What a wild and crazy night it was. Heading into the final day of the 2011 MLB season, four teams were tied for the final two playoff spots. The National League Wild Card race came down to a contentious battle between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals, while the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays slugged it out for the coveted American League Wild Card spot. Within a span of two hours, two teams were knocked out of the MLB playoff race and two were getting ready for October baseball.
Amazingly enough, the Atlanta Braves began September with a firm 8.5 game lead in the Wild Card standings against the St. Louis Cardinals however, injuries and poor starting pitcher performance proved to be their downfall. Their comfy lead all but disappeared and they were tied for the Wild Card spot with the Cardinals heading into the final game of the season. St. Louis played their last game earlier in the day and dropped a final notch in the W column with a victory over the Houston Astros. From there all the Cards could do was wait to see if the Braves could top the Phillies and force a one game playoff but as midnight approached on the East Coast, the Braves couldn’t hold their ground and fell to the Philadelphia Phillies, thus ensuring a final playoff spot for the Cardinals.
Like the Braves, the Boston Red Sox sat atop a nice lead in the American League East. At the beginning of September, the Bo Sox looked down at both the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, and even held a comfortable 9 game lead over the third place Rays. Boston’s comfortable lead dwindled and they soon found themselves tied for the final playoff spot at the last regular game of the season. Unfortunately, the Red Sox came up short against the Baltimore Orioles. Meanwhile, down 7-0, the Rays staged an epic comeback against the New York Yankees to win thus securing the Rays the final playoff spot.
In terms of tension and fun, you could not have asked for a better day of baseball and an exhilarating end-of-season run. With four teams tied for two playoff spots heading into the final day of the season, September 28 will go down as an epic day in sports history.
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Well, our projected speed for churning these previews out has slowed to a Bengie Molina on the basepaths like pace. But we’ll see if a preview of the Diamondbacks cant get us back on…track. Lots of “acks” in there.
The Arizona Diamonbacks originated in 1998. They promptly came out of the gate and were World Series Champions by their 3rd year. Seems fitting. The Diamondbacks and Marlins have both won World Series titles while pitiable franchises like the Cubs haven’t so much as sniffed a World Series appearance in decades. Even the Rays and Rockies have been to the Series in the last few years. Doesn’t seem right.
On a side note, why do these expansion teams always pick the worst names? The Nashville Predators? The Toronto Raptors? I guess fans of Arnold and/or Jurrasic Park were clamoring for sports franchises to cross over to? At least the Diamondbacks took the normal route of selecting a local animal to represent themselves with, but a poisonous snake?
Hey Kids! Come on out to the ballpark and win a chance to pet Diamondback mascot Freddy the Rattlesnake! Don’t worry Mom and Dad, he’s been de-fanged!
(In a brilliant marketing move, the Diamondbacks have selected this to be their actual mascot)
Anyways, terrible name. Snakes are dangerous and children should fear them at all costs.
These Diamondbacks though, let’s see how much fear they’ll inspire in the rest of the National League in 2010.
Honestly, I really want to dislike this team. I don’t know why. Call it latent snake hatred if you want, but just from their lineup and first three starters, they’ve got a good chance to compete in the NL West. Picking up LaRoche and Johnson in the offseason on reasonable deals (4.5M and 2.3M respectively) were quiet but smart value moves as both should see improvemed hitting in Arizona.
Mark Reynolds was a player that won a lot of league titles for fantasy owners last season. The only player in the league to hit 40 HR, 100 RBI and 20 SB, Reynolds came out of Jack Cust like depths of the waiver pool and produced at an elite level. Justin Upton, on the other hand, had all the pedigree you could hope for, and actually delivered by hitting 26 HR to go with 20 SB. Upton is 20 years old or 17 or some ridiculous age that makes everyone salivate over his eventual ceiling. This isn’t the year he reaches it, but expecting him to increase 2009’s totals is a fairly easy thing to do.
The pitching staff might boast the best 3 pitchers on any team in the NL. Dan Haren is a perennial stud, posting back to back 200+ strikeout seasons, with an ERA in the low 3’s and a whip in the low 1’s. He’s good. Brandon Webb is coming back from shoulder problems last season, but was the NL Cy Young in 2006 and runner up in 2007 and 2008. If he’s healthy again, there is no reason to expect different from him. Edwin Jackson was picked up in the Max Scherzer trade, and Arizona can expect the young hurler to see improved numbers in an inferior league.
