Archive for October, 2009

Joe Blanton To Start For Phillies In Game Four

October 30, 2009

In his press conference today, Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manuel announced that RHP Joe Blanton will start Game Four of the World Series. Cliff Lee will start Game Five.

Joe Blanton

Blanton will start in Game Four

When asked why he will go with Blanton in Game Four, Manuel said “I think Blanton fits for us because I think we want to keep [J.A.] Happ right now in the bullpen, especially kind of in the middle where he could do some innings,” Manuel said, “and also Joe pitched last year in the World Series, and he’s got a little bit more experience.

Blanton is 0-3 with an 8.18 ERA in four starts versus the New York Yankees lifetime. All of Blanton’s starts versus the Yankees were with the Oakland A’s.

Despite Blanton’s lack of success versus the Yankees, this is the right move for the Phillies. Lee threw too many pitches in Game One to come back on three days rest and plus, Lee has never pitched on three games rest before.

If a guy is on a roll like Lee is, you probably don’t want to mess with him.

I also think it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Blanton pitches well on Sunday night. Remember, this is a Yankees’ lineup that didn’t hit Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano, or Joe Saunders in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

Blanton is in the same mold as those pitchers.

Game Four is Sunday night at 8:20 ET

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Albert Pujols And The Cardinals Already Playing The Free Agent Game

October 30, 2009

St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols appeared on St. Louis sports station WXOS 101.1 FM on Thursday morning. Pujols was asked to explain comments made during an interview in the Dominican Republic.

In the interview, Pujols suggested he was in no hurry to sign a contract extension with the Cardinals.

Albert pujols

Pujols' story is all to familiar

“The fans know and the Cardinals know that I want to be a Cardinal for my whole career,” Pujols said. “I love this city. The way that this city has embraced me and my family, I don’t deserve the city to do that. And when you hear all of the players that come around to this town and say, ‘You guys are lucky that you are playing in St. Louis,’ we have the best fans. I want to be a Cardinal for the rest of my career.

“And what I told those people (in the D.R.) was ‘Listen, why do people keep talking about my contract? I have two years (left) and we don’t have to worry about it.’ You know the Cardinals need to worry about signing Matt Holliday and all the free agents.There’s no rush for me to sign right now, you know? But if they come tomorrow and say ‘Albert, you know, we want to lock you up,’—hey they know that we’re open to that.

“But I think part of that was (me) putting things in their place and the Cardinals don’t have to rush to sign me right now because we still have two years. But I’d love to finish my career here. And all that got all confused, or whatever, maybe because of the way that I said it. But people know that I want to be a Cardinal for the rest of my life. I’ve said it in the past.”

I hate to burst your bubble Cardinals fans, but this sounds all too familar. It looks like Pujols and the Cardinals have already starting playing the free agent game.

Here is how these games usually go.

Star player says he loves the city and wants to finish out his career for his current team.

Team offers “fair” deal, but lower than what the player can get in the open market in hopes that he takes a hometown discount.

Star player signs with another team for more money.

Team says we “tried” and paints the star player as the bad guy for leaving for the money.

Star player takes out a full-page ad in the Sunday paper saying how much he loved the city and wished he could have stayed.

It’s been the same story between player and team since the inception of free agency.

Listen, I hope Pujols stays with the Cardinals. It’s good for the game of baseball. Just like it’s good for Joe Mauer to stay with the Minnesota Twins, Roy Halladay to stay with the Toronto Blue Jays, and Prince Fielder to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers.

But let’s be realistic. Unless Pujols takes a hometown discount, the Cardinals are going to be hard pressed to sign him.

Pujols should ask for $40 million a year. That is what he is worth. Everyone in America should be able to have the opportunity to get paid what they are worth–Pujols is no different.

Can the Cardinals, whose payroll usually is around the $90 to $99 million mark, afford to pay one player $40 million and still be competitive?

The Texas Rangers tried that with Alex Rodriguez and we all know how that worked out.

The Cardinals and Pujols have already started the free agent game. It will be fascinating to see how this turns out.

AJ Burnett Outduels Pedro Martinez, Yankees Even Series

October 30, 2009

So much for this being an offensive World Series.

For the second night in a row we saw a pitcher’s duel in the Bronx. Last night AJ Burnett outdueled Pedro Martinez as the New York Yankees defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 3-1 to even their best-of-seven series at one game a piece.

