Thursday, April 19, 2007


This man is absolutely Locked. In. Another HR on Thursday, his 10th of the young season, led the Yankees to an incredible 8-6 win over Cleveland.

Now, as the Bombers head to Boston to renew the most overhyped rivalry in Sports, BIMRVM asks a simple question:

What Will Terry Francona Do?

Hard to tell, but if there is any sense of baseball gamesmanship, Mr. Rodriguez will taste the dirt around home plate at Fenway at some point this weekend, preferably early on Friday. I'm not advocating that he be plunked, just dusted. Let's see if any Red Sox pitcher takes it upon himself to make the effort to slow down the red-hot slugger.

My money is on Josh Beckett on Saturday, though I wouldn't put it past Schilling to smoke one under his chin on Friday night.

Grab some popcorn kids, this could be fun to watch.

NBA Playoff Preview

Strange days in the NBA right now, as the power is clearly centered in the Western Conference. Conventional Wisdom seems to dictate that whichever team survives the East playoffs will be little more than a bump in the road to a title for the Western Conference champ, but they've decided to play the games anyway.

BIMRVM agrees.

Let's look at how we see the First Round playing out, starting in the East.

(1) Detroit vs. (8) Orlando

Pistons are the class of a bad conference, and should cruise, possibly right to the Finals. Pistons in 4.

(2) Cleveland vs. (7) Washington

Oh, what might have been. This could have been the most entertaining series of the round had Gilbert Arenas been healthy. Without Agent Zero, The Wiz just can't keep pace with King James and the Cavs. Cavs in 5.

(3) Toronto vs. (6) New Jersey

Sub-plots galore, as Vince Carter returns to face his old team. Nets have been a tough team to figure all year, and might have enough tricks to keep this entertaining against the young Raptors. My hunch is Raptors in 7.

(4) Miami vs (5) Chicago

Heat won it with mirrors last year, and Dwayne Wade is still not at 100%. I feel the need to pick at least one lower seed to advance, and the Bulls will be the selection, though this one is a tossup. Bulls in 7.

Over in the West:

(1) Dallas vs. (8) Golden State
Mavs have all the pressure squarely on themselves now. Top seed, defending Conference Champ, you name it. The Warriors grabbed the #8 seed on the last day of the season, and have given the Mavs fits this year. Dallas will advance, but not without having the crap scared out of them. Mavs in 6.

(2) Phoenix vs. (7) Kobe Bryant
See what I did there? The Lakers have since given up on the whole "share the ball" thing, and are letting Kobe run wild. Fun to watch, but certainly not a recipe for playoff success. Kobe will average 38 in the series, but it will be Suns in 5. Nash and Co. are primed to make a run at this thing, provided they don't collapse from overuse thanks to Mike D'Antoni's 8 man rotation.

(3) San Antonio vs. (6) Denver
Spurs are almost the forgotten team here, but are playing well heading into the playoffs. Nuggets also hot, but do not have enough to get by Duncan and Co. Too bad Denver didn;t cool off and face Phoenix, as that could have been a dynamite show. Spurs in 5.

(4) Utah vs. (5) Houston
With T-Mac and Yao at full strength, Rockets will be a tough out. Despite the closeness of the seed, Houston is much better and should be able to take this one. Jazz seemed to have peaked in December, and will not have enough to get it done here. Rockets in 5.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Philly Cracking Already?

Damn, having a bad start is one thing, but this is getting ugly already, and it's still April.

Pre-season darlings the Philadelphia Phillies have stumbled out of the gate, big time. Yet another loss to the division rival Mets on Tuesday has knocked them 5 1/2 games out, dead last in the NL East.

Is this rock bottom? Could be. When your mild mannered manager challenges a beat writer to a fight, there isn't too much lower to go.

This has got to be terribly frustrating for the Philly fans, who watched these guys play horribly early on last season, only to catch fire and make a late run for the Wild Card spot, ultimately falling short. Every game counts, and these April losses will really sting if the Phils end up short by a game or two once again.

