Tag Archive | "Baseball"

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Spring training swells hopes once again

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Paul Nadolski

The baseball season is closely approaching and that means excitement fills the air for all 30 teams, unless you are the Pirates, who have not had a winning record since 1992.

Even so, at the start of spring training, all things are equal. Many questions are left unanswered, and there is not a team that does not have a hole somewhere. With that said, there were some teams that had a really good off-season, and others that did not.

The big winners this year were the New York Yankees. Who would have guessed that the rich get richer, but in actuality, they did lower their payroll.

The Yankees were able to lose Jason Giambi’s enormous contract along with Bobby Abreu’s and Mike Mussina’s. They re-signed Andy Pettitte back into the rotation, but at a reduced price, and added A.J. Burnett and Cy Young award winner CC Sabathia to front it. Their rotation is now Sabathia, Burnett, Chin-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain. Pretty impressive.

Then just add in the fact that they signed Mark Teixeira, one of the best all around players in the game, to man first base, and the Yankees are looking good. I am not naming them champs, but they had a very successful off-season.

With that said, lets take a look at who is going to win their divisions this season. I will start out with the American League.

In the East I am actually going to pick the Boston Red Sox over the Yankees, because of how Sabathia pitched in the AL last year, Burnett’s health history, Chamberlain is still an unknown and Pettitte is old.

The Red Sox have a peripheral of starting pitchers that includes Josh Beckett, Dice-K, Jon Lester, Brad Penny, John Smoltz, Tim Wakefield and more. That is what I call depth, and their lineup is pretty good too.

The Tampa Bay Rays will be good again, but a repeat of what they did last year might be asking for too much.

In the Central, I will go against my gut and pick the Cleveland Indians. They are the only team that has really improved in that division over the off-season. They addressed their biggest off-season need by getting closer Kerry Wood and set-up man Joe Smith. The bullpen was horrible for the Indians last year, but there was not a better team in the second half last season and now their bullpen should be solid.

The Chicago White Sox made a few moves, but they were for future seasons and not for this one. The Minnesota Twins are staying relatively stable.

Now for the West. I cannot bring myself to vote against the Los Angeles Angels, so I am picking them. The Oakland Athletics are still an unknown, especially with so much youth, but they could be a factor. I do not see the Seattle Mariners improving and the Texas Rangers still need a few more pitchers, but they are improved.
The Angels pitcher John Lackey will be a big plus, as he will actually pitch a full season. The bullpen took a hit losing Francisco Rodriguez, but they did get two-time All Star Brian Fuentes as a replacement. And I just cannot pick against the Angels while they have Vladimir Guerrero.

For the Wild Card, I am going with the defending AL champs and taking the Rays. They have a solid rotation and a good lineup. The bullpen is good, it still needs one more arm, but it is serviceable to win games. After seeing this team play last year, they are for real. They are not the rookies from two seasons ago.
The National League is a little more up in the air than the American League.

In the NL East I see the Philadelphia Phillies getting a third win in a row, but still needing 11 more after that to tie the Atlanta Braves. The New York Mets starting pitching is not intimidating and the Braves lineup could be inept. The Florida Marlins could make a run, as they have talent and a good manager, but I doubt they can pull off winning the division.

The Phillies have decent starting pitching, a decent bullpen and a killer lineup. That should be enough for them to win it. It was last year, and they now have a better rotation and lineup than they did 365 days ago. There is that small fact that they did win a World Series last year.

In the Central I see the Chicago Cubs taking the division. They have a good rotation that is fronted by Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden gives them a nice one-two punch. If they can keep Harden relatively healthy, they should be fine. The lineup, as it has been the past few years, is a potent one.

The St. Louis Cardinals have too many questions with their pitching and the Milwaukee Brewers lost Sabathia and Ben Sheets and replaced them with Braden Looper. Yovani Gallardo is back from injury, but that will not be enough for the Brewers. The Houston Astros do not have the pitching and the Pittsburgh Pirates are the Pirates.
The West is a bit tricky. If the Los Angeles Dodgers re-sign Manny Ramirez, then I choose them to win the division. If the New York Giants sign him, then I pick the Giants. If neither team signs him, then I choose the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I know none of you want to hear that, so I will just hope Manny re-signs with the Dodgers and pick them. The Diamondbacks have great pitching but not enough hitting. The Giants have young pitching, and that is premium but they too need offense. The Dodgers are in the same boat, and if they get Manny, they have offense.
The NL wild card is a tough decision. I am pretty certain that the team will come from the NL East, but it is a tough call between the Mets and the Braves. The Mets have a spectacular bullpen and a good lineup with weak starting pitching. The Braves have a good rotation and a potentially very good bullpen with a weak lineup.
I am going to pick the Braves for two reasons. First, I cannot in good faith pick the Mets. Secondly I do believe that the Braves will acquire a power hitting left fielder to fill the gap in the lineup and that will put them over the Mets. If Tim Hudson can come back in August, and the Braves are in it, a one-two punch of Hudson and Derek Lowe is pretty good.

Well, there they are, your 2009 division champs. Go place your bets in Las Vegas and use this as a guide. No guarantees though. If I could guarantee, why watch the season?

