From here on out, I never want to hear another person bring up steroids and baseball ever again. I don’t want to hear how Barry Bonds’ all-time homerun record deserves an asterisk next to it. I don’t want to hear how Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa scammed the MLB fan base by cheating during the 1998 homerun race, when they hit 70 and 66 respectively. I don’t want to hear how Alex Rodriguez, if he breaks Bonds’ record, is one criminal passing another. I don’t want to hear anything about secret lists, public lists, magic lists, whatever kind of list you want to call it, and whoever might have their name on them. I don’t want to hear about records being tainted or re-writing baseball history to separate good from evil during the “Steroid Era” of Major League Baseball. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over—the witch hunt, that is, which has been going on for years now. Commissioner Bud Selig’s personal little crusade to rid the holy league of performance enhancing drugs. Though everyone knew full well it was running rampant in locker-rooms, no one decided to do anything about it, so it seems, until Barry Bonds was smashing records.
It has been a crazy few weeks in the New York sports scene. The Big Blue Wreckin’ Crew beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, Yankees fans are drooling over the fact that A.J Burnett may be on his way out, the Knicks and their fans are caught up in “Linsanity”, Mark Sanchez asked Santonio Holmes to be his Valentine, and the Mets…well, they are the Mets. Oh yeah, and the New York Rangers just shutout the defending Stanley Cup champions on the road and now lead the Eastern Conference by nine points and have the best winning percentage in the NHL. Only the Detroit Red Wings (surprise…) are ahead of the Rangers with 80 points, but New York has three games in hand on the them; having a 21-game winning streak (and counting) at home will certainly help you get there.
Just like last season, the San Francisco Giants are in dire need for offensive help, but unlike last season, it is injuries that is the cause. With catcher Buster Posey injured this week in a play that will likely end his season, he becomes just the latest casualty in an incredibly unlucky 2011 season. Currently on the disabled list sit the aforementioned Posey, Pablo Sandoval, who actually seemed to be recovering from his offensive doldrums last season, Mark DeRosa, role player Mike Fontenot, and speedster Darren Ford. Aubrey Huff, who was the team’s all-around leader last season, bats a measly .223, while newcomer Miguel Tejada brings an atrocious .212 batting average to the table (this really gets put into perspective when you note that pitcher Ryan Vogelsong is actually batting .308). Power-hitter Pat Burrell leads the team with an astounding five homeruns, tied with Sandoval who has been out for nearly thirty games. At the same time, Freddy Sanchez tops out the team in hitting, with a .298 average. In other words, somebody help!
Sandoval should be set to return in a couple of weeks, but the Giants are going to need more than that. While the pitching is still holding strong, helping the Giants astoundingly remain in first place, while the offense bats .240 and is second-to-last in the National League in runs scored, the Giants need to make a trade to bring in some offense. One cannot be picky here; just get someone. There have been many names thrown around, ranging from Jose Reyes to Ivan Rodriguez. The Giants are allowed to be desperate here, but it does not mean they have to be. Just listen to WFAN in New York and you will hear some of the dumbest calls ever made to the station. Fans of the Yankees and Mets are smelling blood in the water, and see that if the Giants are so hard up for offense, they must be willing to trade pitching. Sophomore Madison Bumgarner is the name that nearly every caller wants, and I have heard proposals such as Reyes for Bumgarner, and even Yankee fans getting in there, wanting to give the Giants their top catching prospect Jesus Montero for Jonathon Sanchez. New Yorkers always want to think they can get a Filet Mignon for the price of a Morning Star boca burger, but come one now!
One caller even told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, who host a midday show on WFAN, an asinine proposal of Josh Thole for Bumgarner, to which Benigno responded, “Yeah, sure! Give us Sanchez too!” It really is quite funny, because everyone seems to be enamored with the Giants from coast to cost. Mike Francesa has even had to dismiss disillusioned callers and their fantasy-like wishes.
