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One, Two, Three Strikes You’re Out: Federal Prosecutors blow the game in Clemens Mistrial

Roger Clemens leaves the Courtroom after the Mistrial- Photo Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

First it was the lengthy and painful investigation and trial of Barry Bonds where Federal Prosecutors came up short on their primary charges. Today it was the rapid mistrial called by Judge Reggie Walton as the prosecutors opened their case against Roger Clemens on the first day of Clemens trial.  To me they looked like the prosecutors thatAlanShore(James Spader) made fools of in the television series Boston Legal.  This was supposed to be a “slam dunk” for the government and instead it was a debacle.

Assistant US Attorney Steven Dunham opens his case -Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

 Today lead prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney Steven Dunham went against the Judge Walton’s ruling by introducing evidence of former Clemens team mate and friend Andy Petitte’s wife that Petit had told her that Clemens had admitted using HGH. Walton had already deemed the video admissible in rebuttal. Instead Dunham introduced it invoking Walton’s ire and lead defense attorney Rusty Hardin asked for a mistrial.

Rusty Hardin argues for the Defense-Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

Walton granted the mistrial even though prosecutors argued that the judge could simply instruct the jury to disregard the evidence.  Judge Walton remarked “I don’t see how I un-ring the bell,” in that they could not know the effect of the evidence in jury deliberations.  Walton noted that “Government counsel should have been more cautious,” noting the cost to taxpayers already incurred and that “I think that a first-year law student would know that you can’t bolster the credibility of one witness with clearly inadmissible evidence.” A direct comment that the prosecution’s case hinged on the testimony of and evidence supplied by former Clemens trainer Brian McNamee.

Counsel Approach the Bench Judge Reggie Walton takes control and declares a mistrial-Dana Verkouteren / Associated Press

The government considered Pettitte’s testimony essential because he is viewed as “critical witness” because of his honesty and good reputation.  This was even more important after Wednesday’s opening arguments where Hardin managed to turn the trial into one of the reliability of the prosecution and its key witness, McNamee.

That happened after Dunham on Wednesday morning showed a capped needle, a syringe and three cotton balls which the prosecution said contained steroid residue and Clemens’ DNA. It seemed to be a strong start, but then Dunham was warned about the testimony of Petitte’s wife.  Then he elected to reenact Clemens’ Congressional testimony using an FBI agent and a former Congressional staffer leading a columnist to write “by mid-afternoon the jury had to despise Dunham.”

Hardin on the other hand held the jury in his hand weaving a trail of government investigators canvassing the country to find evidence with which to convict Clemens and only having McNamee’s testimony with which to attempt to send Clemens to prison.  Hardin put the prosecutors and McNamee on trial showing a map of 72 locations across the country where the government went to prepare 229 investigative reports.  Hardin pushed the prosecution hard and gave the jury a lot to think about regarding the evidence and the reliability of their chief witness.  I think that this is most likely why Dunham introduced the Pettitte video most likely hoping to make an impact on the jury while having Walton simply let them off with a warning.

The play didn’t work. It was like a pitcher having been warned for throwing at a batter doing it a second time and getting tossed from the game. However in this case with wasn’t just the pitcher tossed it was the end of the game.

Judge Walton: “I don’t like making orders and lawyers not abiding by them. This clearly runs afoul of my pre-trial rulings.” AP Photo

Judge Walton has scheduled a new hearing for September 2nd to determine if there will even be a second trial.  Given Walton’s statements today one has to seriously believe that he will not order a new trial. A gag order imposed by Walton is still in force and it is believed that Walton considers that a case of double jeopardy exists and that Clemens may be immune from further prosecution. If there is a second trial it probably will not take place until 2012.

In the end it is another case of over eager government investigators and prosecutors spending millions of taxpayer dollars to target high profile athletes.  The fact is that for baseball the Steroid Era is over.  It is likely that hundreds of players took varieties of performance enhancing drugs.  The evidence of this is the marked decline in home runs and run production as well as injuries to older players that were less frequent than during the era.

