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Padre Steve’s MLB Championship Series Picks

Well sports fans I’m back on some predictions.  The fact that I am neither the Prophet nor the Son of the Prophet makes no difference here, and since my picks with the exception of the Evil Dodgers sweep of the Cardinals were pretty accurate here it goes again.  Now obviously since I am merely Padre Steve and not the Pope nothing I say is infallible my picks can be wrong and I hate that.  Thankfully since I am not claiming to speak from the Most High a wrong pick will not leave me crushed to death with heavy stones by the faithful.  At the same time I get a certain satisfaction about being right like the time I was waiting in the ER with Judy as they tried to diagnose her throat swelling.  I “Googled” the symptoms and got it right, before they did, it was Epiglottis, something extremely rare in adults which they were neither looking for nor expecting.  I thought that was pretty cool as did my ICU attending physicians.

So how do I get my picks?  First I try to put emotion aside and look at trends, stats and intangibles.  It does not matter if I like the team or not when it comes to picking such things.  What I want is to be dispassionate in my analysis because I love the game.

So a quick review of the Divisional Series:

I picked the Cardinals in 4 over the Dodgers.  Dodgers swept the Cards 3-0.  The tow things that I believed that would bring about a Cardinals win did not happen.  First the starting pitching did not get it done.  Second the Cardinals hitting died like 1981 Chevette, trust me I know as we had one.  It was not pretty and then if you throw in the improbable muff a ball that Matt Halliday made in Left Field with two outs in the bottom of the 9th in game two with the Cardinals ahead…..  Ouch!

I picked the Phillies in 5 figuring that the Rockies would win at home.  Instead they split in Philly and the Phillies swept the Rockies in Denver despite cold weather and what should have been home field advantage.  The Phillies choice of Cliff Lee to pitch game one paid off in spades and the Phillies hitters did not disappoint.  Rockies fans must have had their hearts ripped out when they scored three in the bottom of the 8th to take a 4-2 lead in game four only to have closer Huston Street blow the save for the second night in a row.

Moving to the American League I picked the Angels in 5 over the Red Sox.  I figured that the Angels were a better team than the last few times they played the Sox and that the Red Sox had lost their edge.  I thought that the “X” factor of Nick Adenhart would work in the Angels favor and I expected a close series with the Angels winning it.  Instead the Angels dominated the Bosox and swept them with an improbable rally with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th when they were down to their last pitch.

Finally there was the series between the Yankees and the Twins.  The Twins had a remarkable September and captured the AL Central crown in a one game playoff against the Tigers.  I picket the Yankees in 4 allowing for a game three Twins win at the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome, also known as visiting team Hell.  The Yankees swept the Twins but game two and three were close and the Yankees came from behind in both to win.

So here they are:  First the National League and the Phillies against the Dodgers.  Pitching is a wash as the Phillies have the better starters with Lee and Clay Hammels but have a suspect bullpen. Closer Brad Lidge seems to have gotten his stuff back after a miserable season.  The Dodgers have a patchwork rotation of decent but not outstanding pitchers but have an amazing bullpen.  In the hitting department both teams have great offensive potential but I give the edge to Ryan Howard’s wrecking crew.  In the regular season the Dodgers took the series between the two teams 4-3.  This will be close and the Dodgers are capable of winning in unusual ways as evidenced by game two of the NLDS.  I think this goes 7 with the teams splitting in LA, Philly taking 2 at home and splitting the final pair with the Phillies taking the down the Dodgers for the second year in a row.  While I am picking the Phillies this series could go the other way.  I never will forget the 1981 Dodgers who played had a miraculous series of playoff wins which culminated against the Yankees.  They lost the first two games and won the next four closing the series at Yankee Stadium.  So I believe that anything is possible, but I’m still picking the Phillies and watch the game in my San Francisco Giants gear.  I guess I do have some emotions invested in this series after all.

