Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lackey Knows All About The Pressure on Wacha

Michael Wacha will take the mound tonight for the St. Louis Cardinals in a win or go home Game 6 of the World Series. The rookie has performed admirably throughout the playoffs, but tonight he'll face the most pressure to date and he'll do it in front of a sold out, hostile Fenway Park crowd.

His opponent, Red Sox starter John Lackey, knows all about the pressures put on a rookie in a big game. It was 11 years ago that Lackey and fellow rookie Francisco Rodriguez (later to be known simply as "K-Rod") stood out in the World Series as rookie performers.

Lackey took the mound for the then Anaheim Angels on October 27, 2002, better known as the decisive 7th game of the 2002 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. Lackey had been far from good in his Game 4 start four days earlier - 5 IP 3 ER 9 H - but manager Mike Scioscia had faith in him to bring Lackey back on three days rest to start the finale on his home field.

Just as Wacha faces a veteran tonight, Lackey faced veteran Livan Hernandez, one of the heroes of the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins, in Game 7. Lackey went just five innings again, but his removal from the ball game had more to do with pitching on three days rest than his performance. He departed with a 4-1 lead and had allowed just four hits and a walk. The bullpen did the rest and the Angels captured their first championship. (Hernandez, on the other hand, lasted only two official innings and allowed all five base runners he faced in the 3rd inning to reach base safely before he was pulled from the game.)

When he was queried Tuesday about the 2002 Series, Lackey didn't remember much and pretty much pushed the experience aside.
"That was a long time ago, man. I don't think that's going to play much into (Wednesday). I think most of those guys in that game aren't even playing anymore."
"I was trying to get five or six innings," he said, "and turn it over to those guys (Brendan Donnelly, K-Rod, and Troy Percival). My job was just basically not to screw it up."1
Like Wacha, Lackey was instrumental in getting his team to the World Series in '02. He replaced Ramon Ortiz in the third inning of  Game 3 of the ALDS with his team down 6-1 and tossed three scoreless innings. The Angels rallied for a 9-6 win and a 2 to 1 advantage in the best of five series with the New York Yankees.

Lackey's seven innings of shutout ball gave the Angeles a commanding 3 games to 1 lead over the Minnesota Twins in the '02 ALCS. He allowed three hits, walked none, and struck out 7 for his first post-season win. His 86 pitch performance in the decisive game of the World Series quickly made him a household name.

Wacha has already gotten his 15 minutes of fame and then some. The rookie isn't going anywhere but up though after being the 19th pick in the first round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft. Wacha has allowed three earned runs in the 27 innings he's thrown over four post-season starts. He has struck out 28 hitters and earned the victory in those four contests.

His numbers include a Game 2 victory against Boston in which he allowed two earned runs in six innings pitched. Now he has a must win game to deal with just as his opposing pitcher did 11 years ago.

1 -

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pedroia Beats Out Cano For AL Gold Glove

Everyone knows that Gold Glove Awards don't necessarily reflect the best defensive player at a given position. That being said the top defenders at second base are Boston's Dustin Pedroia and the Yankees' Robinson Cano. Pedrioa topped Cano for his third career piece of fielding hardware. (The Daily News' Anthony McCarron breaks down the numbers.)

Pedroia previously won in 2008 and 2011, while Cano captured the award in 2009 and 2012. The Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals had the most winners with three each, and there were four first time winners.

1B - Eric Hosmer, KC (1)
2B - Dustin Pedroia, BOS (3)
SS - J.J. Hardy, BAL (2)
3B - Manny Machado, BAL (1)
LF - Alex Gordon, KC (3)
CF - Adam Jones, BAL (3)
RF - Shane Victorino, BOS (4)
  C - Salvador Perez, KC (1)
  P - R.A. Dickey, TOR (1)

Hardy, Gordon, and Jones were the only repeat winners with Gordon pulling off a trifecta.

The National League Gold Glover Winners was topped by the St. Louis Cardinals catcher, Yadier Molina, who won his 6th straight award. The Colorado Rockies, Cardinals, and Arizona Diamondbacks had two winners each. Carlos Gonzalez was the only repeat winner from last year. The Rockies' Nolan Arenado was the lone rookie to be honored.

1B - Paul Goldschmidt, AZ (1)
2B - Brandon Phillips, CIN (4)
SS - Andrelton Simmons, ATL (1)
3B - Nolan Arenado, COL (1)
LF - Carlos Gonzalez, COL (3)
CF - Carlos Gomez, MIL (1)
RF - Gerardo Parra, AZ (2)
  C - Yadier Molina, STL (6)
  P - Adam Wainwright, STL (2)

Trenton Thunder Named Minor League Team of the Year

The Yankees Double-A team, the Trenton Thunder, came out on top in a fan poll for the top minor league baseball team. The team featured some of the top prospects in the organization - catcher Gary Sanchez, pitcher Danny Burawa, and outfielders Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Tyler Austin.

