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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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UNBELIEVABLE! Braves and Red Sox Collapse Complete! Rays and Cardinals win Wild Cards, Orioles sink Red Sox with 2 Outs in Bottom of the 9th as Longoria hits walk off against Yankees

Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon reacts to the Orioles scoring the winning run (Getty Images)

What an amazing and unlikely end to the regular season. The Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox who appeared to have their respective Wild Card berths cinched on September 1st had their seasons end tonight in the most unexpected and unlikely ways.  Both the Braves and the Sox had what seemed to be insurmountable leads as August drew to a close.

“It’s like living out a bad dream. You never expect this to happen to you.” Chipper Jones

Matt Holiday and Chris Carpenter celebrate the Cardinal’s Wild Card win

The Braves were up by 10 ½ games over the Cardinals on August 26th and had an 8 ½ game lead on September 6th and slipped into a tie on Tuesday against a resurgent Cardinals team.  The Cardinals defeated the Houston Astros 7-0 behind a two hit performance by Chris Carpenter earlier in the evening putting all the pressure on the Braves to try to force a one game playoff to decide the Wild Card.  The Braves looked like they would force the playoff and had a 3-2 lead with one out in the top of the 9th against the Phillies.   With one out and their ace closer Craig Kimbrel saw it slip away as Chase Utley hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch runner Pete Orr to tie the game.  The Braves could not score a go ahead run and in the top of the 13th the Phillies put the final nail in the Braves coffin as with 2 outs in the top of the 13th when Hunter Pence singled to score Brian Schneider to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.  The Braves could not score in the bottom of the 13th completing a most amazing collapse.  Kimbrel said after the game “It was tough to be so close and then have the feeling like it was falling out of your hands, and that’s the feeling I have now.”   One has to feel for Kimbrel and other Braves relievers who have endured a punishing season and faltered down the stretch due to a starting rotation which struggled in their performance and due to injuries to young pitchers Jair Jurgens and Tommy Hansen.

A stunned Braves bench after their loss to the Phillies

For the Braves it was an epic collapse but the Tony LaRussa’s Cardinals after having been written off by every expert managed to catch the Braves and steal the Wild Card berth.

While the National League decision was exciting it paled in comparison to what happened in the American League East on Wednesday night. The Rays appeared to be done early as starter avid Price was hit hard by the Yankees especially by Mark Teixeira who hammed a grand slam home run in the top of the 2nd off Price inning to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead and a solo shot against Price in the top of the 4th. When the Yankees finished their at bat in the top of the 8th they had a 7-0 lead.  It looked like the Rays were done unless the Orioles could come from behind to defeat the Red Sox and force a playoff.  As their fans began to leave Tropicana Field the Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the 8th and then tied the game with a two out home run by Dan Johnson in the bottom of the 9th.  The game went into extra innings and as the Rays battled the Yankees an even more remarkable story was developing in Baltimore.

Evan Longoria raises his arms in triumph after his walk off home run against the Yankees (Getty Images)

The Red Sox had led the Orioles for most of the game and had not lost a game all season when leading in the 9th inning.  They were 76-0 in this situation.  A rain delay pushed the game toward themidnight hour and when it resumed the Red Sox seemed to be ready to put the Orioles away.

Robert Andino hits a walk off single to score Nolan Reimold against Jonathan Papelbon

With a 3-2 lead the Sox sent their vaunted closer Jonathan Papelbon into the game. After retiring Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds on strikes Chris Davis doubled and the O’s sent in Kyle Hudson to run for Davis.  Papelbon worked a 2-2 count against Nolan Reimold who hit a ground rule double to scoreHudson.  This brought up Red Sox nemesis Robert Andino who hit a walk off single to score Reimold stunning the Red Sox Nation in an unbelievable finish, but the Red Sox had life if the Yankees could put away the Rays in Tampa, but that hope would be dashed three minutes later.

As the Orioles drove the stake into the heart of the Red Sox Nation Yankees reliever Scott Proctor retired B. J. Upton on strikes.  This brought Evan Longoria to the plate. Longoria had hit a 3 run homer in the Rays 6 run 8th inning and took Proctor’s pitch and hammered it down the left field line where it ended up in the stands.  It was only the second time that a walk off home run put a team into the playoffs, the last was Bobby Thompson’s “shot heard around the world” in 1951.

