Monday, September 26, 2011

Brewers Clinch First Division Title since 1982

Congratulations to my hometown team, the Milwaukee Brewers, for winning their first division title in 29 years!!! The Brewers clinched in dramatic fashion on Friday night in front of a home crowd of over 44,000. It was all set up by a catastrophic loss by the Cardinals to the Mets on Thursday night, which lowered the magic number to 2 and presented the opportunity for the Brewers to clinch on Friday night with a win and another Cardinals loss. Tied at 1 in the 8th, Corey Hart ripped a double and Nyjer Morgan walked to start the rally. And then one of the most memorable moments in franchise history, delivered by who else but Ryan Braun - a 3-run bomb off the scoreboard in center. K-Rod struck out 2 batters in the 8th and John Axford easily attained his 45th save in the 9th to secure the victory. Following the game, not a single person or player left the stadium, and the Cubs-Cards game was broadcast live on the jumbotron. Everyone rooted for the Cubs for perhaps the first time in their lives as they beat the Cardinals 5-1 and the champagne began to flow immediately following the final out.

It was eerily similar to the playoff run of 2008, when with the score also tied 1-1 in the 8th, Braun stepped up to the plate and drilled a 3-run homerun to give the Brewers the lead, and immediately afterwards everyone stuck around to watch the Mets lose, thus securing the Brewers' wild card berth. Both the 2008 and 2011 games also featured gutsy performances by the starting pitchers - a complete game on 3 days' rest by CC Sabathia in '08, and an 11-K gem by Yovani Gallardo this year. Hopefully this year, the team has better results in the playoffs than the '08 team, and hopefully they don't have to face the Phillies in the first round. As it stands now, the Brewers are one game ahead of the Diamondbacks for the #2 seed, which would afford them the luxury of having home field in the first round. This is crucial not only because of the Brewers' amazing home record, but because then I could actually see them play since the first game would fall on a Saturday. There are 3 days left and a lot can happen yet with the wild cards and the potential matchups, but I'll make my playoff predictions as best I can right now. One thing is for certain - the Brewers are the NL Central Division Champions!!!

#1 Philadelphia v. #4 St. Louis* - Phillies in 5
#2 Milwaukee v. #3 Arizona - Brewers in 4

NLCS Philadelphia v. Milwaukee - Phillies in 6

AL Play-in Game - Tampa Bay over Boston
#1 New York v. #3 Detroit - Tigers in 5
#2 Texas v. #4 Tampa Bay** - Rays in 5

ALCS Detroit v. Tampa Bay - Rays in 6

World Series Philadelphia v. Tampa Bay - Phillies in 5

*Atlanta currently leading NL Wild Card by 1 game
**Boston currently leading AL Wild Card by 1 game

#1 Philadelphia
#2 San Francisco
#3 Cincinnati
#4 Milwaukee
Phillies over Giants in NLCS

#1 Boston
#2 Minnesota
#3 Oakland
#4 New York
Red Sox over Yankees in ALCS

Phillies over Red Sox in World Series, 6 games

Brewers 94-65, +6.0, clinched NL Central (3 v. Pirates, NLDS starts Saturday)
Reds 77-82, -17.0, eliminated (3 @ Mets)
Twins 61-98, -31.0, eliminated (3 v. Royals)

Erik - 16
Peter - 39

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wild Card Races Heating Up

Ten days ago, everything was pretty much locked up. The Phillies and Red Sox were cruising to their preseason anointing of meeting in the World Series. The Braves bullpen was absolutely unhittable. The Giants' lack of hitting finally caught up with them as they plummeted in the NL West. Now with 10 days to go in the regular season, the AL and NL Wild Cards are not so sure anymore. The Red Sox running John Lackey and Tim Wakefield out there every 5 days finally slowed the team down, and as of this post they hold a mere 1.5 game lead for the wild card spot, after losing the first game of a doubleheader to the lowly Orioles. The Sox have lost 10 of their last 14 games, including 3 out of 4 at home to the team chasing them, the Rays. Tampa Bay has managed to overcome dumping the top 4 salaries of their 2010 ALCS team and has ridden the back of a once again young, stellar rotation into a dead heat for the final playoff spot. Their road goes through the Yankees for 6 games whereas Boston only has to face the O's 6 times, so it should be interesting.