The team also had rehab visits from Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez.

Below is the press release from the Thunder:

(TRENTON, NJ), the official website of Minor League Baseball, has named the Trenton Thunder, Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, "Team of the Year" following a three week online voting period this month. The honor is part of the annual "MiLBY" Awards which are presented by each fall.  
The Thunder were the champions of the Eastern League after earning the East Division Wild Card during the regular season.  Trenton got hot at the end of the year and finished on a nine-game winning streak including sweeps of the first place Binghamton Mets in the Eastern Division Championship and the Western Division Champs, the Harrisburg Senators, to earn the title. Trenton became the first team to sweep both rounds of the EL postseason since 1991. 

The title is the franchise’s third in its 20 seasons in Trenton, all under the watch of Manager Tony Franklin. In Franklin's seven years with the Thunder, he has led them to the EL Championship Series five times.   
MiLBYs are the end-of-season awards that honor the best players, teams and performances of the Minor League season. For three weeks, fans chose their favorites in 13 categories at The official website of Minor League Baseball announces Fans' Choice winners as well as staff picks for the major awards.
Trenton is a finalist for two additional MiLBY Awards that will be announced on Thursday, October 31. The Retirement Party for Chase That Golden Thunder is a nominee for "Promotion of the Year" and a tribute video for Chase is up for "Mascot Clip of the Year".  

The Thunder will begin the 2014 season on at home on Thursday, April 3.  Season tickets, group outings, Pic-A-Plans, and Mini Plan renewals are on sale now.  For more information about tickets, fans should call 609-394-3300 or visit

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wong, Get back to where you once belonged

Perhaps if the Beatles tune "Get Back" had been playing in Kolten Wong's head the Cardinals rookie would not have been picked off first base to end Game 4 of the World Series.

One night after the Cardinals won Game 3 on an a defensive obstruction call, the Red Sox evened the Series at two games apiece with the help of a boneheaded play. Down two in the 9th, Allen Craig came through in the clutch just as had in Game 3 with a 1-out, pinch-hit single.

After seeing Craig struggle to run on an injured foot the night before, manager Mike Matheny replaced him with Wong, the rookie who appeared in 32 games this season. After Uehara retired Matt Carpenter on a pop-up for the second out, Wong broke a cardinal rule of baseball and the game was over.

One of the basic tenets of baseball is knowing when your run is not important. In Sunday night's game the Cardinals trailed by a pair of runs, with the tying run at the plate. In this case the batter was post-season terror Carlos Beltran.

Beltran could have tied the game up with one swing of the bat or at least kept the game going by reaching base safely. Slugger Matt Holliday was in the on-deck circle when Uehara caught Wong leaning the wrong way. Worse than the play itself was Wong's reasoning, which totally flew in the face of logic (repeat after me, "you're run doesn't matter!")
"...I was just getting ready, getting aggressive," he said. "It was a hitting situation. Carlos, he can drive the ball. If that ball got down somewhere, I was hoping to go first to third, maybe score." 1
You have to feel bad for the kid, who was fighting back tears when he spoke to reporters afterwards, but everything in the quote above shows that he wasn't follwing the directions he was given. Mike Matheny told reporters:
"He was reminded once he got on base, and also he was reminded that the run didn't mean much, be careful, shorten up. And he got a little extra, then he slipped and the slip cost him."
Wong also said his foot slipped as he went to retreat back to the base and "that's it". Should be interesting to see what oddity occurs tonight as Game 5 is played three days before Halloween.

1 - St.Louis Post-Dispatch

Tampa Yankees Hitting the Highway

In a move that has been in the works for quite a while, the Tampa Yankees (Florida St. League 'A+' ball) have reached an agreement to move north to Ocala, FL.  George M. Steinbrenner III will continue to host Spring Training for Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and the rest of the Major League Yankees.

The city council of Ocala, a 90 minute straight shoot up route 75 from Tampa, will be presented with plans Tuesday for a proposed $45MM stadium and entertainment complex. The city's mayor, Ken Guinn, said a half-cent sales tax for a five year period would pay for the new ball park, though the tax would have to pass referendum.

If all goes as planned, the Tampa Yankees could begin play in Ocala in 2016. The reason for the move is a reported lack of interest in Single-A baseball in the Tampa area, especially with a Major League team located nearby.

The Steinbrenner family owns the Kinsman Horse Stable, which is located in Ocala. There is no word on future plans for GMS III Field outside of Spring Training use. While it will mean the loss of several jobs, the county and Tampa Sports Authority will not be affected since there are no ticket surcharges on Tampa Yankees tickets.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Game 3: Anatomy of Obstruction

Though this is not an Abby-like re-creation from NCIS, here's what happened in the 9th inning of World Series Game 3.