Now I’ll move over to the American League and talk about the Yankees and the Angels.  This should be a great series.  The Halo’s won 4 of 6 in the regular season and outscored them by a pretty large margin in Anaheim.  Now both teams have a lot of firepower as well as pretty solid pitching.  The Yankees are coming off the best season the have had in a number of years and their 103 wins were the most in baseball.  The Angels have had a very good season as well.  At this point it is hard to pick a winner.  I think that the Yankees have the edge in personnel and are the hungriest for the pennant that I have seen them in years.  The Angels too are hungry and have something of an “X” factor in the incredible bonding and team spirit brought about by the loss of rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart.  The series will start in New York where the weather forecast is crappy for the weekend, especially Friday where there is an 80% chance of rain and temperatures in the low 40s.  The temps will remain about the same the entire weekend and the precipitation is forecast at 40% for the weekend.   These are not baseball conditions and could be a factor in who wins and loses the games in New York.  With the weather as much as a factor as it could be I think that negates some of the Yankees home field advantage.  I think that the teams split in New York and go to Anaheim at 1-1.  When the teams get to Anaheim next week the weather should be perfect Southern California fall weather clear and temperatures in the 70s at game time.  They Angels dominated the Yankees at home and I think that they will take at least two of the three in Anaheim and go back to New York up 3-2.  The Yankees are a great clutch team and this year and have been awesome in the come from behind situations.  The series could go either way at this point but I think that the Angels can steal this from the Yankees and put them away in game six, just as they came from behind to defeat the Red Sox in game three of their series.  My pick is the Angels in six.

So my picks are the Angels and Phillies to get to the World Series.  Of course I could be wrong as these are all great teams and each has something to prove. The Phillies want to repeat, the Yankees want to make up for years of disappointment of being so close but so far away, the Dodgers are trying to reclaim a winning heritage and gain the respect that they deserve and the Angels, they are playing for something so totally intangible that it is hard to put a value on, they are playing for the love and memory of a team-mate and have an almost magical and mystical feel to their season.  There are individual players trying to recapture past triumphs and others still trying to escape the demons and come out from under the cloud of not having won it all. I expect some great baseball no matter who advances to the Series.  The way I see it even if I am wrong on my picks this should be some great baseball.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Bring Out the Brooms: Dodgers, Angels, Yankees and Phillies Advance to League Championship Series

So far the MLB playoffs have not disappointed unless you are a Cardinals, Twins, Red Sox or Rockies fan.  There was a lot of drama, great play, and miraculous comebacks and for the shear sake of humanity some bad calls by some of the umpires.  But that’s why baseball is so much better than football; it is human and not clouded by the artificial attempt to impose “fairness” by reviewing up to 12 plays a game at the request of coaches and more for “mandatory” reviews.   These four series plus the one game

The human drama of baseball was played out before our eyes. The stories were amazing and every game had stories within the story of players and teams doing amazing.  As my readers know I made predictions about the divisional series over at https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/10/05/padre-steve%E2%80%99s-mlb-divisional-playoff-picks/ So far with the exception of the Cardinals being swept by the Evil Dodgers, the divisional series went pretty much as I expected as to the winners though I did not expect all of the sweeps.  I gave the Twins one game and thought the Angels and Red Sox would go five with the Angels winning.  The Phillies and Rockies series went very much as I expected and the Rockies almost brought in back to Philly.

In this Divisional series six games were decided by one run.   Five games were decided in the 9th inning or extra innings. Six games were comeback wins where the winning team gained the lead in the 7th inning or later. With a few exceptions the games were close even late in the game.  There were a number of plays that the umpires blew the call on, sometimes badly, oh well, humanity strikes again.  That is no reason to implement the insanity of the NFL’s replay policies or anything like them.

