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Tim Lincecum silences catcalls, gets Giants closer to my dream World Series matchup.

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San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum can do whatever he wants.

If he wants to grow his hair so that it’s fourteen feet long, I’m into it—as long as he keeps winning.

Last night, Major League Baseball fans were treated to a semi-masterful performance by “The Freak” as he silenced the Phillie’s potent lineup for seven innings and struck out eight, including power-hitting first baseman Ryan Howard twice. For those not paying attention, Lincecum’s twenty-two strikeouts through his first two postseason starts ties a record set by the St. Louis Cardinals’ Bob Gibson way back in 1964. He’s also won seven of his last eight starts, including two postseason bids, a fitting cap to his unusually underwhelming 2010 regular season.

I couldn’t be more excited because I’ll be the first to admit it: I do not want another New York Yankees/Philadelphia Phillies matchup in the World Series.

I’ve been alive for twenty-five years and of those twenty-five years, the New York Yankees have appeared in the postseason fifteen times. Most of those appearances happened to occur during my formative years, and as someone from New Bedford, Massachusetts, I guess you could say I’m scarred. Knowing that the Yankees are an almost-lock to appear in the postseason means that there’s only three real postseason spots.

And recently, it seems, the Philadelphia Phillies have routinely occupied one of those three spots. It’s like Groundhog Day—things are predictable and boring and, as a result, I’m generally ho-hum about the postseason. Sure, a team like the Tampa Bay Rays pops in and makes its mark, but a year later, it’s the same old song and dance. It’s baseball’s version of a monopoly, and it makes for a poor experience for fans living outside of New York and Philadelphia.

So last night, I was dazzled, awed, even smitten, with Tim Lincecum’s performance. Even if he does look like a barely legal girl on the mound, I’ll latch onto anything he does, as long as it means that the Philadelphia Phillies don’t make the World Series and there’s still a chance of a Texas Rangers versus San Francisco Giants finale.

The television ratings would probably be lower than a Mormon’s blood alcohol level on a Sunday, but for me, the prospect of that matchup is exceedingly exhilarating.

Think about it: Tim Lincecum versus Cliff Lee in game one, C.J. Wilson versus Jonathan Sanchez in game two, Colby Lewis versus Matt Cain in game three, or some combination thereof. No, no pitcher tossed a postseason no-hitter, but that’s a damn good list of pitching matchups for die-hard baseball fans.

Something’s going to have to happen for this matchup to occur, however.

San Francisco’s offense is anemic. The Phillies’ big boppers haven’t gotten it going yet.

Add to that the relentless, unstoppable, just-when-you-think-you’ve-got-’em-they-beat-you New York Yankees, and my World Series dream matchup may be just that.

Still, I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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Written by dylansharek

October 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Pedroia to play shortstop for Red Sox in 2010?

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If I had kids, I’d let them play around this year’s Hot Stove.

Since nothing of significance has happened this offseason, the country’s baseball analysts have become nothing but rumormongers: “The [insert team name here] have shown interest in [insert 2010 big-time free agent here].”

Rinse, wash, and repeat for the 29 other Major League Baseball teams and voila! you’ve got yourself a newsday.

But that’s not to say there aren’t some gems amidst the rubble. Today, the reputable Peter Gammons revealed that Dustin Pedroia is “all for” a switch to shortstop, the position he played at Arizona State University and in the Red Sox minor league system.

For Theo Epstein and the Red Sox, moving Pedroia to shortstop makes an incredible amount of sense. The market for everyday shortstops hasn’t developed, with Marco Scutaro and Miguel Tejada considered the highlights. If it were 2002, “highlights” would be the operative term here, but in 2008, it pretty much means “the only guys who aren’t terrible.”

But the second base market is much deeper, peppered with former All-Stars like Orlando Hudson and Placido Polanco and serviceable, everyday bats like Ronnie Belliard, Mark DeRosa and Felipe Lopez.

