Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:00 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 10:22 am
They've been serious underdogs since, oh, at least August. So why should now be any different as the Cardinals get set to tee it up with the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Except, one thing that might be worth remembering: Last time the Cardinals were here, in 2006, the Tigers were supposed to maul them. Next thing anyone knew, David Eckstein was hoisting the MVP trophy.
Is NLCS MVP David Freese the new Eckstein?
In their 18th World Series in club history, the Cardinals are about to tangle with a Texas team that has not lost consecutive games in nearly two months. The Rangers have played 40 games since their last back-to-back losses, when they dropped three in a row at home against the Red Sox from Aug. 23-25.
Of course, they're also about to tussle with a Texas team that ripped through Detroit in the AL Championship Series without obtaining a win from a starting pitcher. Sound familiar? Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter earned the Game 3 win despite only going five innings, and the St. Louis bullpen earned the other three wins.
The Airborne Rangers surely will be favored in the World Series, given that behemoth AL lineup and a bullpen in which Alexi Ogando qualifies as a lethal weapon.
"It's going to be very interesting," Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal said moments after his team eliminated Milwaukee in the NLCS. "We've got to keep playing the way we do. We've got to keep playing good defense and getting a hit when we need it."
"The Rangers are scary," third baseman David Freese said. "They're a scary team. They've been doing it all along the last few years. You look at that lineup, you look at that staff, that's going to be a battle. And I think we're a team that can match up with them a little bit. They're confident. We're confident."
As the champagne sprayed, Manager Tony La Russa said he had not had time to give much thought to Texas, other than him and pitching coach Dave Duncan quietly sneaking a conversation Saturday night about which way to set up the Cardinals' rotation. La Russa said they had one plan for if the Cardinals won in Game 6 on Sunday -- the plan that presumably will be put into motion -- and another plan for if the Brewers extended them to Game 7 on Monday.
Being that ace Chris Carpenter was set to start Game 7 ... surely, he'll now get the ball for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night in St. Louis.
"Texas has an unbelievable team," reliever Octavio Dotel said. "They have great players. They have great hitters, great pitchers, a great bullpen.
"What is going to happen, I don't know. We've got to go game by game, one by one, and see what happens. Not try to win it all in one game."
Dotel talked about Texas' "great right-handed hitters", mentioning Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young.
The Cardinals will go from the very familiar against the Brewers (both in the NL Central, they faced each other 18 times this season) to the totally unknown against the Rangers (they did not face each other in interleague play this year).
"Throw strikes," reliever Jason Motte said. "You've gotta get ahead of guys. Mix and match. I've seen those guys play. If you go 2 and 1 or 3 and 1 [in the count], it's going to be a long series."
The one man who might know the most about both of these teams is Cardinals reliever Arthur Rhodes. Practically a senior citizen now in baseball years (he's 41), Rhodes started the season with the Rangers, where he went 3-3 with a 4.81 ERA in 32 games, before Texas released him on Aug. 8. St. Louis signed him three days later.
Used strictly as a left-handed specialist, Rhodes was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA for the Cards, working only 8 2/3 innings in 19 games.
"Those are my friends," Rhodes said of the Rangers. "But I've still got my team right here. I love St. Louis. These are my boys.
"We'll do our thing. We match up good with them. We have a similar lineup, but I know our bullpen is better than theirs."
Said Freese: "I definitely have been watching the ALCS, for sure. And that's been some good ball over there. That's a dynamite team, and we definitely have to be ready for them."
Posted on: December 7, 2010 1:02 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 12:41 am
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Paging the Los Angeles Angels, attention Angels.
Free agent Carl Crawford is still out there. So are free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre and free agent closer Rafael Soriano ... and, yes, free agent ace Cliff Lee.
After getting aced out of Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia two years ago and failing to produce a leadoff hitter to replace Chone Figgins last year, the heat is on the Angels to swing and connect this winter. On something.
Crawford has been a high priority, according to sources, though late Tuesday night it was confirmed that the Angels were in contact with Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, and that that dialog is expected to remain ongoing.
"We're conducting business. What other clubs do doesn't affect how we operate."
Maybe that helps explain why the Angels, who took hard runs at both Teixeira and Sabathia two winters ago, have swung and missed lately. What other clubs do does affect the rest in this game, because market values are set.
Here in Florida, Crawford's market is still taking shape, and you bet the Werth contract will be a barometer.
