Being a sports card collector myself, I have always been drawn to Upper Deck, and some of their off-shoots for the creativity of their product. One set, called Allen & Ginter, was not your typical baseball card collection. Within packs, right alongside your favorite players, could be a card of anyone in history, or of a famous place. I have pulled cards of Tim Lincecum and David Crockett, Alex Rodriguez and the Alamo…the list is endless. I even have an over-sized card which I purchased separately that features the battle of Gettysburg, and includes pictures of George Meade and Robert E. Lee (2006 even had a “Stonewall” Jackson card in the set). This Allen & Ginter set always went the distance to ensure that they were unique. You could get a card with a typical piece of a player’s jersey, or maybe even a strand of hair from John F. Kennedy or a Wooly Mammoth—yes, you read that correctly. Then there was a piece of Marilyn Monroe’s dress, or the signature of Benjamin Franklin taken from a letter he had written, which was deemed unimportant enough to have it cut up (something that still slightly bothers me). I always admired them for this, because it was something you could not get anywhere else. Here, for a few dollars a pack, you could end up owning something that belongs in a museum, or something you could quickly sell online and make a small fortune. But now, with a recent Civil War addition to the items they offer, has Upper Deck finally gone too far?
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.
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.
From 2007 until this season, Bengie Molina backstopped the San Francisco Giants and handled their pitching staff as well as any catcher in baseball. His first season with the team saw him set a career high for RBI’s with 80, his second season saw him break that career high with 95, and in his third season, he set a career high for homeruns with 20. Offensively, he was everything the Giants asked of him and more. He constantly came up clutch in tight situations, and had one of the best two-strike swings in baseball. He also set career highs with hits, doubles, and batting average.
This past off-season when Molina headed to free agency, the Giants pondered their options. Their prized prospect Buster Posey, also a catcher, was not quite ready for the majors. It had looked like Molina was going to sign elsewhere, when out of nowhere, the Giants brought him back on a one-year deal, most likely to give Posey that extra time in the minors.
Molina continued to handle the young Giants pitching staff, including Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathon Sanchez, and Madison Bumgarner (for a brief time)—the staff that he helped to develop.
But early this season, Molina struggled out of the gate and Posey was tearing it up in AAA for the Fresno Grizzlies. It was then that General Manager Brian Sabean had a tough choice to make. He went through with it, and sent their veteran catcher to the Texas Rangers for reliever, and former closer, Chris Ray. The Giants did this feeling confident that Posey could handle the workload, and the gamble paid off.
Posey picked up right where he left off in the minors, including a 21 game hitting streak, tying him for the longest such streak in Giants’ history. Posey would end up finishing the season batting .305 after struggling late, but also with 18 homeruns and 67 RBI’s. He is a top contender for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Molina, meanwhile, finished the season with 5 homeruns and 36 RBI’s.
For the first time in a while, the moves made by Sabean paid off, and this was just one in a long line of subtle acquisitions that went towards the building of the 2010 NL Pennant winning team. But when the Giants shipped off Molina, they made sure he went to a contender, because that is what he deserved. He helped this team every step of the way, not just offensively, but helped the team’s young arms, and even Posey briefly. They can owe their success today partially to Bengie Molina.
Little did the Giants know that five months later, they would be facing Molina and the team they traded him to in the World Series. Both the Giants and Rangers were suspected to be good this year, but not that good.
It has been mentioned that because Molina did spend more than a third of the season in San Francisco, that if the Giants do happen to win the World Series, they could give him a ring. I would be all for that, because if it was not for him, this pitching staff may not be as good as they are now. But for Molina, he is in a win-win situation, because it is likely that he will get himself a World Series ring no matter what.
Every championship round seems to have its own subplot, and in 2010, this one is it.
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.
The last time the San Francisco Giants were in the playoffs, they were trailing the Florida Marlins in the NLDS by a total of two games to one. Trailing by a run in the top of the ninth inning with two outs and their season on the line, a single to shallow left field prompted the Giants to wave J.T Snow home, who was on second base. Not noted for his running ability, Snow chugged along as fast as he could, but the ball beat him to home plate, and he went barreling into Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez who held onto the ball and ended the Giants season. Jason Schmidt was penciled in to pitch Game Five in San Francisco, had they made it.
