Monday, September 24, 2018

The Toddfather Part III (aka, the one that's not as good as the others)


I wonder aloud what would have happened here if this Mets team had stayed healthy throughout the year, or if players who had been so strong in 2017 had stayed hot this year. If Cespedes, Bruce, Frazier and Lagares had all stayed healthy and consistent and given us a red-hot core of the lineup, or if we hadn't had Thor and Matz peek in and out of the rotation like usual.

And...maybe that would have been enough to stop the Braves. But even then, I'm not sure.

This Mets team, without David Wright (now indefinitely), or without Daniel Murphy, is scattered in terms of priority. This year it was simply young and old players fighting for a spotlight, taking turns, and just playing more of a selfish game rather than a unified one. If Cespedes were healthy, maybe it would have been different.

Look, the one silver lining of this team was Jacob deGrom. People everywhere are calling for a Cy Young for his dominant, strikeout-heavy season. I'd personally suggest really crunching his numbers with Max Scherzer's, as this is clearly another Felix vs. CC kind of 'should the guy with more wins get it, or should the guy on the shittier team who just dominated get it?' matchup. But regardless of whatever happens during awards week, Jacob deGrom was phenomenal this year, and had arguably his best season to date, even with his trademark long hair. I hope he keeps playing this well for the rest of his career.

I don't know where this leaves the 2019 Mets. If the team will heal in time to be an integral piece of the division. It's not clear. It could happen, but...that would mean the Mets would need to do a lot of work this offseason. Especially on safety nets, in case of more injuries, because they were not ready. Not even remotely.

But...they can be.

Coming Tonight: He closed games for a team that was good enough to be in 2nd, but not good enough to be anywhere near the 1st place team.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Top Seeded Sox (And Why That Might Not be a Good Thing)


The Red Sox are the absolute team to beat right now, a week away from the playoffs. They are well over 100 wins, they have a stellar lineup, a fantastic pitching rotation, and they have enough bench and bullpen support to ensure security for the foreseeable future.

Except...here's the problem. They're seeded first overall in the AL. In recent history, only a few teams seeded first have managed to win the whole thing. Several, like the 2016 Rangers, the 2017 Indians and the 2014 Angels, couldn't get out of the first round. Why? Because the upward momentum of a Wild Card champion is sometimes enough to withstand a surging #1 team with a bye.

So, the Red Sox are either looking at a five-game series with either the New York Yankees, who they've easily beaten a few times this year, and the Oakland Athletics, who they've played less but still lost to four times out of six. I feel like they'd prefer the Yankees at this point. But even now, they don't know what kind of momentum the Yankees could show up with? Perhaps enough to act as karma for the 2004 ALCS? Or am I getting ahead of myself?

Look, the Red Sox, in order to ensure that somebody like Oakland or New York...or even, like, Houston, doesn't embarrass them next month, they NEED to lock down on their momentum. Because they've dropped a few matchups lately to teams they could be facing off against, like Houston, Cleveland and the Yankees. And while other teams, like the Astros, are ZOOMING into the playoff season, the Red Sox are stuttering. And a team that's been as powerful as the Sox this year can't be stuttering now. Especially since they've lost in the ALDS the past two years.

The Sox have three more series' left. One against Cleveland, one against the Yankees, and one against Baltimore. It would be wise to win more than just the Baltimore one.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who figured it'd be a wise idea to return to New York this year, except he picked the wrong borough.

Defying the Odds (but not Inevitability)


So, the Dodgers are a few games away from winning the NL West. If this was March, it wouldn't be a shock. If this was May, it definitely would be.

The Dodgers had one of those unlucky stretches where all their viable pitching options got injured, most of their lineup was slumping, and the teams that they kept to Wild Card threats last year, the Rockies and Diamondbacks, took hold of the division, leaving them to sort of mope around in third and fourth for most of the year. And that was kind of depressing, especially considering that these guys nearly won the World Series last year.

But once this team reconfigured, got healthy, and found the strike zone...things immediately got better. I don't know how it all turned around at once, but seeing this team rise from third and become a true contender was pretty damned nice, even grabbing Manny Machado out of the claws of Philadelphia (for now), and getting bit players like Brian Dozier, Ryan Madson and David Freese to help with the playoff push. And the lineup went from just Matt Kemp doing well to the rest of the offensive, like Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger, springing back to life.