Let’s go back to my picks. I picked the Cardinals in four over the Dodgers.  The Cardinals, who were not even picked for the playoffs dominated the NL Central but Tony La Russa, one of the outstanding managers in the game has a way of making things work.  My expectation was that Chris Carpenter and Jonathan Wainwright would shut the Dodgers down at Chavez Ravine and then go back to St Louis where their hitters had been awesome throughout the season.  Their major weakness was their bullpen. A lot broadcasters and experts predicted a Cardinals sweep.  Having seen the Dodgers perform miracles in past playoff series, including in 1981 and 1987 I did have a sense of unease in picking the Cardinals, but I went with logic and this time it failed.  The Cardinals pitching was shaky and their hitting died. The turning point was in game two where with two outs that the Cardinals up 2-1 Matt Halliday lost a fly ball in the lights allowing a runner and the Dodgers then finished them off.  I think that it was a finish that could only happen with the Dodgers in the playoffs. I owe my Dodger fan nephew Joe a beer the next time I get to San Diego as I promised in my prediction of the Cardinals lost.  What is more interesting now for the Cardinals is what happens in the off season as Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan’s contracts expire at the end of the month.  If I had my choice Billy Beane would bring him back to Oakland a move which would be good for him as La Russa has many connections and business interests in the bay area.

The Angels and Red Sox were a tough call.  I picked the Angels in five because the Red Sox have not been the same team as they were the past few seasons. Some of their key players are showing the signs of age and losing a step or two. Additionally their starting pitching staff was inconsistent during the season and had some key injuries.  I also picked the Angels because they are a better team than they have been the past few years and there was the “X” factor of Angels’ pitcher Nick Adenhart killed after his first start in the second game of the season. The amount of unity on the team was something that I have not seen in a long time.  In their sweep of the Red Sox the Angels pitchers shut the Red Sox down until game three when Boston made a got out to an early lead which they reinforced in the bottom of the 8th.   What was surprising was the manner in which the Red Sox lost.  Jonathan Papelbon gave up not only his first ever run in the playoffs but blew the save and got the loss.  Previous to this he had pitched 27 innings of shutout playoff baseball.  The Red Sox have some decisions to make during the off season to see if they can get their edge back.

The Twins and Yankees series was the classic “David versus Goliath” story.  The Twins came from nowhere to overtake a Tigers team that faltered at the end winning the one game playoff at the Metro Dome.  The Yankees played all year with a chip on their shoulder and won 103 games, the best in the Majors.  They had an attitude and played all year as a team, they had very few injuries and every part of the team was strong.  The Yankees have played all year like they wanted to win the whole thing. I didn’t think that the Twins had a chance; they had lost all seven games to the Yankees including three in a row at Yankee Stadium on walk off hits.  The Yankees clubbed the Twins in game one and C.C. Sabathia got his first playoff win and like Rodriguez shook off the demons of playoffs past. In game two the Yankees had to come back to beat them as usually reliable closer Joe Nathan blew the save when Alex Rodriguez hit a two run homer in the bottom of the 9th.  Mark Teixeira hit a walk off shot in the bottom of the 11th.  I thought that the Twins might win one in the twisted hell of the Metro Dome, but the Yankees came back to win there with Alex Rodriguez Jorge Posada teamed up in the 7th with single homers off former Yankee Carl Pavano and Mariano Rivera closed out the game.  Throughout the series Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and a host of other Yankees played solid baseball getting the key hits and making the key plays to win the series. The Twins had a remarkable season but were simply outmatched by the power, pitching and speed of the Yankees.  Even so the final two games were dramatic as the Twins led by Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer played a great series.

The defending World Series Champion Phillies and amazing Rockies series was great.  I expect the teams to go to five games with the Phillies winning at home in game five.  The Phillies won game one in a walk, but the Rockies showed great character and surprised the Phillies in game two.  Game three had one of those only in Denver moments when it was postponed due to winter weather and snow.  Why the heck the Rockies wouldn’t have built Coors Light Field with a retractable dome like Milwaukee beats the hell out of me. The game was made up Saturday and the Phillies won a nail biter in which the lead changed often and the Phillies winning on a Ryan Howard sacrifice fly.  Game four tonight looked like the Rockies had the Phillies reeling when in the bottom of the 8th they scored three runs to go up 4-2.  The Phillies came back as Ryan Howard had a 2 RBI double with 2 outs in the top of the 9th and was driven in by Jaysen Werth for the winning run.  Beleaguered Phillies closer Brad Lidge saved both game 3 and 4, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and big Ryan Howard were all clutch hitters for the Phillies.  The acquisition of Cliff Lee by the Phillies

