Archive for 2015 MLB Playoffs

It’s Saturday- Go Cubs!

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs with tags on October 17, 2015 by Rich Wilkins
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I wrote about these Cubs lifers earlier this week. They deserve to see a World Series.

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The LCS Preview in Blue

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs with tags on October 16, 2015 by Rich Wilkins
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Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

Ok, so there are four teams left in the MLB playoffs, and all four of them wear blue. All four of them are teams who aren’t that accustomed to winning recently either. Somebody has to win though in the end, so let’s take a look at the two series.

ALCS- Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

Ok, so it’s Kansas City Barbecue against…. Canada? The Royals are back in the ALCS after a thrilling comeback to beat Houston, while the Blue Jays had to win three straight to beat Texas. The Royals won last year’s AL crown, and fell just one game short of the ring. The Blue Jays last won in 1993 (barf).

As I said, the Royals are from Kansas City, which I only really associate with barbecue. It’s in Missouri, or maybe Kansas, or there’s a KC in both, but who really cares in the end, right (I know it’s in Missouri, but c’mon)? Toronto is in Canada, I need a passport to reach it, it’s home to Drake, and Joe Carter hit his infamous home run there. It’s definitely “hockey town,” while Kansas City doesn’t have hockey or basketball, so I guess that’s an edge to Toronto if we want to do something besides eat or play baseball in either. I’m a big fan of that Blue Jays offense and Ben Revere, but i’m also a big fan of this Royals group and Ryan Madson.

I don’t think this Royals team will be denied. This is a really hard series to call, but I think the Royals win in seven.

NLCS- Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

Ok, if you’re cheering for the Mets here, you are the bad guy. 1908 is so long ago that parts of my family weren’t even in America yet, and just about everyone who was there is dead. The last time the Cubs won, Teddy Roosevelt was President. The last time the Mets did, Ronald Reagan was. I’ll take Roosevelt.

Chicago or New York Style Pizza? Lake Michigan or the Long Island Sound? Let’s not kid ourselves, New York is the coolest city in the world, but Chicago is really awesome. The Mets are the “JV Team” in New York sports. Chicago loves their Cubs something fierce, whether they ever win or not. Wrigley Field is beautiful, but i’m a pretty big fan of Citi Field too, actually. If we just look at Queens vs. Chicago, count me with Chi-town, it’s easier to get around.

So the actual series involves two young groups. The Cubs will get to line their big two aces up to start this series in New York, while the Mets will probably have to start out with Harvey. Either way, Harvey and De Grom will both pitch twice, and Arrieta and Lester will too. This means the pitching will be really good. I have the Cubs winning in seven though, and advancing to their first World Series since I’ve been alive, and longer.

I’m Disappointed that Chase Utley Didn’t Get In

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs, Chase Utley with tags , on October 13, 2015 by Rich Wilkins

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I’m disappointed in Don Mattingly. Not for defending Chase Utley- I’m fine with that. I’m disappointed that Mattingly didn’t play him at all last night. He certainly could have started him against Harvey, whom he hits well. He used several other pinch-hitters last night. He could have just put him in as a defensive replacement late. The game was a blowout, so there was nothing stopping them.

I don’t think Mattingly did Utley any kind of favor. Does anyone think he didn’t want the fans he long tortured to boo the hell out of him? Does anyone think he didn’t want to face Harvey, and even get hit, giving them a free base runner? Does anyone think he didn’t just want to get back on the field and put Saturday night into the past? I don’t think Chase cares about a fastball in the ribs or the hatred of Mets fans, two things he already had from both. I do think moving on would have been nice.

I also think that it would have been good for all others involved. The Dodgers looked flattened by the atmosphere last night, and the Mets are trying to advance at this point. “The slide” is dominating the discussion of a series that is still, at it’s core, about who wins. Mattingly could have got the “big moment” out of the way in a blowout last night. He didn’t. It came off weak to me.

Then again, the Dodgers have in general. They seem ripe for elimination by the Mets today.

Joe Torre- Disciplinarian? Or Joke?

