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: August 24, 2011 12:35 am
ANAHEIM, Calif -- Highlights have been few and far between for the 2011 Chicago White Sox, but Paul Konerko put up one for the books when he cracked his 2,000th career hit in the eighth inning of Tuesday's series opener here.
The hit surely was especially meaningful to Konerko in that it was an RBI single against Ervin Santana that tied the game at 4-4 at a point in the season where the White Sox are desperate for every run, every win they can get. Konerko, a beloved figure on Chicago's South Side and widely respected throughout the game, becomes only the 13th player in club history to collect his 2,000th hit.
It's been a boom season for the 2,000-hit club: Konerko is the sixth man to join that club this summer. Previously this summer, Houston's Carlos Lee, San Francisco's Orlando Cabrera (then with the Indians), Cincinnati's Scott Rolen, St. Louis' Albert Pujols and Texas' Michael Young each collected his 2,000th hit.
The White Sox dugout immediately erupted in cheers, then most of the players began waving for the baseball as soon as the play concluded with Alejandro De Aza crossing the plate. With the game 4-4, White Sox manager removed Konerko, who was DHing, for pinch-runner Brent Lillibridge.
Konerko also is at 393 career homers and soon could become only the sixth active player with 400 homers and 2,000 hits, joining Pujols, the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta's Chipper Jones, Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero and Minnesota's Jim Thome.
Tags: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Carlos Lee, Chicago White Sox, Chipper Jones, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Jim Thome, Michael Young, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Orlando Cabrera, Paul Konerko, San Francisco Giants, Scott Rolen, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Vladimir Guerrero
Posted on: August 18, 2011 3:14 pm
Jim Thome. Carlos Zambrano. Discuss. ...
FROM: Jack M.
Re.: Thome's 600th HR, like his career, comes with class, style
I attended a charity auction in the Peoria area in the winter following the 2002 season. The organizers reached out to Thome, asking if he could attend. He said he couldn't, due to a prior commitment, but donated various autographed items to the auction. Then, on the night of the auction, he showed up unannounced about a half-hour before it began, donated a sizable check, and gave a short speech. After this, he went to the airport and flew back to his prior commitment -- being introduced as a member of the Phillies. The guy's whole life was changing, and he made time for a small auction back home. Ever since then, I root for Jim Thome -- even against my favorite teams.
I know there are those who say, bottom line, it's about what they do on the field. And that's true. But watching a class act like Thome join the 600 club sure is more fun than watching a miscreant who can barely squeeze his enlarged head through the front entrance to 600.
Greetings! The difference between the Big Zero and Jim Thome, there is a reason why I cannot support certain players. And for the Union to file a grievance? The Big Zero CLEANED OUT HIS LOCKER. One may say that was done in the Heat of the Moment but, having played COLLEGIATE baseball, do you realize just how long it takes to do that ? The Big Zero has earned his nickname, and I wish the spoiled little child well with whatever he does in life.
You must be hell on wheels at the dart board, your points are so accurate. And very magnanimous to wish Zambrano well, by the way.
FROM: Wayne A.
Scott: If you check the background of Jim Thome, I believe you will find he went through high school at Limestone H.S. in Bartonville, Ill., which is across I-474 from Peoria. Almost everyone says he is from Peoria. If I am incorrect on this matter please correct me.
I checked, and you're right. Apologies to good ol' Limestone/Bartonville. I expect to see a Paul Bunyan-like statue of Thome there one day.
Re.: After yet another Zambrano meltdown, will Cubs learn lesson?
ZOOM-brano -- the Jim Piersall of this decade. Haven't we all seen enough of this emotional infant? A bowel movement with teeth is what he is.
Oh, man ... hold on ... I'm still doubled over in laughter ... I'll get to an answer in a moment. ... hahahahahaha.
FROM: Terry F.
I don't think that Z should be on the DQ List. This isn't really about Zambrano. He is what he is. This is about the Cubs. I agree with you in that they need to pay him whatever they owe him and move on. They supported him in his first fight, which was a mistake. When the second fight occurred, or perhaps before as there were plenty of other incidents like throwing the umpire out, they should have traded him or released him. Zambrano is responsible for his own actions, but the Cubs deserve far more blame than Zambrano this time, because they knew what they were dealing with and they let it happen.
Really hard to argue against those well-reasoned points. Cubs, your move.