The Giants were in every game of that series. After Schmidt pitched a complete game shutout in Game One for the win, the Giants lost Game Two 9-5, and the next two games by only one run, with scores of 4-3 and 7-6. But nevertheless, the Giants were out of the playoffs, where they would remain for the next seven seasons.
The team the Giants will field tonight as they make their return to meaningful October baseball will be much different. There will be no Barry Bonds, or Marquis Grissom, or Rich Aurilia. Instead there will be Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, and Buster Posey– two of which were playing for different teams in 2003 and one of which was not even a thought. The Giants rotation is stronger this time around, however. Aside from not having the brawny and intimidating Jason Schmidt, this team makes up for it with the smaller Tim Lincecum. Matt Cain and Jonathon Sanchez are also superior to Kirk Rueter and Jerome Williams. The Giants also go from Tim Worrell, who replaced the injured Robb Nen that season as the team’s closer, to All-Star Brian Wilson.
But not only are the namesakes different, but the way the teams are built differ drastically. The 2003 team was very experienced, and borderline ancient when you look at who was the driving force behind it. A 36-year-old Grissom led the team in batting, a 39-year-old Bonds with homeruns, 42-year-old Andres Galarraga was the team’s hot bat off the bench, and 38-year-old Benito Santiago was doing the catching.
This time around, the Giants can send a 23-year-old Buster Posey to the backstop, a 24-year-old Pablo Sandoval to be the infield anchor at third base, and the “old men” on the team be 34-year-olds Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell.
Though this Giants team does not have the playoff experience that the 2003 team had, or the 2002 team that made it to the World Series, they have the energy to compete and learn along the way. Many of the Giants leaders, such as the entire starting rotation, except for Barry Zito, and offensive catalysts Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez have never even been to the playoffs. But the Giants have Pat Burrell to handle the locker room in that department, something he has been doing all season, especially the last few weeks.
It was like a Godsend when San Francisco claimed the fast-falling Burrell off of waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. After struggling all of last season, and getting off to a poor start this season, he was waived and many thought his baseball career would be over; a career that saw him have four 30 HR seasons, and eight seasons with 20 or more HRs. He has done everything the Giants have asked of him, including hitting 18 HRs, but also to be a mentor in the locker room. Barry Zito has also served as the same with the team’s incredibly young pitching staff, though his numbers are not what the team would like them to be.
The Giants will now face the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 NLDS, a team that is young and exciting to watch such as themselves. I will not make any predictions, because the ones I make never come true anyway. All I am looking for is some good October baseball and some games that will make waiting the last seven years for worth it.
I apologize for not being able to cover the Giants on here as often as I should, but my hands have been tied with the Rangers. Hopefully the Giants will give me something good to write about in the next few weeks, and maybe even longer!
The San Francisco Giants are currently leading the National League wildcard by 1.5 games. They are leading the majors in strikeouts and saves, while being number two in ERA. For the month of July, they were near the top of the league in runs scored. But they are also front-runners in a not too positive stat, grounded-into-double-plays, which they lead the NL in, with 110.
It is no secret that the only reason why the Giants have not soared away with the NL West already is because of poor hitting. This same hitting that was on an other-worldly tear last month has returned right back to where it was all season long; a step above non-existence.
Game after game, the Giants pitching keeps them in it, only to have the team come up short and ruin efforts by the starting pitcher. In the last three games alone, they have ruined quality starts by Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito (a game they won in extra-innings) and a decent showing by Matt Cain. This has been the pattern for two seasons now, one that could have been corrected with the addition of a bat this trade deadline, but the Giants chose to add more pitching instead.
As pleasantly surprised as the Giants have to be with Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, Pat Burrell and Buster Posey, they have to be disappointed in Pablo Sandoval, who has been nothing short of dreadful so far.
This time last year, he was near the top of the league in batting average, but now he hits a mere .263 with only six homeruns and 44 RBI’s. He has also hit into 20 double-plays, which is tied for the NL lead with the Nationals’ Ivan Rodriguez.
It’s hard to fathom the fall this guy has seen since just last season. Perhaps the Giants toyed with him in the off-season, because they tend to do that with players. Maybe they tried to make him more patient at the plate, and although that is what we want our players to strive for, it just does not worth with some, and maybe threw his hitting-eye off.
