October 23, 2013
With the 2013 World Series getting underway between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox a bittersweet sensation fills the mind, body and baseball spirit. On one hand, the season will finally have a champion. Eight months after pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, the final champion in this season’s history book will conclude. The anticipation will be over. On the other hand a different level of anxiety sets in—what’s one to do without baseball for the winter months?
While we may not have an answer for that question, let’s enjoy baseball while we can. In the end, the two best teams made it to the game’s ultimate stage—this hasn’t happened since 1995. Neither was upset in the earlier rounds and fans are in for a treat. Here are some bold predictions for the Fall Classic.
Jonny Gomes Will Be the Game 1 Hero in the 10th Inning
Every World Series has an unsung hero that forever etches his name in stone. Jonny Gomes will waste little time this year when he wins the game for the Bo Sox in the 10th inning of Game 1. Whether you want to admit it or not, this game will be slow out of the gates. Nerves, a three/four day layoff, quality pitching and cold October temperatures will have the bats quiet through much of the game.
With Xander Bogaerts pinch running for Jared Saltalamacchia, Gomes will shoot a single to the right field corner. Bogaerts will barely beat out the throw from Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran. Pandemonium will then ensue in Bean Town. Final score, 2-1.
Rookie Michael Wacha Will Go 8 Strong Innings in Game 2
The Cardinals starting rotation is wise beyond their years. Rookie Michael Wacha is no different. All he’s done this post season is go 3-0 with a .43 ERA over 21 innings. During that time he’s fanned 22 batters, with four walks and only eight hits.
Wacha has proved to be cold blooded and he’ll frustrate Red Sox all night long. He’ll be aided by the return of first baseman Allen Craig, who’s been sidelined with injury since September 4. Despite the absence, he still led the team with 97 RBI this season. Craig will have three RBI in Game 2 and the Cards will win easily, 6-2. Wacha will only thicken is legacy.
The Series is Destined for 7 Games
These two teams were the best at the plate in 2013, have strong starting staffs and have shut down bullpens. Face it, something has to give, but not until Game 7. Both have rookie managers in St. Louis’ Mike Matheny and Boston’s John Farrell. It’ll be a seesaw battle that will have the ebbs and flows of a classic Halloween thriller. Fans will be glued to their seat from beginning to end and will be reminded of why baseball is engrained in our souls as something pure and comforting. No one will want this one to end.
In the End, the Cardinals Take It
With Adam Wainwright on the mound in Game 7 in Boston the Cardinals will win it all. Not very often does a sports franchise have the amount of success St. Louis has indulged the past decade. Look, the Red Sox are a great team and have certainly pulled a 180 from their 2012 campaign, but there’s something magical about the Cardinals.
No matter who dons the two birds and a bat uniform they seem to perform at the highest of levels. They seemingly can do no wrong. This series will be one of the all-time greats and in the end St. Louis will own the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Carlos Beltran Will Win World Series MVP
It’s almost easy to forget how good Carlos Beltran is. Even at 36 years old he batted .296 this season. In 11 postseason games this season he has 12 RBI and eight walks.
Beltran knows this may be his only shot at winning it all. Despite 45 career postseason games, he’s never played in the showcase. Now is his time and he will rise to the occasion. A crucial game-winning hit in Game 5 will propel his team closer to the prize.
Expect three homers, eight RBI and one MVP trophy at the end.
September 26, 2013
The 23-year-old from Collins, Mississippi is the fastest man in baseball at the moment. One day he’ll arguably go down as the best base-stealer of all time. This is a bold statement considering Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson holds the record with 1,406 career swipes, especially when one considers that as of September 25, Hamilton is currently sitting on a robust 13 steals.
This is where curiosity creeps in and takes over this article. You see, Hamilton has only played in 11 Major League games. Quickly, his legend is growing. Throughout ball parks and office conversation throughout the land baseball fans are asking each other, “Did you see what Billy Hamilton did last night?”
When one thinks about legendary players and some of the stories told many are hard to fathom. As badly as we want to believe all of the feats players from Babe Ruth to Bo Jackson are said to have accomplished, it’s hard. Someday, the same type of tall tales will be spoken of about Billy Hamilton and in his case, like the greats ahead of him, they’ll all be true.
His speed is remarkable—it’s something we’ve never seen.
Speed is nothing new to Hamilton; in 132 minor league games in 2012 he stole a record 155 bases. This is not folk lore, rather fact.
