Archive for September, 2009

Cleveland Indians Fire Manager Eric Wedge

September 30, 2009

According to ESPN.com, with just six games left in the 2009 regular season, the Cleveland Indians have fired Manager Eric Wedge. Wedge will finish out the season with the Indians, but Wedge and his staff will not be retained after the season.

Wedge was 560-568 with one playoff appearance (2007) in seven seasons with the Indians.

I have the same question for Indians management as I did for the Houston Astros when they fired Cecil Cooper — why now? I really don’t get the point of firing a manager with just six games left in the regular season. Why was it so important to fire him today rather than six days from now?

It just doesn’t make sense to me.

While I will admit I haven’t sat down and watched the majority of Indians games this year, so I can’t tell you what kind of X’s and O’s manager Wedge is. But here is what I do know — teams who have a managerial opening would be foolish not to look at Wedge in 2010.

Wedge won 90 games twice with the Indians, in 2007 he was one game away from the World Series, and won the AL Manager of the Year award in 2007 as well. I am pretty confident in saying Wedge had the respect of the players he managed and can manage at the big league level.

The Indians’ rebuilding plan came to a head in 2007. That was their year. When a small market team has their plan come to a head and they don’t win it all, they have to start over again.

Starting over again, usually means losing. That is not the managers fault.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg 

Brian Roberts Breaks Single Season Record For Doubles By A Switch Hitter

September 30, 2009

At 60-97, the Baltimore Orioles have had a terrible season. There were many reasons for the Orioles terrible season, but that is for a different post. This post is to talk about something positive that happened last night in the Orioles – Tampa Bay Rays game.

Roberts broke a record last night

Roberts broke a record last night

In the top of the third inning, Orioles 2B Brian Roberts doubled to left centerfield off of Wade Davis. The double was Roberts’ 56th double of the year, which broke the single-season record of doubles by a switch-hitter.

I know it’s not the biggest record in baseball, but it is a record none-the-less. The previous record was 55, set by Lance Berkman back in 2001.

It’s been a typical year for Roberts offensively. He has put up a .287/.358/.460 line with 29 SB’s and has tied a career high for runs with 107. His stolen bases and OPS are down from last year, but not to be a point where the Orioles would be very concerned.

No matter how bad a team is, you can always find something positive to write about them. Kudos to Brian Roberts for breaking this record.

Well deserved for one of the good guys in the game.

Boston Red Sox Clinch Playoff Spot

September 30, 2009

By virtue of the Texas Rangers 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim last night, the Boston Red Sox have clinched their sixth playoff berth in seven seasons.

It’s been a typical year for the Red Sox under Terry Francona. Come out of the gates swinging, sleep walk through July and early August, and then turn it on in late August and early September.

The Red Sox have gone into sleep walk phase again as they have lost five in a row. However, I really wouldn’t be too concerned. What I would be concerned about is the health of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett — especially Beckett.

Red Sox need a healthy Beckett

Red Sox need a healthy Beckett

In my opinion, Beckett is the key to the entire postseason for the Red Sox. If he is healthy, the Red Sox have the next coming of Bob Gibson. His performances in the 2003 playoffs with the Florida Marlins and in 2007 with the Red Sox are stuff of legend.

If he is not healthy, well, we all saw what happened in Game 3 of the ALDS last year against the Angels and Game 2 of the ALCS against the Tampa Bay Rays. It wasn’t pretty.

A healthy Beckett and Lester give the Red Sox perhaps the best one-two punch of any team in the postseason. When they are on, it’s game over when they take their warmup pitches.

The Red Sox will play the Angels yet again in the ALDS. This will mark the third consecutive year these two teams will play each other in the first round of the playoffs.

The Red Sox got the better of the Angels the last two years. Can the Red Sox make it three in a row against their west coast rivals?

I like their chances if Lester and Beckett are healthy.

Joe Mauer: “I Got This”

September 29, 2009

After catching all 10 innings of the Minnesota Twins’ 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of their doubleheader, Joe Mauer isn’t about take it easy and be a DH in Game 2.

In a surprising move, Mauer will be catching Game 2 of the doubleheader tonight. According to Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mauer’s words to Manager Ron Gardenhire in regards to catching the second game “I got this.”

Mauer is superman for the Twins

Mauer is superman for the Twins

Mauer, quite simply is the Chuck Norris of catching.

