My 2011 ALDS & NLDS Predictions Post

Arizona DiamondBacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Diamond Hoggers’ Prediction: D-Backs over Brewers in 5

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Diamond Hoggers’ Prediction: Phillies over Cardinals in 4

 

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

Diamond Hoggers’ Prediction: Rays over Rangers in 4
Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

Diamond Hoggers’ Prediction: Tigers over Yankees in 5

Thoughts on ESPN’s 30 for 30: Catching Hell

I thought last night’s 30 for 30, Catching Hell focused on the Steve Bartman incident at Wrigley Field in 2004 was incredibly well done, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was two hours long.

The documentary left me thinking about a few things, but mainly just how sad I am for Steve Bartman.

I thought Will Leitch said it how I would like to say it in his book Are We Winning? Bartman was like you and I. Especially if you’re a baseball fan that writes on a blog. Or visits a ballpark by yourself. Or a guy who lives and dies with every pitch. Check, check, check. All me.

Yet he seems so innocent in so many ways. It isn’t like he was pounding beers and partying at the park that night like so many Cubs fans make a habit of. The guy was listening to his headphones and trying to see some history made by his favorite thing in the world, his beloved Cubs. Bartman was 26 years old when that happened. A few years out of college–just starting his life.

I remember that night just a little bit. I remember seeing that unfold live on FOX. I was pounding beers carelessly at my frat house with a few of my teammates just watching it from the comfort of my old musty futon underneath my bunk. I had no idea when it happened it would be one of the largest pieces of modern day baseball history that documentaries have been focused around. There I was–a fellow die hard baseball fan like Bartman–and I’m getting sloppy drunk while the sport we share a love for ruins his life. It’s not fair. It could have been me. It could have been any of us.

If Steve Bartman is out there and he ever stumbles across this post, I hope he’s alright with his life. But I imagine he’s not. It became clear to me last night that the only way we hear from Steve Bartman again in our lifetime is if the Cubs win the World Series. I don’t think he comes out of hiding for them even making a World Series, which I have my doubts on ever seeing in my lifetime.

The Cubs, they’re baseball’s equivalent of the Cleveland Browns. And I know first-hand how ugly a fan base can be if they’re similar to the Cleveland Browns. My wife has been cussed at Cleveland Browns games when her team she watched growing up–the New York Giants–came to town to play them. The losing generates more misery and scapegoats and less patience, and it’s all a bitter, vile, never-ending cycle of hate and misery.

I realize that because of all this, I’m pulling for the Cubs to win it all one year soon. I want to see Steve Bartman come out from wherever he’s hiding and after some doubt and much speculation of whether he’ll do it or not; he appears at Wrigley to a roar of cheers from the now happy Chicago fans who are still hung over from celebrating their World Series title. I want to see it happen on the following Opening Day after the Cubs when the series. I really can visualize it now. The buzz will begin in March and it will be the biggest story in the month leading up to the new season. Will Steve Bartman show his face. Will he look like the man we all ‘know’ from that fateful night in October of 2003?

It’s all going to be dependent on if the Cubs can somehow lift this curse, and win the big one. Starlin Castro is going to need a lot of help.

I realize I’m very fascinated by this story. It’s a piece of history that I want to somehow dive into, but there’s nowhere to really dive.

I’d like to spend a week in Chicago just hunting for Bartman. I’d like to talk to people who know him. I’d like to visit the little league field behind his parents home. Take a look at the house that he watched NLCS Game 7 from. And can you imagine the feelings he had during that game seven? The panic and fear. The dread of betting your mortgage multiple times over. You know he had to be watching it like his life was on the line. And his Cubs didn’t deliver.

I want to visit the Bartman seat. It’s probably number one on my baseball bucket list. Section 4, Row 8, Seat 113. I’ll be going there soon. But after that, there’s nowhere to really go with my hunt of Bartman. Where could the guy be hiding out? Why do I even care about where he is or how he is so much? To think he still lives in Chicago and goes unnoticed is probably the most amazing part of this entire story to me.

I thought the film did an excellent job depicting the climax of the moment with the shift of energy that caused the collapse. It was a collective collapse, and the Cubs fans should blame themselves and a roster built of mentally shaky guys rather than the man who ended up being the focus of this story.

