Toronto Baseball Guys
Thursday, October 23, 2008
  4 and Out
The magic is gone. The nerves have set in. Philly is ready and will not be shaken (well, except Howard, who is being played brilliantly all post-season).

The Phanatic will hit the party circuit after 4 short games. Utley will be MVP. The pen will be un-hittable.

Upton will continue to look sick, Pena will choke like Juliette on Lee's sack, and Ben Zobrist, really?

I think the Devil's pitching will hold up -- I see a lot of 3-2 games, well, not a lot...let's say 4.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
  Philly Could Be Doomed
I like the Phillies.

Their top starter, Cole Hamels, is better than anyone the Rays have to offer - which is significant, since he might start three times in the Series.

Their top bullpen guys, Lidge and Madson, are a match for the Rays' top guys, particularly with Grant Balfour looking both fatigued and human lately.

Their offense is downright scary when it's clicking, and even though it hasn't been clicking during these playoffs, the Phillies are 7-2. How much longer can you reasonably expect Ryan Howard to go without a homer? The Philadelphia bats are far more formidable than those of the Red Sox, who pushed the Rays to seven games.

Tampa watched their playoff dreams very nearly come crashing down around them, in a 2004 Yankees, 1987 Blue Jays, Pick-a-Year New York Mets kind of way. They deserve credit for their perseverance, and they're a great young team. But outlasting the defending World Champs might just be the Rays' World Series. Under normal circumstances, I'd call for a Phillies win in 6.


A quick look at history says that the Phillies could be finished already. Consider, the Phillies are making their sixth trip to the World Series. In 1980, they defeated Kansas City for their only World Series. In the other four trips:

1915 - Lost to the Boston Red Sox
1950 - Lost to the New York Yankees
1983 - Lost to the Baltimore Orioles
1993 - Lost to the Toronto Blue Jays

A loss to Tampa, and the Curse of the AL East TM is complete!

Curses be damned, Philly in 6.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
  More Than a Grain of Salt Required
In preparing to prognosticate on this year’s World Series, I’ll review some of my earlier predictions.
Before placing any five-figure bets on this prediction you should be aware of the fact that
a.) I make a lot of incorrect predictions
b.) Most of my predictions tend to conflict with each other, common sense or both.

Prediction: Jays in six. Why in six? That’s just how they roll.
Made: September 2007. An annual event for me, made during yet another splendid fall performance by the Jays.
Abandoned: March 23, 2008. Upon the release of Reed Johnson. J.P., don’t tell me you knew Adam Lind was going to be that good.
Really Abandoned: May 29, 2008 in "Battle of the Tough Guys: Middle Infield weight class". With "The Ocatgon" positioned behind second base, we saw David Eckstein come up with his biggest hit of the season against an overmatched Aaron Hill's equillibrium. I'm not sure if we'll see Hill play again, but hopefully this is another one of my incorrect predictions.
Re-Made: July 13, 2008 at the end of a 5-1 streak heading into the all-star game break. Clearly my predictions come from the heart not the head.
Re-Abandoned: July 19, 2008 after losing the first two games following the break to the formerly slumping Rays.
Re-Re-Made: September 7, 2008 after watching David Purcey spin eight shutout innings, and Jesse Carlson present us with a refreshingly easy save to close out a late season sweep of the Rays.
Re-Re-Abandoned: September 12, 2008 David Ortiz doubles to deep right, driving in two, en route to a 7-0 victory in game one of the Jays first meaningful series since Alfredo Griffin retired. It was pretty subtle, but did anybody else notice Ortiz stabbing his fist through the chest cavity of the Jays collective, pulling out our still beating hearts, and lowering us into a pit of molten lava, upon exiting the batter’s box?
Re-Re-Re-Made: September 13, 2008. Travis Snider slapping the ball silly, making like a young –well, younger- Junior Felix during his maiden voyage to Fenway.
Finally Abandoned: September 13, 2008. As Scott Downs fell to the ground while chasing Jacoby Ellsbury’s "hot shot". It was touching the way the network spliced the Downs slip into that series of shots of Apollo Creed falling as a bloody towel drops from Rocky’s hand.

Prediction: Cubs in seven
Made: March 23, 2008. After his release, I claimed that whoever picked up Reed Johnson and used him as a fourth outfielder would win the World Series.
Abandoned: October, 4 2008. Cubs fail to use Johnson while being swept out of the playoffs.

Prediction: Red Sox in four
Immediately following Kevin Youkilis trotting home with the winning run in game five of the ALCS.
Abandoned: After the Rays defeated the Sox in game seven of the ALCS. That’s a relief, I thought my digital cable box –just getting ready for February 17, 2009- was scrambling the Fox signal with ESPN Classic.