The Giants have also seen 16 GIDP from Juan Uribe and 10 from Aaron Rowand, who is in the third of a five-year bust-contract with the Giants.
Patience at the plate was this team’s downfall last season, and it is shaping up to be this season as well. The pitching coach, Carney Lunsford, was not brought back because of that express reason, and it seems the Giants are not better at it this year than last. They just refuse to take pitches. Their strikeouts rates are surprisingly not near the top of the league, but how many times does this team blow it by swinging at a bad pitch and popping up or grounding out with runners in scoring position? Way too much.
Pat Burrell, who has only been with the Giants for 48 games, shows he may be the only person with an eye for the strike zone. With 23 walks, he has more than Aaron Rowand has in 82 games.
With their pitching, the Giants are going to stay contenders for the wildcard and make a run for the NL West, but they must find a way to improve the offense or it will all go to waste. They need to be more patient at the plate, and be smarter with runners in scoring position. The veterans will need to lead the way, which includes Freddy Sanchez upping his game, and Edgar Renteria getting back to where he was before the injury. This is the Giants one real chance at making post-season play, and if the offense continues at this rate, they will not get a chance to taste October baseball.
It was about time we got a logo for this blog, one that represented the various topics covered, including sports, movies, and history. I’m not much of a Photoshop wizard, but I managed to draw up the logo below, to be used from now on. It will not be on display on the blog’s header, because that will completely throw everything out of whack, but it will be on display as our Twitter page’s profile picture.
My new Twitter account is now http://twitter.com/GregCaggiano and not the old one, because in my stupidity, I accidentally deactivated it while trying to reset my password. Please help me get my follower totals back to where they were!
As you can see, it is paying homage to some of my favorite people, all of which have been talked about on this site. Of course that is me in the middle, and my beard is not really as thick as it seems, but due to the wonders of tinting and editing, I could give Che Guevara a run for his money.
On the left side underneath the Ranger logo, we have Brian Leetch and Henrik Lundqvist. Representing the Giants are Barry Bonds and Time Lincecum. In both occurrences, it represents my favorite player from the past, then for the present.
Across the bottom, we have my favorite director, Stanley Kubrick, along with historical figures Sir Henry Clinton, Governor William Franklin, legendary frontiersman David Crockett, and of course, one of my favorite actors, John Wayne.
I hope you enjoy!
On May 1, 1920, the Major Leagues would witness the longest game in the history of the sport. The Brooklyn Robins battled the Boston Braves in a game that would eventually end in a 1-1 tie, due to the fact that it was getting dark out, and stadiums were not built with lights at the time.
The two starting pitchers are names that are not really recognizable now, and they are Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger. The amount of innings to be played that night fell just short of the equivalent of three games, at twenty-six innings. What is even more remarkable is that both starting pitchers finished the game. That’s right! Twenty-six innings pitched by each one of them, and surely they did it proudly, trying to earn their team a win.
Nowadays in baseball, if a pitcher goes six innings we give him a medal, but back then, pitchers were actually expected to finish the game that they started.
This is a feat known as pitching a complete game, a stat that is a rarity today, except for the likes of Roy Halladay, who was probably born in the wrong time frame. People make such a big deal about him because he eats up innings and has led the majors in complete games year after year. But had he played even just thirty years ago, baseball fans and analysts would be saying, “So what?”
This is not a knock on Halladay, more like the highest of compliments. It is truly a shame that this sport does not have more of him. But the fact of the matter is, this league we all love and watch now is watered down baseball, ruined by the owners and general managers by dolling out huge sums of cash to the players, and ruined by the managers for not playing real baseball.
What do we consider a solid season by a starting pitcher in present time? Maybe two hundred innings and ten to fifteen wins. If any pitcher consistently puts up those numbers, they will earn a major contract, be on the all-star team, and be looked at as a top pitcher. But fifty years ago and beyond, those stats were nothing major.
A pitcher today is considered a freak if he goes above and beyond those numbers. So what’s wrong with this situation is that we award them for doing something that was considered normal in the early days of baseball.
