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The NCAA College Football Bowl Season Money Machine

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College football bowl season is almost over and after seeing many bad games played by less than stellar teams in sometimes nearly empty stadiums I decided to look at attendance, team records, game results and the money machine. It really is an amazing machine that the NCAA has set up.

Of the 35 bowl games, 32 have been played. 70 teams have or will have played in post season bowl games this year. Of the approximately 2,261,902 available seats in the already played games about 1,497,113 were filled, about 66% of the available seats.  In all about $273,586,425 will be paid to the athletic conferences and schools sending teams to bowl games.

The attendance numbers at the remaining three games should move the overall percentage up a bit but I expect that the total number of seats filled at the games will be under 70%. The biggest game payouts go to the four BCS bowl games and the BCS Championship game which are $17 million dollars per team, $18 million for the championship game.

Since attendance and ticket sales cannot possibly cover these kinds of payouts. For the BCS games alone ESPN which has the current contract is approximately $125 million a season. This does not include the Rose Bowl which had a previous contract with ABC. The other bowl games, many of which are also carried by ESPN bring in more television revenues. The format will change in 2015 and ESPN will air the BCS playoff games and the National Championship Game. The contract for 84 games over a 12 year period is worth $7.3 billion or about $610 million a year.

That is just a drop in the bucket because there is much more money that will be made. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “ESPN, Fox Sports, Comcast/NBC, Turner, and CBS had agreed over the last 20 months to pay $72.4 billion for the national rights to televise live games well into the next decade.” 

Television revenues are also distributed to the conferences which in turn distribute them to their teams. Despite the money involved for some schools lose money by going to a bowl due to the costs of travel and lodging for the teams as well as bands and other school officials. Where does the money go? It goes to the athletic conferences who then dole it out to their programs. The players get none of the  revenue. Some are on scholarships but the amount of scholarship money pales in comparison with the money brought in. The players images are bought and sold but they get nothing and if if a player so much as sells a jersey he has worn he can be disqualified from the NCAA.

The proliferation of the bowls has led to many games where teams with marginal records have played including one team with a losing record. However on the plus side of this the games are a chance for college players, most of whom will never see a professional football contract one last chance under the the lights, one last chance at glory. It also serves as a boost for the schools, their fans, alumni and boosters. Since a lot of the schools are smaller and in small television markets the bowl games give them national exposure that they would not get elsewhere. Some of this actually draws students to them.

The sponsors of this years games are an interesting collection. They include defense contractors, oil companies, retailers, clothing manufacturers, banks and other financial services, insurance companies, online services, transportation companies and even the leading owner of online college education programs and universities. That last one is pure irony since they sponsor no athletic programs of their own.

Some of the sponsors are controversial. The Gildan company is a large sportswear company with a long history of reported worker rights and abuses.

Many of the bowls have gone by different names as the years have gone by including some the the older games. Many of gone by other monikers and have changed their name whenever a new sponsor took charge. One example is the Chick-fil-a Bowl in Atlanta. For decades it was known as the Peach Bowl but when Chick-fil-a took it over that long held name was consigned to history.

It is interesting because if you look at attendance and the money that is made it is obvious that the NCAA, which shamelessly uses the young men playing in these games is making money hand over fist. I wonder how much is actually going toward education, especially in an age of austerity where education programs are being cut. The money is in the billions, not millions, but billions. One has to ask. I mean really. It seems to me that the NCAA is playing the pimp here, with us as the customer.

The indirect beneficiary of the bowl games and the NCAA college football programs is the National Football League which does not have to pay for a minor league system as does major league baseball.

I have listed the bowl games for this season, their sponsors as well as their attendance, results and payouts below.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl, University Stadium Albuquerque New Mexico (39,224/24,610  62.7%) Arizona (7-5) 49 Nevada (7-5) 48. The sponsor Gildan has a long history of worker rights complaints and abuses in Canada, Central America and in Haiti. It make low cost t-shirts and other garments and is the largest supplier of blank sports apparel in the world. Payout $456,250 per team.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Bronco Stadium Boise Idaho. (37,000/29,423  75.4%) Utah State #22 (10-2) 41 Toledo (9-3) 15. Now Sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission. Payout $325,000 per team. 21,759The last sponsor Roady’s Truck Stops called it the Humanitarian Bowl, a name that the game lost when uDrove became the sponsor and moved it to Payout $325,000 per team.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego California (70,561/35,422 50.2%) BYU (7-5) 23 San Diego State (9-3) 6. Payouts $500,000 per team.

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl, Tropicana Field Tampa Florida (42,735/21,759 50.9%) UCF (9-3) 38  Ball State (9-4) 17. Payout $500,000 per team.

R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, Mercedes Benz Superdome New Orleans Louisiana. (73,208/48,828 67%) Louisiana Lafayette (8-4) 43 East Carolina (8-4) 34 Payout $500,000 per team.