As for those implicated as users they will be judged by the fans, their fellow players and the sportswriters who vote players into the Hall of Fame.  Those innocent will be under as much scrutiny as those that have admitted or actually tested positive.  Those that used whether they ever tested positive or not cheated, but cheating  in sports is something that is not the job of government to police or Congress to investigate.  Those that love the game of baseball will view records set during the era with suspicion because that is what baseball fans and writers do. We examine statistics and records; we live and die by them.  But the fact is that baseball records are often products of their times.  There were few home runs in the “dead ball era.” Many of the great home run hitters played in hitters parks and were surrounded by a strong supporting cast that forced pitchers to pitch to them.  Many players that held records played in a shorter season, 154 vice the current 162.  The National League doesn’t play the Designated Hitter which has extended the careers of many hitters whose defensive skills are declining to the point that they are a liability in the field and would have had to retire in previous times.  From their inception until last year players used amphetamines to increase their alertness.  That was legal and baseball did nothing about it until last year.  In days past pitchers used the spitball, cut or sanded balls to get an edge.This was illegal but many did it and Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry admitted this even before being elected to the Hall of Fame.

What I have never thought right was Congress calling hearings and grilling ball players while the country was at war and suffering from a terrible economic downturn.  That was a waste of time and taxpayer money.  The one good thing is that it forced Baseball to get its act together regarding PED use, testing and enforcement.  I am glad for that.

As far as the prosecutions they have been terrible a waste of taxpayer money and the results bear that out.  It is time to end this mindless pursuit, let the players live their lives in retirement and let the fans, writers and their colleagues judge them.

Rusty Hardin and Clemens after the Trial Photo- Mark Wilson, Getty Images

As Clemens left the courtroom he was hounded by reporters and photographers, some even trying to get his autograph he had to push his way through like someone trying to escape a Zombie attack. As he did so an inebriated man waving a cane shouted “Leave the man alone! Leave the man alone!”  Maybe it is time that we do, not only with Clemens, but Bonds and all the others that Federal investigators, notably Jeff Novitzky and prosecutors have investigated for years on our dime.

“Leave the man alone!” I second that.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Dominance at its Best: Cliff Lee Owns the Yankees Rangers Roll 8-0

The Owner of the Yankees Cliff Lee rubs up a new ball (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Cliff Lee simply owns the New York Yankees and if the Sons of the Stein are smart they will find a way to entice their nemesis to play for them in 2011. However, that will not help them this year as Lee dominated the Yankees in a more dominant fashion than he did last year with the Phillies where he beat the Bronx Bombers twice.  On Monday night at Yankee Stadium Lee added to his playoff luster by pitching a 2 hit 8 inning shutout of the Yankees on a night when he struck out 13 Yankee batters walking only one.  He retired 11 Yankees in a row before Jorge Posada blooped a single into right for the first his with two outs in the bottom of the 5th inning and a leadoff single to Brett Gardner in the bottom of the 6th inning.  Every Yankee hitter with the exception of Robinson Cano struck out at least once in the loss.

An unusual October sight at Yankee Statium a loney fan waits for the Yankees to go down in the bottom of the 9th   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

In fact had the score remained 2-0 going into the bottom of the 9th   and Lee would have likely gotten his way to go out and finish the game.  Instead the Rangers clubbed Yankees relievers for 6 runs in the top of the 9th allowing the Rangers to bring in closer Neftali Felix in a non save situation.  Felix sent the Yankees down in order himself striking out Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira in the inning to make a total of 15 strikeouts.   

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte made only one mistake which occurred in the top of the 1st inning. With one out Michael Young singled and then Josh Hamilton yanked a curve ball from Pettitte over the right field wall to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. The Rangers added 6 runs on 6 hits in the top of the 9th against Yankees’ relievers Boone Logan and David Robertson. By the end of the night the Rangers had mustered 8 runs on 11 hits.

Pettitte got the loss and Cliff Lee the win to give the Rangers a 2-1 series lead going into game four tonight at Yankee Stadium.  The Rangers will send Tommy Hunter to the hill to face the struggling A. J. Burnett who was 1-7 with a 6.61 ERA in his final 12 starts.  Hunter started against the Yankees on September 11th giving up 2 runs and striking out 8 in five innings work in a 7-6 Rangers win. The Rangers have now scored 20 runs against Yankees pitching and unless Burnett comes up big the Rangers could go into game five with a 3-1 series lead.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Rangers Even Series Defeat Yankees 7-2 for First Home Playoff Win

Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus celebrate the Rangers’ win in game two (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Texas Rangers did what they should have done on Friday night and defeated the New York Yankees 7-2 at Rangers Field in Arlington Texas.  The win was their first win in a playoff series at home in franchise history.  The win was an impressive win for the Rangers who were coming off a very disheartening loss on Friday night where the bullpen melted down in the 8th inning to had the Yankees a 6-5 win.