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Hometown baseball season is not finished

Posted on 09 October 2008 by Monica Stout

With the Brewers out of the playoffs, baseball in the city of Milwaukee may seem obsolete until next season. But for all baseball fans who want to go to a game instead of sit and watch it on the television, there is still one option open: Marquette Club Baseball.

Most Saturdays and Sundays from September through October, the MU Club Baseball team can be found at Harden Field, 3717 W. Howard Ave, just beyond Leon’s Frozen Custard Drive-In and St. Luke’s Hospital on the south side of Milwaukee.

These games are not just guys messing around on a baseball diamond. The talent and level of play on the field is on par with a NCAA Division III baseball team, as evidenced by MU Club Baseball’s recent win over Milwaukee Area Technical College, which is a Division III team.

“Almost everyone on the team could have played collegiate baseball at the Division III or Division II level,” said Tim Pauly, a junior on the team.
With a record of 8-4, there have been quite a few exciting moments already this season.

“Our team beat UW-Madison twice this September. Anthony Gattuso, team president, told us he has never beat Madison since joining the club team his freshman year. So, to beat a team that has had the upper hand over the years was a great accomplishment,” said Matthew Walters, a sophomore pitcher for the team.

“We beat Division III MATC two times and we have beaten conference powers Madison and UW-Milwaukee two times each also. All these wins were a result of excellent defense and fantastic pitching performances with a little clutch hitting sprinkled in there,” said Gattuso, the team manager and president.

These great moments on the diamond can be attributed to practice and good coaching. Practices usually run one to two hours, four times per week. Gattuso has his players “practice hard on doing the little things right.”

“I just try to help them be their best,” he said.

The guys on the team not only work hard during practice and games; they show how much they love the sport by covering the costs of travel, uniforms and equipment themselves. Marquette University only provides some funding for league fees, and allows the team to use the Helfaer Recreational Center and Valley Fields for practice.

“The university does help out, but the expenses of a club team are far more than what the university provides. When you see a club athlete participating, it’s because of the love of the game,” Walters said.

TJ Petullo, a junior on the team, describes how much he loves the game: “There are three things in my life which I truly love: God, my family and baseball. The only problem is, once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.

Despite the action, achievement and dedication that the MU Club Baseball team has put forth this year, the team still has trouble attracting fans to their games. Possible reasons for this range from the remote location of home games from campus and that most Marquette students do not even know that a Marquette baseball team exists.

Going to the home games at Harden Field may be a bit of a drive, but if a custard stop at Leon’s is made beforehand, it might just be worth it. And if enough people start coming, the baseball games could be moved to Valley Fields, where more Marquette students would be able to enjoy them.

“It’s fun to watch college athletes play baseball at a relatively high level,” said Jeff Parker, a sophomore first baseman on the team.

MU Club Baseball’s next home game is Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. against University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. If going home is not an option for fall break, maybe seeing a game at Harden Field will be.

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Unexpected playoff victories lead to unusual teams in line for the World Series

Posted on 09 October 2008 by Paul Nadolski

Postseason baseball is back, and with some new faces. The Tampa Bay Rays have made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Not only that, this was the first time that the team ever had a winning record. No expert picked the Rays to make the playoffs at the beginning of the season but they did, and now after beating the White Sox, they are in the ALCS.
After years of having the first pick in the draft the team has more than enough talent to last for years. The big reason for the turn around, though, has to go to Joe Maddon the manager of the team. He has transformed the psyche of the team.

At the beginning of the season he came up with a slogan to help the team go from a losing atmosphere to a winning one. The slogan was 9 = 8. He was saying that if all nine men play hard and do their part they will be one of the eight teams to make the playoffs.

He even made shirts for the whole team. The team bought into the slogan and now they have made the playoffs.

In the National League the Cubs lost to the Dodgers in 3 games and the Brewers lost to the Phillies in 4 games.

This will be an interesting match up. It took a while, but these two teams have finally won a playoff series. This is the first series victory for the Phillies since 1993 and the first playoff series victory for the Dodgers since winning the 1988 World Series.

The “fightin’” Phillies have one of the best lineups in baseball, but the Dodgers have a very solid rotation. I wouldn’t be surprised with either team winning, but I am going to go with the Dodgers. They have much better pitching and having Manny Ramirez in the middle of the lineup makes them very dangerous. Just ask the Cubs about how good Manny is in the postseason.

This has been a crazy baseball season so far. Just talking about Tampa Bay in the postseason seems almost funny, but they made it. The rest of the postseason should be full of exciting moments. So let’s just sit back, relax, and watch some playoff baseball.

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Baseball: An American love affair

Posted on 02 April 2008 by Robert Fafinski

From my earliest memories of being with my parents and listing off the starting lineup for the 1987 World Champion Minnesota Twins, I have been a full-fledged member of America’s love affair with baseball. But how is it that this seemingly boring game captures the imaginations of millions, enthralling them for months at a time?

In an era of flashy talents like LeBron James and inhuman 350 pound offensive linemen, what is it that we love so much about a sport in which a pitcher can throw a perfect game while “half-drunk,” as David Wells claims he did against my beloved Minnesota Twins?