Chad Qualls is their closer. His last name begins with the letter “Q” which is unusual, I think.
The Diamondbacks will be overlooked in the NL this year due to their poor showing last season and because all people fear and hate snakes. But if healthy, they’re a team that you probably wouldn’t want to face in the playoffs simply because of the top of their pitching rotation and a couple of big power hitters. People may scoff at “playoffs” and “Diamondbacks” in the same sentence, but that’s a difficult division out there and the winner could come out with 88 wins or so.
Team MVP – Webb…if he’s healthy this team has a shot at the playoffs
X- Factor – Snakes across the great State of Arizona will gather and prepare for a massive first strike campaign against the people of that state. Act accordingly.
Standings – 2nd Place NL West (potential Wild Card winner)
Here’s another post from newly minted writer Brent. His sports knowledge is vastly impressive and to be frank, a little worrisome. Below you’ll find a reference to Bo Jackson, someone named Charlie something and a Techmo Super Bowl video among other items. It’s quite the creation. We’ll try to get both new guys set up with accounts this week and cut out this bloviating middleman…
My fellow copywriter Ariel is giving you a taste of what you’ll see in the playoffs this fall, but there is a lot you won’t see again until Spring Training.
I love Spring Training. I love that it gives every team a brand new start so they can suck and fall well short of expectations (New York Mets, Chicago Cubs), be awesome (Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees), or just experience more fledgling mediocrity (Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays). But for me, it doesn’t get much better than post-season baseball. I’m a Minnesota Twins fan and while the Twins haven’t had much success in October in the last decade, they have at least been in the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons, including a Game 163 in 2008 that they lost to the Chicago White Sox. John Danks shut the Twins out in that game but could not deliver the same result in his regular season finale this year against the Detroit Tigers when he walked three in the first inning, including one with the bases loaded. Now the Twins and Tigers will square off in Game 163. 2009 is the third season in a row to require a 163rd game. Two years ago the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 9-8 in 13 innings.
But there are guys who had phenomenal seasons who won’t see stadium lights after October 4th. Zack Greinke led the majors in ERA at 2.16, led the AL in WHIP at 1.07 and finished 3rd in strikeouts in all of baseball. And he won 16 games on a team that won 65 all season.
Albert Pujols got all the press this year in the NL, but what about Prince Fielder’s monster season? Prince set a Brewer record for RBI’s at 141, he hit 46 home runs, behind only 47 by Albert Pujols, and he hit .299 with an on-base percentage of .412.
Roy Halladay’s reputation speaks for itself and because Toronto couldn’t get a deadline deal worked out (other than sending Alex Rios to the Chicago White Sox), he too will miss the playoffs, just as he has in every season of his career. The Toronto Blue Jays haven’t seen the post-season since they won back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993. Remember Joe Carter jumping around first base? That team also had Minnesota natives Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and former Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball stand out Dave Winfield (yes, basketball, he was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings without ever having played a down of football in his life) on the roster.
Two Sports Ramblings
In 1990, the San Diego Padres traded Carter and Robbie Alomar to the Blue Jays for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. In 1993 Carter, Alomar, and Fernandez all won a championship together in Toronto.
Fernandez went from the Pads to the Mets in 1992 in a deal involving former outfielder/running back D.J. Dozier and then the Mets traded Fernandez back to the Blue Jays in June of 1993. The Padres received McGriff, Dozier, and Wally Whitehurst in exchange for a World Series… (more or less, I’m blowing it out of proportion. But I can’t help but be reminded of when the Vikings traded for now MMA fighter Herschel Walker and gave the Cowboys a dynasty. I think Hershal Walker also tried out to be an Olympic bobsledder at some point, too. He dabbles.).
Our old friend Charlie Leibrandt from a few paragraphs ago played with a couple of two-sport athletes. He was a teammate of Bo Jackson on the Royals, who of course was an Oakland Raider and legendary Tecmo Super Bowl player.
Besides getting ready to vacation in warm climates, what else do these guys have in common with Greinke, Fielder, and Halladay? In the next few years, they’ll each probably receive ginormous contract offers from teams you will see in the playoffs this year: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and The Los Angeles, California Angels of Aneheim, USA. Or other big market teams, like the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox.
