Predictions Today; OD Tomorrow

The kid is taking a post-bottle nap.  So I’m sneaking away to throw out some thoughts on what could happen in 2011.

I’m no expert, nor am I all that thorough with my research.

Who cares?  It’s fun. 

NL East

Phillies                 Nobody’s better in the NL.  Their “Four Horsemen” rotation scared the bejesus out of people.  They are the best in this division and maybe even baseball.

Braves                  They have some solid young talent on this team.  I love the direction Freddie Rodriguez has them going.  They’ll contend for the division this year and maybe even win very soon.

Marlins                Josh Johnson will win the Cy Young and the Marlins will see what they have with some of the young guys on their team.  They’ll be strong when their new stadium opens.  Of course, that ain’t this year.

Nationals            I like this team.  Of course, they are still bad.

Mets                    Nope, nothing to root for here.  RA Dickey is decent, but that’s about all I can think of as being positive here.  Maybe I’ll be wrong.

 

NL Central

Brewers               Tjhey are not a surprising team.  But they are good.  And when Greinke gets healthy, their pitching will really help them along.

Reds                      I don’t know if I really believe in these guys, but their pitchers are electrifying. And Drew Stubbs is awesome.  Did I mention Joey Votto?

Cardinals             It’s hard to pick against these guys, but I’m not that jazzed about them.  They should have a solid offense but losing Wainwright won’t help at all.

Cubs                     UgIh.  That sums it up.  I love the Cubbies but they do not have any kind of identity right now.  What is their direction?  Youth?  Veterans?  It will be a forgettable 2011.

Astros                  Don’t know a ton about them.  That’s because there ain’t much to know.

Pirates                When will that youth break through?  Neil Walker, Andrew Mccutcheon, Pedro Alvarez.  Wow!  Pitching…not wow…

 

NL West

Giants         These guys have the pitching and the offense.  Plus, I fear the Beard.  End…        

Padres         They have a great mix on this team.  Their pitching is strong, though they are all holding their breath in SD over the Latos injury.  They’ll be right there.

Rockies                I don’t know, but they slipped for this year.  Cargo is great (he better be, he’s on my fantasy team) but the pitching is just ok.

Dodgers              Don Mattingly will help, but they have a long way to go in LA.  2011 will be a long season.

Diamondbacks          Kirk Gibson is the right guy there.  But I don’t feel that they have a strong idea of how to rebuild this thing.

 

AL East

Red Sox               Ugh, I know.  They’re good.  That’s what happens when you spend a bajillion dollars.  Regardless, they are not just good.  They are VERY good. 

Rays       I don’t think it is crazy.  The Rays are always prepared to lose talent.  And boy did they lose it.  They planned for this, though.  And they’ll be fine.              

Yankees     It will be the biggest flop in recent Yankees memory.  You gotta have pitching to win.  They ain’t got it.

Orioles           I don’t think it is crazy to think that these guys could contend.  And soon.       

Blue Jays        Bautista will not repeat his 2010 output and Hill and Lind better get it together if the Jays plan to have a future.    

AL Central

Tigers              What a strong team!  Wow!  They have tons of firepower, a strong pen, and good rotation.  They’ll be there.    

White Sox           Adam Dunn really helps make this offense elite.  Their rotation is suspect but their pen is amazing.

Twins                   Mauer and Morneau have been dinged up lately.  As they go, so go to the Twins. 

Indians                Grady Sizemore sums up this team: lots of promise, but they don’t reach it.

Royals           I LOVE the Royals.  I could totally be a Royals fan.  But when will the potential turn into some darn W’s!!?        

 

AL West

Rangers               This is a three horse race.  They should be the fastest horse out of the gate.  But it won’t be easy!

A’s       They have a decent staff, a decent offense, and a decent mix.  Why will they be there in the end?  I don’t know…

Angels                 Can’t count them out.  Ever. 