The Angels are one of the few teams with pockets deep enough to pull up a chair at Crawford's table. One break they may have gotten in the past few days is that in acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox may be out on Crawford -- at least, at seven or eight years.
The Red Sox are said to have agreed with Gonzalez on the parameters of a seven-year deal worth between $161 and $168 million that likely will be finalized sometime around Opening Day. It's hard to see Boston signing two players to contracts that long in one winter.
Other than the Angels' interest, things have been awfully quiet here regarding Crawford.
The Angels always operate with the secrecy of a CIA spy, but until Tuesday night and the Lee revelation, there was little indication that much of anything was happening.
Beltre? The Angels currently are not taking an aggressive path there, according to a source with knowledge of the club's thinking.
Soriano? No indicators there, either.
Reagins, scrambling because of a flight delay Monday, was among the last GM's -- and, far as anybody can tell, the last -- to arrive at the Winter Meetings.
Owner Arte Moreno is known for being aggressive. But over the past couple of years, he hasn't been aggressive enough.
The Angels got worse last year. They looked old. They were slow.
The decision to let Figgins walk backfired when Erick Aybar did not develop into a leadoff hitter. The decision to let Guerrero walk blew up when he had a great year and Hideki Matsui was disappointing.
Suddenly, the shift of power in the AL West is becoming evident.
Texas not only won the division, but the Rangers are loaded with good, young talent. They're not going anywhere.
The A's have the kind of good, young pitching that has them poised to recapture some of the glory of old.
Seattle? Well, let's not get carried away here. Not everybody in the division is on the move.
Right now, though, in terms of forward momentum, the Angels are more Seattle than Texas.
Mike Scioscia said Tuesday that the return to health of first baseman Kendry Morales, who slammed 34 home runs and collected 108 RBIs two summers ago before suffering a season-ending broken leg early in 2010, will be a boon in 2011.
Looks like a whole lot of scapegoats. And so far, not much else.
Posted on: October 3, 2010 10:26 pm
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the end, a $40 million payroll was good for 29th in the majors, 90 victories and one big heartbreak on the final Sunday of the season.
The Padres pushed the Giants to the brink of a one-game playoff back in San Diego on Monday, but couldn't push them over the edge. San Francisco's 3-0 win here Sunday earned the Giants the NL West title, and Atlanta's win over Philadelphia gave the Braves the NL wild-card berth.
The Padres head home for the winter after a summer of vastly exceeding expectations.
Even in losing, this was one special team.
"It shows that if you have a bunch of guys committed to the team concept, you can compete in this league," second baseman David Eckstein said, "We had a good mix of guys. That's the tough thing about it.
"Because no one is going to care because we didn't make it."
Sad truth is, Eckstein probably is right -- but he should be wrong.
What the Padres did should have been headline news. They were the game's best story throughout the season.
They were the perfect team for these roiling economic times. They stretched their budget. They made more with less. They were responsible and paid attention to small details.
"A lot of clubs out there, small-market clubs, I'd love for them to take a page out of what we did," Eckstein said. "It proves anything is possible."
The Padres held first place from June 18 through September 16.
They and the Yankees were the only clubs to not lose more than three consecutive games until the Padres were ambushed by a 10-game losing streak beginning on Aug. 26 that ultimately became a mortal wound.
"It's a team game made up of individual battles," manager Bud Black said. "This truly was a team in the sense that guys cared about each other. The unselfishness. Guys understood what I was doing and what the coaches were doing.
"It was fabulous how strong, as a group, the team concept was. It was awesome."
The whole was far greater than the sum of the parts. And as these Padres quietly prepared for their final charter flight home of 2010, though it was a somber clubhouse, there was pride in what they had accomplished.
"I'm never one to be disappointed at the end of the year," said slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who now, along with closer Heath Bell, probably will re-enter the trade rumors market this winter. "You give it your all. When you play your heart out every day, you have nothing to hang your head about.
"Whether we came up one game short or 10 games short, I gave it all I had.
Likes: The Giants are deserving champions. Totally revamped lineup, and together with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Pat Burrell and Co. will be tough in the playoffs. ... Every time I come to San Francisco, the beauty of AT & T Park hits me all over again. ... On to the playoffs. ... Michaelangelo's Café in North Beach. ... Congratulations to Coach Jack Giarmo, my old classmate, for notching his 100th win as Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central rolled over Grosse Ile 49-13 on the high school football fields Friday night. Coach Jack has the Falcons rolling again, I love it.
