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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.

Written by dylansharek

October 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Blah: New York Yankees capture championship.

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“I hate you New York Yankees, but goddamnit do I respect you. Today we spell ‘redemption’…N-Y-Y.”

The author then kisses the forehead of the collective Yankees.

The inevitable happened.

The vaunted New York Yankees franchise mercifully finished the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series last night, taking home their 27th World Championship in the process.

Pretty much everyone knew this was the foregone conclusion. It was just a matter of time.

But it still feels weirder than expected. The core of the Yankees is so tenured that it’s like I’ve been transported back to the late 1990s.

It looked like it felt the same way for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, too. After winning so many championships, the two looked about as excited as a weathered, cigarette ripping grandmother at a BINGO parlor after the last out.

All those feelings of New York Yankee hatred that I’d harbored for so many years, but gradually declined each year they failed to capture a championship, are slowly bubbling back to the surface. And its a volatile mixture: part anger, part annoyance, with two parts respect.

I’m weary of another dynasty. I don’t want to see the Yankees in the World Series for the next five years straight. I’ve been there, done that way too many times in my short life. I’m only 24 years old and I’ve seen the Yankees in the World Series seven times.

I’m grumpy that the team that spent $423.5 million on the contracts of A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira and were immediately rewarded a World Series Championship. C’mon, at least make ’em squirm for a year or two…

The Yankees have the highest-paid first baseman, the highest-paid third baseman, the highest-paid shortstop, the highest-paid catcher, the highest-paid starting pitcher and the highest-paid reliever in the history of baseball. To break that World Series Championship drought all they needed to do was make somebody the highest paid something and voila!

I admire the team’s front office for the product they put on the field, but it’s too much when one team picks up the top three free agents that hit the market.

But it is so friggin’ remarkable that Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera are still with this team.

It’s just another testament to the team’s loyal front office that people so often overlook or refuse to acknowledge: the Steinbrenners and Brian Cashman will do anything, spend anything, to keep this core together. In a day and age where players change hands like Harlem hookers, I admire Yankee’s fans because they get to cheer for the same players, year-in and year-out.

And the contributions that those players have made to this franchise’s storied history are impossible to express. For over a decade, they’ve been the team.

So congratulations, Yankees. But please, don’t make this a habit.

With five World Series homeruns, Philly’s Utley is marked man.

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Will Utley get plunked tonight?In a blog posted at 3 a.m., former New York Yankees pitcher David Wells bluntly described how he would handle Philadelphia’s Chase Utley, the new co-owner of the World Series’ homerun record: “[He] needs to kiss the Yankee Stadium dirt tonight.”

But Wells’ plan will be hard to implement.

After two hit-by-pitches in Game 3, Alex Rodriguez was plunked again in Game 4 by Philadelphia’s Joe Blanton. Rodriguez hadn’t shown signs of his ALCS dominance, yet umpires were incredibly quick to issue warnings to both benches.

To both teams, the message was clear: Stay away from the big bats or you’ll get tossed.

And there isn’t a bigger bat in Philadelphia’s lineup than Chase Utley. In the World Series thus far, Utley owns a .333 average to go along with five homeruns, eight RBI, and a .429 on-base percentage. It’s a postseason series for the record books and one that makes Utley a marked man.

It should be almost impossible to knock him down without a warning being issued. And if he gets plunked, an ejection should be the foregone conclusion.

I wouldn’t look for New York’s Andy Pettitte to be the one to send the message tonight.

At his advanced age, he’s a control pitcher; every umpire on the field knows this.

But Utley has led the league in hit-by-pitches three times; every umpire on the field also knows this.

A hit-by-pitch could go either way, for Pettitte or against Pettitte. That’s a chance I don’t think Joe Girardi is willing to take, especially with a shaky bullpen and a championship trophy hanging in the balance.

In seven regular season at bats versus Pettitte, Utley stroked just one hit, good for a sloppy .143 average. In Game 3, Utley posted an 0-fer against Pettitte and didn’t reach base. Thus far, Pettitte is the only pitcher to neutralize Philadelphia’s biggest threat.

I’m not looking for the Utley to even be in the Yankee’s game plan. I’m expecting him to get worked away most of the night with Pettitte pitching around him for the first six innings.

And while having ducks on the pond is never something you want to do, it’s more desirable than the possible ejection of MLB’s best postseason pitcher.

