The World According to Keitho

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Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Braves’

The wild card run amok

Posted by keithosaunders on September 15, 2011

Today’s post will be devoted to my esteemed guest-blogger, and best friend, Jeff Mazzei.  Since he wrote this, (last week) a couple of the races have tightened up, but with only 15 games or so remaining on the schedule, time is getting short. 

The Redsox, with their myriad of pitching injuries, have somehow let Tampa back into the picture; they are four up in the wild card race.  In the NL wild card, while I wasn’t looking the Cards crept to within four and half of Atlanta. 

But enough of me.  Here’s Jeff!

I don’t know why I should be surprised and confounded by this, but with the pennant races evaporating, all I read is how we need another wild card team like the commissioner wants because he’s coming to the rescue of this September’s non-races.  Talk about another knee-jerk reaction!  How long has the current format been in place?  To my recollection, this is the only time in 17 years it may come down to the wire with no race.  And may I point out that were it not for the wild card, there would be an exciting race in the AL East.  And if the Braves were to close the gap on the Phillies, that would be another non-race race.  Oh, but if the American league only had a second wild card, then we could throw the Texas – Anaheim race in the trash as well.  They just don’t get it.  The people who run this are so myopic.

Mr. Selig wants 2 wild cards in each league having a play-in game.  I can see this coming from 3000 miles down the road:  the first wild card is the Yankees or Red Sox with the 2nd best record in the league.  The second wild card is a so-so team—-we’ll call them the Seattle Mariners—-who happen to have a blue chip pitcher—–we’ll call him Felix Hernandez—-who throws a 2-hit shutout at the 2nd best team in the league, and on goes Seattle.  Let the hand-wringing begin and sound the alarms.

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The reign of the evil empire, part 2: The fall of Keitho

Posted by keithosaunders on October 12, 2010

Long Island City, NY. October 23rd, 1996.

I was in my living room watching what appeared to be a routine Braves victory in game four of the World Series — a win that would have given them a 3-1 stranglehold over the New York Yankees with John Smoltz set to pitch game 5. The Braves were leading 6-0 going into the 6th inning and up until this point had they had little trouble containing the Yankees attack. Derek Jeter led off and hit a routine foul pop up which three Braves converged on. Somehow the umpire managed to get between the fielders, inadvertently obstructing the play. Jeter, with new life, singled, sparking a three run rally which brought the Yankees to within three. In the 8th I was still feeling good about the Braves chances when Yankee catcher Jim Leyritz tied the game with a 3 run home run to left. The game was won by the Yankees in the 10th and the Series, not to mention my life, had turned.

Andy Pettitte threw a 1-0 gem in game 5, and after a taut 3-2 win in game 6 the Yankees had their first championship in 18 years. I remember watching the clincher and thinking that I was happy for their fans who had recently suffered through some particularly lean years. It was good for New York, and anyway the Braves fans were obnoxious with that idiotic tomahawk chop.

Yet there was a feeling deep in the pit of my stomach which gnawed at me. The Yankees had won a Series in clutch fashion after being dominated at home during the first two games. Their key position players and pitchers were young or in their prime. What if? Could it happen? No, this was a fluke. Wasn’t it?

It was no fluke. The next year they were beaten by Cleveland in the first round thanks to a blown save by Mariano Rivera, but from that point on, until 2005, Mariano’s post-season ERA would be 0.00. From 2006 until the present his era is…0.00. In this span the Yankees have missed the playoffs once. They have won five Series and seven A.L. Pennants.

The years took on a Groundhogs Day sameness, each one ending with the parade down the canyon of heroes. My misery culminated in 2000, the year of the Subway Series. Up until that time I had rooted against the Yankees as an erstwhile fan of their opposing team. That year I was treated to a first-hand bitch-slapping as my Mets proved to be woefully inadequate. I hoped against hope for a miracle, but after Paul O’Neill’s 14 pitch at-bat off of Armando Benitez and the ensuing comeback, the knife was in — all that remained was the twisting. The next night a bat was hurled at Mike Piazza by a steroidally-enfused mercenary named Roger Clemens. (Thank you sir, may I have another?) The Mets were done and so was I.

Next year was even worse, even though the Yankees failed to four-peat against the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks. In the wake of September 11th, “We’re all Yankee fans now,” became America’s mantra. In the past I had been able to take a small measure of consolation in the fact that I was not alone in rooting against the Yankees. Now I was on an island with John McCain. Every game became an elegy to the bravery of New Yorkers — the Yankees were going to make us all forget about the recent tragedy. There was Giuliani with his shit-eating grin, the Yankee cap, and the fat son. Throw in the fighter planes, the opera singer, the God Bless America, and I was puking through my tears.

I look back at my smug, condescending 1996 self and I laugh. You poor, confused, naive dullard. But then I think that perhaps it was a good thing that there was one Yankee Series in which I did not scream obscenities at the TV, or feel the pre-ulcerous knot of tension in the pit of my stomach.

Since the middle of the 1990’s the Yankees have been a well-oiled, expertly handled organization. This does nothing to temper my hatred. You can call me a pathological, self-pitying, resentful bastard. It’s a moot point, though. Like Popeye, I yam what I yam — my hatred isn’t going anywhere. I have to live with it and accept that most Octobers will be gut wrenching experiences.

