The day after the World Series is over is always a sad one, but the city of Philadelphia is celebrating like crazy this time around. Losing only one game in each playoff series, the Philadelphia Phillies made no mistake about who deserved to be World Series Champs in 2008. Read the latest Hot Corner for The Commish's take on the Series and why the Phillies deserve the accolades given to them this October.
As the baseball news begins to slow down, look for a few Foul Territory articles this winter as well as the unveiling of a new section called "Hall of Good." Baseball might be over but TCO will keep its doors open all offseason, bringing the news, views, and more up to Spring Training when hope springs eternal once again!
While the Phillies lead the series 3-1, baseball must sit around and fall subject to Mother Nature's desires. Game 5 began last night and currently sits as a 2-2 tie heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. When the game will resume is anyone's guess. They will try to finish it tonight, but the weather does not appear ready to cooperate.
Shockingly, with all of the bad weather the country experiences in October, "there has never been a rain-shortened game in Series history, and this was the first suspension," according to ESPN.com news services. Selig and MLB did the right thing in trying to play the game last night, knowing that the forecast was worse for Wednesday night, but they erred in failing to pull the plug on the game sooner.
From the reports, it seems that both teams new that even if Philadelphia held the lead, Selig was not going to end the Series with a rain-shortened contest only to see the winning team celebrate by themselves in a locker room hours after the fact. Knowing that, the umpires should have treated the game like any other game when it's raining - when the conditions become dangerous or unplayable, throw the tarp on and wait it out. Instead, it seemed like everyone with a vested interest was waiting/hoping for the Rays to tie the game. ONLY when that happened did the tarp roll onto the field.
We should probably be waiting to watch the resumption of a game only in the 3rd of 4th inning with the Phillies leading 2-0. Instead, it's a few innings later and a couple runs closer. Even though that seems to favor the Rays, letting the game play on did enable the Phillies to use Hamels for as long as possible since it's very unlikely he would have continued this game today. In any event, it will all be up to the bullpens now as the Rays hope to extend the Series beyond just waiting for the rain to stop.
So far, the first two games have played out as expected. Cole Hamels did his job, and Shields bested Myers, even though Myers gutted out a poor start by sticking around for 7 innings. David Price looked a little less invincible but still finished the game. If my predictions continue to hold true, look for Tampa Bay to take Game 3 thanks to a positive pitching matchup, pitting Matt Garza against Jamie Moyer.
As expected, Cole Hamels got the best of the Rays last night. Thanks to an 0 for 13 streak by the Phillies with runners in scoring position, however, the game stayed close throughout. Look for Tampa Bay to come back strong tonight on the arm of James Shields. What did worry me (and other coworkers), however, was the total lack of hustle from B.J. Upton. He didn't run out his hits (or outs as they turned out) and even though he threw out Victorino at home, Upton camped under the ball rather than staying behind it for a better throw. In a close series, one guy not giving 100% will cost a team, so beware Tampa Bay fans, all 13 of you!
The World Series starts tonight, and I am going to make amends for all poor predictions this year by telling you EXACTLY what is going to happen in the Fall Classic. Check out the latest Hot Corner for a game by game breakdown of the Series. Will Tampa Bay continue their unlikely march to a championship or will Philadelphia's bats prove to be too much for Tampa Bay's young pitching? Read TCO's World Series Preview for all the answers!
Boston and Tampa Bay finally brought some life to this postseason, thanks to a Game 7 thriller (despite the annoying cowbells and noisemakers present throughout the Trop). Once again, I was dead wrong on my predictions, but I did suggest that David Price could make the difference if he was given a chance. Sure enough, the spotlight was on the #1 draft pick in the final inning of the final game and he didn't disappoint. Stay tuned for TCO's World Series Preview coming tomorrow.
Finally, some drama! Thanks to Boston's amazing Game 5 comeback, there is a little drama in the postseason. Game 6 is tonight and, just as too much praise shouldn't have been heaped on the Rays before the series ends, don't just assume that the Red Sox will suddenly bulldoze the Rays in Tampa Bay this weekend. Expect the Rays to get back on their feet this weekend. Even though it was an ugly loss, don't look for them to be carrying the baggage of blowing Game 5. Joe Maddon will have his team ready to play this weekend.