MAACO Bowl, Sam Boyd Stadium Las Vegas Nevada (36,800/33,281 90.4%) Boise State #19 (10-2) 28 Washington (7-5) 26 Payout $1.1 Million per team. Waiting for the Earl Scheib or Bondo Bowl.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, Aloha Bowl Halawa Hawaii (50,000/30,024 60.55) SMU (6-6) 43 Fresno State (9-3) 10 Payout $650,000 per team

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, Ford Field Detroit Michigan (65,000/23,310 35.8%) Central Michigan (6-6) 24 Western Kentucky (7-5) 21 Payout $750,000 per team formerly known as the Motor City Bowl.  Terrible turnout to damage an otherwise nice baseball field.

Military Bowl Presented By Northrop-Grumman, Robert F Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington DC (56,692/17,635 31.1%) San Jose State (10-2) 29 Bowling Green (8-4) 20 Payout $1 million per team.

Belk Bowl, Bank of America Stadium Charlotte North Carolina, (73,778/48,128 65.2%) Cincinnati (9-3) 48 Duke (6-6) 34 Payout $1.7 per team. Formerly known as the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, Qualcomm Stadium San Diego California (70,561/55,507 78.6%) Baylor (7-5) 49 UCLA #19 (9-4) 26. Payout $2,075,000 per team. The biggest owner of for profit schools a without football of its own hosts a bowl.

Advocare Independence Bowl, Independence Stadium Shreveport Louisiana (53,000/41,853 80%) Ohio University (8-4) 45 Louisiana Monroe (8-4) 14. Payout $1.1 million per team.

Russell Athletic Bowl, Orlando Florida (65,438/48,127  75.3%) Virginia Tech University  (6-6) 13 Rutgers University (9-3) 10. Why can’t we have the Bike Athletic Supporter Bowl instead, I would love to see the “cup.” Payout $2,275,000 per team.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Reliant Stadium Houston Texas (71,054/50,386 71%) Texas Tech (7-5) 34 Minnesota (6-6) 31. Payout $1.7 million per team.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, Amon G Carter Stadium, Fort Worth Texas (45,000/40,754 90.6%) Rice (6-6) 33 Air Force (6-6) 14. Payout $1 Million per team.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl, Yankee Stadium, New York New York (54,251/39,098  73.1%) Syracuse University (7-6) 38 West Virginia University (7-6) 14. Another football game in a stadium designed for baseball. A travesty. Payout $1.8 million per team.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, AT&T Park San Francisco California (41,915/34,172  81.5%) Arizona State University (8-4) 62 US Naval Academy (7-5) 28. Ditto as far as destroying a beautiful baseball field. Interesting that the company that prospered due to its Mac and Cheese is the sponsor of the Fight Hunger Bowl. Do they do take out in Haiti? Payout $837,500 per team.

Valero Alamo Bowl, The Alamo Dome San Antonio Texas (72,000/65,277  90.6%) University of Texas (8-4) 31 Oregon State University #15 (8-3) 27 Payout $3,175,000 per team.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Sun Devil Stadium Tempe Arizona (71,706/44,617 62.2%) Michigan State University (6-6) Texas Christian University (7-5) 16. Payout $3,350,000 per team.

Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl, LP Field Nashville Tennessee (67,700/55,801 82.4%) Vanderbilt University (8-4) North Carolina State University (7-5) 24 Payout 1,837,500 per team.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Sun Bowl Stadium El Paso Texas, (51,500/47,922  93%) Georgia Tech University (6-7) 21 University of Southern California (7-5) 7. Payout $2 Million per team.

Auto Zone Liberty Bowl, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis Tennessee (61,008/53,687 88%) Tulsa University (10-3) 31 Iowa State University (6-6) 17 Payout $1,437,000 per team.

Chick-fil-a Bowl, Georgia Dome Atlanta Georgia (71,228/68,027 95.5%) Clemson #14 (10-2) 25 LSU #9 (10-2) 24. Payout $3,967,000 ACC/ $2,932,500 SEC Formerly long known as the Peach Bowl.

Heart of Dallas Bowl Presented by Plains Capital Bank, Cotton Bowl Dallas Texas (92,100/ 48,313 52.4%) Oklahoma State University (7-5) 58 Perdue University (6-6) 14 Payout $1.1 million per team.

Tax Slayer.com Gator Bowl EverBank Field Jacksonville Florida (84,000/48,612  57.9%) $3.5 million per team. Northwestern University #20 (9-3) Mississippi State University (8-4) 20. Payout $3.5 million per team.

Outback Bowl, Raymond James Stadium Tampa Florida (65,908/54,527 82.7%) University of South Carolina #11 (10-2) University of Michigan #19 (8-4) 28 Payout $3.4 million per team.