Orioles celebrate. After a rough season they turned into winners in September and ended the Red Sox playoff hopes

It was an amazing finish that was unimaginable and thrilling to behold.  For the Orioles it was their World Series. They have been dominated by the Red Sox for years and going into September had won just 3 games against the Sox all season.  Then in September the Orioles began to win.  They split 4 games with the Yankees, took 2 of 3 from the Rays, 3 of 4 from the Red Sox at Fenway, 2 of 3 from the Angles and split a four game series against the Tigers.  After the 4 games in Boston the Orioles hosted 3 games against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.  They won the first, lost the second and stunned the Red Sox on Wednesday night.

As the bell tolled midnight on the east coast the unthinkable had happened.  Two epic collapses, two remarkable comebacks and an underdog Orioles team that rose to the occasion to beat the Red Sox 5 of 7 games in September.  No one could have scripted the end to this regular season and one can expect that the playoffs will be equally exciting.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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No Joy in Tampa: Rangers Win 5-1 advance to ALCS

David Price looks on as the Rangers celebrate

The Tampa Bay Rays made an early exit from the playoffs in a year that many expected them to challenge for the World Series. Instead Joe Maddon’s team played their swan song on Tuesday night knowing that it is unlikely that this team will be the same next season.  It was a series where the home team never won a game, so much for home-field advantage which was bad news for the Rays who had the “advantage” of playing in a stadium that the fans only show up to during the playoffs. According to the Elias Sports Bureau it is the first time that the road team has one every game of a post season series.

The difference maker: Cliff Lee mows down the Rays (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Ron Washington’s Rangers ended a playoff drought that stretched back to 1961 when the Senators came to Washington as an expansion team and until Tuesday was the only MLB franchise that had never won a playoff series.  The legendary pitcher Nolan Ryan the new owner of the Rangers sat in the stands savoring the moment as Washington and his team celebrated on the field while the Tampa fans filed out of the stadium. The mood in Tampa was totally different than in Atlanta on Monday when the Braves lost their series to the Giants and both teams and grateful Braves fans saluted retiring manager Bobby Cox. If there was no joy in Mudville when the Mighty Casey struck out there was less in the Trop as B.J. Upton popped out to left center to end the game and season for the Rays.

Rangers celebrate their first playoff series win (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Key was pitching, in particular Cliff Lee who as he was in the playoffs last year with the Phillies absolutely dominated the Rays for the second time in 5 games. Lee fanned 11 Rays in a six hit and one run complete game victory and lowered his post season ERA to 1.12.  The win continued a post season where pitching has been the dominant force in every series.

Aggressive base running: Elvis Andrus scores in the 1st inning

The Rangers used some aggressive base running to set the Rays on their heels early in the game and continued that aggressiveness the entire game. Elvis Andrus got a leadoff single and stole second base. He then scored on a ground ball out by Josh Hamilton alertly coming all the way around from second as the pitcher David Price taking the throw at first failed to check the runner.  The Rays got that run back in the bottom of the 3rd inning combining consecutive singles by Sean Rodriguez, Jason Bartlett and Ben Zobrist to get on the board.

The Rangers took the lead in the top of the 4th inning when Nelson Cruz alertly scored on Ray’s catcher Kelly Shoppach’s throwing error to third which sailed high and right over the outstretched arm of Evan Longoria. The scored again in the 6th inning to make the score 3-1 using aggressive heads up base running this time by Vladimir Guerrero to get the run. With Guerrero at second base and Nelson Cruz on first Ian Kinsler hit a ground ball to first base. First baseman Carlos Pena threw to second to get the force but the throw back from second was late getting to Price who was covering. Guerrero’s dash to the plate surprised Price who threw just late to Kelly Shoppach at the plate as Guerrero slid around the tag for the run. The Rangers added two insurance runs off or Rays Closer Rafael Soriano when Ian Kinsler hit his third home run of the series a two run shot to make the score 5-1.

The win was a triumph for the scrappy Rangers and a bitter disappointment for the Rays and the 12 disciples in Tampa that are their die-hard fans. The team will be certainly broken up was the payroll is slashed by a huge amount leaving free agents like Carl Crawford up for grabs. The Rangers move on the face the Yankees in the ALCS and this could be a much more interesting series than that played by the Yankees against their perpetual piñata the Minnesota Twins.

