazy. That's 21 wins in 22 games dating back to the last three weeks of the season and including a sweep of the aforementioned Phillies and Dbacks in the playoffs. For a nice analysis of how they did it, check out this link.
The Rockies aren't winning with mirrors. They have fine starting pitching, a very underrated bullpen and a core bunch of hitters who seriously rake. But my thinking is they haven't faced a team in the postseason that's even remotely as good as the Red Sox or as experienced. And the Sox have to feel like world beaters after coming back from the brink of elimination for the second time in four years. And we all remember how the last one ended. The NL team that year (St. Louis) didn't have a chance.
I don't think the Rockies will be swept but I don't see this series going seven games. I just don't think Colorado pitching staff can keep Boston's formidable lineup in check. I see the series at most going six games, though it could be over sooner if Boston wins Games 1 and 2 at home.
The one thing that could really play havoc with this series is the weather. They're already talking about rain in Boston tonight and snow as we've already discussed, is not unusual this time of year in Denver.
I hope it does rain and snow, causing games to be canceled, because I think that's the only thing that will convince MLB and the broadcasters to shorten the postseason so we can actually play the entire Fall Classic in the freaking fall.
Should be fun to watch these teams play anyway. And if you're a casual baseball fan, there's a few treats to look for.
On the Rockies side:
Matt Holliday is a one of the best young players in either league. He hits for average and with power and is a nifty fielder.
There might be no smarter hitter than first baseman Todd Helton and for slick fielding, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is already one of the best in game. In fact, the Rockies defense is worth watching. Nobody in the NL committed fewer errors. His double play partner is the ex Met Kaz Matsui, the Japanese import who looked like a bust until he was traded to the Rockies and spent time in their minor leagues. Give him credit for figuring out the big leagues but whatever he did is working and without him, the Rockies would not be where they are.
On the Red Sox side:
There may be no better hitter in the history of the game than Boston's Manny Ramirez. This guy eats, sleeps, drinks, walks, talks, thinks, dreams hitting. And when you watch him play left field, you'll see how single-minded he is about offense. How good is Manny? He's batting over .400 in the playoffs with two strikes on him. Most other players, two strikes usually means an out. Not with Manny.
David Oritz, aka, Big Papi. A great clutch hitter though in recent games, he's not been at his best. Chalk that up to a knee injury he's been battling all season long and which will likely require surgery this winter.
Kevin Youkilis is as hard nosed as they get but don't let that overshadow what a great hitter he is. Watch how many pitches he's able to "waste" in each of his at bats. The guy doesn't get cheated at the plate but he also battles to get his pitch. I imagine he's a pitcher's nightmare in how patient a hitter he is.
Josh Beckett, Boston's starting pitcher tonight, has carved out one of the best postseason resumes in recent years, maybe the best ever if he can help Boston bring home it's second title in the last four seasons. He's been lights out although he's known to have slow starts so watch to see if the Rockies get to him early.
Stay tuned, sports fans ...
Thursday, October 18, 2007
But there's trouble in Yankeeville these days as word came out today that Joe Torre rejected management's offer of a one-year deal to continue on as the Yankees skipper. Initial reports have Torre looking like a heel for turning down an offer almost nobody thought he would receive after The Boss said publicly during their playoff series against Cleveland that it was win or go home, permanently.
While the Yanks won the first elimination game to avoid a three-game sweep, they couldn't close the deal in game four and Cleveland moved on to face Boston (as of this writing they are up 3-2 going to Game 6 Saturday night in Boston).
But Steinbrenner and his braintrust didn't move right away, leaving Torre hanging over the last week. Then came today's bombshell - the Yanks apparently do an about face and offer Torre a one-year deal worth five very large and another three million in bonuses. What does Torre do?
Well, he says 'no.'
Whoa, Nelly Fox.
It looks like Yanks management caved into the pressure from fans and many of the Yanks veterans who came out publicly to support the popular skipper. But a closer look reveals something else entirely.
The more I look at this situation, the more apparent it is that the Yankees made this offer to Torre to try to save face for the franchise. Period. I don't think they thought for a nanosecond that he would accept it (and why would he take another one-year deal just to sit on the hot seat again?) The Yankees move is bush league because it's clear they wanted to put the onus on Torre for fear of angering his supporters, both on the field and in the stands.
I think it was time for Torre to go. Whatever you say about him as a manager, he wasn't getting it done and as my friend, sportswriter Allen Berra has said, he seemed to be managing from Cooperstown. Seven years without a title in Yankeeland is an eternity and if it means saying good-bye to an icon, then so be it. Won't be the first or the last legend to depart the House that Ruth Built.
I hope Yankees management gets called on this, though. It's underhanded ball. Even if you agree with me that Torre's time is up, doesn't mean you gotta kick him when he's down. Show him the door, yes, but at least show him the respect he earned by guiding your club to all those titles.
I'm just saying.
Meanwhile on the field, Josh Beckett breathed new life into Boston's fading chances with a masterful performance in Game 5, helping the Sox stave off elimination. Two games to go, both in Boston and Curt Schilling on the mound. You gotta like the Sox chances to force a Game 7 and you have to wonder if the Indians, so young and inexperienced in these pressure situations, have what it takes to close the deal.
If the Red Sox pull this out and that's a huge if still, you might look at the tense at-bat by Kenny Lofton against Beckett, who is convinced Lofton showed him up a few years back when they were both in the National League (Kenny in Philly and Josh in Florida). I thought Lofton handled the situation badly this time, adding fuel to a fire that was best left to burn out. The Sox are an emotional team and you don't want to give Schilling another reason to pitch like his old Yankee-killer self.
