Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
A fun little list for a fun little guy tonight, folks. And rather than give you a dour little image of the Hitlerian second sacker, I went with a great little guitar tune. We can't be seen together, indeed.
Before we begin this week's picks, a brief musical interlude. It'll make everything seem nicer. Besides, there's titty, and hey, the Phillies are World Series champions. Who can be angry about anything?
Here's how invested I am in this NFL season. I'm in two head to head fantasy leagues -- one for work, the other a legacy deal with friends. I'm also in a third league which is points based, with a live auction and keeper protects. I blog about the NFL, of course. I'm seriously considering a 1,200 mile round-trip roadie to Porkopolis to see the Eagles play the Bengals in mid-November outdoor weather. And finally, there's this picks column.
In short, there's never going to be a week in which everything goes well, since we're in that magical Sucker Bet World that is a 4-way parley.
For the most part, it's gone pretty well. In the friends head to head league, I'm in second with a 7-1 record. That's the league where I have Tony Romo, which means the next couple of weeks will be far too much patchwork (Jeff Garcia, may you burn in hell for not going deep last week), but I should make the playoffs and have a puncher's chance.
In the work head to head league, I'm in first, and life has gone just swimmingly. In the points league, despite having Tom Brady go down in week one, I had a huge week to draw to sixth, within hailing distance of money. In all three leagues, I own Steve Slaton, which has made me all kinds of happy.
And then there's the picks, which had been good up until last week, when we took it all day without lube and gave back six games to the happy side of profit.
Atsa's spicy meatball! Made out of the entirely wrong kind of meat.
So this week, if the law of averages means anything (and it doesn't), these picks are solid gold, baby. Bet the 401K. Bet the house. Hell, bet the money you'll make from recycling my empties from last week. Now, we're talking real money.
On to the picks!
* * * * *
Jets at BUFFALO (-5.5)
J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan has started to see the Ugly Side of The Favre Experience: vertical punt picks that defy any rhyme, reason or sense. It's one thing when such things end your playoff game, since that involves a quick, mercy-killing blow to the back of the head. It's quite another when they single-handedly almost cost you a home game in October against Herm (Herm!) Edwards and the I-AA Chiefs.
It didn't help, of course, that the Jets' offensive play-calling in that game was straight from the Andy Reid playbook of refusing to let your running backs get bruised, or your power running offensive line hit someone in the mouth. (You know, for an ex-offensive lineman, Andy really must hate himself. That, and the weight gain, and the parenting issues. Anyway, moving on.)
The Jets have a bona fide home-run hitter in the backfield in Leon Washington. Sure, he's nobody's idea of a 20-carry a game guy, but when the guy rips off two big touchdowns, maybe you should, you know, give him a chance at three. Eric Mangini chose to save him on the sidelines and let Saint Brett TAInt the game up. (Touchdown After INTerception, or the area between... err, just go to Urban Dictionary.)
Anyway, Saint Brett led them to the big comeback, so all is forgiven, right? Um, er, no, not so much. New York Fan has seen this movie before, and it doesn't end with Shaky Vertical Punt QB leading the team to a playoff win. It just ends with J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Fan smashing his fist against something heavy, which is a sad but accurate description of his wife. (Whoa, where did that come from? The Phillies won! Be happy!)
Anyhoo... the Jets head north and west to battle the presumably With Electricity Bills, who spent their last weekend looking sad, but powered, on the road in Miami. The Bills need the game to solidify their shaky standing in the AFC East; the Jets need the game because after that punchbowl turd in Oakland two weeks ago, no one thinks they can win on the road. With their quarterback showing less competence for the job than his wife shows in defending him... I like the home team.
Bills 27, Jets 20
Detroit at CHICAGO (-13)
The Bears come off a bye and get the still winless but not yet completely quitting Lions, who led the Redskins for most of last week's game in Detroit before looking down and remembering what those uniforms stood for. On the road against a rested Bears team, with the continuing shocking development that is Kyle Orton Being More Than A Game Manager, I'm not seeing the effort. Or, more importantly, any kind of running game.
Bears 24, Lions 10
JACKSONVILLE at Cincinnati (-7.5)
The league's other winless team hosts the presumably annoyed Jaguars, who showed why they can't be trusted in a home loss to the Browns. (Hint: It involves the people who stand next to the center when he snaps the ball to David Garrard. They aren't very good at, well, playing football.) The Bengals are cursed all over, won't have Carson Palmer to get kicked around anymore this year, and start a mammal and a biped in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Any further resemblance to an NFL quarterback is accidental.
Bengal Fan is currently offering seats for this game for your recycling empties, and getting no takers, since Jacksonville Fan exists only in theory, and never in cold weather. Look for Chris Henry to spray entire sections of empty seats with a sub-machine gun, all the while screaming, "*NOW* WILL YOU FIRE MARVIN LEWIS?"
Jaguars 28, Bengals 17
BALTIMORE at Cleveland (-1.5)
Two flawed teams that are still very much alive in their division race, because their division, is, well, dramatically flawed, albeit not quite West-esque.
The Ravens had a good time at home last week in stomping the Raiders, and even brought out the bucket of confetti with a two-QB alignment that saw Joe Flacco catch a long touchdown from back-up QB Tony Smith. Somewhere, Kyle Boller is eating Haagen-Dazs and listening to emo music.
The Browns took out the Jaguars on the road, despite the Jags' coming off the bye. In a game where it will come down to which quarterback makes the big mistake, my money is on Derek Anderson to blow it first. It also doesn't help him that his home crowd will be crying for Brady Quinn, and later on, just crying.
Ravens 20, Browns 16
GREEN BAY at Tennessee (-5.5)
I'm loving the Pack in this game. They're coming off a bye, getting a Titans' team that won their Statement Game over the Colts, and have a short week from the Monday night game. With a big lead in the division, this is the time for them to give one up, especially to a Packers' team that won't have to worry about stopping actual NFL wideouts. So long as they can give Aaron Rodgers any time to throw, I think they're going to score enough to cover, and even win. Besides, if the Titans are still undefeated in November, television stations will start giving the '73 Dolphins airtime again, and no one wants to see that.
Packers 24, Titans 20
TAMPA BAY at Kansas City (+8.5)
Once again, if you are betting this game, you are more or less betting that the Chiefs will actually score some points, which, given that they are starting Tyler Thigpen, doesn't give me much hope. (No, showing a pulse against the Jets doesn't count.) Look for the Bucs to actually run the ball on the Chiefs' awful run defense, unlike, say, the Bretts... and for Ernest Graham to finally pay off for his fantasy owners. Oh, and Warrick Dunn will vulture a touchdown, just to make you hate Jon Gruden nearly as much as his quarterback harem does.
Bucs 16, Chiefs 7
ARIZONA at St. Louis (+3)
Come now, the Cardinals have to finally show up on the road, don't they? Well, no -- they held a significant lead in Carolina last week and still threw the ball nearly every down. As I have the sneaky great Kurt Warner this year in fantasy, I'm fine with that; I'm also really looking forward to betting against them in the playoffs. Can we make a division winner play a road game, just on general principles?
This week, they get the Rams, who have been a frisky thing since the switch from Scott Linehan to Jim Haslett. Had they held on for the win last week in New England, they'd probably be the favorite in this game. But they didn't, they might still be missing Stephen Jackson, and the Cardinals can get after the quarterback.Finally, there's Warner's chances for some Old Testament revenge in his old home town, and lots of Brenda Warner flashbacks to keep the home crowd quiet, if not incontinent. Expect a gross shootout.
Cardinals 38, Rams 28
Houston at MINNESOTA (-4.5)
Kind of a fun game, in that the Texans take a huge step up in class to face a flawed but intriguing Vikings' team that they might match up well against, since Matt Schaub has been quietly great for a month. Unfortunately for the road team, the Vikes are coming off the bye, and while Brad Childress Eats Paste, he's also from the Andy Reid School, which means he knows what to do with extra time to prepare for a game. If Steve Slaton does anything in this game, my Man Crush will be complete.
Vikings 24, Texans 14
Miami at DENVER (-3)
The Broncos come off a very needed bye, while the Dolphins were enjoying their day of beating the Bills senseless. As much as I hate to go anywhere near enver -- yes, the D is missing, if if was ever actually there in the first place -- the bye and high altitude is too much to overcome. Also, it's high time that Jay Cutler had a big day again. But I'd feel a hell of a lot better about this game if Champ Bailey was around.
Broncos 31, Dolphins 24
Atlanta at OAKLAND (+2.5)
I was really impressed by Matt Ryan and the Falcons last week. They came into Philadelphia and gave a rested home team all that it could handle, and they've got the skill players -- Michael Turner, Jerious Norwood and Roddy White -- that can keep the chains moving.
But this week, they go coast to coast and face a truly great corner in Nnamdi Ahmadinejad Asomugha, and I think this game has just got letdown written all over it. Betting the Raiders is never for the faint of heart, but I look for Zach Miller to have a big game and for the road team to just be a little snakebit.
Finally, there's this. The Falcons lost last week's game on a blown muffed punt call with just over two minutes left, because they didn't have a timeout left for an instant replay challenge. When that kind of thing happens, I think it shakes a team a little, because they are suddenly thinking about whether their rookie coach is going to cost them games. It's all part of the Maturation Process, which is never smooth.
