Tag:Tampa Bay Rays
Posted on: October 30, 2008 5:55 pm
 

How to End a 25-Year Championship Drought

Before I get started on my October/MLB Recap, I wanted to congratulate the Tampa Bay Rays on a great season. I feel for the younger guys who might be taking this loss hard, but they accomplished a lot this year and that shouldn't be forgotten.

But onto the main reason for this entry:

The city of Philadelphia is celebrating their first pro-championship in 25 years.

Philadelphia was in one of the longest droughts of any city with four-professional sports teams, that is to say, any city that has an NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL team. And that's not surprising. Everyone focused on the Cubs and Dodgers before the NL Playoffs (including yours truly), and left the Phillies as a darkhorse, or an afterthought. But almost everyone assumed that the Phillies would make the NLCS by beating Milwaukee, and then lose to the Cubs-Dodgers winner. And then I had a revelation. I could not tell you where, or when or how I came to this conclusion, but I just knew.

Philadelphia was going to the World Series. Maybe it was after watching the Phils close out the Brewers in three games, or maybe I just knew the Dodgers-Red Sox World Series just wasn't going to happen. But somewhere along the way, I forgot what a great team the Phillies had, an oversight for a Braves fan who follows the division shouldn't have, but I somehow thought of the Phillies as the 2004 Red Sox.

Both teams had a great rotation, solid offense and legitimate bullpen. Both had been successful in the regular season for a few years before winning the title. And both gave off a vibe that just screamed destiny. And if your going to break long championship droughts, why not look to the team who went 86 years with out a title and now have 2 in 5 years.

Once the 2004 Red Sox won back-to-back games in the ALCS on David Ortiz walk-offs, you just knew that they were going all the way. After Matt Stairs clinched Game 4 on the NLCS with a pinch hit homer, I knew. The Phillies had a bad Game 3, rebounded, and handed the ball to Cole Hamels to close the door in Game 5.

After winning Game 3 on a walk-off infield single and Joe Blanton's performance in Game 4, my conclusions were more or less assumed, I just had to wait out a lot of rain to make sure of it

And Cole Hamels had the ball for Game 5 as well. With the weather rearing its ugly head, his Game 5 performance is slightly removed, but his MVP trophy is not. You don't go 4-0 in the postseason with a 1.80 ERA and not get credit for it. That MVP award could also have easily gone to close Brad Lidge, who saved 7 games in the postseason and didn't blow a save in 2008. The whole year. He closed for what might be one of the best bullpen's in my recent memory. The Phillies starting rotation of Hamels-Myers-Moyer-Blanton is also not too shabby.

But everyone has read or heard most of this by now. You've seen the recaps, listened to your sports radio station and read all the newspapers.

But I think we're starting to develop a trend to winning World Series and breaking curses. It's called player development, scouting and using younger players to accent a good team with a solid bullpen. See the Boston Red Sox in 2007. Jacoby Ellsbury, Papelbon, Pedroia, etc., were on half of a dangerous veteran hitting lineup. The Phillies featured young guns in Hamels, Victorino and Howard, who are all under-30 and may not be considered young, but young enough.

Most of these players have been drafted and developed in the minors by these teams. Other examples I can give would be the '95 Braves and the '96 Yankees, those two played for the World Series in '96.

But what about the '08 Rays? They have what appears to be a seemingly endless supply of young talent, especially pitching, and it finally came together for them this year. They went from league laughing stock and contraction talk team to the best team in the American League. They're fun to watch and Joe Maddon, who should be manager of the year if he isn't already, and the Rays front office are primed for big things in the next few years.

But back the Phillies. There are two other things that I'd like to mention quickly. Charlie Manuel's mother, June said that her son's Phillies would win the World Series. Sadly, June passed away during the NLCS and didn't get to see the Phillies win in person, but somehow I think a bottle of bubbly made it her way.

