Tag:Giants
Posted on: September 13, 2011 12:29 pm
Edited on: September 13, 2011 12:46 pm
 

What if MVP was decided like Manager of the Year?



By Matt Snyder


As my esteemed colleague C. Trent Rosecrans pointed out Monday in a really creative and entertaining way, the Manager of the Year award is routinely roped off for certain managers. For example, heading into this season, the Phillies and Red Sox were heavily predicted to make the World Series. The Yankees are the Yankees, and the Giants and Rangers went to the World Series last season. So right there, Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona, Joe Girardi, Bruce Bochy and Ron Washington are virtually eliminated from the chance at winning the Manager of the Year award in their respective leagues.

I'm not saying it's right or wrong, because managing is far different from playing. It's totally apples vs. oranges. But it's fun to imagine if the MVP awards were decided in the same fashion. Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez would have zero chance at winning. Former winners like Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton and Dustin Pedroia? Sorry. Heavily predicted 2011 winner Adrian Gonzalez? Cross him off. Sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun and Ryan Howard? Nope, you guys are supposed to hit for all that power.

Instead, the candidates would be guys having amazing seasons that we might not have expected. Like Kirk Gibson being the runaway NL winner over Manuel. For example, Jose Bautista would have easily won last season in the AL.

Here are four candidates for the MVP of each league, if voters reacted as they did in the Manager of the Year voting -- along with who I think would win and why.

American League

Alex Avila, Tigers
2010 numbers: .228/.316/.340, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 28 R, 12 2B
2011 numbers: .302/.392/.523, 18 HR, 74 RBI, 60 R, 31 2B
The best part about these numbers is they came from out of nowhere. Avila only hit .264 with an .814 OPS in his only season of Double-A. It's not awful, but those are hardly the type of numbers that scream future All-Star. And Avila's likely to get some real MVP votes this year (remember, each ballot gets 10 entries). Don't discount what kind of stamina he has to have to catch 120 games and still keep hitting like this, either. It's been an absolutely stellar campaign for Avila, and he's going to be a starting catcher in the playoffs.

Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
2010 numbers: Doesn't matter, it was a lost season due to injuries. He only played 10 games.
2011 numbers: .317/.376/.533, 26 HR, 91 RBI, 104 R, 36 SB, 41 2B, 4 3B
He's got a real shot at the real MVP, and it's all due to his power increase. The average, OBP, doubles, triples, runs and steals aren't surprising at all, if you go back to Ellsbury's numbers pre-2010, and he's only 28. So we knew he had a real shot to drastically improve -- but he's approaching 30 home runs and 100 RBI. No one would have predicted that.

Alex Gordon, Royals
2010 numbers: .215/.315/.355, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 34 R, 10 2B, 1 SB (only 74 games due to demotion to minors and injury)
2011 numbers: .299/.371/.500, 21 HR, 82 RBI, 95 R, 45 2B, 16 SB
This wouldn't have been surprising in 2007 ... or 2008 ... or 2009 ... or maybe even 2010. But after four relatively failed seasons in the face of lofty expectations, people kind of gave up on Gordon. He went from a No. 2 prospect in all of baseball to an afterthought. And just when people gave up on him completely, he broke through in a huge way. Those 45 doubles lead all of baseball and he's doing pretty much everything well.

J.J. Hardy, Orioles
2010 numbers: .268/.320/.394, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 44 R
2011 numbers: .264/.304/.483, 26 HR, 68 RBI, 65 R
This is a return to where Hardy was in 2007 and 2008, though his home run rate is the highest it has ever been. He worked his big season into a multi-year contract extension for the Orioles and has solidified the middle infield.

And the winner is ... Alex Avila. It's a really close call over Gordon. With Ellsbury, I believe we all knew the potential was in there and injuries killed him in 2010. The power increase is nice, but Avila and Gordon are more surprising. Hardy's done it before and he's not old. Plus, his numbers pale in comparison to these other three. Sure, Gordon has far exceeded expectations, but I think if you asked most people before the season who was more likely to impress this year between Gordon and Avila, Gordon would be the answer simply based upon minor-league pedigree. That kind of talent doesn't just abandon someone. Gordon starred -- albeit years ago -- but Avila had never hit enough to believe this kind of monster season was possible. I could easily be wrong on this decision, though, as this is total guesswork. To reiterate, it's really close.