Raiders 24, Falcons 23
Dallas at NY GIANTS (-9)
Notice that this line opened at 7... and well, I still think it's way too low. The Cowboys won't be able to move the ball at all, and eventually, the Giants are just going to wear them down with the running game. Expect to see incompletions and sacks against Brad Johnson, followed by interceptions and sacks from Brooks Bollinger. As for the over/under to Countdown TO Meltdown, it's with five minutes left in the third. I'm taking the under.
Giants 28, Cowboys 17
PHILADELPHIA at Seattle (+6.5)
Seneca Wallace looked competent against the Niners in San Francisco, causing Mike Singletary to film a Coors Light commercial in his very first game. This just in: the Eagles' defense is better than the Niners'. And the Seabags don't have the running back (Julius Jones smokes cigarettes, TJ Duckett smokes nothing) that can keep the Eagles' defense honest.
Seattle has a good home field advantage, and Mile Holmgren has authored plenty of Andy Reid nightmares over the past few years. But they can't stay keep McNabb and (especially) Westbrook off the board for long, especially now that the quarterback has everyone but Shane Andrews and Reggie Brown (presumably) working on offense. Combine this with the Phillies' breakthrough, and Philly Fan is going to have to see a doctor from that uncomfortable facial ache. (Those smile muscles are really getting a workout.)
Eagles 31, Seahawks 16
NEW ENGLAND at Indianapolis (-5.5)
The marquee game that isn't. Don't be fooled by the laundry, folks... neither of these teams is very good anymore, and if either of them make it to a playoff game, they're going to go down. Hard.
Of course, this also supposes the NFL teams have any relation to themselves from a week to week basis. The only thing we know about the Patriots is that without Tom Brady, they have no real margin for error, unless the opposition trips over themselves, a la Denver last week. All we know about this Colts' team is that they are killing their fantasy team owners, they can't stop the run without Bob Sanders, their wins have been Houdini acts, and their special teams suck. Against the madness that is Bill Belichick, that's enough for a close cover, if not an out-and-out win.
Patriots 24, Colts 21
PITTSBURGH at Washington (-1.5)
Our good friend CMJ Dad hates it when I pick the Steelers; he's convinced that I am the Jinx to End All Jinxes.
Of course, a much bigger jinx is a bottom five offensive line, a #1 wideout who likes the chronic, and a fluke injury to your long snapper in the middle of a game, leading to the go-ahead safety on a punt. The perils of a Thursday picks column, folks. (Oh, and while you are at it, please get yourself a punter who can walk. That was just embarrassing.)
The Skins have been winning with mirrors for a while now, and nearly gave up the first win of the year last week to the Lions before getting a punt return touchdown from Santana Moss (who doesn't even have that job usually). They also don't rush the quarterback very well, which means they'll only sack Big Ben four times, rather than 10. For him this year, that's an easy day.
But rest easy, Dad. If I'm still losing on this bet this week, I promise to go through the entire history of the picks column and show the Steelers' won-loss record against my picks. That'll be fun for, well, no one. Go Steelers!
Steelers 24, Redskins 21
Last week: 3-9-2
Year to date: 58-50-4
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Simon, e-mail me at dmt shooter at gmail dot com with your T-shirt size and address.
Truth, you know what you have to do...
After a 46 hour rain delay, it's Geoff Jenkins, a mostly useless guy all year, out to hit for Hamels. Ball one is greeted with a thunderous roar. He swings and misses at 95, up and out. Balfour gets strike two, 96 and low; he looks sharp, but he's also breathing hard, and misses outside, even faster. He might be gripping a bit... and he overthrows again, taking the count full. Jenkins then absolutely crushes one to the wall in center right, some 395 feet away. He might have thought third, but that would have been a bad thought, given that Bossman Junior picked up the ball.
Rollins drops a first pitch bunt to third, moving Jenkins to third. Perfect execution, if not the best possible result. It's on Jayson Werth to get the run home.
Ball one, wild high. Rays warming two lefties in the pen. Ball two is away, still 95. Werth watches strike one inside high, and I don't think Balfour has thrown anything that has varied in speed. Another fastball in the same location is fouled back, and Balfour is smelling the strikeout at 2-2. Werth fists off a ball to very shallow center that Iwamura can't control, as the infield was in. That's scored as a hit, Balfour is done, and Howell will come in to face Utley. Who says this team is cursed, or that Charlie Manuel doesn't have the touch? He could have used Dobbs or Stairs; instead, he chose his third-best left-handed pinch-hitter, as if this was, you know, a normal game. Wow. 3-2, Phillies.
We come back from commercial to see Grant Balfour throwing his glove like an angry man. It's a darn shame. Darn shame!
Howell starts his night by throwing to first. Wheeler throwing, presumably for Burrell, assuming the inning gets that far. Strike one is on the outside corner with movement. Ryan Madson starts throwing for the Phillies. Joe Buck apologizes for Maddon using Balfour and Howell instead of Electric David Price, because that's what Fox does -- though the pitcher does hit fourth for the Rays next inning, and it's impossible for American League teams to use double changes. Gosh darn National League rules!
Strike two is on the corner, and strike three is a good curve, getting Utley to flail. Impressive stuff from Howell. Howard on, and since he doesn't have a man in scoring position, this should work out. Werth gets picked off and makes second base anyway, as Howell's move to first wasn't fast enough. Dammit, Jayson, now Howard can't get a hit! And to prove my point, Howard pops up to Longoria to end the inning. It's Ryan Madson time, and the Phillies are nine outs away.
If the Phillies hold the lead... Cole Hamels wins the game. Though to be honest, I never quite got that. Geoff Jenkins pinch-hit for him; he was in pitcher's position when the Phillies scored. Shouldn't he be the winning pitcher? Ok, well, no. Moving on.
Fox shows a ton of commercials, and I'm left to wonder if every post-season baseball telecast has to go 3 hours. Fox is wise to the Hamels win possibility; if he gets it, he's the first to ever start 5 and win 5. Navarro is the first hitter of the seventh, and Madson starts him off with an unhittable tailing fastball. Strike two is a change that's moving down; Navarro fights it off. Ball one misses inside by a little. Romero and Price warming up in opposite bullpens. Strike three is 94, on the inside corner and down, and damn near perfect. Sit down, meat.
Rocco Baldelli is up next... and he fists one to left, carrying nicely and gone. Crap, crap, crap. Tie game. Honestly, he didn't look good on the swing, but Baldelli just got it out anyway. Crap, crap, crap. 3-3 game.
Bartlett rips a base hit to left on an 0-1 pitch, and that looked more comfortable than the Baldelli homer. Bartlett is a stolen base threat, and Howell will stay in the game to bunt. One does wonder how much he's done that. Strike one is missed, but Howell gets it done, and it's two out, man on second, for Iwamura. Manuel has seen enough of Madson, and he's picked a bad time to be human. Romero in after an ungodly amount of commerce.
Fox goes for the Baldelli mouth job, and I guess it's pretty damn warranted. Jerk. Romero looks Bartlett back to second. Strike one is a good fastball on the inside corner. Chad Bradford getting loose. Utley then makes a great play to keep Iwamura's slow roller in the infield, then catches Bartlett getting greedy on the turn; it's a close play at the plate, but he's clearly out, and the inning is over. Aggro base running giveth, and aggro base running taketh away. I suspect Fox is quite happy with their evening of programming so far tonight -- this game is crazy tight. 3-3 going into the bottom of the seventh.
Howell starts Burrell with a strike. Two nights ago, Pat the Not Bat took two walks, but he's still 0 for 13 for the Series. Fox is in full goat mode for him, showing the graphic every time he comes up... and Burrell responds with a mashed ball to left that would have been out in the months that God intended baseball to be played. Bruntlett in to run for him. One wonders why he's not on third, but then again, it's Pat Burrell. Chad Bradford on for the Rays to turn Victorino around. If I'm the Rays, I go with Wheeler here, in that Chadford is prone to ground ball singles, but Joe Maddon will do what Joe Maddon will do...
Victorino shows bunt, and watches ball one. Again, this is setting up the bottom of the order, but Manuel has had the touch. Second pitch is bunted foul; Bradford can't be an easy guy to bunt, really. Manuel comes out to talk about something, and McCarver is dreaming of a balk call. Strike two is a whiffed bunt, and so much for that strategy. Bradford doesn't strike out a lot of guys, and he won't get Victorino either, as he pulls the ball to Iwamura. Man on third, one out, for Feliz.
Rather than go to Dobbs, Manuel leaves in Pedro. I suspect he likes Feliz v. Bradford more than Dobbs v. Electric David Price. Strike one is fouled off... and the third baseman rips a ball up the middle that would have been a single, even if the infield hadn't been up. The Phillies take the lead back, and Charlie Manuel is a genius. 4-3, Phillies.
Carlos Ruiz up as Maddon leaves Bradford in. The sidewinder gets ahead 0-2, with Dobbs on deck. Price warming. Ruiz loops one up the middle, but Iwamura makes a great play to get Feliz. Two outs, and that keeps Romero in the game; he grounds out on the first pitch. Curious.
Romero starts the eighth with a 2-0 count to Crawford, then hits the inside corner for strike one, and misses low for 3-1. Not the man you want to walk. Strike two is a marginal low call, but Fox gives it to him easily. On the full count, Crawford laces it to center, and the Phillies relieves are picking a bad time to be hittable.