Fans almost have to watch him in slow motion to appreciate the true beauty of what he brings to the game. His marquee game in his short but illustrious career came on September 18 against the Houston Astros when he stole four – yes four – bases. This is where his status grows amongst the legends—he stole second base on a pitch-out.
Even when the opposition knew what Hamilton was going to do, even when they strike to mow him down they failed to do so. Remember this feat as you’ll one day hear, “Did you know Billy Hamilton once stole second one a pitch out?” Of course it’s been done before, but it doesn’t happen often and it’s something we may only see from him again.
Hamilton brings back speed to the game, an element pure baseball enthusiast miss dearly. No one has stolen 100-plus bags in the majors since Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals did it in 1987 with 109. They aforementioned Henderson holds the modern-day record with 130 in 1982. Just to show how “The Show” has veered away from stolen base paths, this year’s winner will likely be Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox. Right now, he has 52. Hamilton has 25 percent of Ellsbury’s total in just 11 games.
The Reds have been waiting for Hamilton to blossom into someone who can consistently make his way on base and that time is now.
In those 11 games he’s 6-for-14 with two walks, eight runs scored and just one strikeout. While the sample size may be small, it sure is promising.
The Reds have been looking for a spark all season. There may have never been a 90-plus win ball club who lacked a fire-starter quite like this Cincinnati club. As the trade deadline came and went fans wondered why they didn’t make a move, in the end the front office knew Hamilton would be called-up in early September and here to stay.
Now, because of the 23-year-old phenom they have an added dimension, a weapon every team desires but few have—speed. Hamilton is a star waiting to shine bright. He’s the difference between a 90-plus win team and a true World Series contender.
September 18, 2013
Rivera has been transcendent throughout his 19-year MLB career because of arguably the most devastating pitch in baseball history—his cutter. It’s not easy to be an MLB closer. Like a kicker in the NFL, a few blown chances will equal unemployment. Rivera is different, a rare breed. He’s the best in the business past, present, and foreseeable future.
This fact may be a hard pill to swallow for baseball fans who love to hate the Yankees, but respecting Rivera, especially as he gracefully bows out of the game is imperative. In fact, every team he’s faced this year for the final time sent him off with a gift as a sign of respect—multiple teams donated to his charity, but others had interesting gifts.
The Minnesota Twins poked fun at the 43-year-old righty by giving him a rocking chair made out of broken bats. The Tampa Bay Rays crafted a unique sand sculpture with Rivera’s nickname, “The Sandman.” The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, an oil painting of him, the San Diego Padres, a beach cruiser. One team takes the cake in the gift department though and it’s none other than the Yankees most despicable rival, the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox were classy and gifted the No. 42 from the manual scoreboard in historic Fenway Park. This has sentimental value for all of baseball. You see, the No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball in 1997 to show respect to Jackie Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his integration into the big leagues. Being grandfathered into the number, Rivera is the only player still wearing No. 42. When he’s gone, it’s gone.
The number is not all that will be gone on September 29 in Houston when the Yankees close out the season against the Astros. The best closer of all time will be undoubtedly closing the game whether the Yankees are in a save situation or not.
Gone will be the oldest active player in the game. Gone will be “The Sandman”, a five-time World Series champion whose 651 career saves are a remarkable 50 higher than former Padres shutdown man, Trevor Hoffman.
Compared to active players, Joe Nathan of the Texas Rangers is the next closest on the list with 337 career saves. Considering Nathan is 38 years old, it’s safe to say that he won’t be surpassing Rivera on the all-time lists anytime soon.
In fact, there’s only one active player who may give the record a run for its money. That player is Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. At only 25 years old, Kimbrel already has 136 saves under his belt. A fun fact about Rivera—he didn’t break into the majors until he was 25. Even with a four year head start Kimbrel would have to average 27+ saves/year for the next 19 years to eclipse the untouchable one. That’s easier said than done, especially because such longevity is hard to fathom.
Rivera has been around so long because of his deadly cut-fastball. One pitch has afforded him an iconic career in pinstripes.
Gone will be the greatest of all time.
September 10, 2013
With just about 20 games left in the regular season, most of the MLB playoff races are essentially over. It’s pretty safe to say that we already know who four division winners will be and where two of the wild card teams are going to come from.
The Boston Red Sox have left the Yankees, Orioles and Rays in the dust and turned a 4-team race into a 7.5 game lead in the AL East. They have a shot at 100 wins and should be the top seed in the American League.