The Giants will not trade Madison Bumgarner or Jonathon Sanchez. Nor will they trade Tim Lincecum for Jorge Posada. Anyone that thinks a deal involving those three makes sense, get your head out of your behind. Desperation never worked in anyone’s favor, except the trading partner that exploits it. If the only way the Giants can get help is by trading a pitcher, than I would rather stay the course and miss the playoffs. Saving this season is not worth jeopardizing the next three. If the Mets want to get rid of Reyes so bad, then I would offer Miguel Tejada and a prospect: take it or leave it. The Mets would save a tremendous amount of money while the Giants would not be overpaying for a rental. That helps out the infield, but then the Giants need to fix their catcher dilemma. Eli Whiteside is a good backup, but by no means is he an everyday player. The Giants have contacted the Nationals regarding 39-year old Ivan Rodriguez (.211, 2 Hrs, 14 RBI), which would be a decent stop-gap for this season. I would also inquire about Jorge Posada on the Yankees, whose .174 batting average would fit right in.
The disgruntled catcher has caused Yankee fans to forget his past greatness and jump on the What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately bandwagon. The Yankees could send him to San Francisco for a prospect or two and never see him again. There, Posada can get back to actually catching (he does not seem to love the designated hitter position) and help the Giants’ young pitching staff. It could serve as a reclamation project of sorts, that they tried, and succeeded, with Pat Burrell who was also unhappy DHing and struggling with the Tampa Bay Rays early last season. His career was thought to be over too, and look how that turned out for the Giants in the long run.
The San Francisco Giants are fresh off a world series victory and about to lose their starting shortstop Juan Uribe, to the Los Angeles Dodgers as sources are now reporting that he is close to signing a three-year deal with them. The Giants will be in desperate need for someone to fill his void, with no one in the system capable of putting up the numbers that he did—Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez have shown nothing but ineptitude.
Mike Fontenot is a player who could perhaps fill the void, but he is more suited for a platoon and fill-in role, as he is more experienced, and is a better contact hitter than some of the free-swinging Giants. It is because of this that the Giants should look to the free agent market to land themselves a shortstop, and the one player out there who is drawing attention almost daily in the papers, is Derek Jeter, who is frozen in contract negotiations with the New York Yankees.
Jeter, 36, is rumored to be seeking a six-year deal worth ~$150 million, a contract which would bring him to age 42 and pay him $25 million a season. The Yankees maintain that they will not budge from their first and only offer so far of three-years, $45 million, a deal that will pay the aging star a more realistic number. Is Jeter worth what he is seeking? Absolutely not, if you are looking at what he can provide from here on out. But if you want to look to the past and thank the player that has led this team to five World Series Championships, made the All-Star team eleven times, and all while keeping his reputation spotlessly clean with the media, then he is worth that much. One could make the argument that had George Steinbrunner still been alive, none of this would be happening, but he isn’t, and now the career-Yankee, and first ballot hall-of-famer, who will achieve his 3000th hit this season, barring injury, is standing at an impasse with the most powerful team in baseball.
It is because of this that the Giants should make him an offer. Perhaps if he does not get what he is looking for from the Yankees, he would take a smaller deal elsewhere. I would suggest something along the lines of three-years, $60 million. An amount offering to pay him more than the Yankees, but still keeping the years at a realistic number. Jeter’s play dropped off dramatically this season—his average fell more than 60 points, his hits went from 212 to 179, homeruns from 18 to 10, and strikeouts rose from 90 to 106. His numbers were not bad, by any means, but it has obviously caused some concern with Yankee brass.
If the Giants were to sign Jeter, they would have some veteran stability in the infield, something that they sorely needed on the left side of second base last season. As good and clutch as Uribe was—hitting 24 homeruns and driving in 85—he was a defensive liability (as is Sandoval). Jeter’s defense may not be Gold Glove-caliber anymore, despite winning the award this season, but his range is definitely greater than that of Uribe, and he will provide something much more valuable than anyone on this current roster, and that is patience at the plate.
