Posted on: October 22, 2010 12:11 am
Edited on: October 22, 2010 12:17 am

Texas leads New York in ratings game, too

ARLINGTON, Texas -- In today's column , I wrote about the opportunity the Rangers have this weekend to establish a new identity and build a new fan base by making it to the first World Series in franchise history. In that column, I mention that for the first five games of the AL Championship Series, the TBS ratings in the Dallas-Fort Worth area (21.2) far exceeded the rating in New York (13.9).
I then asked TBS how that rating compared to the other cities during its coverage of the Division Series. TBS televises all Division Series games, and one of the two LCS each year.

The answer was that it's not bad. It's comparable to the best ratings TBS received in any competing city -- and far, far better than the Rangers games got locally in the first round.

The Rangers' local rating was last among the eight teams that played in the Division Series, although that can be explained in part by scheduling that had four of the five games played during the day (including two midweek day games). By contrast, the Phillies, Reds and Twins, whose ratings were the best, played only night games in the first round.

Here are the city-by-city ratings for the first-round games involving local teams:

1. Philadelphia, 24.6
2. (tie) Cincinnati 21.9
2. (tie) Minneapolis-St. Paul 21.9
4. San Francisco 15.6
5. Tampa-St. Petersburg 12.1
6. New York 11.9
7. Atlanta 11.6
8. Dallas-Fort Worth 10.5

And for the ALCS:

1. Dallas-Fort Worth 21.2
2. New York 13.9

The Texas market far outdid the New York market for each of the last three games:

For Game 3, it was 22.1 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 14.5 in New York. For Game 4, it was 26.5 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 17.1 in New York. For Game 5 (which began at 4 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. CT), it was 18.4 in Dallas-Fort Worth, 12.9 in New York.

Rangers people say that another factor to consider is that cable penetration in the Dallas-Fort Worth area is among the lowest in the country. That makes the low first-round rating more understandable, and the high ALCS rating even more impressive.

Posted on: October 20, 2010 2:22 am

The Bengie Molina World Series?

NEW YORK -- Bengie Molina's Giants are two wins away from the World Series. Bengie Molina's Rangers are one win away.

Bengie Molina is three wins away from being part of two World Series teams in the same season.

"I wouldn't mind that," Molina said, after his three-run home run sent the Rangers to their 10-3 win over the Yankees in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Molina began the year with the Giants. When the Giants wanted to make room for Buster Posey, they traded Molina to the Rangers, who were in desperate need for a catcher.

"I'm glad it worked out," Molina said. "I think I helped [the Giants] out, but they're in good hands now."

He keeps in touch with Posey, and figures he'll get a text from the Giants rookie congratulating him for Tuesday's home run.

Molina said he was able to watch the end of the Giants' 3-0 Game 3 win over the Phillies on television.

"We watch, obviously," he said. "I'll tell you, I've got a lot of good friends there. I love those guys. They were family."

The Giants are family. The Rangers are family.

And if the Giants and Rangers meet in the World Series, Bengie Molina will have helped both of them get there.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 1:17 am

Giants-Phillies will be good, if they can score

ATLANTA -- In four games with the Braves, the Giants hit .212 as a team. They scored 11 runs. They struck out 43 times.

And they won.

More power to them, right?

Yeah, and good luck to them if they try to do that against the Phillies.

That's not to say the Giants have no chance in the National League Championship Series that will begin Saturday night in Philadelphia. No team in the league has someone who can match up as well with Roy Halladay as Tim Lincecum can, and no one has a second and third starter who can match up with Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels as well as Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez can.

"I think we have a whole pitching staff that can match up with anyone," second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "We've just got to try to get our offense going a little."

Sanchez, who bats second for the Giants, hit .125 in the series against the Braves. So did Andres Torres, who leads off. Add in Juan Uribe, who hit .071, and you had more than a third of the lineup combining to go 5-for-46 with two runs scored and no runs driven in.

And they won, because their pitching was so good -- or because the Braves lineup was even worse.

The Giants understandably believe in their pitching. The Giants also, realistically, realize it's going to be near-impossible to beat the Phillies by averaging fewer than three runs a game.

"They've got a lineup that can really swing," Cody Ross said. "But we've got a really good pitching staff."

Because the Giants were able to finish the Division Series in four games, by beating the Braves 3-2 on Monday night, they also have that pitching staff set up the way they want it.

