Monday, September 29, 2014
The postseason could not get here soon enough for me this year. While I am disappointed the Brewers have failed to make the playoffs for the 3rd consecutive season, with the way they have been playing the last month I am more than ready to start watching some exciting competitive baseball. Every year there is seemingly at least one team that people may not have expected to win, or was maybe a dark horse pick by some experts/myself, and this year that team is the Kansas City Royals. They ended MLB's longest active postseason drought at 29 years with an 89-win season and a wild card birth. I'm glad they at least get to play that one game at home in front of the KC fans, even though statistically they are a much better team on the road. And it's certainly really great to see Ned Yost finally make it to the postseason after getting canned towards the end of the '08 Brewers run. The A's managed to avoid an epic Brewers-style collapse to play KC in the Wild Card matchup, and they would definitely be a team to watch with their stacked rotation and the fact that they won't have to play the nemesis Tigers in the first 2 rounds. The torch for longest playoff drought will now pass to the Toronto Blue Jays, who have not made the playoffs since they went all the way in 1993. Another team I would put in the "surprise" category is the Angels, who led all of baseball with 98 wins. Despite an aging middle of the lineup and rotation, an RBI title from Mike Trout and a nice bounce-back year from Albert Pujols, along with a strong bullpen, led this team to the postseason for the first time in 5 years.
I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series this year, and I'm sticking to that, although I will be rooting for a Nats-Royals series. Even though I only lived in DC for about 7 months, the Nationals will always have a spot in my heart since I was there for their inaugural season.
PLAYOFFS START 9/30/14
NL Wild Card - #4 Pirates v. #5 Giants
NLDS - #1 Nationals v. WC winner
#2 Dodgers v. #3 Cardinals
AL Wild Card - #4 Royals v. #5 Athletics
ALDS - #1 Angels v. WC winner
#2 Orioles v. #3 Tigers
World Series Prediction: Dodgers defeat O's in 6
Rooting for: Nationals v. Royals
Dodgers defeat Nationals in NLCS
Orioles defeat Athletics in ALCS
World Series - Dodgers defeat O's in 6
FINAL STANDINGS 2014:
Brewers 82-80, -8.0, 3rd NL Central
Reds 76-86, -14.0, 4th NL Central
Twins 70-92, -20.0, last AL Central
FINAL 2014 GAMES ATTENDED:
Erik - 7 (+26 worked)
Peter - 40
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
It's looking like the Yankees will miss the playoffs this year, which means that there are only 5 more precious games after tonight in which fans will have a chance to see Derek Jeter play. He is a future Hall-of-Famer, leads the Yankees in just about every statistical hitting category including games played, is the all-time MLB leader in hits by a shortstop, and is 6th all time in hits as of tonight with 3,462. He is without question one of the best players I have grown up watching and I'm really glad I got to see him play 3 games in Milwaukee this past May. Despite all of that, or perhaps because of it, I am more than ready for this Derek Jeter Lovefest to be over. Don't get me wrong, I love all of of the tribute commercials as much as the next man, but tonight was the last straw when I turned on ESPN and saw the Yankees were wearing a #2 emblem on their hats and sleeves. It's so ridiculous and self-serving that it is hard to even write. He's not dead, he's still playing! It's probably the most Yankee thing the Yankees have ever done - this is over the top even for them. It is so misguided to be honoring a player on a daily basis who is not at all helping his team win, and for a team that is not even that good I might add. It gets to the point where Joe Girardi has been stuck balancing Farewell Tour Manager with Field Manager, and often times forcing himself to write down Jeter's name in his familiar #2 spot in the lineup just so that fans can see him play.
What disturbs me the most about it is that any other 40-year old in the league would be coming off the bench, and any other .250 hitter with no power would be hitting 7th in the lineup, but because he is Derek Jeter he gets special treatment. Case in point, another player on their own team - Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro is the same age as Jeter yet still playing at a high level, and he gets lost in the shuffle as the 4th outfielder. I can't help but think how many games it has cost the Yankees because Jeter is in the lineup everyday. But what is Girardi to do, not play him? He would probably get lynched by the New York crowd. I do understand that at the moment the Yankees have no better option at SS, but they are in fact the Yankees - they could pick up whoever they want.