And while none of these options likely provide the Red Sox with future stability, the drastic realignment will shore up the rotating door of ineffective stopgap shortstops the Red Sox have become a laughingstock for trotting out. Since the departure of Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, the Red Sox have used 19 different players to plug the hole, none of them particularly effective or successful.

Nineteen!

Pedroia hasn’t played shortstop since 2006, so this proposed transition obviously wouldn’t be seamless. Still, in 184 games at shortstop during his minor league tenure, he committed just seven errors. And at Arizona State University, he was an All-American.

What’s your take on the situation?

Chicago White Sox ink Andruw Jones for $500,000.

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As soon as the Chicago White Sox decided to buy out the $950,000 remaining on slugger Jermaine Dye’s contract, the front office began scrambling to replace his offensive production.

They brought in Mark Teahen, a versatile infielder/outfielder with slight pop, from the Kansas City Royals. They re-signed pinch hitter extraordinaire and corner outfielder Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal.

Not surprisingly, those signings did little to inspire confidence in Chicago.

But now they’ve brought in 10-time Gold Glover and five-time All Star, 32-year-old Andruw Jones.

For $500,000.

My how the mighty have fallen.

Jones is a shadow of the player that routinely garnered Most Valuable Player votes as little as three years ago. In limited play with the Texas Rangers in 2009, he hit .214 with 17 homeruns in 281 at-bats. The campaign was actually an improvement over his horrible 2008, when he hit a measly .182 with just three homeruns as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In recent years, Jones has reverted to one of his old and worn tendencies: swinging at and missing breaking balls. There’s a good article about his rapid decline here.

Jones is just the most recent piece of the White Sox’s expanding bench. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll amount to anything more than a platoon corner outfielder, but Jones is still valuable to Chicago.

It’s entirely possible that he hasn’t forgotten everything that once made him one of the game’s most feared hitters.

Jones averaged a homerun every 16.5 at-bats in 2009. Had he played a full season and amassed more plate appearances, that mark would have been good for eighth in the American League. He also led Texas batters in walk rate in 2009, earning a free pass every 7.4 at-bats.

Jones’ contract with the White Sox includes $1 million in performance based incentives, an advantage he’ll want to make the most of if he hopes to even earn a contract in 2011.

While the signing isn’t likely to quell Chicago fans’ uneasy thoughts about the team’s outfield in 2010, it is a step towards replacing Dye’s offensive production. Jones will most likely split time at the corner outfield positions and as the team’s designated hitter.

For $500,000, the Chicago White Sox could have certainly done worse.

If Greinke doesn’t win the Cy Young, I’m going to…

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So I woke up this morning to find my neighbor distraught. Sometime during the night, someone bashed in the small, blind spot window on the passenger side of his 14-year-old Cutlass Supreme.

But I have more bad news for him.

If the Royal’s Zack Greinke doesn’t win the American League Cy Young award, I’m going to be pacing the neighborhood taking vengeance upon small animals, i.e. squirrels and quail, and irreplaceable car windows.

I’ve already called Neighborhood Watch.

I don’t expect there to be as much competition in the American League Cy Young race as many of the popular media outlets prophesy. It’s going to come down to two guys: the Royal’s Greinke and Seattle Mariner’s ace Felix Hernandez. If anyone else wins, it’s official: I’m switching to football.

First, I think its important to put their numbers side-by-side. Here are their statistics, per order of ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor module:

At just 23-years-old, King Felix finally had the breakout that had tantalized many analysts since the beginning of his career. In 2009, Hernandez posted career highs in wins, innings pitched, games started, strikeouts, and earned run average. He kept lefties to a .228 average and righties to a .226 average using his dazzling fastball, 2-seamer, hard curve, slider, and change.

The campaign was good enough to earn him his first All-Star nod. His incredibly consistent season also placed him atop the leaderboards for Win-Loss Percentage, Wins, and Hits Per Nine Innings with marks of .792, 19, and 7.542, respectively.

Not too shabby, by any measure.

But Greinke’s 2009 was even better.

Sure, he started one less game and pitched nine less innings. Sure, his win-loss record of 16-8 pales in comparison to Hernandez’s 19-5.