AJ Burnett

Burnett pitched the game of his life last night

What you saw last night was two pitchers going about getting hitters out in two completely different ways, but getting the same result.

Burnett, overpowered the Phillies lineup with a mid-90’s fastball and a power curve all night. Martinez, used an array of offspead pitches to keep the Yankee hitters off balance all night.

But last night proved that no matter how hard you throw, whether you throw 95 mph or 85 mph, pitching is all about first-pitch strikes and location. A well spotted 85 mph fastball is just as effective, if not more effective than a 99 mph fastball right down the middle.

Burnett threw 22 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced and Martinez threw 16 first-pitch strikes to the 26 batters he faced.

Here are some other observations from last night:

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think Burnett had a performance like that in him.

In the third inning, after walking Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, every Yankee fan thought “Here we go again” with Burnett.

I am very surprised the Phillies didn’t change their approach during the game. If you see a guy throwing strikes, there is no point in being patient.

Ryan Howard just struck out again.

Have Yankee fans not realized that chanting “Who’s your daddy?” only motivates Martinez?

I am still trying to debate who is the smarter pitcher–Martinez or Greg Maddux?

The ball Matt Stairs hit to drive in Raul Ibanez in the second was an error by Alex Rodriguez–not a hit.

I would love to see a throwing contest between Johnny Damon and Jason Bay. That would be high comedy.

If the Yankees don’t resign Damon, some dumb team is going to give him a three-year deal and regret it from the first day. Damon at this stage of his career is a product of the Yankee lineup and the new Yankee Stadium.

Did anyone else think Ibanez’s diving catch in the second inning was happening in slow motion? It seemed Ibanez was running forever and the ball hung up in the air forever.

It was good to see Mark Teixeira finally show up with the bat. That homerun was a bomb to rightcenter.

How did Hideki Matsui hit that homerun in the sixth? That pitch was at his shoe tops.

Did Charlie Manuel get coaching advice from Grady Little before the game? There is no way Martinez should have come back out for the seventh.

Howard just struck out again on another curve four feet out of the strike zone.

Manuel said he didn’t start Rollins and Shane Victorino in the eighth because Utley doesn’t hit into many double plays. Manuel thought it might have been five or less throughout the season.

Manuel was right. Utley hit into five double plays during the regular season.

If you are a Yankee fan, you can say Damon’s linedrive hit the ground in the seventh. As a Philly fan, you can say Utley was safe on that double play.

Both plays were bang-bang. I have no problem with either call.

I don’t care how great Mariano Rivera is, you can’t keep asking a 40-year-old to throw 40 pitches a night.

The Yankees are really going to need to find somebody to pitch the eighth inning in Philadelphia. With three games in a row, Rivera can’t pitch two innings every night. His arm will fall off.

I wonder if Jerry Hairston will get the start in Game Three against the lefty Cole Hamels? Hairston was 1-3 last night replacing Nick Swisher.

How much weight has Mark Grace gained? He has seriously ballooned up. I think we will be seeing him in a Nutrisystem commercial pretty soon.

Hero for Game Two – AJ Burnett

Goat for Game Two – Ryan Howard

Series MVP – Cliff Lee

Game Three is Saturday night at 7:57 ET.

Is It Time For Joe Girardi To Bench Nick Swisher?

October 29, 2009

Update

Apparently Joe Girardi was looking at the same book I was. This afternoon Girardi announced the Jerry Hairston will start in rightfield over Nick Swisher in Game Two of the World Series.

“He’s had a lot of success off of Pedro,” Girardi said. “We also like the way they kind of match up against each other, and that kind of shows up in the numbers.”

Hairston will bat seventh tonight.

Original Post

On November 13, 2008, Brian Cashman made one of his rare very shrewd moves. He acquired 1B/OF Nick Swisher from the Chicago White Sox for two minor leaguers and utility man Wilson Betemit.

Swisher, a classic “Moneyball” type player (low average, high OBP, bad fielder), was coming off a down year with the White Sox in 2008. He hit .219 and White Sox GM Kenny Williams was quick to get rid of Swisher.

Cashman picked him up as low-risk, high-reward player.

White Sox Giants Baseball

Yes Nick, it has been shocking how bad you have been in the playoffs

Not only did Swisher have a nice come back year with a hitting line of .249/.371/.498 and 29 homeruns, but he also added a dimension to the Yankee clubhouse that they didn’t have before. He got the normally uptight Yankees to loosen up with his care-free attitude and almost comedic personality.