National League

Lance Berkman, Cardinals
2010 numbers: .248/.368/.413, 14 HR, 58 RBI, 48 R
2011 numbers: .290/.405/.551, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 79 R
The newly slender "Fat Elvis" shed loads of pounds this past offseason as he was determined to revert back to vintage "Puma." He did. Many mocked the signing by the Cardinals, especially as Berkman had to return to right field. Well, he hasn't been good defensively, but he's swinging the bat like he did back in his prime and the protection he's provided to Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols has been instrumental in keeping the Cardinals in contention for much of the season.

Matt Kemp, Dodgers
2010 numbers: .249/.310/.450, 28 HR, 89 RBI, 82 R, 19 SB
2011 numbers: .318/.397/.566, 33 HR, 108 RBI, 97 R, 38 SB
If he doesn't win the real MVP award it won't be because he didn't do enough for his team. It will be because his team didn't do enough for him. Kemp has absolutely carried the Dodgers' offense this season in every facet. He has an outside shot at the triple crown and the 40/40 club, but he'd have to get scorching hot. Still, from a guy who didn't even hit .250 last season, this has been a rebirth. On the flip-side, we knew Kemp had this potential.

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
2010 numbers: .268/.323/.409, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 61 R
2011 numbers: .301/.345/.516, 19 HR, 60 RBI, 50 R
If the counting stats don't look overly impressive this year, that's because he's only played in 103 games. Last season it was 152. He was so disappointing in 2010 that he only started five playoff games -- just once in the World Series. It's been a huge bounce-back season for Sandoval, despite the fact that his team has regressed a bit.

Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
2010 numbers: .273/.356/.442, 17 HR, 69 RBI, 73 R, 27 2B, 18 SB
2011 numbers: .296/.378/.547, 30 HR, 86 RBI, 100 R, 38 3B, 21 SB
Here's another guy who will get real-life MVP consideration. While 2010 was a disappoining campaign, this is the Upton the D-Backs drafted first overall in 2005. Look at the number jumps across the board for Upton, and he's still only 24. And his team appears headed for the postseason. Like Kemp, however, we knew this was inside Upton.

And the winner is ... Lance Berkman. The other three players are young and have tons of potential, so their big turnarounds aren't entirely surprising, even if incredibly impressive. At least Upton, probably Kemp and maybe Sandoval were all predictable to have seasons like this. Kemp was definitely a bounce-back candidate, but not many would have envisioned him to be this huge in 2011. Berkman is 35 and many believed he was done as a productive major leaguer -- especially since the Cardinals were moving him back to the outfield. This one feels obvious, as opposed to the Avila/Gordon decision, which I'm still second-guessing ...

Wednesday: What if the Cy Young was decided with Manager of the Year criteria?

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:19 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 5:17 pm
 

How blockbusters explain Manager of the Year

Kirk Gibson

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated came up with what he calls the "Movie Plus-Minus" -- it's a stat he uses to rank movies. It's simply this: how much he expected to like a movie versus how much he actually liked a movie. It's how a good movie can still be seen as bad, because expectations were too high -- or how a bad movie can actually be good. Anyway it's all about the expectations in judging the experience, if you don't expect much and it turns out to be good you have a more favorable impression than maybe a movie that you expect to be pretty good and turns out to be about what you expected, even if that movie is much better in a vacuum.

That's exactly how it seems that the Manager of the Year Award in baseball is awarded. Manager of the Year is usually an easy formula:

(Wins) - (Expected wins) = MoY total.

The highest number of MoY gives you the hardware.

Last year nobody expected anything out of the San Diego Padres, yet they nearly won their division. So little was expected that it didn't even matter that the Giants won the division or the Padres piddled away a lead at the end, they were in it and that was enough for the voters to make Bud Black the winner. In the American League, Terry Francona may have done his best managing in 2010, but because he finished third and the Red Sox are expected to make the playoffs every year, he finished fourth in the voting with no first-place votes. Instead it was Ron Gardenhire, followed by Ron Washington and Joe Maddon.

The likely winner in the National League this year? Well, that's easy. Kirk Gibson is going to be the overwhelming, perhaps unanimous, winner because nobody expected the Diamondbacks to contend, and here they are. Manny Acta and Maddon, whose teams were picked to make the playoffs by just about nobody, are frontrunners for this year's award in the American League.

