Monday, July 10, 2006

Baseball '06 at the Half: Kenny vs. Penny

Well folks.. For the first time since the end of May... with the exception of Game Show Marathon, I will be firmly planted on my couch on Tuesday to watch one of my ol’ faves…. as Kenny Rogers and Brad Penny take to the mound for The All Star Game.. an event that unlike the present, used to be an annual festival of National League domination. Today we will look back at the ‘06 season’s first half plus we will dust off the pre season predictions from April, and revise them to see who indeed will be participating in the fall classic.

But first speaking of Game Show Marathon, we already had a column addressing the first four episodes. I didn’t catch Card Sharks, but I did see Match Game and Family Feud.. and I must admit it was pretty neat to see these old shows with their old sets and old theme songs. The Feud board didn’t swing around as it did in the 70s, but instead on GSM was swinging using the magic of computer animation. Also, it was interesting to note that no mention was made of Ray Combs who hosted the CBS version.

As for Match Game.. it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the original.. But nobody expected that. The open was fantastic and it was cool to see the orange flippy thing that opened the thousands of episodes I watched as a kid. I actually started to like Rikki Lake.. She is actually kind of cute (compared to her Hairspray days) and it was amusing to hear her comments that the thinking music reminds her of porno movie music. She even mentioned Ron Jeremy! And it was great to see Betty White but it was obvious that they shouldn’t use modern cross references with a woman in her mid-80’s! Her total unawareness of the MTV show Pimp My Ride actually hurt one of the contestants chances of winning the game.

Overall I liked the whole concept.. I loved Match Game and Press Your Luck and actually think Rikki did a nice job. If they decide to do it again,… they should not have her host the Price Is Right since it is disrespectful to Bob Barker to have another host, and they should also use celebrity contestants who actually like the game shows since contestant enthusiasm is a key factor that makes game shows so enjoyable.

A couple of baseball things I would like to address that grind my gears:

Here’s the term that I don’t like… Walk off home run.. Or walk off hit… Uh.. it’s a game ending hit.. Or game ending home run! They don’t walk off the field… they jump up and down and celebrate and then run into the locker room… But.. Each of those hits ends the call it game ending!

One other thing... I love the All Star Game.. Why do those Fox buffoons feel compelled to make the game “count” by having the All Star game league winner earn home field advantage for the World Series? As Warner Wolf would say… “change the rule”… here is my proposal: After the game, each league has one player crowned as MVP… and if that player’s team makes it to the World Series.. his team gets home field advantage. And if neither mvp’s team makes it that far... (or both mvps make it).. then home field would go to the team with the best record.

In reality, the 162 games are about the teams,… but the All Star Game is about the players. Strategically, if Davids Wright and Ortiz are having a good game.. keep ‘em in a little longer than usual… That way if one of those players (or maybe a pitcher who squeezes out an extra inning) does get the MVP award.. his team will get the home field in the World Series, as opposed to the current dopey rule. What happens if the game is in the 14th inning and Royals Pitcher Mark Redman is on the mound and World Series home field rides on a Royal arm? Don't you think he will serve up a nice juicy game ending home run pitch so he can get out of the stadium, stop for some Mineo's pizza en route to the airport and then get home?

When I was a kid I wouldn’t miss the All Star Game for anything and that continues to adulthood. The NL used to win it every year and it was a rare chance to see the out of town All Stars who I would only see when their teams played the Mets or Yankees. Now with ESPN and fantasy baseball and the ability to closely follow every game, a lot of that magic is gone.. Plus apparently the sport is not as popular among the little pishers like it used to be. Once in the pre VCR early college years, I was invited to a party the night of the game… and I skipped the party. A couple of classmates needed a ride home, so after the game I went to the party and then took them home. One of the people lived across the street from The Scooter Phil Rizutto. It was after midnight, and when I dropped her off, I rolled down my window and bellowed “Holy Cow You Huckleberry”… A light went on in the house, and I quickly jumped in the car and sped out of Hillside as quickly as my Gold Duster would take me! Another year I taped the game to go to some hideous movie premiere for a movie with Hugh Grant and Tom Arnold that should have gone straight to video. But I did watch the game when I got home and avoided finding anything out about the results!

Then there is the infamous tie all star game of 2002 that led to this silliness of making the game “count”. It was also the turning point in how I hooked up with Trophy Wife. Back then I was friendly with her, but due to my sheer stupidity was not too interested in going out with her. A mutual friend had been trying to set us up, and on that very night Mutual Friend was meeting up with a friend who was coming in from out of town. The friend's car broke down a few miles from Mutual Friend's house so Mutual Friend went to pick him up and they went on their merry way. During their lovely evening, she called Trophy Wife who then called me to ask if I had jumper cables or Triple A. I told her I did and to call me at the last possible moment since I was deeply engrossed with the All Star Game.