I love this. In the biggest series of the season, the best player on either team is going beyond expectations in order to win. There is no price on that level of committment

I said surprising move before because it’s very rare that a catcher will catch both games of a doubleheader. But if anyone knows Mauer, there was no way he was going to “just” DH in this series. He knows he has to be out there on defense too in order for the Twins to win this series from the Tigers.

Now I will fully admit I never saw Johnny Bench play and I only saw Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter at the end of their careers. My dad used to call Carter “pop up Gary” back in 1988 when he sucked it up against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.

Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza were great, but Mauer is just on another level right now. We should all appreciate what we are witnessing with Mauer.

When it’s all said and done he might be the greatest all-around catcher we have ever seen.

And by the way, if I were the VP of Marketing for the Twins, this would be my slogan for the rest of the season. I would already have 100,000 shirts made up that say “I got this” and I would have already put that on all the homer hankies that should be given out against the Kansas City Royals this weekend.

This is such a no-brainer. Make it happen Twins. Make it happen!!!

The Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim Clinch Playoff Spot

September 29, 2009

With their 11-0 whitewashing of the Texas Rangers last night, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim clinched a spot in the 2009 postseason and their third straight AL West title.

If there was a year the Angels were going to stumble and not make the playoffs, this was it. They had the horrific tragedy of Nick Adenhart in April, it seemed like their entire starting rotation was on the DL in April and May, Brian Fuentes is their closer, their bullpen has been a mess all season, Torii Hunter has spent time on the DL, and Vladimir Guerrero runs like Mark Eaton at this stage of his career.

Abreu has been the Angels MVP in 2009

Abreu has been the Angels MVP in 2009

But under the steady hand of Mike Scioscia, the Angels stayed the course, played great baseball, and proved once again why they are one of the best run organizations in baseball.

The Angels organization has gotten to a point where they can lose Mark Teixeira in the offseason, plug in Kendry Morales, and Morales turns in an MVP season. Next year, when they lose Chone Figgins to free agency, they will probably plug in Brandon Wood and I am guessing Wood comes through with a big year.

My point is that the Angels have become an organization of interchangeable parts. No matter who they plug in, they believe that person will succeed.

That is the mark of a great organization.

Going into the playoffs the Angels biggest concern is their bullpen. It’s usually their offense which is the concern, but not this year. Their offense, led by Bobby Abreu and the before mentioned Figgins is just fine.

But unlike in past years, this year their bullpen is the Angels biggest problem. I have a hard time believing Brian Fuentes is a championship closer. I also have a hard time believing Darren Oliver can get a lefty out in a big spot in the postseason.

However, like past years the Angels will play the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Can the Angels finally beat the Red Sox in the first round of the playoffs?

It remains to be seen.

Washington Nationals Officially On The Clock

September 29, 2009

Not only did the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-1 victory yesterday over the Los Angeles Dodgers prevent the Dodgers from clinching the NL West, but also did something else as well. With the Pirates victory, the Washington Nationals will have the worst record in baseball in 2009 and will have the number one pick in next year’s June draft.

Harper could be a National in 2010

Harper could be a National in 2010

Both the Pirates and the Nationals have six games remaining and even if they finish with the same record, the Nationals earned the first pick thanks to the Pirates winning the season series four games to three.

Believe it or not, the Nationals thought they could compete in 2009. They were very aggressive in the free agent market, pursuing — foolishly perhaps — Mark Teixeira, Orlando Hudson, and eventually signing Adam Dunn to a two-year deal. They also signed Joe Beimel and traded for Josh Willingham in hopes of improving their team.

Unfortunately, the 2009 season for the Nationals has been a disaster. General Manager Jim Bowden resigned before the season started, Manager Manny Acta was fired in July, they can’t play defense, they have no starting pitching outside of John Lannan, and their bullpen has been abysmal all season.

2010 will mark the fourth year in a row the Nationals will have a top-10 pick. 2010 will also mark the second year in a row they will have the number one overall pick. As we all know, in 2009, the Nationals drafted and signed Stephen Strasburg out of San Diego State.

All signs point to another Scott Boras client (Strasburg being the first), Bryce Harper being the number one pick in the 2010 draft. Regardless if the Nationals take Harper or not, they have to and I mean HAVE TO hit on these top picks in order to compete in the future.

All the Nationals have to do is look to the Kansas City Royals and the Pirates as examples of teams that haven’t hit on their draft picks year after year.

Miller Park: A Spaceship In The Middle Of Milwaukee

September 28, 2009

Next up in our Stadium 411 series is Miller Park, home to the Milwaukee Brewers. A couple of weeks ago my friend and I visited Milwaukee, WI and had a chance to see the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Brewers.