Tomorrow or Thursday I should have my LCS picks out, I went four for four in the Divisional series so I hope to repeat my success with the same degree as I did last year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Rays Bounce Back Even Series in 5-2 Win

Derek Holland watches Even Longoria after Longoria hit a two run homer in the top of the 5th inning Sunday

The Tampa Bay Rays after losing the first two games of their series against the Texas Rangers at the Trop have come back to even the series at two as they won game four of the series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rays had excellent pitching from Wade Davis and the bullpen quartet of Randy Choate, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano which limited the usually hot hitting Rangers to just 2 runs on 8 hits. The Rays were lifted by the clutch hitting of Evan Longoria who broke out of his slump with a 2 run homer in the 5th inning off of Rangers’ starter Eric Holland.  Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton add RBI doubles and the Rays were aided by an error by Ian Kinsler which allowed Carlos Pena to score in the 2nd inning. The Rangers offense was hamstrung by their inability to drive in runs when they needed them the biggest chance having the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th with two outs but not scoring when Vladimir Guerrero struck out swinging to end the inning.

The teams will now go back to Tampa and Tropicana Field for the finale of their series on Tuesday evening. The Rays have the momentum; the Texas bench looked defeated on Sunday afternoon. However, the Rangers will start Cliff Lee who held the Rays to one hit and a run in 7 innings work against the Rays in Game one.  Lee will face David Price who gave up 4 earned runs including two home runs against the Rangers in game one.  Momentum goes to the Rays, but the pitching edge goes to the Rangers. This one is anybody’s series to lose. I picked the Rangers to win the series and still stand by that because of Cliff Lee.  We’ll see if I am right on Tuesday night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Two for the Road: Yankees and Rangers Dominate as Home Managers get Tossed

Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire gets Tossed by Hunter Wendelstedt in the 7th inning of game 2 against the Yankees (AP)

“The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game.” Earl Weaver

So much for home field advantage in the American League or is there such a thing? The ALDS series have been dominated by the road teams the New York Yankees in Minnesota and the Texas Rangers in Tampa.  Up in the northlands the Twins actually took early leads against the Yankees in both games especially in game one where they were manhandling Yankees’ ace C.C. Sabathia.  However they could not hold and the Yankees took game one 6-4. They went up 1-0 today and had the game tied at two before the Yankees put the game away by a score of 5-2.  Twinkies Manager Ron Gardenhire got tossed in the 7th for arguing balls and strikes with Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. The Twins definitely had their chances but could not capitalize and now have to go to the Bronx down to the Yankees 0-2 and that is not a recipe for future success.  It looks like the Twinkies will continue the sad song of playoff losses against the Yankees.  Somewhere I hear the Little River Band singing in regard to the Twins against the Yankees:

Sit down, take a look at yourself
Don’t you want to be somebody
Someday somebody’s gonna see inside
You have to face up, you can’t run and hide

Have you heard about the lonesome loser
Beaten by the queen of hearts every time
Have you heard about the lonesome loser
He’s a loser, but he still keeps on tryin’

Rays Manager Joe Maddon Gets tossed by Umpire Jim Wolf in the 6th inning during game two against the Rangers. (AP)

Down at the Trop the Rays have been held to just one run by the Rangers losing 5-1 to Cliff Lee and friends and 6-0 to C.J. Wilson and friends.  The Rangers benefited in the second game on a check swing which should have been called a strike out to Michael Young with one out in the top of the 6th inning. The next pitch Young clobbered 431 feet for a 3 run home run.  Rays starter James Shields had been pulled in favor of reliever Chad Qualls by Joe Maddon and was already losing it on the bench and the home run brought the usually unflappable Maddon out and he promptly got tossed.  While it was a terrible call it ultimately did not change the game, the Rays didn’t hit, just like they have not hit since the All Star break. Their .236 team average speaks for itself. You don’t win championships when you don’t hit.  Now the Rays who are obviously wondering what happened to them have to go to Texas where the Rangers were 51-30 during the regular season and hit .288 with 93 home runs scored 430 runs.