In the other league, the Braves have pretty much been in cruise control in the NL Wild Card spot since about June, largely behind their superb rotation and back end of the bullpen. But now, Jurrjens and Hanson are on the DL, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson have been awful, and the 7-8-9 combo of O'Flaherty-Venters-Kimbrel may have finally reached their innings limit. These young arms seem to be out of gas and have blown quite a few games in the past few weeks, although Craig Kimbrel did recently break the single-season save record by a rookie. Their season officially took a turn for the worst when they were swept by the Cardinals, and now have seen their wild card lead dwindle to 3.5. And right on the Cards' heels are the Giants, who all of a sudden learned how to hit and have won 8 in a row. With the Brewers and D-Backs faltering a little in the past week, it's all starting to come together for an exciting September.

I personally think that the Rays and Cards can both catch their respective wild card leaders. The Rays are the hottest team in baseball right now and they have the best starting staff in the AL. I actually hope that both the Rays and Cards make it. I'd love for the Brewers to get another crack at St. Louis after they beat them 5 of the last 6 meetings, if for no other reason than to hit Pujols with a couple pitches square in the back. Then after the Brewers sweep them, Albert can go home and do what he does best - not hustle and stare at homeruns, which in this case would be hit by the Crew. And as for the Rays, I mean come on who doesn't root for the Rays? Joe Maddon is awesome and the team is still as fun as ever (seen above wearing letterman sweaters on the train to New York). I think this season's postseason chase is a great example of why expanding to 2 wild card teams per league would be a terrible idea. If there was a 10-team playoff, we'd already know who was in like 2 weeks ago and there would be no thrilling September baseball.

I'll post my postseason predictions next week, along with hopefully a proclamation of the Brewers winning the NL Central! And PS - congratulations to Mariano Rivera for breaking the all-time saves record with his 602nd today at Yankee Stadium.

Brewers 90-63, +6.5, magic number 4 (3 @ Cubs, 3 v. Marlins)
Reds 74-79, -16.0, eliminated (3 v. Astros, 3 @ Pirates)
Twins 59-93, -29.5, eliminated (1 @ Yankees, 3 v. Mariners, 4 @ Indians)

Erik - 15
Peter - 39

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Top Logos, Ballparks, and Promotions

I thought a nice way to wind down the regular season on the blog would be to share some articles that have come out in recent weeks: the 25 Coolest minor league ballparks and the 50 Best MLB logos of all time. Compiling various rankings and statistics is always a great way to look back on each baseball season with fond memories.

The website Complex ranks Coca-Cola Field as the #1 minor league park in America for 2011, and the coolest thing about these rankings, is just that - these are the "coolest" or most unique parks, not necessarily the best. So for instance, on most rankings you would never see a ballpark surrounded by unsightly factories on a list of "Top 25" ballparks, but the West Virginia Power and Bridgeport Bluefish come in at #8 and #22 on this list, respectively. I've been to 7 parks on this list, and I hope to someday make it to the other 18. I was glad to see Modern Woodmen and Richmond County Bank come in at 2 and 3 on this list, those are two of my favorites; I think the Staten Island Yankees' park is definitely very underrated and has one of the best views in the minors. I myself officially made it to 10 new ballparks this year: Maryvale Baseball Park, Goodyear Ballpark, Camelback Ranch, Tempe Diablo Stadium, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Scottsdale Stadium, Parkview Field, Fifth Third Ballpark (MI), Prince George's Stadium, Copeland Park, and the newly renovated Warner Park. In terms of "coolness," Copeland Park and Warner Park should definitely be on this list.

The "Top 50 Logos" compilation is more of an all-time list, not just this year. Some notable ones are the old Seattle Pilots logo, the Mr. Met alternates, the 1960s Astrodome logo, the Swingin' Friar, the Boston Brave, the timeless Yankees 'NY', and of course the Brewers ball-and-glove logo. I was made aware of this list because the original Brewers "Barrel Man" logo came in at #2, as it should be (Philadelphia A's elephant is #1). There are so many logos these days that are just letters, and there are so many minor league teams that are just "____ Cats/Dogs/Birds." This list is a very refreshing reminder of when creativity in branding actually meant something. My personal favorites have got to be the Brewers ball-in-glove and the old Expos logo. It took me until like 2007 to realize that those logos actually had hidden letters in them.

There have also been numerous articles about the top minor league promotions of the year, which are always fun to read, but 2-for-1 Kraft Singles Tuesdays will always be #1 in my mind. It's just nice to know that once a week I can always get a free ticket almost anywhere in America, just so long as I keep some cheese in my fridge.

Brewers 86-62, +6.5, magic number 9 (2 v. Rockies, 3 @ Reds)
Reds 71-76, -14.5, -12.5 WC, elimination number 1 (4 v. Cubs, 3 v. Brewers)
Twins 59-87, -25.5, eliminated (2 @ Royals, 3 v. Indians)

Erik - 15
Peter - 39