This critique was given by yours truly. A man who still can’t believe the NHL hasn’t folded yet. Does anyone even know the NHL season starts next week? What a poorly run league.

The great spaceship in Milwaukee

The great spaceship in Milwaukee

Miller Park Critique

Pros

Due to the fact we arrived in Milwaukee rather early, it gave us the opportunity to get to Miller Park early and check out all the stadium had to offer.

The first thing I noticed coming off the highway is what an unusual looking stadium it is. It looks like a giant spaceship in the middle of this dreary city. I have never seen anything like it.

The second thing I noticed right off the bat, is when we drove into the parking lot people were tailgating. For someone who lives in New York, where there is no tailgating at baseball games, this was an awesome sight.

Actual tailgating at a baseball game

Actual tailgating at a baseball game

People weren’t just tailgating with a Miller Lite in one hand and a hot dog in another. No, these people were tailgating like it was a Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings game. There were generators, tents, and Gantner’s Garden.

You can rent out a Gantner’s Garden space so you and your friends can tailgate together in a private space. I also liked the fact that there was a restroom outside the stadium. That is clutch.

As for the stadium itself, there were two things that really stood out to me that I really liked. First, I loved the fact that you can go anywhere in the stadium for batting practice.

Our seats were right behind first base, but we were able to stand in the right field bleachers for batting practice and not a single person hassled us. That is awesome.

The second thing I liked was that the stadium looks “hitterish.” I got the same feeling walking into this ballpark that I did when I walked into the new Yankee Stadium. You can see why hitters like hitting in this ballpark.

Cons

The biggest gripe I had with Miller Park and it still bother me today — is the merchandise. All I wanted was a Paul Molitor or Robin Yount throwback player tee-shirt. One of those sweet powder blue ones.

I couldn’t find one — anywhere. I went to both team stores and both teams didn’t have anything. That is awful. How do you not have the tee-shirts of the only two superstars these franchise has ever had?

They had more Chorizo tee-shirts than Robin Yount shirts. That can’t happen.

Here is another con. And this is more of a baseball con than a Miller Park con. If a player is shagging fly balls in the outfield and fans ask for a ball — give it to them.

I am talking to you Jason Motte. This scrub must of had 50 balls hit to him in right field and he completely ignored every fan — including little kids. If a little kid or a fan asks for a ball and they are five feet from you, give them the ball.

It was completely ridiculous.

Overall Game Day Experience

I would say Miller Park was a seven out of 10. Strong points for the tailgating scene.

Fantasy Week In Review, September 21-27

September 28, 2009

This is it kids — the final week in the regular season and of course, the final week in fantasy baseball. For those of you playing for your league championship this week, good luck.

Here were the fantasy studs and the potential pickups from the fantasy week that was September 21-27.

Fantasy Studs

Ryan Howard: .375/2/14. It seems that the big man always heats up down the stretch. A hot Howard spells trouble for opposing teams in the playoffs.

Ortiz has bounced back from a slow start

Ortiz has bounced back from a slow start

Marlon Byrd: .320/3/11/.433. Byrd is having the best year of his career and is a free agent at the end of this season — convenient.

David Ortiz: .280/3/10/.419. Despite everything Ortiz has been through this season, he still has 27 homeruns and 94 RBI on the season.

Alex Rodriguez: .350/3/8 with three SB’s. Rodriguez and Ortiz on the same list. It’s like a PED festival here at The Ghost of Moonlight Graham.

Joey Votto: .560/1/8. Votto had 11 runs scored and 10 doubles last week. In five years he will be on the ballot for entry into the Paul Molitor Hall of Fame for players if they played in New York, Boston, or Los Angeles would be superstars.

Adrian Gonzalez: .321/2/8/.441. Six months into the season and still haven’t figured out why opposing teams pitch to him.

Zack Greinke: 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 13 K’s in 13 IP. Hasn’t Greinke been on this list every week? If you have a vote and don’t vote for him for the Cy Young, you should have your voting privileges revoked.

Joe Blanton: 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA and 13 K’s in 12.2 IP. Blanton has quietly been the Philadelphia Phillies most consistent pitcher this year.

Tom Gorzelanny: 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 16 K’s in 12 IP. Gorzelanny is going his best to win a spot in the Chicago Cubs’ rotation in 2010. Remember, he did win 14 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007.

Gorzelanny could be a nice sleeper in 2010.