Well done. Great article. However, it's not so easy cutting loose a guy making that much cabbage knowing you're NOT going to get ANYTHING in return. Are you forgetting the Cubs had two extensive injuries in their starting rotation this year? They even tried trading Carlos before the deadline. They even put him on waivers. NOBODY claimed him. Nobody wants him. The Cubs best hope is Carlos really does retire so it voids the contract. The very last thing the Cubs will do is let him go via release and by suggesting that, you don't know as much as you think you do.
Yeah, the Cubs never should have extended him in the first place. But if you remember, at the time of his extension, MANY teams would have paid top dollar for him based on his numbers. He was one of the top pitching free agents out there that year. The Cubs best solution is to do what they did. Let him sit for a month and NOT pay him. Let things cool off. See what he says in a month. If he retires? Awesome. If not? Move him to the Restricted list so he doesn't pitch again this year and try once again to move him in the offseason. If by Spring Training he's still hanging around like a snot, THEN you release him.
Cabbage. Love the term. And you're right, Zambrano is making so much cabbage even Peter Rabbit would be exquisitely jealous -- and better behaved.
FROM: Dorothy B.
He should be fired. I didn't watch all the game, but figured with that many home runs against him, he'd throw a fit and he did.
See? If you can see these things coming, why can't the Cubs?
I know he's a f------ nut, but why was he still in the game after giving up five homers?
Legitimate characterization of the Big Z(ero), and legitimate point regarding the Cubs.
FROM: Dan S.
Re.: Weekend Buzz: Giants need to fix their puny offense
Understand your column about Giants offense, but on the other hand they have three people in the ERA leaders and one at 3.5. Their game is low scoring, if they keep the opposing team in the game then they have a chance. If they had an offense like Cincy, for example, and score seven to eight runs but the pitchers give up eight or nine, what good is the high scoring offense? Sure it would take pressure off their pitchers to get four runs early.
Valid points, and we see the troubles the Reds are having. But isn't there a middle ground somewhere the Giants could find? The best argument right now is how banged up they are.
You're right on target. As a longtime Giants fan, it's really frustrating to see such futility at the plate. Outside of maybe Sandoval and Schierholtz, all the rest are hitting well below their career avg's. Belt could be a spark...two dingers [the other day] in Florida was a good start.
The Giants need a few new Belt loops.
Likes: The season Michael Young is having for the Rangers. ... Merle Haggard's take on Texas manager Ron Washington's lovely phrase, "That's the way baseball go." It's now a Haggard song, and you can download it on iTunes. The money goes to Rangers charities. ... Modern Family. Terrific characters and snappy writing. ... Steve Earle's book I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Very entertaining read, with lots of colorful, skid-row characters. Let's just say one of the main characters is a junkie doctor who helped country legend Hank Williams score dope and may have been the last person to see Williams alive (fiction, this book is fiction). Earle's CD of the same name is terrific, too -- especially the track Waiting For the Sky to Fall.
Dislikes: Being a captive audience to merchants on the other side of the airport security screening and paying something like $12 for a small "breakfast" to go at Starbucks. Highway robbery is what it is. In this crappy economy and in these days in which airplanes have scrapped food, that's got to be a great business to go into: Running a food shop between the security screening and the flight gates. I imagine those people all live in mansions, with servants, eating prime rib and lobster every evening.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Kiss a little baby
"Give the world a smile
"And if you take an inch
"Give them back a mile
"'Cause if you lie like a rug
"And you don't give a damn
"You're never going to be
"As happy as a clam"
-- John Prine, It's a Big Old Goofy World
Posted on: August 17, 2011 9:18 pm
Last winter, the Rangers tried hard to trade Michael Young.
Wednesday, Texas manager Ron Washington called him the team's Most Valuable Player.
You never know in this game, and Young, already highly respected by teammates and opponents alike, has zoomed to the top of the list with the way he's handled what during the winter and even spring was a very awkward situation.
"As far as I'm concerned, he is the MVP," Washington said before Wednesday night's game in Anaheim. "It could be on this team. It could be in the league.
"He's certainly the MVP for us."
A designated hitter most of the season after the Rangers signed free agent Adrian Beltre -- the move the precipitated the Rangers' very public exploration of a Young trade -- Young is back at third, however temporarily, while Beltre's left hamstring heals on the disabled list.
Entering Wednesday's game, Young was second in the AL in batting (.340), tied for fourth in RBI (85), second in hits (165)seventh in total bases (242) and tied for fourth in doubles (35).
He was second in the league in hitting against left-handers (.365) and tied for fourth in batting against right-handers (.331).
Teammate Josh Hamilton (.304, 15 homers, 67 RBI) won the AL MVP award last season.