Bad Call: Michael Young goes around on a pitch ruled as a ball. He hit a 3 run homer the next pitch (MLB/TBS)

The Rays need to recover their composure and start hitting or they will go home for the year with owner Stuart Sternberg has promised to drastically reduce payroll in 2011 which means that many of the players that have been the keys to their success will not be back.  The long off season for the Rays could begin as early as Saturday.  Despite their success in the past three years the team plays in the worst stadium in baseball and for the most part the area has lost that loving feeling in regards to the Rays.  If you ask me it’s time to move the team back to a real baseball city, perhaps Montreal or maybe a Triple-A city with a baseball tradition, fan base and population to support the team.  That however is a story for another day or perhaps much of the off season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s 2010 ALDS and NLDS Predictions

Note: Sorry for the delay in this post, most was already written but I spend the majority of the day on the road to West Virginia where we are taking some time to relax in between my assignments. I look forward to getting some rest and recreation, some good PT, a bunch of writing and take in a Marshall University football game while here.


It’s that time of the year again sports fans. After picking the Division and Wild Card winners it is time to get down and dirty as Padre Steve makes his picks to win the divisional races.  Last year I I did pretty well. During the playoffs and World Series I only missed one series picking the Angels to beat the Yankees in the ALDS based on their seasonal record in head to head games, especially those in Anaheim. That was the only wrong series pick that I made and when it came to the World Series I only made one mistake picking the Yankees to win game one versus game two.  When it came down the last game it was as if I had inside information, if you don’t believe me take a look at those posts, but I digress.

As I said last year I always try to be dispassionate about my picks even if I am for a particular team. This year I am praying that the Giants go all the way but this will not influence how I predict the series that they play in.  So here are my picks to get to the ALCS and NLCS from the division series.

In the American League:  Minnesota (94-68) versus New York (95-67). The Yankees will take the Twins in 4 games. The Twins have been the best team in the American league during the back half of the season and the Yankees have done well but have not been spectacular during the stretch. The Yankees are starting to show their age but the Twins have not been able to beat the Yankees with a stick. They are 2 and 14 against the bombers in the past two years and the Yankees have dominated the Twinkies in the playoffs in a very ugly manner.  I think that the Twins win one game but that the Yankees take them in four, though I cannot rule out a sweep.

Texas (90-72) versus Tampa (96-66):  The Rangers will take this in four. The Rays have the best record in the American League but were 28-28 from August 2nd until the end of the season. The Rangers were marginally better but play in a weak division whereas the Rays won the toughest division in baseball where ever the last place team had the best record in the division in the same time span. However, it comes down to Cliff Lee and hitting. The Rays starting pitching is marginally better in their ERA but their ERA was much lower post All-Star break than before and they are hitting only .236 since the All-Star break. Contrast this with the Rangers who are hitting .274 since the break and 3.89 ERA.  Cliff Lee ate up the Rays today and the free swinging Rangers are tailor made to win in the Trop.  If the Rangers take game two in Tampa the Rays are toast when they go to Arlington.

The National League: Philadelphia (97-65) versus Cincinnati (91-71). The Phillies have the best starting pitching in baseball and have been phenomenal since the beginning of August, the best record in the Majors. The Reds are a hitting machine leading the league in average (.272), runs (790), hits (1515) and home runs (188) but have a history of being dominated by the trio of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.  Today Halliday pitched a no-hitter against the Reds and I expect that Oswalt and Hamels will also dominate. Bottom line the Phillies have the chance to get a sweep. I think that the Reds may win one at home but that the Phillies pitching will dominate and that their hitting will be more than adequate to deal with the rather pedestrian Reds pitching staff.  The most interesting thing will be seeing flamethrower Aroldis Chapman face Ryan Howard and the Phillies in the late innings.

Finally we come down to San Francisco (92-70) and Atlanta (91-71).  The Braves go into this banged up without Chipper Jones or and without much in the way of hitting but want to win for their legendary Manager Bobby Cox.  Their leading RBI producer is Brian McCann who has 77 for the entire year, 32nd in the NL.  The teams are evenly matched in hitting but the Giants have the best ERA in the NL and were even better in the second half of the season.  Pitching matchups favor the Giants and with the first two games at home they have the edge. Their pitching staff also has the best road ERA in the NL.  The Giants have continued to improve during the second half of the season adding key players and the Braves as I said are pretty dinged up.  Add to this the fact that in September and October the Giants were 19-10 while the Braves limped across the line with a 14-16 record for the same period. This is a harder series to call because of how evenly matched the teams are but I pick the Giants in four based on roster strength and how they are trending though the Braves might take it to five before falling to the Giants.

