Thursday, October 22, 2020

World Series Update: This Is Going to be Long Edition

 You wanted the two best teams in the World Series? It's gonna be a bloodbath. Just what the doctor ordered.

These were two very different games. Game 1 was propelled by a solid pitching performance and a bullpen that could supplant it, thanks to Clayton Kershaw finally pitching well in October. Game 2 had a solid pitching performance, but even Snell let some runs go by afterwards. And when the Dodgers' bullpen had to supplant itself, it crumbled under the weight of Wendle, Lowe and Choi. 

You see the trends forming. The Dodgers win on good, trusted started pitching, but they only have so much of it. The Rays win on outhitting their opponents, but their bullpen can only hold for so long. Corey Seager making it 6-4 tonight may have been the closest thing to a crack in the Rays' plan tonight, because even if they're ahead and thriving, the Dodgers are still THE DODGERS, and can chip away at you like that, especially with guys like Seager.

So, two games in we're even, both teams have played exceptionally well even in losses, and we're just getting started. Either team can win, and it's really all about who's prepared for who. Tomorrow is Walker Buehler vs. Charlie Morton. Let's see which team's prepared for which pitcher. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Topps Cards That Should Have Been: The Rest of 2008


The last few 2008 Topps customs I have here don't have an interconnected theme except for the fact that they were left.

Tony Clark is now the MLBPA president, head of the players' union, one of the reasons we had a season this year. In 2008, he was still rounding out his playing career for teams that were not the Detroit Tigers for some reason. He started the 2008 season as a member of the San Diego Padres and did...alright. He had a .1 WAR and a .231 average in 70 games, mostly used as a bench bat but still getting starts at 1st while Adrian Gonzalez slowly began to find his footing. He was traded pre-deadline to the Diamondbacks, which WAS documented by Topps, so at least he got that.

Also, speaking of the 2008 Padres:

Yes, Topps would give Wade LeBlanc a rookie card in 2009, but since LeBlanc did start a few games further down the 2008 stretch, I had to make him one for this season. Granted, it wasn't an especially BIG splash, as he had an 8.02 ERA in 5 games, including 3 losses, but he was plugged in a starting option for 2009, and would bop around until he'd become what he is now, an auxiliary starting option with relief mileage. 

Speaking of guys used in relief AND as starters, Jason Hammel was primarily a relief option for the 2008 Rays, with a 4.60 ERA over 40 appearances, 35 of them in relief. He was left off the postseason roster for that season, and thankfully other teams would find better use for him as a starter, especially the 2015 Cubs. He'd finish his career in Kansas City, primarily being used as a reliever. Kind of a full-circle ending.

If Topps was in a better mood in 2008, they would have jumped on this- former rookie and all-star pitcher Chan Ho Park returning to his former team in LA for a return to form season in relief. That's the kind of stuff Topps loves, and yet they seemed to completely miss it. Park pitched 95 innings for the Dodgers in 2008, with a 3.40 ERA and 79 strikeouts. I don't see why Topps wouldn't honor that. After this season, Park would be used as a steady relief option for the World-Series-caliber 2009 Phillies.

After missing the entire 2007 season, former Rangers utility man and member of the 2004 World Series Red Sox Gabe Kapler decided to give the bigs another shot, getting a spot on the 2008 Milwaukee Brewers. He responded to the Brewers' generosity by giving, get this, HIS SINGLE BEST SEASON OF HIS CAREER. Forget that he was mostly used as a bench/utlity piece. Forget that he was platooned in centerfield with Mike Cameron. Kapler's 1.9 WAR was not only his highest-ever season total, but the eighth highest on the team. The seven guys who finished higher read like a murderer's row of great baseball figures- CC Sabathia, Ryan Braun, JJ Hardy, Ben Sheets, Mike Cameron, Jason Kendall and Rickie Weeks. 

This means he had a higher WAR than Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Jeff Suppan and closer Salomon Torres, all pieces of the team that the Brewers couldn't have made it to October without. And yet next-to-nobody remembers Kapler's 2008 year.

It's actually a pretty cool bench year, too. .301 average, 38 RBIs, 8 homers, 69 hits. His .498 SLG was the third-highest on the team, behind Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, of course. One of those great years that gets overlooked by statisticians because of who the numbers belonged to. A lot like the 2008 Brewers, too.