Dustin Pedroia's diving stop on Jon Jay

Yadier Molina tagged out at home for 2nd out
Jarrod Saltalamacchia's throw eludes Will Middlebrooks

Middelbrooks flops like a fish

Down goes Frazier Allen Craig; Joyce signals obstruction
Craig heads home; DeMuth signals obstruction

Salty tags out Craig

DeMuth signals safe

John Farrell is confused
There you have it. The best thing of all? The umpires apparently got a call correct without having to huddle up.

Cardinals Prevail; in Walk-Off Trip

I have seen a lot in over 40 years of watching post-season baseball - Jeffrey Maiers interference in the 1996 ALCS. The Bartman interference in the 2003 NLCS. Carlton Fisk's arm-waving extra inning game winning home run in Game 6 of the '75 series. Reggie Jackson sticking his hip out, much to the consternation of Tommy Lasorda in the '78 Classic, and of course Mr. October's 3-home run outburst in Game 6 to clinch the World Series the prior year.

But I don't think any of those memories come close to last night's Game 3 between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals for a one play World Series game decider. The Red Sox had rallied from 2-0 and 4-2 deficits to tie the game 4-4 in the 8th inning.

Yadier Molina reached on a one out single off Brandon Workman to start the 9th, so Sox manger John Farrell went to his closer, Koji Uehara, to face pinch-hitter Allen Craig. The Cardinals' 1st baseman/outfielder has been hobbled by a foot injury that led to manager Mike Matheny's decision to sit him at the start of the game and save him for a situation like the one that arose in the 9th.

Craig came through with a double to put two runners in scoring position and forced Boston to move the infield and outfield in. Center fielder Jon Jay's bouncer back up the middle was stopped by a diving Dustin Pedroia, whose throw home easily beat the slow footed Molina to the plate. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia tagged Molina for the second out of the inning, but that's when the mayhem began.

Craig broke for third as soon as he saw Pedroia throw home. A throw right at the bag would likely have nailed Craig but Salty's throw tailed away from  Will Middlebrooks ricocheted into foul territory. Middlebrooks, who should have caught the ball despite it being off course, did a belly flop and Craig slid into third. As Daniel Nava raced over from left field, Craig popped up from his head first slide and began the race to home plate, but fell over a prone Middlebrooks, who had inadvertently raised up both legs.

Third base umpire Jim Joyce immediately signaled obstruction, but the only one who saw the call was home plate umpire Dana DeMuth. Which is why everyone in the ball park was confused when DeMuth signaled safe after Salty grabbed Nava's throw home and applied the tag on Craig for an apparent third out. While the Cardinals and their fans celebrated, a confused Farrell, Pedroia, Uehara and all the other Red Sox argued and wandered in bewilderment until DeMuth and Joyce explained the call.

They might have to change the term walk-off to stumble-off for this one.

Umpires Meet the Press

Umpires John Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, and Dana DeMuth, and league executive VP Joe Torre met with the media afterwards. Below is the transcript courtesy of You can view the video of the press conference by clicking here.

JOHN HIRSCHBECK:  I know you have a lot of questions, and we'll answer everything you have. But just to go over the rule quickly, obstruction is the act of a fielder obstructing a runner when not in the act of fielding a ball. It does not have to be intent. There does not have to be intent, okay? Once he has the opportunity to field the ball, he can no longer in any way obstruct the runner. That's basically the rule. So you want to go ahead and ask questions? 
Q. If you can just take us through how you saw the play develop and if there was, in fact, any incidental contact and whether or not Middlebrooks raised his legs, if you would just take us through how you saw the play develop, please.
JIM JOYCE:  Well, when the play developed after Saltalamacchia threw the ball at third base, after the ball had gone straight through, and Allen had slid into third and stood up to attempt to go to home plate, everything was off right there. And when he tried to advance to home plate, the feet were up in the air, and he tripped over Middlebrooks right there, and immediately and instinctually I called obstruction.
Q. I understand what John said, that there doesn't have to be intent, but the fact that his feet were up, did that play into it at all? And is there any wiggle room, like where else could he be after he dives for the ball, what else could he be doing but laying on the floor, if you do think there's intent?
JIM JOYCE:  No, as a matter of fact, the feet didn't play too much into that because he was still in the area where the baserunner needs to go to advance to home plate. And the baserunner has every right to go unobstructed to home plate, and unfortunately for Middlebrooks he was right there. And there was contact, so he could not advance to home plate naturally.
JOE TORRE:  And let me read, it gives the example on Rule 2, "An infielder dives at a ground ball and the ball passes him, and he continues to lie on the ground and delays the progress of the runner, he very likely has obstructed the runner."

