Big weekend in sports coming up. NLCS, ALCS, NFL, College Football, BCS implications, Rivalries, Cross-town Rival High School Games (somewhere probably), tailgating, etc. Lot of action. Lot. Of. Action.
Did you know Kate Hudson’s dad, Kurt Russell, was a pretty good minor league baseball player before blowing apart his shoulder and returning to his acting career?
So that’s baseball. It’s also a huge weekend in the NFL.
Spotlight on New Orleans where the undefeated Saints play the undefeated New York Giants. It bothers me when radio and TV people say it’s going to be Drew Brees versus Eli Manning. It’s not. Brees and Manning will never be on the field at the same time until they do a man hug at the end of the game.
In the college game this weekend USC travels to South Bend to play Notre Dame. Jimmy Clausen and Matt Barkley are another QB vs QB favorite match-up for the guys in the studios. So is Sam Bradford vs Colt McCoy when the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns go at in the Red River Rivalry. Those two teams love each other.
Boise State already narrowly survived Tulsa and Cincinnati took care of South Florida to keep the hopes of BCS haters alive that someone outside of the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC, Big 12, or ACC will make a run at the Championship Game.
Tim Tebow is probably receiving accolades somewhere, too.
It is a big weekend for sports. October is a terrible month for marriages and TV remote control control. This is my first October as a married guy. I think it will be important to set a precedent for future years that the MLB playoffs and the NFL and big college football games will be watched. So when I lose this battle, somebody please be prepared to link me to some highlights and provide detailed and accurate recaps.
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 youāll see in the playoffs this fall, but there is a lot you wonāt 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 doesnāt get much better than post-season baseball. Iām a Minnesota Twins fan and while the Twins havenāt 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 wonāt 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’smonster season? Prince set a Brewer record for RBIās 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 Halladayās reputation speaks for itself and because Toronto couldnāt 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 havenāt 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.
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 Seriesā¦ (more or less, Iām blowing it out of proportion. But I canāt 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, theyāll 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 playersā 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.
The MLB All-Star Game swept through St. Louis last night and all things considered it was a fun event. I bet a co-worker a Twix from the vending machine (that’s how we roll) that the NL would finally get back in the win column after a 12 year absence from being considered a competitive opponent in the Mid Summer Classic. Carl Crawford made the catch and won MVP honors. Mariano closed out another All Star Game. And after all was said and done, I was the loser of one candy bar and the World Series will begin in the American League ballpark again this year. Before I get on a long-winded rant about the absurdity of awarding something as meaningful as home field advantage in baseballās CROWNING CHAMPIONSHIP to an exhibition fantasy team that is an All Star roster, letās just politely move on to this weekās topicā¦
The All Star Rosters were selected by the fans, the managers filled out the rest of the roster, and predictably, there were a number of outcries to be heard about who was left off the roster, who didnāt belong in the first place, and the necessity for the Washington Nationals to even field a player in the game at all. Sorry, Nats fans, but itās a fair complaint. Until Steven Strasburg gets here that is. Any Nationals fan not aware of this young gentleman, should take a gander at this game. That’s right. 1 game. 23 strikeouts.
So, in the spirit of argument, letās take a look not at an All-Star Team exactly, but an All Position Team if you will. Combining the best of both teams, Iāve selected which active player is best at his position. Taking into consideration hitting, fielding and base running, your 2009 All Position Team is as follows. Get your seeing-eye glasses out for this one folks, itās a doozy.
Catcher: Joe Mauer. Mauer plays the most physically punishing position on the field, and at 6ā5 itās sort of ridiculous that he has to squat down behind the plate every game for the Twins. Heās well renowned as an incredible athlete, so perhaps one day heāll slide over to first base to finish out his career. This year, after missing time with a non-baseball lower back injury, Mauer made up for lost time by hitting .373 with 15 HRs and 49 RBIs. His career high for homers was 13 in 2006. It sort of makes you wonder if that surgery was performed by the same doctors that worked on the 6 Million Dollar Man.
First Base: Albert Pujols. To me he is simply Albert. There have been other Alberts (Einstein had a nice run, Fat Albert was okay) but Albert Pujols will likely go down as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history by the time it is all said and done. He hits for power, he hits for average, heās nearly impossible to strikeout, heās clutch, he plays an amazing first baseā¦the list goes on and on. He really does everything you could ask a player to do, and is generally one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball. This year, he rolled out of bed in April and decided he would attempt to accomplish his greatest statistical season yet. Heās hitting .332 with 32 HRs and 87 RBIs. Today is July 15th. In 2008, he hit 37 HRs and had 117 RBI and won the MVP so I donāt know what 3 letter anagram they can award him this year if he keeps this up. Just silly, silly numbers.
Second Base: Chase Utley. Thereās no way Iāll be able to hide my bias here, Chase is by far and away my favorite player in the game today because he plays like his shoes are on fire. Whether heās beating out an infield single, or barreling over a division opponentās catcher at the plate, heās always going 110 miles an hour. With his combination of power, speed, defense and leadership; he is exactly the kind of player Phillies fans go crazy for. If anybody can set up a candlelight dinner for Chase and me, that would be swell.
Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez. If Ramirez played for a New York, Boston or Los Angeles team, he would be the most popular player in baseball. He can do a little bit of everything. He has 30 homer pop, heās stolen 50 bases in a season, he plays the most demanding fielding position and heās only getting better. Florida was wise to sign him to a long term contract, after acquiring him from Boston in the Josh Beckett trade and he should be the centerpiece that the Marlins will build around while their young pitching rotation develops over the next few seasons. Also of note, my fourth grade teacher was named Ms. Hanley. But she couldnāt play ball like this guy.
Third Base: David Wright. Wright might just be the best all around third baseman in baseball. Once he figures out how to hit for power in that graveyard of a ballpark, heāll be back at the top of his game. Heās constantly seen on Web Gems, he regularly hits .300 with 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, and 20 or so stolen bases. He happens to play for the Mets, so for me, thatās about as far as I can go in terms of complimenting this amazing player. But Iām happy to provide this video as further proof. Do you have any idea how hard that would be to do?
Left Field: Ryan Braun. Following former greats like Al Rosen and Hank Greenberg, Braun has taken the nickname āThe Hebrew Hammerā to new heights. After the Brewers transitioned him from third base to left field, The Hammer has bashed his way to a Rookie of the Year Award, and added a Silver Slugger to his mantle last season. Heāll hit another 40 home runs this year because in the middle of a potent lineup that includes Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, itās not like you can exactly pitch around him.
Center Field: Torii Hunter. My favorite Torii Hunter moment ever came when he was playing against the White Sox one home game in Minnesota. Living in the Chicago area, Iāve grown up listening to White Sox broadcaster Hawk Harrelson calling games for the Good Guys for years and years. Hawk is a character, and to put it mildly, his calls of ācan of cornā āchopper two hopperā ādagnabbitā āsacks packed with soxā and other lovely colloquialisms can start to grind on the ears after a while. His most famous call comes on any White Sox home run. As the ball is heading out, he starts revving up his voice and just as the ball passes over the wall he cries, āYOU CAN PUT IT ON THE BOARRRRRRRRRRRRDā¦YES!ā Itās at once charming, and incredibly annoying. On this particular day, some White Sock (Sox? Socker? What is the singular of Sox?) letās say Paul Konerko, drove one to deep center. Hawk was ready to go. The sequence went as follows:
Hawk: That ball is deep, way back, YOU CAN PUT IT ON THE BOARRRRRRRRRDā¦
(Torii Hunter leaps up and makes an improbably difficult catch over the garbage bag wall in Minnesota)
Hawk: ā¦OHHHH NO! NO!
Best Hawk call of my life. Oh yeah, and Torii Hunter is great. Heās been a spectacular fielder since the day he stepped on a major league field. Now, entrenched as the Angels most reliable player, his hitting has developed to the point where he is a steady presence in the middle of the lineup, and from everything Iāve read about him, heās twice the person he is the ballplayer. So put one on the board for Toriiā¦yes.
Right Field: Ichiro. Ichiro is not really my kind of baseball player. His slap hitting style and the fact that heās already running out of the batterās box before the pitch gets to the plate just seems wrong to me, but his results are nothing short of incredible. Doubted throughout much of his professional baseball life in Japan and the US because of his small stature and unorthodox swing, Ichiro has proved he belongs in the Big Leagues with 4 seasons of .350 or higher averages, and stealing 30 or more bases in each of his 8 MLB seasons. Heās already got 1900+ hits and if he plays for 5 more years with the Mariners like he says he wants to, he could achieve the 3,000 hit milestone that so many players chase. The only difference is that heāll have done it starting at age 27 (after amassing 1200+ hits in his career in Japan) whereas most players start at 23 or 24.
Starting Pitcher: Tim Lincecum. Speaking of unorthodox, Lincecum is another player that looks a little different from what most people expect a Cy Young winner to look like. First of all, he stands at 6 foot whatever and 165 lbs, which is about right for an American 14 year old. Secondly, he contorts his body in the most bizarre way to ratchet the ball up to 97 mph with nasty movement. And thirdly, seriously, this guy looks like heās ready to compete in the X-games rather than take the mound and battle some of the strongest, fastest athletes in the world. But heās another player whoās results are tough to argue with. A Cy Young Award, a career 2.95 ERA, 35 wins and 564 strikeouts in just over two years of Major League service? If he stays on track, we could be talking about some pretty imposing numbers when we look back on his career as well as a pennant or two for the Giants.
Relief Pitcher: Mariano Rivera. Rivera will likely conclude his career as the consensus for greatest closer in the history of baseball. To be fair, weāve only counted Saves as a category since the 70ās and Rivera will probably not even hold the record for most saves in MLB history. But what he will have is the reputation as the most dominant post-season reliever ever. What is so remarkable is that he really only throws one pitch. His cut fastball is legendary. Everyone knows its coming. No one can hit it with much success. His 34 saves in 117 innings pitched with a record of 8-1 and an ERA of 0.77 will likely never be topped. He is a World Series MVP. Heās a 10 time All-Star. And if you picked out 10 people in a baseball stadium anywhere, (maybe not including Boston) and asked them if they could have one pitcher to close out a game for them, 9 people are choosing Mariano. The 10th guy will pick Rick āWild Thingā Vaughn. But the 10th guy will be wrong.
So there you have it. If youāve got ideas of your own, or want to tell me how wrong I am, do so in the comments section. The second half of baseball will be back in swing tomorrow, and before we know it the playoff battles will be upon us.