And finally, to the people and fans of Philadelphia. They've waited a long time to see a title happen, and while I sadly am only an Eagles fan, I do know some of what that city has gone through recently. That and having a dad who's a Red Sox fan. But there was one moment where I knew the city of Philadelphia still hadn't changed. Commissioner Bud Selig came out onto the field for the trophy presentation, and was giving a rounding chorus of boos. Same for when Manuel thanked the Rays and congratulated Tampa on a great season, although that was rather subdued in my opinion.

But seriously Philadelphia...

One championship in 25 years and I can't see any cars flipped over? No visible rioting? I'm kind of disappointed...

- Eagle
Posted on: October 22, 2008 10:32 pm
 

There's Only ONE Fall Classic!!!

Okay. If you've been following this blog for the entire month and reading closing remarks spoofing the commercial, I apologize. I'm just tired of TBS and FOX showing it during every commercial break. Just wanted to put that out there. Onto the World Series preview...

You have no idea how happy I am to finally have Manny Ramirez and the Red Sox eliminated from the postseason. I would have turned off my TV after the 5th or 6th reference to the Red Sox-Manny trade, which means I might have made it out of the pre-game show. Here we have the upstart Exorcists, I mean, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who have been riding a youth movement throughout the season. A truckload of young talent featuring Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, Evan Longoria, and David Price just to name a few. The Rays have never sniffed the postseason before this season, and could join their in-state counterparts (the Marlins) with a World Series title in their first postseason appearance. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Phillies have it all. Dangerous lineup featuring power (Ryan Howard), speed (Rollins/Victorino) and all around greatness (Chase Utley); Rotation with young ace (Cole Hamels), crafty veteran (Jamie Moyer) and a lights-out closer (Brad Lidge). So, how does one pick a winner in such a series? Well, how about I break it down by offense, defense, pitching and intangibles?

OFFENSE

The Phillies lineup is one of the best in baseball. Dangerous hitters up and down the lineup, Utley-Howard is one of the best combos in a baseball lineup and I'd rival it with a Ortiz-Manny from a few years ago. Plus, the Phillies can go small ball as well, using their speed to create runs.

The Rays meanwhile have been on a tear throughout the postseason. Longoria and BJ Upton have seemingly hit every ball over the fence. They did have a little bit of a slump late in the ALCS against the Red Sox, but I don't see much of an advantage for either side.

EDGE - N/A

DEFENSE

This one I'll give to the Phillies, but on experience only. The Rays should never have lost Game 5 in Boston to extend the ALCS and a key throwing error led to the start of that comeback. Plus, this isn't the first time the Phillies have been here.

EDGE - Slight to Philadephia

PITCHING - STARTERS

I'm not sold on the back end of the Phillies rotation, and I love what the Rays have done lately. I think the Phils have an advantage with Coles in Game 1, and then, that might be it. The Rays young guns have been solid throughout the entire season. I think the Rays starters will have to do well, because once they hand it off to that bullpen...

EDGE - Tampa Bay

PITCHING - BULLPEN

... it gets a little dicey. This is not even a question. Philadelphia has a dominant closer in Lidge and have the ability to get him the ball in the 9th with great set-up from Romero, Madsen and others. Tampa's bullpen has been in disarray since closer Troy Percival went down with an injury weeks ago. If it comes down to the late innings, I'm banking on the Phillies pulling through.

EDGE - Huge to Philadelphia

INTANGIBLES

Tampa - Youth - How far can the kids take them? They've already accomplished more than anyone thought they could this year.
Philly - The Fans - It's been 25 years since the city of Philadelphia won a major sports title (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL). That was the 1983 76ers. The Phillies only have one title in over 100 years of playing baseball (1980). If you do the math, it's been 100 professional seasons since Philly's last title, the same as a certain cursed franchise in Chicago. It's high tide Philadelphia had a championship to be proud of (taking nothing away from the Soul and Ron Jaworski).

EDGE - N/A

And now for my favorite segment, recapping my previous bracket entries from my TV, football, personal and actual picks.

TV RATINGS BRACKET

Philly over Tampa Bay - Let's face it. Philly has a much larger fan base than the Rays and many more eyeballs on the upper east coast who might be interested in this game.

