Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rocky Mountain High


I went to bed right after Hairston hit that 2-run shot in the 13th to give the Pads an 8-6 lead. I was exhausted (almost midnight on the east coast by then), and figured the Pads had the game wrapped up.

I should have known better.

I should have known that postseason baseball doesn't allow mere 2-run leads in the 13th inning of a one-game playoff to stand without a challenge.

I mean, think about it: baseball plays a 162-game season. 162 games and these two teams end up tied for the final playoff spot. And whereas all other playoff teams get 5 and 7-game series to defeat an opponent and move to the next round, these two teams have one game. One. A single night to prove their worth and keep their season going.

Of COURSE there's going to be drama. I'm not surprised that both team's starting pitchers tanked, just as I wouldn't be surprised if they both pitched gems.

A grand slam? Of COURSE.

Misplayed ball that leads to a tie game? Of COURSE.

Extra innings and depleted bullpens? Yup. Of course.

So why did I think nothing would happen when the Pads took that 2-run lead in the 13th? Did I seriously believe Trevor Hoffman, the King of Saves in all of MLB, would be able to slam the door on the Rockies?

I can only blame it on the fact that it was rapidly approaching the midnight hour, and the beers I had consumed earlier were dragging my already heavy eyelids downward. I suppose it wasn't that I THOUGHT the game was over, just that I had HOPED it would be over.

How wrong I was. A leadoff double. Another double. A TRIPLE by Holliday, the Rockies MVP, to tie the game. Then, a sacrifice fly to right that led to the controversial play at the plate, where many a Padres fan are still waiting for Holliday to touch home plate.

A wild ending to a wild game and a wild season for both teams. A marathon season that came to a close in a quick 90-foot sprint home. Six months of baseball coming down to 6 seconds.

And I thought it was over. Little did I know that it had just begun.

Goddammit. I should have known.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where'd who go?

After dropping the final season series against heated rivals from New York, the Sox have little to look back and smile upon outside of their 4.5 game division lead, which, considering how poorly our pitching staff faired over the weekend, looks much smaller than it did a few weeks ago.

Eric Hinske has been the recipient of extended playing time due to Manny's questionable aching side, and has definitely been making the most of his run in the starting lineup. Though the play ended in an out for the Sox, he provided a game-changing spark for the Boston squad when he LEVELED Jorgie Posada in a home plate collision on Saturday. The play, occurring when the score remained close, gave the Sox a much-needed boost, as they went on to win 10-1.

Posada remained in the game, but the effects of Hinske's blow also lingered. On another close play at the plate a few innings later, Posada neglected to tag Jacoby Ellsbury as he slid home, instead flinching as he braced himself for another collision while Ellsbury snuck in to the plate.

The collision was one of those hard-nosed baseball plays you love to see. Hinske, a bear of a man, had no doubt he was going to knock Posada's block off as he barreled toward the plate. A near forearm shiver sent the catcher flying backwards, somehow managing to hold onto the ball. Though Hinske was out, the damage had been done: Posada never looked right after that play, and was pulled from the starting lineup of Sunday's finale.

As good as it was, however, one play doesn't win a season for any team. The Sox are still in complete control of their own destiny, but they certainly aren't about to make it easy for faithful fans. With only 12 games left, the Magic Number remains at 9 for Boston.

The Yankees are looking at a cakewalk of a schedule in their final two weeks, facing Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay. The Sox also face off against the Blue Jays and Devil Rays, but finish up the season with Oakland and Minnesota, two clubs that are always dangerous for teams with playoff hopes.

So while much of the Nation tiptoes the ledge of doom and gloom, there are others that realize the following facts:
  1. At 90-60, the Sox still hold the best record in baseball.
  2. A 4.5 game lead with two weeks left in the season ain't bad at all.
  3. Even if they do decide to hit a horrific slump and lose the division lead, a Wild Card berth is all but guaranteed (Sox are currently 7 games up on Detroit, second in the Wild Card race behind New York).
  4. Boston has played the past month without all-star slugger Manny Ramirez.
But that doesn't mean all is well. There's still work to be done by the Sox, especially once they reach the playoffs. Even with one of the best starting rotations and bullpens in the majors, a recent slump by both needs to be corrected before it gets exploited in a short ALDS series. Outside of Josh Beckett, who posted his league-leading 19th win on Saturday in a battle of Cy Young contenders, other Boston starters have been less than stellar: Dice-K looks tired, Wakefield has had a string of bad starts, and Schilling continues to make fatal mistakes despite brilliant performances.

So enjoy the Sox now, while they're still the best in baseball and continue to manage to keep the Yankees at bay.