Bossman Junior up now, and this is major scary... for all of a pitch, as he taps a perfect double play ball to Rollins. Phew. Monstrously big. Carlos Pena up with 2 outs and nobody one, with Longoria on deck. The lefty will be Romero's last hitter, and he overthrows ball one. Big nerves time for everyone, really. A pinched high fastball makes it 2-0 to the first baseman. Scott Eyre throwing with Lidge, probably just for company. A floater makes it 3-0. 94mph at the letters makes it 3-1, but not a great pitch; if he tries it again, Pena probably jumps on it. The 3-1 pitch is a fastball inside that Pena serves to Bruntlett in left for the first scoreless inning of the re-start. We are three outs away, with Longoria, Navarro and ... Baldelli due in the ninth. Insurance would be Quite Helpful, and the Phillies will have the top of the order to try to provide it.
Price and Aybar in, so Maddon does know how to double-switch; Aybar will hit fourth in the ninth, and replaces Pena. The Electric One is low on the first two pitches to Rollins. Rollins gets under the third pitch and it dies on the track to Crawford in left, and it's time for Fox to show us grainy Philly championship footage.
Up yours, Fox.
Werth dives out of the way of a low cutter -- let it hit you! -- for a 2-1 count, then fouls off heat. Strike three is called on the outside corner, and Electric David Price has two outs.
Fox then craps on us with the Billy Penn Hat legend, and we see some dinky statue on top of the Comcast tower. Um, whatever.
Up yours, Fox.
Utley gets to 3-0, then watches 95 mph on the outside corner for 3-1. The Electric One will make a lot of money playing baseball. The 3-1 pitch is about as bad as Utley has ever looked on a fastball, but the 3-2 heater is away, and Chase takes the walk. Insurance is up to Ryan Howard, and maybe he gets a fastball he can handle. A long ball would make many, many Phillies fans relax, maybe for the first time in three days.
Strike one is a high but moving slider at 87. Et tu, Electric One? Give the big man a fastball. Not on the second or third pitches, which miss. Crowd gets into it, and on Yet Another Slider, Utley steals second, more to show that he can, really. Bruntlett on deck, and he did hit a homer in game two. Fouls off strike two, off speed again... and then Price finally gives in and throws a fastball right by Howard. We're into the top of the ninth, with Brad Lidge needing three outs for immortality. 4-3, Phillies.
Well, folks, this is everything that Phillies Fan could have hoped for from this bizarro game -- a lead in the ninth with the closer that hasn't failed all year. Everybody convinced that we're doomed yet? I know that I am. Evan Longoria looks like Albert Pujols. Dioner Navarro looks like a left-handed Albert Pujols. Rocco Baldelli has already homered tonight. We're doomed.
Strike one is a nasty slider that moves all over. Strike two is 94 mph heat that Longoria is late on. Joe Buck tells us about Lidge's last home run allowed. Up yours, Fox. Longoria watches the slider miss, low and away. He also looks at 93 mph heat up and on the hands. Heat outside, on the black, is fouled off. The slider gets him guessing fastball, and he pops it up. Utley squeezes it. One away.
Navarro gets a first-pitch slider strike. Useful pitch, that. A second one is out of the zone, and the catcher goes fishing. Strike two. McCarver warns of wild pitch strike outs, where the hitter reaches first. That's another way we're doomed. A broken bat single to right gets the catcher aboard, and we're doomed. Maddon pinch runs Fernando Perez, who scored the winning run in game two of the ALCS; he might as well have a baton. Ben Zobrist in to hit for Baldelli.
First pitch fastball at 92 is a strike. The Rays have stolen more bases in post-season than any other team ever. Ball one is a slider that misses outside. Curious that he hasn't moved on either pitch, but he goes on the second ball of the at bat, a slider that misses. Man on second, 2-1, and Lidge is 180 feet away from his first blown save of the season. Doom Time... and Zobrist's line drive is right at Werth in right. That's justice for Navarro's crappy single. Two outs, and Perez can't advance.
Eric Hinske, who also homered earlier in this series, hits for Bartlett. He's only here because Cliff Floyd got hurt. He has a World Series ring with the Red Sox last year. He's a white, left-handed, Albert Pujols. We're doomed.
A slow roller goes foul to first for strike one. He can't check on the slider for strike two, and Rays Fan, assuming he exists, has another beef with the men in blue. 0-2 count. Crowd huge. And strike three is a slider that Hinske seems to know that he has no chance on in mid-swing. And just like that, it's all over. Phillies 4, Rays 3, in five games.
The Phillies are the world champions.
No one in Philadelphia has to be from the town that hates any more.
Charlie Manuel's mom smiles.
Writing that made me cry.
Pat Gillick retires on top.
Brad Lidge is perfect -- now and forever.
Had 'em all along.
A Japanese medical journal has reported a rare case of phantom erectile penis. The patient underwent sexual-reassignment surgery (he became a she) and, in the days following, began to experience a bizarre sensation: His (or her) penis was still there! It was erect! And there was nothing he (or she!) could do about it! In the end, the doctors decided to pursue a second surgery, in which all the remaining genital nerve fibers were removed; after six torturous months, the phantom erection disappeared. A flaccid penis never felt so good. - Very Short List
I'd comment on this, but my brain just exploded.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Easy enough link today, and I'd say more about it, but I need one of those blows that Al Michaels and others are always talking about.
Is there some guy that can run over here right now and give me a blow?
Jeez, it's as if I was asking for something gross or intimate here...
Supposedly a top 10 search term on Google, and far be it for me to turn my nose up at free search traffic from jinx-hating idiots who want to set themselves up for Phresh Rage at an Uncaring God.
So welcome, you rain-causing morons. Please stare at the ads, and maybe order a T-Shirt. Papa needs a new pair of shoes, seeing as his last pair were ruined by rain and tears...
Your link is here, but cheer up, Philly Fan... it's all happiness and sunshine and pushing those rain clouds away.
Plus, um, you didn't lose the game. And your doom-tastic fans notwithstanding, being up 3-1 in a tie game in Game Five of the World Series is still, um, OK. I guess...
Monday, October 27, 2008
Well, it's suspended now, and this is obvious, but what an edge for the Rays. They basically neutralized Cole Hamels despite a bad start from Scott Kazmir. They got Carlos Pena, and to a lesser extent Evan Longoria, off the schnied. They are putting the fear of choke in the leaders. You can use Electric David Price in the re-start. The home field advantage for the Phillies has to be through the floorboards with the weather curse. The only real drawback is that they have to get 12 outs to the Phillies' nine.
Oh, well. As Adrian Belew once sang, fear is never boring...
A relatively low-key national anthem from John Oates, substituting for Darryl Hall, who Fox tells us was sick. This is followed up by the first dick pill ad of the evening. Somehow, I think I'll live with frequent pissing for the ability to drive a car without, you know, possible death from fainting.
Rays' manager Joe Maddon moves the Longoria-Pena duo down to the 4-5 slots, moving Carl Crawford up to the 2 slot. This means a split of speed threats if they have base runners, since Crawford and Upton are their main base steals. If it's my team, I'm tempted to lead off with Crawford, who has been my best hitter of the series, and bump Iwamura to 9, as a second leadoff hitter. But then again, I'm wacky that way.
Joe Buck feels compelled to tell us that the Rays are resilient. Um, really? I was sure that if you got to the World Series, there's no way that you could have been tested before this.
Rocco Baldelli tells the nation that Carlos Pena is the Rays' spiritual leader. I need to know more. What are his teachings? How does he stand on free will versus determinism? Does he see himself as a new Messiah, or more of an apostle to some previous leader? Don't leave us hanging, Rocco.
First pitch at 8:30, and Hamels gets an up and in call. It's 43 degrees, and the Shooter Eldezt has been banished to the basement after annoying the Shooter Mom. After telling me she wanted to watch the game, she immediately grabs books and begins reading them out loud. As they say in "Rounders," women are the rake. They are the...
Iwamura flies out, and the ball seems to be carrying well to right again. Crawford lines a ball to Rollins, who drops it, but has enough time to get the speedster at first. Rollins then retires Upton early, and the aggressive Rays are out of the inning in 3 minutes and 7 pitches. Useful.
I switch over to MNF in time to see Hank Williams Sr. on my screen. And just that quickly, we're back to Fox...
Donovan McNabb reads off the Phillies lineup tonight, wearing shades and sporting a profound bass voice. Buck tells us that he's wearing the shades due to an eye poke during the Falcons' game, but we all know he's doing it to look cool. S'ok, Don.
Kazmir's first two pitches are wide, and Rollins patiently watches both. His velocity is reasonable, but he doesn't look too comfortable, and Rollins think he's got a walk on 3-1, but the umpire calls him back, correctly. The game gets delayed from there as Dioner Navarro has a mask problem, giving Fox enough time to show us the names of the struggling umpiring crew. A fly ball to Crawford in left ends Rollins, and Kazmir looks better against Werth... but once again, the pitch count creeps up, and we go to a full count. Ball four is borderline outside, but Werth runs to first and the umpire doesn't call him back, so the home team is in business... especially after Kazmir hits Utley on the first pitch. Two on for the red-hot Ryan Howard.
Kazmir goes right at Howard with heat, and gets him on 94 mph gas. There's a reason that Mets Fan cries when they watch him, folks. Burrell, who might be playing in his last game as a Phillie tonight (he's a free agent), has done nothing in the series. Again, Kazmir falls behind, and the umpire does him no favors with a tight strike zone. Burrell takes the walk, and the bases are loaded for Shane Victorino. Major stress inning, right away, for Kazmir, but if he gets Victorino, it's a plus.