FOOTBALL BRACKET
Philly over Tampa Bay - Again, I said (rather biased) at the beginning that the Eagles had the best football team out of all the MLB postseason teams. Discounting the fact that LA qualified twice and doesn't have a team and the Eagles have to be healthy this works.

PERSONAL BRACKET

Tampa Bay over Philly - I didn't really see the Phillies making it at the beginning of the month. I personally wanted to see the Rays make it, just for something new. Well, now they've made it and I couldn't be happier. With that said however...

OFFICIAL 2008 MLB BRACKET
Philly over Tampa Bay (in 6) - Last week I correctly picked the Rays (in 7) and the Phillies (although in 6). There was no real logic behind it, I just thought it was a good idea at the time. Now, I've stumbled on a rather successful month of baseball picks. Aside from my original World Series pick (LA Angels and the CHI Cubs), I've done pretty well for myself. With that said, I do like the Phillies. They're a veteran team with no true weakness, where you could argue that the Rays' youth could cost them (like it almost did in the ALCS). I can't trust the Rays to close out a series after their bullpen almost gave the Red Sox a shot at another World Series.

CLOSING RANT
I am not a full-fledged Philadelphia fan, however, after following the Eagles since I was 6, I understand the mentality of Philadelphia fans. They are die-hard, bleed for their team fans who would be willing to give up an organ or a first born to win a title. They have a history of rather unsportsmanlike behavior (Santa) and will let you know when they are not satisfied and displeased, and this happens quite often (Ray Rhodes era...). With that said, the city of Philadelphia needs something to cheer about. The Rays are set for a number of years will all their young, budding stars. The Phillies are built to win now, and the clock is ticking for them. Somehow, I feel that they are going to win. Well let the Rays get their due down the road in a few years (or next year), but not this year. This year should belong to the city of Philadelphia and its Phillies. At least I hope so.
Posted on: October 8, 2008 1:44 pm
 

2008 MLB October LDS Recap

I feel like I have slighted Cubs fans. I, like many others, decided to pick the Cubs to win the World Series. I thought the Cubs would breeze through the NL playoffs and reach the World Series, possibly losing to the Red Sox or Angels. But did I think the Cubs would be swept out of the playoffs to conclude 100 years of infamy? No, not even close. The Cubs are dangerously close to being compared to my Braves in the early 2000s as teams that have fantastic regular season success, and little post season hardware to show for it. And if the Cubs are going to continue to lose in October, can Lou Pinella at least go on a few rants? Throw some bases? Drink Aquafina? Please? No, okay, on with the LCS recaps.

ALDS
Boston over LA Angels (3-1)
Boston went into LA and just out-pitched the Angels when it mattered. Jon Lester was fantastic in Game 1, and J.D. Drew's homer off K-Rod in the 9th sent this series back to Boston with the Red Sox up 2-0. The Angels took Game 3 to stave off elimination but Jed Lowrie's walk-off RBI single to plate Jason Bay in Game 4 sent the defending champs back to the ALCS. Somewhere Dickie V is shouting "AWESOME BABY!!"

Tampa Bay over CHI White Sox (3-1)
One post season series, one post season victory for the Rays. A growing theme in the postseason, Tampa took the first two games at "The Trop" thanks to Evan Longoria two homers in Game 1 and Scott Kazmir's arm in Game 2. Jon Danks saved the White Sox from the dreaded sweep, but Andy Sonnanstine shut the door in Game 4 with a little power from B.J. Upton.

NLDS
LA Dodgers over CHI Cubs (3-0)
I'm sensing a pattern here...The Dodgers won the first two games in this series as well. Okay, they won the only three played, but that's not the point. The Dodgers stormed into Wrigley and dominated the Cubs before closing the door in a much more competitive Game 3, but it was not enough for the tortured Cubs.