Capital One Bowl, Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando Florida (65,438/59,712  91.2%) University of Georgia #6 (11-2) 45 University of Nebraska #23 (10-3) 31. Payout $4.550,000 per team

Rose Bowl Presented by Vizeo , the Rose Bowl Pasadena California (94,392/91,425 96.8%) University of Oregon #6 (11-2) 45 University of Wisconsin #9 (11-2) 38. Payout $17 million per team.

Discover Orange Bowl, Sun Life Stadium Miami Gardens Florida (78,383/72,073 91.9%) Florida State University #13 (11-2) 31 Northern Illinois University #16 (12-1) 10. Payout $17 million per team.

Allstate Sugar Bowl, Mercedes Benz Super-Dome New Orleans Louisiana (73,208/54,178 74%) University of Louisville #22 (10-2) 33 University of Florida #4 (11-1) 23. Payout $17 million per team.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale Arizona (72,200/70,242  97.3%) University of Oregon #5 (11-1) 35 Kansas State University #7 (11-1) 17. Payout $17 million per team.

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, Cowboys Stadium Arlington Texas (80,000/expected sellout 85,000+ 106% or more) Texas A&M University #10 (10-2) 41 University of Oklahoma #12 (10-2) 13. Payout $3,625,000 per team.

There are 3 bowl games left before the end of the bowl season. The BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham Alabama which will pay the 6-6 University of Pittsburgh $900,000 and the 6-6  University of Mississippi $1,000,025 in a game which has never had more than 46,000 attendees in a stadium that seats 71,000. The GoDaddy.com Bowl in Birmingham Alabama which will pay the 9-3 Arkansas State University and the #25 ranked 11-2 Kent State University $750,000 each. Ladd Peebles Stadium seats 33,371 people and attendance has generally been in the 20,000-30,000 range.  The last game of the season is the BCS Championship Game which will be played at Sun Life Stadium between the University of #1 ranked University of Notre Dame and the #2 University of Alabama will play at Sun Life Stadium which with attendance being above the capacity of 78,383. The two teams will each be paid $18 million.

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That is enough for today. I actually started writing this on Thursday night and got far deeper into the subject than I thought possible. I do hope my numbers are accurate because my eyes did get blurry a few times and if there are any errors in the numbers you can attribute them to my lack of math skills and blurry eyesight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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GIANTS WIN IT ALL! BRING TITLE TO SAN FRANCISCO END 56 YEAR SERIES DROUGHT

The Drought is Over Giants Win! (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

It was something that no one predicted at the beginning of the season, a Cinderella story of a team of journeymen unknowns, cast offs, rookies and a phenomenal staff of young pitchers overcame obstacle after obstacle to win the team’s first World Series title since 1954.  Back then it was the “Say Hey Kid” Willie Mays who electrified the nation with his back to the ball catch in deep center at the Polo Grounds while in 2010 it was a collection of misfits who bonded as no team ever has to win the World Series when no-one said they would even win their division.

Aubrey Huff in the Arms of Buster Posey (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

This team whose theme song was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” didn’t stop believing and did what no Giants team stocked with All-Stars and Hall of Famers had not done since they were the New York Giants playing at the Polo Grounds. The franchise that had known sudden defeat in a 1-0 bottom of the 9th inning loss in the 1962 World Series to the New York Yankees finally won.  The franchise that had endured the tragic Earthquake Series of 1989 when they were swept by the A’s overcame all to win in 2010. Likewise the franchise that when just 6 outs from the victory in game six with the Champagne chilling on the clubhouse lost to the Angels had finally overcame decades of despair to win a World Series that most experts said that they would never win.

Tim “the Freak” Lincecum and his wild hair were a trademark of the Giants

Throughout the year the Giants were accorded no respect.  At the beginning of the season the Giants were picked by most to place no better than 4th in the National League West.  They won the West on the last day of the regular season and then went on to beat the Braves in 4 games in the NLDS winning game 4 in Atlanta holding the Braves to just 7 earned runs and a .175 batting average.  They played and defeated the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS in a series that no baseball writers that I saw, heard or read predicted them to win against the highly favored Phillies…well no one but me and ESPN 94.1 Norfolk’s Tony Mercurio.  The Giants held the mighty Phillies to just 18 earned runs in 6 games and to a .224 batting average. Asked on the Giants chances in 2011 closer Brian Wilson said “I like our chances, we were picked fourth in spring training. We should at least move up to third next spring. You’d think.”

Brian Wilson looks to the Heavens after striking out Nelson Cruz to end the World Series (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Giants pitchers allowed just 37 earned runs in 135 innings for a 2.47 post season ERA holding the Braves, Phillies and Rangers to 94 hits in 480 at bats and a playoff opposing batting average of .196.  Any way that you stack it, the Giants pitcher’s dominated two of the most prolific hitting teams in baseball as well as a good hitting Braves team allowing only 9 home runs.

