Archive for October 2010

Anything Can Happen in a Short Series

October 25, 2010

Well, the Giants and the Rangers did it.  Two teams that have never won the World Series (at least since the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958) will have a chance to win their first.

The last time this happened was 2002, when the Angels beat the Giants in seven.  Needless to say, the Angels came into existence in 1961, the same year the Rangers’ organization came into existence as the second Washington Senators (the original Senators moved to the Twin Cities in 1961, and MLB being the conservative body it is decided to stick another team in D.C., rather than expanding into a truly new market; the Senators moved to metro Dallas and became the Rangers before the 1972 season.)

The Giants have already broken one recent curse (the inability to win a game on the road after leading a series 3-2 (1987 and 2002), so there’s no reason to think they don’t have a chance to finally win a World Series since moving out West.  Besides, there are no players left from the 2002 team on the 2010 roster, so it’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t anything left of the 2002 Game 6 collapse, except unpleasant memories and a few nightmares as far as the Giants are concerned.

The point of this post is that anything can happen in a short series.  Going into the play-offs this year, the smart money had to be on the Phillies representing the NL in the World Series and any of the four finalists except Texas representing the AL.  Of course, that’s not the way it turned out.

Teams with great starting pitching often underperform in the post-season (the 1969 and 1971 Orioles are good examples, as are the 1988 and 1990 A’s), but the Giants managed to win both the Braves and Phillies series with games to spare, although in all honesty, the games the Giants won were all exceptionally close.  One could also point out that the Phillies had three exceptionally fine starters in Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels, but they only managed to squeeze out two wins in their five starts.

The Giants remind me of the 1960 Pirates.  The Pirates allowed the most runs scored by an opponent in any World Series ever played (the Yankees scored 55 runs in the Series), but won the Series 4-3 on Mazeroski’s legendary home run.  The Yankees won three blow-outs, but couldn’t win the close games.

That sounds a like the 2010 Giants.  One expects that the Rangers will win at least one big blow-out game in the Series no matter what, but the Giants could still end up as World Champions.

I’m not even going to try to predict the outcome of this series.  The Giants have looked like a team of destiny in the first two post-season series: they’ve had the line-drives hit right at fielders who turned them into double-plays, and the tough hops mostly went the Giants’ way.

That could all change in the World Series.  The series will most likely come down to which of the two teams’ hitters adjust most quickly to the fine starting pitchers the other team hasn’t seen much of in the past.

The teams last played in the regular season June 19-21, 2009, when the Giants swept a three-game series in San Francisco.  That seams like an awfully long time ago, when one considers how dramatically the Rangers improved in 2010.

The Giants also faced Cliff Lee in San Francisco in his NL league debut on July 31, 2009.  Lee shut the Giants down, throwing a complete game and allowing only a single earned run on four hits and two walks and notching six strikeouts.

It’s going to be a great series for people who really love baseball, because we’ll get to see two teams that haven’t been their much or at all in the past.  We’ll see how the TV ratings go, however: the networks would have loved to see either the Yankees or the Phillies back in the series to play either of the actual winners.

The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

October 4, 2010

My friend Jack gave me a copy of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary today, edited by — you guessed it! — Paul Dickson.  It was published in 1989 by Avon Books.

Here are a few selected definitions for your enjoyment:

anglern. Player or his agent who “casts” about looking for testimonials, product endorsements, speaking engagements and other off-field sources of income.

bananan. A good player; a prospect that makes the team.  “There isn’t a scout in the business who hasn’t touted more lemons than bananas.” (Dick Friendlich, Relief Pitcher, CDP).

carry a safe. v./arch.  To run slowly: to run as if weighed down by a heavy object.  [Bengie Molina comes readily to mind.  Would also describe famed slow-poke Ernie Lombardi.  Burly]

dirtern.  Casey Stengel’s term for a ground ball.

foshballn.  Pitch attributed to Mike Boddiker that combines the properties of a change-up and forkball or other breaking pitch.  USA Today said that, “It breaks away from left-handers and is the pitch [Rod] Carew, George Brett and other lefties have found so frustrating.” (September 8, 1983)

[For those of you who don’t remember Mike Boddiker, he went 16-8 the year the article was published, his rookie year; and he led the AL with 20 wins and a 2.79 ERA in 1984.  He finished his career 134-116 in 1993.  I heard this year that Tim Lincecum throws his change-up with a split-finger grip, rather than throwing a circle change.  Burly]

jelly bean. n./arch.  A raw recruit.

matadorn.  A timid infielder; specifically, one who positions his body like a bullfighter to avoid being hit by the ball when fielding it.

matchingn.  Baseball card flipping game in which a card is dropped and it is up to the second player to match it to keep both cards.  If the first player’s card lands with the photo side up (heads) the second player must flip heads also or lose both cards.  The printed back of the card in this game is regarded as tails.

orange alertn. Description that Oakland A’s owner Charlie O. Finley used for the orange baseball (the color would be “a little brighter than plain orange” he said) that he tried to have made standard.  He pushed the idea hard in 1972.  [I doubt many baseball fans feel sorry Charlie O last that particular battle.  Burley]

Picasson.  CONTROL PITCHER; one who paints the black.

schneiderv.  To shut out.

thumb onv.  To reach base solely by hitting a ball  on the bat handle, close to the thumb.

Zurdon.  Spanish nickname for lefty.

You will have to read the book if you want anymore.  At a substantial 430 pages, it’s got plenty more.

Giants Finally Do It

October 4, 2010

It took until the last game of the season, but they did it.  Now, it’s the same as if they’d won the division by 10 games, so bring on the Braves!

It feels like it’s been more than six years since the last time the Giants made the play-offs.  We had to put up with some pretty bad seasons from 2005 through 2008, but it’s all worth it now.

I can’t help but notice that we had tremendous parity in MLB this year.  Not one team had a .600 winning percentage (the Phillies are tops at .599) and only two had winning percentages below .400.

If only the national economy wasn’t so bad, I’d suggest it was a good time to add two more teams through expansion.

The big moves during the season were obviously acquiring Pat Burrell and trading away Bengie Molina so Buster Posey  could play every day at catcher.  Burrell and Posey combined for 36 HRs in 695 at-bats and turned the team into one that could score runs in bunches just often enough.

Thanks to the long ball, the Giants ended up 9th in the NL in runs scored.  They finished 8th in OPS, so the team record 158 double-plays they hit into didn’t cost them that much.

Giants’ pitchers’ 583 runs allowed was good for second in the NL, only two runs behind the Padres.

Also critical was the emergence of Madison Bumgarner and the fact that the trade deadline moves improved the middle of the bullpen.  The Giants were 16 games over .500 (45-29) after the All-Star Break.  They were just as good enough as they had to be.

It was a real team effort on both sides of the ball, and I’ll say it again — Bring on the Braves!