People often wonder why Yankee games last three hours, and that is because they know how to hit. They take bad pitches and force the pitcher to throw strikes, something the Giants have not done since the Barry Bonds-led years in the mid-2000′s. Uribe and Sandoval led the way in free-swinging. It has it benefits, such as Uribe swinging so hard he would almost fall over, guaranteeing that if he made contact, the ball would leave the yard, but much too often he found himself striking out or hitting into a double play. This is something that plagued the Giants heavily, and was the main reason why it took this team until the final game of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot.
I do not think it is realistic that the Giants will get Jeter; for the most part, this is just thinking out-loud. I believe that Derek Jeter will be a career-Yankee, something that fans have been wanting for essentially his entire career. But if these negotiations keep on dragging, and it does not look like a deal is in place, then the Giants should field him an offer. After all, if he signs in San Francisco he would not be labeled a traitor. The Giants and Yankees are not rivals, nor do they regularly even play each other. If he is going to leave New York, than the Golden State is one place he could go.
For the first time in my life, a team I have rooted for has won the championship. The New York Rangers won when I was three years old so I don’t remember it, and just when the San Francisco Giants were three innings away from glory in 2002, they would find a way to blow it and cause me to wait even longer. To be honest, I did not think this day would ever come. If the Giants could not win with McCovey and Cepeda; Clark, Williams, and Mitchell; Bonds, Kent, Aurilia, Schmidt, and Nen; how on earth could they possibly win with this team of misfits?
As John Kruk said on ESPN following the win, perhaps the fact they were a group of low-caliber guys, and not stars, played into their win. They did not have a solid cleanup hitter, or a number-three hitter, or any real threat of offense whatsoever. But what they did have was pitching, and as the experts always say, pitching wins championships. That moniker echoed in my mind for the last few years as Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum came into their own. But the Giants had no offense and I figured these pitchers would wind up wasting their careers in San Francisco, always pitching great, but never accomplishing anything meaningful.
But the fact is, the Giants found a way to win this season, all while acquiring many nicknames and slogans. The team of “misfits” is what is being marketed right now, but manager Bruce Bochy initially started that theme when he called his hitters the “Dirty Dozen”. Fans also bestowed on the team their mantra for this season: “San Francisco Giants baseball. Torture.”
Well, if this is torture, it never felt so great, and I can say now that it was worth it. The Giants have waited 56 years for this World Series title, and the first since they moved from New York to the city by the bay. We will now take a look at these misfits, and they how they came to win the championship.
Andres Torres (16-58; 1 HR, 3 RBI; .276)
The player who would come to be a reliable leadoff hitter played over a thousand games in the minor leagues before getting a decent shot. He was up and down in the majors, playing some with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. Before he came to the Giants last season, he had 99 games of Major League experience in more than ten years of professional baseball. Last year he got some time with the Giants and was nothing spectacular, but this year, he cranked 16 homeruns, stole a team leading 26 bases, and was near the top of the league in doubles with 43. He won the Willie Mac award at the end of the year, as a reward for his hard work, but that would pale in comparison to this World Series. In the five games he bat .318 with one homerun and three RBI’s; this after struggling mightily in the NLDS.
Pat Burrell (6-14; 1 HR, 4 RBI; .143 AVG)
Less than thirty games into this season, the Major League career of Pat “The Bat” Burrell was teetering on the brink of non-existence. After struggling last season with the Tampa Bay Rays and being unable to correct his play and adapt to the American League this year, he was designated for assignment. The Giants, who desperately needed some punch in the lineup, took a chance and claimed Burrell, and the risk paid off. Burrell would hit 18 homeruns and drive in 55, but more importantly, he served as a mentor to the young players and was an excellent presence in the locker room. Though he struggled mightily in the playoffs this year, the Giants would not have gotten where they were without him as he was instrumental in this championship.
Cody Ross (15-51; 5 HR, 10 RBI; .294)
No player more epitomizes this Giants team than Cody Ross. After struggling on the Florida Marlins this season, he was waived in late August, destined to be picked up by a team who needed to add depth to the bench. Not even truly wanting him for what he brought to the table, the Giants grabbed Ross solely because the San Diego Padres were rumored to be interested in him. With the Giants chasing their division rival, they could not take a chance and put in a claim for him. He hit only three homeruns in 33 games with San Francisco, proving to be solid, but not a standout player. But that would all change in the playoffs: Ross would hit three homeruns in the NLCS alone, including one each in the NLDS and World Series. When they needed a clutch hit, there he was. Ross won the NLCS MVP against the Phillies and proved to be one of the Giants most valuable hitters down the stretch.