With the Phillies winning the NL Pennant last night, they will have almost a week to "rest" before the World Series. In the meantime, let's compare the '08 version with Philadelphia's last team to make the World Series, the 1993 squad.
'08: Rollins, Victorino, Utley, Howard, Burrell, Jenkins, Feliz, Ruiz, pitcher (other frequently used players: Werth, Coste, Dobbs)
'93: Dykstra, Duncan, Kruk, Hollins, Daulton, Eisenreich, Thompson, Stocker, pitcher (other frequently used players: Morandini, Incaviglia, Chamberlain)
Advantage: 1993 -- I know it's hard to fathom taking the '93 lineup over Rollins, Utley, and Howard, but while the '93 team didn't hit as many home runs, they scored almost a half a run more per game, got on base more, and had a slugging percentage just below the '08 team despite those fewer home runs. That meant more baserunners, more hits, and eventually more runs. Even though the '93 team didn't have a single guy that scared you at the plate (although Inky's 24 HR in 368 AB was pretty imposing), EVERY player could hit. Out of everyone with more than 100 AB on the '93 team, Morandini's .247 BA was the lowest, and he even posted an OBP of .309. Meanwhile, as good as the heart of the '08 lineup is, they have had to deal with some low averages from guys like Ruiz, Bruntlett, Burrell, and Howard (in the first half). To their credit, though, they all still managed to get on base at a decent clip. If I had to select an offensive to use for a 5-year period, I'd take the 2008 squad, but just comparing the single years, the 1993 team was better from top to bottom.
'08: Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Kendrick, Blanton/Eaton
'93: Schilling, Jackson, Greene, Mulholland, Rivera
Advantage: 1993 -- No contest here. Hamels is a talent, Myers is capable of good outings, and Moyer is steady, but that's about it for the '08 team. The '93 team was a true 5-man rotation with each pitcher winning at least 12 games and starting at least 28 times. No other pitcher started more than 4 games that year. Schilling's ERA was higher than his norm (4.02), but he threw 7 CG and won 16 times. Meanwhile, Jackson, Greene, and Mulholland had career years (especially Greene) and combined for another 16 CG with ERAs all in the low to mid 3s.
Advantage: 2008 -- "Wild Thing" had a decent year (Joe Carter's home run not withstanding), but it doesn't get much better than Lidge's 41 saves in 41 tries and a sub-2.00 ERA. 92 K in 69.3 IP isn't bad, either.
'08: Romero, Madson, Durbin, Condrey, etc.
'93: West, Andersen, Mason, Mike Williams, etc.
Advantage: 2008 -- The '08 Phils are deep in the pen, offering about a half dozen guys who have been able to get the job done all year long. In '93, there wasn't much to rely on after West and Andersen. Luckily for Philly, they had 3 starters capable of going 9 innings on any given night. It helped bridge the gap from this obvious weakness.
Overall, it would be a great matchup, and as much as I like Utley and Howard in the middle of any lineup, I have to give the edge to the '93 team. There's no way the '08 staff would survive a 7-game series against the '93 lineup. On the flipside, the '93 staff would do a good job of keeping the team in every game, giving Kruk and company the edge.
Reader Ben sent me an email called "Hit the Panic Button Fox." And he just did my work for me for the day. Ben's rant:
"Okay, okay, FOX; it's probably time to panic. Your very expensive World Series rights have bought you a match up between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Tampa Bay (holy *&$%!) Devil Rays. Wait, The Rays. Wait, who cares.
You can scrap all those Cubs century packages and story lines you've been working on since June and you can clear all the old Red Sox video clips out of your Avid. You need to come up with a compelling story line between Philadelphia ("something with Rocky!") and Tampa Bay ("sponge diving?").
Tough sell, fellas. Philly is the only market that draws more NHL interest then baseball. A recent regular season Eagles game significantly outdrew Phillies playoff coverage. Yikes. Even in their hometown the Phillies can't carry three hours of Nielsen ratings. God help you if the Hallmark Channel throws their "Dr. Quinn" marathon at you.
