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Posts Tagged ‘World Series’

The Fall Classic

In MLB on October 22, 2013 at 9:06 pm

By Chris Hallenbrook

The World Series is baseball’s ultimate showcase, not only for the talent, but also for the history of a game that embraces continuity with its past in a way that few sports can match. Toward that end, this year provides an ideal matchup, not only because the Red Sox (est. 1901) and Cardinals (est. 1882) have both played in their cities of origin for over a century, but also because of their October history together, having met in three previous fall classics that have woven together the fates of generations of fans in Boston and St. Louis.

1946 – Cardinals in 7. Stacked with Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, as well as Hall worthy players Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky, this Red Sox team inaugurated decades of “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” Ted Williams was hit with a pitch in an October exhibition game, and played the World Series with a swollen elbow that held him to a mere .200 batting average. In Game 7, with the Red Sox down 3-1 in the top of the 8th, DiMaggio laced a two run double off the wall that missed going out of Sportsman’s Park by mere feet. Trying to leg for third, DiMaggio went down with a hamstring injury. In the bottom of the inning, Enos Slaughter would fly through the stop sign to test the arm of DiMaggio’s replacement, scoring all the way from first with the game, and Series, winning run (Pesky didn’t hold the ball. Leon Culberson was no DiMaggio, and Slaughter admitted he wouldn’t have tried it if the Little Professor was still in the game). For my grandfather, a 14 year old coming of age in postwar America, Slaughter’s Mad Dash was the first time the Red Sox broke his heart.

1967 – Cardinals in 7. This was such a watershed year for the Red Sox that losing the Series couldn’t ruin The Impossible Dream. The Sox had been so bad for so long that many thought the young Dick Williams was in over his head when during spring training he brashly declared that “we’ll win more than we lose.” A Yastrzemski triple crown/MVP campaign and a Jim Lonborg Cy Young season later, the Red Sox inched out victory in a four team pennant race on the last day of the season. The Red Sox were fantastic in that Series, with Yaz posting an other worldly 1.340 OPS and Lonborg allowing 1 run in 18 innings during his first two starts. But a 101 win Cardinals team featuring Roger Maris, Orlando Cepeda, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton and the legendry Bob Gibson were too much for the Sox. Lonborg made a valiant effort in Game 7, but working on two days rest he just didn’t have enough left to truly compete with the dominance of Gibson. My father, a 22 year old private just home from Vietnam, would watch The Cardiac Kids come just short, blissfully unaware that he wouldn’t live long enough to see their Idiot cousins finish the job.

2004 – Red Sox in 4. By now you surely know the story of the team affectionately known as the Idiots. (If not, go watch the “Four Days in October” episode of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series.) The Varitek vs. A-Rod midsummer brawl. The 0-3 deficit. The Steal. The Bloody Sock. The Slap. The Comeback. The New York tabloids running headlines such as “Hell Freezes Over” and “The Choke’s On Us.” Momentum may only be as good as your next day’s starting pitcher, but this Red Sox team rode a wave of emotion (and solid pitching) to the franchise’s first World Series title in 86 years. I was a 17 year old high school senior, and within a week my classmates were wearing t-shirts that read “Now I can die happy.” My grandfather celebrated his first Red Sox World Series Championship at the age of 72.

2013 – This is the story that is yet to be written. Will Carlos Beltran add to his portfolio of post-season heroics? Will Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha remind the world that pitching wins championships? Or will David Ortiz add to the legend of Big Papi? Perhaps Koji Uehara will put a fitting capstone on one of the greatest seasons in the history of relief pitching. The only thing we know for sure is that with these two franchises, and these two teams, each winners of 97 regular season games and each fresh off a 6 game LCS triumph over a championship caliber opponent, it will be a Fall Classic in the truest sense of the term, and two fan bases will always remember where they were when “it” happened, whatever “it” may be.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter @CHallenbrook.

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A-(Lightning)-Rod In New York

In MLB on October 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm

No player in modern history has ever worked so hard to become an accepted part of their team’s culture than Alex Rodriguez.

And no player has ever failed at that task more than A-Rod.

“Why doesn’t anybody like me?”

Let’s face it, Rodriguez will go down as one of the better players ever to play the game, yet you’ll be hard pressed to ever find a Yankee fan who would mention his name in the same breath as Joe DaMaggio, Mickey Mantel, Lou Gehring, Reggie Jackson, Roger Maris, or the great Derek Jeter and Babe Ruth.