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How Padre Steve’s Teams did in 2009 and What a Game…Twins Win in 12

1972 Oak Park AL RamsThe 1972 Oak Park Little League Rams, American League Champs, Padre Steve’s One and Only Trip to the Post Season

Well, I gave my divisional playoff picks last night and as I start this post the Twinkies and Pussy Cats are going to the 12th inning tied at 5. As I said last night I hope the game goes as long as the Braves-Astros NLDS game that went 18 innings back in 2004. While I’m waiting and watching to see who wins I need a bit of a review to see how my teams in the major and minor teams do this year?

Well…let me change the order of things here, the Twins just won the game actually fulfilling my prediction.  It was one of the best baseball games that I have watched in a long time.  Jim Leyland and Ron Gardenier both did a great job of managing and both teams played really hard.  There were some amazing plays and the Twins pitchers came up big when they needed to in difficult situations often aided by outstanding defense including a play at the plate with the bases loaded with one out in the top of the 12th.  It ended with one out in the bottom of the 12th when Alexei Casilla singled to right off Tigers closer Fernando Rodney to drive in Carlos Gomez.  As I predicted the Twins had the advantage of the 10th man in the Metro Dome.  To win the AL Central they won 17 of their last 21 games and overcame a 7 game Tigers lead.  Even more amazing they came back from 3 three game deficit with only four games left in the season to force the playoff against the Tigers.  When they did that I knew that they would win tonight.  There are some things in baseball that you can feel and no matter how many times the Tigers took the lead I knew that it wouldn’t last.  On a side note, Twins reliever Bobby Keppel got the win. Keppel pitched here in Norfolk when the Mets were the Tides major league affiliate.  It was good to see one of the Tides come through in the clutch to deliver the win.   What a game, I hope every playoff series is this exciting.

As anyone who knows me can tell you I love the game of baseball.  So unlike most people who live and die with one team I can honestly say that I have a number of favorite teams, often for different reasons but always because I like something about them.  This doesn’t mean that they are all winners as is evidenced by some of the records this season, or maybe the past few seasons.  Likewise it means I get conflicted sometimes when two of my favorites play one another.

Of course my favorite team is the San Francisco Giants. They came out west the year before I was born across the Bay in Oakland.  I cannot forget all the greats who have played there and how close they have come to winning the World Series but not doing so.  Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichel, Bobby Bonds, Gaylord Perry and the list can just keep going.  I saw my one no-hitter back in 1975 at Candlestick when Ed Halicki no-hit the Mets.  I won’t forget watching the 1989 World Series when the Bay Area was rocked by a major earthquake or when I saw Barry Bonds hit 756 when sitting in a Army Dining Facility eating breakfast at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

I also have liked the A’s, well I was born in Oakland and even though my dad hated Charlie Finely and never was a fan of the American League I enjoyed the freewheeling A’s of the 1970s, the teams fielded by Tony LaRussa and Billy Ball.  We saw a couple of games in the A’s and Tigers Championship series.  It is really amazing to think that back then you could get field level tickets for a decent price on game day.  There is some tension here because I have a soft spot for the Anaheim Angels who happened to be the California Angels when my dad took us to a huge number of games at the “Big A” before Disney redid everything.  I really came to love the feel of a ballpark in the confines of the “Big A.”  I still have a Angels hat signed by a number of the players from that era including Jim Fregosi, Sandy Alomar, Jim Spencer and Chico Ruiz.  I have pictures of my brother and I with Angles Manager Left Phillips and 3rd Base Coach Rocky Bridges.  Back in those days’ players and managers still had interesting nicknames like Lefty, Rocky, Catfish and Mudcat.

I also liked the Orioles because when we moved to Stockton California they were affiliated with the Stockton Ports of the California League.  I had an Orioles cap that I got there for many years afterward.  I visited Orioles Park back in 2004 and fell in love with the place.  When the Orioles affiliated with the Tides in 2007 I renewed that affection for the O’s even though they have not been very good the past few years.  This year was great to see a number of Tides go up to the majors and do well.