Make Ryan Howard show up. Make Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez press and swing at pitches they’d normally avoid.

Trust shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano to turn the double play (43 percent of Pettitte’s pitches become groundballs).

Believe in the offense. Even when it seemed like the Yankees were all-but dead in Game 5, they took the wind out of Philadelphia’s sails by scoring 5 runs in the final two innings.

Pettitte should not brush Utley back in the first inning or even think about plunking him until the game is out of Philadelphia’s control.

Leave the pigheadness to Pedro Martinez.

Postseason FAIL.

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While the umpires in both leagues give reason to shout “FAIL“ every time they get it wrong (Tim McClelland, anyone?), there is another cause: TBS. The coverage for this postseason was simply horrible. So, thank you Philadelphia for making quick work of the Dodgers during the NLCS, sparing fans more dull commentary from Chip Caray and Dick Stockton.

How has TBS failed? For starters, the play by play was boring and the language was repetitive. Even when the umpires made an obvious error, the lack of excitement from the booth left something to be desired. Not to mention the horrible calls, mainly made by Chip Caray. He started his poor play by play during the Twins/Tigers tie-breaker. Nick Punto hit a line drive into left field. Caray called it a “Line Drive. Base Hit.” And the ball sailed into the left fielder’s glove. He quickly added “Caught out there.”

It continued during game one of the Yankees/Twins ALDS when Delmon Young caught Nick Swisher’s fly ball. Caray’s take on the play? “A base — fly ball, I should say — out to center field. That ball was hooking and nearly fell in front of Delmon Young.” Was he even watching the game? Being the son of a legend does not make you a good analyst.

It wasn’t always Chip’s fault. Point fingers at Dick Stockton as well. At one point during the NLDS between the Cards and Dodgers, he referred to Ronnie Belliard as Ronald Belisario. While I understand that they play on the same team and their names are similar, at this level in broadcasting those mistakes are unforgivable. Dan Quayle could do better, even if he can’t spell.

And don’t even get me started on how many balls were “fisted” into play.

They need fresh blood in the booth. MLB needs to put their own people in the show.

The initial numbers were records for the station, the highest in the 33 years of its existence, but that does not mean it’s a success. When the Yankees make the playoffs, television numbers skyrocket. New York is a huge market. So is Los Angeles, and there were two teams from California still in the hunt. And when TBS is the only place that baseball fans can go for a game, the numbers will be fattened.

MLB needs to step forward and demand changes in the coverage. Cal Ripken and Dennis Eckersley are fine in the studio but how about trying them in the booth? They know baseball. Then again a ten year old knows more than Chip Caray, Carl Sager, and Dick Stockton combined. Or MLB can bring in their own team. At a minimum, they can demand that Sager dress like a respectable human being and not a wannabe pimp. Lavender suits, Sager? Really?

Unfortunately, TBS has a contract through 2013. It’s entirely up to MLB on how the 2010 post season goes. Let’s hope the public outcry at the horrible coverage is heard. And be glad that Fox had the ACLS Game 4 coverage. Joe Buck’s outrage over Tim McClelland’s blown call was appropriate. Chip Caray would probably have argued in favor of the ump.

Written by LS Murphy. Mrs. Murphy is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and is a consistent contributor to Cardinal’s Mix. She can also be followed on Twitter.

Written by dylansharek

October 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Tim McClelland’s bad day.

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Last night’s American League Championship Series game between the Angels and Yankees was just another lynchpin in the case supporting instant replay in baseball.

Game 4 was not even about baseball; it was about disastrous officiating. Nitpicking over catcher Mike Napoli’s positioning behind the plate, a missed pickoff play at second base, and a botched tag up call weren’t even the worst of it. In what Kevin Kaduk of Yahoo! is calling the “worst call of all time,” crew chief Tim McClelland called the Yankee’s Robinson Cano safe at third base, despite the fact that he wasn’t standing anywhere close to the bag and had been physically tagged with a live ball.

The controversial calls made the umpires the stars of the show. And that’s unforgivable.

The only part about this messy affair I can forget about is the whole much-ado-about-nothing home plate umpire Jerry Layne had with Napoli’s “standing kneel.” If it was impeding his line of sight, then it was admirable that he spoke to Angel’s manager Mike Scioscia, got the problem fixed, and then was done with it.