Mariners             I can count them out.  At least now, anyway.  They have alot of rookies who will be auditioning for a job next year.  That can be really exciting.  As a Devil Rays fan of the day, I know what I’m talking about…

                             

PLAYOFFS

NLDS

East Winner: Phillies

Vs                                         Winner: Phillies 3-2

Wildcard: Padres

West Winner: Giants

Vs                                         Winner: Giants 3-0

Central Winner: Brewers

 

NLCS

Phillies

Vs                                         Winner: Phillies 4-3

Giants

 

ALDS

East Winner: Red Sox

Vs                                         Winner: Tigers 3-2

Central Winner: Tigers

West Winner: Rangers

Vs                                         Winner: Rangers 3-2

Wildcard: Rays

 

ALCS

Yankees

Vs                                         Winner: Tigers 4-2

Rays

 

WORLD SERIES

Tigers

Vs

Phillies

 

WORLD CHAMPION

Philadelphia Phillies 4-2

 

Well, that was fun. 

 

I’m not going out on a limb to say that the Phils will take home the trophy this year.  And, as we all know, anything can happen in our favorite game.

 

Let’s play some baseball!

 

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Not Really in the Spring Swing

I’ll admit that I am not entirely happy about the Rays start so far this spring.

1 Win

4 Losses

1 Tie

That ain’t exactly a baseball beginning to howl about. 

I understand that it is spring and that teams are not working hard to win games.  They are simply trying to “get their work in,” as the saying goes.

I get it.

But if both teams are not trying to win, and if both teams are just getting work in, then why is it that the Rays seem to be on the losing end of 4 out of 6 games? 

This offseason is one of the most memorable in the history of the Rays franchise.  They brought in prime time players (maybe PAST prime time players…) and lost parts of the playoff foundation.  Heck, they lost major parts of the franchise’s heart, but that’s another rant…

I think that I–along with most Rays fans–were hoping for some kind of explosive start to the spring that would take away the hurt of losing guys like Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Matt Garza. 

It hasn’t happened.

But that’s ok. 

Baseball’s back, right?  Spring has begun.  Plenty to whine about.  Plenty to cheer about.  Plenty to write about.

It feels good to feel bad!

My Son

I know this isn’t totally baseball related, but I have to do this.

His name is Robbie.  He was born on the 15th of December (sorry it took so long to post). 

We are very blessed to have him.  Life is simply amazing.

He is healthy and happy.  Mom and dad are very tired…

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I really want to talk a little bit about the possiblity of the Rays adding Manny and Johnny, but right now fatigue is taking over. 

Thanks to all who sent a note of congrats and concern.  It means a great deal. 

It’s funny, but somehow baseball has taken on even more meaning!  I look forward to his first Rays game this summer…

How old do they have to be before they can start swinging a bat!?  Ha!

Coming Soon…My Son!

This post won’t interest most people. 

While most Rays fans have been ready to jump from the nearest palm tree because our AL East Champion team is being dismantled right before their very eyes, I have been pretty even keel.

Why?

Tomorrow my wife and I are going to bring a new Rays fan (and Cubs fan) into the world. 

It has been a long time coming.  We are beyond excited.

So I might have checked out for a while–not because of the Rays–but I hope that you all understand.

And I hope that if you read this, you might take a second to send us a positive thought.

Thanks!

It’s Game 1 All Over Again

A very good friend of mine had a baby just the other day.  Saturday morning, in fact.

What was the new lad’s name?

Ty.

Fitting.

The Rays came out of the weekend with just that, a tie, in the ALDS.  And now they are going to play a Game 5 to decide which team, the Rays or Rangers, gets to move on to take on the Yankees in the ALCS this weekend.

It is like ALDS Game 1 all over again.

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The Pitchers

The Rays will, once again, send the ace of the pitching staff to the mound in a “saviour-like” position. 

David Price choked in Game 1, coming out on the short end of a 5-1 loss.  And it wasn’t that close.  Sure, the hitters stunk it up, but one thing the Rays have to depend on is strong starting pitching.  They feed off of it.

Price did not give it.

The fear sets in when I think about Cliff Lee and how damn good he is.  Going back to last postseason when he was with the Phillies, there have been few pitchers as dominant as Lee.  The Rays will have their hands full.