Aubrey Huff (15-56; 1 HR, 8 RBI; .268)
The Giants desperately needed a first baseman this season when they courted Nick Johnson and Adam Laroche for the job. Both of them turned down offers and the only player left who was capable of playing that position was Aubrey Huff. Forced to take a pay cut, which resulted in a bargain-contract of $3 million, the Giants signed huff and made him their number three hitter. They also made him work on his defense, and early on, he played both first base and outfield. Well, Huff would prove to be the most intelligent signing in Brian Sabean’s career, as he hit 26 homeruns and drove in 86. Huff had also never made the playoffs before this year, and with the help of a certain “good luck thong”, he was able to put up decent playoff numbers and help the Giants win this championship.
Edgar Renteria (10-35; 2 HR, 6 RBI; .286)
When Edgar Renteria finished his first season with the Giants, he was anything but loved by the fan-base. The one time clutch player and outstanding shortstop was nothing but a washed up shadow of his former self. That all looked to change early on this season, when he started the year hot. But three trips to the DL would quiet any chance of a breakout year, and force him to play in only 72 games. After sitting out the entire NLDS, Bochy inserted him into the lineup against the Phillies, where he would stay for the remainder of the playoffs. Renteria, who had the game-winning hit in the 1997 World Series that gave Florida the victory would come up clutch again and again for the Giants. He hit two homeruns in the World Series (after hitting three all season) including the game-winning homerun in Game Five, that gave the Giants a 3-2 victory. His World Series batting average would be .412, and the man with the short-swing would win the series MVP award. The only question is whether or not the 34-year-old will retire. If he chooses to do so, how many players came into the league with a championship clinching hit, and ended it in the same way?
The Giants also got key contributions from Freddy Sanchez, who won the batting title in 2005 with the Pittsburgh Pirates before experiencing a fall from grace that saw him traded to San Francisco for Tim Alderson last season. Buster Posey continued to look like a veteran, and perhaps he will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Not only was his hitting spectacular, but his defense and handling of the pitching staff was as well. Juan Uribe, who was awful during the playoffs, only had two hits in the World Series: one of which was a three-run homer, and the other was an RBI single. He also hit the series clinching homerun against Philadelphia, and a game-winning sacrifice fly two games before that.
Pablo Sandoval brought in his regular season struggles to the playoffs, and Barry Zito became the highest paid cheerleader in history by not being placed on the roster, but all will be forgiven now. Tim Lincecum’s performance was also spectacular. In this post-season alone he defeated Derek Lowe, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee (twice). Matt Cain’s performance will also go overlooked as he did not allow a run in the 21.1 innings he pitched this post-season. But perhaps the quiet hero was Madison Bumgarner, who won the clinching game in the NLDS, pitched two ultra-important relief innings in the clinching game in the NLCS, and finally, won game four in the World Series. He would finish this post-season with a 2-0 record and a 2.18 ERA.
Finally, this season could not have ended this way without the bullpen. Brian Wilson and his magnificent beard were key in shutting down their opponents. He ended the NLCS with a strikeout of Ryan Howard and the World Series with a strikeout of Nelson Cruz. Lefty specialist Javier Lopez also proved to be invaluable, as he handled the batters he faced with ease.
Overall, I never in a million years thought that the Giants would win it this season. I cannot express how happy I am at this, but not just for myself, but for my dad, who has waited more than fifty-six years for this championship. And also, for the many greats who never won in San Francisco, you can finally smile. The ghosts of 1962, 1989 and 2002 are dead and buried!
For the first seven innings of tonight’s game, the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers played in the pitcher’s duel that everyone expected in game one. Matt Cain and C.J Wilson duked it out and the Giants had only a 2-0 lead heading into the eighth inning. That’s when things would get hairy, and the Giants would put up a seven-spot in the bottom of that inning to win both home games to begin this 2010 World Series.