Of course I could miss the whole thing, but I try to take the emotion out and look at the stats and in most occasions the stats tell the truth.  I don’t think that I am missing anything and the ALCS should be the Yankees against the Rangers and the NLCS the Phillies against the Giants.  I will analyze those series when these are complete and factor in any roster moves and injuries incurred during the divisional series as well as how the teams are trending.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Pennant Races: Padre Steve Picks the Winners…Maybe

I love all things baseball as the Deity tends to speak to me through this most spiritual of games.  I can’t get around it I am mesmerized by the diamond and the nuances of the game, the sights, sounds, smells, which make up the experience as well as the games within the game.  I live for opening day and the call of Spring Training is my first indication of life returning after the cold desolation of winter and the All-Star Game triggers memories of the past greats and my interaction with the various legends of Baseball.  Tell me if I’m strange but I even get excited about trading deadlines and call-ups of Minor Leaguers in September.  Speaking of September I love the pennant races and this year there are a couple of note.  These are my predictions regarding the teams that I think that will make the playoffs.  Since I am neither the Prophet nor the Son of the Prophet I could be wrong, but I was pretty accurate last year. So here I go again, at least if I get this wrong I won’t be taken outside the city gate and crushed to death with heavy stones, unless someone is actually wagering on games based on my picks.  If that is the case I don’t even want to think about it.

Starting in the American League we have the New York Yankees and the Durham Bulls South, or as they are better known the Tampa Bay Rays.  These are such contrasting franchises; one built around veterans and several future Hall of Fame members and the other full of young raw talent and experienced young players.  They have been in a fight for the division most of the year but especially over the past month. The Yankees are a half game up on the Rays as of today.  With 13 games left for the Yankees and 14 for the Rays this is a tossup. The Yankees and Rays meet this week in a four game series at Yankee Stadium and followed by three games with the Yankees meeting their hated rival Boston Red Sox for a three game set.  The Yankees then travel to Toronto for three against the Blue Jays and finish the season at Fenway Park against the Red Sox.  This is no easy schedule and I expect all three opponents to challenge the Yankees.  The Rays have the easier schedule and this may prove to be the difference if they avoid a sweep at the “House that George Built.” I expect at least a split against the Yankees but they then go home to play three with the Mariners and three with the Orioles at the Trop. I don’t see much trouble with the Mariners but the Orioles under Buck “play to win every game” Showalter could play the spoiler if the Rays are not careful. They then travel west to Kansas City where they should do well and end the regular season.

AL East Winner

My prediction: Rays win 9 of 14 to finish at 98-64, while the Yankees will win just 7 of 13 to finish at 97-65 to give the Rays the East by a game. The Yankees will be in the playoffs but as the Wild Card. The Orioles extra innings win on Sunday in Baltimore will prove to be more significant than most would expect. The Yankees need to take 3 of 4 from the Rays to give them the edge down the final stretch, if they can do this they have a chance to tie or win the division outright. The Rays have to split in New York and not allow any of the bottom dwellers that they face to surprise them and I think that the O’s just may play spoiler.

AL Central Winner

AL West Winner

In the AL Central the Twins have the division all but won with a magic number of just 4 over the seconds place White Sox who trail them by 10 games. In the West the same is true of the Rangers who have a magic number of 6 over the second place Athletics who sit 9 games behind the Twinkies.

AL East Spoiler?

Going on the senior circuit we begin in the National League East where the Phillies and the Braves have been going at it all year.  In the Phillies lead the East by 3 games over the Braves and have a magic number of 10.  The Phillies are hot and the Braves have struggled the last few weeks. The Phillies have 12 games left of which 6 are against the Braves.  The Braves have to take 4 of those 6 games to stay in the race.  The Phillies face the Braves beginning tonight at home for a three game set and then face the rather pathetic excuse for a team called the New York Minaya’s I mean New York Mets.  However the Mets are blood rivals of the Phillies so I don’t expect them to go down easily nor do I give them much of a chance.  The Phillies then hit the road for 3 games against the rather hapless Nationals in Washington before travelling to Atlanta to face the Braves in the in final three games of the season.