Ian Kinsler hits an RBI triple (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Saturday was different the Rangers got out to an early lead and held on holding the Yankees to just 2 runs while ringing up Phil Hughes for 7 runs on 7 hits in four innings work. Hughes didn’t look at all like he looked when he shut down the Rays in game three of the ALDS.  Elvis Andrus singled to lead off the first inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch, stole third and then stole home for the first run. The aggressive base running seemed to set the Yankees back on their heels just as it did the Rays in the ALDS. In the second inning the Rangers stuck again when David Murphy homered and was followed by Mitch Moreland and Elvis Andrus who both singled. Moreland scored when Michael Young doubled to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead.

The Rangers scored two more runs in the 3rd inning when Nelson Cruz doubled and scored when Murphy doubled. Murphy then scored on a Benji Molina double to make the score 5-0 after three innings. The Yankees got one run back in the top of the 4th inning.  Robinson Cano doubled to lead off the inning and took third on a wild pitch. He then scored on a two out single by Lance Berkman who then was caught going too far off of first and was tagged out to end the inning.

Setting the stage: Elvis Andrus steals home in the first inning (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Rangers continued their assault on Hughes in the bottom of the 5th inning when Nelson Cruz doubled and scored when Ian Kinsler tripled. Kinsler scored when Mitch Moreland singled to give the Rangers a 7-1 lead.  In the top of the 6th Lewis got in some trouble with Robinson Cano hitting a solo home run and then gave up a single to Jorge Posada and a walk to Berkman before he left with two outs being relieved by Clay Rapada who struck out pinch hitter Marcus Thames.  That would be all of the scoring although the Yankees threatened in the 7th 8th and 9th innings as the Rangers’ relievers shut down the potent Yankee lineup with Neftali Felix coming in to close out the Yankees.  Tonight the Rangers relievers did not blow the game and the series now goes into New York knotted at one with Cliff Lee scheduled to start game three in Yankee Stadium and Andy Pettitte.

It should be an interesting go from here on out.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Padre Steve’s MLB LCS Picks

The Vicar of the Church of Baseball Harbor Park Parish makes his LCS Predictions

Well baseball fans it is time to pick who I think will be in the 2010 World Series.  This year we have the heavyweights, the New York Yankees the defending World Series Champions and the Philadelphia Phillies who won the Series in 2008. The Yankees will be facing the upstart Texas Rangers who are fresh off their first playoff series victory in franchise history while the Phillies face the irrepressible collection of unknown underdogs the San Francisco Giants.

The NLCS

“The main idea is to win.” John McGraw

Roy Halladay no-hit the Reds has his worst record against the Giants of any team that he has faced more than 3 times

Both of these series will be fascinating to watch and should provide baseball fans with some memorable moments. The teams took different paths to get the LCS.  The Phillies as expected took the NL East in a convincing manner going 97-65 in the regular season and having one of the best trios of starting pitchers seen in the Majors for a long time.  The Phillies defeated the Cincinnati Reds sweeping the Big Red Machine in the NLDS.  Despite this the Phillies, apart from the great pitching of Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels were not impressive hitting only .212 against a rather lackluster Reds pitching staff. The Phillies scored only 13 runs on 16 hits in that series, just a fraction above 4 runs a game but only 7 of those 13 runs were earned runs, the rest came as a result of the Reds abdication of something that is known as defense. To skew the numbers even more 4 of those earned runs came in a 1.2 inning period against Reds game one starter Edinson Volquez. Remove those 4 runs and the Phillies scored just 3 earned runs in 25 innings. The Phillies had a .301 OBP and an anemic .273 SLG against the Reds. In the series the Phillies had just one home run, that coming from Chase Utley who led the team in RBIs with 4 in the series. Only one other player had more than 1 RBI and that was Shane Victorino with three. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley led the team’s position players tied with a .273 batting average. Phillies starters had a 1.17 ERA while the team staff had a collection 1.00 ERA.