With the game scoreless in the fifth inning, Ian Kinsler took Matt Cain deep to center with what looked like a sure homerun. But the ball would hit the wall directly on top and carom right into the glove of Andres Torres, who kept Kinsler to a double. Cain would then retire three of the next four batters, with Mitch Moreland reaching on an intentional walk.
The Giants would then score their first run of the game in the bottom of that frame, and one that unexpectedly proved to be the game winner. On a pitch that was high and inside to Edgar Renteria, he turned on it and sent it over the wall in left field. Two innings later, some luck would play into the Giants second run.
With Cody Ross on first after walking, Aubrey Huff would hit a trickling ground ball that was about to go foul, but it was fielded by the first baseman Moreland (when he could have let it roll foul) and he could then only get Huff out at first and Ross advanced to second. The next batter up, Juan Uribe, would single to right field and give the Giants a 2-0 lead.
With Matt Cain cruising, the game headed to the bottom of the eighth—the Giants were looking for some much-needed insurance runs. Darren O’Day came in and struck out the first two batters he faced. Brian Wilson was warming up in the bullpen and it looked like it was going to be a quick inning. Then Buster Posey singled past the second baseman and the explosion was on. Derek Holland, a lefty, was brought in to face Nate Schierholtz, who once again came in for Pat Burrell. But Holland could not find the strike zone, and threw 11 straight balls that ended up in three straight walks (Schierholtz, Ross,and Huff), forcing one run home. With Holland clearly lost mentally, Mark Lowe came in and picked up right where he left off, with a walk to Uribe, forcing home a second run that inning.
With the Giants up 4-0 and thankful for two insurance runs, Renteria showed he would not be content with that and singled home two more runs. Aaron Rowand now came in as the pinch hitter and lined a triple into the alley in right-center field, and two more would score making the lead 8-0. But still it would not end, as Torres came up and doubled Rowand home to give the Giants a 9-0 lead, a score which would be the final.
Mixed in during all of this was another fantastic outing by Matt Cain, who still has not allowed a run this post-season season. He went 7.2 innings, while giving up only four hits and two walks; he struck out two. Javier Lopez also continued to be the valuable lefty specialist he has been since the Giants acquired him, when he came in to face Josh Hamilton and got him to fly out.
Finally there was no need for Wilson to come into a game, as the Giants used Guillermo Mota for the first time, and he got through the ninth hitting only allowing one walk.
After scoring 16 runs total in the six games they played in the NLCS, they have now scored 20 in two games here in the World Series. It is as if all their offensive frustrations have come out against this Texas pitching staff. They have also shown to have a different offensive hero every night. In game six against the Phillies, it was Uribe, last night it was Sanchez, and tonight it was Renteria. The “Dirty Dozen” and “Team of Misfits” is holding true to their nickname thus far.
There will now be a day off as the two teams head to Arlington, where the struggling left hander Jonathon Sanchez will face the Rangers’ Colby Lewis at a 6:30 PM EST start Saturday night.
Cliff Lee came into tonight’s game as the best pitcher in post-season baseball. With a 3-0 record and an eye-popping 0.75 ERA, the Giants knew they had a very tough night ahead of them. If they were not able to strike against him early, all hope would be lost, and after falling behind 2-0 after two innings, the pitcher who was averaging not allowing a run per game was in the driver’s seat.
The Giants would make some noise in the third inning, when Freddy Sanchez would get his second of three straight doubles (becoming the first player in baseball history to do so in a World Series game) after Edgar Renteria reached on an error and Andres Torres was hit by a pitch. They would then tie the game on a Buster Posey single.
All would be quiet until the fifth inning, when the Giants would blow the game open. After Lincecum led off the inning with a ground out, Torres and Sanchez would double, Burrell walked, and Ross and Huff singled. With Lee over 100 pitches, he was lifted for Darren O’Day who came in, and allowed a three-run homer to Juan Uribe, the first batter he faced. The Giants would have an 8-2 lead after five innings, with Lee allowing eight hits and seven runs (six earned).