Trophy Wife called a little while later and invited me over to hang out at her house till Mutual Friend got there.. and I could even watch the game. She only lived 5 minutes away so I hopped in the car… didn’t disturb Phil Rizzuto and headed over there and didn’t miss more than a batter or two. Well as it turned out the guy and his car were truly stuck and he had no way of getting home. So, I ended up driving this fellow all the way home to South Jersey and I didn’t get home till 4:30 the next morning. The next day Mutual Friend was so appreciative that as a gift she gave me movie passes and a certificate to a local restaurant on the condition… that I take Trophy Wife. I took her out the following Sunday, and finally came to my senses that she is a wonderful girl, and right after that we started dating.

So at least one person was happy with that All Star Game!

As for the season itself.. there have been a few interesting trends.. In the National League the Mets have run away with it,.. but all 4 other teams are still in contention for the Wild Card which just goes to show how mediocre the rest of the league is. Tom Glavine has a shot at the Cy Young Award. Jose Reyes, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and St. Louis super-stud Albert Pujols have a nice battle going for the MVP Race. His St. Louis Cardinals can’t seem to run away with the NL Central just yet.. but the Reds who had been off to a great start are starting to tail off as their top 2 pitchers Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo are starting to come back to earth. Over in the West, the Padres have moved into the lead thanks to Mike Piazza starting to rediscover his bat swinging skills that so eluded him the last few years of his career with the Mets.

So lets make some mid season predictions… The Mets and Cardinals look like locks to win the East and Central Divisions since none of the other lame-o teams seem capable of knocking them off their perch. The West and Wild Card are interesting… I’m gonna take the Braves for the Wild Card since Bobby Cox has a way of coaxing the most out of his limited roster so I am going to say right here that the playoff streak will continue.. especially with John Smoltz and Tim Hudson anchoring the pitching staff. Keep in mind they are only 6 games out of the wild card lead. As for the West, my heart says the Rockies because they have some good young players and some uncharacteristically high quality pitching.. But, as I said in the pre season, the Giants have Barry Bonds.. and if he can put together one more half season of Barry Bonds baseball, that would be enough to catapult the Giants to the top of a very weak division. A lot of people like the Dodgers but despite their superb pitching, they will only get so far with Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent anchoring the offense.

As for the American League, The Red Sox still have a 3 game lead over the Yankees.. Reliever Jonathan Papelbon has been incredible and is my choice for MVP.. Where would they be without him? Probably behind the injury plagued pitching starved Yankees and the upstart Blue Jays. Over in the Central, the Tigers and White Sox lead arguably the best division in baseball. The Twins have been playing very well lately with catcher Joe Mauer making a run at .400 but they just cant seem to make up any ground. The Indians who I thought had a great team this season are dead in the water after too many late inning bullpen meltdowns. Over in the West, the A’s have emerged to take a slight lead over the rest of the pack.

As for predictions… I think the Wild Card is coming out of the Central. I would like to be gutsy and pick the Twins who with Johan Santana and Fransisco Liriano have the best top 2 we have seen since the D’backs won the ’01 World Series with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. But, the Tigers also have some great players and they have 2 young rookie stud pitchers Justin Verlander and Zach Miner along with the ageless Kenny Rogers. So I’m picking the White Sox to move into first, paced by Cy Young contender Jose Contreras. Im sure the Yankees wish they had him now since they will finish THIRD to the Red Sox and the Blue Jays. What? The Yankees are just as far from the Wild Card as the Braves! Why the Braves and not the Yankees?? That’s because the teams in the AL are much better than the NL wild card wannabes. And the Yankees really need to address the loss of Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. It also amazes me that the wacky Yankee fans boo Alex Rodriguez. ARod is one Albert Pujols Sr. condom away from being the best player in the game!

Over in the West, the Angels who now have a healthy Bartolo Colon and young rookie stud Jered Weaver along with John Lackey have enough to get them into the playoffs as the AL West Winners. I like how Weaver cracked the rotation… his excellent pitching led to the teams decision to cut his older brother Jeff!! Can you imagine the phone calls to Mom and Dad? First Jered calls.. “Hey Im in the big leagues..”.. then Jeff calls.. “I got cut by the Angels for some rookie putz”….

World Series prediction: How about a rematch of the ‘86 Mets-Red Sox series? Can they get Vin Scully to announce it? “Gets by Buckner… here comes Knight.. And the Mets win it!!”


Pumpstradamus said...

Predictions? I think the Colts do have what it takes to win the World Series.

Nate said...

Nothing beats comments by Pumpsterdamus and Dangerspouse in my sports columns. By the way Pump.. starting in Sept. this blog will feature my weekly NFL picks!

By the way as for last night's game "home field advantage" silliness.. if they had followed my rule the 2 mvps would have been Michael Young and Carlos Beltran.. which would give their teams home field in the Fall Classic.

But up to that point Vlad Guererro of the Angels looked like the AL's most valuable player. If they followed my rule, the Angels would have lost home field thanks to Young's heroics. Maybe it needs a little tweaking.

Now the Mets have to go to Boston for Game 7 of the World Series!

Pumpstradamus said...

Speaking of Brad Penny, did you know there's a movement to discontinue the penny?

Nate said...

I hope they discontinue the All Star game winner getting home field before they discontinue the penny!

Penny looked pretty good the other day by the way!