Kapler would spend the next 2 years in a similar bench role in Tampa before retiring, ruining the Phillies for two years and nearly getting the Giants to the playoffs in 2020. 

That's all I have for the 2008 set for right now. Expect some 2009 and beyond entries on the way.

Championship Series' Day 8: Not Perfect, But I'll Take It Edition

Alright, well I clearly came on too strong by predicting a Rays-Braves series, but a Rays-Dodgers series ain't bad either.

True, it is a battle of first seeds, and two teams who would have been here anyway if this were a normal year, but...both these teams have great storylines. The Dodgers have an even better one just from getting past the Braves on the strength of Enrique Hernandez and Cody Bellinger, the latter of which had the winning homer against Chris Martin, and finishing off the Braves thanks to Julio Urias. They nearly lost their footing, but regained, and became a stronger team for it.

Now comes the hard part. The Dodgers have gotten to this point twice in the last four years, but they have never sealed the deal. Now, where they are clearly the better of the two teams despite having the rockier of the two pitching staffs, they NEED to win in order to make every winning season without a ring in the last 10 or so years worth it. The Dodgers have been more consistent and more bloodthirsty than any other team since 2008, and anything other than a World Series win will be anticlimactic for this team, this fanbase, and this city. The Lakers could do it. Why not the Dodgers. 

I will be rooting for LA this season. As the grandson of an Ebbets Field lifer who left us earlier this year, I owe it to her to see a Dodger championship through. Not to get all sappy. I don't like that shit at all. But...a Dodger World Series win would be a source of light in this dark, depressing year we've been through.

Dodgers-Rays World Series. I can dig it. I doubt it'll be short. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Championship Series' Day 7: ABOUT DAMN TIME Edition

I don't see why the Rays couldn't have just done that 4 games ago, but...I'm happy nonetheless.

Charlie Morton pitched a gem, Arozarena and Zunino continued their reign of terror at the plate, and Pete Fairbanks finished off the Astros lineup to finally, FINALLY bring the Rays to their first World Series in 12 years. And let me just say, it is a well-deserved World Series entry. The Rays have been one of the best teams in the AL this year, they've made a great team out of small-ball and little homegrown guys, and they have a real baseball mentalist like Kevin Cash behind the team. 

it's gonna be fun to see this team go up against either of the NL options. The Braves would be a more fun Series, but the Dodgers might be more of a match. 

As for the Astros..........

Anyway, Dodgers-Braves Game 7 tomorrow. Hope it's a good one.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Championship Series' Day 5: Please Don't Do This to Me Edition, I can't do this this year, man.

I've already been through enough in 2020. Death, career change, plans going on hold, not seeing my friends, political disarray, general anxiety and depression. This year already...absolutely blows.

But if the Astros get to the World Series after losing the first 3 games of the ALCS, it might get even worse. I am really, REALLY not a fan of this horseshit. If a team decides halfway through a 7-game series that they're gonna actually compete, then they don't deserve a damned reset in Game 4. 

Carlos Correa, George Springer and Michael Brantley were responsible for the runs as usual, and Correa walked off. I'm not saying that having only 3 guys score all your runs is a bad strategy, as...look at Randy Arozarena, Mike Zunino and Brandon Lowe, but when you have a team with a lack of lineup depth or pitching getting by on the strength of three guys who've been there for years...and you're doing all this with every game being an elimination your GOAL to piss off every baseball fan out there?

Cause, like, I don't think anybody wants the Astros to win again. That's not an exaggeration, it's not like the year where I thought the Orioles were in first by default because I didn't understand how to read stats. I can read the room, and the room says 'knock this shit off, Houston', and...they won't. Tomorrow night is Framber Valdez vs. Blake Snell. That SHOULD, in theory, do it...but the Rays' bullpen is now beginning to make mistakes, and so help me...whoever, if they make more in Game 6 and force a Game 7 when there shouldn't have even been a Game 5, I'm gonna be livid. Like, 2009, obviously-unmedicated-teenager levels of livid. 

In a slightly less depressed game, one game after Corey Seager went a triple short of a cycle against the Braves pitching, Marcell Ozuna went a triple short of a cycle against the Dodgers pitching.