However, things have turned sour for Swisher in the playoffs. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs and Game One of the World Series, Swisher is just 4-for-35 (.078 avg.) with no HR’s and no extra-base hits.

To be honest, he looks completely lost at the plate.

Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has stood by Swisher throughout these playoffs, but now one has to wonder if his patience has worn thin. Girardi has to be contemplating a move with Swisher.

Believe it or not, Girardi has two alternatives to Swisher in the outfield. Eric Hinske, who was recently added to the roster and Jerry Hairston might provide the Yankees with a better matchup versus Pedro Martinez.

Here are the stats for Hinske and Hairston versus Martinez.

Hinske: .267 with one HR in 30 AB’s

Hairston: .370 with a .433 OBP in 27 AB’s

Swisher is 0-for-2 lifetime versus Martinez, which is clearly is not enough of a sample size to judge. But right now, it doesn’t matter how many times Swisher has faced Martinez in the past. He can’t hit anybody right now.

If Girardi is going to ever bench Swisher in the World Series, Game Two would be the game to do it.

Cliff Lee, Chase Utley Help Phillies Take Game One

October 29, 2009

There’s an old saying in baseball that has held true from 1909 to 2009–good pitching, always beats good hitting.

That saying held true again last night in Game One of the 2009 World Series.

On a rainy, misty night in the Bronx, Cliff Lee dominated a powerful New York Yankee lineup and Chase Utley hit two homeruns as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Yankees 6-1 to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven World Series.

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Lee was performance last night was historic

Lee’s pitching performance last night was very similar to Josh Beckett’s performance in Game Six of the 2003 World Series. Beckett steamrolled the Yankees that night and Lee steamrolled the Yankees last night.

Lee made pitching look ridiculously easy last night. Like Beckett, Lee was in control the entire game. He set the pace, he pounded the strike zone, and he did what he wanted to do.

Lee became the first pitcher in World Series history to pitch a game where he struck out 10, walked none, and didn’t allow an earned run.

Here are some of my other observations from last night:

CC Sabathia didn’t have his best stuff last night and he still held the Phillies to two runs and just four hits in seven innings. Pretty impressive.

Sabathia missed his spot twice last night to Utley and Utley made him pay big time.

How great were Utley AB’s last night? He saw 30 pitches in four AB’s. His walk in the first inning might have been more impressive than his two HR’s.

Alex Rodriguez was very good defensively last night. Offensively? Not so much.

I really can’t believe Yankee fans are calling the radio stations this morning and complaining. What are you complaining about? You lost to a great pitcher, who pitched great last night. It happens.

Lee is on a roll right now like Bret Saberhagen in 1985, Orel Hershiser in 1988, and Josh Beckett in 2007.

The Yankees have a serious Phil Hughes problem. What ever he did in the regular season, he is doing the complete opposite in the postseason.

Hughes has faced 27 batters this postseason and has only retired 14 of them. Ouch!

You can have Mariano Rivera in the pen, but if you have nobody to get him the ball, then it won’t matter.

Here is what I wrote about Damaso Marte in my preview yesterday:

“Marte is going to be asked at some point during this series to get Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or Raul Ibanez out.

Does any Yankee fan feel confident with first and second and one out in the seventh and Girardi calls on Marte to pitch to Utley and Howard?”

I was off by an inning. Marte came in the eighth with runners on first and second to face Utley and Howard and he did a really good job. He got Utley to strike out looking and got Howard to fly out to right.

Have you noticed that since Joe Girardi was hammered for overmanaging in Game Three of the ALCS, he has undermanaged since?

I was a little surprised he left David Robertson in the game to face Raul Ibanez in the eighth. I thought he might have gone to Phil Coke in that spot.

Was it a shock to anybody that Carlos Ruiz was in the middle of a rally in the ninth? This guy is so good in the postseason. I have become a huge fan.

Unlike the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Phillies expected to win last night and not hoped to win. The Phillies believe they are the better team and played like it.

Good job the umpires getting together to make sure they got the call right on that popup by Robinson Cano in the bottom of the fifth.

If a Yankee fan is going to complain about the check swing being called a strike in Cano’s AB that inning, then the Philly fan can complain about Lee striking out Hideki Matsui on an inside fastball and the pitch being called a ball. Matsui singled on the next pitch.

Lee coming out in the ninth inning pretty much ensured that Charlie Manuel will go with a fourth starter in Game Four instead of Lee on three days rest.