Lincecum, who won the last two NL Cy Young Awards, will be on a full week's rest for his matchup with Halladay, the likely Cy Young winner this year. Cain can go in Game 2, Sanchez sets up for Game 3 back in San Francisco and rookie Madison Bumgarner, who pitched so well in Monday's clincher, gets a home start in Game 4.

And the Giants will hope to get them a few runs. Very few, in all likelihood, but maybe just enough.

"That's how we've been playing all year," closer Brian Wilson said.

With Lincecum vs. Halladay, with Pat Burrell returning to Citizens Bank Park to try to deny the Phillies a third straight NL pennant, this is the NLCS matchup that neutrals had to be hoping for. It's a whole lot more compelling than Phillies vs. Braves would have been, given the gap between those two teams that became so obvious in six head-to-head matchups in the final weeks of the season.

Maybe the Phillies will prove that the gap between them and the Giants is just as wide. But maybe the Giants' pitching will shut down the Phillies' lineup the way it just shut down the Braves' (admittedly much weaker) lineup.

Maybe the Giants hitters will be able to get going just a little, as Sanchez hoped for.

The Giants believe it's possible.

"It's going to be a great series," Sanchez said.

It will be, if only the Giants can score a few runs.
Posted on: October 11, 2010 2:57 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2010 6:21 pm

Glaus at 3B, Conrad sits for Braves

ATLANTA -- Bobby Cox is as loyal as any manager, but he's also realistic.

So for what could be the final game of his 29-year career, the Braves manager has chosen to sit Brooks Conrad, the infielder who has made eight errors in the last seven games, and whose error allowed the Giants to score the winning run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Sunday.

Troy Glaus will play third base for the Braves in tonight's Game 4, with Omar Infante moving to second base.

"He needs a day off," Cox said, referring to Conrad. "He needs to get away from it."

Cox also dropped the struggling Jason Heyward (0-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the series) to sixth in the order, with Matt Diaz moving up to take Heyward's normal second spot.

Glaus has 1,337 games of major-league experience at third base, and he made the play of the series there, starting a game-saving double play in Game 2. But Cox has been hesitant to use him at third (he played just two major-league innings there in the regular season), because at this stage of his career he has almost no mobility.

"We'll see how it goes," Cox said.

Glaus, who played a week's worth of games at third base during a rehabilitation assignment late in the season, expressed confidence in his ability to handle the position.

"I've played there for a long time," he said. "I'll try to make all the plays I'm supposed to make."

Playing second base is no problem for Infante, who came to the big leagues as a middle infielder. In fact, when Chipper Jones was hurt, the Braves played Infante at second with Martin Prado at third. Then Prado was hurt, and Conrad played third until two huge errors there convinced Cox to move him to second base.

Now, three more huge errors convinced Cox to leave Conrad out of the lineup entirely.

"I talked to him," Cox said. "I told him to hold his head high, and maybe he'll get a pinch hit and win a game for us."

Coming off the field after batting practice today, Conrad could have easily avoided questions by quickly going to the clubhouse, but once again he willingly stopped and took questions.

He said he didn't sleep well Sunday night, but said today's talk with Cox was "another sign of what a great manager Bobby Cox is."

Conrad also thanked Braves fans who applauded him in the outfield during batting practice.

"I've had a lot of nice comments from the fans," he said. "That's really meant a lot to me."

The Braves trail the Giants two games to one in the best-of-5 series. Cox will retire at the end of the season.


For some great perspective on Conrad, check out Braves beat writer Dave O'Brien's blog today on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.
Posted on: October 8, 2010 6:33 pm

Lincecum was great, but he wasn't Halladay

PHILADELPHIA -- Tim Lincecum pitched a great game for the Giants the other night.

Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter.

Tim Lincecum struck out 14, but he also allowed two hard-hit doubles. Roy Halladay, as one Reds official put it, gave up a lot of six-hoppers to the infield.

Tim Lincecum faced a Braves lineup that, with no Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, is not really playoff-quality. Roy Halladay faced the team that scored the most runs in the National League.

Tim Lincecum benefitted from hitters who swung at pitchers out of the strike zone all night long. Roy Halladay made pitches in the strike zone and was so perfect that the Reds could never square the ball up.