Dislikes: It's always a severe and harsh split when a baseball season ends. People you see practically every day of the summer, suddenly, you're done seeing some of them until next February, March or April. Reaching the end of a season is kind of like reaching the end of the school year. It's been a long grind and you're happy to be done, but you'll miss seeing a lot of friends. Looking forward to seeing some of those friends over these next several weeks in the playoffs.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Educated in a small town
-- John Mellencamp, Small Town
Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:17 pm
The strange late-season saga of infielder Felipe Lopez has taken another unlikely twist: Blowing off the possibility of playing in a pennant race in the season's last 10 days, Lopez has agreed to join the Boston Red Sox after spurning the Padres.
Released by the Cardinals earlier this week after a disappointing offensive performance (.231 average, .310 on-base percentage) and being habitually late, the Padres moved in and claimed him off waivers. After losing Jerry Hairston Jr. for the season to a stress fracture in his leg, the Padres have been frantically looking to add infield depth for the season's final push.
Lopez, however, vetoed the waiver claim and then signed with the Red Sox.
Though Lopez would not have been eligible for San Diego's playoff roster, Hairston's injury has left the Padres alarmingly short of infield depth as they battle San Francisco and Colorado for the NL West division title and Atlanta for the wild-card slot.
Miguel Tejada, 36, has become the everyday shortstop since his late-July acquisition from Baltimore. Initially, the plan was for Tejada to plug into shortstop while Hairston played second until David Eckstein returned from a calf injury. After that, the Padres intended to mix Tejada into shortstop with Hairston and into third base with Chase Headley.
Headley is in a .194 slide (7 for 36) over his past 10 games and looks fatigued. His workload has been heavy: In just his second full season, he ranked fifth in the NL with 581 at-bats heading into Friday's series opener with Cincinnati.
Without Hairston -- and with Lopez declining to join the stretch run -- the Padres are left with Headley at third, Tejada at short, Eckstein at second and Everth Cabrera as a backup shortstop/second baseman.
Why would the Red Sox want him at this point? Among other reasons, one industry source said the Red Sox made the move so that they would receive a compensatory draft pick if someone signs him on the free agent market this winter.
Posted on: September 9, 2010 2:07 am
SAN DIEGO -- Following a victory over German troops in Egypt during World War II in 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
And as they were saying in the San Diego clubhouse after sweeping the Dodgers with a 4-0 whitewashing on Wednesday night to regain traction following that vicious 10-game losing streak. ...
"The baseball season is long and there are ebbs and flows," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Our season, up until that point, was pretty steady. I think it's a tribute to our guys. We hit a bump in the road, and I thought our guys showed resolve. We pitched well, played sound defense and executed."
Their breath back, the first-place Padres now head into a colossal four-game, showdown series with San Francisco beginning on Thursday evening, a season hanging in the balance.
With the Giants losing in Arizona on Wednesday, the Padres pushed their NL West lead -- six games as recently as 12 days ago -- back up to two games.
The Padres have beaten San Francisco in nine of 11 games this season, but the Giants have undergone significant changes from what the Padres saw in April and May (Buster Posey, Pat Burrell, Jose Guillen, Cody Ross, Madison Bumgarner).
Latos, signed by Padres scout Joe Bochy, brother of Giants manager Bruce Bochy, on Tuesday set a major-league record by working his 15th consecutive start in which he worked at least five innings with two or fewer runs allowed.
With the Giants on deck and a two-game lead in their grasp, it turns out that 10-game losing streak was not the end for the Padres. Given their sweep of the Dodgers, it probably was not even the beginning of the end.
But it clearly was the end of a beginning that saw them join the Yankees as the only teams in the game not to lose more than three in a row, the end of a beginning that was almost too smooth to believe.
Now, in whipping the Dodgers, the Padres looked like themselves again.
They won Wednesday's game behind six shutout innings from rookie Cory Luebke, 25, who was making just the second big-league start of his career. Just fill in the blanks by day, the pitching has been excellent. Black said Luebke will get the ball again for another start five days hence in Colorado.
The three-run sixth against Chad Billingsley was as good an indicator as anything that the whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-th
"We're getting back to the way we play," Eckstein said.