So which managers scored high on the Movie Plus-Minus? Let's look at this summer's blockbusters and who their managerial equivalents:

Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson as Rise of the Planet of the Apes: In April, it sounded ridiculous -- another Plaent of the Apes reboot? Didn't anyone see Tim Burton's attempt? This was a bad idea. A horrible idea. And that's what it looked like in Arizona, where the team started the season with Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright in the rotation. How about Russell Branyan and Melvin Mora. Geoff Blum? But like Gibson, Apes director Rupert Wyatt made all the right moves, making the ridiculous exciting and harnessing the energy and genius of his enigmatic star (James Franco and Justin Upton). While it may not be the best movie or take home either an Oscar or a World Series title, it certainly had the highest Movie Plus-Minus and Gibson will take home some hardware, even if his team doesn't.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke as X-Men: First Class: The franchise has had its hits, but stumbled in its last outing (X-Men: The Last Stand and 2010). Back with a new focus (the origin story for the movie and pitching for the Brewers), the movie not only lived up to tempered expectations, it exceeded them -- just like the Brewers. A thoroughly enjoyable season for the Brewers and a fun movie, both will be punished because there were decent expectations for the movie and the season, even if they delivered the goods. As a bonus, you can also use Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon to link X-Men First Class and Roenicke -- Roenicke manages Ryan Braun, who was in one of the world's worst commercials with Marissa Miller, who was on Entourage with Kevin Connolly, who was in Beyond All Boundaries with Bacon, the bad guy in X-Men: First Class.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle as Green Lantern: Neither ended up being being good, but compared to expectations, it was an Oscar and a World Series. If you weren't scared off by the words "Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan", you certainly were when you heard about the CGI suit. Expectations were incredibly low, just as they were in Pittsburgh (and after 18 losing seasons, why not?). That said, there were some bright spots -- the suit wasn't anywhere near as bad as expected and there was a sort of tongue-in-cheek nod to superhero cliches in the movie, while Andrew McCutchen is a superhero himself. Both had a  decent quick start, but in the end, both suffered as time went on and some concepts (a ring given to some dude by an alien, or Kevin Correia as an All-Star), proved too ridiculous for anyone to fully get behind the movie -- or the Pirates. In the end, though, you'll remember it as "not that bad" even if the Pirates do record their 19th consecutive losing season, but Hurdle will likely have a positive MoY score.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi as Super 8: You figured it would be good -- it was from J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, there was plenty of money behind it. Expectations are always high for the Yankees and neither Spielberg nor Abrams are strangers to hype. A solid leading man (Kyle Chandler, Derek Jeter) and surprising performances from others thrust into lead roles (the kids in the movie and the not-quite-kids like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia in the Yankees' rotation), made it a great summer. While some expectations can never be met, the Yankees and Super 8 got the job done. Of course, rarely are awards given for merely meeting expectations.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2: Everyone knew the story coming in -- Harry would defeat Voldemort and the trio of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would prove as unbeatable as the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone and Cloak of Invisibility. It was great fun to watch, but the source material was handed to director David Yates by J.K. Rowling, just as Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick gave Manuel this pitching and roster. Dismissed as just a press-button manager or director, the film succeeded, but those charged with doing so will have their role in making it so diminished because the perception is that it would be difficult to screw up the hand that was dealt.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy as Cowboys and Aliens: An excellent cast, a director with a good track record, beloved source material and, well, in the end it wasn't a hit.

Astros manager Brad Mills as The Smurfs: You expected it to be bad, but maybe not this bad.

Now, it'll just be interesting to see if Moneyball lives up to Art Howe's managing.

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Posted on: September 9, 2011 8:07 pm
Edited on: September 9, 2011 10:47 pm
 

Affeldt slices open hand, is out for season

By Matt Snyder

Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt was trying to separate some frozen hamburgers with a sharp knife and ended up slicing open his right hand. He damaged a nerve and had to undergo surgery. He will miss the rest of the season (via ExtraBaggs and JanieMcCAP).

Wow. That's a rough way to go out. I've certainly used knives to separate frozen burgers before, but only a butter knife. Affeldt had to have had a pretty sharp knife to have sliced his hand so deeply.

"I should have used hot water," Affeldt told reporters (Extra Baggs). "If I had used a butter knife, nothing would have happened."

Fortunately, Affeldt is a left-handed pitcher. If the damage was to his pitching hand, you'd have to worry about his career being in jeopardy, as nerve damage would likely hinder grips and feel. Even if he was able to throw again, his effectiveness would have been compromised. Instead, he'll surely be able to return next season once the cut is completely healed. It's his glove hand.