In the AL Central, the Tigers maintain a 4.5 game lead over the pesky Indians. It’s not out of the question for Cleveland to make it a race…until you check the schedule. Not only do the Tigers not face Cleveland again, but all but three of their remaining games will be against the White Sox, Mariners, Twins and Marlins. That is as cake as it gets.
At least we have the AL West race. But maybe not for long. Oakland leads Texas by just two games right now and the teams meet for the final time in a three-game series beginning Friday. It’s a must-win series (at least two out of three) for the Rangers who still play Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay while Oakland doesn’t have any other playoff hopefuls left on its schedule.
And then there is the AL Wild Card. This one could truly be wild down to the final game. The Oakland/Texas runner up will have to deal with Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City and the Yankees for the two spots in the wild card one-game playoff.
In the NL East, the Braves have been on cruise control for about a month already and still lead by 12 games. The only question here is whether they can hold off the hard-charging Dodgers for the top seed in the NL.
Speaking of the Dodgers…they too hold a 12-game lead in their division and are now playing for home-field advantage in the NL.
The NL Central/Wild Card race is the one to watch in the NL. St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati are all going to the playoffs. One will win the Central and the other two will get the wild card spots (Washington trails by seven games for the last wild card spot). The Cardinals have a one-game lead in the division and a schedule that makes it theirs to lose. They play Milwaukee, Seattle, Colorado, Washington and the Cubs who all are making plans for 2014. Meanwhile, the Pirates and Reds will play each other six more times. If one team can win four or five of those games, they may be able to give the Cardinals a run. Otherwise, they’ll be playing for the right to host the wild card game.
August 21, 2013
Usually a title to an article would have a hook, but when speaking of the Los Angeles Dodgers one is left rather speechless. What the team is doing this year is nothing short of out of this world. It’s something even Hollywood couldn’t script better. It’s remarkable.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were 23-32 on June 2. Now, 70 games later they are 73-52. What does that mean? Well, for nearly one-half of the entire 162 games season their record is 50-20. That’s a winning percentage of .714, which, had they played this way since Opening Day they would be on pace for 115 wins. The modern day record for wins in a season is 116 wins by the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Yes, the 2013 version of the Dodgers are playing like the best team in history since early June. Correct, we are witnessing history.
Under new ownership headed by Magic Johnson the team was supposed to turn the underachieving page this season. As of June they were considered one of the biggest busts in sports history. Using a historical reference back from their Brooklyn days, “Dem Bums” were overpaid and lousy. Their manager, Don Mattingly, also known as “Donny Baseball” was on the brink of getting his pink slip and the team was so very close to being forgotten about.
Then, a gift from the baseball Gods landed in tinsel town in the form of a young 22-year-old Cuban defector by the name of Yasiel Puig. True, his brash attitude may turn some people away, but it’s just what the Dodgers needed. They needed some swagger, and Puig has plenty. Remember, he’s only 22 on the world’s largest stage. His personality is infectious and although his teammates do not agree with his actions 100 percent of the time, he’s been the fuel to their fire. After all, don’t forget that winning too is infectious.
Puig is batting .352, and although he’s been in a small slump of late, his heroics are nothing short of super human. After being late to the stadium in which manager Mattingly fined and benched Puig for on August 20, he stepped to the plate and delivered a eighth inning home run to break a tie ballgame. This is Puig in a nutshell, seemingly careless on the outside only to deliver when it matters most.
When it comes to Rookie of the Year, Puig wins it running away. The real debate begins when asked if he should the MVP of the 2013 season. Looking at his numbers as of August 21, a .352 average in 261 at-bats with only 12 homers and 28 RBI with seven steal to boot isn’t quite convincing, but when the term “most valuable” is implied, Puig is just that. The team’s record with him on the roster stands for itself, for Puig punched his ticket to The Show on June 2.
Combined with pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers could sweep the individual awards for the season. Kershaw will win the Cy Young without a contest—his current 1.80 ERA and .85 WHIP speaks for itself. Puig will be Rookie of the Year and if the voters come to their senses they will realize that no man in the National League has been more valuable to his team.
To think the Dodgers won’t prevail to the World Series is a bit preposterous at the moment. While there is plenty of ball to be played, this season’s best story can only finish with a classic Hollywood ending. Get ready, because the Dodgers are about to hit the stratosphere.