But wins are slowly becoming an antiquated stat, one that will almost surely lose its significance one of these days (my guess being December 21, 2012). Simply put, pitchers don’t have much control over whether they win or lose. They can stack the deck in their favor by pitching well, but the statistic is almost completely reliant on potent offenses and capable late relief.

And Greinke played for the friggin’ Kansas City Royals; the fragile, anemic team with the 12th worst batting average among the 14 American League clubs, the team that slugged just 144 homeruns over the course of a 162-game season, good for 13th best in the same field.

But that’s not even the worst part. That dubious distinction would belong to the tremendously awful bullpen. In 2009, the Royal’s bullpen went 16-26 with an earned run average over 5.00. They let 45 percent of inherited runners score, 11 percent worse than the league average. Just one regular reliever, stud closer Joakim Soria, posted an ERA below 4.00.

In two starts where Greinke left the game without allowing a run, he got no-decisions. In two more starts in which he allowed just one run, he got a loss.

The team ended the season 32 games below .500.

Assumptions like this are almost always faulty and unfair, but it’s fair to proclaim that Greinke should have a markedly better record.

And let’s not forget that Greinke allowed 11 fewer runs than Hernandez in just one less start. And that he struck out 25 more batters in nine less innings.

Greinke’s season was part of history. Hernandez’s wasn’t.

Chances are that many of us have forgotten about this now, but his 6-0 record and 0.40 ERA through the season’s first six starts put him in the elite company of just two men: Walter “Big Train” Johnson and Fernando Valenzuela. Extend that through his first 10 starts and Greinke’s 0.84 ERA is a measure of dominance unseen since Juan Marichal’s historic run in 1966.

A Cy Young Award would be another notch in Greinke’s headboard.

And if he doesn’t win, well, watch out neighborhood: there’ll be hell to pay.

UPDATE: Everyone is safe.

MLB’s parity problem never more present than in playoffs.

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Par-i-ty

  • n. pl. par·i·ties
  • 1. Equality, as in amount, status, or value.

When a casual baseball fan can determine who is going to make the playoffs before the season even begins, you know there’s a problem.

But according to commissioner Bud Selig, there’s nothing wrong: “People sometimes equate spending money with success. I still think we have enormous competitive balance.”

Really, Bud?

When Bud Selig’s reign as commissioner of Major League Baseball comes to an end, it will be characterized by one word: naivete. Thinking the All-Star game ending in a tie would be a good thing for baseball is one example. The rampant steroid use under his stead is another. The ever-expanding gap between baseball’s richest and poorest teams, and the inherent success directly related, is just Selig’s most recent guffaw.

All four of the remaining playoff teams are among Major League Baseball’s top 10 clubs in payroll. The Yankees, and I know this information has been regurgitated thousands of times before, spent over $201 million on player pay checks in 2009, by far the most of any club. The Angels coughed up $113 million for the sixth highest payroll, just a bit higher than the reigning World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers spent the least (but still ninth highest in the game) with $100 million.

The Boston Red Sox, fourth most on that list at $121 million, were ousted in the second leg of the playoffs by the Angels. The Detroit Tigers, fifth most on the list at $115 million, were shanghaied from the playoff picture by the upstart, low-market Minnesota Twins on the last day of the season.

That puts six of the highest payroll teams in the playoff picture.

That’s telling. That’s the highest batting average baseball’s seen since Ted Williams in 1941.

Sure, some teams with low payrolls make it; the Twins, Rockies, and Cardinals all fall on the lower half of the expenditure’s list. But more often than not, that success is directly related to everything coming together at the right time: the Twins getting Joe Mauer and developing a crop of talented starting pitchers; the Rockies having a serious surge following the firing of Clint Hurdle and subsequent management of Jim Tracy; the Cardinals drafting baseball’s best player, Albert Pujols, and augmenting that with free agents.

Simply put, they didn’t buy their success. They developed it and aided it while doing some needed spending.