(Okay, so that was a long breath)

A-Rod has never been considered a true Yankee, regardless of the nine years he has spent with the organization.

Maybe it’s because he’s aloof. Because he’s arrogant and cocky.

Maybe it’s because he cheated on his wife, and girlfriends, and one night flings. Maybe it’s because he took steroids, and was hated by his teammates so much, they openly referred to him a “Bitch Tits” because of the impressive boobs he grew due to such PED abuse.

“A little lower, Madonna…”

Maybe it’s because, no matter his supposed greatness, he has only helped bring one World Series to a franchise that’s used to regularly winning banners. Maybe it’s because of his slumps and poor play and his $275 million dollar salary, or that fact that while his team was on the verge of getting swept by the Detroit Tigers, he was flirting with Australian bikini models in the bleachers while he’s in a slump, playing poorly, and earning $275 million dollars.

“Dude, I’m totally going to get a hit or two tonight. Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m going to try and get on base too. Wait, what are we talking about?”

No matter how great Alex Rodriguez supposedly is, or how much money he has made during his time as a Yankee, A-Rod will not go down as a Yankee Great. And because of that, despite his numbers, he does not deserve to have his number retired with the likes of Ruth, Mantel and (in the future) Jeter. He doesn’t even deserve to wear the pinstripes come 2013.

Rodriguez has brought unwanted attention and ridicule to a franchise that expects greatness like it is a common occurrence. At this point, it would be better for the Yankees to eat a significant portion of Rodriguez’s salary, find a way to convince him to drop his No-Trade Clause, and ship him off to the likes of Miami (who supposedly has already expressed interest in making a trade), Arizona (since Kirk Gibson is openly lobbing for such a move), Atlanta (since they’ve lost Chipper Jones), Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Cleveland or even the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have proven they will throw so much money at a lost cause, it would make even the late George Steinbrenner blush.

“You spent how much for what?!?”

Alex Rodriguez is done in New York. Come next season, he should no longer be a Yankee.

Not like he ever was really one anyway.

What’s Old Is New Again

In MLB on October 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm

With the one-and-done elimination game already taking place, this is going to be quick. Before we go any further, it’s time for the baseball lovers in all of us to take pause. To take a moment and make sure we realize what is happening before us.

A tip of the hat to you.

Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967.

October baseball is being played in DC.

The Baltimore Orioles are in the playoffs.

So are the Reds.

The Oakland A’s look like the most dominant team in baseball.

In 2012, what is old is new again, and some of the oldest, most storied franchises in the sport are in the hunt for another World Series banner.

The Tigers haven’t won it all since 1984. DC last hosted a series in 1933. The Orioles last won in 1983. The Reds, 1990. The A’s, 1989. Heck, even Chipper Jones is in the playoffs right now, and he’s retiring after this season after playing nineteen years for the same franchise (Atlanta Braves).

An old boys club with nothing but fresh, young faces.

Sure, there are some old timey teams who won a ring recently (the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants), and one old timer who always seems to win (New York Yankees), but this is a special year. It’s as if all of your grandpa’s teams are having a revival.

And while we wouldn’t want October to become solely an old boy’s club, sometimes it’s nice to party like’s it’s 1933. Or ’83. Or ’84, or ’89, or ’90. Or…

Lefty, Tony and the San Diego Padres

In Golf, MLB on June 5, 2012 at 6:18 am

About a week ago, MLB.com reported that golfing legend Phil Mickelson was joining a purchasing group to make a bid on the San Diego Padres.

“And this is for that other time Tiger beat me!”

Whatever needs to happen in order to make that happen, needs to happen.

(…I am not proud of that sentence…)

While committing a hefty sum to the purchase, Mickelson wouldn’t be buying the club himself, and there’s no indication he would even be the majority owner. Still, his inclusion would bring serious benefits to the beach-side ball club, as well as the community. Mickelson would be a prominent face in ownership, on par to the Padres what Magic Johnson is to the Dodgers (hear me out).

While Mickelson warrants, in no way, the star power of Magic Johnson (and I’m sure the Padres will be much more of a bargain than the Dodger’s $2 billion price tag), he would still bring a sign of hope to a city which has seen it’s baseball team gutted over the past two years (who outside of San Diego really knew who Adrian Gonzalez was before he became the face of the BoSox?). To a city that has lived under constant threat that their football team is going to hightail it 120 miles up the I-5, whenever L.A. gets around to building that stadium. To a city that has recently lost one of their biggest hometown heroes. Yes, Mickelson would be a poor man’s Magic, but things are just bigger in L.A.. Let’s not fault San Diego for that.

San Diego is a a great city. A great city with a great stadium, and a fan base anxious to exercise their demons of coming so close all these years, and never winning it all. The last time they were close to doing anything, the Giants came out of no where and ended their curse instead. Then Gonzalez was gone, and their ‘magic’ over.

Mickelson would bring confidence to the city, which would start the rebuilding process by filling the stadium seats and hopefully spreading goodwill to the players (and with the way they’re been playing, anything could help, right?).

The Padres need something like this. They need a hometown kid stepping up for the community. They need a face they can trust. In fact, the only thing that would be better for San Diego, would be if Padres legend and Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn made a bid for the team. Which he did. With a different purchasing group. The week before Mickelson.

“You should be grateful I still care, given how you treated my son…”

Gwynn is the San Diego Padre. He took the team to their second World Series, only to meet the Yankees during their latest dynasty. You want to talk about bringing a little consistency to a team that needs it? Gwynn was Mr. Consistent during his twenty-year career with his one-and-only club. Never a home run threat, Gwynn was someone you knew would always get you on base. The only face better suited than Mickelson to be the representative of a purchasing group in San Diego would be Gwynn’s.

No matter who else steps up and tries to make a bid, hopefully the decision will only be between these two homegrown sons trying to help the community. Now, if only these two could have jumped on the same boat, San Diego might be all sunshine after all. Hopefully, who ever does win, will decide to invite the other to a position with the team, even if only a symbolic one or not.

Because whatever needs to happen to make one of these things happen, needs to happen.

Because San Diego just needs something to come together over.

May the best man win.

How A Measly 2 Billion Dollars Changed The Dodgers

In MLB on June 1, 2012 at 10:55 am

At this point of the baseball season, weren’t we supposed to be talking about the other team from Los Angeles?

You know, the one that made all those fancy shmancy moves in the off season? The one that stole away the heart and soul from the World Series champs? The one that swooped in on the pitcher everybody wished they could afford? Who were they again?

“Well, at least I’m still making a quarter-billion dollars whether I hit or not…”

What were we talking about?

Anyway, faster than you couldn’t order your customized jersey, you can kill any more talk of LA become an Angels’ sort of town any time soon. At least, for now.

Because the Dodgers are back baby!

(It is only June…)

Now, there’ll be all sorts of folks who want to credit the rise of Los Doyers to improved pitching, to Clayton Kershaw being Clayton Kershaw (except two days ago against the Brewers…), to Matt Kemp (when he’s not hurt) playing like he’s rightfully pissed over how that whole MVP thing went down, when he lost to the guy who doesn’t have to explain anything, and blah blah blah blah blah. You know who those type of people are, the ones who want to give you every little statistic to support their ideas?

You know; number people. 

But I’m here to tell you there is only one number you need to concern yourself with. One number to answer all your questions about how the Dodgers got so good, so quickly. Actually there are a lot of numbers. Two billion, to be precise.

See, no matter who you bring into the rotation, or how Bobby Abreu is providing veteran leadership, or Andre Either yadda yadda yadda, the most overly simplified, fallacy-ridden explanation is the best.

Unless you’re JP Morgan, freely dumping $2 billion dollars can fix anything.

“Psssh, it’s just money!”

Because that’s how much the purchasing group (which included Los Angeles legend Magic Johnson), spent to pry the team away from the man who was driving them straight to hell. Two billion dollars took the team away from Frank McCourt, the most corrupt, inept, and insane owner of our time. The man who had so mismanaged the legendary team from Brooklyn and Hollywood, that he had to file for bankruptcy.

And it was the fans and the product on the field that suffered the most, because of it.

We’ve all had jobs like that. Well, maybe not to the extent of playing baseball for millions of dollars in the second largest market in the country, but you know what I mean. For example, in college I worked as a waiter for an upscale restaurant that was always on the verge of shutting down. As everyone who worked at the restaurant tried to do their job, rumors began swirling that the place was in financial trouble, and that it was probably going to close any day. This went on for months. For months there were rumors about how everyone was going to get fired. Rumors that one day we were going to show up, only to have the doors’ locked on us. Rumors rumors rumors.