First pitch to Shane almost gets the leg; I think he'd had stuck it out had he known it was coming. Second is low and away, and the lefty isn't going to get any calls with that kind of command. The crowd is primed to explode, even in a hitless inning. On 2-1, Shane delivers to left, and the Party Is On. 2-0, Phillies.
Fox flashes a graphic of how Kazmir has allowed 8 first inning runs in the post-season. Can Pedro Feliz make this inning monstrous? Not quite, as his looping single to left gets to Crawford too soon to score Burrell, who runs like a spastic turtle. It's on Carlos Ruiz, hitting a mere .417 in the Series. No action in the Rays' pen, which is a common failing of Maddon, but he gets away with it, as Ruiz flies to right. 29 pitches for Kazmir in the inning, only 14 of them strikes. Well, on the plus side, he'll still have Hamels to lead off the second. Oh, and an umpire that he's giving dirty looks to. That's a good idea.
Carlos Pena leads off with a first pitch bunt out to Howard. Not exactly imposing behavior from the cleanup hitter. On the next pitch, Longoria flies out to Victorino. That's 5 outs on 9 pitches, folks -- hard to do. Navarro works Hamels for a walk, very smart, as Hamels feels a little squeezed by the umpire as well. He gets Baldelli on the second pitch he throws, and King Cole is through two on 17 pitches, having retired 6 of 7 hitters.
You know, when I saw the first ad for "Role Models," I thought, wow, what an odorous little movie. Now that I've seen 30 to 40 ads for it, I'd like the people who made it hunted down and killed. I can't imagine this is a unique reaction.
Kazmir faces Hamels, who hit a little in the regular season, but it's not like he's going to do much with Kazmir throwing strikes and gas; the Rays' lefty gets a 3-pitch strikeout. Fox has mic'ed up Shane Victornio, who seems like a puppy in human form, to see how much he can chatter about the wind. The answer is: a lot. Rollins doesn't look comfy early in the count, but works it full before flying out to Baldelli in right. Another 2-0 count to Werth, as Kazmir seems determined to never have a very easy inning; Werth obliges him by fouling off a bunch of pitches. The Bearded One then lines a 2-out single to left to give Utley something to swing at, but he can't take advantage. Note the Hidden Damage of Extra Pitches: Kazmir threw 19 there,and has 48 through 2. At this pace, the Rays will be going to the pen by the fifth. 2-0 Phils after two, and the Shooter Eldest is off to bed. So much for her World Series fascination.
Why does Sprint think I'm buying a cell phone from a heartfelt black and white testimonial? On second thought, why does anyone buy a cell phone -- don't we all just have them by now?
Hamels starts the third with Bartlett, who works out of a 1-2 hole to push it full. Hamels ends it with a grounder to Rollins, and once again, the Rays' leadoff hitter is out. Cole then treats Kazmir to the same 1-2-3 strikeout good night that Kazmir gave him, and Hamels works quickly to Iwamura; he looks like a man who enjoys being indoors. Iwamura gets the Rays' first hit on a liner up the box that Hamels nearly spears, but Cole's not a hockey goalie. A first pitch ground out from Crawford shows the Rays to continue to not work the pitcher into deep counts, and Hamels is through three with just 33 pitches.
How many years, really, do we need to see a rabbit toy beat a drum to show the worth of a battery? The over-under is, sadly, 30.
Kazmir starts the third with Howard and whiffs him on three pitches; the book of Get Runs Early seems to be holding firm. Burrell still doesn't have a hit in the series, and that's true after a three-pitch at bat and fly out to right. Kazmir gets Victorino on three pitches as well, and that's his first great inning of the night -- and only 9 pitches. He's at 57 through 3, and has the bottom of the lineup coming up.
Hamels back out quickly for the fourth to face the heart of the Rays' order; the game is moving as fast as Fox will allow it, really. Hamels keeps getting strike one, and Rollins gets Upton on a 1-1 grounder that looked like the speedy outfielder could have made it a tougher play, but Fox is too wrapped up in interviewing Maddon to show a replay. The rain picks up as Pena fouls one off his foot, which will probably end his bunting. The first baseman hits one hard to right that Werth misses against the wall, and his first hit of the series is a double with one out. A better right fielder makes the play; a faster or more determined runner gets to third. It doesn't matter as Longoria gets his first hit of the Series as well, a liner past Rollins, and the Rays are on the board. Worry creeps in with the rain, as it's suddenly 2-1, Phillies.
Hamels seems a little shaken, and goes 3-0 to Navarro. He gets a charity high strike to make it 3-1, then a perfect double play ball. Phew. The inning ends, and it's 2-1, Phillies... but facing a Rays' team that has some definite life. Kazmir to face the bottom of the lineup in his bid for the shutdown inning.
All series long, the bottom of the Phillies order has made the Rays work harder than vice versa. Feliz fouls off three in a row before waving at a fourth, and that's Kazmir fifth strikeout, and third of the last four hitters. Ruiz laces a ball into the hole in left, and Hamels is up to bunt. Pitch one hits Hamels in the finger and we're in a big yikes moment, but he gets back in and doesn't look too bad bunting the second pitch. Unfortunately, it's too hard, and Hamels has to run the bases at first. Worrisome. Kazmir works quickly to Rollins, and the count goes full as the crowd makes as much noise as wet and worried people can make. Seriously, the weather here is pretty miserable right now, and while it's good that Rollins is making Kazmir work, it's less useful that Hamels is on the bases. Rollins gets the walk, and it's up to Werth. Something of a stress inning for Kazmir, and the rain is looking like it's coming down in sheets on HD.
Kazmir seems to be having footing issues as he falls behind 2-1, but the count evens up. Phillies are fouling off a lot of pitches this inning, with Werth looking increasingly locked in. Kazmir, sensing this, throws a slider that bounces to take the count full. Pitch number 25 of the inning stays out, and the crowd is starting to get into it. Kazmir at 82 pitches now, and Werth just keeps prolonging it, now getting up to 10. You just hope that Hamels isn't getting gassed on the bases. Ball four is low and away, Werth has reached base three times, and it's loaded with two outs.
Buck and McCarver note that no Rays are up in the bullpen, which is Maddon's common mistake; Electric David Price is starting to jog, but not throw. It's on Utley.
Kazmir's best slider gets Utley chasing. Count evens on a low fastball. A bounced slider makes it 2-1, and Navarro saves further excitement. Ball three is close but high. It's crazy that the Rays don't have people working right now. Strike two is close but on the black inside; quality stuff there. Full count to Utley, and Grant Balfour finally gets up. Utley makes it academic with a groundout to Iwamura; a huge opportunity missed there. The Phillies have loaded the bases 21 times in the post-season, and have scored only 4 runs in those situations. Gahhh. At least they will be rid of Kazmir very soon, who has thrown 90 pitches in 4 innings, and made Ryan Howard look bad in the process.
Hamels to face the 7-8-9 hitters; how will he be after the hit hand? 2-0 to Baldelli in heavy rain doesn't help ease any minds, and then the wind makes a routine pop up to shortstop more or less impossible. Baldelli gets on with an error charged to Rollins, and that might be the first leadoff hitter on for the Rays. Utley then makes a fantastic double play on a tag and spin move; terrible base running by Baldelli, who really should have been more aware of where the ball was, but that's just huge. Maddon lets Kazmir hit for himself, and Hamels handles him on three pitches. That's quick if not terribly easy -- in this weather, nothing is easy -- and Kazmir has to go right back out and work after a high pitch inning. It'll be up to Howard, Burrell and Victorino to make him pay for it.
Say, umps? The game's now official. Why not just call it? Save us all some drama, really.
Kazmir looks shaky against Howard for the first time tonight, and it's a 4-pitch walk. If that's it for Kazmir, you really have to wonder why Maddon didn't hit for him... but he leaves him in to face Burrell. Grady Little, anyone? The forecast says heavy rain and 40 degree weather, and Philly Fan is going to have to earn their good times tonight. Kazmir falls behind Burrell 2-1 as Balfour warms, and Kazmir is having continued footing issues. I really do suspect that if this wasn't a Series game, we'd have been in a rain delay a long time ago. Count evens on a chased slider, and goes full on what should have been a called third strike, at least according to Fox. The Rays are really not loving these umps. Burrell fouls off three more before getting ball four, low. Kazmir's last pitch of the night is also a strike according to Fox, and the Phillies have two on, no outs, for the reliever.
Kazmir certainly has cause for complaint with the umpire, but the simple fact is that when you walk six guys in 5 innings with hit batsmen, you aren't getting any calls. Either that, or this umpire wants everyone to get wildly ill from as much exposure to wind and rain as possible. It winds up being a ferociously long delay as the grounds crew work on the entire field, almost as if Kazmir had left for an injury, but we're finally back to live action. Shane Victorino, the key to all kinds of good moments for the Phils, is up, with the Rays seemingly expecting a bunt. If I'm Charlie Manuel, I'm not doing it; the man has 13 RBIs in the postseason.
Oh well, shows what I know. Strike one is a bunt, foul. Second pitch is a pop up to left, and that's good and useless. Gahhh. Feliz fouls three pitches off to start the at bat as the conditions are really awful now, and Pena manages to corral it for the second out. Fox makes a big deal out of a lack of infield fly rule. Balfour gets up on Ruiz and gets up after a loud liner to right, and the third useless pop up of the inning ends it. Still 2-1, and we're into the sixth.