Q. So does "very likely" mean there's interpretation?
JOE TORRE: Intentional or not intentional. He just has to clear the path. I know sometimes it's unfair because he's laying on the ground, but that's the way the rule is.
Q. Is there anything he could have done to avoid violating this rule in that position? Once he's down, what could he have done at that point?
JOHN HIRSCHBECK:  Just to get out of the way quickly and not obstruct the runner. It's really as simple as that.
JIM JOYCE:  Really, that doesn't play into that play. With the defensive player on the ground, without intent or intent, it's still obstruction. You'd probably have to ask Middlebrooks that one, if he could have done anything. But that's not in our determination.
Q. He said there wasn't anything else he could have done, that's why I asked the question.
JIM JOYCE:  But the rule is is that the runner has every right to go to home plate at that particular play unobstructed without any liability ‑‑ he doesn't have to get out of the way, he just has the baseline, and unfortunately the defensive player was there.
JOE TORRE:  And the fact that he impeded the runner, again. Didn't mean to, but it still doesn't matter, according to the rule.
Q. I know you guys obviously got the call right the other night when you all convened together on the second base play. Did you all even chat about it or have a quick conversation about it? Jim, did you ask the other umpires their viewpoint? It seems like you called it immediately and you were set with it. I was curious if I could get the other umpires' thoughts on if you thought it was the right call, done, and there was nothing else to discuss?
JOHN HIRSCHBECK:  I was on the leftfield line. Immediately after we got off the field into our locker room we congratulated Jim and said "great call." I could see it all in front of me as it happened. That was our first reaction when we got in the locker room. Mark Wegner made the comment he could see it developing from right field.
We're trained to look for these things. It's out of the ordinary, but when it happens, and it's the World Series, you expect to get it right.
Q. I'm just curious, is there any responsibility of the runner to make sure he's in the baseline? Did you guys check for that? Often a runner comes around third and circles around the third base coach's box. It seems like Craig was clearly on the inside part of third more toward shortstop. Is it the responsibility of the runner to make sure he's inside the baseline?
JIM JOYCE:  He was right on the baseline. He was right on the chalk. And so that never played into any decision, at all, because he was ‑‑ he had slid, stood up, and he was literally right on the chalk.
JOHN HIRSCHBECK:  Don't forget, the runner establishes his own baseline. If he's on second on a base hit and rounds third wide, that baseline is from where he is, way outside the line, back to third and to home plate, it's almost a triangle. So the runner establishes his own baseline.
Q. Just curious if any of you guys remember a game ending in this way, ending on this particular call in any of your experiences?
JIM JOYCE:  Never.
JOHN HIRSCHBECK:  And again, Peter (Woodfork) pointed out to me to mention this, normally this play happens at second base on a steal play or something, where the ball goes into centerfield and the shortstop or second baseman obstructs the runner or stays there too long trying to hold the tag down or making believe he fell down or whatever. Not at third base.
Q. Once you make the call, he gets home and that's the end of it, right? Because there was still a play at the plate that developed. Obviously the players were playing out the play.
JIM JOYCE:  Our determination is whether or not he could have scored or not. And Dana immediately came up with, he saw me make the call. And as soon as Craig slid into home plate, Dana immediately pointed down at me knowing that we had obstruction and it impeded Allen to score the run, essentially. Dana did a great job on installing that right away. Dana did a great job signaling that right away.  
JOHN HIRSCHBECK:  And that's the last, most important part of this rule, is that the umpire has to determine ‑‑ if what you saw tonight happened and he's out by 20 feet, then the umpire determines that if the obstruction had not occurred, he would have been out, okay? But since it was right there, bang, bang play, obviously that's obstruction, definitely had something to do with the play.
Q. That's Dana's call right away?
DANA DeMUTH:  I'm going with Jim on it, so I determine when it ends at the end, about the obstruction, you know. It's Jim's call originally, but looking up there. I have to see the call, also, and agree with him. I have to know that it's obstruction.
JOE TORRE:  You remember a few years ago I think Tejada ran into a fielder and then stopped running, and even though he was pointing back, he's obstructed, but he stopped running, so he was out.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cardinals Have Plenty Of Confidence in Wacha

Wacha may look 16, but he pitches like a veteran ace.

Entering the 2013 season the St. Louis Cardinals knew they were going to have to rely on their highly touted young right-hander to help them win the NL Central or capture one of the two National League wild card spots.

Not only did the rookie help win the division, but the Cardinals would not have advanced to the World Series without him. Oh, you though I meant Shelby Miller. While Miller's regular season performance was a big factor in the Cardinal's 2013 success, it was the pitching of fellow rookie Michael Wacha that got them to the fall classic for the fourth time since 2004.