But the mighty Rangers’ offense would not have them go down quietly. They quickly responded with two runs, chasing Lincecum after 5.2 innings, and forcing Casilla to get the final out of the inning.The Uribe homerun now became all the more important.
Both teams would go scoreless until once again it looked like the Giants would put the game out of reach. In the bottom of the eighth, Renteria would single, and after a bobble by Guerrero in right field, would advance to third base. Ishikawa then doubled and Sanchez would cap off his amazing night with a single, driving the score up to 10-4. But the inning would not end there, as Nate Schierholtz who came in as a defensive replacement for Burrell would single, driving in the Giants’ eleventh run of the night.
The ninth inning would be shaky for the Giants as Ramon Ramirez and Jeremy Affeldt struggled. Closer Brian Wilson would have to come in with a seven run lead, and after allowing a sacrifice fly and a double, he would record the final out and seal an 11-7 win for the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants, who scored 19 runs in the entire six game NLCS scored 11 runs tonight. Myself, like many other people, felt the game was pretty much over with the Rangers having a 2-0 lead and the best pitcher in baseball on the mound. The Giants would show some resiliency, and put forth their biggest offensive out-put of the post-season, this coming after many analysts predicted this would be a low scoring pitcher’s duel, including one ESPN analyst who said it would be a 1-0 win for the Rangers.
I still believe that this will be a long series, as the Giants who are used to playing low scoring games will have to find a way to hang with the Rangers three more times. It will be tough and I hope that tonight’s performance was not an aberration.
The series will continue tomorrow night on FOX at 7:30 with a matchup of Matt Cain and C.J Wilson.
After another close, and yes, torturous game, the San Francisco Giants walk away with the National League Pennant, after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. This will mark the first time since 2002 that the Giants have made it to the final round, where they hope to snap a 56 year drought, and try to bring home their first championship since the franchise moved from New York to San Francisco (no blog name pun intended).
My dad, who was very young at the time of their last World Series victory, does not even remember it (much like me with the 1994 Rangers’ Stanley Cup), so I am hoping the Giants will win it more for him than me. As for myself, I have never really been through the stress of a championship—I have blocked out most of the 2002 run after a disastrous Game 6 where the Giants were up on the Angels 5-0 in the 8th inning and found a way to lose, when they were just six outs away from the championship.
No team in baseball has ever been more fitting of their slogan than the Giants this year; it is very simple: “San Francisco Giants baseball. Torture.”
Every win the Giants have in the post-season has been by one run, with the exception of their opening 3-0 win over the Phillies, and their largest margin of defeat has been five runs, when they lost 6-1 in Game 2 against Roy Oswalt. Even when the Giants have been up, they do not appear to be in control, thus adding to the tension. Even last night, the game had to go down to the wire, when in the 8th inning, Juan Uribe cranked a solo homerun off Ryan Madson to put the Giants ahead.
If it was not stressful enough waiting until the 8th inning, Bruce Bochy made a head-scratcher of a move in the bottom of the frame, when he sent Tim Lincecum to the mound on only one day rest. Lincecum would get one out and allow two hits before being yanked for closer Brian Wilson, who came in and threw three pitches, getting a double play line-out. What could have been a monumental mistake ended up not costing the Giants—Bochy was a very lucky man.
When the game moved to the ninth inning, still it could not end painlessly. Wilson would have to put the stamp on the “Torture” by putting two men on during a hectic ninth inning. But justice would prevail when Wilson caught Ryan Howard looking with an 85 MPH curveball right down the middle. Howard left this postseason without driving home a single run.
After the Giants on-field celebration, the festivities moved into the locker room where Cody Ross was awarded the much deserved NLCS MVP. He bat .350 with three homeruns and five RBI’s, along with an eye-opening .950 slugging percentage. Freddy Sanchez, meanwhile, beefed up his average to .360, with nine hits in the final five games.
The Giants pitching MVP will be a three-way split between Tim Lincecum, who threw fourteen innings in the three appearances he made, Brian Wilson, who saved three games, and Javier Lopez, the team’s lights-out lefty specialist. Without these three players, the Phillies may be celebrating now instead of them.