Jonathan Sanchez beat the Phillies twice in 2010 in a convincing manner (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The Giants are the dark horse of the playoffs in fact if you look at all of the “expert” predictions no one had the Giants finishing better than 4th in the NL West behind the Padres, Dodgers and Rockies. The team was a collection of no-names at the start of the season save their starting pitching rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez.  During the regular season and at the trading deadline the Giants went and picked up a bunch of journeymen rejected by other teams leading Padres ace Matt Latos to call them a team made up of “mercenaries.” Since the Giants have gotten little respect most of the year why should they now? The Giants went 92-70 in the NL West taking the division on the last day of the season from their nemesis the San Diego Padres.  The Giants get to the NLCS after gutting it out in four one run games against the Atlanta Braves, a team so evenly matched in most departments in a series that was arguably one of the most filled with tension and exciting in recent divisional series history.  Like the Phillies the Giants hitting was weak hitting .212 and scoring 11 runs 7 of which were earned on 23 hits. Rookie Buster Posey led the team in hitting with a .375 batting average followed by Cody Ross at .286 and Aubrey Huff at .267.  The Giants had a .288 OBP and .295 SLG against the Braves. Giants starting pitchers had a .089 ERA in the series and the team staff had a collective 1.66 ERA.

In the Regular season the Phillies went 97-65 but there is a caveat 25 of those 97 wins came against the Nationals and Marlins. Remove those two teams stats out of the equation and the Phillies are 72-54 against the rest of the league.  The undoubtedly a great record but over a quarter of Phillies wins came against two bad opponents. Now I am not dissing the Phillies in any way as it would have been criminal if they even were close to having a .500 record against them. The Giants went 92-70 and like the Phillies they beat up on their division’s cellar dweller the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 13-5 record.  The only team in the league that had the Giants’ number was the Padres who the Giants edged out on the last day of the season for the Division title.

Playing against common NL opponents the Phillies went 84-54 against the Giants went 82-57 and the teams were 3 and 3 against each other in 2010.  In those 6 games the Phillies had 28 runs to the Giants 27, 45 hits compared to 60 for the Giants and 2 errors against the Giants 4.  But I think the real key is how the starting pitchers did in head to head matchups against the opposing team and I find these numbers to be interesting.

W-L             IP       H         ER      BB      SO      HR         ERA

Hamels     Phi      0-1             20        11        9        5        15         1         4.05

Sanchez    SF        2-0            13       5         2        6         8         0             1.38

Cain           SF        0-1           6        7        5        1          4         1               7.50

Blanton     Phi      1-0           6.1     8        2         2         7         2              2.95

Zito            SF        0-1          5          8        4         4         0         0             7.20

Oswalt      Phi       1-0          7           6        3          3        7        2             3.86

Lincecum   SF       0-0          8.1        3         2         2        1       11           2.22

Moyer        Phi      0-1          6          10        4         4        1        2            6.00

Wellmeyer  SF      1-0          7           3          2         2        4        0           5.27

Halladay      Phi      0-1        7           10        5         5         0        1           6.43

“The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field.” Earl Weaver

In the coming series the pitching rotations tentatively have Lincecum against Hallady in game one, Sanchez against Oswalt in game 2, Cain against Hamels in game 3 and Bumgarner against Blanton in game 4. Both managers have not ruled out pitching either Halladay or Lincecum on short rest. The Giants have a stronger bullpen but Giants closer was banged around by the Phillies worse than any of his other opponents.

Padre Steve’s NLCS Pick

I think this series goes 7 games and I hate to try to pick a winner based on these numbers. All the experts are picking the Phillies in 5 or 6 games but I don’t know if they will manage that based on the statistics. My heart lies with the Giants but the Phillies do have more pop in their bats. In the starting pitching it looks like the Giants have the edge in the head to head match ups.  Also the Giants did not have a good number of new players in their first two games against the Phillies. I am going to be the odd guy out and I will probably be wrong but I am going with the Giants to upset the Phillies in seven simply because the Giants have nothing to lose in this series, none of the real experts expects them to win. I expect Lincecum and Sanchez to be the difference and for Hamels and Halladay not to do as well against the Giants as they have the Reds and their own division. If the Giants lose the series then people will say that I didn’t know what I was talking about and forget these picks by game one of the World Series. If not people will say that I am a genius or incredibly luck. Either way I’m okay with this pick.