But Tampa Bay has a Cinderella story, right? We can play that up. No. Sorry. A team no one follows, never was very good, and no one really knows about is not the draw that pulls people into postseason viewership. You can play up the underdog vs. Cheesesteak angle all you want, but you'll under perform in the Sunshine State and barely justify the Philadelphia ad rates. After that, it is going to be a significant rating disappointment from coast to coast. If it makes you feel any better, MLB is crying too."
Well said. Ben appears to be counting out LA and Boston already (probably a fair assumption). As much as Philly and Tampa will have earned their spots in the Fall Classic, it just doesn't scream "Watch Me!!"
Personally, I'm just rooting for a compelling series of any kind after the lack of postseason drama up to this point. If it happens to come via a Game 7 single by Willie Aybar at the Trop, so be it.
C'mon, raise of hands: how many people even knew Matt Stairs was on the Phillies? That's what I thought. Despite his anonymity, the fire hydrant of a ballplayer launched a pinch-hit home run deep into the night to give Philadelphia a commanding 3-1 lead in the NLCS. In Boston, Rays players were launching their own missiles into the night en route to a 9-1 drubbing and a 2-1 lead in the ALCS. Boston will put its faith in the ol' standby Tim Wakefield tonight, hoping to tie the series before the Rays remember that they're not supposed to be this good this fast.
As I mentioned in my ALCS Preview, Tampa pitcher David Price could turn the tide if he was given a chance. While Price's effort in Game 2 wasn't exactly Herculean, he did get out of an 11th inning jam and enable the Rays to win it in the bottom half of the inning. For his 2/3 of an inning, Price got the win and helped the Rays tie the series 1-1. Game 3 will be played today, and my guess is that we have not seen the last of David Price this postseason.
Game 1 of the NLCS was a winner for the fan. At just over 2 1/2 hours, the game moved along smoothly and dare I say that Fox actually practiced a little restraint in the broadcast. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver sounded smooth and weren't forced to cut to Chris Myers in the stands or interview someone's mother very often because the action was on the field with very little wasted time in the game. It was baseball the way it was meant to be. Hopefully today will bring more of the same as the Dodgers try to even the series. On TBS in prime time, the Rays and Red Sox open the ALCS with Chip Caray handling the play-by-play.
TCO's ALCS Preview is now available! Do the Red Sox have enough weapons to defeat the AL East Division Champs now that Manny is being Manny in La La Land? Can the Rays continue their improbable season by knocking off this decade's best franchise? Find out in the latest Hot Corner! Looking for TCO's NLCS Preview? Look no further and click here.
Maybe it's just because I'm from Chicago, but the playoffs so far have felt like a dud. The Boston-LA series packed some drama, but once again, no series went the full distance. With a few days before the LCS begin, let's ponder the possible World Series matchups:
Rays - Phillies - Maybe the least intriguing of them all. Sure, the Rays' success is exciting, but after a few innings, you realize you're watching a team that doesn't have a following and plays in a depressing dome. There's plenty of talent on both sides and the series might turn into an exciting one, but it's just not a "sexy" matchup.
Rays - Dodgers - Again, the Rays bring down the hype factor a bit. This series would be a showcase of young talent (Tampa's pitchers, Upton, Navarro, LA's pitchers, Kemp, Ethier, etc.) which is great for the diehard but a snooze for the casual fan. The average fan will simply tune in when Manny is batting and go back to The Office or Heroes while the series moves on without many viewers.
Red Sox - Phillies - Not bad, and there are plenty of "names" to watch (Papi, Howard, Beckett, etc.), but you just get the feeling that if Boston wins Game 1, the world will tune out because there's no way Philly is coming back from a deficit against Boston's staff.
Red Sox - Dodgers - The last marquee matchup left. Manny against Boston. Torre winning with Manny against the Red Sox. Boston's quest to become the team of the "aughts." Jason Bay's casual ability to replace Ramirez without breaking a sweat. A chance at a World Series for some of the aging vets on LA, even if they aren't contributing very much. Basically, this is the series that has built in drama before a pitch is thrown. Then, it's up to the players.