I hate to even bring any of this up, because Lincecum deserves huge credit for an outstanding performance. But a column in the New York Times Friday suggested that Lincecum had actually done better, based on his "game score," and the idea picked up some support among those who value statistics above all else.

It was scoffed at by most baseball people who watched the two games.

"One's a no-hitter, one's not," one scout said simply. "End of story."

Reds manager Dusty Baker agreed.

While the stat guys value strikeouts over other outs, Baker said that Halladay "wasn't trying to strike guys out."

Baker watched the Lincecum game on television, and of course he was impressed. But he still put it a notch below what he saw in person from Halladay the night before.

"That's one of the best-pitched games I've ever seen," he said. "And I've seen a lot of them, and faced a lot of them. And I'm not taking anything away from what Lincecum did."

Neither do I.

It was a great game. It wasn't Halladay.
Posted on: October 8, 2010 1:25 am
Edited on: October 8, 2010 1:39 am

A call for more replay -- and less whining

Please, give us more replay.

If only to stop the whining.

Yes, the umpires have made themselves into a huge story in the first two days of this postseason, and that's unfortunate. But the whining about the umpires should be just as big a story, and that's doubly unfortunate.

It would be great if umpires got every call right (not realistic, but great). It would be fine if increased use of replay could help improve the percentage of correct calls (very possible, although it still wouldn't be perfect).

It would be even better if players and managers would understand that most of the time, the responsibility for losing or winning lies with them, and not the umpires.

The guy who has the biggest beef so far is Bobby Cox, whose Braves lost 1-0 to the Giants in a game where the only run scored after a call that replays showed clearly to be incorrect. Buster Posey was out at second base on his fourth-inning steal. I know that, you know that, Buster Posey knows that and even Paul Emmel knows that, now that he's had a chance to see the replay.

And yet Cox, the all-time ejection leader, didn't argue the call. He said after the game that he had a bad angle from the dugout (even Emmel had a bad angle, and he was a lot closer), and that his infielders didn't protest the call.

The Braves, by all accounts, didn't whine about the call. According to Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution , even Brooks Conrad, the second baseman who tagged Posey before he reached the bag, quickly pointed out that the Braves "didn't get the job done offensively."

Good for them, because we've had far too much whining.

Earlier Thursday, Joe Maddon was thrown out of the Rays' 6-0 loss to the Rangers. Ron Gardenhire was thrown out of the Twins' 5-2 loss to the Yankees.

Maddon was upset with a swing/no-swing call on Michael Young, just before Young's home run that helped put the Rays away. Gardenhire was upset with a strike/no-strike call on Lance Berkman, just before Berkman's game-winning double.

Replays shown on television suggested that Maddon and Gardenhire had reason to be upset. But let's remember that no proposed replay system would cover balls and strikes, or check-swings.

No matter what, we'll be reliant on umpires making the right decision. As technology gets better and better, we'll have more and more reason to question those decisions.

It's inevitable that we'll have expanded use of replay, sometime, somehow.

But as even Bobby Cox admitted after a bad call seemingly cost him the game Thursday, replay isn't the total answer.

"Let's leave it the way it is," Cox said. "We would be arguing and throwing flags 10 times a night."

Fans actually love the arguments. Last weekend in Atlanta, during the Cox retirement ceremonies, fans cheered loudest when a Cox argument was shown on the video board. In the game that day, when there was a questionable call, the fans began chanting, "Bobby! Bobby!" even though Cox never appeared on the field.

They love arguments. I can't imagine they love whining.

And unfortunately, this postseason has already had too much whining.

There was even whining after the most memorable game of the postseason so far, Roy Halladay's Wednesday night no-hitter against the Reds. That night, Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera complained about home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck's strike zone, even though Hirschbeck has always been a pitchers' umpire, and he wasn't any more generous than usual.

But Cabrera seemed to be on his own. The whining Thursday was worse.

The Rays, who embarrassed themselves by the way they played in two home losses to the Rangers, embarrassed themselves further by seeming to place the blame Thursday on the umpires. Maddon's tirade was bad enough, but the display later by catcher Kelly Shoppach was totally uncalled for.

As for Gardenhire, his problems with umpire Hunter Wendelstedt go back years, as colleague Scott Miller pointed out . It wasn't a great idea to assign Wendelstedt to a Twins playoff series.