Let’s take a look at Christy Mathewson, one of the first inductees into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. In the 1908 season, he threw thirty-four complete games, while amassing 390.2 innings, all while winning thirty-seven games. Quite remarkable, don’t you think?
Want to know what is even more shocking than that? His arm did not fall of during the season. And Mathewson was not alone; in 1903 his set his career high with thirty-seven complete games and was not even the league leader.
That is what the major problem is, managers being too overly protective of their pitchers. Today if a pitcher goes six innings, we pat him on the back saying he did the best he could, and then the men in charge of baseball had to worsen the matter by awarding him a stat; that ridiculous piece of new-age garbage known as the “quality start”.
A quality start is categorized as if a player pitches six or more innings and gives up three runs or less (which makes the ERA 4.50, not a great number in itself), he is awarded that. So now already the pitcher has in his mind that once he gets to the sixth, he can come out of the game. Fifty years ago if a pitcher wanted to come out that early in the game, either he had to be dying or his wife was giving birth.
But this problem did not just evolve on its own, in fact, it all started when closers became a mainstay in baseball.
Saves had always been a stat, but they were rarely used because teams really did not have much of a bullpen back then. As a manager you had your five starters (sometimes teams opted to go with only a four man rotation) and maybe two or three pitchers to have in case of emergency. If those relievers were not available, then you just used a starter to come in and finish the game.
Take a look at pitching stats from the early days of baseball. You will see that most pitchers have saves, but none hardly ever have more than ten. That is because these pitchers were workhorses, and saves were meaningless to them. Getting back to Mathewson, in 1908, he started forty-four games as the team’s ace. But he would also make twelve relief appearances and earn five saves.
Most likely those saves were the kind earned when one pitches the final three innings of a game and the team wins, a situation hardly seen in baseball today.
The Oakland Athletics are really the team to blame, as they started the whole movement of a pitcher pitching solely to close out the game, and that is where the term closer came from. It all started with Rollie Fingers and then Dennis Eckersely, and by the time the latter replaced the former, a league wide hysteria had caught on.
All of a sudden managers realized that they did not need their starters pitching every inning. Originally it was not that bad. Closers were there to pitch two, maybe three innings. But then managers got another idea into their heads; the set-up man.
If one situational reliever was not enough, they now had one for the eighth inning, and some even had another one for the seventh. Shortly, “lefty specialists” would become a mainstay in every bullpen, in addition to the above lunacy.
Closers were not all that bad, and in fact, I was fine with them until a few years ago when I realized just how over-hyped they are. Just listen to what people say:
“Not just anyone can be a closer.”
“It takes a special pitcher to close out a game.”
“You need to have a certain mindset to work the ninth inning.”
It has gotten so bad in recent years that closers have started to believe them. They have to have a special song when they run on the field, grow crazy facial hair to be intimidating, and come up with some manipulated version of the sign of the cross to jump around and do upon getting the final out.
When people argue that it takes a special person to be a closer, what about all the “star” closers that get injured every season and some journeyman nobody comes in and pitches lights out?
Take Dustin Hermanson for example, a middle of the pack starter and a below average reliever. After he left San Francisco in 2004 to join the Chicago White Sox, this sub par pitcher became the team’s closer and was lights out, saving thirty-seven games with an ERA of 2.04. The next season? He appeared in six games before being demoted to the minors, where he has never returned from.
Then there is Ryan Franklin, who bounced from the majors to the minors for his entire career, and last season becomes the most feared closer in the game. He even had to grow a crazy goatee to try to scare people. And what happened when the playoffs rolled around? How elite was he then?
The final example of this counter argument saying that anybody can close comes with David Aardsma of the Seattle Mariners. This was a player who played on four different teams in four years, and a guy who could not hit a cow if he was standing on the milking stool. Yet last season, he saves thirty-eight games and this season he finds himself owned by 86% of all fantasy baseball managers.
All of this hype for one inning wonders, and they only pitch one inning because they want to come into the ninth with a nice fresh, clean slate to pitch on. All this build up of closers only being able to pitch one inning has made them mentally unstable to come in during the eighth inning. How many times do we see elite closers come in early with men on base, only two allow them all to score before getting the outs?