Wacha (pronounced wok-kuh - think Fozzy Bear - wok-kuh wok-kuh) was the 19th overall selection out of Texas A&M University in the 2012 amateur draft and made his Major League debut on May 30 of this year. Passed over in the draft during his high school days, it is remarkable Wacha made it to the 19th pick when he was drafted after a stellar three year collegiate career. His numbers as an Aggie were a 27-7 record, a 2.78 ERA, 8.6 K's per 9 innings, and a 1.06 WHIP. He came into this season with a fastball that topped out at 95-mph, a strong curveball, and a low 80's changeup. Wacha also knew how to pitch.

Coincidentally, Miller was the 19th overall pick out of Texas' Brownwood High School in 2009. After six appearances, all but one in relief, in 2012, Miller made 31 starts for the Cards this year. He finished 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.206 WHIP. But with about a 180 regular season innings limit, Miller made his last start on September 25 and was moved to the bullpen for the post-season.

Meanwhile, Wacha made three starts for the Cardinals between his May debut and June 11 before he was returned to Triple-A Memphis (PCL). He put together an outstanding season for the minor league Redbirds, going 5-3, 2.65 in 15 starts with an average of 7.7 K's per 9 innings. The Cardinals took note and recall him in the second week of August.

The 22-year old made six starts and six relief appearances down the stretch to finish 4-1, 2.78 with 9 K's per 9 innings and a 1.098 WHIP. With Miller moved to the pen, Wacha was the logical selection to take the baseball in Game 4 of the NL Division Series.

The Pirates held a 2 games to 1 lead in the best of five, but a Wacha-led victory meant St. Louis had ace Adam Wainwright for the fifth game. To say that Wacha was successful is an understatement.

The former Texarkana, TX high schooler (he and Miller lived equidistant from Dallas in opposite directions.) retired the first 15 men he faced. Pirates’ catcher Russell Martin finally drew a walk to lead off the 6th inning, but Wacha retired the next six hitters in order and took a no-hitter into the 8th inning.

Wacha retired Marlon Byrd to start the next to last "regular" inning, but National League home run leader Pedro Alvarez broke up the no-hitter and the shutout with a solo shot to halve the lead. Matheny only pulled his starter when Wacha followed it up with another walk to Martin. The bullpen closed out a 2-1 win and then took the night off to watch Wainright's complete game victory in Game 5 to advance to the NLCS.

After an exciting 13-inning, 3-2 win in Game 1, the Cardinals went back to Wacha to face the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw in Game 2. The Dodgers left-hander held the Cards to two hits...and lost thanks to Wacha's performance.

It only took LA two batters into their lineup before they got their first hit, but the next 12 Dodgers went down in order. A.J. Ellis broke the string with a 2-out double in the 5th inning, but was stranded there. John Jay's sacrifice fly gave the Cards a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning, but it looked like Wacha's magic had ended when the Dodgers loaded the bases in the 6th.

Kershaw and Carl Crawford reached on back to back singles and one out later Adrian Gonzalez was given an intentional free pass. Wacha battled phenom Yasiel Puig to a full count before he struck out his fellow rookie for the second out. Wacha then got veteran Juan Uribe swinging at a third strike to escape the jam. Wacha was pulled after he allowed a 2-out hit in the 7th, but once again the rookie pitched deep into the game and the Cardinals held on for a 1-0 triumph.

The Cardinals held a 3 games to 2 advantage when Wacha and Kershaw met for a rematch in a crucial Game 6. If you had no knowledge of the outcome and just heard the statistics, you would have been crazy not to think the Dodgers had evened the series up and forced a seventh and decisive game. But you would have been wrong.

Wacha may have been even better than in his first two post-season appearances. Crawford reached on an infield single to start the game, but was quickly erased by a double play. Outside of a 4th inning walk, no Dodgers’ batter would reach safely via a base hit until Ellis led off the 6th with a double. He was stranded there of course, and Wacha retired the next six hitters to finish with seven innings of 2-hit, shutout baseball.

The Cardinals jumped all over Kershaw and went on to a 9-0 win though they probably would have won the game had they managed just one run, thanks to Texas' Michael Wacha.

World Series Game 2 Note

Wacha faces John Lackey with the Cardinals in desperate need of a good performance after Game 1's poor pitching, poor hitting, and poor fielding performance. The rookie has allowed one earned run in 21 innings pitched (0.43 ERA), with 9.4 K's per 9 innings, a 0.57 WHIP and just eight hits allowed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Red Sox Will Clean Their Beards With Champagne

The last decade has been full of ups and downs for the Boston Red Sox. There was the blown ALCS to the New York Yankees in 2003, followed a year later by their first World Series championship in 86 years. It would not have been accomplished had they not redeemed themselves by coming back from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the ALCS to advance.

They grabbed another title in 2007, but a playoff bound team collapsed in 2011 and respected manager Terry Francona lost control of the clubhouse (Especially the eating and drinking habits of his pitchers.)