And yes...once Clayton Kershaw stepped off the DL, he was back to his normal, unhittable self. Which definitely helps.

So, in a matter of days, I can only imagine they'll be grabbing the third seed, and securing a spot in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. And now that they're here, they need to prove that they're better than a team that's been good all year. The Braves have only improved once they figured out the winning combination, and while the Dodgers' pitching may outweigh the Braves', they have some crafty elements that may still stymie LA during this series.

A Dodgers run could definitely happen, even if it's a bit less likely than last year. But seeing as Jansen's back to his old tricks, and Puig's hot as hell...I'm certainly not ruling it out.

Coming Tonight: This year, the Red Sox have relied on three veterans to fill the shoes of the injured Dustin Pedroia. Here's the best of the three.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

That's No Bull


The Astros of this era are so fantastic, and so eclectic, that they even have room for simply just a big guy that just hits home runs. And they're still a good team.

The Astros managed to notch their playoff spot today, and confirm that they'll be squaring off against the Indians in a few weeks, which will definitely be an interesting matchup. Two former AL champions enter, only one exits. And the winner plays either the best team in baseball, or the Wild Card winner. Judging by how the Indians-Red Sox matchups have been going, and how their August went with Oakland, I think the Astros will be better off going up against someone like the Yankees.

It's slightly evident that the Astros may not be as wholly dominant as their 2017 team, even if they do have an insanely potent rotation. Their bullpen is spottier, their lineup is less consistent, the bench has a few more holes, and one of the marquee stars, Carlos Correa, is feeling back stiffness. This is also a team that's relying more on pitching, and less on big stars like Springer and Altuve, with more emphasis on Alex Bregman as the team batting leader. I'm not saying this shift in priority is bad, I'm just saying it's different, and it's the kind of tactic that may not get them as far.

Plus, to say the Astros and Indians are kind of evenly matched is pretty apt. Both have the same types of pitching staffs, both have similarly re-organized lineups, and both could be a threat to the Red Sox for the AL spot.

What will separate the Astros from anyone else is how hard they're willing to go, and how much they want to batter down on opponents going into the playoffs. Because if they want to win their second in a row, they need to build some major momentum now, because the A's currently have more. I do think they can do some serious damage this postseason, but they need to work towards it.

Coming Tomorrow- He's had a rocky season, but his team's about to clinch the NL West, so...there's that.

Two More Rack Packs of 2018 Topps Archives

Yeah. More. I'm still trying to complete the set. Expect a wantlist to go up soon after this is posted.

Pack 1-
88- Paul DeJong. Dupe, sadly
38- Marcus Stroman. As is this
100- Kris Bryant. And this one, which at least I get to keep for my binders
29- Dansby Swanson
18- Ozzie Albies. This one's also a dupe, so I've been having good luck with Braves rookies lately
78- Red Schoendienst. All of my 59s were dupes, but there's all still good cards.
175- Ryan McMahon. Now THIS ONE I need..
157- Alcides Escobar. Now we've hit a stride
158- Travis D'Arnaud, the oft-injured one
155- Hunter Pence. Glad we're obliterating my 150s needs here.
113- Robin Yount. This one's sadly a dupe though
Dodgers Future Stars- Verdugo, Buehler, Farmer. Buehler's the best of the three
1993 Coming Attractions of MIGUEL ANDUJAR. GREAT ONE.
297- Willie Stargell. Not too far off photographically from his actual 81T issue.
299- Mike Trout. Needed this one, and thank god I pulled it rather than having to pay 5 bucks for it.
222- Jose Ramirez, a great season so far
209- Starlin Castro. The 81 Marlins ones are odd, but I'm fine with them.
296- Gregory Polanco. So this pack, I needed all the 81s, and all but one of the 77s. Not bad.

