Thursday, October 11, 2007

NLCS Game 1 Reaction/ALCS Game 1 Prediction

I've definitely change my mind about the way that the NLCS will go. I thought that the Arizona Diamondbacks, behind ace Brandon Webb, would jump out to a 1-0 lead with a Game 1 victory and then head to Colorado up 2-0. Now it appears that Jeff Francis and the Rockies are the better squad and they will be returning home to Corrs with at least a split of the first two games.

Francis' excellent performance and the Rockies 5-1 victory changes the entire outlook of the series. The Rockies offense has not cooled down one bit and they have now won 18 of their last 19 games (14 of 15 in the regular season, 4 straight in the playoffs). This is the hottest team in baseball and frankly I'd be nervous to face them no matter what team I am. The Red Sox and Indians better watch out, because if Colorado can keep rolling through this series, they may pull a St. Louis Cardinals and continue to roll right though the World Series.

As much as I am rooting for the Red Sox to win the World Series and think that they could shut down the Corrs Train to win it all, I admit that the Rockies winning would be a great story. Todd Helton is one of the best players of this era, probably top ten, maybe even top five. He is one of the best hitters for average, up there with Ichiro. But he constantly has the stigma of "Corrs Field" riding over him. A World Series ring would do a lot for his credentials.

Meanwhile Dan O'Dowd has turned around a franchise that has seen a little success, but has never been near where they are now. With excellent drafting and trades, the Rockies are now a team that can contend year in and year out. There make-shift pitching staff has done the job, keeping the opposing team's score low enough for the amazing offense, made up mostly of young players who will be the team's core for years to come, to win games decesively. Manny Corpas has proven to be a un-hittable closer, both in the playoffs and the regular season. Matt Holliday, Troy Tulowitzki and the rest of the cast of regulars are slugging this team to victory, but the pitching hasn't been too shabby either.

This is a team I liked for two years down the line, maybe with the addition of another pitcher or two, same as the D-Backs, but both teams have shocked everyone and now baseball fans are left with an exciting series. Hopefully people will tune in and find out more about two teams that had great years, mostly under the radar.

One other thing from this series was the disgraceful behavior by the Diamondbacks fans. I know it was just a handful of fans and I know that it happens all over the place, but come on. It was the right call and to delay a game for that long was just ridiculous. Booing is one thing, but throwing full water bottles onto the field near players was wrong. Express your displeasure with boos, but don't throw things on the field. The D-Backs have been an amazingly successful franchise, having been around for just ten years and having a shot at their second World Series within their grasp. These fans should behave better than they did.

Moving on to the ALCS, the series everyone is talking about.

The Red Sox and the Indians are two teams that had great seasons, just like the Rockies and Diamondbacks, but both have been in the spotlight longer.

Josh Beckett and C.C. Sabathia are both Cy Young contenders and tomorrow's game should be exciting.

My prediction: 6-2 Red Sox, Bobby Kielty continues his success against C.C. with at least two hits and two RBI.

On the NL side, the Diamondbacks will not be able to salvage the second game of the series, as the Rockies take the game 7-3.

Enjoy the games tomorrow night.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Torre, A-Rod Eras in Bronx Appears to Be Over

As a Red Sox fan, I couldn't help but smile after the Yankees fell to the Cleveland Indians today in the Bronx, ending their season.

As a baseball fan I couldn't help but feel sorry for Joe Torre, one of the game's best managers, ever, as he seemingly finished his career in New York with a walk to the dugout, head down, as the Bronx faithful gave him a final cheer.

Torre has not lived up to the Boss' expectations the past few years and while he has been able to scrape by the past few years without that elusive fifth World Series ring, this year seems to be his last.

Loyal players like Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter stuck up for their manager, a player favorite, but it probably won't be enough to save him, as The Boss wants one thing: rings.

As I watch Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS (yes I own the DVD set with all the ALCS and World Series games from that year) I remember how close it came to the end of Torre in New York as he helped the Yankees become the first baseball team ever to blow a 3-0 series lead. He survived that set-back but won't survive this one.

Steinbrenner said Torre was managing for his career in New York and with the loss, it appears that he will be out of a job.

Joe Girardi, Don Mattingly and maybe even Tony LaRussa will be the top candidates to replace Torre, though I think it is Girardi's job if he wants it and he should take it.

Girardi reminds me of a young Torre, a good player who will be an even better manager, liked by fans and players.

Mattingly should stay in the Yankees organization, helping Joe G replace Joe T, but he may be able to pick up a managerial job of his own somewhere else.

With LaRussa out of St. Louis, I can see Torre spending a few more years in baseball their, in a huge baseball town with appreciative fans, where he once played. He can retire there with less pressure and finish his career on a good note, maybe even leading the Cardinals to another World Series victory.

Meanwhile I can see LaRussa heading up to Seattle to join Walt Jocketty as the two of them continue their dominance as great baseball minds, using Ichiro Suzuki and the rest to take over the AL West from the Angels, who desperately need a power hitter or two, as proved by the loss to the Red Sox, where their offense looked very over-matched.

As for Alex Rodriguez, I think it is time for him to get out of the Bronx and I think he feels the same way, even if he didn't say it. He will never be a "True Yankee" after never winning a World Series ring, and I don't think he ever will be.

A-Rod can't seem to take the pressure and I think he will opt out. He put that clause in for a reason and without the Rangers picking up his contract, Yanks GM Brian Cashman said they wouldn't go after him.

My prediction is this: The Red Sox will trade Manny Ramirez for a third starter, sending him to somewhere like the Chicago White Sox for Jon Garland or Javier Vazquez or to the Angels for Kelvim Escobar or Ervin Santana or even to the Dodgers to bring back Derek Lowe or for someone like Chad Billingsley (if the Dodgers would trade Billingsley, it would be worth Manny and a prospect, like Craig Hansen).

Mike Lowell will leave the Sox to free agency to go back to the NL to finish his career, and Curt Schilling will leave as well, heading somewhere like Arizona to serve as a Number Two starter in an easier league. With Ramirez, Lowell, and Schill gone, the Sox can afford to spend a lot of money on A-Rod and add him to the lineup.

The Sox will have Beckett, Matzusaka, Garland/Vazquez/Escobar/Santana/Lowe/Billingsley/???, Wakefield, and Lester/Buchholz in the rotation and a 3-4-5 of Ortiz, Rodriguez, and Drew (who can hopefully step-up) and Jacoby Ellsbury starting in leftfield as the replacement lead-off hitter for Johnny Damon they hoped to find in Coco Crisp, who will be a great number nine hitter.

The Sox are already a World Series contender and should win this year, but this off-season they will still be very active, finally ridding themselves of the headache (but great hitter) that Ramirez is, adding an all-time great (maybe the best ever) in A-Rod, and adding a third starter they will need to replace Schilling. Schilling cannot pitch three more years in Boston, but if they win the World Series this year, he could do that somewhere else and earn a Hall of Fame plaque. The Sox need to make room for Ellsbury, a budding superstar, and also for Buchholz, a future Cy Young winner. The future is bright this yea and in the future for the Sox.

No matter what, it should be an interesting off-season, but first comes a couple great Championship Series.

Go Sox! Go D-Backs! I predicted it on WVOF, now its time for it to happen.