"These are the things we've worked on because we knew we needed to do them," Black said. "When they go our way, it doesn't surprise us. We've worked on these things as far back as February."
Gonzalez, in a conversation before the game, said that the first several games of the losing streak was simply business as usual for the Padres -- they were playing sound ball but were simply losing. Toward the end of the streak, though, Gonzalez said he could see some of the players pressing. That eased immensely, he said, with the first two wins over the Dodgers.
So ... a new beginning for the Padres?
"We hope so," Eckstein said. "We're not going to answer that question until we clinch or don't clinch, because we'll hear about it the rest of our lives if we don't. We just have to focus on playing our game."
Likes: Trevor Hoffman earning career save No. 600. Congratulations to a man who has had a very difficult season but remains pure class. ... Former Cincinnati ace Gary Nolan visiting with the Reds in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago. ... Intense scoreboard watching every night now. ... The portable iPod players. It's given yet another new life to my iTouch. Reds manager Dusty Baker has one that travels with him -- it's usually queued up in the manager's office -- and he jokes that it's his "roommate." ... The Arcade Fire's new disc, The Suburbs. ... Digging this season of Mad Men. ... Ah, back to school. A young lady was wearing this T-shirt in the St. Louis airport the other day: "We didn't come to college to find our husbands. We came to find our bridesmaids."
Dislikes: The Dodgers are playing like they've quit. Totally disinterested. ... Arizona manager Kirk Gibson being stung by a scorpion at his Arizona home this week. Among the only things more disgusting than scorpions are tarantulas. ... Human beings continue to get larger and larger with each generation. Airplane aisles continue to get smaller and smaller. The future of air travel? I don't even want to know. Let's just say that the larger people and smaller aisles are going to clash pretty badly here in a few years.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Everyone I know
-- Jackson Browne, Running on Empty
Posted on: August 27, 2010 9:09 pm
Edited on: August 27, 2010 10:11 pm
The first-place Padres have met every challenge tossed their way this summer, and now another big one is in front of them: Jerry Hairston Jr. is expected to be out of the lineup for at least two weeks with a strained right elbow, and he said it might be three or four weeks until he's back to full strength.
Hairston underwent an MRI exam in San Diego on Friday. He is expected to be placed on the 15-day disabled list sometime before Saturday afternoon's game against Philadelphia and replaced on the roster by Everth Cabrera, the young infielder who was optioned out when the Padres acquired Miguel Tejada last month.
"I was worried," said Hairston Jr., hitting .249 with a .305 on-base percentage, 10 homers and 50 RBI this season. "It could have been a lot worse."
Hairston Jr. might have become the Padres' most indispensible man this side of Adrian Gonzalez during sparkplug David Eckstein's month-long stint on the disabled list. He plugged second base nicely while Eckstein was recovering, just the latest evidence of a job well done in 2010.
His 101 starts this season have been far-flung: He's started 53 games this season at shortstop, 41 at second base, four in right field, two in left field and one at third base. He's also batted leadoff a team-high 47 times.
Manager Bud Black said the Padres would be "monitoring" Hairston Jr. and called the injury a "cumulative" one. Meaning, Hairston Jr. wasn't injured on one play.
"The last six weeks it's really started bothering me," Hairston Jr. said. "And it just got worse."
It didn't help his peace of mind that he was en route to Friday's MRI exam when he heard the devastating news that similar tests showed a torn ligament in the elbow of Washington ace Stephen Strasburg. Hairston, though, eluded that sort of terrible news.
He will not throw for two weeks and then, he said, "we'll see where I'm at."
The Padres are contemplating whether to place him on the disabled list.
"I can still hit," he said.
Even at that, the Padres do not want to take any chances. As such, they had Cabrera on a plane Friday night. Cabrera, 23, is a solid fielder who was struggling offensively when they sent him to Triple-A Portland to make room for Tejada. In 63 games with the Padres this season, Cabrera was hitting .205 with one homer, 22 RBI and eight steals.
Posted on: July 29, 2010 12:58 pm
With sparkplug second baseman David Eckstein disabled and young shortstop Everth Cabrera looking lost, the first-place San Diego Padres have sharpened their focus to acquiring a middle infielder before the July 31 trade deadline.