With every rumor, another employee cared about their job performance a little less. With every day that passed, the service got a little serviceable, the food a little less appetizing, until nobody, from the kitchen to the hostess, was trying anymore. Why bother?

I wish I could tell you that the restaurant was sold to a better operator, and that it later found the prosperity of its glory days, but it didn’t. It just closed down.

But the next job I went to didn’t have any of those issues. It was well run, there wasn’t any fear of bankruptcy, management was not only great to work for, but inspiring, and the I never worked so hard in my entire life. No one I worked with, it seemed, worked so hard in their life. It’s like those studies that show how children in run down schools perform worse than children in state-of-the-art facilities. A little confidence can go a long, long way.

So back to the Dodgers:

What was the team like before the purchase, when McCourt was running the show? Seats left empty from a livid fan base who refused to take a second or third mortgage for tickets, parking and a Dodger Dog. Underachieving and apathetic players who looked brilliant one game, only to look like a junior high, junior varsity squad the next.

And what did $2 billion dollars buy?

Butts in the seat. Player confidence. Put those two things in the same room, and it’s like a perpetual motion machine. Fans root for the team, the team has something to play for, besides just no longer working for the guy who couldn’t afford his payroll from time-to-time.

This player ran the front office.

The Magic (Johnson) $2 billion dollars was to the Dodgers what the bailouts and TARP and stimulus packaged wished it could have been to the economy. It instantly added a sense of credibility and calm to everyone, from the bleachers to the field. Fan and player alike. It took away distractions and the circus shows and TMZ and everything else, and let everyone focus on what they were there for; baseball.

And then just like that, just when I was finishing these last few sentences, Matt Kemp went ahead and rehurt himself for the next four weeks. Although, knowing how the Dodgers now roll, I’m sure they’ll just give him an ice pack filled with dollar-dollar bills for that sore hamstring. They can afford it.

The San Francisco Giants Should Consider Trading Brian Wilson

In MLB on May 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

While only two years removed from their first Word Series Championship since moving to the Bay Area 56 years earlier, the San Francisco Giants should consider trading the man who threw their final out.

The Giants should deal The Beard.

“I am completely insane.”

Now I know there will be those in San Francisco crying, “but what about all the jerseys, and t-shirts, and fake Santa Claus beards, and shoe polish I bought to dye said fake Santa Claus beards? Don’t you know I have a $2500-a-month rent to make? If they trade Wilson, what am I supposed to do?”

First, I would recommend looking into a rent controlled place further inland, and then I would bring up how Wilson is more like damaged goods at this point of his career than a feared major league closer. And this was before he even got hurt.

Sure, it was all fun and games when Wilson had the mohawk, and yes, it was quite the chuckle when he grew the beard. But then The Beard’s beard birthed a life of its own. The Beard’s gimmick became too gimmicky. Heck, The Beard started being referred to as ‘The Beard.’

While Wilson was sort of a big deal in the pitching world (and still borderline crazy) before being rocketed to stardom after the 2010 Word Series, he became too big a deal (and certifiably insane), afterward. His game became distracted. He became a distraction.

And then pop! went the elbow, and here came a second Tommy John surgery. Tommy John is a funny thing. When it first came out, odds were 1-in-100 that you were back to normal. Now it’s more like 85%-to-90%. Some pitchers come back like nothing happened, while others spend years trying to find their former selves. Some are never the same. And that’s after only the first go around at surgery.

It’s a huge gamble to trade Wilson, for sure. If Wilson storms back from rehab stronger (and hopefully a little humbler) than before, then the Giants still have one of (if not the) best closers in baseball. But if he doesn’t, than they will have a struggling pitcher who will get very annoyed that a) he can’t perform at the same level he did before surgery, and b) the fame of yesterday is no longer the same. If that happens, Wilson will become a toxic asset in the clubhouse, and trying to move him then will only yield a lesser return than dealing him during recovery, when other gamblers are betting on a return of The Beard of old.