If you're a baseball fan, you do not want to miss Saturday night's game.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
S.O.L. picked an interesting week to be down here in LaLa Land.
Well, y'all know the Kobe of which I speak, the poor under appreciated L.A. Lakers superstud. He's got a new teammate in Los Angeles this season -- George Karl's son Coby, who incidentally was NOT named after either Kobe or a Japanese steer.
The big question is how long the two will actually share a uniform. Since the younger Coby is a rookie draftee, you can rest assured if he goes anywhere, it will be the developmental league. So yeah, crazy as this world is, it's getting crazier here in L.A. while As the Kobe World Turns continues.
For those of you living under a rock, Kobe Bryant announced in a frenzied 24-hour period that he was sick and tired of the Lakers losing ways and he wanted out of Lakerland unless they replaced GM Mitch Kupchak with ex-GM and Kobe father figure Jerry West. Only since West was under an expiring contract with Memphis and since he and Mitch K. are buddies, the Logo got bent out of shape when his protege was called out by his once favored son. Then Kobe seemed to diplomatically back away from his trade request only to raise it again, only with no ifs, ands or basketballs. Whew. Must've been quite a day in the Kobe crib.
The long summer pushed on. Kobe went to play for the U.S. National Team and demonstrated to his superstar teammates that he could actually pass the ball. This news flash did not go unnoticed by his new running mates, some of whom the Black Hole was campaigning Lakers management to bring to L.A. by any means available. No matter that in doing so he completely dissed his current teammates.
The blockbuster trades got done this summer, but the Kid went to Beantown and the other O'Neal stayed put in the Midwest.
So Kobe arrived at Lakers training camp determined to put a happy face on his predicament and collect his paycheck (which is more than tonight's lottery payoff). Poor Kobe. Poor, poor Kobe.
Behind the scenes, apparently, Kobe and the Lakers had agreed to keep the trade request matter under wraps. Then early this week, team owner Jerry Buss told the L.A. Times that he would entertain offers for his disgruntled superstar, not that he expected to get even close to even value in return. However you read it, it was a compliment to Kobe but Kobe cried foul.
In one of his now famous punk ass moves, he asked out of practice three straight days. Philip claims it was "leg fatigue". Right, S.O.L. is having excuse fatigue. The rumor mill went on tilt at the news that Kobe cleaned out his locker, a story he flatly denied. His agent said he was "just organizing" it.
Here's S.O.L.'s take: I think Kobe got wind of the comments and blew a a major gasket. I think he absolutely did clean out his locker in a fit of churlishness. (Looking back from our current perspective of the real Kobe psyche, can anyone now believe that he didn't mail in that second half against Sacramento four seasons ago? Or the 2005 second half in Game 7 against the Suns? Wake up people.
Instead of facing the music like a man and understanding that his own erratic behavior started this whole trade story nonsense, he took his ball and went home.
I think a person could argue that Kobe has about as much talent around him as LeBron James has in Cleveland. Maybe Cleveland is slightly better and plays in the weaker East but if the roles were reversed, James would be thinking about how his talent could make his teammates better not how much better he is than his supporting cast. He certainly wouldn't call out his boys in public, not like this.
I've said it before. Kobe hastened the end of the Shaq era and he's getting exactly what he deserves in return. The Lakers haven't won a playoff series since Shaq left. If Kobe's the best player on the team than why shouldn't he take some of the blame?
Further, his immature blabbering this summer was directed at the team that stood by him in his darkest days, that rehired Phil Jackson to appease him and didn't flinch when he "tested" the free agent waters with the crosstown Clippers when he knew all along he wasn't going anywhere.
I hear fans in L.A. cry that Kobe should be mad that the Lakers haven't done much to make the team better. I agree that Mitch is a lousy GM but how come nobody asks who would want to play with the second coming of Pistol Pete? A moody, selfish, jerk who hogs the ball in the All-Star game so he can improve his own legacy.
If Kobe wants to know what's wrong with his team, all he has to do is look in the mirror.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I was at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival this weekend in San Francisco. For anyone who doesn't know, HSB is put on by venture capitalist Warren Hellman, a very rich guy who is really into great roots music (and doesn't I'm surprised to see have a Wikipedia entry). For the past seven Octobers, he's put on a 3-day music festival at Golden Gate Park in S.F. featuring as many as 74 bands on six stages. Among the performers that have stopped by this musician's musician concert are Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Patty Griffin, Joe Ely, Chris Smither, Guy Clark, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Kelly Joe Phelps, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, Roseanne Cash and Los Lobos. The list is much longer but you get the picture.
The best part about the festival is that it's totally free. That's right. Free. You get there and find a parking spot (not easy) and then you freely (except for the crowds) walk around between the six stages, catching all sorts of bands and performers.
I'll write more later about the shows I saw -- so many it's going to take me awhile to gather my thoughts and notes -- but I'll give you a taste of the festivities through the wonder of digital images. Remember, you can click on any of these images to see them full size.
I just want to offer a cosmic shout out to Warren Hellman for putting on a great show and paying for it. As the song says, there's no better way to get to heaven.
Buddy Miller getting in tune
Charlie Louvin, the last living member of the Louvin Brothers. He's 81 and still going strong.
Emmylou Harris, beautiful as ever
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
David Holt and the legendary Doc Watson
John Mellencamp and Neko Case