2011 Major League Baseball Postseason Cheering Guide

When none of my teams make the playoffs, part of me dies inside. Nonetheless, there’s still baseball to be played, and some outcomes are better than others. Here are the eight MLB playoff teams in descending order of how terrible it will be if they win the World Series.

8) New York Yankees – The thought of millions of Yankees fans being happy about anything makes me ill. It’s bad enough that they think that Derek Jeter is better than Alex Rodriguez.
8a) Philadelphia Phillies – The thought of Jimmy Rollins being happy about anything makes me ill. It’s bad enough that he thinks he’s anywhere near as good as Jose Reyes.
6) Texas Rangers – Owning the Rangers and using this power to swindle a new stadium from the citizens started George W. Bush’s ascent to the presidency. Never forget.
5) St. Louis Cardinals – They did knock the Braves out of the playoff picture, which moves them up a notch, but they’ve already won a championship with a bad team once in my lifetime. Manager Tony LaRussa is annoying, a drunk driver, and a Tea Partier.
4) Arizona Diamondbacks – The most nondescript team in the playoffs puts them in the middle of the pack. They have one good player (Justin Upton) and a couple of good pitchers, but nobody really knows how they won games. The NL West is just that bad.
3) Tampa Bay Rays – Tampa’s improbable playoff run coupled with the Red Sox meltdown was a beautiful gift. The Rays are the model of how to run a low payroll team. Finally, their small fanbase 3000 miles away will be nearly silent to my ears.
2) Milwaukee Brewers – I’ll root for any non-Favre containing team from Wisconsin against any team that I don’t care about.
1) Detroit Tigers – This is my team-in-law, which pushes them above Milwaukee, but they’d be a strong contender regardless. Beautiful uniforms. The great Justin Verlander. And when in doubt, always root for the declining midwestern town.

Life resumes today

To do list:

  • Clean off the scoreboard, sweep home plate, and knock the dirt out of your cleats.
  • Break out your #49 Anderson and #5 Wright. Buy peanuts and crackerjack. Sharpen your pencils and pack up your scorecards.
  • Tune in to Korach and Ray and Vince. Log in for Gary, Keith, and Ron. Be sure to catch a few called by Vin and Ueck.
  • Curse Evil Empires I & II. Remind yourself that the champs’ reign will be short.
  • Trust the grown ups in charge in New York. Awe at the master of the East Bay. And hope for the best in the North.
  • Pray for Johan and Justin. Wrap Sideburns and Bailey in bubblewrap. Enjoy the absence of Ollie and Francoeur.
  • Get ready to see old friends in unusual colors.
  • Appreciate the professional, the dynamic, and the graceful. They may be wearing new laundry soon too.

Repeat daily through October.

This Weekend’s Number One Timely Inter-Sport Metaphor

I was listening to Westwood One’s radio coverage of the Super Bowl with Boomer Esiason doing the color analysis. Nick Collins intercepted a pass from Ben Roethlisberger and returned it for a touchdown, which prompted Boomer to describe Collins’s role on the play as “playing a deep center field . . . like Bernie Williams.”

Like Bernie Williams? The former Yankees outfielder who retired in 2006?

Not Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner who would play center for the current Yankees. Or Milwaukee Brewers center fielders Carlos Gomez or Mike Cameron or Marquis Grissom or Scott Podsednik or Hall of Famer Robin Yount or Gorman Thomas. Or Andrew McCutchen or Andy Van Slyke or a Pirates outfielder past or present. Or even Josh Hamilton or another outfielder from the Texas Rangers who play in the same city that the Super Bowl was played in.

Nope, Boomer went for the timely, relevant Bernie Williams.

One more thing, on a more serious note… I’ve often heard a safety playing deep in the middle of the field described by commentators as playing “center field.” Is there no football term to describe this? Football has a complete language around it, but for a deep safety they go to a baseball term?