Someday I think there will be a conclusion of some type on this story. I haven’t made up my mind on whether it’s a happy ending or sad. But we haven’t heard all of it yet. Every year the Cubs embark on a chance to free this guy from the abyss. It’s just now that I realize I’m pulling for them a little bit–but only because of Steve Bartman. I think most of America will agree with me when the time comes.

The Baseball Show: Postseason Primer & Awards Show

Last night on The Baseball Show, MTD from Off Base Percentage and I discuss the following topics:

-A recap and our thoughts of Wilcard Wednesday, one of the most exciting nights of baseball history ever.
-Thoughts on the seasons of our teams: the 2011 Anaheim Angels and the 2011 Cincinnati Reds
-We preview the NLDS & ALDS series
-We give our postseason award picks

As always there was a lot more!

Diamond Hoggers 2011 BBA Award Vote

Before the season I gave you all my predictions.

Of those I am most proud of, it’s the Brewers (unfortunate) NL Central title. I also said Ryan Braun and Clayton Kershaw would win the NL’s most prestigious awards of NL MVP and NL Cy Young. And don’t forget we elected Ben Zobrist as AL Comeback Player of the Year. How are we looking now? Let’s find out how our final votes work out.

I am a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, and one of the best parts of being in the BBA is that you get a vote for several different seasonal awards around Major League Baseball.

Here are the awards we’ll be voting on today:

Connie Mack Award (Manager of the Year)
Willie Mays Award (Rookie of the Year)
Goose Gossage Award (Reliever of the Year)
Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)
Stan Musial Award (MVP)

If Tampa doesn’t become a baseball town now, it never will

They really did it. They battled back from the depths of Hell in a matter of nine innings, a 7-0 deficit with their ace shelled to come back and win 8-7 in 12 innings on Evan Longoria’s line shot that crept just over the left field fence.

Last night was baseball Heaven and it all ended in Tampa. I cannot believe the odds they overcame to get where they now are. I can’t believe how it unfolded. They were one out from lights out, bar closed when Dan Johnson stepped to the plate and drilled one into the right field stands.

The folks in Boston have to be reeling today–using sick days type of reeling–a place you never want to be as a sports fan. They didn’t think there was any way that Boston’s season ended last night.

The timeline of last night just added to things. As Jonathan Papelbon blew the Red Sox save and 9th inning lead with two outs, the Red Sox scurried off the field and Terry Francona scrambled quickly into the clubhouse. The Red Sox didn’t even have time to turn on their monitors and pull for the Yankees to save them (imagine the thought for a second of that). Television sets turned over to Evan Longoria at the plate in Tampa, and he provided the Rays with the biggest moment in their franchise history–and arguably one of the biggest moments in modern day baseball history.

It was the only time that a clinching home run was ever hit to send a team to the postseason in the team’s final regular season game. Last night alone should be enough reason for Major League Baseball to leave the playoff field as it is, and I believe they will.

The focus of this post has to shift away from last night momentarily and back to Tampa as a baseball city. They didn’t even sell out last night’s historic event. Many of them left before they could see this epic 7-run avalanche in the 8th and 9th innings and of course the historic line shot home run.

It’s time for Tampa to realize the gem they have and start appreciating what is in their back yard in the way of a good baseball organization. They have arguably the best young centerpiece and best manager in baseball.

I saw good prevail over evil last night. A lot of people would disagree with me, and that’s fine. But too often in sports the big market wins out. Not last night. The baseball gods had other ideas.

I’m convinced that this team can accomplish anything, having been through the depths they’ve been to and living to tell about it. I hope the town they play in can fully realize what took place and get their hands around the type of history that went down on their home field last night as they clinched the Wildcard spot.

Occurrences like we saw last night happen no more than once in a lifetime. It was why baseball is special and the moment belongs to Tampa and it’s fans forever. The only way to make it last and all the more meaningful is to get behind this team and become a legitimized baseball town.

Have a Nice Offseason, You Bald Dickhead

Fredi Gonzalez managed his way out of Miami, and now he’s managed his way out of an 8.5 game Wildcard lead. His ass-hattery botching of the Jason Heyward situation was beyond ridiculous, down to not even starting Heyward against a right-hander tonight. We credit Fredi with single handedly screwing up a superstar 21 year old.

All year long, Fredi Gonzalez thought he could outsmart everyone. Just like he did last year in Florida.While he was busy re-inventing the wheel, Tony LaRussa was managing like his hair was on fire. And as much as we don’t like the Cardinals, they deserve credit.

We don’t feel bad for Fredi. We feel bad for Chipper Jones. Uggla. Venters. Kimbrel. But not Fredi.

If Atlanta is smart they’ll keep searching for the Bobby Cox imcumbent because this guy proved he isn’t cut out for managing in the big leagues.

Wild Card Scramble Wednesday

We’ve got quite a turn of events that will go down tonight. There is a good chance that in the final hour–with 161 games down and just one to go–that two teams season’s come to an abrupt end.

The Cardinals dream stayed alive last night. The Braves lost to the Phillies 7-1 in Atlanta. St. Louis battled back from a 5-o deficit early on in Houston to win 13-6 and move into a tie for the NL Wild Card with Atlanta.

Over in the American League, the Rays got a big home run from Matt Joyce to beat the Yankees 5-3. The Red Sox hung on to a narrow 8-7 win and escaped with nothing but their dignity in Baltimore.

Three of tonight’s games will be on ESPN or ESPN2. We’ll learn whether or not there will be one, two, or zero ‘winner takes all’ games tomorrow.

This should be a wonderful display of what the sport is all about tonight and into tomorrow. We’ll post about as much of it as we possibly can. Everyone enjoy themselves. Go Rays, go Braves.

Jay Bruce hits Milestone Home Run #100

We didn’t want to say anything because we weren’t too sure he was going to get it this year–but Jay Bruce hit home run #100 of his career just before the bar closed down for the year.

And we have a slight connection to this bomb. It came off Chris Capuano who went to Duke, and Capuano’s pitching coach at Duke was also the pitching coach of our college staff. We spent an entire 3 hour flight one time talking about Chris Capuano and picking the brain of our poor former coach.

100 home runs at age 24 is no small feat. He hit 72 off righties and 28 off lefties. 61 long balls were at Great American Ball Park. You know what’s funny? I remember the first one off Manny Acosta like it was yesterday. I remember all of them, in fact. I remember where I was for each one–whether I was listening on the radio or watching on television. It’s been an incredible run already and it’s been fun to watch.

It’s been a challenging season for young Bruce in some respects, but rewarding in others. This is one of those moments. He’s going to end on 100 home runs and near 100 RBI. Next year, we wait for him to put it all together and become the complete ballplayer we all have seen flashes of and know he’s capable of. For the most part, he’s came real close to delivering as the type of talent we thought he would. No Cincinnati Red aside from Frank Robinson or Adam Dunn ever hit more long ones at a younger age.

Here’s to the first 100, and here’s to 400 or 500 more in a Reds uniform. Salute!

Update: Reds won in 13 innings last night. Jay Bruce had 3 hits and needs about 2 hits today to finish at .260 for the year. Also don’t forget, Bruce hit the bomb at Citi Field which is the same place he broke his wrist back in 2009.

Let’s give this daily column format thing a try

We’re on the next to last day of the regular season–unless something whacky happens and forces a one game playoff on Thursday evening. It would be cool, but I have a feeling everything gets sorted out between Atlanta/St. Louis and Boston/Tampa Bay.

  • Last night’s 5-2 win down in Tampa was a big one for the Rays. They’re now all squared up with the Boston Red Sox for the wild card spot with two games to go. I said at the beginning of the season that I didn’t see it as easily as just putting the Red Sox and Phillies in the World Series like all the ESPN and prognosticators did. I felt all along that one would make it, and one would not. At some points in this season, I felt it would be the Red Sox. Now it’s looking like the Phillies and the Red Sox will start winter early. This is what the season is all about. These two teams have battled for 161 games–and with two left the season will be decided. It is what keeps me checking baseball box scores on my phone even with Monday Night Football on. It’s where guys really earn their statistics. It’s where the drama of October really starts. It’s going to be a fun couple of days, and ultimately I feel that the Red Sox will somehow escape the fryer because so many outside of Boston would love to see the Rays do this thing.
  • Another point on the Rays: how many people thought their proverbial ‘window’ slammed shut for the most part after last season? That’s what makes this run so improbable. I thought they would need a year to reload the gun. When Evan Longoria got hurt I was even more certain of it. Longoria came back and earned a full season’s worth of stats in about 3/4 of a season’s games. He’s been good, don’t let the batting average fool you. Desmond Jennings arrived as a bonafide star. The Rays have some magic brewing down there in Tampa.
  • Another golden opportunity missed by the St. Louis Cardinals last night. And it might have been the death blow. Cliff Lee went out and got himself his 17th win of the year, 4-2 over the Braves in Atlanta. The Cardinals rallied to take a 4-4 game into the 10th inning against the Astros, only to lose the game in the bottom of the 10th inning on a single by Angel Sanchez (a .237 hitter) to lose 5-4 a 104 loss team. Who gave up the single? Former Astro Octavio Dotel. The Cardinals are out of gas. But I still think that Atlanta loses one of the next two and St. Louis wins both of their final to give us our one and only one game winner take all playoff on Thursday.
  • Ozzie Guillen traded to Marlins? In all my time watching baseball I had no idea that a manager could be dealt in a trade. I thought it was a joke or publicity stunt when I got an ESPN alert text on my phone. But it appears it’s very real. And how else would Guillen leave the White Sox than in controversy? Maybe it’s not much of a take but if he is headed to Miami, he’s moving into a brand new stadium and inheriting a good young roster with a star shortstop that needs rejuvenated. Also it’s no coincidence that yesterday Jack McKeon announced his retirement after this season. An interesting chain of events and the first move in the start of managerial musical chairs before the offseason even begins.

It’s going to be a whirlwind of a few days here for baseball fans. Keep it locked on your MLB At Bat app or however you follow the game for a few more evenings. The drama is what it’s all about this time of year and you’re going to to see some high drama. Anyone remember Neifi Perez’s homer that damned the Giants in 1998 at Coors Field? I do.

Some teams say they want to win; some go out and actually do it

Something I’ve admired about the Cardinals and Tony LaRussa is their absolute cut-throat buring desire to win ballgames. Yeah, everyone wants to win, but they really want to win. They don’t give up in games, their front office doesn’t give up, and in fact nobody in the organzation gives up.

It was just 2-3 weeks back when Dusty Baker said the goal was to beat St. Louis for second place. Well, the Cardinals battled their way back. I didn’t think they had a chance. But obviously they didn’t see that and feel that way. And now look at them–one game behind Atlanta for a playoff spot. This whole time, Dusty’s boys have been even flatter than they were the rest of the season and have lost ground on their coveted second place trophy in the NL Central.

The Reds pretty well just gave up. From the front office on down. Baker alluded they bought their way back in but I think that’s lazy thinking. It’s a culture thing. And the Reds don’t have it right now.

The Mets breaking the streak of no no-hitters will probably stay alive until next season

Last Saturday of the regular season, and it’s kind of sad isn’t it? In all likelihood, you were watching college football anyways. But today in the small borough of Queens that is home to Citi Field, R.A. Dickey carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Mets have not had a no-hitter in 7,963 games now. In the 7th inning, Shane Victorino doubled and the earth began again rotating on it’s axis.

No No-Hitters, 50 Years of Futility. [No No-Hitters]

Welcome to the Postseason, 2011 Arizona DiamondBacks

The D-Backs are in the playoffs. They did it by going through the front door, defeating the defending World Champions 3-1 in Arizona. The big blow was yet another big hit by Paul Goldschmidt, a two run triple in the 8th inning with the game tied.

There’s nothing sexy about this team. In my opinion they’ve got the NL MVP who they’re built around, and a gritty manager who will be great for years to come in Kirk Gibson. Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy have been phenomenal; and J.J. Putz has had a great year. But other than that little core–they’re chalked full of guys that if they ran out together for another 20 seasons would never be able to repeat this feat.

And it’s because of this unlikely turn of events that we’ve hopped on the D-Backs bandwagon. This is awesome. Justin Upton and Kirk Gibson against the world. We hope they write the first chapter in a remarkable story this fall.