Tonight we are going to find out if AJ Burnett is worth his contract.

Now we are going to find out how tough the Yankees are. It’s one thing to take a punch in the face from the Angels in Game Five up three-games-t0-one.

It’s another thing to take a punch in the face in Game One of the World Series.

Game Two is tonight. First pitch is 7:57 ET.

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

Manny Ramirez To Exercise His Option

October 28, 2009

In a move that should come as a surprise to nobody, SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that Manny Ramirez will exercise his $20 million player option for 2010.

Nobody in the Los Angeles Dodger organization should be surprised by this. This was a no brainer decision for Ramirez. At the end of the day, Ramirez didn’t have any other options.

manny-ramirez-dodgers

Manny will be back with the Dodgers in 2010

What was he going to do? Back out of his contract and test the free agent market?

No team was going to give him a multi-year deal and no team was going to give him $20 million. Not after a year coming off a steroid suspension.

He had no choice but to exercise his option.

As for the Dodgers, this isn’t the worst move in the world. It’s not like the Detroit Tigers situation where they are going to pay Magglio Ordonez $18 million next year.

Despite having a down year by his standards, the Dodgers were still 59-40 with Ramirez in the lineup and he is still a presence in the middle of their lineup.

His .949 OPS still ranked seventh amongst National League hitters.

If Ramirez left, who were the Dodgers going to get to replace him? If they wanted a Matt Holliday or Jason Bay, they would have to shell out a long-term contract to either of those two.

With the Dodgers’ ownership situation a mess, I don’t see them shelling out any long-term deals to anyone these days.

Even at 38-years-old, Ramirez can still hit the value of his contract. The Dodgers will have one more year of Mannywood.

All things considered, it’s not the worst thing in the world.

2009 World Series Preview And Prediction

October 28, 2009

Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Yankees

Schedule

Yankee Stadium

Game One: Wednesday, Oct. 28 7:57 ET. Cliff Lee vs. CC Sabathia

Game Two: Thursday, Oct. 29 7:57 ET. Pedro Martinez vs. AJ Burnett

Citizens Bank Park

Game Three: Saturday, Oct. 31 7:57 ET. Andy Pettitte vs. Cole Hamels

Game Four: Sunday, Nov. 1 8:20 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Five*: Monday, Nov. 2 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Yankee Stadium

Game Six*: Wednesday, Nov. 4 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

Game Seven*: Thursday, Nov 5 7:57 ET. TBD vs. TBD

* If necessary

Umpires

Gerry Davis (crew chief), Joe West, Dana DeMuth, Brian Gorman, Mike Everitt, Jeff Nelson

Roster Changes

Phillies – In: Brett Myers. Out: Miguel Cairo

Yankees – In: Eric Hinske, Brian Bruney. Out: Freddy Guzman, Francisco Cervelli

Cliff Lee2

Lee will take the ball in Game One

Matchups

Yankee hitters vs. Lee, Martinez, and Hamels – .269/.327/.444

Philly hitters vs. Sabathia, Burnett, and Pettitte – .249/.281/.417

Preview

At 7:57 ET tonight, the Phillies and the Yankees will officially begin the 2009 World Series or “The worst case scenario for New York Mets fans.”

Not only do the Mets suffer one of their worst seasons in franchise history, but now they have to watch their hated division rival and hated cross-town rival in the World Series. Talk about a punch to the gut.

Don’t worry Mets fans, you will get through it. As a New York Jets fan, I went through something similar a couple of years ago when the New England Patriots played the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.

I rooted for the Giants in that game. I decided there was no way I could ever root for the Patriots under any circumstances. I am getting a sense that most Mets fans are feeling the same way towards the Phillies.

Now let’s talk about the two teams that matter–the Phillies and the Yankees. This will be the first time perhaps since 1999 that the two best teams in baseball are playing each other for the championship.

I have thought long and hard about this series and which direction I want to go. For me, this series comes down to a couple of things.

1. Will the Phillies look like a deer in headlights like the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim did? Let’s be realistic here–the Yankees beat both teams because both teams turned into the Kansas City Royals.

It’s not like the Yankees bludgeoned both teams.

The Yankees will always capitalize on errors and bad baserunning. Their lineup is too good not to.

If the Phillies make the same errors and baserunning mistakes the Twins and Angels did–they will lose this series.

2. Chad Durbin, Chan Ho Park Scott Eyre, and Ryan Madson vs. Phil Hughes, Domaso Marte, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson. This series will be determined mainly by the under-belly of the bullpen–not by the closers.

