Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ho Hum. Playoffs Have Begun

Wow. For all the excitement generated in the anticipation, I'd have to say the first round of the playoffs spattered with disappointment.

Two of the games were determined by pitcher meltdowns that lasted less than three outs and the other fizzled, with the hometeam Yankees bowing down meekly in the bottom of the 9th in Yankee Stadium in a 1-2-3 inning.

Cards lead Series, 1-0

In St Louis, where Stan the Man threw out the first pitch, the Cardinals went to an early lead, aptly, on a solo shot by Albert Pujols. Larry Walker, 1 for 16 against Dodger's starter Odalis Perez, made it 2-0 in the bottom of the third. The Cardinals broadcasters tried their best to paint a picture for the listeners:

"Standing room only crowd on its feet, red and white flags everywhere..."

St Louis has been waiting half the season, about the time the NL Central was decided, for things to pick up again. Curtain calls for their heroes was the norm for the day. Five homeruns by the Cardinals tied the postseason record.

Odalis continued his meltdown in that third inning, and by the time he was finally done, the Cards were already ahead 6-0. As noted by Sports Amnesia yesterday, the Cards would have to win early because of the Dodgers amazing record in close and extra inning games, and they did.

This series gets a breather already and will be back on Thursday.

Boston leads series, 1-0

I switched off the Cardinals game with the outcome already well decided and nothing left but the crazy yarn spinning of the folksy Cardinal radio broadcasters. The Red Sox were opening at Anaheim. Unfortunately, my MLB.COM broadcast was only broadcasting from the Angel's flagship station, not the Red Sox, so between innings, I was forced to listen to garbled Spanish commercials and idiotic and deflating Angels commentary.

Like the Cards game, this one was over in one inning, the top of the 4th, when the Sox scored 7 runs, equaling their largest single-inning output ever in the postseason, to take a commanding 8-0 on the way to a convincing 9-3 drubbing. Good. I don't like the Angels and hope they get swept. Even if it is at the hands of the Whinge Nation.

Take note: Curt Schilling improved to 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA in postseason play.

Luckily for the Sox, the Angels aren't the Yankees. The Yankees of course, are the team Pedro muttered broken-heartedly, "I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.".

I can't help but wonder if this is the beginning of the end of Pedro. We'll get an indication tonight. Martinez lost his final four starts of the regular season but he's 9-1 lifetime against the Angels. If he doesn't sparkle and give the Sox a 2-0 lead going back to Boston, well, the postseason might be all but over for the Sox already. Beating the Angels is no big deal.

Let's sing it again in unison: Sports Amnesia hates the Angels!

Twins lead series, 1-0

Have to admit, this was the hardest series to predict. I did have the Twins figured as being up 2-0 going back to Minny originally but really, I cannot envision the Yankees losing two straight in Yankee Stadium. Well, I can envision it, hope for it, pray for it even, but I don't think it will happen.

A record setting five double plays saw the Twins through their first game in Yankee Stadium in a 2-0 victory over the Yankees but who, really, can be surprised when the hottest pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, was on the mound?

I look forward to any humiliation the Astros can pound home on the Atlanta Braves, even IF Roger Clemens is pitching - rooting for the Rocket, blech.

I look forward to seeing if Pedro continues his late season swan dive into mediocrity and gets shelled by the Angels.

I look forward to seeing if the Yankees bats will be as lifeless tonight as they were against Santana.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Post Season Here We Come!
"It has always been the prerogative of children and half-wits to point out that the emperor has no clothes. But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor." Neil Gaiman's Sandman


Braves-Astros: Three things jump out at one straight away: The Astros were baseball's hottest team since mid-August, going 36-10. The Astros one-two starting combination of Clemens & Oswalt went 38-14 with a 3.25, and lastly, the Astros have been knocked out of the postseason three times by the Braves, in '97, '99 and 2001. A few other fringe factors to consider: the last two champions have been wild card teams and the Braves have, ultimately, have disappointed in the post season. Since 2000, they've won 8 and lost 13 in the postseason and have been knocked out of the first round the last two times running. It would appear the writing on the wall couldn't be any clearer. Astros in four


Cardinals-Dodgers: How in the world did the Dodgers reach the postseason for the first time since 1996? You could point to a late July trade that saw the Dodgers send away their top set-up man (Guillermo Mota) and their most popular clubhouse guy and best catcher (Paul LoDuca) in return for a starting pitcher (Brad Penny) who has spent the majority of the second half on the disabled list, a Korean first baseman and a minor league pitcher. This isn't usually the type of trade the trigger is pulled on for a team that wants to make it to the postseason. But somehow, none of it seemed to matter. The Dodgers are put together by tape, string, determination and an inability to quit. They've got a good bullpen and good defence. Perhaps most indicative of their character however, is that the Dodgers are 13-4 in extra inning games, by far the best record in MLB. They are also 32-16 in one run games this season, the best in MLB. In other words, it's best to knock the Dodgers out early and keep them out. But they've had 53 come-from-behind wins and almost unbelievably, 26 of their comeback wins have come in the final at-bat. This is not a team of quitters.

In four previous trips to the postseason, LaRussa's alleged managerial mastery has not led them even as far as the World Series. In 1987, the Cardinals, pre-LaRussa, like this season, had the best record in the National League. They lost the World Series to the Twins. The question now is, will they make it as far again?

The one thing you might say the Cardinals have in their favour is that they appear to have the impression they aren't respected, despite having the best record in baseball. The Cubs, who didn't even MAKE the playoffs, certainly never respected them. The Astros, whom have beaten the Cards 10 of 18 head-to-head games, don't appear to respect them and it would appear that despite all their victories and their formidable batting lineup, it is still difficult to take the Cardinals seriously.

The Cards will have to knock the Dodgers out and knock them out fast, otherwise, they probably won't last. Interesting to note however that in August, the last times these two teams met, three in St Louis and three in LA, four of those six games were one-run games and the Cards took two of them. Look for alot of 7-6 and 8-7 games.

Cardinals in four



Angels-RedSox: Ah, what could be more exciting than the Whinge Nation versus the Rally Monkey? The number two payroll in baseball against the number three payroll in baseball? A team that hasn't won a World Series in 86 years and a team that hasn't won a World Series in uh, two years?

There is a bottom line to this series and that is one starting pitcher worth two victories, Curt Schilling. Yes, the Angels have Sports Amnesia's AL MVP in Vladimir Guerrero, yes the Angels have a formidable and fireballing bullpen led by Francisco Rodriguez, who has struck out 123 batters in 84 innings. Yes, the Angels have rid themselves of the team cancer that was Jose Guillen. But they also lost his bat, they also have an aging, ailing lineup behind Vlad and they also have little to no starting pitching to speak of. Two years ago, they were able to do it anyway, under similar circumstances but this time, the element of surprise is gone.

Red Sox in 4


Twins-Yankees: Only a year ago, the Twins and a pitcher named Johan Santana came into Yankee Stadium and shocked the Yankees by taking Game 1 from them. The Yankees then woke up and swept the next three to win the series.

The Twins are no longer wet behind the ears and the Yankees will no longer take the Twins lightly. Santana is the hottest pitcher in baseball but he will only be pitching two of the five games should this series go the distance.

One thing to remember when listening to the chest beating Bomber fans about the Yankees recent sweep of the Twins is that both Santana and Radke were limited to five inning outings since the Twins had already clinched their playoff spot. They won't be this time around.

The talk every postseason is legitimately about Mariano Rivera however, Twins closer Joe Nathan's ERA, WHIP, hits allowed and strikeouts this season were better than Rivera's. And there is nice righty-lefty combination to set him up. Lefty Juan Rincon has struck out 106 batters in 82.0 innings and righty J.C. Romero went 7-4 with 68 K's in 73.0 innings.

You can't discount Yankee bats, Yankee pride, and Yankee experience. They have homefield advantage and the best record in baseball at home.

This David and Goliath matchup could be a very tight and exciting series.

Yankees in five


Later predictions:

One way or another, Game One of the World Series will see Roger Clemens pitching against his former teammates.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Season Over, Bring On The Season

Full of surprises, the 2004 regular baseball season can finally be put to rest.

Congratulations over the last week of the season to Ichiro for smashing George Sisler's 84 year old record for most hits in a season, Larry Bowa for surviving well beyond his life expectancy as Phillies manager, beating the Mets as the most disappointing team in the NL East, AND to Cincinnati's Adam Dunn for shattering the season strikeout record and easing Barry Bonds' father off the top of the heap.

Some dishonourable mention goes to the KC Royals, who joined the 1985-87 Indians as the only teams to lose 100 games, have a winning season and then have another 100 loss season.


One thing we can say with a modicum of certainty after the past two seasons is that if you are a floundering NL team, be sure to fire your manager in mid season. That way, you too can make the playoffs as the NL Wildcard like the Astros this year and the Marlins the year before.

Since the 14th of August, Houston went into overdrive, going 36-10 for the best record in baseball during that time frame. Raise your hand if you had Phil Garner jotted down as your preseason manager of the year.



Now that the regular season has ended, Sports Amnesia can release it's awards for the season:

NL MVP goes to Barry Bonds - anyone who was walked 120 times intentionally by his opponents proves the fear he generates and the game-altering capability he has. Note also that without him, the Giants would have been nowhere near the NL Playoff chase at the end. Even if you point out his sole blemish was that fatigued by years' end, Bonds finished the season in a 2-for-16 slump. But perhaps even more fascinating was that at 40, he played in more games than did any of his teammates. Conversely, Adrian Beltre, everyone else's candidate for MVP, hit .185 over the last seven days of the playoff race with a homer and four RBIs in seven games. No one has a more profound effect on a team than Barry does.

AL MVP goes to Vladimir Guerrero - you can wonder all you want about where the Yankees would be without Sheffield, or the Sox without Manny but Guerrero made this team a contender with his signing in the offseason, yet another infamous Met non-signing. Both the Yankees and Sox have great lineups but let's see how formidable the Angels would be without Guerrero's bat. Chone Figgins? Darren Erstad? Jose Guillen? Not to mention that in crunch time, over the last seven days of the season Vlad went 14 for 25, hit 6 homers and knocked in 11 runs.

NL CY YOUNG: I've sided with the Randy Johnson argument for most of the season because the numbers (other than wins) have made his argument for him and I'm not going to back down from that now. A 16-14 record with a 2.60 ERA and 290 Ks versus a mere 66 walks is a pretty damned loud argument. The only NL pitcher with a good argument is Roger Clemens, who finished 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and a 218 Ks to 79 walks. Opponents hit .197 against Johnson, .217 against Clemens. Had Johnson pitched for a winning team, he'd have won 20 games, easily. The same can't be said of Clemens, who rarily pitches deep into a game anymore.

AL CY YOUNG: goes to Johan Santana. This is another two man race, between Santana and Curt Schilling but Santana has a better ERA, more Ks, a better K-BB ratio, and has pitched more innings while surrendering fewer hits.

NL Manager of the Year: goes to the Dodgers Jim Tracy. Tony LaRussa has managed a team which has had more players having career seasons than any other. Plus, how hard can it be with a lineup including three of the best hitters in baseball? Bobby Cox's Atlanta Braves surprised alot of people (although not Sports Amnesia, who picked the Braves to win the NL East in the preseason) but the reality is, the Braves are simply a better organisation, top to bottom than anyone else in the NL East. After they're knocked out in the first round this postseason, the calls for Manager of the Year should die with the Braves.

AL Manager of the Year: goes to Minnesota's Rod Gardenhire. The Twins continue to win despite a meagre $50 million payroll and whilst some of this is because of smart front office decisions, it matters what is done on the field and no AL manager has done more with less than Gardenhire.


NCAA Top Ten

After two week's absence, SA's NCAA Top Ten Poll returns with few alterations:

1. Oklahoma (4-0) defeated Texas Tech, 28-13.
2. Virginia (4-0) was idle.
3. USC (4-0) was idle.
4. Georgia (4-0) defeated LSU 45-16.
5. Miami (4-) defeated GA Tech, 27-3.
6. California (4-0) defeated Oregon State, 49-7.
7. Texas (4-0) defeated Baylor, 44-14.
8. Purdue (4-0) defeated Notre Dame, 41-16.
9. Minnesota (4-0) defeated Penn State, 16-7.
10. Wisconsin (5-0) defeated Illinois, 24-7.


Tomorrow: MLB playoff analysis.

Saturday, October 02, 2004


In the histories of failures, this has to rank high. The Cubs have not disappointed, they have commited a higher crime: FAILURE in the face of success.

The Cubs, unlike the Red Sox, aren't cursed, they just suck.

How the hell do you not even make the fucking playoffs with that team, with that manager?

Watch now - the White Sox already did their crash n burn but the one the Cubs do will defy odds.

Best pitching staff in baseball, a starting lineup and a bench without holes and yet still


You suck Cubbies!

Choke of the year.