I know people who are at this game, and no, I'm not jealous of them. Yikes.
The grounds crew comes out again for the infield, and what might have been a quick game has really slowed down dramatically from all of the yardwork. Hamels gets Iwamura on a high and wide strike to lead the sixth, and the umpiring is really getting questioned now. Hamels' third strikeout is backed up by Crawford chopping out to Howard. Hamels is missing more in the bad elements, but he's still working quickly and confidently. On a 2-2 count, Upton manages an infield single on a grounder up the middle to Rollins. Fox thinks Upton won't run in the mud, and the lead he's taking says no. Buck and McCarver are now mutinying on the umpires because Upton is slower in the mud. Waah, Fox, Waah. Upton doesn't seem to be conceding the point, as he draws throws to first... and Upton steals the base anyway. I guess we can keep playing after all!
1-1 to Pena. Temperature down to 39 now. Yeesh. Rays' dugout yapping a lot. Hamels pulls the string on a change, and it's 2-2. Philly Fan does itself proud with noise in misery. Pena makes them hate him even more by calling time. Pena lines a single to left, Upton scores, and the game is tied. Crap, crap, crap. Game's tied, and Pena's the reason why. A passed ball strike to Longoria sends Pena to second. It's nightmare time for Philly Fan. Longoria lines out to Victorino, and that's the sixth inning; 2-2 tie... and that's your rain delay.
Well, on the bright side, Philly Fan... anyone that can throw a post-game riot in this weather has well and truly earned their tipped car. More later if we have game.
While Sunday Night Football has traditionally taken a World Series hiatus, Monday Night Football has not; before 2007, Monday was typically a travel day for MLB. Last year, the Boston sweep prevented a Monday night Game 5.
With MNF slotted against Game 5 of the Series, how does the NFL avoid a potential conflict?
Well, this evening's contest is between the Titans and the Colts.
The rant in question is directed at tight end Vernon Davis, and shared by every unfortunate SOB who drafted Davis in their fantasy league.
But still... one teeny, tiny point. Mike, if you want winners, why the hell did you take the job in San Francisco?
Sunday, October 26, 2008
The following Small Points for your amusement, from tonight's game...
> There's over the top, there's wildly over the top, and then there's Patti LaBelle. For those of you who missed the national anthem, let's just say that she's, um, unique.
> Andy Sonnastine was the member of the Rays' rotation that I thought the Phillies could really handle, and he didn't disappoint, pitching only four innings and allowing nine baserunners. Part of this was bad luck with a blown umpire call at third in the first ining (Justice for Jamie Moyer's non-win!), but still -- he wasn't sharp at all. The Rays won't use him again this year.
> A word on Joe Blanton. I've watched the man pitch a lot for my Oakland A's, and what you saw tonight? Not him. Cupcakes just keeps the ball low, works fast, is a reasonable 4 or 5 starter that's miscast in the top of the rotation. He's not dominant, with nasty filth stuff everywhere, and a power bat to boot. Seriously, the Rays' should check the DNA.
> Giving that Akinori Iwamura won gold gloves in Japan and has spent this series making errors... I'm wondering what the exchange rate for gold is on the Nippon exchange. (Your alternate joke here is that Iwamura is Japanese for Whoops.)
And of course, after writing this, he makes a great play for a double play in the seventh. The lesson: never say anything.
> When you're going good, you're getting the breaks. To a more cursed Phillies team, a line drive off the pitcher is a hit, a hurt pitcher, the prelude to a big inning.
For the Phillies tonight, it was Blaton with the kick save to Pedro Feliz for an out. Just another 1-5-3 putout.
> With his no-doubt home run, Blanton entered The Pantheon of unlikely Philly World Series pitching heroes. It's a short list (Marty Bystrom! Bob Walk! Dickie Noles! Jamie Moyer), but with one more win, he'll never buy another beer in this town.
> In the seventh, Ryan Madson makes what might be the pitch of the game, getting Bossman Junior Upton to whiff on a 3-2 change with two on and two out. Bossman Junior is going to make a lot of money in his MLB life, but he's not the same guy that killed Boston. Thank heavens.
> If you saw Frank Calliendo in public, and he was criminally assaulted in front of you, would you do anything to stop it, or would you just try to commit every second of it to memory? These are the things that I think about during heavy rotation commercials.
> Another heavy rotation commercial reaction... does it diminish the accomplishment of Indiana Jones in the last movie that the villainess that he foiled was pregnant? (The actress Cate Blanchett, of course.) Having seen the Shooter Wife through two pregnancies, I say no, no, a thousand times, no...
> In the seventh, Fox's heads talked about how Charlie Manuel was interested in working Brad Lidge for more than one inning tonight. As someone rooting for the Phillies in this series, I'm not interested in him having to do that. A game without drama is OK, guys.
> The stat of the series: Pena and Longoria, 0 for 29, 15 whiffs. Ye Gads.
> Just so the rest of the non-Philly world is aware... Ryan Madson's career WHIP is 1.36, and he's never thrown this hard before. I have no idea how he became Utterly Freaking Dominant, but more power to him.
> In Tampa, the Phillies got a split despite having little from Rollins, Howard and Burrell. In Philly for the last two games, Rollins and Howard have come alive, and life for Philly Fan is much, much better...
> In Game Three, after getting picked off second base in what seemed to be a crushing mistake, a colleague assailed Jayson Werth for his doofy facial hair. Tonight, after a no-doubt insurance homer that made it 8-2 in the ninth? It's Distinguished.
> Ryan Howard's eighth inning home run, off lefty Trevor Miller, that made it 10-2... was the baseball equivalent of the good guy in a pro wrestling match running in and cleaning house. Seriously, he should have just Miller with a steel chair. It'd have been less obvious.
> In the surprisingly relaxed ninth, JC Romero makes an error put the leadoff man on, and just as we go to the Here We Go feeling... the next man makes out, and the man after that, with an emphatic strikeout of Jason Bartlett. Because, well, these aren't the Red Sox, and an 8-run lead in the ninth agains the bottom of an order that hasn't hit much for the first four games of this Series... well, it's not getting eight runs for the heartbreak loss.
> Your final out as the Phillies move to a 3-1 Series lead is JC Romero going upstairs on Rocco Baldelli, treating him like yesterday's newspaper. You know, the one that talked about how close and exciting this Series has been. Domination.
> Post game, Joe Maddon talked about Blanton having a mark on his cap, and wondered to some extent if Something Was Afoot.
As someone who wants the Phils to win, keep thinking that, Rays. It's got to be cheating. Think a lot about that.
> As the game moved to the ninth, other Philly Fans in my IM circle spoke of how odd it was to see their team like this... which is to say, cruising to a win, getting every break, marching on. Almost as if they were, well, Not From Here.
Earlier today, in the Eagles' game, the Falcons called their third and final time out before the two minute warning. On the subsequent punt, the refs blew the call badly, awarding a muff fumble to the home team. Since the Falcons had no timeouts left, they couldn't challenge, and that was, well, that. Brian Westbrook broke a touchdown run for the suck out cover that made the final score look a lot easier than it was.
My town never gets that call, or, at least, never remembers getting that call. Perhaps it's a new day; perhaps this is what 100 seasons of futility coming to an end might, well, feel like.
Because this Phillies team? It doesn't feel like it's from that place.
And if Cole Hamels and the suddenly red-hot Phillies' bats can get it done tomorrow night, that town will no longer exist.
And the congregation sings, Amen...
For the first time in, well, forever, I went big early and liked my draft, or did until I realized post-draft that Arenas and Ginobili were both out for a long time. I'm doomed.
Drafting fourth in a 12-team serpentine draft...
1st - Amare Stoudemire
2nd - Tim Duncan
3rd - Andre Iguodala
4th - Hedo Turkoglu
5th - Devin Harris
6th - Jermaine O'Neal
7th - Andre Miller
8th - Gilbert Arenas
9th - O.J. Mayo
10th - Manu Ginobili
11th - Mickael Pietrus
12th - Hakim Warrick
We start nine, in a 8-category roto league. If this is the year Jermaine O'Neal cares, I really like my bigs; if not, I'm boned. Same thing, of course, goes for the star hurt guys, but at least I'll be rooting hard for the Sixers again this year. I think we'll contend. My favorite pick is Mayo in the 9th; I think he'll contend for Rookie of the Year, and it's not like he won't get monster minutes for the Grizzlies.
Anyway, we now return you to the parts of the blog you might care about...
Your link is here, and honestly, does anyone that does not live in Oklahoma (and it's not like they have the Internets there anyway) wish anything but ill for the Thunder? I suspect they'll actually be better this year than their last one in Seattle, simply because they will actually have a home-field advantage -- it's not like any visiting NBA team is going to want to play there.
But in terms of long-term success... can you imagine any free agent that would want to be there, or that Kevin Durant won't be packing his bags as soon as he can? I get that they've got some other pieces, but in terms of karma, they've salted the earth. And all of the media mouth jobs won't wash that away. (And no, I'm not linking to the Times' piece. Your blood pressure is high enough.)
Small moments from what was going on during my NBA fantasy league draft prep (what, you think I'm going all hardcore in my bandwagon fan ways?)...
> As the Rays are announced, the Phillies played some odd children's novelty song about fish. I have no idea why.
> The game starts an hour and a half late, just so I don't have to miss anything from putting my kids to bed. Thanks, MLB!