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs, Joe Torrie with tags , on October 12, 2015 by Rich Wilkins

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It’s a shame that he’s in this position- Joe Torre has had a good life in baseball. Unfortunately, he’s about to do some damage to that sterling reputation. Torre decided to suspend Chase Utley for games three and four of the Dodgers series with the Mets for his slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg in game two. In doing so, Torre has contradicted himself, over-stepped his bounds, and possibly impacted this series negatively.

The big problem with Joe Torre’s decision to weigh in on this matter is that he came out and defended his umpires in the first place. Sure, Torre can say that the call on the field was a judgment call and had to be made in the moment, whereas he had the benefit of watching the play over night. He can say that if he’d like, but it doesn’t change the reality of what Torre is doing- he’s suspending Chase Utley for a play that the umpires on the field didn’t find troublesome. He’s stepping into something he should simply stay out of. He’s denying the Dodgers a player on their roster in a crucial game, one who has absolutely had his way with the Mets game three starter. Joe Torre belongs nowhere near this play or suspension.

Basically, Joe Torre will do anything to make the New York Media happy at this point though. Utley is hated up there, Tejada’s leg is broken, and the Post and Daily News won’t stop whining unless Utley is either injured or suspended now. Yeah sure, the slide was called legal in the opinion of the umpires, but New York fans and New York media must be appeased by Joe. He will literally change the rules and punishment in the middle of the playoffs to appease a fan base of whiners. Have they ever suspended anyone for a hard slide in recent times? Of course not. Joe Torre can’t allow this one to go without his response though, I mean, Chase Utley said mean things about New York before…

Time to step down, Mr. Torre. You have no credibility.

My Two Cents on the “Utley Slide”

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs, Chase Utley with tags , on October 11, 2015 by Rich Wilkins
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Utley’s final play as a Phillies player.

Chase Utley is a former Phillies player, and one who I generally liked. That’s about the extent of my bias, as he now plays in the playoffs, for a team I don’t like, against a team I don’t like. Last night in game two, Utley made a bit of news. The stir he caused involved a highly controversial slide into second base that broke up a double play, caused a confusing sequence of events regarding the umpires calling the play, and ended the season for Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.

Most Phillies fans on Twitter and the internet defended Utley’s play. Mets fans reacted with everything from general dislike for Utley to calling for Matt Harvey to put a fastball into his skull in game three. I take the position that there are two different questions here-

  1. Was the slide legal?
  2. Was the slide dirty?

My answer is yes, and yes. In the opinion of the umpires on the field, and myself, Utley didn’t stray out of the baseline to the level needed to call him out for the slide. The contact itself, however gruesome, was legal. He could have touched the bag, and he is allowed to make contact. Many Mets fans are saying it’s illegal. I think they’re wrong.

So if it was legal, how was it dirty? Utley did not even attempt to start sliding until he was about even with the bag. While he was close enough to the bag to be legal, he slid in a manner that showed no attempt to really reach the base safely. He slid to make hard contact, and with reckless abandon. I’m not trying to guess his intent here, because I have no way to do so. I see David Wright and Jose Reyes attempting to do so, and just smell sour grapes from them both. His intent does not matter though. The play itself was dirty. Players usually don’t slide even with the bag, right into a shortstop with his back turned. Whether he intended to hurt Tejada or not isn’t relevant. The play put Tejada at an abnormal risk, and left him with a broken leg. I think the Mets and their fans have every right to not like it.

And that’s kind of that. People complaining that the slide was “illegal” because Utley’s butt didn’t touch the ground first, or that he missed the bag, are grasping at straws they knew they wouldn’t get calls from. People defending Utley should just stop. The play was ugly. Ruben Tejada won’t play anymore. The series will go on. Watch the play for yourself.

AL Divisional Round Preview

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs with tags on October 8, 2015 by Rich Wilkins
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Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

Well, I didn’t want Houston to win, but it also isn’t the “end of the world,” right? The AL playoffs will go on, in fact they’ll even be pretty interesting. Here’s my preview of the two series.