Don’t even get me started on the Tampa Bay Rays. Their 2008 achievements were a direct product of years of getting the last pick in the draft and those players developing at the same time. Their eventually demise at the hands of the big spending Phillies should have come as no surprise.

So when does baseball take a serious look at this problem? When the Pirates lock down their 20th consecutive losing season? When the Marlins or Royals don’t get enough bodies into the seats to be a money making team?

If baseball won’t institute a salary cap (as I suspect it never will), then some changes must be enacted to ensure some, really any kind, of parity.

Limit the number and type of free agents a team can bring on. And certainly limit the amount of money they can spend on those rent-a-players. That way, we won’t have another Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia debacle.

At the same time, make the front offices of lackluster teams do some kind of spending during the offseason. Many of the least successful teams have owners who are satisfied with finishing last, getting the first pick, and earning money from the revenue distribution system currently in place. While baseball is a game, it’s unfair to the fans and players to play this kind of baseball.

Without considering a salary cap, what measures would you take to increase baseball competition?

Written by dylansharek

October 16, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Red Sox barely hanging onto postseason.

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Fishermen in New Bedford, Massachusetts have discovered a new fish. It fights hard and breaks some lines, but more often than not, it’s easy to get into the boat. Once it’s caught, all the fish does is flop.

I don't like Josh Beckett.The new species is called “Josh Beckett.”

As you can tell, I’m not a Josh Beckett fan. I never have been and I never will be.

He’s never been reliable. I have just as much confidence sending Beckett to the mound during the regular season as I do Tim Wakefield. And that’s because Beckett, outside of his incredible 2005 and 2007 seasons, has never been a consistent pitcher. On a daily basis, he’s yet to prove he’s anything other than your garden variety, hard-throwing Texan, straight out of the mold created by Nolan Ryan. You simply never know if you’re going to get Beckett the Cy Young candidate or Beckett the prototypical flamethrower.

And that’s because he pitches with too much emotion. Pitching with emotion is sometimes a good thing (think Jonathan Papelbon), but when you throw a fastball down the pipe just to prove that you can blow it by a batter, that’s just plain stupid. Beckett has had control problems this year and during counts where a pure waste pitch is the most desirable, he’s done the exact opposite and challenged hitters.

As a result, he gives up way too many home runs. Terry Francona has worked with Beckett on his pigheaded, hit-it-if-you-can pitching since his disastrous 2006 and thus far the results have been impressive. This year, however, Beckett’s on pace to give up just as many home runs as the 36 he allowed in a little over 200 innings in 2006.

In the last 20.1 innings alone, Beckett’s given up 10 jacks and 17 earned runs (including 5 home runs in a game versus the Yankees last night). This latest run of ineffective pitching is eerily similar to runs during Beckett’s 2006 season when he was especially prone to the longball.

Granted all of his struggles can certainly be disregarded if the Red Sox make the playoffs and he continues his postseason dominance.

Written by dylansharek

August 24, 2009 at 11:57 am

Red Sox announcer Remy’s son implicated in steroid scandal.

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It has not been a good year for the Remy family.

First, long-time Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy went on an indefinite hiatus to recover from cancer.

No way! He's juicing?And now, his son, Jared Remy, left, has been exposed as a steroid abuser and possible supplier to the Red Sox clubhouse.

In a story first broke by the Boston Globe, it was revealed that the former-Sox security guard was fired by the team after being fingered as the supplier of a vial of Anadrol to another team employee.

Remy denied supplying the drugs, but was still released.

In the aftermath of his termination, Remy has gone on the record saying he discussed steroid use with David Ortiz’s personal assistant (who is currently facing deportation charges) and that he had regular access to Manny Ramirez, guarding the team’s gym during the early mornings.

He denies ever supplying drugs to the slugging superstars.

All I gotta say is, poor Jerry Remy. Not only does the guy get stuck with cancer, but he now has to answer questions about his stupid son; over the last five years, Jared Remy has been convicted of beating his girlfriend, stealing Red Sox World Series jackets, and now supplying ‘roids.

Is there a drug for stupidity?

Written by dylansharek

August 2, 2009 at 2:06 pm