> Jennifer, the girl who buys huge talking cameras from Circuit City? Let's just say that HD does no favors.
> In the bottom of the second, Carlos Ruiz goes yard in his effort to make sure that the pitcher doesn't lead off the next inning. Nice job, Carlos!
> You know, some year, both leagues of baseball are going to actually play by the same rules. And when they do... well, watching Jamie Moyer and Matt Garza "hit" isn't terribly entertaining.
> At least early, Moyer is getting the calls and looking like his regular season self. When he strikes out BJ Upton to end the third, five million Philly Fan males in their mid '40s and up, all across this nation, pumped their fists hard enough to pull something.
> I like David Bowie too, but doesn't Lincoln know that "Major Tom" never returns to his family, and that this might not be the thing I want from my new vehicle?
> The Rays really don't look, as a pitching staff, like they have a lot of experience holding base stealers in line. A possible drawback for AL teams... but then Garza-Navarro throws out Jimmy Rollins at second with relative ease. Curious.
> If Samsung really wants to sell me a cell phone based on a fake movie with two women... um, have the women kiss each other already. You're welcome.
> When Moyer brushes someone off the plate, do they ever charge the mound? I'm thinking no, because the ball never gets there fast enough to appear malevolent...
> Joe Buck seemed wildly amused by Philly Fan chanting "Eva" at Evan Longoria. Clearly, it doesn't take much to amuse Joe Buck.
> On a 3-1 count to Carl Crawford with 2 out and no on one in the fourth, Moyer continued to work quickly despite falling behind... and got Crawford to fly out weakly to left. That's confidence.
> How much would you have to be paid, Dear Reader, to watch "Role Models"? I'm betting it's less than "Frank TV." But similar, right?
For me, the bidding starts at... $40.
> New Joss Whedon series! Woo hoo! Eliza Dushku and Amy Acker! I can't wait until Fox screws Whedon over and cancels the series before it has a chance to do well...
> People talk about the running game, but in the bottom of the third, a caught stealing cost the Phillies a run. Worth remembering, if only because so many people seem to regard stolen bases as a panacea.
> Shane Victorino called out on strikes in the fourth, and Fox shows it as a strike on their pitch graphing thing. Which doesn't, it seem, have any adjustment for the height of the hitter. If that's a strike to Shane, he can forget about patience for the rest of this game.
> Through five, Moyer is damn near magical -- getting calls to expand the zone, jamming the lefties with 80 mph "heat", keeping every player off balance, and bringing a tear to the eye of everyone but the presumably existent Rays fans. Seriously, who doesn't love Jamie Moyer?
> Leaving off the fifth, Carlos Ruiz draws a walk. This, after a homer earlier. The Rays do know that Ruiz is a .220 hitter, right?
> At the end of five, it's 2-1 Phillies... and it feels like it could easily be 4-0. The Rays' run was borderline luck, the Phils ran themselves out of a run, and if Ryan Howard could ever make contact with a man on third... anyway. Deep breaths.
> What Moyer did to the Rays' lefties tonight was just textbook. In the sixth, he had Upton going back to the bag as he came home, while freezing Carlos Pena at the plate. Just nails.
> The final out of the sixth is Longoria hitting it a ton to left, but it doesn't carry at all, and Burrell settles under it in the warning track for the final out of the sixth. Moyer's reaction on the Fox cameras was priceless; no fist pump, nothing but a blink and a look down as the inning ends. Just another game, you see... and then he turns and extends his tongue like Gene Simmons, in the same look of relief that you might see from a Little Leaguer.
Again, I ask... who doesn't love Jamie Moyer?
> In the bottom if the inning, Chase Utley shows the Rays how to hit a home run by absolutely mashing one to right. 3-1 for the home team... and then Ryan Howard jumps into the Fox announcing booth to tell Joe Buck that he's a flaming idiot, as he mashes a hanging curve from Garza. Nearly the same place as Utley's ball, and it's 4-1.
> I know that a lot of people like "House." But every time I look at him, I just see the secondary comic lead from "Black Adder." Does anyone else have this problem?
> Moyer gets the ball in the seventh, and Crawford greets him with a great bunt. Jamie makes a fantastic play, but the umpire blows the call. Ouch. The Phillies get men up as Moyer works to Navarro, who eventually doubles on a 1-2 count, but Crawford doesn't score. Manuel leaves Moyer in to face Gross as all of Philadelphia starts gripping hard. He rips a ball to first, where Howard makes a great play to get the out at first... and that's all for Jamie.
> Chad Durbin comes in and gets a weak grounder from Jason Bartlett on the first pitch, but it's a run as Navarro scores. 4-3 Phillies.
> Final line for Moyer: 6.1 IP, 5 hits, 3 ER, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts. And if the umpire gets the call right, he's probably still working, with the chance to finish 7. He can win, he can't lose. And we can all love him unconditionally, and not live in mortal terror of him working in a Game 7. (OK, that's a lie. All Game Sevens are mortal terror.)
> Scott Eyre in for Durbin after a bad walk to Aybar. He gets ahead of Iwamura, then misses all the way to a full count. And that is what playoff baseball is... just maddening. Eyre then blows Iwamura away to end the inning.
> I dream, in my lifetime, of not hearing someone sing "God Bless America" in the seventh inning stretch.
People, it's a baseball game. And the moment in a baseball game where we get up off our lazy asses and discover just how much our asses have atrophied. It's not a patriotic moment; it's a moment where we celebrate the fact that we are goofing off work and eating crap. We sing a song about that. Not America. Enough.
> I know things have gone badly for America this month, but are we all that excited about a free taco? That's, um, 20 cents of bad food there, people. Move along.
> In the bottom of the seventh, Chad Bradford gets a 1-2-3 inning, as he is wont to do. This one will come down to whether Madson and Lidge can get six outs with no runs. If you like tight games, this is your Series.
> This fall, Jack Bauer will save cute black kids. Why do I suspect that this is the year that the "24" ratings go through the floorboards?
> Upton leads off the eighth inning with an infield hit, and it's Deep Breath time. He should be able to steal a base off Madson, or just distract him enough to make a mistake. And for the second straight hitter, he goes down 2-0... battles back to 2-2 with pure filth... and goes full again. It's a good thing I'm not a Phillies fan, or I'd be a basket case... as Pena whiffs on ball four. Lucky.
> Upton steals second easily on ball one to Longoria. Mr. Upton is going to make a lot of money playing baseball... and he steals third and scores on a bounced throw. Gahhhh.
> Longoria grounds out to second on a play that would have scored Upton from third, not that this will mollify anyone. A blown save for Madson.
> "Four Christmases" with Vince Vaungh and Reese Witherspoon? I'm starting the bidding at... $30. Only because I suspect it'd be short.
> Burger King is trying to rip off "Flight of the Conchords." I can't imagine this will actually work as an ad campaign, but what the hell, it's not Howard Eskin accosting strangers. It's a step up, really.
> J.C. Romero gets Crawford to fly out on the first pitch, and we're to the bottom of the eighth, with the heart of the Phillies lineup
> Is anyone else offended by the idea that steelworkers and roadies can do everything better than, well, the people who already do these jobs? I've been a musician; most roadies, um, kinda suck. Even if they do have walkie-talkie phones. And if firefighters were in Congress, they'd probably just set the damned building on fire. (I know, I know, most of y'all think that's a step up...)
> Bradford walks Werth on four pitches to start the eighth and end his night. It's a damn shame that Werth doesn't run the bases like Upton, really.
> Howell in to face Utley and Howard, with Balfour warming up. Note, for the record, that Maddon probably can't use Electric David Price, due to the 45 pitches he had him throw in Game Two. Hunch Managers can kill you.
> Very, very ballsy... Werth steals second, and just makes it. Navarro with another very good throw, but the Phils are high-percentage base stealers for a reason... and then Utley chases ball four for the whiff, and Werth gets picked off second. Gahhhhhh. Phillies running themselves out of innings tonight, while the Rays run themselves into runs. Howard strikes out looking to end the inning, and it's tied going into the ninth.
> Romero starts the ninth, not Lidge, as Manuel treats this like a game, rather than an opportunity to start experimenting. A 3-pitch strikeout of Navarro starts it. Romero gets neither of the first two calls on Gross, then gets him on a 2-1 roller to Utley. Manuel stays with Romero despite Bartlett's good numbers against lefties, and Ruiz shows off with yet another great block on a 1-2 bouncer. The count goes full as Bartlett holds off on a slider, and Bartlett nearly hurts himself with a foul ball. It's hair pulling time in the stands, but Romero gets the routine grounder to Rollins, and we're to the bottom of the ninth, with the Phils needing a run to win.
> The bidding on "YESMan".... $50. Just because Jim Carrey hasn't been funny for a really, really long time, and repeating the words "Red Bull" that many times might require therapy.
> Bruntlett starts the ninth by getting ahead 2-0. Balfour warming again.. and on a 2-1 pitch, Bruntlett takes one for the team, off the back of the leg. That's it for Howell, and it's Bunt Time for Victorino (to set up Feliz / Dobbs for the Hero Role. Pack a lunch, folks, because this will take five minutes or more...
> Just enough time for Fox to tell us the time! Riveting television!
> Many changes that probably won't matter, and it comes down to Victorino versus Balfour, Bunt Time. Strike one on a nice pitch away... and then the Rays self-destruct with a Balfour wild pitch, a Navarro wild throw, and Bruntlett is on third with no outs. Wow, wow, wow.