"If we get lucky enough to hold on [to first place in the AL West], I'm more than certain he'll be considered for [league] MVP," Washington said, correctly, of Young. "He'll have to be a strong candidate, because he's going to drive in 100 runs."
"I appreciate support from my manager," Young said when the comments were relayed to him. "I love playing for Wash. We have a ton of respect for each other. It's been a great relationship.
"I definitely appreciate hearing that from my manager."
Young stopped short of saying his production and Washington's support are vindication for what happened over the winter.
"Not really," Young said. "Either you're motivated or you're not. If you need external factors to motivate yourself, you're probably not well off in the first place.
"I have a lot of goals, but they all start and end with the team."
Could he have envisioned this entire scene -- his numbers, the Rangers threatening to run away with the AL West and him wearing a Texas jersey the entire time -- this spring?
"Once I got to spring training, yeah, this is the way I envisioned it," Young said. "I'm a ballplayer. I don't want anything during the winter. I want quiet winters.
"But once I got to spring training, it's all about baseball."
It sure was, and it sure is. Retaining Young made the Rangers deeper, and as they wait for Beltre's hammy to heal, they haven't missed a beat. And while Young has DH'd more than he would like, his affinity for Washington and for this particular group of teammates have softened that blow.
"I've always appreciated him," Washington said. "I've appreciated him a lot more this year because we've had to rely on him a lot more. The past couple of years, he had some help. That help has dissipated, with Vlad Guerrero gone and now with Beltre down. Michael has stepped up.
"Everything he's given us this year, we've needed."
Posted on: July 13, 2011 12:53 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 2:34 pm
PHOENIX -- Funny story from the dugout of the American League during Tuesday night's All-Star Game, passed along by Twins beat man extraordinaire and Minnesota cult hero LaVelle E. Neal III:
Midgame, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera started feeling soreness in his right oblique. So AL manager Ron Washington approached Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer and, looking to sub him into the game and knowing he was going to have to remove Cabrera, asked Cuddyer if he'd rather play first base or third.
First, Cuddyer said. No question.
See, Cuddyer hates third. It's about the only position he hasn't played with the Twins.
Not long after, with Washington also looking to get Texas' Michael Young into the game, word circulated that Young would prefer to play first over third because, then, he would have played every infield position in an All-Star Game.
Sorry, Cuddyer said, smiling and slapping Young on the back. I got first.
Dislikes: Too many All-Stars at 84, too many starting pitchers not playing for the American League (Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander, David Price, James Shields, etc.) and too many substitutions. The game needs revamping. Again.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
-- The Cars, Magic
Posted on: July 12, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 7:17 pm
Washington waited many, many years before getting his first managerial opportunity. And then, in his fourth season guiding Texas, he led the Rangers to their first-ever World Series. This after he tested positive for cocaine during his third season and survived.
Yes, Washington is a survivor, an underdog, however you want to put it. He is beloved by his players -- just as he was by players in Oakland during his 11 seasons as an Athletics coach. Part of it is his baseball knowledge. Part of it is his humanity -- his compassion, his understanding, his ability to relate to people. And part of it is his directness, which comes peppered in his own unique, colorful language.
Which is why one of tonight's All-Star Game highlights figures to occur in the privacy of the American League clubhouse, away from the public eye.
"His pre-game speech is going to be a classic," Rangers designated hitter Michael Young says. "I'm going to have to record it. I'm going to make sure I have a front-row seat.
"It might be the first All-Star speech where f--- is said about 30 times."
Young's point is well taken, though his accuracy is ripe to be questioned.
Let's remember, the Dodgers' Tommy Lasorda managed the NL club five times.
Posted on: February 8, 2011 2:43 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 2:44 pm
Last mail call before spring training. Now, doesn't THAT sound nice? ...
FROM: Bert L.
May need some sand to dump on Burnett as well as salt to make sure he's good and thawed for spring camp and beyond.
You'd really put A-1 on filet mignon? You're about as smart as a bag of hair.
Depends on who's cooking the filet mignon. If I'm grilling it, no need for A-1.
FROM: Alex B.
I think he made a lot of fans and, as I wrote, he put a human face on the umpiring profession. And some of those guys really need it.
FROM: Kurt K.
Very well written article on Joyce. It was really interesting to see what he has been up to recently. What a class act Joyce is. I am sorry that it had to happen to Armando Galarraga but I am actually glad it did happen. It just shows what true sportsmanship is all about and why baseball is so much classier than all other professional sports.