“The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.” Earl Weaver

Edgar Renteria gets his game winning home run off of Cliff Lee in the top of the 7th inning (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The story of the 2010 Giants is a story for the ages, a team composed of cast offs, second chance journeymen, veterans with their best years behind them and rookies who played like seasoned veterans overcame every obstacle and proved to the multitude of naysayers that they could win in a convincing manner.  Rookies including Catcher Buster Posey and pitcher Madison Bumgarner who both played the first months of the season at Triple-A Fresno played key roles in the last half of the season and the post season with Bumgarner’s win in game 4 being something that had everybody talking. Edgar Renteria in his second year of a 2 year contract that all expected to be his last year playing ball was the MVP.  He overcame a torn bicep and a lack of playing time to hit 2 home runs including the winning hit tonight after only hitting 3 in the regular season spending 4 months on the bench.  In the World Series he hit .412 with 6 RBI. To make it even more of a story Renteria called his shot in game 5 to Andres Torres and he had the game winning hit in the 1998 World Series for the Florida Marlins against the Cleveland Indians.

Cody Ross was picked up off waivers at the last possible moment after being released from the Florida Marlins had 5 post-season home runs and many key hits and at bats.  Aubrey Huff a free agent that no one seemed to want became the team’s home run leader and hit a massive home run in game four on Sunday night and a great sacrifice bunt that led up to Renteria’s home run.  Freddy Sanchez when not hitting with the bat made defensive play after defensive play. Andres Torres hit at a torrid pace, Juan Uribe with key home runs in the NLCS and World Series while numerous other Giants had key hits, defensive plays or pitching performances.

Tim Lincecum holds the World Series Trophy (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Giants featuring the arms of 4 home grown pitchers outpitched the Rangers shutting down the most potent offense in the Major Leagues like they were a luckless Triple-A team belonging to a dismal major league franchise.  Tim Lincecum defeated Cliff Lee twice and in game 5 pitched 8 innings allowing one run and on three hits while striking out ten.  Matt Cain blew through the Rangers to shut them out in game two and finished the post-season allowing no earned runs. When Jonathan Sanchez struggled the bullpen came in and shut the Rangers down as they had the Phillies and who could believe the poise of Madison Bumgarner.  The Giants’ closer Brian Wilson was locked on and the Rangers definitely had reason to “fear the beard.”

This was an everyman’s team that embodied real America, guys getting second chances, men who worked for years unnoticed before landing with the Giants and young men that played with strength and maturity throughout the season.  There was something special about this team that transcended the parts and turned them into World Series Champions, they believed in themselves and their team took care of each other and didn’t listen to the naysayers.  Bruce Bochy the Giants’ manager managed them like a great General took charge and put players on the field each night that he knew would give the team the best chance to win. He moved players around for defense in the late innings when he got a lead, trusting in the arms of his pitching staff to shut down the vaunted Rangers’ offense which many experts said would overcome the Giants pitching staff.

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

Well they were wrong. Just as the Giants had throughout the playoffs the Giants’ pitching staff dominated their opponent.  The Rangers who had a .276 team batting average in the regular season and hit .304 against the Yankees in the ALCS had just 29 hits in 153 at bats for a .190 batting average against the Giants scoring just 12 runs in 5 games and were shut out twice. In the final 18 innings the Rangers managed just one run against a Giants pitching staff that finished the series with a 2.38 ERA.

By contrast the Rangers’ staff could not stem the tide in games that were blowouts and games that were close with the exception of Colby Lewis in game 3 who held the Giants to 2 runs.  The Giants scored 29 runs 28 of which were earned on 42 hits in 169 at bats for a .249 team average while the Rangers’ had a 5.86 team ERA.  Cliff Lee who had never been beaten in the playoffs and had two World Series wins against the Yankees in 2009 allowed 9 earned runs on 14 hits in 11.2 innings work for a 6.94 series ERA.  His opposite Tim Lincecum allowed 4 earned runs on 8 hits in 13.2 innings for a 2.72 series ERA.

This team was amazing and was supported by the Giants greats from the past including Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda, Felipe Alou, Jack Clark, John Montafusco, J. T. Snow and many more including Barry Bonds. I’m sure that the spirits of men like Bobby Bonds, Rob Beck  and Bobby Thompson were cheering them on as Judy’s cousin Bill who died during game one and my father Carl who died in June were.  The outpouring of support and emotion by these great who had never experienced a World Series victory in San Francisco was amazing.  Likewise the fans who came to endure a season of what has been named “torture ball” finally found that it paid off.

The Last Time 1954 Willie Mays makes “The Catch”

After 53 years of suffering in San Francisco the drought ended, the decades spend in the icy and unforgiving confines of Candlestick Park, the ravages of an earthquake and disappointment that left fans saying “maybe next year” was over.  The Giants led by cast offs, rookies and home grown pitchers featuring characters who sported “luck thongs” in the clubhouse, wild hair and beards that made them look like they might have a few screws loose had overcome the curse, whatever curse it might be and brought the World Series trophy home to the most beautiful city in America, San Francisco. Willie Mays commented after the game that “Oh, man, I don’t get overly excited about baseball, but looking at these kids and how excited they were, I had some tears in my eyes, because you never know, this might be the last time something like this happens to some of these kids. It’s a wonderful feeling for me, and I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling for these kids and their families.” Mays knows that from experience, there is a sense of grateful appreciation in his manner that rings true, for none of us ever knows what tomorrow brings.