Pack 2-
34- Anthony Rendon. More 59 dupes
62- Addison Russell. This one too
36- Adam Jones
74- Anthony Banda
49- Bobby Doerr. Like the other 59s, a dupe, but at least this one goes into the binder, next to all the rare Bobby Doerr modern issues.
108- Amed Rosario. AND WE'RE BACK WITH NEEDS
182- Lou Boudreau, another rarity for modern releases
145- Willie McCovey, which I did have
178- Satchel Paige, another dupe for the rarely-Topps-carded legend
172- James McCann
118- Jacob deGrom. Only 2 77 needs, and...
123- Joey Lucchesi SILVER BORDER PARALLEL NUMBERED TO 99. So, while this is a cool low-numbered card of the Padres rookie...I also need the non-parallel version of this card.
Coming Attractions of Walker Buehler. Which I have already
207- Luiz Gohara. And back to 81 needs to the rescue.
211- Chance Sisco. The rest of these are also needs
262- A happy looking Ralph Kiner
248- An even happier-looking Wade Boggs.
201- Roberto Clemente. Great card, too.

So I did get a bunch of cards for the set, but...not many of them were 59s. Which isn't bad per se, just...I'd appreciate some 59 needs show up in packs one of these days.

So, You Let the Cardinals into the Playoffs (Possibly)


Now, I can't exactly confirm that this is happening, but...seeing the direction the Cards are going, and also seeing the direction the Rockies are going...I can only imagine this is how it's going to go.

The Cardinals, who began this season flirting with last, have decided ONCE AGAIN to spring into the playoff conversation halfway through the year. I don't know why they do it this way, they just seem to think it's the right idea. Anyway, they've developed a really nice young rotation/cavalry of arms, they've developed a ton of rookie position players who are starting, and they've managed to completely revitalize the team without being overshouted by veterans and contracts. Granted, not everything has worked, like the acquisitions of Matt Adams and Tyson Ross, and the back half of the bullpen, but this is a fine, sturdy team.

Now...I don't really know if they're a playoff team. But that's just what they want you to think. They're likely going to be facing off against the Brewers for the WC spot, and that's one that I'd rather go to Milwaukee, solely because they've had a phenomenal year, and I'd hate for dumb luck to keep them from a playoff run for the UMPTEENTH TIME. The Brewers have only gone so far as winning the NLDS in recent years...and then going up against the Cardinals in the playoffs and frigging losing. It would be nice for a team that never really catchers a break, like the Brewers, to defeat a team that always gets really lucky, like the Cardinals.

And yes, I'll admit there is legitimate talent in this Cardinals team...but all four other NL playoff teams have more talent, and deserve the playoff spot more than they do. The Brewers deserve the right to square off against the Cubs in the NLDS for supremacy, and potentially take down Atlanta or LA for the right for full MLB supremacy. I can't really say the Cards deserve that this year.

Coming Tonight: He's big, strong, and hits home runs. And his team's seeded second.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Show of Hand


Well, not only are the Cleveland Indians headed to the playoffs for the third straight year, but they're doing so with more than one viable bullpen option. Because along with Oliver Perez's scarily consistent work, they also have the return of Andrew Miller, and Brad Hand as their new closer. Yes, Dan Otero can occasionally relieve a game without giving up 20 runs, but as long as they have that solid core, they're better off than they were in June.

Oh yeah, and they also still have one of the toughest pitching rotations in baseball. All four of the Kluber-Bauer-Clevinger-Carrasco combo have been churning out amazing numbers this year (with Clevinger the only one under 200 strikeouts, though he'll rectify that in his next start). And even if the fifth man has to be Shane Bieber or Adam Plutko, it's not likely they'll need to start them in the playoffs.

And yes, the lineup is still pretty great. The Indians have surprised me in that even if most of their outfield options have gotten injured, they've still gotten by on using Greg Allen, Rajai Davis and Melky Cabrera. To that end, this team has a pseudo-2016 feel to it- guys you wouldn't expect to help a playoff team being integral parts. And still, there's a 40-home run DP combo, an MVP on the bench, and some genuine talent pulling walk-offs. There's some under-the-radar dominant qualities to this team that may bring them a lot of good luck in their eventual series with the Astros.

Could the Tribe go further than last year? Possibly. The 'Stros series could be tough, but I'm not ruling it out. Could they go further than 2016? ...I'm not ruling that out either.

Coming Tomorrow- It's looking like he may get the last Wild Card spot, which may or not spell doom for the rest of the league.