Their chief target appears to be Baltimore's veteran Miguel Tejada, a player they think could both help their offense and relieve some of the current stress on the infield. But the Orioles are fielding inquiries from other clubs on Tejada as well -- among others, they've talked with Philadelphia and St. Louis -- and the Padres might not have the goods to complete the deal.
Eckstein went onto the disabled list with a right calf strain July 21, and Padres manager Bud Black indicated Wednesday that he may not be quite ready to return when he is eligible on Aug. 5.
"The degree of the strain shouldn't keep him out for a prolonged period of time," Black said. "We're going to make sure David goes through all of the right steps to come back."
Eckstein is hitting .279 with a .326 on-base percentage and is statistically the most difficult regular to strike out in the National League.
Jerry Hairston Jr., who had been getting starts at shortstop, has been playing second base in Eckstein's absence. But that means Cabrera, who is hitting just .201 with a .270 on-base percentage, is getting more regular time at short and is not faring well under the daily grind.
Because of that, the Padres have shifted their priorities from acquiring a starting pitcher and/or an outfielder to middle infield.
"Jed's trying like heck," one source said of general manager Jed Hoyer's efforts during his first July trade deadline as the man in charge.
The Padres, who continue to own the best record in the NL, rank only 14th in the league with a .252 batting average and 14th with a .377 slugging percentage. However, they are hitting .276 with runners in scoring position.
Tejada, 36, is hitting .269 with seven home runs and 39 RBI in 97 games for the Orioles this season. Though he's playing third base, the Padres think he could return to his shortstop roots for some games here and there -- particularly until Eckstein returns and Hairston Jr. is freed up to return to short. The Padres also think he could play some outfield.
Tejada is owed roughly $2 million for the rest of 2010 and, if the Orioles do move him, probably will cost the acquiring team a mid-level prospect.
Posted on: August 29, 2008 11:08 pm
Bitten by multiple injuries and still shuddering at the memory of losing a handful of key players last October, the Los Angeles Angels continue casting about for a proven, veteran shortstop before Sunday's midnight EDT trade deadline.
The urgency has arrived because players acquired after Sunday evening's deadline are not eligible for postseason rosters.
"I don't know if I'd term it 'urgent'," general manager Tony Reagins said Friday, declining to address specific names. "I'd term it 'actively pursuing.'
"With Aybar and Kendrick, we don't think it will be any longer than two weeks."
The Angels placed Kendrick on the 15-day disabled list Thursday, though he says that his hurting left hamstring isn't as severe as when he injured it in mid-April in Seattle. Then, he missed 42 games.
The Angels, who led the AL West by 16 games entering Friday's contest with Texas, are hopeful that Kendrick, batting .308 with a .334 on-base percentage, will return by mid-to-late September and be a threat during the playoffs. They also believe that Aybar will be ready to play sooner rather than later.
But they also believe adding depth is important at this point based in part on how easily Boston bounced them out of the playoffs last October.
Then, outfielder Gary Matthews missed all three games of the Red Sox's sweep with a bad knee, outfielder Garret Anderson struggled miserably while battling conjunctivitis, first baseman Casey Kotchman missed Game 3 when he had to be hospitalized with severe flu-like symptoms and pitcher Bartolo Colon's shoulder injury precluded the Angels from including him on their playoff roster.
"Right now, middle infield depth for our organization, there certainly is room to establish more depth," manager Mike Scioscia said.
Maybe both men will begin to swing the bat better if they consistently stay in the lineup for the next two or three weeks while Aybar and Kendrick are sidelined.
But there's no way of predicting that, and it seems awfully long odds to play for a team that made a bold statement by acquiring slugger Mark Teixeira from Atlanta at the July 31 trade deadline.
It's clear that the Angels think they have a team that can win a World Series this year. And no matter how much they like, say, Wood -- he was rated as the organization's top prospect for 2008 by Baseball America -- they're not in position, this late in the season, to send guys out for a test drive.
The attraction to Vizquel, 41, is that he can still field very well (though his range has diminished with age) and he has significant playoff experience.
McDonald might be as good a shortstop as there is defensively, though he isn't a threat with the bat (.218). Scutaro was a valuable utilityman in Oakland before being traded to Toronto and can play all four infield positions. Two scouts this week said Eckstein is showing signs of age.
Castro also is a versatile middle infielder with a weak bat (.194 for Baltimore so far this season).
"Different things have been thrown about," Reagins said. "But for me, it has to make sense to us."