Bandwagoning Baseball’s Finality

Has your favorite baseball team been eliminated from post-season play? Do you remain reluctant to dive headfirst into football 24/7? Are you willing to set aside your normal allegiance for the next month and a half and bandwagon a contender for the sake of shit-talking and a possible faux championship?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or preferably to all three, then it’s time for you to hop on the shoulders of a more successful fanbase a la Carlos Mencia’s “comedy” routine (yes, I just Mencia’d a Mencia joke). EJSIC is here to rank the possible teams on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being fully bandwagon-worthy, 1 meaning we’d rather root for Hitler.

Let’s start with the American League and work our way through the pennant chasers there before exploring the National League.

Note: the author of this post is anti-DH, but in the interest of fairness will attempt to reasonably grade the AL teams instead of giving all of them the 1 they so deserve.

American League

1. New York Yankees: THE EVIL EMPIRE! That should be enough for you to realize that only intolerable douches and fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke Blue Devils (sorry, repetitive) “root” for these guys. Seriously, they’ve won more Fall Classics in baseball history than any other team. They also possess the deepest wallet, the NY superiority belief, and include Cleveland native LeBron James as a fan. Do NOT bandwagon under any circumstance. Score – 1

2. Boston Red Sox: The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the East crown, but with a comfy 6.5 games up in the Wild Card they’re virtually in. This is the same franchise that defeated an eight-decade curse with two World Series titles since 2004. And when the core of that team aged too much, they went out and splashed Yankee-esque money this off-season. While I find them more root-worthy than their arch-rivals, there’s no need to really bandwagon them for their fans have been treated to championships in all four major sports this decade. Score – 2

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

3. Detroit Tigers: Detroit has slowly put the AL Central away over the second half of the season. Aside from playing in a collapsing shit-hole of a city, what’s not to like? They have a chain-smoking manager who puffs during games, an ace pitcher who could seemingly throw a no-hitter each time out, and an alcoholic first baseman. Sounds like a recipe for bandwagon awesomeness to me. The only downside? They’re in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox so a championship is unlikely to come this season. Regardless, you’ll have a good time. Score – 8

4. Texas Rangers: The defending AL Champs refueled after losing ace Cliff Lee to free agency, and yet they’re right here again. If you like offensive baseball, the Rangers are your team. They’ve crossed home 737 times this season, third best in baseball behind the Yankees and Sox. They also maintain a relatively unknown squad. Some guys (like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton) are known nationally, but many of their better players have yet to receive a lot of national pub (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz). So if your choice is the Rangers, it would help to do some research and not unveil yourself as a bandwagoner within the first five minutes. Score – 7

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Really, these guys should get a one for having the worst name in baseball. Pick a damn city. I could also give them a one for the owner complaining after whiffing on free agent Carl Crawford this season despite the fact that the Angels have plenty of money themselves. You lost out to a better organization, STFU and get over it. However, the Angels assumed an underdog role this season winning ball games with great pitching. Their offensively challenged team has scored 586 runs to date, the worst of any AL challengers. They’re also 2.5 games back of the Rangers so they have some work to do. Score – 4 Continue reading

RE: The perfect game that wasn’t

As the resident baseball blogger here at EJSIC, I feel it is my duty to give my thoughts about Armando Galarraga and the perfect game that was robbed from him by first base umpire Jim Joyce.

Within 30 minutes of the blown call, I read 3 different articles on various sports websites shouting for instant replay. That was the easy way out. It was easy to climb to the top of Comerica Park and scream, “Instant replay!” until your lungs burned. It would have made everything better.

Armando Galarraga

Honestly, I feel for Galarraga. It sucks to lose what would have been the 21st perfect game in Major League history. And it sucks even worse to lose it with 1 out to go by the blown call of an umpire; an umpire, who by all accounts, is one of better ones. Within those 30 minutes immediately following the call, I watched two former players on MLB Network (most notably Harold Reynolds) and Detroit manager Jim Leyland talk about Jim Joyce’s credentials.

But here we are, 15 hours later, talking about the biggest folly in his career. He blew a perfect game, and he admitted it afterward. He even apologized to Galarraga, face to face after the game. It sucks for all parties involved. Galarraga was robbed of a career-defining event, one of the rarest feats in all of baseball. And now Joyce will be haunted for the rest of his life. He will be ridiculed in articles and on message boards. Hell, a firejimjoyce.com website was up in no time.

But all of that aside, the bigger issue, if there is one, is whether or not MLB should increase the use of instant replay in the game. I admit, I’m very torn on the issue. Baseball is a game I grew up playing and loving with every ounce of my body. I still love it, and I long to play it again.

I’m not a complete traditionalist. I do advocate some change within the game. I was fine with the addition of instant replay for home runs. But in deciding what I want Bud Selig to do, I can only come up with what I don’t want him to do.

I don’t want umpires going under the hood a la the NFL. It would be too time-consuming. It would too over-the-top. The human element, as Leyland pointed out in his post-game press conference, has always been a part of baseball. To lose that would be devastating.

I also don’t want balls and strikes reviewed. That’s too much and it completely removes the role of the umpire. It also removes the pitcher vs. hitter battle that makes baseball unique. In essence, it would ruin baseball.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com wrote one of those under-30-minute articles last night screaming for instant replay. His solution to the problem is similar to the NFL in that each manager would get one and only one challenge for game.

It’s a good solution, but it is more flawed than Mr. Stark will admit. His reasoning is that no manager would be willing to waste it on some rather meaningless play early in the game when a bigger play could occur later. And this is where I find fault with his solution.