He certainly sounds ashamed about the accident (via Extra Baggs): "I know ... the coaching staff and players have been dealing with freak injuries all year and I feel bad I added to it."

Affeldt, 32, ends the season 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and three saves in 61 1/3 innings.

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Posted on: September 9, 2011 4:41 pm
 

On Deck: AL wild card far from certain

On Deck

By Evan Brunell


Follow all games live with CBSSports.com's GameTracker.

LackeyWild card hopes: John Lackey got his brains beat in against the Rangers spiking his ERA back over 6.00 to 6.11. If he can't push that ERA down by the end of the year, he will be the first pitcher since 2008 to register an ERA north of 6.00 while qualifying for the ERA title. But Lackey may not reach 162 innings, which he needs to to qualify for the ERA title. The righty's pitched better as of late with a 4.22 ERA in 10 starts between July 9 and Aug. 11, but right now, is currently the No. 2 pitcher in the rotation. Boston won't go deep in October if that continues to hold. The Red Sox take on the Rays in 7 of the next 10 games that could make the AL wild card a race if the Rays can show up. Tampa will offer up Wade Davis (4.50) ERA to battle Lackey. Red Sox vs. Rays, 7:10 p.m. ET

DodgersGiantsBest matchup: Two pitchers with sub-3 ERAs do battle Friday night as Clayton Kershaw, who could overtake Roy Halladay for the NL Cy Young Award down the stretch, seeks his 18th victory against a Giants club that has all but been written out of the playoffs. While Kershaw's 2.45 ERA is not significantly better than Tim Lincecum's 2.75, The Freak has a 12-12 record and is in danger of his first season posting a record .500 or lower. San Franciso has been unable to defeat Kershaw in five tries so far, while Lincecum has given up nine runs combined over his last two starts, covering 11 innings. Dodgers vs. Giants, 10:15 p.m. ET

HalladayMarcumBest matchup, Part II : Roy Halladay and Shaun Marcum. That's a pretty exciting matchup and it will take place Friday night as the Phillies look to take the second game of a four-game series against Milwaukee, it's potential (probable?) NLCS opponent. Halladay is going for his 17th victory on the backing of a 2.49 ERA while Marcum seeks his 13th with a 3.11 mark.The two were teammates in Toronto before Halladay was dealt after 2009 and Marcum after 2010. The two will oppose each other for the first time, and both pitchers are on hot streaks. Halladay's worst start of the year came against Milwaukee way back on April 19 while Marcum handcuffed the Phillies for one unearned run in six innings on April 18. Phillies vs. Brewers, 8:10 p.m. ET

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Posted on: September 8, 2011 2:23 am
 

3 Up, 3 Down: Williams' gem leads Angels

Jerome Williams

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jerome Williams, Angels: Williams was one of three pitchers to take a no-hitter into the sixth inning along with Oakland's Guillermo Moscoso and Philadelphia's Roy Oswalt, but neither of those pitchers was pitching for such high stakes. With the Rangers losing earlier in the day to the Rays, the Angels took the field Wednesday night knowing they could make up ground on their rivals in the only real playoff race left. Williams retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced before Seattle's Trayvon Robinson homered to lead off the sixth inning and put Los Angeles in a 1-0 hole. It looked as if Robinson's stellar start would go for naught until the Angels rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to give Robinson and the Angels the 3-1 victory and to pull to 2.5 games behind the Rangers. Robinson's homer was the only hit the Mariners would record, as Williams struck out five and walked one.

Mark Reynolds, Orioles: Reynolds struck out four times (fun stat for the guy who's always sitting next to me at baseball games, strikeouts are worth one out, just like any other way a player makes an out), but with two outs in the 11th inning, Reynolds came through against Hector Noesi with an RBI single to give Baltimore a 5-4 victory in the Bronx.

Carlos Pena, Cubs: Pena was hitting just .135 off of left-handed pitchers and Reds lefty Bill Bray had limited left-handed hitters to just a .188 batting average this season -- so Dusty Baker's decision to replace Logan Ondrusek with Bray was sound. It just didn't work. With the game tied at 3 and one on and one out in the eighth inning, Pena caught up to Bray's first-pitch slider that didn't slide and put it on Sheffield Avenue for a 6-3 Cubs victory. Pena has five home runs and 16 RBI against the Reds this season.