I laugh when people say the Yankees have the advantage in the pen because of Mariano Rivera. Isn’t that the case with every game of every series the Yankees play in?

Saying the Yankees have an advantage because of Rivera, is like saying the Bulls had an advantage at shooting guard with Michael Jordan. It’s a given.

It’s going to be how the pitchers before Rivera fair that will determine the outcome of the game. In particular, Marte.

Girardi was going to Marte over Phil Coke in the ALCS in late inning situations vs. a left-handed batter. With the way Girardi overmanages, Marte is going to be asked at some point during this series to get Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, or Raul Ibanez out.

Does any Yankee fan feel confident with first and second and one out in the seventh and Girardi calls on Marte to pitch to Utley and Howard?

Pedro Phillies

Pedro will go in Game Two

3. Can Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels step up? If the Phillies are going to win this series, then one of these guys is going to have to step up. Martinez pitched better than anyone expected in Game Two of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now Martinez is expected to win against the Yankees in Game Two of the World Series. I have my doubts about this move.

Why open up a hornet’s nest by starting Martinez in the Bronx with all his prior history with the Yankees? Martinez is a National League pitcher at this point in his career. Let him start in Game Three or Four against a National League lineup with the pitcher hitting.

If Martinez doesn’t pitch well in Game Two, then the Phillies are going to need Hamels to wake up in Game Three. There is no evidence to suggest that he can.

His fastball is flat, his curveball has no break to it, and his body language on the mound stinks. That’s a recipe for disaster against the Yankees.

4. Will the layoff hurt the Phillies? We saw a long layoff hurt the Detroit Tigers in 2006 and the Colorado Rockies in 2007. The Phillies haven’t played since the 21st.

I think for the Phillies, the layoff won’t matter. Remember, they had a long layoff last year going into the World Series and that didn’t affect them at all.

5. Will Girardi Girardi overmange the Yankees out of a World Series title? If Girardi was overmanaging in an American League game, what is going to happen in those three games in Philadelphia? It might get ugly.

Girardi has been bailed out by Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees’ overall talent. What happens when the Yankees don’t bail him out?

Prediction

I have picked against the Phillies all postseason. I have picked the Yankees all postseason. Everything in me is leaning towards picking the Yankees.

They have the better pitching and they will catch a break someone. The inevitable bad call that favors the Yankees will happen somewhere during the series

I’ll keep my trend going.

Yankees in Six

MVP – Mark Teixeira

Also, for those of you in the New York/Long Island area, I will be on AM 1240 WGBB this Sunday night on Sports Talk Live with Frankie The Sports Guy at 10:30 PM ET.

We’ll be talking about the World Series and some other things that are going on in baseball.

Houston Astros Hire Brad Mills As Manager

October 27, 2009

After Manny Acta spurned the Houston Astros to take the Cleveland Indians manager position, the Astros had to go to Plan B.

Plan B was Brad Mills.

Mills was hired today to be the next manager for the Astros. Mills replaces Cecil Cooper who was fired with 13 games left in the season. Former Astros manager Phil Garner and interim manager Dave Clark were finalists for the position.

Brad Mills

Mills was Francona's right-hand man in Boston

Mills has spent the last six seasons as the bench coach for Terry Francona and the Boston Red Sox. Francona and Mills were teammates and roommates at the University of Arizona.

Mills also spent 11 seasons as a manager in the minor leagues with the Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Will Mills make a great major league manager? That I don’t know. There is no way to tell who will be a great manager and who will fall flat on his face.

Here is what I do know. Mills is going to have a tough time winning in Houston if the talent he is managing doesn’t get better.

The Astros are in a bad spot right now. They are an aging team with bad contracts and are short on minor league talent. That’s usually a recipe for disaster.

Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, and Roy Oswalt all have huge contracts and are all at the back-end of their careers. The Astros do have Jason Castro and Bud Norris as young and up-and-coming players, but who knows if they can be solid players on the major league level.

Just like with Acta in Cleveland, the Astro fans are going to need to be patient with Mills. They are going to have to judge him on how he handles his players and can he get the most out of the talent he has to work with?

Mills takes over a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in four years and finished 74-88 last year.

Big Offseason Looms For The Angels

October 27, 2009

I was planning on writing my World Series preview and predictions today, but I think I am going to hold off for one more day. I want to wait until the rotations and rosters are set. I want to make sure everything is in place before I give my thoughts on the series.