Rafael Soriano: Three saves with a 0.00 ERA and six K’s in 3.1 IP. Soriano had 16 career saves coming into 2009. In 2009, Soriano has 27 saves and has the highest K/9 rate of his career (11.9/9).

Potential Pickups

Paul Bako: Need a catcher for the last week? Take a look at Paul Bako (something I never thought I would write). He hit .381/1/3 last week in 21 AB’s.

Ronnie Belliard: Belliard is getting regular playing time in Los Angeles. Last week he hit .409/1/3 with seven runs scored.

Jay Bruce: For those of you who dropped Bruce after his injury — shame on you. Bruce has keeper potential and has turned it on as of late.

Bruce hit .500/2/7/.611 last week in 14 AB’s.

One last thing. If you are looking for a New York Yankees Ipod protective case, or a Boston Red Sox cell phone holder, or even a Los Angeles Dodgers Blackberry case — check out Accessorygeeks.com.

Good site with a ton of inventory. They have cell phones, cell phone accessories, Ipod accessories, headsets, and more.

St. Louis Cardinals Clinch Playoff Spot

September 27, 2009

About an hour and change after the Los Angeles Dodgers clinched a postseason birth, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to follow suit. The Cardinals beat the Colorado Rockies 6-3 in a potential first-round preview.

The win gave the Cardinals their eighth playoff appearance in 14 years in under Tony LaRussa.

There were a lot of factors that win into the Cardinals clinching a playoff spot — Albert Pujols’ MVP season, the trades for Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa or the emergence of Adam Wainwright. For me, the most important factor was Chris Carpenter staying relatively healthy.

Carpenter is 16-4 this season with a 2.30 ERA and a ridiculous 1.01 WHIP. Carpenter has re-established himself as the Cardinals’ ace and is once again looking to win the NL Cy Young award.

It’s no coincidence that when Carpenter wasn’t healthy the last two years, the Cardinals missed the playoffs.

When it comes to the playoffs, I think the most important question for the Cardinals is whether or not closer Ryan Franklin can get the job done in a pressure situation. Remember, Franklin has never pitched in the postseason before.

He has looked terrible in September and closing games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in October is a lot different than closing games in July against the San Diego Padres. 

I was watching the Cardinals – Rockies game last night and you know a guy is shaky when you are not even a fan of the team and you are nervous that he was going to implode at any second.

I just have a gut feeling that John Smoltz might factor into the closing situation as some point during October.

Los Angeles Dodgers Clinch Playoff Spot

September 27, 2009

Two playoff teams down, four more to go. With the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 victory over the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, they became the first National League and second team overall to clinch a spot in the 2009 postseason.

The Dodgers have the best record in the NL with a 93-62 mark. The Dodgers have done it with a very steady offense and a bullpen that is currently the best in the National League.

Dodger Stadium will be rocking in October

Dodger Stadium will be rocking in October

Despite missing Manny Ramirez for 50 games, the Dodgers rank first in the NL in batting average (.272), first in OBP (.347), third in runs (752), and forth in OPS (.763). The Dodgers can primarily thank Matt Kemp and team MVP Andre Ethier for those numbers.

But where the Dodgers shined this year was in the bullpen. The Dodgers lead the majors in bullpen ERA with a 3.11 mark. The mid-season acquisition of George Sherrill has paid dividends as Sherrill has a 0.73 ERA and 11 holds in 27 appearances.

Of course any bullpen would be helped out by having Jonathan Broxton as the closer. Despite looking as portly as ever, Broxton has 36 saves and leads all NL closers in K/9 with 13.50.

And of course you can’t mention the Dodgers without mentioning Joe Torre. I mean I can, but the national media can’t. With this postseason appearance, Torre has now reached the playoffs in 14 consecutive seasons.

I would love to know what deal Torre made with the devil. I am serious. Torre went from being a bafoon with the St. Louis Cardinals, to the most beloved figure in New York, and has continued the same success in Los Angeles.

Torre has reached a point in career where he can do no wrong. Only Bill Belicheck is on his level in the four major sports. Torre can send Chad Billingsley to the mound, tell him to throw left-handed to Albert Pujols, Pujols would fly out deep to left, and he would be called a genius.

That’s the level Torre is on.

As for the playoffs, despite having the best record in the NL, I am not sold on the Dodgers. Unless the Atlanta Braves catch the Colorado Rockies, I have a hard time seeing the Dodgers beating either the Cardinals or the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS.