Wednesday, July 16, 2008

An Incredible (and Long) All Star Day in NY - The Baseball Quarterly Report

Greetings from the New York Metropolitan Area…where Tuesday Night we witnessed the final All Star Game at legendary Yankee Stadium as we know it. And after this classic, I don’t think any future All Star Games will be able to measure up! As a Mets/NL fan I don’t think I have been as emotionally tied to a baseball game since Game 7 Mets Cardinals in 2006 on the night Endy Chavez made “the catch”. And how ironic that the possibility of a tie was based on the arm of Scott Kazmir the pitcher who Mets fans still mourn and whose trade for Victor Zambrano led to the reversing fortunes of both teams. Of course, where was Commissioner Bud Selig during the Fox coverage when the tie talk started brewing in the 8th inning? And as I am editing this at 147 AM and I see Ed Peper give a Chevy to MVP JD Drew, Jeannie Zelasko just asked my question... can he drive everyone home,... especially the Jersey Fans whose last train left at 135 AM?

Today’s column was supposed to originate from LA, the site of the Hadassah Convention where Trophy Wife has been off gallivanting this week… I was originally going to tag along and hang out in LA while Trophy Wife hung out with the Hadassah Ladies,.. and I even entertained thoughts of attending the Match Game on TBS taping which had been originally scheduled for this week. Ultimately, I decided to stay home instead, but I will be heading off to the airport soon to pick up my sweetie! It was very strange watching an All Star Game without her around… especially since our courtship started during the 2002 legendary All Star tie. (see July 10, 2006 in the archives for the whole story)

The All Star Coverage that aired on Fox from 7pm to 8:30 was unprecedented in its fantasic-ness! The parade from 7-8 (aired on tape delay) was quite entertaining… and the introduction ceremony prior to the game was truly spectacular although I was not too thrilled to see that George Steinbrenner was involved in the pre-game when its quite obvious that his health has deteriorated so rapidly. It brings back memories of the summer of 1996… the last time the National League won the game… when the tabloids first started showing pictures of Bob Hope whose health suddenly declined in his early 90’s. Incidentally, George wore his sunglasses at night at a game that ended on a throw by... Corey Hart!

The idea of having the Hall of Famers appear on the field standing at their position was truly touching and a great history lesson for young baseball fans. All fathers with sons old enough to appreciate this should be plopped him down on the couch to watch this and given a test afterwards because of the incredible history that was on display there… It also showed how absurd it is that Pete Rose is banned from wonderful moments like this,…. especially with his past All Star Game history when he ran down Ray Fosse with the winning run in the 1970 All Star Game. If you listened to some of the old timers during the weekend you heard them talk about how back in the old days,.. like the 70s when I was an awe struck kid hanging on to every pitch… the players used to play all 9 innings and they were quite competitive. Who needs this silliness of making the game “count” to give the winning team home field advantage in the World Series? As I have said before, change the rule.. if it goes extra innings bring back the players that were taken out earlier. A team is allowed to bring back a catcher which is scary because I think Russel Martin who had just been removed, would have tagged out Justin Morneau in the bottom of the 15th!

Once the Hall of Famers were introduced, the 08 All Star players were then brought out and stood out in the field at their positions with the Hall of Famers. I got a kick out of Willie Mays who didn’t seem to care that he was standing next to Josh Hamilton who became a hero of sorts at the Stadium after his incredible power show during Monday Night’s home run derby. And interestingly enough, it was the Reds-Rangers Hamilton for Edinson Volquez trade that made quite an impact…. Hamilton with his rocket shots Monday Night and Volquez blowing the 2-0 lead before Jonathan Papelbon gave the National League a run back when he pitched the unfamiliar top of the 8th. That was around the time when Joe Buck and Tim McCarver started to speculate about a tie if the teams ran out of pitchers. And as the game went on, I thought we might see Tim Lincecum make a Willis Reed-esque appearance on the mound after being hospitalized earlier in the day with flu like symptoms.

The Home Run Derby was quite crazy as Hamilton put on a show that topped Bobby Abreu’s performance form a few years back. Of course Abreu’s home run pace dropped off after that performance, so I would be curious to see how well Hamilton will do. Nonetheless, Hamilton’s story is just terrific.. He bounced back from a life of drug addiction to turn his life around… a nice story coming so soon after the big steroids debacle that has rocked baseball. Hopefully, he will continue his straight living life unlike the late Steve Howe who continued to get numerous chances after numerous drug test failures. But Howe was a left handed relief pitcher which is always a valuable commodity for any pitching staff.

As we gear up for the 2nd half, it is time to look back at my preseason picks, but first some midway predictions for individual awards.

