Short Series?

The Rockies gave it a valiant effort last night, but they came up short again, which puts them in a large hole, as I mentioned yesterday.

It did give me something to think about, though.  Ever since the whole “this game counts”/All-Star Game determining home field fiasco (don’t get me started on it, I’ll go all day), the American League has won home field advantage.  The downside to that is that no AL team has clinched the Series on their home field since 1999 (pre-ASG change) when the Yankees swept the Braves.

In 2003, the first year of the changes, the Marlins won in Yankee Stadium.  2004, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals and celebrated, movie stars and all, in Busch Stadium.  2005, the White Sox did the same to the Astros.  And, of course, in 2006, the Cardinals got to involve the home fans by clinching at home.

Can the Rockies force the Series back to Boston?  Sure, they can.  But will they?  I don’t know.  Baseball has a way of evening things out.  You’ll see long winning streaks followed up by a few losing streaks during the season.  21-1 wasn’t sustainable, obviously, but the pendulum may be swinging the other way.

I hope that if the Rockies are going to lose it, they lose it in Colorado.  Red Sox Nation can be obnoxious enough without them tearing up Fenway in celebration.

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Quick Hits

Sorry for the short posts, but I’m out of the office this week doing an audit and trying to get these in before I head out.

  • Josh Beckett is just about untouchable.  Give him a run in the first, and it’s basically over.  He’s given up 4 runs in 30 post-season innings this year.  The first inning he threw in the 2003 NLCS, he gave up 4 runs.  In the rest of his post-season career (71.2 innings), he’s given up 11.  He’s never lost a post-season game.  There’s a reason he’s up there with Christy Mathewson and Mariano Rivera in post-season ERA.
  • The Rockies have to win tonight.  It’ll be tough with Schilling on the mound, but you can’t afford to get down 2-0.  You assume Beckett would win game 5.  That means, if the Rox lost tonight, they’d have to win every other game in the Series.  And winning two elimination games in Fenway would be very tough, especially since they could bring Beckett out of the pen for a couple of innings if they had a slim lead.
  • The Cardinals released Mike Maroth.  I don’t think that was a huge surprise.  He seemed like a great guy on a personal level, but save that first start against the Reds, he never showed anything that made you think, “Hey, he can turn it around.”  Even Kip Wells gave some hope now and then.

Not So Surprising

A few days ago, I wrote this:

“Problem is, the ALCS isn’t over yet. If the Sox could pick a pitcher to keep their season alive, it’d be Josh Beckett. He’s looked great this postseason, and he’s already beaten Sabathia once. Put that with the fact that a lot of this team remembers climbing out of the 3-0 hole in 2004 and it’s not like they are going to roll over and play dead.”

And that’s just what happened.  When the Indians weren’t able to solve Beckett in Game 5, I knew Cleveland was in trouble.  Carmona had shown he had trouble pitching in Fenway, and that flared up again in Game 6.  Then you get to a Game 7, when anything can happen.

This is very reminicent of the 1996 NLCS, Cardinals vs. Braves.  It was the first year of LaRussa in St. Louis and the Cardinals had made it to the postseason.  They swept the Padres out of the way and got up 3-1 to the Braves.  However, the Braves had the better pitching setup for the last three games, and their bats just pounded the Cardinals.  They outscored St. Louis 32-1 in the last three games and went on to lose to the Yankees in the World Series.

While Cleveland didn’t lose quite that badly (they were only outscored 30-5), it was pretty darn close.  And Cleveland has to wait another year for a chance at a title.

Rockies and Red Sox.  You’ll hear a lot of Todd Helton talk, since the two teams almost made a deal involving him in spring training.  Hope he has a huge series and Colorado takes the title.  Unfortunately, I’m afraid that it’s getting close to midnight on Cinderella’s dance.

Rocking Around the Clock

The Rockies are going to the World Series.  Who’d have thunk it?

21 out of 22.  Two different double-digit winning streaks.  The first team ever two sweep the LDS and LCS.  A team that should vote Trevor Hoffman a playoff share, because the last two of his seven blown saves kept them alive and going.

It was typical Rockies last night as well.  Clint Hurdle seems to be in the zone as well as his players, because he sent up a pinch hitter in the fourth inning.  Sure enough, Seth Smith hits a weak little popup.  However, because this is the Magical Rockie Tour, that ball carries just out of range of everyone chasing it but stays fair, letting the go-ahead run score.  An error, a hit, and a big home run by Matt Holliday and it was all over but the shouting.

The Rockies will have a sizable following in the Series.  It seems to me that a lot of casual fans root for the underdog, the good story.  If Boston is their opponent, most anyone that’s not a part of Red Sox Nation will be donning purple.  It’d be different, perhaps, if 2004 hadn’t happened or that the Sox weren’t becoming viewed in some quarters as the successor to the “Evil Empire” tag the Yankees have.  (Really, can a team be an empire if they’ve only gone to the Series twice in seven years?  And had post-season futility the rest of the time?)  If Cleveland wins, the storyline of them trying to win their first series in 58 years (the second-longest streak active, behind the Cubbies’ now 99) will win them some fans as well.

The Rockies have eight days off, which may stunt their momentum somewhat.  Then again, this is a man that has gotten few predictions right in this postseason, so don’t take my word for it.