While I didn’t see any problem with how Napoli was positioned, the brief delay foreshadowed what can only be described as the Murphy’s Law of Umpiring.

Blown call #1.

Blown call #1.

In the top of the 4th inning, second base umpire Dale Scott called the Yankee’s Nick Swisher safe on a pickoff attempt by the Angel’s Scott Kazmir.

As the FOX Sports feed replayed the video on the stadium’s big screens, a collective grumble rose from the legions of Angel’s fans in attendance. Kazmir’s throw was, in fact, on the mark. Swisher should have been called out. Nevertheless, Swisher advanced to third when Derek Jeter walked to load the bases.

Cut to the next batter: on a sacrifice fly to right field, Swisher held the bag, waiting to tag up and score. When the ball dropped into Torii Hunter’s glove, Swisher broke for home plate, apparently plating another Yankee run.

Torii Hunter asked for an appeal. Chone Figgins stepped on third. Third base umpire Tim McClelland raised his right arm and pumped his fist. According to McClelland, Swisher had left early, thus nullifying the run and ending the inning.

Blown call #2.

Blown call #2.

One has to believe that McClelland was trying to right his crew’s wrong because Swisher, by all accounts, did not leave early.

By far the most egregious error came in the top half of the 5th inning. On a ground ball to reliever Darren Oliver, Jorge Posada attempted to score from third base but got caught in a rundown. Robinson Cano, who was on second, smartly began to advance to third, recognizing Posada’s imminent fate. As Posada retreated to third base, Cano stopped in his tracks a foot or so from the bag. Angel’s catcher Mike Napoli ran down the line and tagged both Posada and Cano as the two admired the shiny white object in the dirt.

That’s a double-play, right?

Well folks, not last night.

McClelland called Cano safe. In a postgame interview, he said he couldn’t see that Cano was off the base “for whatever reason.”

Blown call #3.

Blown call #3 or "What's that white thing?"

To add my opinion to the slew already available on the Internet, baseball must institute some kind of instant replay.

On that end, I am not for the let’s-review-everything mindset that has slowed down so many football games. Baseball is already snail-paced and by instituting anything that extends a 3-hour game to a 3 1/2 hour game, the sport will lose even more fans.

Baseball should have a review team ready, whether it’s in the booth, clubhouse, or production truck, to reverse or uphold calls. It can be quick and simple, done on the fly. There’s not as many nuances in baseball’s individual plays as football’s and I think this is a feasible and easy solution.

Use instant replay extensively only during the postseason and the run up to the postseason. These games often dictate who is going to the World Series, not who is going to finish 63-100 or 83-80.

Each blown call takes a small part of a team’s ultimate fate out of its hands and directly in the hands of umpires. That’s not how it should be. And while last night’s calls didn’t have a firm bearing on the game’s outcome, how demoralized were the Angels? They must have felt like they couldn’t win, no matter how hard they tried.

I understand the hesitation to remove the human element from a sport built on physical prowess and natural ability, but games like last night’s should never happen.

Would the Rockies have even made the World Series in 2007 if Matt Holliday was called out on during the 164th game of the season against the San Diego Padres?

That’s where we need instant replay.

And we need it now.

How to lose the American League Championship in two easy steps.

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1) Challenge Alex Rodriguez when you don’t have to.

2) Play horrible, non-fundamental defense.

Wow. How badly did the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim botch the last few innings of their 13 inning, 5-hour barn burner against the New York Yankees last night?

Idiot.First, Angel’s closer Brian Fuentes served a fastball on the outer half of the plate to Alex Rodriguez in the 11th. A-Rod ripped it to deep right field, just out of the reach of Bobby Abreu to tie the game. Why did he try to get a third consecutive fastball by Rodriguez when a pure waste pitch was the most desirable? He was lucky to have A-Rod at 0-2 and should have thrown a slider in the dirt or something above his head or something further out of the strikezone.

Fuentes doesn’t throw an eephus pitch, but I would have rather seen him try one of those than a no-movement fastball against one the game’s greatest hitters.

I will never understand the logic behind that pitch.

On that note, catcher Mike Napoli deserves some of the credit for the Angel’s loss. From the video, it was apparent that he and Fuentes were in agreement on the location and pitch selection.