“I see great things in baseball.  It’s our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.” – Walt Whitman

I think that there is a lesson for us in our country today, that if you believe and pull together you can win even when everyone predicts your demise.  Maybe Americans can look at this team and take this lesson that you don’t have to spend excessively to be successful, that success does not have to be bought and that friendship and teamwork matter more than having a bunch of elite super-stars who can’t get the job done in the clutch.  Maybe that’s the lesson that we need to learn again.  The lesson so eloquently put by James Earl Jones as Terrance Mann in Field of Dreams “The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

The Giants took home the World Series as I predicted with their pitching, defense and clutch hitting being the difference. Congratulations Giants.  I guess that I will have to hang a 2010 San Francisco Giants pennant next to my 1989 Giants NL West Pennant in my kitchen. Like many fans I have spend my entire life waiting for this to happen enduring the cold of Candlestick where I saw Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets in 1975, took in the beauty of AT&T Park, watched Barry Bonds tie and break the Home Run record while deployed to Iraq but nothing compares to this. It was worth the wait. Go Giants!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Cain is Able: Matt Cain and Giants down Phillies 3-0 Take NLCS Lead

Cain is Able: Matt Cain shuts down Phillies to win NLCS Game Three

Expert after expert picked Phillies ace Cole Hamels to master the San Francisco Giants while giving faint praise to Giants starter Matt Cain in game three of the NLCS at AT&T Park this afternoon. It seems that no matter what the Giants do to win they can get no respect from the baseball media establishment. First it was that they would finish no better than 4th or if they were lucky 3rd in the NL West. Then while some predicted them to defeat the Braves in 4 or 5 games is was almost a derisive pick figuring that even if the Giants got by the Braves that they would be no match for the mighty Phillies. Well that sports fans changed today as the great hope of the established sports media Cole Hamels and the vaunted Phillies lineup fell to the underdog, no name San Francisco Giants in a three hit shutout.

Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross  celebrate in the 4th inning. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The heroes for the Giants were predicable first there was Matt Cain who was given faint praise before the game by every commentator that I listened to. Cain pitched 7 innings giving up just 2 hits and no runs pitching out of a couple of tight jams that might have sent another pitcher scurrying for cover. When Cain was done Javier Lopez and Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson came in to shut down the Phillies. On the offensive side of the house it was Hamels’ nemesis Cody Ross who with two outs in the bottom of the 4th inning singled to drive in Edgar Renteria. Ross was followed by Aubrey Huff who also had an RBI single to give the Giants a 2-0 lead against a pitcher that the experts said would shut them down. The Giants got another run in the bottom of the 5th inning when Aaron Rowland doubled and then scored from second with two outs on a fielding error by Chase Utley. 

Brain Wilson gets his 4th save of the post season (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

After that it was the Giants pitching, Cain, Lopez and Wilson that shut the Phillies down.  The middle of the Phillies order had 2 hits a single by Ryan Howard and another by Jimmy Rollins. The Giants staff struck out 7 Phillies and walked three with Cain hitting two batters.  Hamels gave up just 5 hits but surrendered runs with 2 outs in the 4th and 5th innings. 

The Giants now have a 2-1 series lead with rookie Madison Bumgarner facing Joe Blanton in game four of the series Wednesday night. Blanton has not pitched since September having been left off the NLDS roster by Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel.  There is talk that Manuel may move Roy Halladay up in the rotation on short rest but as of this moment Blanton is the scheduled starter for the Phillies.  The Giants now have a psychological advantage over the Phillies as they know that they can beat Halladay who has not beaten the Giants this season and has a career worst record against them as opposed to any other team.  If the Giants win tomorrow over Blanton then it will come down to a duel between Halladay and Tim Lincecum who has proven that he can handle the Phillies.  

Matt Cain has to be feeling good as in 14 innings of playoff baseball this year he has yet to allow an earned run.  The Giants have made this series very interesting and I expect them to continue to surprise the Phillies and the baseball media establishment in the days ahead. I predicted this series to go to seven with the Giants taking it but I could be wrong, it might go just 5 or 6 games.

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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Tim Lincecum Fans 14, Two Hits Braves Giants Win Opener 1-0

The Freak: Tim Lincecum fans 14 Braves in 2 hit shutout (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Tim Lincecum recovered from the worst month of his career in August but was lights out in September something that he continued on Thursday night in game one of the Giants-Braves NLDS series. The two-time Cy Young winner made his playoff debut at AT&T Park and shut down Bobby Cox’s Atlanta Braves in a big way.  Braves batters were doing the Tomahawk Chop all night into empty air against Lincecum who threw at pitch after pitch resulting in strikeout after strikeout, 14 K’s to be exact. This was the most thrown by a pitcher in his playoff debut and third in playoff history, only Bob Gibson with 17 and Roger Clemons with 15 have more.