CY Young - Fransisco Rodriguez and Carlos Zambrano

MVP – Josh Hamilton and Chase Utley

Rookies of the Year – Evan Longoria and Edinson Volquez

Looking back to the preseason picks, I must be watching too many Met games because my American League picks were way off the mark. My American League pitching staff on my fantasy team is just as bad – My four top starters Erik Bedard, Shaun Marcum, Fausto Carmona and Vicente Padilla are all on the DL along with two of my outfielders – Eric Byrnes and Hideki Matsui! Isn’t football draft time coming soon?

In my Preaseason Top 14 List of Relevant Teams for 08, I only picked 6 AL teams and 4 of ‘em were Toronto, Seattle, Cleveland and Detroit! However, I did pick the White Sox as my surprise team and they have done quite well in the first half.. leading the equally surprising Minnesota Twins while The Tigers and the surprisingly bad Indians have been big disappointments. I thought the Mariners would win the division with their lineup and a rotation anchored by Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez, but I was obviously quite wrong. My pick of Boston as division winner looks to be on the money, unlike my other 3 playoff team picks of Detroit, Seattle, and wild card Cleveland. It seems as if the West is going to the Angels, and I will pick the White Sox for the AL Central, although the post Santana Twins have some decent starting pitchers that nobody seems to have ever heard of.

And will the Rays hold off the Yankees to win the Wild Card? Or can the Twins or A’s sneak in for the Wild Card as the Rays pass the BoSox? Im going to stick with my Red Sox prediction, but I think the Tampa Bay Rays have the right combo of hitting and starting pitching led by former Met Scott Kazmir. Therefore I pick the Rays for the Wild Card even though everyone still calls them by their old name of Devil Rays. Can we call them Blu Rays instead? And maybe refer to the Yankees as the HD-DVD of the 2008 season? As I predicted, the offense has had its usual consistent performance, but the Chin Min Wang injury and the failure of the young arms is putting too much pressure on the aging Mike Mussina and Andy Pettite. Add to that the injuries to outfielders Matsui and Johnny Damon, and the Yankee playoff run appears to be in serious jeopardy.

As for the NL…. Of the 8 contenders from my preseason picks, a few have fallen short. Houston didn’t gel as well as I thought with their revamped offense, and their starting pitching let them down, The Padres offense has not come through for them and Greg Maddux continues to pitch there even though he has only won one game since April 13th. Is this guy ready for a trade to a contender? The Braves took a big hit with injuries to Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Mike Hampton, which I predicted could be a season killer in our baseball preview. And speaking of Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux, do you realize that if all 3 retire at the end of this season or next season, it is very likely all 3 would be voted into the Hall of Fame together. That would be one heck of A Hall of Fame induction ceremony! I hope baseball gives the Braves and Bobby Cox the day off so the fans can watch the inductions – maybe on TBS which doesn’t air Braves games anymore but does a Game of the Week on Sunday afternoons.

I’m not going to ask for a mulligan for my NL picks since The Phillies, Cubs, and D-Backs as division winners with a Met wild card looks quite realistic. The Cardinals and Brewers have been fighting it out for the Wild Card, but the Central has a pretty decent division – even the also rans Pirates, Astros and Reds are actually fielding somewhat competitive teams. The Central’s unbalanced schedule could hurt the top teams in that division, while the Mets can feast on Washington and the fading Marlins and Braves. And as good as the Phillies line up is… the pitching leaves a lot to be desired. The Mets strong pitching might not be enough to overcome the Phillies big bats, but there is room in the playoffs for both of ‘em! I don't think the Phillies have enough pitching this year, but if they made the World Series, isn't it incredibly dopey that they lose home field advantage because Brad Lidge had to pitch at 1:30 in the morning in The All Star Game?

And my revamped AL World Series team – get the rally monkeys ready for the Angels in their futile attempt against - I really want to say the Mets. Let’s hope they pick up some help for the corner outfield spots – and I am not talking about Trot Nixon! Otherwise, the Mets could see a big opportunity slip away in what might be Pedro’s last year – and see the Cubbies win the NL Pennant!

And can you just imagine that Hall of Fame Line up – The Braves Big 3 and Pedro Martinez? Wait a minute – isn’t Victor Zambrano retiring too?? Nah – just kidding with my fellow Met fans who still curse the Scott Kazmir trade, the same Scott Kazmir who got the win in the 2008 All Star Game! By the way Victor is 0-6 in the minors this season with a 9.45 ERA and a 2.30 whip… and the Yankees are thinking of acquiring him!!

Let the games resume!

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