A.J. Burnett, Yankees: As far as Burnett starts go, the Yankee whipping boy wasn't too bad on Wednesday, allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings, striking out seven and walking four. No, those aren't great numbers, but it's certainly good for Burnett this season. However, he did make history -- and not the kind he'd like -- on Wednesday with three wild pitches. It was the eighth time he's recorded at least three wild pitches in his career, the most in the modern history. Nolan Ryan, Phil Niekro and Tommy John all had seven games with three wild pitches, which is pretty decent company. Burnett has 23 wild pitches this season, the most in baseball.

Daniel Bard, Red Sox: Thanks to Bard, Tim Wakefield failed in his eighth attempt at his 200th career victory. With Boston leading 8-6 in the eighth inning, Bard hit the first batter he faced and after loading the bases and recording two outs, he gave up the lead by walking Eric Thames and Jose Bautista to tie the game. Matt Albers then came in to relieve Bard and gave up a three-run double to Edwin Encarnacion, who drove in five in the game to give the Jays the lead for good. Wakefield wasn't great, allowing five runs (four earned) and three hits in five innings. He walked three and hit two more, but was in line to record the W.

Orlando Cabrera, Giants: Many around the Bay Area are wondering why Giants manager Bruce Bochy is sticking with Cabrera over rookie Brandon Crawford at shortstop everyday. It didn't get any better in the team's 3-1 loss to the Padres on Wednesday. In the eighth inning, Cabrera dropped an easy popup behind the infield by Wil Venable, who later scored on a Cameron Maybin triple to give San Diego a two-run cushion going into the ninth with closer Heath Bell on the mound. It was Cabrera's fifth error in 30 games with the Giants. He's also struggling at the plate, going 3 for 28 in the team's last 10 games, including an 0-for-3 night on Wednesday.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 7, 2011 11:01 am
Edited on: September 7, 2011 11:04 am
 

Pepper: Crane's purchase of Astros in doubt

Crane
By Evan Brunell

Limbo: The saga of Jim Crane as Astros owner continues to take a strange path, and that path may be headed toward a rejection.

BizofBaseball.com outlines the reasons behind why the deal has stalled... and why approval may be a pipe dream at this point. You'll have to click through to get the full breakdown, but the main takeaway is that Crane shares some sobering similarities with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, and we all know how that turned out.

For one, Crane had a contentious divorce himself that ended up in the papers back in 2000, where he reportedly came to blows with his son. Crane's history in court is also checkered, as allegations of racism and war-profiteering are very real concerns, and baseball understandably may not be interested in being affiliated with such a person, especially one whose companies were in federal court 130 times in 15 years.

Current Houston owner Drayton McLane expects a vote to be passed at any minute. But it won't come this week, and might not come at all unless commissioner Bud Selig and all 29 current owners can get on board. But even that might be rendered moot, as Crane is reportedly having a hard time keeping his investment group together, which is large and has investments as low as $25 million committed. Eventually, these investors may tire of having their money tied up in a venture that looks less and less ideal.

Time for a four-man: For a few years now, I've strongly believed that the best rotation would be that of four men plus a fifth starter who could start every now and then. I've blogged on it before, and now Jeff Passan comes out in favor of a four-and-swing rotation, even as teams move to six-man rotations these days. (Yahoo! Sports)

Managers of the year: You know it's September when you start seeing articles on who should win certain awards. Today, two candidates for manager of the year are discussed: The Angels' Mike Scioscia by the Orange County Times while Ron Roenicke of the Brewers gets love from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Return of Strasburg: The return of Stephen Strasburg was highly anticipated, and the phenom delivered Tuesday night with a dazzling performance. Here's a pitch F/X review of the outing. The biggest takeaway? Strasburg is throwing a new changeup. (Fangraphs)

Finally: It took three years, but Dustin McGowan has finally moved past all his injuries, surgeries and rehab. For the first time since July 2008, McGowan pitched in a game when he threw four innings Tuesday night. He wasn't lights out, but that's besides the point. (Toronto Star)

Done in Pittsburgh? Paul Maholm is shut down for the year due to injury, which may bring an end to his Pirates career. The club holds a club option, but it's anyone's guess if the option is exercised. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Venable a Bear: Wil Venable's brother has made the Chicago Bears football team. Winston was an undrafted free agent, but made the squad on special teams. (North County Times)

Beer me: If you're looking for a good beer, give AT&T Park in San Francisco a try, a destination that received a glowing beer review. (Fangraphs)