Lincecum was dominating; he allowed a gap double to Omar Infante to lead off the first inning and a gap double to Brian McCann in the 7th.  He gave up just one walk as he sent down batter after batter. The Giants scored one run and it proved to be enough.  The run came after Giants catcher Buster Posey singled and stole 2nd. That call however was blown, replay showed Posey to be out but the umpire did not have the best angle to make the call and Brooks Conrad’s tag was up around Posey’s chest making it probably more difficult for the umpire than the camera. The Braves did not argue the call so the questions about it did not come until the break between innings.  Manager Bobby Cox did not have a good view and after the game said that since he saw no reaction from his infielder assumed that Posey was safe.

Buster Posey scores the winning run in the Giants 1-0 victory over the Braves (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Even so the base would have been meaningless had Infante not missed a ground ball that most Third Baseman would have handled. That grounder became a RBI single for Cody Ross.  It was not called an error but was a play that could have been made, instead it was the game.

Atlanta Starter Derek Lowe performed well but came up short getting the loss pitching 5.1 innings allowing 4 hits, striking out 6 and walking 4 in the outing.

On the positive side for the Brave Bobby Cox did not add to his MLB record of games that he has been tossed from. Had gone and gotten himself thrown out we would have seen three managers tossed in the playoffs.

The game was quintessential Giants’ baseball as once again a starting pitcher shut down an opposing team while the offense provided just enough juice to get the win.  Tomorrow Matt Cain goes up against Tommy Hansen in game two.  Somehow I think that the Giants win Friday to take a 2-0 series lead into Atlanta.

The first two days of the NLCS and ALCS have seen more games in which a team was held to two hits or less, Lincecum allowed two, Halladay had his no-hitter and Cliff Lee had a one-hitter.  Bottom line: 27 innings, 3 pitchers, 3 hits and no runs. That sports fans is impressive. This really is the year of the pitcher.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Dallas Braden; Perfect Games and Memories of Home in Stockton California

Dallas Braden celebrating with teammates (Getty Images)

On Sunday Dallas Braden of the Oakland A’s did what only eighteen men had done in the history of Major League Baseball, he pitched a perfect game.  However there is more to this story than meets the eye and some that touches me personally.

The setting of Braden’s feat was the venerable Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the “other” ballpark in the Bay Area.  Sitting in an area just off of the Nimitz Freeway the coliseum and its surrounding parking lots are in one of the most un-picturesque venues in the Bay area.  While one can see the Oakland Hills to the East the Park is just far enough away from San Francisco Bay to lack the ambiance of the San Francisco Giant’s home across the bay AT&T Park which sits on the bay with views of the Bay Bridge and the Skyline of the City of San Francisco.  While the ballpark has been the home of multiple World Series Champion A’s teams, numerous League Championship teams and had its share of Hall of Fame players tread upon its natural grass it has never been considered a great ballpark for either pitchers or hitters.   The fact that it is a multi-use stadium and the home of the Oakland Raiders football team contributes to un- remarkableness as a baseball venue.  All of this said it is a place where magic has occurred before when in 1968, in fact almost 42 years to the day of Braden’s magical win, May 8th 1968 Jim “Catfish” Hunter threw a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins.  Like Hunter’s win in 1968 the A’s won the game by a score of 4-0 however Hunter’s win came before the American League adopted the Designated Hitter meaning that Hunter had to hit for himself in the game.  That being said he did hit and I mean that he really did hit.  Hunter went 3-4 including a double and knocked in 3 of the A’s 4 runs.  That was no fluke as Hunter had a .226 lifetime batting average with 6 career home runs and 51 RBIs.

Dallas Braden with Grandmother (Getty Images)

With that little bit of trivia said Braden who is not your typical power pitcher that usually pitches perfect games pitched a solid game which was far different than one year ago when he was hit in his pitching hand with a 109 mile an hour line drive off of the bat of Vernon Wells which left the imprint of the seams on his hand.  Braden as I said is not a power pitcher.  He has one of the 10 slowest fastballs in the game topping out at a mere 87 miles an hour.  Normally an 87 mile and hour fastball is a dish served at a perfect temperature for most good hitters and they eat the pitchers that throw them for lunch.  However Braden has a remarkable equalizer, it is not his curve or slider but his change up.  I drive faster than his change up on a typical commute to and from work.  Braden’s change up comes in at a leisurely 72.9 miles and hour.  This pitch is the slowest change up in the league and it baffles batters by making his fast ball seem faster than it is. Batters at the Major League level are not used to this type of ultra-slow deception for a pitcher and it served Braden well but even so coming into the game he had a lifetime record of 18 wins and 23 losses and a 4.49 ERA.  He is not the pitcher that one would put money on to throw a perfect game and I’m sure that Jimmy the Greek, Larry the Latvian, Johnny the Walker and even Pete Rose would have wagered against him pulling this off. Yet he did it against the hottest team in baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Braden’s biggest notice came earlier in the year where he and Alex Rodriguez had an exchange of rather terse barbs following an incident where Rodriguez ran across the pitcher’s mound during the game.