But, if you remember mid-August, the Rays beat Lee 6-4.  It was no fluke.  The Rays hitters can wait him out before striking at just the right moment. 

But the right moment has to come along with the game still in question.  If the moment comes along when the game is 6-1, then it will be much too late.

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The Emotions

What gets me is that Game 5 is EXACTLY the same as Game 1.

Same pitchers.

Same emotions.

I’m just as amped up as Game 1.  I want to see a W.  But a L means alot more Tuesday night, for sure. 

The crowd will be going crazy.  The Rays have opened up all of the seats in the stadium for this one.

I hope they hand out towels…

What is a little disappointing is that the momentum the Rays had going into Game 4 seemed to wane as the game progressed.  I would even say that it shifted to the Rangers, as they put up two late runs.

If the big Mo did shift to the Rangers, that just means that it evened everything out. 

Longo’s still hitting lights out.  Pena still has the cycle fresh on his mind.  And the ‘pen, well, they are still just as dominant. 

The team that constructively builds on its emotion will be the winners Tuesday night.

Man, I hope it is my Rays.

——————————————————–

The 3 Keys to a W

#1–Be Patient.  Just like in Game 1, the Rays have to pile up the pitches against Cliff Lee.  They let the guy cruise in Game 1.  And they struck out 10 times–ridiculous.  They need to work the count and get their walks going, something they did well over the weekend.

#2–Don’t Choke.  The big moment in Game 1 was an early bases loaded moment that saw Carlos Pena and Rocco Baldelli strike out to end any kind of threat.  After that, Lee settled in.  The Rays cannot miss the big moments of Game 5.

#3–Be Smart, Joe.  It is hard to argue with Joe Maddon.  He is a big reason for why the Rays have made the playoffs 2 of the last 3 years.  But I’m going to choke on my soda pop if he puts out the same ridiculous lineup he put out in Games 1 and 2.  Go with what works.  And what works is the lineups he put out over the weekend.

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Obviously, I have no idea how this game will go down.  As I sit here, I am buzzing with anticipation that typically comes in an elmination game, but moreso because of one major fact.

It it MY team in this elmination game.

Win or lose, I’ll be proud that my boys fought back into this series.

Win, and I’ll be jumping like an idiot with jubilation.

Lose, and I’ll be quietly angry that they played so poorly in Games 1 and 2. 

No matter what, I’ll know one thing.

I won’t have to miss work to see the game.

Go Rays!

Hey…It’s the REAL Rays

 

Finally the Tampa Bay Rays showed up in the 2010 ALDS.

Through Games 1 and 2 there was some team on the field playing against the big league Texas Rangers, but it surely wasn’t the Rays.

This imposter team had put up one measley run and only 8 hits in two games while giving up 11 runs AT HOME, no less.

Apparently, the REAL Rays were waiting in Arlington, Texas.

Want proof?

6 runs.

11 hits.

0 errors.

2 home runs.

1 W.

Now THAT’s Rays baseball.

———————————————————–

Emotions Were High

Around my home, the stress and worry levels were really high.  We were wondering if we were about to see the final game of the Rays season.  The final game of Carl Crawford’s career in a Rays uni. 

There’s going to be at least one more.

What was great to see was while MY emotions were out of whack, the Rays’ were not.

There was Matt Garza calmly rebounding from an early run given up to retire Ranger after Ranger. 

There was Joe Maddon keeping his temper in check, even after a few blown calls by the umpires tonight (seriously, blue, you didn’t see Elvis Andrus come off the bag on his stolen base attempt while Jason Bartlett had the tag on him?  Seriously?). 

This game was tight until the 9th, so the cooler head was going to prevail.

The cooler head and the guy with the bigger bat.

Luckily, that was the Rays on both account.

——————————————————-

Cameraman Longo

What was awesome to see was the Rays in the dugout messin’ around as they did all season long. 

Watching Evan Longoria with a waterbottle holder on his shoulder, mimicking a cameraman’s pose, “film” the goings-on of the 9th inning.  The guys around him were cracking up and suddenly everything was loose. 