Montero wants to return: 'Zona catcher Miguel Montero will be in his final year of arbitration next season before becoming a free agent. The backstop has indicated his desire to stay, and the team has reciprocated, with both sides likely to discuss an extension after the season. (Arizona Republic)
 
Team USA
: Brett Jackson won't be called up to the Cubs this season, as he will instead play for Team USA in the Pan American Games. With a solid spring training, Jackson should cement himself as the Cubs' center fielder. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Back in L.A.: Rod Barajas has found a home in Los Angeles and is interested in returning. The Dodgers may disagree, though, and may prefer to go young at the position next year. (Los Angeles Times)

Social day: Speaking of L.A., it's hard to argue against the fact that the Dodgers have taken the biggest step back in public relations this year. As an attempt to reconnect with fans, the team is holding a Social September campaign, a month-long campaign that will give fans the ability to win prizes and interact with the team. (MLB.com)

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Posted on: September 5, 2011 10:59 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 10:59 pm
 

Giants called Jerome Williams 'Jeremy'

By Matt Snyder

This season, Angels pitcher Jerome Williams re-emerged in the big leagues for the first time since 2007. He's thrown 17 2/3 innings for the contending Angels and is a pretty good story. It's possible the Angels actually know his real name, too, which would set them apart from the 2003-2004 Giants.

You see, the Giants actually thought his name was "Jeremy." Being that it started when Williams was a rookie in 2003, he was too bashful to point out the error, so it continued for two seasons.

"I just rolled with it. I was a rookie and I didn’t want to tell anybody cause I was scared," Williams told Angels Blog, noting that "everybody" called him Jeremy.

He later rectified the situation by telling pitching coach Dave Righetti what his actual first name was.

“I just told Righetti one day. I’m doing a bucket, and I’m like Rags, we need to talk about something," Williams said to Angels Blog. "He’s like, ‘What?’ Ummmm. What’s my name? He’s like, ‘Jeremy.’ Ummmm. No. It’s not, actually.  It’s actually Jerome. He’s like, ‘so for a couple years I’ve been calling you Jeremy and it’s not even your name? Why didn’t you correct me?’ I told him the same: I was scared. ‘What were you scared about?’ I don’t know. And he slapped me.

It's interesting that the Angels are involved in a story like this -- though this time on the right end -- because they erroneously called Kendrys Morales "Kendry" for years until he spoke up this past offseason.

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Posted on: September 5, 2011 4:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 7:31 pm
 

Remembering the best races of the past 5 years



By Matt Snyder

This coming Wednesday will mark three weeks until the final day of Major League Baseball's regular season for 2011. While it's possible we'll have something go down to the wire -- Rangers-Angels, perhaps? -- many of the races seem to be turning into a yawnfest. With that in mind let's re-live the best race in each of the past five seasons.

2006 - NL Central
The Cardinals won the World Series that year, but almost blew a chance at the playoffs. With an injury-depleted roster, the Cards lost nine of 11 games from September 18-28, seeing a seven-game lead dwindle down to just a half-game over the Astros. A four-game sweep in Houston didn't help. The funny thing was, the Reds were actually tied for first with the Cardinals after winning on August 24 but went through a similar swoon to fall back. After pulling into that tie with the Cardinals, the Reds lost nine of 10 games. The Astros had simply been a mediocre team all season, but the futility of the teams above them made this a three-team race. The result was the Cardinals winning the division after buckling down and winning three of four to clinch with one day left in the season. They finished an uninspiring 83-78, with Astros finishing 1 1/2 games back and the Reds 3 1/2 back. Still, they won it all and proved all you have to do is get there to have a shot.