A Picture and a Thousand Words: Jeff Francoeur Edition

This is a picture of what’s wrong with Jeff Francoeur:

[Jeff Francoeur's 'strike zone']

This is a thousand words about what’s wrong with Jeff Francouer:

Jeff Francoeur, outfielder, formerly of the Atlanta Braves, recently of the New York Mets, and currently of the Texas Rangers, has everything you want in a major league outfielder. He’s a big strong guy with a great arm and decent speed for a guy if his size. He plays hard and swings hard. His main goal in life is to drive in runs. His teammates seem to like him. He smiles a lot and has “the good face” and has a nickname, ‘Frenchy.’ He talks to reporters, and they love him. A famous magazine once did this:

[The Natural - Can anyone be this good?]
He has everything you want in a major league outfielder.

Except for one thing.

He has almost no ability to hit major league pitching.

He neither has any concept of the strike zone, nor does he make enough contact to overcome this deficiency. Despite looking like a strong guy and swinging hard, he has only once hit more than 20 home runs in a season. He does not believe that the rate of one not making outs is relevant to being good at baseball, famously asking “If on-base percentage is so important, then why don’t they put it up on the scoreboard?” Nevermind that his home ballpark at the time did in fact display on-base percentage.

Despite having no discernible talent for hitting at the major league level, he has received more than 3400 plate appearances, far more chances than he deserves. Yet, he has either no desire or ability to improve. During the 2008 season, he was struggling and sent to the minors to get back on track. He made such a stink about it, he would only play three games before being called back up to the majors. This year, he was struggling, and the Mets decided he would be a part time player. Francoeur requested a trade and got it.

A guy who isn’t good at baseball and doesn’t want to get better and thinks of himself before the team is not a guy I want on my team.

Here’s the Mets fans reaction to his trade to the Rangers:

[89% of Mets fans are idiots]

I don’t know what kind of spell Francoeur puts on people, but I want to bottle it and sell it for millions of dollars.

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Top Five Moments From PacBell/SBC/ATT Park

After watching Mets visit the Giants a couple weeks ago, I did a little reminiscing about my previous trips to SF’s ballpark which would be a beautiful place if it weren’t for all of the Giants fans.
5) Pirates/Giants, Aug. 10 2002. It’s the middle of Barry mania. Not surprisingly, Barry walks three times (although not intentionally). The crowd boos, the chicken dance is played on the jumbotron, and 500 rubber chickens are sold at the concession stands. A good time is had by all. With the Giants up by a run in the ninth, Pirates slugger Brian Giles comes to the plate with runners on. The Giants call for the intentional pass. Apparently I’m the only one who realizes the hypocrisy of the situation and yell out, “Where’s your chicken dance now! Pitch to Brian!” A mixture of dirty looks and laughs results. The Pirates score on a bases-loaded walk, the Nenth becomes the tenth inning, but the Giants win in 11, 5-4.
4) Twins/Giants, June 3, 2003. Twins first baseman Doug Mientkwiecz hits a home run into McCovey cove, a “splash hit.” of which there are a running tally. I yell out, add another one to your splash hit board.” Dirty looks result. The two-run shot extends Minnesota’s lead to 6-3, and the Twins go on to win 6-4.
3) Ibid. Sitting in the left field bleachers, I am as close to Barry as I will ever be. Every time he comes out to the field or a ball is hit his direction I yell “Junk Bonds.” Dirty looks result. The guy sitting in front of me tells me that I’ll stop yelling when his buddy shows up. Five innings of consistent “Junk Bonds” later, this guy’s friend shows up, and after some consultation, they inform me that I won’t be yelling that anymore. I look out at Barry and yell “Junk Bonds.” They return to their garlic fries with no further comment.
2) Mets/Giants, May 14, 2009. Gary Sheffield is playing left for the Mets. A Giants fan wearing a Bonds jersey starts chanting “Steroids, steroids.” Incredulous, I ask him how he can even think of mentioning steroids while wearing that jersey. Even his Giant fan buddies chime in. Sheepish look results. Mets win 7-2.
1) Mets/Giants, Aug. 26, 2005. After a game in which David Wright hits a solo home run for the only run of the game, a Giants fan asks if I think he’ll win an MVP like Barry one day. I say, “Yeah, I think so. This kid’s pretty good. And he’s not a cheater.” End of conversation.