As for today, I am going to write about the team I have written about the most in the past 10 months.

The New York Yankees? Nope.

The Boston Red Sox? Nope.

Perhaps the Colorado Rockies? Not quite.

Today, I will be talking about the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. I have written more articles that concern the Angels than any other team.

I guess that makes sense. I have been ripping Brian Fuentes all year, they are always active in free agency and trades, and most importantly–they had a great season.

I am guessing the Angels will be around the top talked about teams next year as well. And next year for the Angels began yesterday when they were eliminated by the Yankees in the ALCS.

There are three teams in my opinion, who face massive offseason decisions. The St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Mets, and the Angels.

Listen, every team faces offseason decisions, but these three teams face decisions that could set the course of their franchise for years to come.

Vladimir Guerrero

Vlad could be moving on this Winter

The Angels have a myriad of impending free agents. Vladimir Guerrero ($15 million), John Lackey ($9 million), Kelvim Escobar ($9.5 million), Chone Figgins ($5.8 million), Bobby Abreu ($5 million), and Darren Oliver ($3.7 million) all could be available for other teams this offseason.

For those of you scoring at home the Angels could lose their No. One starter, their leadoff hitter, their No. Two hitter, and their cleanup hitter.That is a lot to replace in one offseason.

The good news is that the Angels are also losing about $48 million in salary. Now what to do with that $48 million is the hard part.

My guess is that Abreu and Oliver come back and the Angels let Figgins, Guerrero, Escobar, and Lackey go. They should then put all of their resources into improving their bullpen and trying to sign an impact bat for the middle of the lineup.

As we saw in the ALCS, the Angels still don’t have that impact bat in the middle of the lineup that scares you. Kendry Morales and Torii Hunter are nice players, but they really don’t scare anyone.

Of course, Matt Holliday and Jason Bay come to mind for the impact bat the Angels need.

Hopefully the Angels will replace Figgins with Brandon Wood. I say hopefully because it seems the Angels are reluctant to give Wood a full-time job at the big league level.

I know he has a long swing, but Wood can hit 25-30 HR’s at the major league level.

Every team hits a “peak” with a certain group of players, then they have to rebuild or retool. The Mets peak was in 2006, the Milwaukee Brewers peak was in 2008, the Chicago White Sox peak was 2005, and the Angels peak was in 2008 as well.

The Angels were the best team in baseball in 2008 and that was their year to win the World Series. Now, they have to retool to get back to that point.

The Angels have more questions than answers going into the offseason. What ever the Angels decide to do, something tells me they will be one of the top teams in baseball yet again next year and I will be writing about them a lot again in 2010.

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

Cardinals Bring Back Tony LaRussa And Mark McGwire

October 26, 2009

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the St. Louis Cardinals are facing a franchise defining offseason. Well, their offseason got off to a great start today.

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the Cardinals and manager Tony LaRussa have agreed to a one-year deal with a mutual option for 2011. The Cardinals also got good news when pitching coach Dave Duncan agreed to return to the team as well.

LaRussa will be back with the Cards in 2010

LaRussa will be back with the Cards in 2010

But the big shock of the day was the announcement of Mark McGwire as hitting coach. McGwire will replace Hal McRae as the Cardinals’ hitting coach.

LaRussa has approached McGwire in the past about being a hitting coach, but McGwire always declined LaRussa’s invitations. This is a real interesting hire by the Cardinals.

Since McGwire made his famous “I am not here to talk about the past” speech during the 2005 congressional hearings, he has disappeared from the public eye.

It will be interesting to see if McGwire becomes a distraction with all the possible questions about steriods he might asked.”We are going to make Mark available,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “How he is going to answer questions is up to him.”

If I was McGwire, I would have one day where I would give the media a chance to ask me anything possible. After that–no more questions about steriods.

That strategy worked well for Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez.

The Cardinals can act like hiring McGwire is no big deal, but it is. This is a man who held the most sacred record not only in baseball, but in sports and then embarrassed himself on a national stage in front of Congress.

As far as what type of hitting coach McGwire will be? I have no idea. That is a wait and see.

McGwire has worked with major league hitters in the past, most notably Matt Holliday. That could help in re-signing the free agent leftfielder.

The Cardinals solved a big piece of their offseason puzzle today by bringing back LaRussa and Duncan. Now, if they can just re-sign Holliday and extend Albert Pujols’ contract, their offseason puzzle will be complete.