Small market teams find it difficult to hold on to their best young talent, even through the players’ arbitration years, after all, Ryan Howard was awarded $10 million in arbitration after striking out 199 times. I wonder what Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks will get after striking out over 400 times over the last two seasons?
There are pitfalls to rooting for both small market and big market teams, however. Small market teams, like my Twins, have to wave good-bye to guys like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter because they cannot afford to keep them. The Tampa Bay Rays will find out the same thing when they try to hold on to Carl Crawford and others. The Florida Marlins know this reality well and will face it again when it comes time to pay Josh Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Ramirez.
Big market teams throw money at players like they are Pacman Jones making it rain. But that comes with great risk sometimes, too. San Francisco gave Barry Zito $126 million over seven years and they got a #3 starter at best. The Cubs are locked in to Alfonso Soriano for more than any club would like to be. Mike Hampton signed a monster deal once upon a time and then spent much of that time on the DL. The same can be said about Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt and others.
Things you should know that have happened sort of under-the-radar and may be of help to you in future fantasy drafts or baseball nerd conversations:
Jair Jurrjens had a 2.61 ERA for the Braves this year, good for 6th best in baseball.
The New York Mets hit 95 homers as a team, last in the league and 149 behind the league leading New York Yankess. The Mets could combine home run totals with seven other teams and still have fewer than the Yankees did. Handfuls of players could combine their home run totals to have the greater than sign in their favor when compared with the Mets.
Fielder, Braun, and Mike Cameron > 2009 Mets.
Mauer, Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer > 2009 Mets.
The second baseman of the AL East* > 2009 Mets.
Pujols, Fielder, and Carlos Zambrano > 2009 Mets.
SuperClips is not only a great name for yet another discount hair salon, but also a weekly feature of news from around the sports world.
Favre Feeds Lions—In a classic demonstration of penetrating investigative journalism, it’s been revealed that Brett Favre had a conversation that lasted between 18 and 22 minutes with former Detroit Lions GM and perennial draft bungler Matt Millen. Reports note that Favre was giving the Lions inside information regarding his former team, the Green Bay Packers. Tapes show that the phone call went like this…
Too cheesy? Other possible titles included Philled with a Ray of Hope, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia…and Tampa and finally,The 2008 World Series—Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay…Seriously.
So the wait is over. One of these two teams will be champion for the next six months. If someone told me that they predicted a Philly/Tampa World Series at the beginning of the postseason let alone the beginning of the year, I would tell them to hold on a second because Vince, Ari and the boys are coming to pick me up and I’ll listen to the rest of that story when I get back from La-La land. It’s crazy talk.
But here we are anyways. The networks may not love this matchup. Vegas may not love this matchup. Every single one of my friends may not love this matchup. But this is a matchup of the best two teams over the last couple months of the baseball season. Both teams have shown an amazing amount of heart.
Like Uma Thurman, left for dead and buried in Kill Bill, the Boston Red Sox were done. The coffin lid was shut. The fork had been stuck. Grandpa had blown out the birthday candles. They were on life support, surrounded by their family and just when the doctor walks in to pull the plug, Papi snaps up and says, “Whatchu doing doc?”
The Red Sox pulled off an improbable, impossible, unbelievable comeback last night against the Tampa Bay Rays. 7-0 in the 7th until homers by David Ortiz, J.D. Drew and timely hits by Dustin Pedroia and Coco Crisp propelled the defending champs back to life. But was it so impossible, so improbable? Haven’t we seen these Sox spin this tale before?
In 2004, they came back against their bitter, century-old enemies to win their first World Series in 86 years. Last year, they flipped the switch in game 5 to defeat the Cleveland Indians and again won the Fall Classic.
Is this The Return of the Jedi for this Red Sox Trilogy? Will the Sox somehow, someway pull another storybook comeback out and win the pennant? Will the real Josh Beckett please stand up in game 6? Can Terry Francona break his own personal record for consecutive innings of enjoying a dugout snack? These and other monumental questions will be answered in game six on Saturday night. Don’t miss it, and tell us your thoughts about the ALCS, the NLCS or any other 4 letter, family-friendly acronym you’d like to discuss.