Second, what was Maicer Izturis thinking when he tried to turn that grounder up the rightfield side into a double play? Sure, completing the double play gets the Angels out of the inning, but that’s not a double play ball. Especially when it’s put into the context of the American League Championship Series. The Angels get all kinds of attention for their fundamental baseball, but these last two games (5 errors) have been absolutely disastrous.

If Izturis gets just one out there, Ervin Santana would have faced the Yankee’s number nine hitter, Jorge Posada. Nothing but a clean hit gets him on base and considering the Yankee’s 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position last night, that’s a chance the Angels could have afforded to take.

And that brings me to my final point. Can we please, pretty please, start ignoring the value of the win-loss record?

Ervin Santana suffered the loss last night. Did he deserve it, though? Through 1.1 innings, he gave up three hits, all of them singles. His only mistake, truthfully, was inducing that fateful groundball to Izturis, by way of Melky Cabrera.

If anyone should have been credited with the Angels loss last night, it should be a combination of Brian Fuentes and Maicer Izturis.

Is there a way we can make that happen?

How to watch postseason baseball (when you don’t really care).

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Is this you during the 2009 postseason?When I completed yesterday’s article on baseball’s lack of parity, I slipped into a coma of jaded baseball indifference. Despite having the opportunity to finally watch a live playoff baseball game, I didn’t. I popped in a library-rented copy of Ghost Town starring Ricky Gervais and sat there on the futon and stared blankly into our tiny television screen.

Now that’s fun!

As the movie droned on, I had an epiphany. I popped up and turned the movie off and immediately tuned into the Angels/Yankees game on Fox Network.

How did it get this bad? How did I become so uninterested in the sport I love so much? Was I burnt out from the 500 or so games I’d taken in during the regular season? Or did I just not care about any of the teams still involved in this year’s World Series race?

Choosing Ghost Town over October baseball left me incredibly shaken; wrestling with that questionable and hasty decision left me sleepless and anxious.

But this morning I woke up feeling revived. Despite four 2008 playoff teams making appearances in this postseason and the inherent been-there-seen-that feelings, I have decided I’m going to finish this season strong: like Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox, I’m going to take two out of three in the season’s last series. I’m going to watch as much as I can and I’m going to cheer when someone hoists that World Championship Trophy.

But once your favorite team has been eliminated and the pool is narrowed to the usual suspects, what do you do to stay interested? Here are some ways I’ve started to make the postseason a little more interesting (even if you’re not interested).

  • Root for players, not teams. Despite genuinely disliking most of the players on the New York Yankees because of their association with Alex Rodriguez, I get a little satisfaction cheering on Johnny Damon who, despite his baby-like arm, has put together quite a string of solid, yet unspectacular, offensive seasons. The Angel’s Torii Hunter is, perhaps, the game’s most exciting centerfielder and this is a chance to witness his fleet-feet on the big stage (forget about the misplay in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series) on East Coast time. Choose a few of your personal favorites and follow their game, not the team’s.
  • Admire Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Jim Thome, Joe Torre, Vladimir Guerrero, Bobby Abreu, and Pedro Martinez. In a few years, these guys will be gone and a generation of baseball will end. One has to respect all of their accomplishments and the successes they’ve had on the ball field. No matter who they play or manage for, these are guys who you should watch and revere and appreciate.
  • Learn about the next generation of superstars. Most every team in this year’s postseason has a few budding stars, players that any real baseball fan should have an interest in. The Angel’s Kendry Morales, the Dodger’s Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, and the Phillie’s Jayson Werth are among the game’s youngest and most exciting players. They are going to be household names in a few years, so watch them mature before your eyes.
  • Follow the stories instead of the games. This is just the second postseason for the Phillie’s 37-year-old Raul Ibanez in his illustrious and, up-until-2008, underappreciated 14-season career. Could this be his last chance at a ring? Will one of these next starts be the last for 15-year veteran Andy Pettitte? Could Joe Torre and his Dodgers face his long-time team, the Yankees, in the World Series? Even if the same old song and dance doesn’t seem exciting, there really is some interesting storylines.

If that seems like a lot of work, it is. But tonight I’ll weather the storm along with the Angels and Yankees and endure what it sure to be a four hour affair. And if I’m too tired at the end, my girlfriend rented Vicky Christina Barcelona. Two words: Scarlett Johansson. Unlike Ghost Town, that IS better than October baseball.