Now, to put an end to some of the confusion caused in last night’s post game interview with Brian Wilson, when he referred to “The Machine” coming to San Francisco. It appeared to be an inside joke, causing Joe Buck to say, “Just let that one go right over your head.” Thanks to Youtube, we have found exactly what he was talking about:
It is good to see that Wilson’s sense of humor mirrors his eccentric personality, one that includes one of the most incredible playoff beard I have ever seen.
This season has been quite a journey for the Giants, who barely squeaked into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, and have played tight games ever since. Needless to say my blood pressure has been through the roof and my playoff beard is on its way to turning gray. But as a sign read in the stands of AT & T Park on the final day of the regular season: “Torture never felt so great!”
This National League Division Series between the San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves was a whirlwind of emotion—every single game was decided by one run, and every game could have gone either way. The series featured outstanding pitching, mind-boggling horrific defense, and frustrating offense. The series also featured the end of one of the most brilliant managerial careers in all of baseball, the final game of Bobby Cox.
As last night’s game ended with a ground out and a throw to first, sending the Giants into celebration, Cox looked up briefly before walking briskly into the clubhouse. The Atlanta fans chanted his name and he came out, removed his hat, and waved to the fans. The Giants stopped their celebrating and saluted Bobby Cox, who acknowledged them back with a tip of his cap. It was then that it hit me, just how emotional this series was. Each game was stressful and down to the wire, and I wanted badly to be happy, but I could not help but tear up as Cox walked into the dugout, and off of the field for the final time in his 51 year baseball career, the last 19 years of which was spent with one single team, the Atlanta Braves.
I watched Cox’s teary eyed press conference and could not help but feel sad. I never liked the Braves, but he was managing there since before I was born. I cannot imagine baseball without Bobby Cox in the dugout. As he gave his final post-game press conference, he stopped mid-sentence and tried to hold back the tears. After pausing for a few seconds, he said, “A grown man shouldn’t do this”, before collecting his thoughts and continuing on.
In Bochy’s press conference, he referred to Cox as a “genius” and someone who he always admired. Cox returned the compliment by stating that if he had to lose to someone in the playoffs, he did not mind that it was to Bruce Bochy.
To Bobby Cox, I congratulate you on an amazing career, and hope that you will stick around in some capacity in Major League Baseball. It is suspected that he will be returning to the Braves as a consultant for the next few years.
On to the Giants, they now have to end their celebrating and look to the NLCS, a series they have not played in since they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals en route to the 2002 World Series. Deep down, I want to believe that anything is possible, and that the Giants have a chance, but after looking at the rotation and lineup of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not think it is possible–my gut tells me the Phillies will be the 2010 World Series Champions.
The Giants will hang with them in pitching. The first three games of this series will feature incredible match-ups between Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay, Matt Cain and Roy Oswalt, and Jonathon Sanchez and Cole Hamels.
Halladay tossed a no-hitter in his only playoff appearance this year, and the first of his career, while Lincecum struck out 14 in a complete game shutout in his first playoff appearance. Matt Cain was solid but could not defeat the Braves in game two, while Oswalt was the only pitcher to allow a run (four) against the Cincinnati Reds lineup. Sanchez himself threw a no-hitter last year, while Hamels was the MVP of the Phillies when the won the World Series two years ago.
For fourth starters, the Giants have Madison Bumgarner, who won last night’s game to send the Giants to the NLCS. The Phillies, meanwhile, could use Joe Blanton. It is expected that the teams will only go with four starters, as Lincecum and Halladay will pitch on short rest late in the series if they have to.
When it comes to bullpens, both teams are very even, but I would give the edge to the Phillies as they have more experience. They also did not surrender a run in three games against the Reds. They have lefty specialist J.C Romero, long-reliever Jose Contreras, and also Chad Durbin, Ryan Madson, and closer Brad Lidge. The Giants have a lefty specialist of their own in Javier Lopez, flamethrower Santiago Casilla, and adrenaline junky closer Brian Wilson. Sergio Romo, who usually finds himself in the eight inning, had a nightmare series but ended up getting credit for the win in game three.