There were the horrible contracts given to Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford that helped to force out boy wonder GM Theo Epstein.  There was the childish behavior of Manny Ramirez and the ornery, expletive filled behavior displayed by one time ace Josh Beckett.  That was topped though by the one and done hire of Bobby Valentine, who alienated himself from most of the team with his behavior and remarks before the regular season was even a week old. Valentine’s squad managed just 69 wins in 2012, but the team was re-born, with some help from the LA Dodgers, when they jettisoned Gonzalez and Crawford and brought in guys like Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino. The result was a worst to first turnaround in the AL East and 97 wins under new manager John Farrell.

The current roster is led, of course, by veteran holdovers Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, who brought their usual consistency to the plate. It's a team that can rely on just about anyone in the lineup to come through with a big hit at a big time.

You still don’t without pitching, but with Beckett gone, so were the distractions to Lester and Buchholz, who got back to being two of the best young pitchers in baseball.  Veteran Jake Peavy was picked up from Chicago to solidify the rotation at the deadline, Ryan Dempster was free agent signee, and John Lackey bounced back from surgery to have a solid season.

All of it – the talent, some luck, and a never- give-up-attitude are what will lead the Red Sox to their third World Series championship since 2004.

Make no mistake though, it won't be easy. Their opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals, are nothing like the pushovers the Red Sox beat back in 2004. With veteran ace Adam Wainwright and red hot rookie Michael Wacha, the Cardinals have the starting pitching to hang with anyone. A strong bullpen anchored by closer Trevor Rosenthal should do a much better job of closing out games than the Detroit Tigers did in the ALCS.

I do believe in teams of destiny, however, and this Red Sox team is one of them. Whether you watch this series or listen to it on the radio, you will hear about the way the Red Sox grind out at-bats - they led the Major Leagues in pitches seen per at-bat this season. You will hear it so often that it may be prefaced by "I don't want to beat a dead horse, but..."  Most of the championship teams in the last 20 years did the same thing (see Yankees dynasty from 1996-2000.)

Backing up the rotation of Lester, a revived Lackey, Buchholz, Dempster and Peavy has been a solid, clutch bullpen. It was a bullpen that got even better when the pitching of veteran Koji Uehara said “this role is mine!”

The Red Sox dealt for closer Jack Hanrahan prior to the season, but he was felled by surgery and never pitched a regular season game. Often injured Andrew Bailey failed at the role that earned him the AL Rookie of the Year Award in 2009 and then was injured and out for the season as well. Uehara stepped in and stepped up. He is not your typical closer. He doesn't have an upper 90s fastball or a cutter that no one can hit. But he does throw a nasty splitter that has allowed him to strike out 10.4 batters per 9 innings for his career. (He had struck out a career high 12.2 this season).

A very pleasant surprise for Farrell has been the pitching of Journeyman left-hander Craig Breslow.  The eight year veteran was picked up at the 2012 trade deadline for Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik. Not exactly a head turning move. But Breslow, who was on the Sox in 2006, has done a great job on…right-handed hitters. That's no typo; Breslow has held righties to a .581 OPS and has faced more hitters in the right batter's box than he has from the left side. He’s mixed 90-mph two- and four-seam fastballs with a 75-mph cutter and an occasional changeup and slider to keep hitters honest.

There’s also 25-year old rookie right-hander Brandon Workman, who has struck out 10.2 batters per 9 innings in his first year in the bigs. Though he still has some control issues, Farrell does not hesitate to throw Workman into the mix in setting up the bridge to Uehara.

For all of the reasons stated up, that good old word, intangibles, and destiny, the Sox should be popping a cork or two after six games. Then maybe someone can hose them down and shave those beards off.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Yankees Drop Some Ticket Prices, Raise Others

The following press release was sent out by the Yankees on Monday concerning 2014 ticket prices. Who the fans will be watching remains to be seen. Derek Jeter? Alex Rodriguez? Ichiro Suzuki? Sadly, no Mariano Rivera or Andy Pettitte.