Philadelphia over Milwaukee (3-1)
In no surprise, the Phillies also won the first two games of this series as well, behind Cole Hamels' 8 innings in Game 1 and Brett Myers out dueling CC Sabathia in Game 2. Favorite stat of this series - In Brett Myers two at-bats, he saw 19 pitches from CC. CC threw about 100 pitches in the game and didn't make it deep into the game either.

BRACKET REVIEWS

See my previous October blog for my original analysis.

TV RATINGS BRACKET
Boston over Tampa Bay - Originally had the White Sox here, but regardless Boston has the largest TV audience and advance.
LA Dodgers over Philadelphia - Again, had the Cubs here, and either way, Philly is getting snubbed in the TV bracket.
WS - Boston over LA Dodgers - One half of the TV bracket is alive. Thankfully, it's the winning half.

FOOTBALL BRACKET
Tampa Bay over Boston - Hey! One of these things actually worked. Tampa's not sure who it's QB is, but they know it's better than Matt Cassel.
Philadelphia over LA Dodgers - Umm...LA doesn't have a football team. Do we use the Rams? Raiders? USC? Whatever, GO EAGLES!!!
WS - Philly over Tampa Bay - Give me Brian Westbrook or give me death.

PERSONAL BRACKET
Tampa Bay over Boston - This is the matchup I wanted to see. Sorry Dad, I'm going against the Sawx. It's all about the Rays Bandwagon.
Philadelphia over LA Dodgers - Wanted the Cubs, but I'll settle for Philadelphia having a chance to end a city-wide champion-less streak of its own.
WS - Tampa Bay over Philly - Wanted to see a Cubs-Rays series, but I'll settle for the Rays going 1-1 (Octobers-Championships).

OFFICIAL 2008 MLB BRACKET
Tampa Bay over Boston (in 7) - Okay, so my entire bracket is toast. My entire World Series (Cubs/Angels) is gone. I should have just lit my fake entry fee on fire because I knew it was going to happen. Why? It's me, I'm only good at March Brackets. But let's see if I can change my luck. I did pick two series correctly (Phils/Rays in 4).
Philadelphia over LA Dodgers (in 6) - I'm sick of Manny. I'm sick of the Red Sox. I don't want to see either of them in the World Series. I want something different. Ratings be damned, let's see the little guys have a chance.

WS - Philadelphia over Tampa Bay (in 6) - I'll probably be picking this again next week. But who cares. I'm looking forward to two great LCS series and I think the ALCS is destined for greatness.

CLOSING RANT

Someone needs to explain to me why there isn't a playoff baseball game until Thursday and why that game (LA-PHI) is going to be a 8:22 EST start? I know that both games are on the East Coast for Friday, but is a 4:30-8:30 doubleheader the way to go? I don't like it. Somewhere, someone decided that a national audience would want to watch a baseball at 8:30 EST. I can see this making sense for the LA-Philly series, because its a West vs. East matchup. But Boston-Tampa? There's no reason any of these games should be after 7:30 EST.
If someone on the West Coast want's to watch it, they'll find a way at 4:30 PST to tune into the game. There are three East Coast markets that should take precedence over the lone West Coast market. Yet, MLB thinks it's a good idea to move the games to a West Coast friendly time. It might be time to write Mr. Selig another letter...

Enjoy the baseball everyone, and remember - There's only one Fall Classic, there's only one OCTOBER!!!

- Eagle
Posted on: October 1, 2008 12:58 pm
 

2008 MLB October Preview

There's always three guarantees for me in October - it starts to get colder, my allergies flare up, and October baseball. With my Braves and rival Mets and Yankees both sitting at home or playing golf, you would think that I have no rooting interest. Lies. My top three teams that I'm rooting for this postseason.

1. Boston Red Sox - This is my dad's team and my favorite AL team as well. They have a tough start facing the LA Angels and the injury bug may be biting them, but this isn't your grandfather's Red Sox team. These Red Sox are October tested.

2. Tampa Bay Rays - The Exorcists, I mean Rays are the Cinderella team of the year. I've always liked these guys and have been trying, miserably, to find a Devil Rays hat. Either way, you can't root against this team. Kind of like how you can't root against these guys...