In  2003 I came to follow the Atlanta Braves after seeing their AA and AAA affiliates on a regular basis beginning when I saw the AA affiliate when they played Jacksonville in the Southern League and the Richmond, now the Gwinnett Braves play Norfolk in the International League.  In 2004 when they had the year of the “baby Braves” I had seen all play in the minors that same season.

So how did my teams do?

San Francisco finished 3rd in the NL West despite having an 88-74 .546 record. The Braves had a very similar situation finishing at 86-76 .531 behind the Marlins and Phillies.  Both teams were in contention for the NL Wild Card until the last week of the season.  They had the 6th and 7th best records in the National League.

My American League Teams did not do well with the exception of the Angels.  The Orioles had a bad season topped by a dismal September.  They were able to pull off a 4 game win streak to end the season and keep from losing 100 games.  They finished 64-98 .395 and 39 games out of first place.  They have some positives to build on as they had a very young and fluid roster.  I expect them to be significantly better next year.  The A’s also had a bad year, not as bad as the O’s but bad.  They finish last in the AL West at 75-87 for a .463 winning percentage 22 games behind the Angels.  The Angels though won the AL West with a 97-65 .599 winning percentage. They had the second best record in the American League.

That is why there is always next year.  Besides I still have the game and this post season could be a great one if tonight was any indication.  I’m sorry but the battles on the gridiron cannot compare to the drama that happens on the diamond.  That is why I belong to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish and this is my view from 102.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s MLB Divisional Playoff Picks

steve on top of the rockLooking Forward to the Playoffs

Well sports fans it is October and with the exception of the 163d game in the AL Central between the Twinkies and the Pussy Cats we are ready for the playoffs to begin. Tomorrow’s one game playoff in the soon to be history Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome should be a pretty good game that hopefully will go longer than the 2005 NL Divisional series game between the Braves and Astros that lasted 18 inning.  If it goes that long the winner will be the Yankees.  Wait, that’s when they play whoever wins between the Twins and the Tigers.  My guess on this is that the Twins take them down hard in the inhospitable confines of the Metro Dome and go on to the playoffs where they will lose to the Yankees in 4.

With that in mind let’s take a look at the divisional series.  First the National League:

Cardinals vs. Dodgers: Cardinals in 4

The Evil LA Dodger’s (95-67) have the best record in the National League backed into the playoffs after starting like they owned the world.  Manny has been cold as a Boston night and the starting pitching has been suspect.  I like St Joe Torre but I don’t think that the Evil Dodgers have the Schlitz this year.  They will be playing the St Louis Cardinals (91-71) skippered by St Anthony La Russa who have some awesome hitting with Matt Halliday and Albert Pujols. The Cards are stacked with great pitching and I think that they will take the Dodgers in 4.  Now to be fair under St Thomas of Lasorda the Dodgers pulled off some pretty amazing playoff wins, however I don’t think this is the year for that. If it happens I owe my nephew Joe the Dodgers fan dinner next time I’m in San Diego.

Phillies v. Rockies: Phillies in 5

The Rockies (92-70) had an amazing season, going from worst to almost first in the National League West and taking the Wild Card berth. Everything has been working for them and Manager Jim Tracy is attempting to become St James of Denver.  They could potentially win this series but I am going to go with the Phillies (93-69) because I like their offense.  When the series moves to Coors Light Field I think that Ryan Howard’s wrecking crew’s bats light up the cool Rocky Mountain High nights when they get out there.  The Phillies pitching has not been as good in the past few weeks and closer Brad Lidge is seeking redemption after a miserable season which followed last year’s phenomenal performance.  As for the Rockies I think that Cinderella departs from the ball early.

The American League looks like a whole lot of the same with the exception of the Central.  What I would do to see the Orioles and the A’s back in the series like in the 1970s and 1980s.  The teams in the American League playoffs, at least the ones currently in and not the Central Division Champs regardless of who that is, are outstanding teams all with a decent shot of advancing to the ALCS.  First I’ll look out to Anaheim.