Another thing: When baseball sells seats to a World Series, the seats are actually there for the ticketholders.
FROM: John B.
I like your thinking but here's why it won't work: The Mets are not on Young's list of eight clubs to whom he will accept a trade. I don't see Young being interested in playing for the Mets. And Beltran has a full no-trade clause.
FROM: Frank D
You're right about Rivera, and Napoli wasn't ever a Mike Scioscia favorite. And you're right that Wells is a pro, just like Hunter. But that's a lot of dough for a player where there are other, more significant needs.
FROM: Scott D.
Nice hatchet job on the Angels Scott. It will be interesting to see what you have to say if Wells brings a big bat to go with his contract. Three center fielders in the outfield adds up to a great defensive unit, and Mike Trout is waiting in the wings. If the underachievers from last year play up to potential, we could see the Angels winning the division and more, again. Enjoy your vacation, moron.
If Wells plays a key role in the Angels winning this year, here's what I will say: I was wrong. But I'm not counting on it. I still think Angels need infusion of youth and speed.
FROM: Travis B.
Dear Mr. Miller,
Come on, Bourjos batted .204 with a .237 on-base percentage over his 51 games in Anaheim last summer! Unless he grows into his offensive shoes in a hurry, I don't put him anywhere near the leadoff slot.
Likes: On deck in just a few days: The daily spring training Bull Pennings with news, notes, quips, likes, dislikes, the whole package. And, of course, the rock and roll lyrics. A Florida (and then Arizona) travelogue. Stay tuned. ... Could go from a Green Bay Super Bowl title to a Milwaukee Brewers' playoff appearance later this summer. The Brewers have made some great offseason moves. Wisconsin is a fabulous sports state. Could be fun. ... The Eminem/Chrysler/Detroit Super Bowl commercial. If you missed it, it's here. ... Jane Leavy's biography of Mickey Mantle is a terrific read. ... Go see The Fighter. You will not be disappointed. Christian Bale is everything you've heard, Mark Wahlberg is good and Melissa Leo -- one of the most underrated actresses around -- is as great as she usually is. ... Hey, the groundhog saw his shadow! Spring is right around the corner. Right?
Posted on: January 4, 2011 1:29 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 1:42 pm
Striking to tighten their grip on the AL West, the Rangers are close to a deal with free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre that will lock him up in Texas for the next six years, sources with knowledge of the talks confirmed to CBSSports.com.
The deal with Texas appears just about done, with one of the last remaining steps a physical examination for Beltre. Assuming no problems there, the Rangers are expected to announce what is believed to be a six-year, $96 million deal for Beltre, probably later this week.
As second choices go, there are far worse.
Though Texas swung and missed at this winter's free agent plum, Cliff Lee, the Rangers still will accomplish part of their winter goal of strengthening their pitching staff simply by adding Beltre, 31, a two-time Gold Glove winner and recognized as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game.
Multiple reports out of Texas suggest that All-Star Michael Young, the incumbent third baseman, has agreed to shift to designated hitter to make room for Beltre. That is just another testament to as classy and as professional a player as there is in the game: This will be Young's fourth position change in the past decade.
He moved from shortstop to second base when the Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez, went back to shortstop after A-Rod was traded, then shifted over to third base to make room for then-rookie Elvis Andrus two summers ago.
Now, Young again will be displaced by a personnel move. However, anybody who has watched the Rangers, particularly in the postseason last year, would agree that Young struggled defensively at third base at times. In the World Series against San Francisco in particular, a handful of balls got by Young that cost the Rangers.
With Beltre at third, the infield defensive immediately will improve (and with Andrus at short, the Rangers will field as talented and entertaining a left side of the infield as there is in the game). And with Young at DH and perhaps spelling various infielders at times during the brutally hot Texas summer, the Rangers will retain their team leader, a guy who long ago became the heart and soul of the clubhouse.
Beltre, after going quiet with the bat in Seattle's huge Safeco Field during his time there, re-emerged offensively last summer in Boston. He hit .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBI. His 49 doubles led the league, while his .365 on-base percentage and .553 slugging percentage both were close to career highs for the 13-year veteran.
The move at the same time improves Texas -- even though last year's DH, Vladimir Guerrero, now is not expected back -- while striking another blow to the beleaguered Los Angeles Angels. Texas' chief AL West rivals also were trying to lure Beltre, who becomes the latest free agent to decline the Angels' money.
Los Angeles also took a strong run at Carl Crawford earlier this winter before he signed with Boston, and the Angels held talks with Lee before he signed with Philadelphia.