2007 - The entire NL
The Rockies get most of the ink here, and rightfully so, but every single race in the National League was a good one in '07 while the AL races weren't overly exciting at all. The Central division was actually the least exciting of the races in the NL, and the Cubs only won it by two games. The Brewers were tied with the Cubs on September 18, but the Cubs won four straight and built a 3 1/2 game lead. Like I said, that was the least exciting race in the NL. The Phillies trailed the Mets in the NL East -- and sometimes the Braves -- for the overwhelming majority of the season. In fact, the Phillies never saw first place until September 27, and even then it was a tie with the Mets. The Mets had a seven-game lead on September 12, but proceeded to lose six of seven games and see their lead shrink to 1 1/2 games. The Mets then won three straight and looked like they would hold on, but five consecutive losses then handed the lead to the Phillies. The Mets did win a game and pull to within a tie prior to the last game of the season, but lost that while the Phillies won and took the East. And now we get to the West/Wild Card race(s). It looked like the Padres and Diamondbacks were going to have a two-team race with the loser getting the Wild Card, but then the Rockies historical run happened. They won 14 of their last 15 games, including that extra-inning victory over the Padres in the one-game playoff -- in which Matt Holliday may or may not have touched home plate when scoring the winning run. The game was an absolute classic, with the Padres scoring two runs in the 13th, followed by the Rockies getting three off future Hall-of-Fame closer Trevor Hoffman in the bottom half of the inning. This game was for the Wild Card, as the D-Backs were able to finish the regular season with a one-game lead over both the Padres and Rockies. The Padres actually held a two-game lead over the Rockies with two games to play, and lost both of them -- only to lose in the one-game playoff as well. It should be noted that the Mets were only one game behind the Padres heading into the last day of the season, so a win would have made for a three-way tie in the Wild Card. Basically, what looked like a Mets, Diamondbacks, Padres and Cubs/Brewers playoffs became totally different after the Phillies and Rockies got different degrees of hot in the last few weeks. Maybe that season provides hope for an interesting September in 2011?

2008 - AL Central
The White Sox led by as many as six games in June, but a 10-game winning streak by the Twins knotted the two and they'd stay neck and neck for the rest of the season. The two teams were tied on three different days in September and weren't separated by more than 2 1/2 games all month. What was interesting here is the White Sox finished the season a half-game behind the Twins. There was a lingering rainout against the Tigers that the White Sox had to play the Monday following the conclusion of the actual season. If they won that, it would be a tie for first in the Central and the White Sox would host a one-game playoff. They beat the Tigers 8-2 and then took down the Twins 1-0 behind a masterful performance from John Danks (eight shutout innings, only two hits allowed). The only run the White Sox scored was a solo home run from Jim Thome in the bottom of the seventh.

2009 - AL Central
The Tigers had a seven-game lead after winning September 6, but went 11-15 the rest of the way. The Twins went 18-8 and ran them down, ending the season in a tie for the AL Central crown and forcing what would become an epic one-game playoff. Interestingly enough, the Tigers had a two-game lead heading into the penultimate series of the year, which was a four-game set against, yes, the Twins. It was in Detroit and the Tigers came away with a split. That should have been good enough, as the Tigers now had a two-game lead with three to play. Instead, the Tigers dropped two of three to the White Sox while the Twins swept the Royals. Thus, the one-game playoff would be played in the Metrodome. It would be one of the more exciting baseball games in recent memory. Nine innings weren't enough, as the game headed to extras knotted at four. The Tigers scored in the top of the 10th, but the Twins answered in the bottom half, spurred on by a leadoff triple from Michael Cuddyer. The Twins nearly won the game that very inning, but Alexi Casilla was hosed at home plate by left fielder Ryan Raburn on a potential sacrifice fly. Casilla came away the hero in the 12th, however, as he plated Carlos Gomez (pictured left with Joe Mauer) in the 12th with a walk-off single.

2010 - NL West/Wild Card
Like the Cardinals in 2006, the Giants ended up being the World Series champs after nearly missing out on the postseason. The Giants trailed the Padres by 6 1/2 games on August 25, but from September 4 until September 30, no more than two games separated the two teams. The pivotal series ended up being the Padres losing three of four at home to the lowly Cubs. This put them down three games with three to play. Wouldn't you know it, though, that the final three games were against the Giants. So the Padres could sweep the Giants and force a one-game playoff. Essentially, they controlled their own destiny, but would have to beat the Giants four times in a row. They did win the first two, but Jonathan Sanchez and five other pitchers would shut the Padres out on the final game of the regular season, and the Giants won the West by two games. In the Wild Card race, the Padres had the lead until that fateful Cubs' series, during which the Braves swept the Marlins and passed the Padres. Still, the Braves lost two games as the Padres took the first two from the Giants in the final weekend, meaning the Braves and Padres were tied with one game left. The Padres lost while the Braves survived two late rallies by the Phillies, winning 8-7.

So, will any of the present races provide the kind of excitement we've seen in the past few years? Considering the runner-up of the AL East is going to be the Wild Card, it appears our only chance is the AL West. Then again, would we have predicted the '07 Rockies or '09 Twins to make up the ground they did? That should at least provide some hope for fans of teams like the Giants and Indians this year.

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