Braden pitched for 5 or parts of 5 years in the minors for 7 different clubs in the A’s organization, the Kane County Cougars of the Midwest League, the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League, the Arizona Athletics of the Arizona League, the Stockton Ports of the California League, The Midland Rock Hounds of the Texas League and the Sacramento River cats of the Pacific Coast League.  This year he has stayed in the majors and now after the win has a record of 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in 7 starts.

Braden’s story is that of a young man who lost his mother Jodie Atwood in his senior year at Stagg High School in May of 2001.  His parents had separated when he was young and his father was estranged from the family.  His grandmother Peggy Lindsey took over and helped him through that last year of school providing the stability, love and care that he needed to survive his mother’s loss and not fall into the mire of Stockton’s often violent and crime ridden streets.  The story of this young man and the women who raised him is the story of how mother’s day ought to be.  Braden had the love and support of his late mother and grandmother during the turbulent times of his youth and as a result still remains closely connected to his grandmother and his home town.  In fact he commutes the 67 mile trip daily from Stockton to Oakland which means unlike many professionals, athletes, businesspersons, those in other professional fields to include the military that leave their home town and only make occasion visits home is able to keep himself ground in reality.  He does not live in a glamorous town; he plays for a very blue collar city on a very “Green Collar” team.  I think that is one of the stories that some people will miss, not all, Jeff Passan mentioned Braden’s connection to home in his column on Yahoo Baseball.

Downtown Stockton

You see there is something about this story of relationship and connectedness that I think may be uniquely Stocktonian.  You see for the past number of years Stockton has been ranked number one or at least in the top 5 of the nation’s “Misery index.”  This year it dropped to second as it was edged out by Cleveland Ohio, I guess Cleveland does rock. It is routinely in the highest percentage of crime, violent crime and murders in the nation.  In the economic downturn and the real estate crash it was hit particularly hard and for a fair amount of time led the nation in foreclosures, or may still I just haven’t checked.  It is a town that in many ways has experienced for many years and reflects the reality that many other locations in the country are just beginning to know in today’s economy.

Foreclosure capitol (Getty Images)

All this said there is still something that native Stocktonians appreciate about our city, even those of us that have moved away.  We tend to remain in contact with our friends who still remain in town or have moved away.  I currently am in contact with over 100 friends on Facebook alone. My Edison High School Class of 1978 still has well attended reunions and is very well connected to each other and the classes that came before and after us. I look at the Stockton Record website every day. I used to read the obituaries until the Record started charging for them.  When I go home there is a certain familiarity with the city and though it has grown to a rather sizable city it still has a small town feel to me. I can still go to Arroyo’s Café when I go home and see the same people. The same is true with Donut King, Chucks , Manny’s burgers, the Fox Theater and a bunch of other places.  While other cities built huge super-malls Stockton still has Weberstown and Sherwood Mall.  Yes they have changed some over the years but they are still much the same. Yes much has changed but much is still the same in Stockton and I think that it one of the things that makes Dallas Braden’s story so remarkable to me he has not forgotten where he came from.  He still loves and cares for Stockton.  In an age where the really “successful” people move to New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco Braden didn’t cut himself off from his roots.  Are there others who have done such as this one that comes to mind is Joe Mauer in Minnesota but why leave if they will pay you more money than God gets in a season?

Another interesting thing that stuck me about Dallas Braden was his mother.  She was close to my age and I remember her, I thought it was in Junior High School but I couldn’t find t  find her in the yearbooks, it could have been the church youth group when I was in High School but regardless I am sure that I knew her.  I mentioned this to my mother today and she remembered the name.  Interesting how closely peoples’ lives are linked together.

My Oak Park Little League team back in 1972

I guess what strikes me the most about this game even more than the game itself which I must say that I am in awe of is the story of a man, Dallas Braden  who despite pitching in the Major Leagues still remembers home and family and stays connected to them.  This is becoming rare in our society and maybe given the state of the nation and how deeply divided we are it is time to return home, maybe not physically but returning to relationships with the people that we grew up with, schools, workplaces, churches and other activities.  Maybe Dallas Braden points us to something that matters more to many of us than the achievements of athletes or entertainers but to where we really need to be connected to one another as Americans, friends and families.  Yes it is wonderful to succeed and all should strive to be the best at what they feel called to be or do, but if that success destroys and alienates people from family, friends and home is ti really success? Maybe it is the pastoral environment of the baseball field that makes this happen for some of us.  Maybe like Terrance Mann played by James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams we can understand that

“The one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and what could be again.”