The New York Yankees today announced 2014 full-season ticket license pricing for regular season games at Yankee Stadium. Prices for 96 percent of tickets will either remain the same or decrease.
Approximately 39,000 tickets (78 percent) will have the same price in 2014 as they had in 2013, while approximately 9,000 tickets (18 percent) will have a decrease in price. There are approximately 2,000 tickets (four percent) that will have an increase in price.
All seats in the Grandstand and all seats with non-obstructed views in the Bleachers will not have a change in ticket price.
Terrace Level ticket prices in Sections 305, 306, 307, 332B, 333 and 334 will decrease from $40 to $28, and ticket prices in Sections 313, 314, 326 and 327 will decrease from $55 to $50. There will be no change in pricing for all other 2014 Terrace Level tickets.
In the Main Level, ticket prices in Sections 210 and 229 will decrease from $70 to $50, while ticket prices in Sections 216, 217, 223, 224 and 230 will decrease by $5 each.
Beginning with the 2014 season, seats in Sections 116 through 124 (Rows 12-21) will be known as Field MVP Club seats. Full-season licensees in these locations will have their ticket prices decrease from $260 per game in 2013 to $235 per game next season. Additionally, these licensees will have access to the Field MVP Club Lounge, which is currently being constructed and scheduled to open on Opening Day 2014. Located on the Field Level Concourse, this new space has been developed with the successful Delta SKY360° Suite redesign in mind.
Other Field Level ticket license pricing in Sections 114A through 126 will decrease in amounts ranging from $15 to $25 per ticket per game.
Also for 2014, the Yankees will be introducing 10 new Outdoor Suite Boxes, which will be located in Field MVP Sections 117A, 117B, 122 and 123. Each of these outdoor suites will provide seating for six to eight people. These suites will be available on a full-season basis.
As part of other renovations, the Home Plate Team Store, which is the largest retail location in Yankee Stadium, will be transformed to create an improved experience for fans.
The only Yankee Stadium tickets that are increasing in price are Field Level Section 132 tickets, Main Level Section 215 and 225 tickets and obstructed view Bleacher tickets in Sections 201 and 239.
Fans can purchase 2014 season tickets by visiting or calling 212-YANKEES (926-5337). Those with questions may call the preceding number or email Fans with visual impairments and/or who are blind should call (718) 579-4595 (TTY).
A date has yet to be determined for the on-sale of 2014 individual-game tickets.
A grid reflecting full-season ticket pricing in non-Suite locations is set forth below and in the attached press release. For information as it becomes available, please visit
Location2013 Full-Season Licensee Price per Game2014 Full-Season Licensee Price per GameChange
Field MVP Club Seat Level (Rows 12-21: 116-124)$260$235Decrease
Field MVP Level (Rows 22-26: 116-124)*$225$200Decrease
Field MVP Level (Rows 22-26: 120A-122)*$210$190Decrease
Field Level (Rows 12-21: 115)$225$200Decrease
Field Level (Rows 12-14: 114A, 114B)*$210$190Decrease
Field Level (Rows 22-30: 115; Rows 12-21: 125; Rows 12-14: 126, 127A)$210$190Decrease
Field Level (Rows 22-30: 125; Rows 15-30: 114a, 114b, 126)*$175$160Decrease
Field Level (Rows 15-30:127A; Rows 12-14: 112, 113, 127b, 128)$150$150No Change
Field Level (Rows 1-14: 111,129; Rows 15-30: 112, 113, 127b, 128)*$120$120No Change
Field Level (Rows 2-14: 108-110, 130)$100$100No Change
Field Level (Rows 15-30: 111, 129; Rows 5-14: 103-107)*$90$90No Change
Field Level (Row 7-29: 131; Rows 15-30: 110, 130)*$80$80No Change
Field Level (Rows 15-30: 105, 106, 107, 108, 109)*$75$75No Change
Field Level (132)*$65$75Increase
Field Level (Rows 15-30: 103, 104)*$70$70No Change
Field Level (133-136)*$65$65No Change
Main Level (Rows 1-22: 216, 217, 223, 224)*$125$120Decrease
Main Level (Rows 1-22: 215, 225)*$110$120Increase
Main Level (Rows 1-22: 213-214b, 226-227b)*$80$80No Change
Main Level (Rows 1-22: 211, 212, 228)*$70$70No Change
Main Level (Rows 1-22: 205-209)*$50$50No Change
Main Level (210, 229)*$70$50Decrease
Main Level (230)$55$50Decrease
Main Level (Rows 1-22: 231-234)*$45$45No Change
Terrace Level (Rows 1-10: 322, 323)$80$80No Change
Terrace Level (Rows 1-10: 315, 316, 324, 325)$65$65No Change
Terrace Level (Rows 1-8: 313, 314, 326, 327)$55$50Decrease
Terrace Level (Rows 1-10: 308-312, 328-332A)$40$40No Change
Terrace Level (Rows 1-10: 305-307, 332B-334)$40$28Decrease
Grandstand Level (Rows 1-14: 414-426), Terrace Level ADA*$28$28No Change
Grandstand Level (Rows 1-14: 405-413, 427-434B), Terrace Level ADA*$20$20No Change
Bleachers (Rows 1-24: 201-239)$20$20No Change
Bleachers (Rows 1-24: 201/239 Obstructed View)*$12$15Increase

Monday, October 21, 2013

Leyland Decides To Call It A Day

The fiery temper, the wiry build. The profanity laced, chain smoking, shoot from the hip demeanor. The mustachioed, no-nonsense leader. That pretty much sums up the on-field persona of Jim Leyland, who earlier today stepped down as manager of the Detroit Tigers after eight semi-successful seasons.