First, the intricate nature of the game. To the casual fan, as Tim Robbins’ character in “Bull Durham” said, “[Baseball] is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball.” But things like shading the fielders, wasting an 0-2 pitch, moving the runner over, bringing a lefty in to face a lefty, watching a pitcher save a run by backing up home or actually seeing a suicide squeeze live are all lost on the non-discerning fan.

This is why baseball may be the one sport you have to have played to truly understand it. The intricacies involved are such that the casual fan – who’s used to the constant excitement of football, basketball and hockey – finds it boring. The rules of baseball can be learned by some, but for the rest of us who’ve played, we know it’s tough to explain that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach the moment you realize you’ve been picked-off or the beauty in a sacrifice bunt.

And second: the memories we associate with it… Being a Twins and Cubs fan (go ahead and hate me doubly White Sox fans), my memories of baseball almost always include my dad. He took me on long road trips in which we’d drive to Chicago to watch a Cubs series at Wrigley and then catch a Twins-Brewers series at Milwaukee County Stadium. While at one Cubs game, we stumbled across Harry Carey, cocktail in hand, hours before first pitch. He signed a Budweiser advertisement I had.

And, in perhaps the favorite memory I have of my childhood, I watched at home as the late Kirby Puckett hit a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 11th inning in game 6 of the 1991 World Series, forcing a game 7 and leading to Jack Buck’s famous call, “And we’ll see you, tomorrow night!”

The next night, I did see them. My parents had three tickets to game 7 and brought me along. And at game 7, while waving my “Homer Hanky,” I saw the most dominating sports performance I ever have. Jack Morris pitched 10 innings of shutout baseball, repeatedly telling manager Tom Kelly he wouldn’t leave the game. The Twins won 1-0 in the 10th inning on a walk-off hit. Greatest World Series ever.

So what is it about baseball? I think America’s love affair with baseball boils down the beauty of simplicity: sunflower seeds, double headers, the hanging curveball, Johan Santana’s change-up, suicide squeezes, tailgating, Wrigley Field, 162 game season, switch hitters, the seventh inning stretch, Joe Mauer, playing catch with dad in the parking lot before the game, the wildcard, on base percentage, dugouts, infield chatter, the hot corner, pepper, Texas-leaguer singles, rosin bags, no-hitters, complete games, hit and runs, town ball, and strike-him-out-throw-him-outs. What’s more American than that?

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Playoffs? Where the MLB season went so wrong

Posted on 08 November 2007 by Trevor Kapp

In my debut column a few weeks ago, I predicted we were in for a spectacular baseball postseason. Four weeks later, a few days after the final out of the season has been recorded, I can say that I could not have been more wrong.

This was the worst first round since baseball added the Wildcard in 1995. Out of the four series, three of them were sweeps and the other went a measly four games. Poor starting pitching, even worse relief and an inability to move runners over were major themes for those teams who began their winter vacations early.

The Philadelphia Phillies, who had all the momentum in the world coming in and were picked by ESPN analysts Eric Young and Tim Kirkjian to make it to the World Series, were knocked out almost as soon as they started. Colorado’s starting pitching limited the Phillies triumvirate of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to just seven hits on 32 at bats during the series, leaving the always vocal Philadelphia fans speechless.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim also had a tremendously disappointing postseason, manufacturing a mere four runs in three games. What was thought to be a high-powered offense, combining speed and the ability to hit the long ball, was shut down by veteran starting pitching from the Boston Red Sox.

The Chicago Cubs looked like the Cubs of May when the Arizona Diamondbacks eliminated them. The big three of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez manufactured only six hits in 36 at bats.

Last but not least were my beloved New York Yankees. Twenty-two-year-old rookie phenom Joba Chamberlain, who only allowed one earned run in 24 innings of work during the regular season, allowed two in just three and two-thirds innings in the postseason. Nineteen game winner Chien-Ming Wang, who had a 3.70 ERA in the regular season, had a whopping 19.06 ERA in his two starts. Finally, “Mr. Postseason” himself, Derek Jeter, had just three hits in the four game series, grounding into three double plays in the process.

While the American League Championship Series did go to a game seven, it was a series full of tremendously disappointing starting pitching for the Cleveland Indians. Nineteen game winner C.C. Sabathia had a 10.45 ERA in two starts. Fausto Carmona, who threw nine-innings of three hit ball against the Yankees allowed 11 earned runs in just six innings in two starts in the Championship Series. If this was not bad enough, the other series was even worse. The Colorado Rockies made quick work of the Arizona Diamondbacks, eliminating them in four games, advancing to the first World Series in franchise history.

Going into the World Series, it seemed as if the Colorado Rockies were unstoppable. They had won 21 of their last 22 games, winning seven in a row in the postseason. I guess Boston hadn’t received the news. They put up 29 runs in the four games, while holding Colorado to only 10. As much as it pains this Yankees fan to say it, the curse is over in Boston.

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Who benefits from the rain delay?

Posted on 26 October 2006 by Justin Phillips

Last night’s game 4 of the World Series was rained out and the early indications appear that the Cardinals benefit the most from this.
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