Which Brings us to Present Day:
With only two teams remaining, I’ve got one last chance to get something right this year. I could base this prediction on a comparison of the rotations, lineups, bullpens, benches, managers, momentum and park factors. However, since anything can happen in a short series, I’m going to go with Karma.

Most Recent Major Championship:
Philadelphia: 1983 76’ers
Tampa Bay: 2004 Lightning and 2003 Buccaneers
You’ve got to feel sorry for the Philadelphia sports fan. Sure they’re a bit aggressive, -Tie Domi and Santa Claus please feel free to weigh in here-but they’re entitled. I feel like every time I watch a league championship, it’s somebody beating Philadelphia. The Flyers sole purpose in the eighties was Stanley Cup Finalist, and the ‘Sixers and Eagles have lost a few too.

Average Attendance in 2008:
Phillies: 42 254
Rays: 21 301
Which is way higher than I’m willing to believe. I think the record keepers rounded to the nearest whole number, and then added ten-thousand.
Sure, Philadelphia supports the Phillies when they’re winning or playing in a fancy new stadium. But has anyone other than Jesse Litsch or Billy Koch supported the Devil Rays? Ever? Tropicana stadium looks like a cross between a lawn chair warehouse, and the set of another "Major League" movie. Where’s the guy with the drum? I’m not angry at the people of Tampa Bay, heck, most people in Tampa Bay are just wintering from Toronto, Montreal and New York. Why would they cheer for the Rays?

Uniform Features:
I think it’s a crime when a team picks a colour in an attempt to sell more merchandise rather than trying to match other teams in the area –Jays and Raptors, this goes for you too-. Tampa Bay teams are first and foremost tangerine orange. First they got rid of the tie dyed devil ray, then they got rid of the devil ray, and now they're blue! Enough’s enough, stick to your roots.
Philadelphia is another city confused about its colour scheme, but at least the Phillies have managed to maintain the same nickname since 1890. That and the little liberty bell on the bottom of the stirrup socks make them champions in my books.

The Jays Owe You:
The only time prior to this year that the Devil Rays managed to finish anywhere other than last place in the AL East, it was the Jays who were gracious enough to occupy the division basement in their absence. We owe them nothing.
The Jays record against Philadelphia is a different story. As I look back on the championship teams of the early nineties, I’m beginning to feel guilty about the way the Jays won in ’93. Sure Joe Carter’s blast to win game six and clinch the series was one of the most memorable events in baseball history. But Philadelphia fans weren’t too amused by it, nor do they enjoy seeing Joe’s romp around the bases replayed by sports countdown shows. Phillies fans, I would like to apologize for reaping so much joy from the ’93 series, hopefully I can make it up to you by cheering for you now.

Prediction: Phillies in seven
  World Series Prediction
Really, the two best teams in the playoffs have made it to the World Series. (Though it is a shame we didn't get the Red Sox vs. Cubbies or see Manny Ramirez return to Boston...) So which team will win?

Tampa Bay. The pitching staff features the best young starters in baseball, and the bullpen is lights-out. Offense could go either way: Upton/Pena/Crawford/Longoria vs. Utley/Howard/Rollins/Burrell should be interesting.

But a team that beat Sox under immense pressure will keep rolling. Even if the Phillies are the first National League team to come into the Series with a DH (Go Stairsy!)

Yes, there are a lot of reasons to dislike the franchise: it's dismal fan support to its godawful stadium, it's decade of crapitude to its name-change under pressure from right wing zealots. But this is the better team.

And God has clearly spoken: Rays in 6.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 03, 2008
  2008 Playoffs - Who to Cheer and Why
Baseball's second season is upon us. While the Blue Jays aren't part of the festivities, there is no shortage of intrigue and good baseball stories. Refreshingly, there are no teams from New York in this year's post-season, while there is some new blood and the potential for some very interesting World Series match-ups.

So here, in descending order, are the teams that deserve your support this October.

1. Chicago Cubs

Why cheer them: The last time the Cubs won a World Series, Adolf Hitler was 17, Ghandi was still shy of 40, the airplane wasn't yet five years old, and while women could attend Cubs games, they couldn't yet vote. I think these people have suffered enough.

If that doesn't sway you, this is a likable, well-rounded team that led their division virtually wire-to-wire. They also happen to offer every cliche on the baseball menu:

There's something here for just about everyone.

Why Not to Cheer Them: I don't know, you're some kind of sadist?

Canadian Connection: Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster make up half of the formidable starting rotation. And how can you not like ex-Jay Reed Johnson getting a shot at playoff baseball.

