October 2, 2014
October is here. The month when baseball attempts to take some attention away from the game of football with its playoffs. This year marks the first season where there are 10 playoff teams. Even with the additional two teams, I honestly feel like I could make a case for each team winning the 2014 World Series.
I always look at the pitching which is why I will go with either the Washington Nationals or the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the title. Washington has the best starting group of Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Doug Fister, and Gio Gonzales. This quartet has looked especially good of late as the Nationals starting pitchers posted an ERA under 1.00 over their last 13 starts. Losing streaks are rare when you can throw these four guys out there. Rookie manager Matt Williams enjoyed watching his starting pitchers record a MLB-best 3.04 ERA for the season. In other words, the Nats usually only need to score four runs to win a game.
Los Angeles counters with the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, along with the best closer in the game, Kenley Janson. The Dodgers everyday lineup is not that bad either. It should be as Los Angeles has the biggest payroll in the game at $230 million. No one scored more runs during the month of September than the Dodgers, so manager Don Mattingly’s team enters the playoffs swinging hot bats. A Los Angeles vs. Washington National League Championship matchup could be a instant classic.
I also would not count out San Francisco or St. Louis out of the National League. Both teams have won multiple World Series over the last decade. The Giants, on offense, feature Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey who are veteran October contributors to go along with pitcher Madison Bumgarner out of Hickory who has emerged as one of the top ten pitchers in baseball.
St. Louis, of late, plays its best baseball in October and have one of the top pitchers in baseball in Adam Wainwright. Pittsburgh rounds out the National League playoff teams. I like the Anaheim Angels and the Detroit Tigers out of the American League. Both teams can score runs but the Tigers have better starting pitching. Mike Trout leads the Angels offensively while Miguel Cabrera leads the Tigers hitting attack. I am going with Detroit based on its starting pitching of David Price, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello.
You should not count out Baltimore who easily won the Eastern Division over the likes of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. Oakland returns to the playoffs and has the league’s best run differential so it should not be counted out. However, the A’s struggled the final two months of the season and did not clinch a playoff berth until the final day of the regular season. Kansas City is the other playoff team. The Royals have not seen playoff action in 28 years. It would be a nice story if they play deep into October but I just do not see it.
A-Rod Back In The News
Somewhat lost over the two-year demise of the New York Yankees is the fact that one year suspension of Alex Rodriguez is now over. A-Rod’s name came up early and often during manager Joe Girardi held his annual end-of-the-season press conference. He was asked about Rodriguez and came up with the following answer.
“He hasn’t played in a year,” Girardi said. “That’s not easy to do, to sit out a year. I’ve got to see where he’s physically at. I’ve got to see from a playing standpoint where he’s at. Do we expect him to be a player on our team? Absolutely. Do we expect him to play third base? Yes. I can’t tell you whats going to happen,. But we expect him to be our third baseman.”
Alex Rodrieguez is back
There was a news report over the weekend that spoke of an insurance company declaring A-Rod healthy (I thought doctors did that). Remember, he has had surgery on both hips as well as his right knee within the last six years. Rodriguez, 39, hit .244 with seven home runs in 44 games in 2013 following hip surgery. He has played in only 664 of 972 possible games from 2008-13. There is no possible way for the Yankees know what to expect from A-Rod in 2015.
Many thought we saw the last of A-Rod. Perhaps we have. But it looks like he has a shot at a comeback.
Down Goes The United States
The United States was never going to win the 2014 Ryder Cup. Let me start with that premise? After all, they rarely win when the Cup is played across the pond.
They were facing somebody I think will end up being one of the five greatest players ever (Rory McIlroy), a major winner at the peak of his powers (Justin Rose), and the US Open winner by eight strokes this year (Martin Kaymer). And, as it ended up, those weren’t even necessarily Europe’s three best guys.
The issue I have with how everything happened is that the US could have at least lost better than it did. It got blown out in the end. McIlroy showed off his driving ability. Rose seemed to make every 20 foot birdie putt he saw and Mr. Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter, finished strong.
Though I did not agree with some of captain Tom Watson’s decisions, I am not fond of his players questioning him via the media. Media pundits give the captains too much credit for successes and failures at the Ryder Cup. Each team has 12 players who are ranked within the world’s top 50 players.
Just go play and stop complaining if you lose. Watson did not take a single stroke and did not deserve the heat Phil Mickelson put on him at the post match press conference.
Mickelson, who has a losing record over his long Ryder Cup career, seemed to blame Watson for USA’s 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 loss. It is not Watson’s fault that the USA team under performed, despite having higher ranked players.
Until the USA team stops playing like individuals and more like a team, expect more losses. And I, for one, am less of a Mickelson fan then I used to be.