The ALCS

“You got to get twenty-seven outs to win.” Casey Stengel

Cliff Lee Owns the Yankees (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

In the ALCS we have the Yankees (95-67) looking to secure their chance to get in the World Series and win in for the 28th time going up against the playoff novice Texas Rangers (90-72).  The Rangers walked away in a weak AL West race and the Yankees finished as the Wild Card winner just behind the Division champs, the now eliminated Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees rolled by the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS humiliating the Twinkies again proving as I said in my ALDS prediction that the Twins can’t beat the Yankees with a stick.  The Rangers defeated the Rays in a close series that went the full five games with their ace, Cliff Lee being the difference maker. The Yankees swept the Twins in a one sided series where they outscored the Twins 17-7 and outhit them 36-21 with their pitching staff having a 1.73 ERA against the Twinkies.  Phil Hughes was dominate in 7 innings work in game three while Andy Pettitte showed that he had recovered from injury and was effective in game two. C.C. Sabathia was banged around in game one but had the good fortune to have Yankees hitters come on strong. Mariano Rivera was simply lights out.

The Rangers won the AL West and faced the AL East champion the Tampa Bay Rays. This was the only series to go five games and the first division series to do so since 2005.  It was also a series where no home team won a game on its own field, so much for home field advantage.  In the series the 21 runs on 44 hits and committed 5 errors against the Rays 13 runs on 37 hits and 5 errors.  The Rangers pitching staff had a 2.40 ERA and was led by Cliff Lee and C. J. Wilson.  Lee was 2-0 in the series going 16 innings giving up 2 runs on 11 hits with a 1.13 ERA.

Mariano Rivera and the Yankees look to down the Rangers and try for their 28th World Series Title (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In the regular season the Yankees went 84-60 and the Rangers went 76-68 against common AL opponents.  The teams went head to head 8 times splitting 4 games each. The Yankees swept the Rangers in mid-April and split a pair in mid August with the Rangers sweeping the Yankees at home in September. The Yankees pitching staff gave up 33 earned runs on 51 hits in those 8 games with a 4.23 ERA against the Rangers.  The Rangers pitching staff gave up 37 earned runs on 63 hits with a 4.62 ERA. The only pitcher to completely dominate the Yankees was Cliff Lee just as he did in the 2009 World Series when he was with the Phillies.

The Rangers had a regular season team ERA of 3.93 giving up 636 earned runs, 163 home runs and 551 walks.  In the hitting department the Rangers had a .276 team batting average, a .338 OBP and .491 SLG driving in 787 runs on 1556 hits of which 455 were extra base hits including 162 home runs.

The Yankees pitching staff had a team ERA of 4.06 giving up 651 earned runs and 179 home runs.  The Yankees hitters had a .267 team batting average, a .350 OBP (the best in the AL) and a .436 SLG producing 859 runs on 1485 hits including 508 extra base hits of which 201 were home runs.

Padre Steve’s ALCS pick

All things considered the teams match up well but no matter how well Cliff Lee pitches I see the Rangers losing in 6 games. However if the Series goes to 7 games and the Rangers can pitch Cliff Lee a third time I think that they will steal the AL Pennant from the Yankees, but they have to get to game 7 or they will not will the series.  My pick is the Yankees in 7 setting up an old fashioned World Series between two historic franchises the San Francisco Giants and the New York Yankees. What baseball fan besides Phillies and Rangers fans wouldn’t want to see that?  The last time the Giants and Yankees faced off in the World Series was 1951 when the Giants were still in New York which the Yankees won as well as 1936 and 1937 both of which were captured by the Yankees. One has to go back to 1921 and 1922 for the last times that the Giants defeat the Yankees in the Series, the last time that the Giants won a series was 1954 against the Indians.  A Giants and Yankees series might even bring back the ghosts of baseball past who will float into the New Yankee Stadium and AT&T Park remembering the old Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds with great fondness while those still living from the 1951 series like Willie Mays and Yogi Berra see their successors battle it our.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Finishing Well: The Orioles’ Revival a Portent of things to Come

Luke Scott and the Orioles finally have something to be excited about

The Baltimore Orioles under new manager Buck Showalter have become a force in the American League and the American League East.  On August the 2nd the O’s had the worst record in baseball, even lower than the perpetual dwellers in the Marinas Trench of baseball the Pittsburgh Pirates. In four months of play the O’s had but 32 wins and had gone through two managers.  They were on pace to lose well at least 110 games and maybe more games than any team in Major League Baseball History in a 162 game season.