> Balfour completes the walk to Victorino. Speaking of which, all hail Shane for getting out of the way of the wild pitch, because that really should have hit him... and if it had, it's just first and second with no outs, rather than the man getting to third.
> Dobbs hits for Feliz, and Maddon is going to walk him and face Ruiz with five infielders. As a Phillies fan, I'm all for this play, in that it gives me a reliever with control issues with no margin for error. Hell, on ball two, Balfour nearly bounced it. It's on Ruiz.
> Stairs on deck to hit for Romero. Ball one, high. Ruiz chases ball two, a high fastball, to even the count. Balfour humps up with a 96 mph fastball to get strike two. He's shaking Navarro off a lot, and Ruiz fights off another 96 mph fastball to foul it off. Ball 2, up and away -- everything up, which is somewhat promising... and at 1:47 am, Ruiz chops a swinging bunt down the line. Longoria bare hands and throws wildly home as Bruntlett scores, and the Phillies win 5-4.
Just your average five and a half hour long ball game, folks, Had 'em all along. See you again tonight...
Friday, October 24, 2008
The link is here, and his obvious failures notwithstanding.... really, can someone tell me why Culpepper is out of the league, but the following no-talents:
Seneca Wallace / Charlie Frye
Everything Wearing a Chiefs Jersey
Is a better idea that a guy with a 64% career completion percentage, good size, who can throw a deep ball. I realize he's got mobility and health issues, throws picks and fumbles, and once trashed his entire franchise with a boat trip. But come on, people... look at that list again. All of those guys have jobs. Why not Culpepper?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
There's no better time for a sports fan than mid-October. You've got the World Series, the NFL, college football, the start of the NHL and NBA seasons, and cheerleaders in fetishistic costumes. It is, I am convinced, the only thing that keeps people from completely freaking out over political stuff.
It's also a pure grind time for blogging, because here I am, post midnight again, with (many) paragraphs to go before I sleep. Last week, we continued to pay the rent and do noble work with an 8-6 week, lifting us to 14 games over even money. Just call me Shooter Knish. And now, on to the picks!
TAMPA at Dallas (-2)
Two forces at work here -- Tampa not being worth a bucket of warm spit on the road, against a cratering Dallas team. Subplots here include The Brad Johnson Vengeance Game, Jeff Garcia's historic pwning of the Cowboys, and the sudden and shocking collapse of the Dallas defense. There's also the additional worry that Warrick Dunn, the Bucs' most effective RB this year (and who saw that coming?), could miss the game. But given the Cowboys injuries, I don't think it's going to matter... and since I'm picking an NFC South team on the road, bet the farm the other way. I hate this division.
Bucs 24, Cowboys 16
WASHINGTON at Detroit (+7.5)
Detroit actually got a road cover last week against Houston, while the Redskins struggled mightily against the Browns at home, finally holding on for an ugly win. Can the Lions actually break through against a 'Skins team that really hasn't played a good game since beating the Eagles, and that was a while ago. Can they possibly get the upset? No... and I kind of hate picking the Lions to cover, too. The Washington defense doesn't score or get a lot of turnovers, but the friskiness the Lions showed was against the godawful Texans' defense. Washington is better than that.
Redskins 24, Lions 16
BUFFALO at Miami (+1)
The 5-1 Bills go to Miami to face the puzzling Fish, who followed up back to back wins over New England and San Diego with back to back losses to Houston and Baltimore. Which team shows up in this one? The losing one, because they can't defend Lee Evans, and when you can't do that, Marshawn Lynch kills you.
Buffalo 24, Miami 17
ST. LOUIS at New England (-7.0)
After back to back wins over the once-mighty NFC East, the Rams go on the road to New England, where the Patriots took advantage of an awful Broncos performance to make them feel much better about themselves. Make no mistake -- the Rams aren't a good team -- but I'm thinking the short week, absence of Rodney Harrison, and the Rams taking a little bit better control of the ball will help them get to the cover. Watch for rookie Rams WR Donnie Avery to do some damage here against the suspect Pats' secondary, but only if the Rams can keep fragile QB Marc Bulger upright. If franchise RB Stephen Jackson can play, I think they'll do just that.
Patriots 20, Rams 17
SAN DIEGO "at" New Orleans (+3), in London
Two wildly disappointing teams that both need the win badly. The Chargers slept their way through a power-free game in Buffalo, and it says something to how depressed Charger Fan is about the sudden deterioration of LaDanian Tomlinson that there isn't even a movement to fire Nor Turner. The Saints looked to be getting back on track with healthy star pass catchers Jeremy Shockey and Marques Colston getting back last week in Carolina... only to see the former get hurt and the latter provide nothing. One crush job later, they're in the muck.
So who the hell wins this thing? I'm going with the Chargers, just because with Reggie Bush on the shelf, I think Drew Brees is finally starting to run out of people to throw the ball to. Plus, the last time the NFL inflicted a game on us from Wembley Stadium, it was a slow dog track, and that helps the Chargers more than it does the Saints. But don't be fooled, fellow degenerates -- this is a pure Stay The Hell Away Game.
Chargers 23, Saints 17
Kansas City at NY JETS (-13)
The last of the Good Time Games for the NY Bretts, who should run for over 200 yards and have wacky fun times against the I-AA Chiefs. The only way New York doesn't win this game is if they're dumb enough to throw the ball, and if Favre is dumb enough to throw picks. Even if that happens, Kansas City will be without noted piece of crap Larry Johnson, and probably working with QB3 Tyler Thigpen. Woof.
Jets 31, Chiefs 14
ATLANTA at Philadelphia (-9)
I've lost enough picks on this Falcons' team to even think about a big number here. Sure, the Eagles will get their points, but it's not as if Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood will be completely stopped, and while Matt Ryan might make some bad mistakes against those ever-exotic Eagle blitzes, he's done too much against other defenses to expect him to deliver the Full Hoying. Besides, the Eagles are good at keeping teams around, especially since David Akers can't make any field goal from distance.
Eagles 28, Falcons 20
ARIZONA at Carolina (-4)
Do you believe in the West Coast team with the 1pm EST start time curse? The evidence is all that way now, and after Carolina spanked the Saints at home, you'd be foolish to go with the road team... but the Cardinals are off the bye, they get back Anquan Boldin this week, Steve Breaston's looked good as well... and for heaven's sake, the Panthers are incredibly erratic in their own right. As Groucho Marx says in "Horse Feathers," I have to stay here, but there's no reason you have to.
Cardinals 27, Panthers 24
Oakland at BALTIMORE (-7.5)
The Raiders come west for... a 1pm kickoff! Against a Ravens team that rediscovered the running game last week, against an Oakland defense that gave up 200 yards on the ground while *winning*. Hard to do, Harry. Look for Baltimore to use Willis McGahee early and often, and for their defense to put points on the board directly late. If I were so moved to make Locks of the Week, this would be the game. That's just how very, very stupid the Raiders coaching is, and how little chance they've got on the road against a good and aggressive defense.
Ravens 24, Raiders 10
CINCINNATI at Houston (-9.5)
Ryan Fitzpatrick! Cedric Benson! And a surprisingly competent defense, all leading to a team that keeps covering, except when they really, really don't, like they did last week at home against Pittsburgh. I'm actually looking for them to cover this number, as Houston kept even the Lions around last week, and really can't defend the pass. If the home team isn't careful, they could even lose this game. But they won't, because when the chips are down, the Bengals will remember that they really, really want to get Marvin Lewis fired.
Texans 31, Bengals 27
Cleveland at JACKSONVILLE (-7)
Shh... the Jaguars are starting to look like themselves again, and they are at home off the bye. Against a Browns team that had its moment in the sun against the Giants, I'm thinking they'll run early and often. It also doesn't hurt matters at all that David Garrard is starting to look much more like his Expert Game Manager Self. Finally, they lost Matt Jones this week to a league-mandated suspension for off-season cocaine stupidity. Given tht Matt Jones is a moron and not very productive, look for a surge from the team from his absence.
Jaguars 23, Browns 13
NY Giants at PITTSBURGH (-3)
Not a good matchup at all for the road team. They don't get to the quarterback very well, which is deadly against Big Ben. By not getting to him enough, they also open up Heath Miller as a target, adding to the matchup troubles. What they do best on offense is wear teams down with the running game; that doesn't usually work against the Steelers, especially on the road. Finally, the Pittsburgh home crowd is loud and proud, and I've never really bought into the idea that the Giants were Mystic Road Warriors. Should be a good and tight game, but I like the home team here.
Steelers 24, Giants 20
Seattle at SAN FRANCISCO (-5)
There's no truth to the rumor that watching this game counts as time served or community service. But maybe it should be. Do you pick the gutless team that never shows up on the road and has no QB, or the turnover machine QB with the rookie head coach and the questionable talent level? I'm going with the latter, under the Jim Haslett theory that when you have a bad team that's quit on its coach, they're going to have a brief burst of professionalism to impress the new guy.
Niners 23, Seahawks 16
Indianapolis at TENNESSEE (-4)
Perhaps the week's most intriguing game, as the last unbeaten team is at home for the fading power in the division. The Colts looked like they had righted the ship after a trashing of the Ravens, then soiled the sheets on the road in Green Bay. Tennessee played happy bully against the I-AA Chiefs.