And why does a save only have to come in the ninth inning? Tell me, what is more valuable; a closer coming in with nobody on base in the ninth inning and getting three outs, or a reliever coming into the seventh inning with the bases loaded and getting the outs he needed?
Why can’t the save be awarded to the pitcher who actually “saves” the game? It could be a discretionary stat, decided by the official league scorers. But then again, that would not be fair to the closer, because he is getting paid the big bucks to pitch his one, glorious inning.
So now the middle relief pitchers got upset, and Major League Baseball had to instill the biggest travesty this sport has ever seen, with a little stat known as the “hold”.
According to this fantastic stat, if a pitcher enters the game with a lead and exits with the lead, he is awarded the stat. These are two scenarios that can lead to a hold. Please tell me what is wrong with them:
1. Pitcher A enters the game with a 10-0 lead and retires three batters. His team wins the game and he is awarded a hold.
2. Pitcher B enters the game with a 10-0 lead and gives up nine runs. His team holds on for the win and is awarded a hold.
How on earth can baseball award a pitcher for a poor performance? It is because everything has to be individualized, and everyone must have a stat. There have been instances where a pitcher has come into a game, walked a batter, and left being awarded a hold. A pitcher not even recording an out and getting a positive stat?
Managers are even losing games or putting them at risk because of over-reliance on their bullpen. Take yesterday afternoon, for example. The Athletics were leading the Giants 1-0 after eighth innings. Gio Gonzales had pitched all eighth innings, allowing only two hits and one walk. He only had ninety-five pitches, but was lifted in favor of closer Andrew Bailey, who in his one inning would throw thirty pitches and allow two baserunners.
Although the A’s still won the game, how come Gonzales could not finish it out? Was it because he was approaching 100 pitches?
This is the new thing now, pitch counts. When I first started watching baseball in the late 90′s, I don’t remember them being mentioned. Now the hysteria has even gotten so bad as the YES Network now has a pitch count display on the main scoreboard, so that every second in the game you know where your pitcher is.
I don’t see this as counting up pitches, I see it as counting down to how much longer a pitcher has left to go. At the hundred pitch mark, apparently, a pitcher’s arm will just fall off. It is taboo to allow someone to throw much more than than that. Why, I ask? Why?
Take the New York Yankees and last season’s embarrassing treatment of Joba Chamberlain.
Starter, reliever, starter, reliever.
It got so bad that it seemed like almost every month they were changing him around. Then it got worse and they created the “Joba Rules”, which monitored his pitch counts and innings totals. Eighty pitches, and he was done. Getting close to the innings limit? Skip his starts every few weeks and only allow him go four when he does. (Thank God for bullpens!)
Chamberlain is now the set-up man for Mariano Rivera, the spot he should have been in all along. But it is safe to say that the Yankees ruined what was their most promising pitching prospect since perhaps Mariano himself.
Not only that, but he was built like a brick you-know-what. At 6-2, 230 pounds, Chamberlain was not some frail little stick. Let him pitch, or will his arm just fall off? Why couldn’t they let him mirror Tim Lincecum who is big enough to be confused with the bat boy? All he has been able to do in two seasons pitching without a leash is win two Cy Young awards.
He came up from the minors gunning it at 99-101 MPH. Now he is lucky if his hardest fluctuates between 94-96. He struggled as a starter last season, and he is struggling now, with an ERA of 4.50. (But that’s okay, cause he has nine holds)
So I ask, what happened to this great game? Starters no longer pitch to help the team win, but they pitch to earn wins themselves. Closers do not pitch to seal the win for their team, they pitch to earn a save. And now relievers do not pitch to help out the team, but to get a hold.
All of this individualized, and all of it for the stats. There is no longer any winning for the team, just winning for personal stats. It will only get worse, and in years to come I wonder how many more will be invented so we can give another mediocre pitcher his own stat.
The way this game has dipped in recent years is embarrassing. What happened to durability in players? In the 1900′s when players were overweight chunks of fat whose only off-season exercise consisted of raising a beer glass to their mouths, they never got injured. Now players have personal trainers and a staff of team doctors and there are more injuries now than ever before. This really is cause for another article, but it adds to how watered down this sport has become.
Give me back the real baseball players we once had.
Give me back my game.