ALDS- Kansas City Royals vs. Houston Astros

Well, last year’s Astros face this year’s version. The surprising, young upstarts from Houston got hot and won the Wild Card, then steam rolled the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Next up they face the Royals, who basically did this last year. On paper, this is a mismatch. The Royals had the best record in the AL, won their division like three months ago, and won the AL crown last year. The only thing that stopped Kansas City from having a World Series parade last year was a certain left-hander that pitches for San Francisco.

So, as I said the other day, I don’t have much to say about Houston. I’ve never been there. They have a team where everyone is almost ten years younger than me, which is depressing. So does Kansas City though, and I’ve also never been there. Kansas City is known for it’s barbecue, which I like, but Texas does food pretty good too. I have been to Omaha, where the Royals AAA team is at, and I did see them win the AAA championship a few years ago. I guess that’s cool.

So who do I like here? I don’t have strong feelings about either team. Both have some players I like though. I think the Royals have been sitting back too long. I think Houston takes them down in this series, despite not having home-field and not having Keuchel until game three.

ALDS- Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers

Now, these two teams I like. How can I not like the line-ups in this series? How can I not like Cole Hamels for God’s sake? I know David Price wasn’t ever on the Philadelphia team, but I like him too. In fact, a Hamels-Price game five would be great, it would remind me of 2008.

So the Rangers are from Dallas, and I hate the Cowboys. On the other hand, there’s 1993, so you know how I feel about the Blue Jays. I like most of the players on both teams though, so I’ll overlook that. I need a passport to go to Toronto, and there are people in Texas who wish I needed one to go there.

Up until last weekend I felt like the Rangers were the hot team. Then they kind of stumbled through the weekend to the division title and messed up their rotation. If the Rangers win a game in Toronto early, they have a shot, but the Blue Jays have more of a roster. My guess here is that the Blue Jays win this series in five games. I’m pulling for Hamels though.

Wild Card Games Preview

Posted in 2015 MLB Playoffs with tags on October 6, 2015 by Rich Wilkins
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Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

On my way to 40 baseball games this season, I went to exactly two ballparks that weren’t home to Phillies affiliates or the Phillies- PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Yankee Stadium in New York. It should be no shock or coincidence that I picked those parks, and they are going to host Wild Card Playoff games the next two nights. There is luck in those visits, clearly.

One match-up is no shock, the other one is a game I never would have predicted before the 2015 season, and still am a bit surprised about. Of course, both are one and done games, and bring about a lot of intrigue. The second and third best records in baseball will play for their lives between Pittsburgh and Chicago, the utterly predictable game since Spring Training. In the Yankees and Astros game, two teams that more people predicted to finish at the bottom of their division than in this game will clash. Here’s my take.

NL Wild Card- Chicago Cubs @ Pittsburgh Pirates-

Ok, I’ll admit it, I hate the Cubs now. It’s not something that I should feel or admit, but it’s just honesty. They didn’t “need” Cole Hamels the Chicago Tribune said, as the Phillies arrived in the Midway in July, which irked me in a big way. After 107 years of coming up short, I don’t care if you think he’s your second or third starter, a guy with his post-season resume is something you need. Then there were the internet trolls that insisted the Phillies should take Javy-freaking-Baez and some garbage, and like it for Hamels, made it even worse. All of this brought up other beefs I had with the Cubs too. I had some ill will towards them for choking up the 2003 NLCS, because I couldn’t stand that Marlins team. Ok, ranting about my Cubs hate is done. Anyway….

Chicago is a beautiful city. I’ve always really wanted to go to Wrigley Field for a game, and I haven’t. That’s a sad. Pittsburgh, it turns out after visiting it for the first time in 7 years this Summer, is also a really awesome city. I did go to PNC Park this year, and well, it’s got maybe the best view in all of sports of it’s downtown. That is not a sad. Primanti Brothers is really cool, and so is the Clemente Bridge, by the way. Totally unrelated, but if Pitt and Northwestern decided to play a football game in place of this baseball game, it might be the worst piece of replacement entertainment in American history, and might produce even less points than an Arrieta-Cole match-up. Really. Yeah though, this is a match-up of two really cool cities, my primate-esque hating on the Cubs aside. Just to even up the hatred column here, I will mention that Sidney Crosby plays hockey in Pittsburgh, and I’d totally be rooting for the Chicago team to beat the crap out of him in hockey.