Because once the playoffs start, its a whole new ballgame.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

End of an Era

Bill Cowher, head coach of the storied Pittsburgh Steelers for the past 15 years, officially stepped down from his position on Friday.

Cowher, a Pennsylvania native, was well known for his jutting jaw and tough-love coaching style. Over the course of his impressive tenure, he placed together an overall record of 161-99-1, including a victory in Super Bowl XL.

Cowher was one of only two people to hold the head coaching job at Pittsburgh over the past 38 years. Chuck Noll held the position from 1969 to 1991, winning four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

NFL Wild Card Weekend, Part 1

Chiefs vs Colts (AFC)

Even though this AFC matchup pits a sagging #6 against a strong #3, the experts a calling it the Upset Special of the playoffs. But beware; the experts aren’t always right.

Its no secret that Indianapolis has one of the weakest run defenses in the league. With Kansas City throwing Larry Johnson at defenses an average of 26 times and 112 yards per game, that Indy defense is in for a long day.

But lets not forget that Kansas City hasn’t exactly been a brick wall against rushers this season either. While viewers will be closely watching LJ rip up the Colts defensive line, don’t forget to keep an eye on rookie phenom Joseph Addai doing the same against a Chiefs defense that gives up over 100 rushing yards a game. Though Addai only logged two 100+ yard rushing games this year (including a monster 171 yard performance against Philadelphia), look for him to add his third this Saturday.

But Addai is the least of Kansas City’s worries this weekend. The Chiefs defense must find a way to contain the NFL’s most prolific passer, Peyton Manning. With well over 4000 yards passing and 31 touchdown connections, Manning is a serious threat in any game. Part of his success is in no small part due to the talented Indianapolis receiving corps of Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, both with 1300+ yards this season. With the Chiefs defense allowing over 250 yards passing per game, the dynamic duo of Harrison and Wayne should have a field day in KC’s secondary.

Another big push for Indianapolis is their home-field advantage. The Colts mounted an 8-0 record in the dome this year, giving them a huge edge over anyone that comes to Indy. With the Chiefs sitting on a pitiful 3-5 road record, including a late-season overtime loss to the Browns, Kansas City is in trouble.

The Colts started their season on a 9-0 run, but finished 3-4 with late season losses to the Titans, Jaguars, and lowly in-state rival Texans. However, big wins over the Bengals and Dolphins justifies the late swoon.

The Chiefs battled to keep their heads above .500 all season long, almost blowing the feat by finishing the season 3-5. Wins over Denver and division leaders San Diego and Seattle bolster their 9-7 mark.

The bottom line? There’s no way Kansas City will be able to shut down Manning and his star receivers.

My take: Indianapolis 34, Kansas City 17.

Dallas vs. Seattle (NFC)

This NFC game is the Pick ‘Em of the Wild Card round. These two teams are not only evenly matched, but also limped into the playoffs together, both dropping 3 of their last 4 games of the season.

Despite their equal 9-7 records, these two teams couldn’t have had more divergent seasons. Dallas flip-flopped their wins and losses with the fading Drew Bledsoe at the helm early on, and didn’t seem to truly find their groove until their Week 10 victory over Arizona, after which they rolled off three more consecutive wins. They triumphed in the games they should have, and even tacked on a few big-win games, including handing the streaking Colts their first loss of the season.

Seattle’s biggest win of the year was an early-season rout of the New York Giants. Since then, they’ve feasted on a slew of sub-.500 teams to reach their 9-7 mark. Of those 7 losses, you ask? Minnesota, Arizona, and San Francisco … twice.

When comparing offensive weapons, you have to give the nod to Dallas. Though playing with a rookie QB, they have two receivers (Owens and Glenn) who racked up over 1000 yards receiving. While no dominant running back has been seen wearing the silver star since the days of Emmit Smith, Julius Jones continues to improve as he rushed for 1,084 yards. Marioni Barber III, a second-year running back out of Minnesota, led his non-QB teammates in touchdowns, crossing the goal line 14 times for Dallas.

Seattle does have the always-dangerous Shaun Alexander, who is a constant threat to eat up some serious yards during a game. Though he fell way off his record-setting touchdown pace from last year, finding the end zone only 7 times compared to 2005’s 27, Alexander remains one of the premier running backs in the league. However, injury kept him out of 6 games this season and held him under 1000 yards rushing for just the second time in his career. Against a stingy Dallas defense that gave up only 103 yards rushing per game, it could be a long night for Seattle’s ground attack. Couple that with no receivers over 1000 yards and a quarterback with almost as many interceptions as touchdown passes, and you have the potential for an offensive sputter from the ‘Hawks.

I’m calling it: Dallas 27, Seattle 13.
Next up: Sunday’s Wild Card playoff games.