"I'm going to be 69 years old," he said. "I'm not ashamed of that. I'm proud of it. The fuel's getting a little low."
"I want to retire a Tiger. So long. It's not goodbye. And from the bottom of my heart thank you for having me." 1
The 68-year old had worked the last handful of years for the Tigers on a year-to-year contract basis. He recently said words to the effect of "Why would it bother/worry me when that's how we've worked for so long" when queried by the media about his future.

Current Diamondbacks manager and former Tiger Kirk Gibson and another former Tiger, Brad Ausmus, are the early names being mentioned to replace Leyland as manager.

It appeared Leyland might have been relieved of his job in 2010 or 2011 after the Tigers finished 5th in the AL Central in 2008 and missed the playoffs the next two seasons. But after a 12-17 start in 2011, the Tigers won the first of three straight division crowns. They reached the league championship series in all three seasons and made it to the 2012 World Series where they lost to the San Francisco Giants. Leyland's Tigers also won the AL pennant in 2006, his first season in Detroit, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.

With pitchers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, and sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder leading the team, the 2013 Tigers had a great shot at a return to the World Series. However, the team's bullpen and lineup let them down in the key moments of their ALCS loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Leyland was a throwback to the non-number crunching managers that preceded the millennium. His players may not have always liked him, but they respected and played hard for him. No one over the age of 30 will forget his days at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates when he chewed out a thinner, but already arrogant Barry Bonds in front of the rest of the team during 1991's Spring Training. (See the profanity laced video below)

People think of Leyland as an old curmudgeon, but he was just 41 years of age when he was hired to manage the Pirates in 1986. (He started a string of 11 seasons as a manager in the Tigers chain at age 20.) After finishing out in the upper half of the division just once in four years, Leyland's Pirates averaged 96 wins and captured the NL East title for three straight seasons (1990-1992).

The '90 squad lost the NLCS to the eventual World Series champion Cincinnati Reds in six games and then lost back-to-back seven game league championship series to the Atlanta Braves. The '92 squad fell in heartbreaking fashion when they blew a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 9th in Game 7. The image of former Pirate Sid Bream sliding home with the winning run still resonates with Pirates fans to this day.

Cost cutting cost the Pirates dearly and they won just 53 games in 1995. In the midst of a fourth straight losing season, Leyland told Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy that he was quitting at the end of the season. McClatchy let Leyland out of the remainder of his 4-year, $4MM contract.

Leyland wasn't unemployed long; with the Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox, and California Angels all interested in hiring him, Leyland was hired by the Florida Marlins, which had put together a power packed team. The expansion team had played its first season in 1993 and captured the first wild card under Leyland's tutelage in 1997. The team then went on to win the NL pennant and defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games for their first World Series title.

But as a precursor to future owner Jeffrey Loria’s putting a wrecking ball to the 2003 championship team, then owner Wayne Huizenga gutted the squad before the next season. The Marlins won just 54 games in defense of their title and Leyland, with no prospect of winning any time in the near future, walked away from his post and replaced Don Baylor as skipper of the Colorado Rockies.

In early September, however, a very emotional Leyland answered reports that he would step down at season's end by saying he didn't have the all of the passion he needed to do the job.
"To do this job right, the fire has to burn 12, 14 hours a day. I'm a maniac during the game and the fire burns like it always has, but I think to the job right, you've got to work at it 12 hours a day, and I'm not sure I'm doing very good at that right now. This is not final. It's a strong possibility." 2
After a 72-90 finish, Leyland indeed resigned to spend more time with his family. The St. Louis Cardinals hired him two months later to be a scout in his home area of Pittsburgh and he would remain in that position until he felt the itch to manage again prior to the 2005 season. (Leyland had been third base coach for White Sox manager Tony LaRussa prior to his hire in Pittsburgh and LaRussa was the Cardinals manager in 2000 when they signed Leyland as a scout.)

Though he missed out on the Philadelphia Phillies job the prior year, a refreshed, renewed Leyland was hired by the Tigers prior to the 2006 season. Signed to a 3-year deal (a 1-year extension was added a year later), Leyland admitted he never thought he would manage again.
 "I did a lousy job my last year of managing," Leyland said. "I stunk because I was burned out. When I left there, I sincerely believed that I would not manage again."
"I always missed the competition, but the last couple of years -- and this stuck in my craw a little bit, I did not want my managerial career to end like that."3
This time around it sounds like Leyland felt good about leaving. He is expected to take a position within the organization. Leyland leaves the game with 1769 wins, a .506 winning percentage, one World Series title, three pennants, and two Manager of the Year awards.

Good luck to a guy who did things his way and once yelled at Barry Bonds.

Headphones or low volume are advised if you are at work or have little kids around.

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