I've held a light in the candle for this Colts team for a long time this year, but the simple fact is that only the Ravens game counts as a quality win rather than an escape. They don't scare anyone without Bob Sanders on defense, their running game hasn't been good all year, and so long as they keep trying to pretend that Marvin Harrison is better than Anthony Gonzalez... well, it's not going to work out for them. This game won't, either.
Titans 24, Colts 17
Last week: 8-6
Year to date: 55-41-2
Twenty eight years ago, the Phillies, fresh off an NLCS that I still think might have been the most exciting playoff series ever played, opened up the World Series at home against the Royals. The Game One started wasn't ace Steve Carlton, but their #5 starter, Bob Walk. In front of the home faithful, Walk fell behind 4-0, but held on as the offense bailed him out. He worked seven innings and got the win, setting up Game Two for ace lefty Steve Carlton. After another Phillies comeback, the home team lead 2-0, with Carlton getting the win.
There was an ease about Carlton that was palpable. His best pitch, a slider, was rarely a strike; it produced whiffs and feeble ground outs. He worked quickly and without emotion, and had led them for most of a decade. When he was on, it was as if the batter simply wasn't there. He won four Cy Youngs in a decade, and might have been the second-best starting lefty in MLB history, behind only Warren Spahn.
They expected to win behind him, and most of the time, they did.
Cole Hamels reminds me so much of Carlton, I keep expecting him to stop talking to the media, develop freaky Zionist conspiracy theories, and go live as a hermit in Colorado. (There's just something about left-handers, really.)
The first game of the World Series is, in this era of baseball, absolutely essential. With the 2-3-2 travel plan and the better league having home field (the All Star Game coin flip notwithstanding, the simple reality is that the Coke/Pepsi BOS-NYY Salary War has ensured a higher standard for AL teams for most of a decade now, as the won-loss record in interleague has proven), it's absolutely imperiative for the NL team to take home field in the first two games. There's just too much pressure on the trailing team to overcome a series deficit on the road for the final two games.
The Rays are from the better league, have home field, and are playing as free and loose as you possibly can at this point in the season. The Phillies are carrying 25 years of failure in the uniforms, along with the collective Win Or We'll Cry Forever baggage of their entire metropolitan era. The Rays are also more balanced, hand-wise, on offense than the Phils, and have more lights-out plus arms than just about any team in baseball. Finally, there's this: long layoffs at this point of the year are rarely good for a team. See the Tigers against the Cardinals, or the Rockies against the Red Sox. You don't want a ton of time off in October.
However, the Rays have one very large problem.
They don't have Cole Hamels.
The Phillies' left-handed has been dominant in the post-season after being a borderline Cy Young candidate in the regular season. By the numbers, he had a 3.09 ERA with a 1.08 WHIP in a bandbox in the first 162 games. In the playoffs, he's 3-0, 1.23 ERA, 0.86 WHIP. When they've needed him in the postseason, he's simply been better than anyone else working in MLB this month. When he's needed strike three, he's delivered -- with a slider that's got such good late movement, he's even fooling the umpires with it. Go ask Jeff Kent how much fun it was to go against him with money on the table.
He also gets the ball tonight.
Facing him is Scott Kazmir, who, I am certain, will own the Phillies... for about 5 to 6 innings. After that, his pitch count will be problematic, and maybe the Rays will make a critical defensive mistake -- they gave the Red Sox seven extra outs with errors in the ALCS, which made that series much more dramatic than it had to be. They'll also go to a deep but undefined bullpen with a manager (Joe Maddon) who was near Grady Little on the Shaky Level in the ALCS.
When the dust settles, the Phillies will have a one game lead. The Rays will be a little tighter. And the AL Mystique will be broken.
In Game Two, I'm expecting a sloppier game, with Brett Myers facing James Shields. The road team will swing the bats better against the right-hander, and if they give Myers any kind of lead early, he'll pitch like a guy with a ton of ability, rather than the special needs child that he frequently resembles. Both teams will attempt to run more, but Carlos Ruiz is better at cutting down that aspect of the game than Dioner Navarro, and the Phillies are simply the most efficient base stealing team in MLB. I think there's a very good chance that they go back to Philly up 2-0, which is good -- because they are going to need the wiggle room.
In Game Three, the Rays have their most pronounced pitching edge of the series. ALCS hero Matt Garza will face aged lefty Jamie Moyer, who was beyond useless against the Dodgers. At home and against a Rays team that will be in Win Or Die Mode, I think he falters -- unless Garza is a shot fighter after his marathon effort against the Sox. In any event, this is the game that I think the Rays win.
Game Four will have Philly Fan clamoring for the return of Hamels, as the schedule gives us Andy Sonnastine against Joe Blanton. Charlie Manuel will not cave, despite the specter of not having Hamels available for a Game Seven, because Manuel just doesn't care what people think of his moves (witness Myers being his closer last year). It will also pay off for him, as Blanton will keep the ball in the yard and the Phillies will capitalize on the hittable Sonnanstine (24 homers in 206 IP this year, and right-handed to boot). In the true turn game of the Series, the Phillies' bats will carry the day.
Game Five is as close to a double-elimination game as you can get, before Game Seven. The Phils will be doing everything possible to end it without going back to Cowbell Hell. THe Rays will grip the bats too tight. Scott Kazmir will give up some walks to the howling mob.
And the Phillies will have Hamels, 28 years and 6 days after Carlton won the town its only baseball world championship, to win the second.
Phillies in five.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Fun hate here, as I've noticed the mighty quiet from your favorite Bad Tooth and mine.
Look, I get the desire to go hide when your team loses. But it's, well, damn near gutless, especially when you go for some 5,000 words earlier in the series, when it was going well for you. If you're going to talk, talk -- good times and bad.
So here we are, a day before the World Series begins in Tampa, Florida, with my old team (the Phillies) the mild underdog to the Upstart Rays.
A fine word, Upstart, and not just because it makes my brain fire off its Marx Brothers ganglions from "Duck Soup." Here, won't you join me in the tangent. (Skip ahead to four minutes, but only if you're in a hurry. The Hot Stove riposte has always been one of my favorites.)
Anyway... I'm an ex-Phillies fan. In the mid '90s, after the Mitch Williams Experience and the slow dissolve of the Blue Snow Team of Dykstra, Hollins, Kruk, Incaviglia and Eisenreich (I'm omitting Schilling in the same way that you omit family relations that later did time for cause), the team simply stopped trying. They held their breath and played the Small Market Blues (never mind that they live and work in a top five media market with, as it is clearly apparent now, oodles of cash), and the few players that didn't stink on ice got out of town as fast as they could. There's no way that you can tell me that the franchise was making an honest effort to actually win baseball games in those days. It was easier, far easier, to lie back and turtle up for the dominant Braves teams and wait for a new yard.
There was also The Strike. And well, baseball did not recover in Philadelphia for a very long time after that. The NFL moved into the vacuum with a vengeance, and instead of the Eagles gradually taking over the consciousness around mid August (say, when pre-season games started), it got more like early July. If the Sixers or Flyers went deep into the post-season, it was almost as if the Phillies didn't exist at all.
I gave up on baseball. Entirely. I was an obsessed musician, and after that petered out from band turnover and the simple reality that the world didn't hear our songs that way that we did... well, that drive got turned over to work and family and writing. (Books, then much later, this blog.) If I ever wanted to turn on a baseball game, the Yankee Dynasty cured me of that with a quickness.
Then, we moved to the West Coast for my career and (what felt like) for good. So my Philles fandom wasn't only over, it was dead and buried. They closed the Vet, and that was that. The coffin was buried, no words were said, and I wasn't watching any baseball, let alone the Phillies.
Then, a funny thing happened. On a lark, my wife and I took our tiny little girl to an Oakland A's game. And that team -- the Chavez/Tejada/Giambi pre-Moneyball club, the one that could actually swing the bats in addition to having exciting young starting pitchers -- sucked me right back in.
Here was a club that played in a cheap old dump (Oakland Alameda is basically the Vet with grass). The fans had chips on their shoulders from being the second-class citizens to the Giants... much in the same way that Philles Fan chafes over the Mets (and to a lesser extent, the Eagles). Unlike the scumbags that had been taking MLB revenue sharing money without making any kind of effort, they won games, made great trades, and generally seemed smarter than the other meatheads in the baseball GM ranks. They were the perfect team to drag me back in.
And then I got an invite to restart my fantasy sports addiction, which had been dormant for 15 years or more, back into my college years when I wanted to be, well, a sportswriter.
Flash forward to now. After many good years, some heartbreaking playoffs, and a partial season ticket plan, the A's have become, for all intents and purposes, the Phillies of the mid-90s -- a team that makes salary dump trades of the players they hit on in development, only to tell you that no, no, it's not a fire sale, honest.
I've moved 3,000 miles away from them for my career, and don't expect to ever see my team in person again.
My kids don't really care about sports, so it's not like I have to defend my serisl baseball adultery.
Rooting for the Mets is like punching yourself.
Rooting for the Yankees, given the lingering memories of the Freaking Jeremy Giambi Slide Play, is like rooting for the guy who used to punch you.
Rooting for your fantasy league guys, at least in the playoffs, is pretty close to meaningless.
Not watching baseball at all, given the blog's existence, isn't really an option, either.
So, um... er... go Phillies. I'm with you all the way. With the fury of... a twice-divorced fan, who should be old enough to know better, and who will never root for you with a hundreth of the intensity that he had back in the day.