Jeter's situation is a much more difficult situation than farewell tours of years' past, in particular the last two years with Mariano Rivera and Chipper Jones. Unlike Jeter, Rivera and Jones were still contributing to their teams in their final seasons and didn't put the managers in much of a bind, other than dealing with Chipper's ailing knees. One could even argue that Mariano had one of his best seasons ever as his swan song. Honoring a player retiring at the end of the season for the entire year is seemingly becoming the trend, but it's cases like Jeter's that really make you realize how self-centered and money-driven these things really are, both for the player and for the baseball in general. If the Yankees really were serious about winning the pennant this year instead of pandering to Jeter's ego, they would have made a move for a shortstop in the offseason instead of signing Stephen Drew off the couch in July. I expect as much from an organization steeped in tradition like the Yankees, but seeing this spectacle unfold this year has really changed my opinion of Derek Jeter. Before this year, I would have thought if and when he retired that he would be the last guy to want all the pomp and circumstance of a Farewell Tour. Now it seems to me that there is no star athlete out there that doesn't crave attention.
Although, I didn't see Paul Konerko and Jason Giambi getting any canoes this year.
STANDINGS AND UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 09.23:
Brewers 80-77, -8.0, eliminated (3 @ Reds, 3 v. Cubs)
Reds 73-84, -15.0, eliminated (3 v. Brewers, 3 v. Pirates)
Twins 66-90, -20.0, eliminated (3 v. Diamondbacks, 4 @ Tigers)
2014 GAMES ATTENDED:
Erik - 7 (+26 worked)
Peter - 38
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Three weeks ago, the Brewers were a game and a half up in the NL Central and about to close out their 5th straight month in first place. Since then, they are 4-13 including an embarrassing 9 game losing streak. The dreaded St. Louis Cardinals of all teams have grabbed a 5 game lead in the division and the Brewers are on the outside looking in just for a Wild Card spot at this point. While early in the season they seemed to be catching all the breaks, these days they are finding every which way to lose a game. Ryan Braun's nagging thumb injury seems to finally be catching up with him, as he has hit .220 since the All-Star Break. Jonathan Lucroy, once an MVP frontrunner, has also seen his batting average drop almost 40 points since the break. Carlos Gomez, Matt Garza, and Aramis Ramirez have all missed a substantial amount of time on the DL. The defense has at times looked like a little league team. The starting rotation that was once among league leaders and an anchor of the team has cooled considerably, particularly Wily Peralta, who looked like he was all but a lock to be a 20-game winner a month ago, and Yovani Gallardo, who for some reason is still referred to as the Brewers' "ace." Will Smith and Zach Duke spent much of the year with ERAs under 1.00 and now are both just awful. Just as I write this now Smith gave up a 2-run homer. Really, newly acquired Jonathan Broxton and Francisco Rodriguez are the only reliable arms that manager Ron Roenicke has to rely on in the bullpen, and even Rodriguez blew a pretty important game on Tuesday.
The thing is, every game is now important, which is what makes every loss that much more crushing. Every team goes through bad slides like this - the Crew had one leading into the break as well, and the A's are going through the same thing we are - but now is the worst possible time because tensions are high and so much is at stake. Losing streaks in May are easy to come back from, but losing streaks in September cause people to lose their jobs. That's what I'm mostly concerned about. I would hate for an ill-timed losing streak to cause Roenicke his job. The players seem to respond to him very well and I love his aggressive style, it fits really well with the personnel. That being said, a 7-game swing in the standings cannot be ignored, and since you can't cut realistically 25 players I'm sure a few coaches will be at risk. There are still 16 games left, all against divisional opponents, so there is still hope, and I honestly believe this team has what it takes to get back into the race and go far in the playoffs. All Brewer fans have seen how well this team plays when everything is clicking. But it has to be now, or I fear this team will be majorly reconstructed in the offseason.