Note to self: always stick with your gut feeling rather than the numbers when making a prediction. After telling myself over and over that the Mariners are not going to win the World Series, I stuck with the numbers and made the call anyway. Then, my gut was saying "pick the Red Sox" in the ALDS, but my mind was telling me to go with the Angels. That series is not quite over yet, but the Cubs-Dodgers series was over before it started. All signs pointed to a Chicago victory, but I have now reminded myself to NEVER pick the Cubs to win a playoff series regardless of the matchup.
The worst part for the Cubs, besides looking nothing like the team that was on the field for the past 6 months, is that the last team they can complain to is the Dodgers. Los Angeles suffered through more injuries to a roster than just about anyone in recent history and also had to deal with some busts (Andruw Jones) along the way. With Jason Schmidt out for the year, Brad Penney missing half the season, Andruw Jones out (thankfully), Rafael Furcal missing two thirds of the year, Nomar Garciaparra missing portions of the season, Takashi Saito on the shelf the last couple months, and several other key players missing valuable time, Joe Torre managed to keep the ship afloat with youngsters like Kershaw, Billingsley, Loney, Kemp, and Ethier carrying the team until a guy named Manny Ramirez showed up late in the season. Manny's addition certainly was the difference, but credit Torre and the Dodgers for putting themselves in a position to succeed when he arrived.
Like a carbon copy of last year, CC Sabathia ran out of gas when the playoffs began. I'm not sure if it's mental or physical, but regardless of the cause, Sabathia just didn't have it yesterday and couldn't finish 4 innings. The Milwaukee loss put the Brewers in a huge 0-2 hole with little relief in sight.
Things are no better for the other Midwest teams as the Cubs fell flat on their collective faces for the second straight time at home, losing 10-3 to Los Angeles in a game where each Cubs' infielder made an error. In St. Petersburg, Javier Vazquez failed to come up big in an important game once again, and the Tampa Bay Rays continued what they have done all season long - win at home.
Tonight the White Sox and Angels will try to add a little excitement to the Division Series, attempting to avoid the dreaded 0-2 hole like the National League matchups.
Yesterday was an interesting start to the postseason. Cole Hamels dominated the Milwaukee lineup as expected and in Los Angeles, the Red Sox and Angels only made a couple mistakes each but Boston capitalized on their chances en route to a 4-1 victory. Interestingly, Manny Ramirez homered in his game with the Dodgers while Jason Bay hit the big home run in Boston. Everyone's happy. Almost.
In Chicago, gloom and doom is starting to hover in Wrigley after just one game. It's not the curse of the billy goat or a black cat or Bartman, but rather the curse of the short series. One bad outing by Ryan Dempster and suddenly the Cubs find themselves in a position where they need to win 3 out of 4 games to advance. I have always hated the 5-game series because there's little room for error and little reward for the success during the longevity of the season.
Living in Chicago, the stats are flying fast and furious on the talk shows (teams that lose Game 1 in the NLDS have won the series just 3 times in 26 tries, the Cubs are 0-7 in playoff games announced by Dick Stockton, etc.), but Lou Piniella will likely keep his team on an even keel and make them realize that one simple win today puts Chicago back on track.
It's amazing how just one loss can affect one's outlook on a ballclub. The Cubs were the talk of baseball this year with everyone boasting about pitching depth, a good mix of veterans and scrappy young players in the lineup, and a solid bullpen. If Chicago can't rescue themselves from the early 1-0 hole, suddenly views will change: Derrek Lee is on the downside of his career, Aramis Ramirez isn't getting younger, does Kerry Wood have much left, are Theriot are Fontenot for real, can a team win a playoff series with Soriano batting leadoff, maybe Dempster and Lilly had career years and will never come close to being this good again, will Zambrano show enough consistency to carry a team for the whole year, can Harden stay healthy enough to pitch a whole season and go deep into games, etc. etc. Views change fast and here's hoping Chicago regains its form and advances, or there will be plenty of questions to be answered at this winter's Cubs Convention.
We're number 8!
The Chicago White Sox, on the verge of choking away the season after losing 5 straight games to less than stellar starting pitchers, regrouped just in time to defeat 3 different teams in 3 days to earn their way into the 2008 playoffs. It didn't hurt that a coin flip went their way, but for the first time in a week, Chicago took advantage of a situation, played good baseball, and now will get the chance to play some more.
Stay tuned for TCO's Divisional Playoff Preview coming shortly!