NL East Winner

My prediction: I see Philly winning 8 of 12, splitting with the Braves and taking 5 of 6 from the Minaya’s and the Nats. The Braves as I said need to take at least 4 of six to stay in the race and win out against both Washington and the Florida Marlins and even then they need help in order for the Phillies to lose at least 6 of their last 12 games. I don’t see that happening. In fact if the Phillies dominate the Braves and the Braves split their games with the Nats and the Marlins then they may not even reach the Wild Card. Bobby Cox and crew have their job cut out over the next two weeks.

NL Central Winner

In the National League Central the “who are those guys?” Cincinnati Reds hold a 6 game lead over the perennial NL Central leader St Louis Cardinals and have a magic number of 8 to clinch the Division.  The Cardinals have been unable to buy wins of late and their August collapse totally surprised me as it has everyone else. The Reds have 6 games against the Brewers, 3 against the Astros and 3 against the floundering Padres.  The Cardinals actually have the easier schedule with 6 against the perpetual owners of the MLB Marianas Trench, the Pittsburg Pirates and 3 games against their rival the Chicago “we ain’t ever going to win the World Series” Cubs and 3 against the red hot Colorado Rockies.  They did not help matters losing a make-up game to the Marlins today. This made the Reds magic number 7 and that much harder for the Cardinals to get back in the race.

NL West Winner

We go now to the NL West where the San Francisco Giants lead their rivals the San Diego Padres by a half a game and the red hot Colorado Rockies by a game and a half.  The Giants have a magic number of 13 but in a race this close that will change day to day. The Rockies schedule provides them opportunity should they stay hot and their opponents cooperate.  They play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona for a three game set and go home to play three against San Francisco followed by three against the Evil Dodgers before finishing the season in St. Louis against the Cardinals. My guess is that the should take two of three or sweep the Diamondbacks, split their series against the Giants and probably sweep the Evil Dodgers even though right now I would prefer that the Dodgers sweep them. I guess I am like Winston Churchill in saying that he would become an ally of the Devil if the Devil was against Hitler. The final three games against the Cardinals could spoil the hopes of the Rockies because I think that the Cardinals have far too much organizational pride to go down easy. As a result I think that the Rockies go 7 of 12 to end the season.  The Padres have struggled of late and I think this will continue.  The Friars play the Evil Dodgers and I think that this series is a tossup with the Dodgers possibly taking 2 of 3 games. They then go home to face the Reds and I think that the Big Red Machine will take 2 of 3 at Petco Park. The Padres then play against the Cubs who just might take 1 of 3 from the Padres. The Padres finish their season against the Giants in PacBell Park and I think that the Giants take 2 of 3 at home.  As a result I think that the Padres go 5 of 12 to end the season.  The Giants face the Cubs for a three game set which they should sweep or take 2 of 3. They then go against the Rockies where I think they will go 1 and 2. The then face the Diamondbacks and I believe that they go 2 of 3 against them before ending the season in San Francisco against the Padres where they take 2 of 3. T believe that the Giants go 7 of 12 and take the West by 1 and a half games above the Rockies with the Padres fading to third two and a half games back.

My prediction is that the Giants take the west by a game and a half over the Rockies with the Padres fading back to third.  Despite this the division could go to any of the three teams as none have any margin for error and it is likely that the team that remains hot will win the division. My prediction which is primarily based on how the teams are doing right now coupled with their schedule is that the Giants will win, but I could be wrong on this as a grounder with eyes, a bloop single or a booted ground ball could be the difference in a critical game that could decide the race. Id the Braves falter I believe that whatever team finished second in the NL West will be the Wild Card in the NL. I do not think this will happen based on the schedules but stranger things have happened.

Now here are my predictions:

AL Wild Card

American League: AL West- Rangers, AL Central- Twins, AL East Rays, Wild Card- Yankees.

NL Wild Card

National League: NL West Giants, NL Central- Reds, NL East- Phillies, Wild Card- Braves

We’ll see if I am as good as I was last year, but wait I didn’t start making predictions until the playoffs last year. Even if I’m wrong about these I can redeem myself by doing what I did last year in the playoffs and World Series.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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