Outfielders like Felix Pie (above) as well as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones will have Corey Patterson looking for a starting position and Nolan Reimold hoping for redemption

At the end of last season I said that manager Dave Trembley had to go. At the time I suggested Bobby Valentine as a replacement. After Trembley was fired Valentine as well as a number of other candidates was interviewed, shortly after Valentine removed himself from consideration as a possible successor to Trembley. On August the 2nd the Orioles hired Showalter to take the place of Interim Manager Juan Samuel. When Showalter took over the Orioles no-one gave him much of a chance of making any real progress this season, most considered the Orioles a lost cause.  I did not think so. At the beginning of the year I predicted that the Orioles would be a .500 team and that this would be a good year for them.  That prediction did not materialize but it was not a question of talent but of leadership and the ability of the Orioles Coaching staff to get the best out of the team, especially the young talent.  The team is playing to the level that I thought that they could at the beginning of the season.

Jeremy Guthrie as well as stable mates Jake Arietta, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergeson will have competition from others including Zach Britton who is still at Norfolk

It is my belief that finishing a season well is an indicator of the real potential of a team.  If one was to simply look at the Orioles aggregate win and loss totals one might say that the season was a disaster. That is not true. The first 4 months of the season were an unmitigated disaster as the team lost 16 of its first 18 games and never recovered under the management of Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel. The team was obviously demoralized and looked to an outsider that they believed that they would lose when they took the field. Young players, especially the young pitchers either got knocked around or were given no run support.  Veterans acquired in the off-season to provide experience and on field leadership to the youngsters were a bust and the team had numerous injuries to key players. You could not have a worse first two thirds of a season if you tried.

But all of that changed on August 2nd with a simple change in leadership. The Orioles started to win and win frequently. Not only did they win frequently they began to win a lot more series than they lost.If the season began on August 2nd the AL east would look like this:

Orioles            34-23     .596

Blue Jays         30-26   .535

Yankees          30-27    .526

Red Sox          28-27    .509

Rays                28-28     .500

There were turnarounds in hitting as well as starting pitching. Orioles starters went 26-15 with a 3.13 ERA after Showalter.  With that their starters were the 3rd best rotation in majors since August 2nd.  They have the third best record in the Majors since August 2nd with only the Phillies and Twins winning more.

The Orioles have a lot to look forward to. Buck Showalter will not rest in the off season as he gets the O’s ready for next year. There will be changes. I would think that pitchers Kevin Millwood and Mark Hendrickson will be gone; others will have to fight for their jobs. In the off season Showalter will take the raw talent that has been present on the Orioles at the Major League and Minor League levels make prudent trades as well as assignments within the organization to get them ready to challenge the rest of the AL East in 2011.

While the Orioles are definitely on the way up one has to take a look at how others are doing not just in the East but in the Majors. In the AL East the Rays Owner says that payroll will be significantly reduced and with numerous key players in contract negotiations and declaring free agency they will not be the same team that they have been the past three years. The Yankees and Red Sox are both showing signs of age with the Sox being in worse shape in the long run because they have little to speak of in their minor league system are saddled with a good number of older players and have key players entering the free agent market.  The Yankees can always spend money but as the core of the team, Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera get older they will lose something. Since the organization will be unlikely to trade such favorites at some point they will spend more time on the DL and not perform as well as in previous years. It is simple; the older guys get the more that they wear out.  This may prove problematic for the Yankees in the coming years.  The Blue Jays finished strong but one does not know what will happen with them with the exit of long time manager Cito Gaston.

Outside of the AL East only the Twins performed really well.  Almost every team in the AL was just above .500 or below during the last two months of the season. This includes teams that have a history of doing well and some that are playoff bound.  Finishing well matters and with the exception of the Orioles and Twins in the AL no teams finished strong, many stumbled and the proof is in their records.

All of this bodes well for the Orioles especially if Showalter is able to continue what he started this year.  I expect the Orioles to be competitive in the AL East. I do not think that they will necessarily win the division but they will not be the door-mat that they have been for so many years.  There is work to do in Birdland but for the first time in years there is real hope based on their performance the last two months of the season.  The team believes that it can win every time it takes the field. When there is leadership and talent there is no limit to where the O’s can go.

