Baseball Toaster Bad Altitude
Some (Careful) Thoughts on the Other Series
2007-10-05 06:42
by Mark T.R. Donohue

Normally during this time of the year I'm able to sort of let loose a little bit and write about whatever I'm thinking, since the Rockies are long since safely placed in cold storage for the winter. But this season I have to be careful. I hardly have to tell you folks that the baseball gods are capricious, and whatever changed their disposition towards the Rockies, we must treat their game and all their teams with due respect lest they change it back.

Did I say all the teams? Not the Cubs. They're a special case. Obviously.

CLE-NYY Another year of this, really? Three-quarters of the hack sports columnists in the country pick the Yankees to win the World Series, reasoning that their lineup Can't Be Stopped and also Mariano Rivera (there used to be sometimes a verb and a predicate attached to that second reason, but now it's always just "and also Mariano Rivera"), then they actually play a game and everyone sobers up. Oh, right. Pitching. You have to do that. Crap.

I feel bad for hardly watching any Indians games all season. Whenever Detroit would go on a cold streak I would keep an eye on them because my vindictive hatred of Jim Leyland knows no bounds, but like a lot of others I was missing the point in the AL Central this year. Wasn't the White Sox and Tigers collapsing, wasn't the Twins once again mismanaging their roster all the way to oblivion, it was how legit the Indians were. Nice starters, nice offense, who needs a bullpen when you score 12? If it ends up being Indians-Red Sox in the ALCS that'll be a fine series. No way I am writing the Yankees off, though. The Yankees are freaking Voldemort.

CHC-ARZ It's good to have family. When I finally got my dad on the phone during Game 2 of this series (suggested memorable nickname: "the series where it's the middle of the night even on the West Coast and still somehow just entering the sixth inning") he was the first person to whom I'd spoken in two days who agreed with me that Lou Piniella made the exact right move in taking out Carlos Zambrano when he did in Game 1. What can you say? He made a calculated risk and it backfired. Marmol had been golden for them all season; indeed, if you ask most smart Cubs fans they'll tell you he's the guy who got it all turned around for Chicago. Sometimes you make the best possible percentage move and it still goes against you. I'd rather have Piniella and his solid reasoning than Clint Hurdle and his blind luck, but I guess it's too late to switch now. And Piniella's language wouldn't go over in the Rockies' 700 Clubhouse for sure.

Is there a single player in MLB or any other pro U.S. sport with a more vast disconnect between his raw stats and his actual value than Alfonso Soriano?

The Diamondbacks have a young, dynamic GM in Josh Byrnes, but I'm not absolutely sure if Byrnes has complete control over personnel in the way Dan O'Dowd does in Colorado. There are a lot of murkily defined older baseball guys hanging around in Arizona's front office, and let me tell you why this would worry me, were I a D-Backs fan. I think this team has a ton in common with the 2002 Angels. That team completely maximized its talent and won a World Series using a similar situational hitting attack, then it spent the next few years diddling around congratulating itself and handing division titles to the A's. The Diamondbacks are good. Yes. Better than we thought they were. But they could be a lot better, and getting a romantic attachment to the roster as it stands could be the only thing keeping Arizona from being the one team standing in the way of the Rockies and that elusive NL West title in the next couple of years.

BOS-ANA I don't really have a lot of useful observations on this one. I do think that the Angels are terribly overrated this year (the AL West was way down this season) and I'm ashamed by how many analysts went ahead and used John Lackey's name as part of their argument for why Anaheim might win the series. It would only have taken them two seconds to do the research, or to plagiarize someone competent's work, and find out that Red Sox simply eat Lackey alive. Not too difficult to figure out why -- hitters with superior patience can wait Lackey out, and Fenway with its inverted power alleys is all danger spots where Lackey normally wants to induce guys to hit long flies.

I used to really hate the Angels because I lived in the Bay Area when they were rivals with the A's and defeated the Giants in the World Series. However, now I'm kind of rooting for them. I'm so bored of Red Sox-Yankees, even typing the phrase makes me want to stop reading my own work. Of all the AL teams, I'd like to see the Indians win the pennant. No matter which AL team advances, they will be huge favorites no matter which NL team they meet, and remember, Cleveland is working on a pretty substantial championship drought. Not Cubs substantial, but nothing to sneeze at; since we only need one lovable martyr team and that role seemingly for at least one more year is most capably filled, let's have all the other teams win championships as regularly as can be managed so that fans everywhere except Wrigley Field can share in the fun.

2007-10-05 07:19:16
1.   mehmattski
Soriano's gap would be a lot smaller if his manager didn't see "OMG SPEED!!!111!!" and realized he'd be more valuable hitting third.
2007-10-05 07:46:33
2.   Daniel Zappala
Excellent thoughts. I will own up to completely missing out on Cleveland this year, even though I have the Extra Innings package. Even as an Angels fan, I admit a Red Sox - Indians series would be great.
2007-10-05 08:24:03
3.   RIYank
I think the reason the Indians were considered (by many) to be underdogs is that they couldn't solve the Yankees in the regular season. And though they won as many games as the Red Sox, they scored 56 fewer runs and allowed 47 more, so I think they seemed a little bit lucky.

So, I think that's the explanation. But your theory is good, too.

2007-10-05 08:25:32
4.   dianagramr
Well said!

I'm baffled that Piniella still insists on batting Sori in the leadoff spot, while he is still hobbled by that quad injury (and thus unlikely to be stealing that often).

As for the D'backs ... they spent most of the year with Chad Tracy and Orlando Hudson gobbling up grounders, so the absence of those two now would make you think "uh oh". But other guys have stepped up.

Arizona WILL need some fresh new pitching arms for 2008 (Doug Davis is serviceable ... and Livan Hernandez is a workhorse, but after Webb, do you fear anyone in that rotation?)

2007-10-05 08:40:12
5.   Ken Arneson
4 I fear Micah Owings, but mostly because of his bat.
2007-10-05 08:43:04
6.   Mark T.R. Donohue
4 Obviously they will need more starters but it is equally important they realize that they need any reasonably good groundball-inducing righthanded reliever, not SPECIFICALLY Brandon Lyon, and any veteran slugging guy who doesn't mind being platooned or benched when he slumps, not SPECIFICALLY Tony Clark.
2007-10-05 10:19:41
7.   still bevens
4 Didn't Soriano complain when he was moved down in the order in DC? I think he prefers to bat leadoff.
2007-10-05 10:21:53
8.   bhsportsguy
6 Tell me Mark, even last weekend, you probably had other plans for this weekend didn't you?

Hey, go have fun, you guys deserve it.

2007-10-05 10:29:12
9.   scareduck
Aside from the Red Sox (and especially Fenway) being Lackey's kryptonite, the Angels really have no answer to Boston's baserunner-evaporating staff 1.29 WHIP, best in the league:

If you don't get guys on base, the Angels' first-to-third, singles-oriented offense is dead, dead, deadski. The Halos have absolutely nobody outside of Vlad who can hit the ball out of the yard with any regularity; in fact, extra-base hits of any flavor are equally hard to come by, as witness the team's anemic .417 SLG, ninth in the league:

Red Sox in four.

2007-10-05 10:32:02
10.   scareduck
One other thought on Lackey: what bugs me about him is that in 2002, Scioscia was pleased to give the ball in Game 7 to Lackey, who had come up big in a couple late appearances, over the much more jittery Ramon Ortiz. Why the hell he isn't taking history into consideration now -- and I don't think he's fooling anybody by all the brave talk -- is just puzzling.

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