3. Chicago Cubs - unless your from the South Side of Chicago. It's been 100 years since the Cubs last won a World Series. They are the best team in the NL. Goats, Cats, Steve Bartmans and curses aside, it's about time the Cubs got this over with.

Honorable Mention - Brewers/Phillies - Just for eliminating the Mets. Or rather, cashing in on another Mets choke job.

I'm going to give everyone several different brief previews based on TV ratings, football, personal bias and then my actual bracket. The TV bracket is basically all driven by FOX and how well the World Series will draw ratings. My personal bias bracket shouldn't happen, but I'd like to see it anyway. And then my actual bracket will be to win. Just like a March Madness bracket.

TV BRACKET

Boston over LA Angels - Boston draws a national audience and Japan would watch over the internet as well.
CHI White Sox over Tampa Bay - TV is very happy that the White Sox beat the Twins. The ratings for a Twins-Rays ALDS would suck.
ALCS - Boston over CHI White Sox - TV might be personally sick of the Red Sox winning, but they do draw ratings.

Phillies over Milwaukee - Philly could draw a decent East Coast rating, but they're not New York.
CHI Cubs over LA Dodgers - Manny is a good draw, but not as good as the Cubs national audience.
NLCS - CHI Cubs over Phillies - Again, only New York could dethrone Cubs baseball on a TV ratings scale.

WS - Boston over CHI Cubs - 100 years and counting as the Boston claims another title.

FOOTBALL BRACKET
Boston over LA Angels - Umm, LA doesn't have a football team, so they forfeit.
Tampa Bay over CHI White Sox - I still can't trust Kyle Orton, despite beating my Eagles on SNF.
ALCS - Tampa Bay over Boston - Bucs look solid and the Pats are shopping for QB's

Philly over Milwaukee - We're using Green Bay, but the Eagles would beat the Pack with Westbrook healthy.
CHI Cubs over LA Dodgers - Again, LA doesn't have an NFL team.
NLCS - Philly over CHI Cubs - I don't care about last Sunday. Westbrook would punch that in from inside the one.

WS - Philly over Tampa Bay - Okay, so it's an NFC Championship game, but Philly has the best NFL team out of all MLB postseason teams. At least that's what I'm telling myself...

PERSONAL BRACKET
Boston over LA Angels - As much as I like Mark Teixeira, he's going down.
Tampa Bay over CHI White Sox - Never liked Ozzie Guillen that much, and it's the Cinderella Rays.
ALCS - Tampa Bay over Boston - Bet you didn't see that coming. I might like Boston more, but I've seen them win.

Phillies over Milwaukee - Phillies are the NL East rep, I'll root for 'em.
CHI Cubs over LA Dodgers - Again, it's been 100 years for the Cubs.
NLCS - CHI Cubs over Phillies - I'd be happy with either team, Cubs 100 years, Philadelphia sports. Someone needs a championship.

WS - CHI Cubs over Tampa Bay - Cubs end the curse.

2008 MLB OCTOBER BRACKET
LA Angels over Red Sox in 5 - I'm not sure about either side, thanks to a handful of key injuries, so rule of thumb is take the home team.
Tampa Bay over CHI White Sox in 4 - I like Tampa to beat an emotionally drained White Sox team.
ALCS - LA Angels over Tampa in 6 - I love the Rays, but they're young. The Angels have been here before.

Phillies over Milwaukee in 4 - With Ben Sheets hurt, CC wins only one game and the Phils move on.
CHI Cubs over LA Dodgers in 4 - Cubs have been baseball's best team and the Dodgers won the NL West.
NLCS - CHI Cubs over Philly in 6 - Philly just doesn't have enough pitching.

WS - CHI Cubs over LA Angels in 6 - No East Coast Bias here, but I'm picking the Cubs to end 100 years of futility. If significant Cubs fans wish for me to change my pick, please post below and I will certainly do so. Until then, there's only one Fall Classic, there's only one October!

- Eagle
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com