Over the off-season I will continue my reporting and commentary on the Orioles and their organization, particularly the Triple-A affiliate the Norfolk Tides. Over the next month I will be commenting of the MLB playoffs and begin to publish articles on the young talent in the Orioles organization and what I think might happen as Buck Showalter and Andy McPhail makes the changes to the organization to make the team a force in the American League for years to come.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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World Series Game Six: Yankees Win it All

Part Two: Written after the game

matsuiHideki Matsui World Series MVP

Yankees Pitchers against Phillies Batters: Andy Pettitte had very good stuff in the first five innings giving up one run on a sacrifice fly by Jimmy Rollins following a 1 out triple by Carlos Ruiz.  In the sixth Ryan Howard hit a one out two run homer driving in Chase Utley off of Pettitte who then stuck out Jayson Wirth.  With 2 outs Raul Ibanez doubled down the line to right. Joba Chamberlain came in to get the final out of the Phillies sixth. Ruiz singled and Jimmy Rollins hit into a fielder’s choice and then Chamberlain walked Shane Victorino.  Joe Girardi then pulled Chamberlain for Damaso Marte who came in to face Chase Utley who he struck out to end the inning. Marte struck out Ryan Howard who with the “K” set a new World Series record of 13 strike outs.  The Yankees then brought in Mariano Rivera who struck out Jayson Wirth for the second out. Raul Ibanez doubled to center after battling Rivera at the plate.  Pedro Feliz then popped out to Posada in foul territory to end the inning. Rivera faced pinch hitter Matt Stair to lead off the ninth getting him to line out to Jeter at short. Carlos Ruiz came up next and worked the count full before drawing a one out walk.  Jimmy Rollins flew out to Swisher in right bringing up Shane Victorino.  Ruiz took second on a strike to Victorino who after a battle with Rivera where he worked the count full grounded out to Cano at second to begin the celebration for the Yankees and their fans.

joegirardiYankees Manager Joe Girardi Led the Yankees back to the Top

Phillies Pitchers against Yankees Batters: Pedro Martinez struggled and was hit hard by Hideki Matsui who homered in the second with Alex Rodriguez on base and who singled with the bases load in the bottom of the third to drive in two more. By the end of the fourth he had pitched 62 pitches, giving up 4 runs on 3 hits with 2 walks and hitting Mark Teixeira with a pitch. Pedro was pulled by Charlie Manuel at the end of the fourth for reliever Chad Durbin who gave up a double to Derek Jeter to lead off the bottom of the 5th.  Jeter was advanced by a sacrifice bunt by Jerry Hairston who Mark Teixeira hit an RBI single to drive in Jeter.  After walking Alex Rodriguez Durbin was relieved by J.A. Happ who gave up a double to left to Matsui scoring Teixeira and Rodriguez.  By the end of the inning the Yankees were up 7-1. With one out and one on the Phillies sent in Chan Ho Park who got Derek Jeter to hit into a fielder’s choice and Jerry Hairston to fly out.  In the bottom of the seventh Park got Mark Teixeira on a strike out but gave up a grounder with eyes which got through for a base hit to Alex Rodriguez.  Park left the game as Scott Eyre came in to face Matsui. Rodriguez stole 2nd as Eyre struck out Matsui.  Eyre then walked Posada and stuck out Cano to end the inning.  In the 8th Eyre remained in the game getting Nick Swisher to ground out to third for the first out and Brett Gardner to ground out to second. With two outs Brett Myers came in to face Jeter who singled to right for his 175th career playoff hit and got Jerry Hairston to fly out on a soft fly to left.

With the win the Yankees won their 27th World Series and their first in the new Yankee Stadium.  In a historic sense it was fitting. In 1923 the Yankees won their first World Series title in the inaugural year of the original Yankee Stadium which sat silently in the dark next to the new ballpark. Hideki Matsui was the Series Most Valuable Player and the Yankees won their first series since they beat the Mets in the “Subway Series of 2000.  For the Yankees it was the end of a long streak of frustration in post season play.  The Yankee “old guard” of Jeter, Posada, Pettitte and Rivera returned to glory, additions since the last series win  including  Alex Rodriguez, C.C. Sabathia, Matsui and Johnny Damon got their rings as Yankees while Sabathia and Rodriguez shook off years of frustration.