Good to see the Indians take a 2-1 lead.  You know Fox is happy about it, meaning that there is a good likelihood of a long series.  (How ticked is TBS?  Their first year doing playoff baseball and they get one game over the minimum.  That’ll bring in the revenue.)  The Indians really needed that win.  You know you are going to run into Beckett again, and that’s likely a loss (though a Sabathia/Beckett rematch in Cleveland might go the Indians way).  I wonder if the Indians breathe huge signs of relief if they can get past the two-headed monster of Ortiz and Ramirez.  The rest of the Sox lineup can hurt you, but don’t have that impending doom about them that those guys have.

Game 4 tonight probably turns on how Wakefield’s knuckler is going.  If it’s on, the Sox have a good chance.  If not, it could be a high scoring game.

Rockies Continue Roll

The Rockies roll continued last night.  I wasn’t able to see much of it, and I know blogs like Purple Row and AZ Snake Pit will cover it way more throughly and intelligently than I would ever dream of, since their teams are involved.  That, of course, doesn’t stop me for making ill-informed comments.  I am a blogger, after all.

The Rockies’ run of 18-1 (counting their perfect 4-0 postseason record) has to be one of the most amazing and incredible baseball streaks of all time.  I mean, you have the miracle Boston Braves of 1914, but they started their run around July 4th.  While still extremely impressive, it wasn’t the time crunch, everyday-is-an-elimination-day that this Rockies run is.  If the Rockies had lost just once more in that 15 games span in the regular season, they’d have had a nice 13-2 stretch (12-2 if they lost before the playoff game with the Padres) and still been sitting at home right now.  That’s what’s hard to believe–how good they’ve been with the pressure on.

Honestly, I expected them to lose the NLCS.  I mean, baseball is a game of runs, and the runs tend to even out over time.  The Rockies had been so good for so long, it was about time for the balancing.  With Brandon Webb on the mound, I figured they would get down 1-0 in the series and things would start unraveling from there.  I still expected seven games, but for Arizona to move on.  The only thing bugging me about the D-Backs was their season-long run differential, with them being outscored by their opponents.

Webb was the only pitcher to beat the Rockies in the last 19 games, as you’ve heard by now, I’m sure.  Of course, as Jayson Stark says in his column today, that was the abberration, as the Rockies seem to own Webb like few teams do.  Most everyone struggles against that dominant sinker.  The Rockies aren’t everyone.

So now the Rockies have a one game lead, home field advantage back, and the knowledge that they can still beat the D-Backs ace, who they will see at least once more.  Right now, it’s hard to go against the Purple Monster.

Game 2 of that series follows Game 1 of the ALCS tonight.  Sabathia vs. Beckett should be a heck of a game.  Go Indians!

Stress Free October

Thank you, Arizona!

It was great to start the stress-free playoffs this weekend. With Arizona sweeping the Cubs out of the way (look at what all that off-season spending did for them–three more wins than the ’06 Cardinals and a first round exit. Spending money isn’t the panacea some Cardinal fans think it is.), I could enjoy the finale of the Colorado/Philadelphia series without wondering which team could beat the Cubs. That was a thrilling game, and the Rockies are on a serious roll. That roll has to come to an end sometime, but hopefully not terribly soon, as it is VEB’s adopted team for the post-season.

It was nice to watch the AL yesterday as well. I didn’t see much of the Sox sweep, but their win really had my house rooting for the Indians last night. Of course, the wife would have been anyway, but we were both intrigued by the possibility of four sweeps in the first round, which would have been a record. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to pass, but I did some digging on the number of playoff games.

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The Rise of the Small Markets

Arizona.  Colorado.  Cleveland.  Heck, even Los Angeles.  Do you think, perhaps, that there are some television executives waking up screaming in the night?

If TV really ruled the game, to the extent it would like to, we’d see Yankees/Red Sox in one LCS and Philadelphia/Chicago in the other.  Then a Cubs/Yankees World Series.

Right now, we’re on pace for Arizona/Colorado and Cleveland/Boston (depending on who wins tonight).   That NLCS would be terrible for those East Coasters, unless they started the games at terrible times for the home teams.  (That’s not out of the realm of possibility, of course.)

But at least the TV people would still have Boston alive, a big market East Coast team.  Just imagine, though, if LA would win that, knock off Cleveland and we’d have another all-Western World Series, like there was in 2002.  I’m betting ratings would be way down and there’d be a little less discussion of the games.

I don’t want to come across as one of those ranting “East Coast Bias!” types.  It does exist, to a degree, but not to the levels some fans want to take it.  It’s human nature to want your routines, and since a bunch of the media is on the East Coast, that’s what they’ll cover.  For them to stay up late and throw a kink into their normal days and nights, it’s not going to make them happy.  Which means, for the rest of us, we are cheering awfully hard for such an outcome.

And I am one Arizona win away from my first stress-free October since the turn of the century.  The Cardinals always cause me angst, because as the pressure mounts, the less I can take it.  I’m flipping channels, trying to not think about wasted chances, the comeback of the other team, etc.  Then, the one year the Cards weren’t in the playoffs, the Cubs went deep into October, causing the same level of dread in the other direction.  Thank goodness for Bartman, Alex Gonzalez and, well, the Cubs being the Cubs.

If Arizona can just win tomorrow, I can watch the rest of the playoffs with no deep-seated rooting interest.  My wife likes the Indians (and it’s always enjoyable when the spouse gets into the games) but it’s nothing to the level of the Cardinals.  And that should make for a fun month.

In Cardinal news, they picked up the option on Jason Isringhausen.  Really a no-brainer move, as there was no obvious replacement in system (Chris Perez isn’t ready for that role yet) and the option was pretty reasonable when you look at the market.  Glad to see Izzy get another  year–2006 was rough for him, so it was good to see see that it was mainly the hip and he was back on his game last season.