Thank you Dallas Braden for helping to remind us what is important as you play this game of baseball.  I do hope that you do well in your career and that this perfect game is a foretaste of a great career for you.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Oh, Oh, Oh, O’s….The Orioles Skid Continues But there are Some Bright Spots

“We’re so bad right now that for us back-to-back home runs means one today and another one tomorrow.” Earl Weaver

001Michael Aubrey has Been a Bright Spot for the Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles tied this season’s American League losing streak at 11 games, well make that broke it with at 12 games tonight.  However do not fear the Orioles cannot break their own team record losing streak unless they lose out and begin next year on a losing skid. Since the Orioles lost the first 21 games of the 1988 season and there are only 5 games left the worst that can happen are 17 straight losses.  Since I have made a significant investment in team gear such as jerseys, t-shirts, hats and cell phone holders I do hope that this does not continue.  The last time the Orioles won a game was back on September 16th.  In every case they have found interesting if not painful ways to lose.  There have been blow outs, and there have been meltdowns.  Recently the O’s have taken to getting lots of hits and base runners and on occasion score a decent amount of runs but leaving lots of men on base.  The result of course is when the pitching melted down the opposing team ended up outscoring the O’s.

Going into the month the O’s were well over 20 games behind the Yankees, so the remainder of the season was pretty much in the tank.  A number of things contributed to the September collapse which was very much like the August collapse of the O’s AAA affiliate the Norfolk Tides. The Orioles are a team that has struggled in part due to injuries of key personnel as well as trades, just as the Tides were impacted by call-ups and injuries.  The injuries have included All Star outfielder Adam Jones as well as Rookie of the Year contender Nolan Reimold and starting pitcher Brad Bergeson.  Trades included closer George Sherrill and Designated Hitter Aubrey Huff and pinch hitter deluxe Oscar Salazar.

043Alberto Castillo is Showing Promise as a Reliever

As the season has drawn to a close the team has made some moves that although prudent for the health and future of some of their young prospects.  Several pitchers had reached the number of innings that the club wanted them to achieve during the season including Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz.  Nolan Reimold as mentioned is injured but was playing injured most of the year and finally elected to have surgery on his frayed hamstring.

Until the last 12 games the O’s had one of the better team batting averages in the league but during this losing streak the team average has dropped significantly, especially in situations with runners on base or in scoring position.   Pitching has been hard to come by and even fielding has not been always impressive.  Even when starters have a good game going the relief staff has not been able to do the job resulting in a number of losses during this streak.  It is like Earl Weaver said “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three run homers.”  The Orioles are not getting much of anything right now.

Fiorentino HR against ColonJeff Fiorentino seen here Hitting a Home Run off of Bartolo Colon should find a Home in the Majors

In spite of this there is reason to hope and there are some bright spots on the Orioles roster.  Nolan Reimold and Brad Bergeson show great potential as does catcher Matt Wieters who has steadily gained confidence behind the plate and at bat.  Others are showing signs that they could become productive members of the team for the next several years.  Michael Aubrey at 1st Base has been quite consistent and may be in the process of winning a spot on next year’s active roster.  Rookie pitchers Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz show great potential and reliever Alberto Castillo has done very well in his relief appearances since coming up this month.  Among the veterans Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Luke Scott should be back and Jeremy Guthrie after a horrible start has began to get himself into his old form. Melvin Mora and Felix Pie should be back as well. If the pitching staff gets healthy and Tillman and Matusz pitch to the level expected the Orioles have a chance of at least being competitive next year even though I think that challenging the Yankees and Red Sox is a couple years off.

The Orioles have some very good prospects as well as rookies that I have not mentioned including pitchers David Hernandez, Jeff George and relievers Kam Mikalio and Jim Miller.  There are also a number of position players such as infielder Brandon Snyder and utility man Brandon Pinckney who could find themselves on the team at some point.

One player that I have not mentioned who should stay in the majors is outfielder Jeff Fiorentino.  Jeff has done very well since his call up however his comparative lack of power at the plate, despite being a great hitter in being able to get on base combined with the O’s outfield depth may mean that he has no place on this team.  With his speed, fielding ability, steadiness at the plate and all round hustle he needs to stay in the majors even if not on the O’s.  A place that might work for Jeff might be in San Francisco where in a park not geared for power his ability as a situational hitter would help the team.  Likewise his speed and fielding abilities would also be a good fit in the large outfield expanse at AT&T Park.

The one spot that I think that the team needs a change is the Field Manager Dave Trembley.  Trembley seems to be a good teacher but is not terribly inspirational.  Admittedly he began the year with a weak squad but something is not working and I do like his calm, but I wonder if the teams needs fire rather than calm right now.  My choice would be for the O’s to make a serious offer for Bobby Valentine now that he has returned from Japan.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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