For the Giants to even have a chance in this series, they need to find some hitting. The Giants went 2-0 without Pablo Sandoval in the lineup, after he was replaced by Mike Fontenot. Sandoval had a horrific series at the plate with absolutely no discipline and a high susceptibility of grounding into double plays. Another Giants power hitter, Juan Uribe, found himself swinging the bat like a woodsman trying to chop down a tree. The two went a combined two for 20, and Uribe also needs to take a seat. He can be replaced by Edgar Renteria, who is a clutch hitter with a short swing, plays better defense, and is also two for two in pinch-hitting appearances in the NLDS.
Giants catcher Buster Posey also had a big series, going 6 for 16, while Burrell and Huff struggled, even though Burrell did hit a three-run homer in game two. The real hero so far in the post season has been late-August waiver pickup Cody Ross. The right-fielder has gone four for 14 with a homer and three RBI’s. He drove in the only run in game one, and drove in the two go-ahead runs to win game four. He also has decent speed and a good arm in the outfield.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have no shortage of power in their lineup as any player at any given time can crank one out of the yard. Though the Giants hit more HR’s in the NLDS than the Phillies did, the threat in Philadelphia is still greater, and will have a larger effect on the pitching staff. They have multiple threats with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino. Even if their numbers were down in the regular season, that still doesn’t mean that they can’t wake up in this series.
I’m still not going to make a prediction in this series, just like I did not make on last time. The edge is going to the Phillies, but with the Giants pitching and some timely hitting, anything is possible. All I know is, everyone will be watching Saturday afternoon for game one’s marquee pitching matchup between last year’s Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, and this year’s award favorite Roy Halladay. This has the potential to be the greatest post-season pitching matchup in at least the last ten years.
In June, the candidates for rookie of the year in the National League numbered more than what they do today. Jason Heyward was an immediate sensation upon hitting a homerun in his first Major League at-bat and was tearing up the league for the Atlanta Braves. Other players such as David Freese and Starlin Castro were also proving to be pleasant rookie surprises, and Castro of the Chicago Cubs, even lead the NL in batting average for a brief time. Phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg was also ready to win the Cy Young Award and Rookie of the Year without even throwing a pitch.
With all those players, the name Buster Posey was not even a thought, as he had just been called up at the end of May.
But now, three months later, the list of who could possibly win the award is much different. Strasburg made his debut and injured himself, missing the rest of this season and possibly next year as well. David Freese was also injured and is done for the year. Castro, meanwhile, has cooled off but is still hitting at a lofty .317.
Jason Heyward is still putting together a solid campaign, as he has 16 homeruns and 65 RBI’s while batting .281.
There is a name that deserves consideration, though, and that is Giants’ catcher Buster Posey, who was called up in late May, and has been a stalwart ever since. Posey began this season hitting in 13 out of his first 14 games. He only hit one homerun in June, but then clobbered seven in July. In that same month, he also fell one game short of the franchise record for a hit streak, when he hit in 21 consecutive games, just shy of the record set by Willie Mays.
His line of stats on the year is currently 11 homeruns and 55 RBI’s along with a bloated .328 batting average. In 33 fewer games than Heyward, he has only five less homeruns, 10 less RBI’s and is batting 20 points higher. He also only has 18 less hits. Posey even has a higher slugging percentage than Heyward.
Posey has done all of this while playing a physically demanding position as catcher, and even learning to play first base. He has shown great versatility in that respect, playing 30 games at first and 52 at catcher.
Though he is my favorite to win the NL Rookie of the Year, Jaime Garcia, a pitcher on the St. Louis Cardinals, also deserves a mention. He is 13-6 with a 2.35 ERA and has made a quality start in 18 out of 26 games. He has never given up more than five runs in a game, and has done that only once.
There are a lot of great candidates for the award this year, a list that has shrunken due to injuries and reality in the last few months. At this current time, I would give the nod to Posey with Heyward at a close second. Garcia would be in third place and Castro would be in fourth.