2. Milwaukee Brewers

Why Cheer Them: Compared to the Cubs World Series drought, the Brewers 26 years between playoff appearances may seem like nothing, but it's always nice to have a fresh face in the playoffs, particularly a small market like Milwaukee. The Brewers are a fun young team, stocked with mashers and some of the best names in baseball: Hall, Hardy, Weeks, Fielder, Braun, Corey Hart - this sounds like a fictional lineup crafted for Nintendo Baseball. Fielder gets the nod for most ironic baseball name, along with Homer Bush and Grant Balfour. Then there's C.C. Sabathia, who's made the biggest rent-a-pitcher splash since Randy Johnson: The Astro Years - er, Year. Should the Brewers reach the World Series, they would be the only team to win both a National and American League pennant.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They always killed the Blue Jays. Plus, if they were to win the Series, it would make Bud Selig awfully happy.

Canadian Connection: Eric Gagne looks to recapture his old form out of the Brewers pen, while ex-Jay Dave Bush is a solid, if unspectacular soldier in the Brewers rotation.

3. Philadelphia Phillies

Why Cheer Them: For the second straight year, they've kept the Mets out of the playoffs, which would be reason enough. The Phillies front line talent is also among the best in baseball with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins. All of them, along with Pat Burrell were drafted by the Phillies, so there's no Buy a Championship mentality at work here. If you're looking for a good story, how about 45-year-old Jamie Moyer, who just rolled up a 16-7 record and has never been on a championship team?

Why Not to Cheer Them: You're a Mets fan. Plus from all accounts, Brett Myers, he of the domestic assault charge and profanity-laced "retard" tirade, seems like a bit of a douchebag.

Canadian Connection: You've got Pat Gillick in the front office, whose Blue Jays crushed Phillies hopes the last time they got close to a World Series title, ex-Jay Jayson Werth, who had a career year with a nice little 20-20 season. Finally, Matt Stairs, the Wonder Hamster himself, gets another shot at the playoffs at age 40.

4. Tampa Bay Rays

Why Cheer Them: They're the reason the New York Yankees are out of the playoffs for the first time this millenium. That said, hopefully they'll have a Rockies-like playoff hangover and head back to AL East basement in 2009.

Why Not to Cheer Them: The park is still ugly, and while it's a nice story that the perennial doormats finally make good, one would hope that 10 years of top draft picks would be enough to turn anyone around.

Canadian Connection: Ex-Jays Gabe Gross and Eric Hinske, who's looking for his second straight World Series ring.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

Why Cheer Them: Joe Torre's return to the playoffs should irk the Yankees, and if he were able to win a championship, it could send the younger Steinbrenner into a self-destructive shame spiral of overspending that might cripple the Evil Empire for the next decade or so. Plus a Red Sox/Dodgers World Series, with Manny returning to Fenway, would make for sensational drama. An all L.A. World Series would also prove interesting.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They won a division that the Jays would have dominated, and you know we'll be inundated with

Canadian Connection: East York's Russell Martin is perhaps the game's top young catcher.

6. Los Angeles Angels

Why Cheer Them: Mike Scioscia is a likeable sort, and Vlady Guerrero - one of his generation's top players - doesn't yet have a World Series ring.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They did just win in 2002. Plus, enough with the Rally Monkey already.

Canadian Connection: Ex-Jay Kelvim Escobar will watch his mates from the sidelines as he's done for the year and possibly 2009 with shoulder surgery.

7. Chicago White Sox

Why Cheer Them: They feature almost 1200 HRs worth of Hall of Famers in Jim Thome and
Ken Griffey Jr. - neither of whom have ever won a World Series. An all-Chicago final would certainly be special.

Why Not to Cheer Them: They won in 2005. They knocked the Twins out of the playoffs, costing Justin Morneau a shot at another MVP. Their broadcast team is the most annoying set of sycophantic homers in the business. A.J. Pierzynski is still a jerk. And their chances of winning would be a whole lot better if not for Home-Run-Champ-turned-Idiot Carlos Quentin, who threw a hissy fit and broke his wrist, ending his season in early September. He finished second in homers, by one.

Canadian Connection: Dewayne Wise, former Blue Jay Rule 5 pick, seems to have found a home in the majors with the White Sox.

8. Boston Red Sox

Why Cheer Them: Either you live in Boston, or you're one of the legions of bandwagon jumping frat-boys who's added a faux faded Red Sox cap to their wardrobe. Yeah, we know, you've been a fan, like, forever.

Why Not to Cheer Them: Let's face it, Red Sox Nation has jumped the shark. We could all rally behind the team that hadn't won in 86 years, and it was great that they did it at the expense of the Yankees. Fast forward four years, and Red Sox fans have become almost as obnoxious and entitled as their counterparts in the Bronx. We don't need to see anymore dancing from Jonathan Papelbon.

Canadian Connection: Freed from exile in Pittsburgh, the baseball world is finally starting to see just how good Jason Bay is. He's the lone reason to cheer for these Sox.

Discussion of all thing Blue Jays.

Christopher Casuccio
Sean Doyle
Rob Metcalfe
Matthew Graf
Yoni Grundland
Mark Rottmann
Jim Turner
Joel Williams


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