The Rays aren't down two games to none because of bad umpiring, or a lack of replay. The Twins aren't down two games to none to the Yankees because of bad umpiring, or a lack of replay.

Roy Halladay didn't throw a no-hitter because of bad umpiring.

And even the Braves, who watched the Giants' lone run score after a seemingly bad call by an umpire, never scored a run themselves.

It was a bad call. I get that.

Some expanded replay would help. I get that.

But replay or no replay, there will be calls that don't go your way.

Can we stop whining about it?

Posted on: October 8, 2010 12:29 am

If not for Halladay, Lincecum would be the best

Imagine if Roy Halladay hadn't thrown a no-hitter Wednesday.

Imagine if somehow Halladay had stayed in the American League.

If he had, would there be any question that Tim Lincecum was the best pitcher in the National League?

It's not fair to compare anything to what Halladay did Wednesday against the Reds. It's not fair to compare the Reds, the highest-scoring team in the NL, to the Braves, who simply aren't a good offensive team with Chipper Jones and Martin Prado both hurt.

But if Halladay's postseason debut Wednesday was the standard, it's hard to say that Lincecum's postseason debut Thursday was that much worse.

A shutout. Two hits. And 14 strikeouts.

Yes, it's true, the Giants' 1-0 win was dependent on yet another questionable call by an umpire, when Buster Posey seemed to be out at second base but was called safe by Paul Emmel. Yes, even with that bad call, the Giants wouldn't have scored if the Braves were even average defensively, if Omar Infante had been able to stop what seemed to be a routine ground ball from Cody Ross.

But that shouldn't take away from what Lincecum did.

He gave up an Omar Infante double on his fifth pitch of the night. He gave up Brian McCann's double in the seventh inning. He wasn't Halladay-dominant.

But seriously, if we hadn't just watched Halladay on Wednesday, wouldn't we be saying that Lincecum's performance Thursday was one of the best postseason efforts we'd ever seen?

And aren't all of us, except for fans of the Reds and the Braves, now hoping for a Giants-Phillies National League Championship Series, with Halladay facing Lincecum in an all-Cy Young Game 1?

Two days in, one theme of these playoffs is the same one we had last year, which is the missed calls by the umpires. They had another bad day Thursday, helping to lead to ejections of Rays manager Joe Maddon and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. If there was an upset Thursday, it was that the most significant missed call Thursday, the one on Posey's fourth-inning steal, didn't bring Bobby Cox out of the dugout to argue.

Cox said he didn't have a good angle from the dugout, and since his infielders didn't protest, neither did he.

Besides, even if the Giants hadn't scored then, you'd think they would have scored sometime. And as long as Lincecum stayed in the game, there wasn't much chance of the Braves getting a run.

"Everything just went where it was supposed to," Lincecum told TBS' Tom Verducci after the game.

Posted on: October 3, 2010 5:46 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2010 5:59 pm

Braves, Pads, Giants roll with the changes

ATLANTA -- When this run started for Bobby Cox and the Braves, they stood on the infield grass at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, watching a game from Candlestick Park.

And when the Giants beat the Dodgers, the 1991 Braves were division champions.

So here Cox and the Braves are this afternoon, at Turner Field, watching a game from AT&T Park, hoping that another Giants win -- this time over the Padres -- will put them in the 2010 postseason as the National League's wild-card team.

And REO Speedwagon is on the infield dirt.

Memories of the '90s. Memories of the '80s.

And all the while we're still trying to figure out who will be in the playoffs now.

As Sunday afternoon turned into evening, the Braves were in their clubhouse, waiting to see whether they could spray champagne as a true playoff entrant, or whether they'd be in a three-way tie with the Padres and Giants, necessitating a Tuesday late-afternoon play-in game in Atlanta.

"We'd rather do it tonight," Cox said, after the Braves' 8-7 win over the Phillies. "All right, keep your fingers crossed."

Or listen to REO Speedwagon, as a few thousand fans did. Meanwhile, the Padres and Giants played on, on a small screen in left field.

"People might be cheering, and they won't know why," Braves general manager Frank Wren said as the concert began. "They'll think, 'This wasn't even one of our hits.'"

UPDATE: The concert is over, and the Padres and Giants are on the big screen at Turner Field -- and 80 percent of the concert crowd has left the building. The few people remaining are cheering the Giants.
Category: MLB
Tags: Braves, Giants, Padres
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