I’ll say this. Teams should be allowed to sign whomever they think will help them win, but here’s the thing: The Yankees have a payroll that is 40 million higher than the Redsox and 109 million higher than the team they just beat, the Twins. On top of this they are the favorite to sign ace pitcher Cliff Lee. They play by the rules and they’re a great organization, but don’t rub my face in it and ask me to like it. It’s a little hard to take. 

OK, that’s it. I’m exhausted already. I now invite you all to let me have it. Come on, you know you want to. Just remember the first rule of Fight Club: You do not talk about Fight Club.

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A pennant race like it oughta be

Posted by keithosaunders on September 24, 2010

This year baseball fans are being treated to a good old-fashioned pennant race.  With a week and a half remaining in the season the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants have been flip-flopping daily for the division lead, with the Colorado Rockies not far behind.  At the moment the Giants are in front of the Padres by a half a game with the Rockies trailing by 3 and a half.  In addition, the Padres also trail the wildcard leading Atlanta Braves by a half game.

Over in the A.L. East the Yankees and Rays have been involved in a close race which has been rendered moot by the absence of an American League wildcard race.  Barring a miracle finish by the Redsox, who are 7 games out of the wildcard lead, both the Yankees and Rays will be in the playoffs.  What should be a riveting race between two great teams is instead meaningless.

In 1993 there was an incredible pennant race between the Atlanta Braves, then in the western division, and the San Francisco Giants.  On July 20th of that year the Giants were a comfortable 9 games ahead of the Braves.  Around that time the Braves acquired Fred McGriff from the Bluejays, and inserted rookie Greg McMichael into the closer role.  They reeled off 27 wins in 35 games before facing the Giants with their new lineup.  They then swept a 3 game series at Candlestick to move to within 1 and a half games of the Giants.  The teams met for their final series on the last week of August, a series in which Atlanta won 2 of 3.

In September, thanks to an injury-depleted pitching staff, the Giants fell 4 games behind Atlanta.  Improbably, that managed to turn it around by going on a 13-1 tear setting up a final weekend of the season which found the two teams deadlocked in the standings.  The Giants played in Los Angeles against their arch-rival, Dodgers, while the Braves played the expansion Colorado Rockies, whom they had owned throughout the season.  It all came down to the last day of the season, both teams owning identical records.  The Braves won their game against the Rockies 4-3 and retired to their clubhouse to watch the Giants lose a laugher to the Dodgers, 12-1.  (This was a modicum of revenge for L.A.  The Giants, behind a home run from an aging Joe Morgan, had ended their 1982 season in similar fashion)  The 1993 Giants finished with a record of 103-59.    

Because a 100 win team missed the playoffs, baseball felt that they had to do something to rectify the situation.  This factor, along with the enticement of additional TV money, prompted the creation of the wildcard team.

In 1995, when the wildcard system was adopted, baseball sacrificed drama for the inclusion of two additional playoff teams.  While there still are compelling races such as the one this year, having a wildcard team precludes the possibility of two 100 + win teams doing battle.  One or the other will almost certainly claim the wildcard spot since the chance of having a third dominant team is practically impossible.

In the two division format there had been riveting tension that lasted all throughout September.  Compare that with the ennui that has settled into the AL East most of this, and every season.  The divional format existed in major league baseball for 24 years.  In this span 100 win teams missed the playoffs twice.  The only other time it occurred was in 1980 when Earl Weaver’s Baltimore Oriole’s won 100 games yet finished behind the division-winning Yankees.  Imagine how crabby Weaver must have been after having squandering a 3-1 lead in games to Pittsburgh in the 1979 World Series only to follow it up in with a 100 year non-playoff season! 

A good friend of mine, and occasional guest-blogger, Jeff Mazzei,  has long thought that the leagues should be divided into four divisions, thus eliminating the need for the wildcard.  There would be the same amount of playoff series, yet each division would at least have the possibility of a good race.  I can live with a good team missing the playoffs.  What I can’t stomach is too many more close, yet meaningless divisional races.
 
Fred McGriff — Crimedog!

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Time to face the music

Posted by keithosaunders on May 17, 2010

Just when it was looking like things were shaping up for the New York Metropolitans and that this might be a decent season, we are face to face with the truth.  This is a .500 team that is facing injuries and could easily be buried in the division by the All Star break. 

Oliver Perez is shit.  He will tease you with the occasional dominant start, only to revert to his wild ways.  He, like Maine and Santana, has lost at least 3 miles per hour on his fastball, and lacks the ability to blow hitters away.  When he is forced to throw a strike he is all too hittable. 

With his demotion to the bullpen and Jon Niese’s hamstring flare-up, the Mets are now without 2/5 or their starting rotation.  The bullpen, which has been the strength of the team, is starting to show signs of misuse by Jerry Manuel, who continues to trot out Nieve, Feliciano, and Hashikawa day after day.  You can’t expect them to continue to get outs. Nieves is practically shot and it’s only the middle of May.  The way Manuel handles his pitching staff, his starters do not have  the wherewithal to work out of jams on days when they lack their best stuff.  

I want to know who in baseball deigned that 100 pitches is all a pitcher can handle.  Are all pitchers built exactly the same way?  The last time I checked they come in all shapes and sizes.  It stands to reason that some pitchers can go a lot deeper into the game than others.

The coming series with Atlanta and Washington are gut checks.  MIke Pelfrey, whose last few outings have been shaky to say the least, needs to come up big.  They’ll need more than six  innings out of him.  Ideally the Mets  need to take three of four before the weekend series with the hated Yankees.  I would not want to limp into such a series.

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