Ok, the game itself. Two guys who are going to be in the Cy Young’s top five are going to throw a baseball game that is do-or-die for both teams. If that hasn’t caught your eye yet, you’re not American. The young star-power in this game from the likes of McCutchen, Rizzo, Bryant, Marte, and others means this might not be the last time we see these teams play in the post-season in the coming years. All those talents don’t add up to much in a game with these types of pitchers. One would tend to think going in that this is going to be a very low-scoring kind of game, where catching the ball and pitching well is the difference. Without looking at any advanced metrics right now, I would tend to think the Pirates have a better defensive alignment taking the field tonight. They are going to have to be, because they did not hit Arrieta at all this season, and really no one did after he lost the Hamels’ no-hitter game at Wrigley. As awesome as Cole has been, Arrieta probably gets the tiniest of edges going into this game.

The Cubs had the better of the Pirates most of the season head-to-head, and have a pitcher going who dominated the Pirates all year. The Pirates are home, have done this the last two years, have an ace of their own, and beat up the Cubs in the last head-to-head series. This is a pretty tough game to predict. My guess is that the Vegas crowd will give a slight edge to Arrieta, and frankly that’s hard to argue with. I’ll be pulling for the Pirates though. I’d like to see my favorite non-Phillies player right now, McCutchen, win a ring this year.

I’ll conclude this with three minor points that I missed in all of this-

  1. My apologies to Pitt and Northwestern, two pretty decent football teams that I picked on for playing good defense. I should have said Penn State and Illinois here- now that would be some ugly football.
  2. Clearly the nation’s sentimentality will lie with Pittsburgh, a city that hasn’t had a baseball parade since 1979. I mean, Chicago had a World Series parade in 2005, why do they need another one?
  3. I think billy goats are awesome animals. I bet that you could find one in like Westmoreland County and bring it to PNC Park, Pirates fans…. just saying.

AL Wild Card- Houston Astros @ New York Yankees 

I’m going to tell you flat out to start this that I do not hate the Yankees like most non-Yankee fans do. First off, I think New York City is the greatest city in the world. For real. If you disagree then you hate America. I mean, in what other city could you go from people trying to figure out a legal way to deny Alex Rodriguez the money he is contractually obligated to in February, but in October they have his jersey on and talk about what a good influence he was on some of the younger Yankees? In what other city could 2009 World Series winning ace C.C. Sabathia check into rehab, and some fans question his timing on Twitter? I know, this kind of hypocrisy happens in every city with a sports team, but dammit, it’s a helluva lot better when it happens with callers to WFAN talking to Mike Francesca.

I don’t really have anything to say about Houston. Enron? I don’t know, what else can I really talk about? I certainly don’t have anything against the Astros. Players like Altuve, Correa, and Keuchel are fun to watch. This team really wasn’t supposed to be here yet this year. Suddenly Houston sports fans don’t have to care as much about whether Dwight Howard will actually care enough to win them a championship, because this young group has the talent to do it instead. With that said, I’ve never been to Houston. I love me some Texas barbecue, beaches, and women, but yeah, I don’t have a damn thing to say here.

I’m going to be pulling for the Yankees though. I like October baseball in the Bronx. I like tormenting Mets fans by telling them they’ll always be New York’s JV team. I like that Yankees fans were almost as happy as Phillies fans when the Mets collapsed in 2007 and 2008. I like Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. I like the way A-Rod bothers the commissioner’s office. Oh yeah, I like New York’s food, ocean, scenery, and women too (more in fact, since I’ve been there). Add all of this up, and I can discount that I can’t stand Rudy Giuliani, provided that the Yankees get someone like Jay Z on TV in a seat by the dugout too. i’m pulling for the Yankees.

I don’t think the Yankees will win though. They also over-achieved this season. I thought for sure they’d be a bottom-feeder in the AL East, and yet they kept it together all year. The problem in this playoff game for them is that Keuchel is a lefty, which neutralizes their heavily lefty line-up, in a lefty-friendly ballpark. The Astros suddenly got their mojo back this week, and made me believe they might make a run. They’ll probably win.

Sincerely GC

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