Angels vs. Red Sox: Angels in 5

Most experts are picking the Red Sox to once again knock the Angels out in the first round. The “Wild Card” Red Sox (95-67) have owned the Angels every year in recent memory that they have matched up in the ALDS.  However that being said this year’s team is not the Red Sox we have known the past few years.  They still have a lot of good players but they are showing signs of age and just don’t seem to have the same ability they did in past years despite their great record.  They were eaten up by the Yankees in their last two series with them and took a while to secure the Wild Card.   The Angels (97-65) played in a weaker division but still have done very well.  Unfortunately with the exception of 2002 they have regularly choked in the playoffs.  This year there seems to be something different about the Halo’s and I think it is related to the commitment of the team and dedication of the season to rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart who was killed by a drunk driver after pitching his first Major League start.  I think it will be a tight series but the Angles end the Red Sox dominance of this series.  I go Angels in 5.

Yankees vs. Central Division Champs: Yankees in 4 (Twins) or 3 (Tigers)

The Yankees (103-59) are my odds on pick to win it all.  This team is deep at every level and playing with an attitude after missing the playoffs for the first time since 1995.  They will face either the Twins or the Tigers either of which will be 87-76 when they win Tuesday night.  The Twins are the hotter of the two teams and their playoff run has been outstanding but helped by the ineptitude of the Tigers.  However I do not think that either does well against the Yankees who seem to be healthy and hitting on all cylinders.  Yankee haters may not like it but the Yankees are a solid team and a middle relief corps that is home grown and not bought.  I think the Twins might steal one game but expect that the Tigers should they win Tuesday will go down faster than Apollo Creed in Rocky 4.

So we’ll see how I do as compared to guys who make a living at this.

Odds and Ends

A couple of notes on the personal side my job focus is shifting more to our Pastoral Care Residency program and out of the ICU.  I will be functioning in some manner like an attending pnhysician for our residents on all of their wards.  Likewise I will be working more on training for the entire department and more work with the ethics committee and the Special Psychiatric Response Intervention Team (SPRINT).  I will be moving my office back to the main pastoral care department offices this week.  I still have the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

I started the preparations for my comprehensive exams for my Military History Masters at American Military University.  It is an eight week course which is finished off with the actual exam.  I want to finish with the highest marks on the exam “Passed with Distinction” to cap my perfect record in my classes.

I had the undead tooth show its ugly face again.  Well not the tooth itself, it is dead but it still haunts me.  I was notified on Friday that I was on what we call a “Dink” list for Dental.  This is not good, the Naval Dental Corps is like the Gestapo in tracking down Sailors and Marines who miss appointments or regular screenings. When you get “dink’d” you are skylined, an open target with you name hanging out for the command to see.  You don’t want to be a “dink.” Those who have been reading this website since the summer know all about The Undead Tooth of Terror. See my post Killing off the Undead Tooth of Terror https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2009/07/16/killing-off-the-undead-tooth/

As a result of the Undead Tooth of Terror I spent much of the summer in the Dental Department or with the Oral Surgeons who I get to see again tomorrow.  I was told that I needed to take care of the problem with personnel.  After several perplexed looks by disbelieving personnel specialists I was directed to a back office and the young corpsman there looked me up and was able to tell me that I was “dink’d” but couldn’t say why.  So I went to Dental after another meeting where a young corpsman and I think that they are all young assisted me.  He told me that the computer said that I was delinquent on a root canal. Well, not only had I had the root canal, but when it failed I lost the tooth as well.  Informing the polite young man that said tooth was no longer in my head he looked for an explanation.  When I mentioned that I was being evaluated for an implant he told me that he would be right back.  He came back quickly with my record which had never been returned to records and was sitting on the Oral Surgeon’s desk.  He removed the “dink” from my records and the world is right again.

Tomorrow I have a couple of ideas as I have been working on an article about the first US Navy Aircraft Carriers, one on the Congregation of the Church of Baseball at Harbor Park and some reflections on the 2009 baseball season.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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