The Rays were back.

——————————————————

The Rays Were Clutch

There were many events in this game that epitomized the Rays season, without which the Rays would be headed back to St. Pete with their heads held low.

–Carl Crawford had two big catches in the game, keeping the Rangers in check and preventing run-starting rallies.

–John Jaso had the biggest hit of the game in the 8th against the Rangers’ closer.  Why isn’t this guy starting every game?

–The slumping and sub-Mendoza-line Carlos Pena took one down the right field line to drive in pinch runner Desmond Jennings with the game-tying run.  Then Pena knocked one over the fence in the 9th to ice the game away.

–In addition to CC’s defense, Crawford hit a big home run in the 9th to put the Rays up 4-2 and take the pressure off of Pena.  The loss of pressure made it just that much easier for the big first baseman to take one over the fence.

————————————————-

3 Keys to a W

#1 Emotion–The Rays kept theirs in check AND loosened up the dugout in the process.  Look out Rangers.

#2 Hit–11 hits and 6 runs make it clear that the bats were warmed up tonight.

#3 Patience–Colby Lewis did not walk a whole lot of guys this season.  He walked 5 Rays tonight.  That helped to put more pressure on the young righty, and it helped the Rays to a W.

          3 out of 3 Keys Turned = W

———————————————–

Game 4 is tomorrow.

How will it go?

If the Rays performance today is any indication, the Rangers have alot to worry about.  They needed to put these guys away today. 

They didn’t.

The Rays can be really streaky, and the losing streak appears to be over.

It’s Do or Die Time

This could be it.

Or not.

Like all Rays fans, this Saturday is not quite a day for resting.  We have been on the edge of our seats since the final out of the disasterous Game 2 in St. Pete when the Rays went down with a whimper, 6-1.

So the anticipation is about to reach a fever pitch.

(Good movie, by the way, even if it IS about the Red Sox)

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The Pitching

Joe Maddon will trot out our last gasp in the form of righty Matt Garza

This guy should give the Rays a great chance to take a necessary step towards Game 5.  He has had great success in the playoffs, winning the ALCS MVP against the Red Sox in 2008, but the pressure will never have been greater for the guy.

They will go up against Colby Lewis (a guy who helped me to my second fantasy baseball championship this season, by the way).  Lewis was a game under .500 (12-13) on the season, but his ERA was at 3.72.

What worries me most is that he struck out nearly 200 hitters (196).  That bodes ill for the Rays, who led the league in Ks.

The only number that matters today, though, is runs.  The Rays need to give up one less than the Rangers.

——————————————————-

The Lineup

Thanks, Joe.

The Rays will trot out the type of lineup that has helped them win 96 games this season. 

    Jaso

    Zobrist

    CC

    Longo

    Joyce

    Johnson

    Pena

    Upton

    Bartlett

I’m happy with this lineup, no matter the handed-ness of the guy on the opponents’ mound.  These guys know how to look for good pitches and how to work the count. 

Upton and Bartlett at the bottom of the lineup help Joe’s boys get some production from the latter third of lineup leading back to Jaso at the top.

I love it.

———————————————————–

3 Keys to a W

1–Emotion.  It might be said too much, but Matty needs to keep his mind in the game.  He dominated the Rangers at the Trop this year, but he was roughed up in Texas.  That can’t happen.  But it can’t be just Garza who keeps emotion in check.  Hear me, Joe?

2–Hit.  ‘Nuff said.  8 hits in two games stinks.

3–Be Patient.  Honestly, Lewis does not walk alot of guys (65 this year).  But the Rays know how to walk.  They have to get him to miss the zone throughout the game and they have to get to the Rangers’ ‘pen early.

———————————————————-

I don’t know how this is going to turn out. 

Like most of the country, though, I know that we haven’t seen the best of the Rays yet in this series.  It would be a shame for them to go out of the postseason without showing MLB fans just how good this team really is.

I’ll be on the edge of my seat throughout the game.

Nervous for sure.