This was one of Clayton Kershaw's classic playoff rough starts, and we'll never know if it was his back or his nerves that led to him giving up 4 runs in 5 innings, but at least he joins Dylan Floro and Brusdar Graterol in sharing the blame for letting the Braves hit 10 runs off them and go into finishing position for tomorrow's Game 5. 

Again, the Braves' offense is absolutely alive right now, with Ozuna, Freeman, d'Arnaud, Swanson, Riley, Acuna, and now rookie Christian Pache all aiding the charge. Hell, Tonight's winning pitcher was Bryse Wilson, a rookie who'd only had a few 2020 starts and held his own for 6 innings, only giving up a run, and looking like a pro against one of the best pitchers in baseball. The fact that guys like Bryse Wilson, Ian Anderson and Max Fried are looking unstoppable against a pitching staff consistently thought of as one of the best, and a lineup that looked unbeatable in June...that says a lot about this Braves team, and where they might be headed.

Tomorrow, we have a chance of both playing matches being decided. I would really, really like, at the very least, the ALCS to be decided tomorrow. Just so the long, national nightmare can be over. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Champion Series' Day Four: So Much For That Edition much for yesterday's post.

Against a 2-0 Atlanta lead, and Kyle Wright, the Los Angeles Dodgers did one of the greatest 'holy shit' turns in MLB history, going from completely defenseless to whacking Kyle Wright and Grant Dayton until they bled. 15 runs later, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Will Smith and Edwin Rios all hit RBIs and had to be calmed down by the remainder of the Braves' bullpen, beginning with Huascar Ynoa. Julio Urias pitched a gem, and Adam Kolarek needed help keeping runs down in the ninth.

Yes, the Braves still lead, but it's not exactly going to be a full sweep, as we were led to believe, and the Dodgers still have some fight left in them. Tomorrow's game will hopefully produce a healthy Clayton Kershaw performance against Bryce Wilson and likely a bullpen game. Hopefully that fire will remain.

Meanwhile, back in the Land of Prolonging the Inevitable, the Houston Astros took a start from Tyler Glasnow and scored 4 runs off him, all from lifers like Altuve and Springer. Zack Greinke, despite giving up runs to Randy Arozarena and Willy Adames, held the lineup down, and Ryan Pressly and Cristian Javier did good relief work.

I'm slightly worried that this means the Astros are once again gaining traction and could overcome the 3-loss deficit like we're all fearing, but...the Rays are still the better team here, and I'm still hoping they'll seal the deal tomorrow and...end my misery for a brief moment.

One series could end tomorrow, and I'm really, really hoping it does.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Champion Series Update: Southeastern Domination Edition

 So. Braves have won 2 games. Rays have won 3. It's unfair to jump to conclusions after less than half of the proposed series', but...what if this is our World Series?

I'd...honestly be down.

First of all, the inevitable matchup from January, Yankees-Dodgers, won't be there. Yes, the Dodgers could still find it and win, so this could be null, but...if they do, it'll have been something we'd all seen coming for months, and...I kind of like seasons where two teams you couldn't have really guessed end up in the World Series. The Braves may have been in the top 5 or so NL teams, but I wouldn't have been smart enough to guess them. And with the Yankees and Twins looking insane in March, I definitely wouldn't have pegged Tampa. 

Secondly, neither team has won in either YEARS or ever. Even if the Dodgers make it, that stat will be fulfilled, because I honestly don't see the Astros coming back from a 3-game deficit like this, especially against a pitching staff they cannot outsmart. So...either one of these teams adding a trophy to the case would be pretty cool. 

Thirdly...these two teams have the power to make a really cool World Series. Acuna, Ozuna and D'Arnaud against Snell, Glasnow and Morton? Aw, man. And the battle of the rookies with Ian Anderson and Randy Arozarena? Granted, it'll be a Series without EXTREME star power, save for like Acuna and Freeman,'ll be an evenly matched series where either team could win big and start the 2020s on a huge note.

This could all change if the losing teams gain momentum, which isn't unheard of, but...the way these two teams are playing right now, it's screaming WS-matchup. I could be wrong, I might be wrong, but in this moment...this is where the heat's coming from.