On the bright side, Miller Park now has self-serve beer machines.
STANDINGS AND UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 09.11:
Brewers 76-71, -4.0, -1.5 WC(3 v. Reds, 3 @ Cardinals, 3 @ Pirates)
Reds 70-77, -10.0, -7.5 WC (3 @ Brewers, 3 @ Cubs, 3 @ Cardinals)
Twins 62-84, -19.0, eliminated (3 @ White Sox, 3 v. Tigers, 3 v. Indians)
2014 GAMES ATTENDED:
Erik - 7 (+26 worked)
Peter - 38
Monday, September 1, 2014
If I was a Cubs fan, I would be pretty excited about the future of their team. Now, I know that has been said just about every year for the last 100, but I think next year the Cubs actually have a legitimate chance of contending for the division for the first time in nearly a decade. As a fan of a team in the same division, I can't help but notice their dramatic improvement this season, and I am already not looking forward to playing them 19+ times next year. Since the beginning of August, the Cubs have called up 3 of their top 10 prospects in Arismendy Alcantra, Javier Baez, and most recently Jorge Soler, all of whom have made a huge impact. Baez hit 3 homeruns in his first two professional games and although he has a vicious swing should be a great middle-of-the-order hitter after some coaching next spring. Soler earned a callup by hitting over .600 in his brief stint in AAA and has continued that trend into the big leagues. Rookie Kyle Hendricks has made a splash in the rotation with an ERA under 2.00 in his rookie season. Jake Arrieta looks to finally be realizing the potential the Orioles were counting on for many years, and has become the Cubs' defacto ace since the Jeff Samardzija trade. Anthony Rizzo is emerging as one of the game's elite first basemen and is among the league leaders in homeruns, as well as a first-time all-star this season. It feels like Starlin Castro has been on the team forever but is still only 24 and has provided longterm stability at the shortstop position.
All of these players may not have translated to much in the standings, but anybody who watches this team on a regular basis can tell they are much improved and the future is bright. And this doesn't even include September callups. I would expect Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant and recent acquisition in the Samardzija-Hammel deal, Addison Russell, to both be up for a cup of coffee this week. Both of these players are not just top Cubs prospects, but also #3 and #4 in all of baseball, respectively. Addison may need a little more seasoning, but Bryant has hit well over .300 and 40 homeruns each of his last two minor league seasons and has nothing left to prove. The hardest part for the organization will honestly be where to fit all of these players, as Castro, Russell, Baez, and Soler are all natural shortstops. Baez has been playing mostly 2B and Soler in the outfield since their callups. If the Cubs can somehow dump the Edwin Jackson contract and pick up a couple of arms next year, this team is going to be stacked and dangerous, and definitely a team you do not want to face this year if you are in a pennant race like the Brewers are.
Some if not most of this success can be attributed to bringing in wunderkind Theo Epstein as president and his former partner with the Red Sox, Jed Hoyer, as GM. After signing in the 2011-12 offseason to 5-year contracts, myself and many experts expected that the Cubs would be relevant and legitimate World Series contenders by the end of that term, and it looks like those predictions are right on track. The window of time in which the Brewers have to beat down the Cubs is growing shorter by the day. When all is said and done, Epstein will have completely overhauled two historic franchises and renovated two crumbling stadiums, and will have all but cemented his place in Cooperstown, all before the age of 40. As much as it pains me to say, a World Series title is becoming more of a goal than a faint hope in Chicago.
STANDINGS AND UPCOMING SERIES AS OF 09.01:
Brewers 73-63, --, -- WC(3 @ Cubs, 4 v. Cardinals, 4 v. Marlins)
Reds 66-71, -7.5, -7.5 WC (3 @ Orioles, 3 v. Mets, 4 v. Cardinals)
Twins 59-77, -15.5, -15.0 WC (2 v. White Sox, 4 v. Angels, 3 @ Indians)
2014 GAMES ATTENDED:
Erik - 7 (+24 worked)
Peter - 36