And look at the potential returns. Right now the Giants are second place in the NL West. Sure, it’s to the Dodgers, the best team in baseball, but it’s only May, and the closest competition, the injury-plauged Diamondbacks, are dropping to the DL like flies. One idea is moving Wilson for a perform now, big time veteran hitter  (practically anyone on the Red Sox is probably available) to help with the offense and stabilize a clubhouse filled with young talent. Another idea is the Giants moving Wilson for a heap of hitting prospects to cure the inept offense that has plagued them for years.

Everyone on this team can hit better than the San Francisco Giants.

Yes, for Giants fans, it would be sad to see the departure of a player who has become an icon to the city. But who knows? If Sergio Romo steps up a bit, maybe he, and not Santiago Cassila, would be the Giants’ next closer. He and Wilson sort of look-alike. Maybe you won’t have to get rid of those Santa Claus beards after all.

Valentine’s Day Massacre: Why the BoSox Need to Rethink Their Mess

In MLB on May 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm

It’s only May, and if you’re a professional baseball team, panicking about your team’s record at this point is sort of like freaking out about your report card after the second week of school. But, if you’re the Boston Red Sox, especially after today’s loss, maybe your feelings aren’t so far-fetched. Maybe it might be time to take your team back to the drawing board.

And I mean a completely blank page.

2012 Boston Red Sox team photo.

First draft: You trade Youkillis, Ortiz, Beckett, Lester, Gonzalez and Pedrioa. See what you can get Sweeney. See if you can get anything for Ross. Purchase a “Whacky-Waving-Inflatable-Arm-Flailing-Tube-Man,” and host an “Everyone Must Go” fire sale outside Fenway. Afterward, burn down the stadium and file an insurance claim. Relocate the team to Oklahoma City and rebrand yourself “The OKC Corrals,” but only after ruling out “The Storms,” as a possible name. Change the team’s colors to orange and blue.

After stepping away from the drawing board for a while, you take a few deep breaths, calm down, and approach the table once more.

Second draft: You admit your mistake and fire Bobby Valentine.

You put the two drafts side-by-side and judge each draft’s merits. You realize you have a team loaded with expensive talent and a new manager you hired to replace the manager you fired after he won you two World Series following an almost ninety-year drought. Valentine was supposed to bring discipline and order to your franchise, which was falling apart after losing last year’s playoff spot on the final day of the season, but has instead so far only isolated himself in a clubhouse filled with pissed-off players whom he pissed-off and isolated.

You consider your options. If you truly believe that Valentine’s leadership is the future of your club, you need to wipe the slate clean and get rid of everyone associated with the last regime. You need to go so far as to get rid of players like Gonzalez, who despite playing only one year with the former manager  (who will be referred to as ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’), is still tainted by the influence of ‘He Who Must Not Be Named.’ Everyone must go, even players like Ross, who despite joining the team just this season, has still been corrupted by the lingering influence of the past. Burn the thing down and rebuild.

Or:

You realize you made a miscalculation by hiring Valentine. You realize that maybe the tactics of the former manager (who isn’t nearly as bad as Voldermort, but your still not ready to say his name) weren’t so bad, and that maybe the club really did respond to that type of coaching, and maybe you tried to put a candle out with a waterfall. You consider that maybe Bobby Valentine is like R.L. Ermey’s drill instructor from ‘Full Metal Jacket‘ and your team’s like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, and no amount of discipline and yelling is going to make them stop with their imaginary fried chicken, beer, or golfing on days they’re supposed to be injured. It’s just not going to happen. The two styles can’t mesh together and they never could.

“How many more losses until I can go back to Baseball Tonight?”

So after some thought, you call up your manager, assure him it’s not him, it’s you, and that you hope you can still be friends. Then, you log on to Match.com and see who’s available (One of the many compatible matches that pops up first is that of Bob Brenly, who’s stuck in a broadcast both over in Chicago. After going through his profile, you see that he not only has a World Series pedigree (against your hated rival, no less) but he did it by getting a bunch of expensive underachievers to play up to par, all while famously throwing out the rulebook imposed by the former manager, Buck Showalter, an infamous control freak himself).

Whomever you choose, make sure he’s compatible with you first. You’re the Boston Red Sox of course, and there’s no shortage of suitors who would love to nestle up to your East Coast-elite deep pockets. Make sure you’re compatible first, and then give it some time. These things don’t happen over night, after all. And if it doesn’t work after that, then you can go back to considering that first draft.

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