Base-stealing attempts in the second inning can be just as important as a blown call by a base umpire in the seventh inning. They are all in important. Baseball is a closely-played game.

If Jim Leyland had a challenge such as Jayson Stark would like, how do we know he wouldn’t have used it earlier in the game? Stark admits as much, but then he says, “I doubt it.” How can we doubt it?

Leyland had no idea Galarraga would be going for history later. What if there was a close call in the fifth inning? In the fifth inning last night, Detroit was only up 1-0, hardly a score to make a manager feel comfortable.

What if a bang-bang played occurred in that inning that may have kept a runner from scoring position? Leyland, sensing a need for runs, might have thrown the challenge. There’s no guarantee he keeps it for the 9th inning.

And if he had used the challenge earlier under Stark’s scenario, what would he be writing about after the 9th inning now? Managers need two challenges?

There’s no perfect fix for this situation. Baseball has this uniqueness that needs to be preserved. But it also has an obligation to keep up with the new technology that may or may not enhance the game. It’s a catch-22, a slippery slope, etc. Baseball can stand back and remain idle at the price of, perhaps, looking dumb. Or it can jump forward and try to fix any future occurrences now.

Whatever Bud Selig decides, it won’t be the absolute right answer. It won’t even come close. Baseball is a sport that thrives off of the could-have-been. It lives through the intricacies of the play and the stat. Despite the sudden outburst for instant replay, it will live on. It will weather the storm.

Two Questions: AL Central

As part of EJSIC’s coverage of the national pastime, today will focus on the American League Central division which could be won by a number of teams by the time September arrives.

Chicago White Sox

null

1. Does having Jake Peavy a whole season tilt the division in their favor? Jake Peavy is one of the true elite pitchers in baseball, but he’s been stuck on a rebuilding Padres team over the past few seasons. Now his starts will be more meaningful. Plus, he’s no longer the do-it-all pitcher he was before. Peavy has another top starter in Mark Buerhle as well as a mix of young talent and veteran experience throughout the rest of the rotation. They should all benefit one another as the White Sox arguably have the best rotation in the division.

2. Can Alex Rios return to form? The Blue Jays flat out dropped Rios last year despite the hefty price tag. The White Sox gambled by signing him. He’s still under that contract, so the question remains, can he return to form and produce the numbers that got him the deal in the first place? The White Sox need a consistent power guy behind Carlos Quentin who will drive in Alexei Ramirez and new acquisition Juan Pierre.

Cleveland Indians

null

1. What’s left of the starting rotation? In the last two seasons, the Indians have traded away C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee when each one was the defending American League Cy Young award winner. The remains are Jake Westbrook, Justin Masterson, Fausto Carmona, David Huff, and about 4 other guys vying for one spot. That’s not exactly a fearful staring five and winning games begins with solid pitching. The Indians are in need of some upgrades.

2. Can Grady Sizemore stay healthy? Sizemore is one of my favorite players to watch. He’s a five tool talent. But last season, he struggled to stay healthy and his performance reflected it. His team struggled as well. Sizemore is the key for the Indians staying out of the basement.

Detroit Tigers

null

1. How good can Johnny Damon be? Watching the playoffs last season, there’s no doubt that Johnny Damon still brings value to a team. But his home and away splits last year weren’t the best. He shined at the hitting paradise of New Yankee Stadium, but did not perform as well away from it. Now, he’s in a new ballpark with less protection in the lineup. He needs to be an on-base guy for the Tigers in the mold of departed Curtis Granderson.

2. Does Rick Porcello have a sophomore slump? Porcello was a 20 year old rookie last season who posted a 14-9 record to go along with a 3.96 ERA. He was easily the Tigers second best pitcher behind ace Justin Verlander. Does he take a step back this season? It’s common for young players to regress slightly.

Kansas City Royals

null

1. What happened to Alex Gordon? A few years back, third baseman Alex Gordon dazzled scouts all season long into the College World Series. He was the next great third baseman. The Royals drafted him and he shot through the minor league system. But since making it to the big league, it’s been nothing but struggles for the young man which culminated in last season’s .232 average with 6 home runs and 22 RBIs (and some serious time on the DL for a hip injury). The Royals front office appears to be losing some faith as they brought in White Sox third baseman Josh Fields to compete for the job this spring.

2. Can Zach Grienke repeat his Cy Young performance? Grienke is the organization’s bright spot. He pitched tremendously well last season despite the oftentimes putrid run support. I don’t expect the Royals to be competing for the division, but if the young Grienke continues his success, the Royals will have a starter to continue to build around.

Minnesota Twins

null

1. Can Orlando Hudson make the Twins a World Series contender? The O-Dog, as he is commonly called, played well for the Dodgers at the beginning of last season until an injury set him back. He never appeared to regain the trust of manager Joe Torre and watched most of the playoffs from the pine. Hudson does not lack confidence however. He brings a solid bat, good foot speed, and gold glove caliber defense to the Twins. I doubt he makes them better than the Yankees, but they are better overall with him.

2. Is the starting rotation enough? The Twins do not have the ace pitcher lurking every five days. Instead, they have a solid group who fits into their style of baseball. Guys like Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn do the little things right. One name to keep an eye on is Francisco Liriano. A few years back, he formed a deadly 1-2 combo with Johan Santana, but elbow surgery has dampened the effectiveness of a once devastating slider. If he regains it, he could become a top of the rotation starter again.