Opening Day: the inner inner dialogue of a Mets fan

Opening Day! After a long, cold winter, it’s finally here! Instead of following trade rumors and free agent negotiations and news stories about guys in “the best shape of his life” we have actual games to look forward to. And for Mets fans it’s going to be so sweet. We got kicked around last year, but it’s a new year and everybody is tied for first! Hey, we even won our first game of the season. 1-0! We’re on our way back to the top of the National League! That Johan Santana pitched great today!

Yes, Santana will be good, but do you know who starts on Wednesday? John Maine, who missed half of last season with injury, and when he did pitch, he alternated between competent and awful. He’s followed up by Ollie Perez, who also missed half of last season with injury. That was the productive part of his season. Jonathon Niese has eight starts in his major league career and will probably be the team’s second best pitcher.

Oh, but don’t forget Mike Pelfrey! He was a first round draft pick and is a real up-and-comer! He’s a ground ball machine!

Exactly, he’s a ground ball machine. Unfortunately, there’s nobody in the infield to pick up those ground balls. With Mike Jacobs, Luis Castillo, and Alex Cora forming 3/4 of the infield, those ground balls aren’t going to be outs. They’re going to be singles. Get ready for runners on first-and-third all the time, and innings that last 45 minutes.

That’s ok because Casillo and Cora are character guys. They’ll make up for it in the clubhouse! And Jacobs has 30+ home run potential!

Honestly, I would prefer it if Castillo and Cora would stab somebody in the neck. Then at least they’d have to be good at baseball to stick with the team. Jacobs was also released by the Royals. The worst team in the majors, both on and off the field decided that Mike Jacobs was not good enough to be on their team. He was the opening day starter at first base for the New York Mets.

But the Mets have so many stars: David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, Frankie Rodriguez!

This is the most depressing part. Wright is brilliant, and Santana is a joy to watch, although he probably isn’t the-best-pitcher-on-the-planet(TM) anymore. Don’t let the nay-sayers fool you, Reyes and Beltran are among the best players in baseball when healthy. Jason Bay is a great hitter as well. Despite having a core group of guys that few teams can match, some interesting young players, the third highest payroll in the majors, the largest TV market in the US, and a brand new ballpark, the Mets are so poorly run that they will be a .500 baseball team struggling for third place. Even with all of those stars, the rest of the team is so bad that they will be dragged down into mediocrity. And not only will they be mediocre, they will be mediocre in the worst possible way, alienating their best players, disrupting the development of their few promising prospects, and generally acting like they have everything under control and if they can just patch this hole and that hole, they will be back in the playoffs.

Hmmm. That’s quite a downer. What is a Mets fan supposed to do then?

Savor every game that Santana pitches and every time Wright is at bat. Pray that Reyes and Beltran come back healthy. And hope beyond hope that Minaya and company are fired before they can do any more permanent damage.

Small victories: Mets rival can only afford one ace edition

On behalf of all Mets fans, I would like to thank Jaime Moyer. He coupled aggressive negotiations during the 2008-2009 off-season, leading to a two-year $13 million deal, with terrible pitching during the 2009 campaign. The $6.5 million he’s owed in 2010 has inspired a remarkable series of events which has been a roller coaster of emotions for Phillies fans all over eastern PA and southern NJ finally resulting in the trade of ace pitcher Cliff Lee for the upcoming baseball season. Without Lee, the Phillies will be a merely a good National League team, not a potentially dominating team destined to reach the World Series.

So thanks Jaime Moyer, and give our best to Brad Lidge who, at $1 million per HR given up, earned every bit of his $11 million salary in 2009.