In my next post I will give my analysis and reflections on the Series, the playoffs and the 2009 season.

yankees celebrateWorld Champion Yankees

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World Series Game Six: Duel of the Old Dogs

Part One: Before the game at dinner in the Food Court after my first set of rounds

“Baseball?  It’s just a game – as simple as a ball and a bat.  Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes.  It’s a sport, business – and sometimes even religion.”  Ernie Harwell, “The Game for All America,” 1955

andypettitte33How Will Andy Pettitte Pitch on 3 Days Rest?

I am a member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish.  So I guess baseball is like a religion to me.  It is one of the few things that I can count on that will relax and excite me at the same time that ball parks are among the few places that I can go to find a measure of peace.  To quote Sharon Olds “Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.” Baseball has much in common with the Christian faith it has a cycle and rhythm much like the liturgical year, it has its sacraments, law and grace and even its own Communion of Saints as Richard Gilman said:  “Baseball is a game dominated by vital ghosts; it’s a fraternity, like no other we have of the active and the no longer so, the living and the dead.” It is a sport that venerates respects and remembers its greats, and holds them to higher standards than just their performance on the field. It is a game that unlike other sports, those who transgress even if they are some of the best ballplayers who ever lived are banned from the game, in a sense excommunicated.  Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and the players involved in the “Black Sox” scandal after the 1919 World Series stand in witness to that fact.  Many of those proven to have taken steroids or suspected of doing so are being shunned by many of baseball’s greats.

pedro-martinez-7001381Old Dog: Padro Martinez, Can He Come up Big?

The crescendo of the baseball season amid its ebb and flow is the World Series.  Players who excel in the Series are venerated by their team’s fans and sometimes the rest of the baseball world.  This year the Series has seen some incredible baseball and some great drama as each game is played and the story, the legend and even the myth is renewed. Men like Reggie Jackson have become known as “Mr. October” for their exploits in the series and almost every year there is a player, great or small who does something that leads to greatness or sometimes disgrace.

Andy Pettitte went to the pitchers mound at the new Yankee Stadium and delivered the first pitch of game six of the 2009 World Series.  In the Philadelphia Phillies dugout another old dog, Pedro Martinez wrapped in his warm up jacket waited even as Jimmy Rollins stepped into the batters box.  It is a drama with another twist, for the first time in World Series history both starting pitchers will be over 37 years old, in other words for their sport old men.  Yes there have been older players but you don’t see many, especially starting pitchers.  Tonight we see two men who are in different stages of the tail end of their careers.  Pettitte may have a few more years left in him, but Martinez began the year not even on a team and was a late season acquisition by the Phillies.

The question for tonight’s game is if Pettitte, pitching on 3 days rest will be able to deliver a solid outing and if Pedro will have as good of stuff as he had against the Dodgers in the NLCS.  The Yankees know Pedro well and if he is the slightest bit off they could make short work of him. If Pettitte is off the Phillies hitting machine may crank it up a notch.

Since I as a Giants, Orioles and Athletics fan have no dog in this fight I did a careful analysis of the numbers and I predicted that the Yankees will win the series in six.  I said that the Yankees and Phillies would split in New York.  I also said that the Yankees would take games three and four in Philly and that Cliff Lee would win game 5, so far so good.  Based on my analysis I have predicted that Andy Pettitte will get the win to close the series but give the Phillies a chance of getting the win and forcing game seven.  This time I think that the Yankees hit Pedro hard and that will be the difference. (to see my complete analysis and prediction follow this link: https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/padre-steve%e2%80%99s-world-series-prediction-and-book-and-bible-burning-update/

mariano-riveraIf the Game is Close Expect Mariano Rivera to Come in During the 8th Inning

I think that Pettitte will do well enough to get the ball to Mariano Rivera in the 8th inning.  Rivera will then have a six out save.  I think on the hitting side of the house that Derek Jeter will continue to hit well, that Johnny Damon will hit and that Alex Rodriguez will have clutch hits.  The addition of the bats of Jorge Posada who came in halfway through game five and Hideki Matsui who showed up in a pinch hitting role in that game will give the back half of the Yankees lineup some extra power which was not present in game five.  For the Phillies I think that Chase Utley and Jayson Wirth have a good game and one or the other may take a Yankee pitcher yard.   In the end I do not think that it will be enough, I think that the Yankees win their 27th World Series tonight.  The only thing to do is sit back and watch, and if by some chance I am wrong about the outcome of this game, know that I am neither the Prophet nor the Son of the Prophet and since I am merely a miscreant Priest and not the Pope I am certainly not infallible.

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