Let's look at some reasons for the performance. Well, reason, actually. It's pitching, specifically the bullpen. It sucks, as was noted or ignored by many predictors prior to the season. Until that changes they will continue to waste good performances by the starters and the eventual high scoring output from the potent offense. Trouble is, everyone is looking for bullpen help, making dealing for it tough.

Better step it up, Phillies, face another lost season, which hurts a hell of a lot more when the expectations are raised.

Phils' Manuel goes after radio host (ESPN)

ESPN Looks Inward

The Worldwide Leader has had someone fill the Ombudsman role for awhile now. The original one, George Something, recently stepped aside and was replaced by Le Anne Schreiber.

Let's back up a bit. I like ESPN. Well, let's say that now I tolerate my addiction to it, "like" is too strong a word. Like a gay cowboy, I just can't quit you, Bristol. It's not so much that the network has grown so much since it's humble beginnings, from the days of televising tractor pulls, Aussie rules football and the like. The fact that a 24 hour sports channel even existed was enough of a novelty for me. I look fondly on the days when Tom Mees, Bob Ley, a non-bloated Chris Berman, etc. would deliver the Sportscenter smack into my sports-craved bloodstream. Remember that before then you were relegated to waiting for your local news guy to deliver the goods, once at 6:40 and again at 11:20. There was SportsPhone in the NY Metro Area, but that was a toll call. Having this level of sports information available was amazing! Also, this was pre-Internet, so remember, as always, that I am older than dirt.

What I can't stand now is the Disney-owned-corporate-synergy-cross-promotional-
on-ABC that ESPN is today.

Anyway, the Ombudsman, she is awesome. It really seems as if she hasn't been watching/reading/listening, thus is almost incredulous in some of her commentary. My favorite was her asking why the anchors were constantly yelling at her. Rather than pick through her commentary, I've linked it here.

I think I love this woman.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Finally, Let's Can The DH

What happened to this debate? At one time you didn't have to look very hard to find someone, somewhere who would routinely call for the abolishment of the Designated Hitter. Dismissed as "purists" by the naysayers (as if this was a bad thing), have the dissenters, who included among them such folks as Bob Costas, finally been silenced?

Maybe, but not this one.

The DH was conceived in the late 1960's as a solution to the anemic offensive output of the era. Pitching was dominant, particularly in 1968 which become known as "The Year of the Pitcher". Check the statline for Bob Gibson in that amazing year:

22-9, 1.12 ERA, 304 2/3 IP, 268 K's, 28 complete games, 0.853 WHIP

You read that correctly - an ERA of 1.12, a number which has not been approached since. Gibby was awesome anyway, but this was simply amazing. Also note that in 1967 Carl Yazstremski won the batting title (en route to a Triple Crown) with a .301 average. Offense was most definitley not at a premium during this era.

In their infinite wisdom, the powers that be decided to take action. Rather than do something subtle like, say, lowering the mound an inch or two, they thought big. You know the rest - the pitchers do nothing but pitch, while one guy does nothing but hit. Furthering the amazing lack of forethought, it was decided to conduct the "experiment" in the American League only, while allowing the National League to remain as is.

Fast forward 30+ years. Offense has not been a problem - better conditioning, the coddling of pitchers, higher salries and "supplemental assistance" have seen to that. Yet the DH remains, with no signs of being removed from the game. I could've sworn that Commissioner Bud Selig said he was going to review the issue and perhaps explore either abolishing it completely, or having it universally adopted. Still waiting for that, Bud.

Call me a purist - I think of that as a badge of honor rather than an insult - but it is time to get rid of this joke once and for all. Offense is quite obviously not an issue any longer. Pitching has thinned out through multiple expansions since 1973 to the point where if you a left-handed you can have a job well into your forties. I, for one, do not want to see careers extended through this capacity. The fact that great players like Paul Molitor and Dave Winfiled exploited this to further their careers enough to reach important achievements like 3,000 hits and a World Series ring doesn't change my opinion. I don't hold it against them as individuals - they were simply playing within the rules- but I still think it stinks.

My position causes me to embrace (for this argument only) one player in particular who has become baseball's pariah: Barry Bonds. For whatever reason, Bonds has not found his way to the AL, and still patrols left field in San Francisco as he attempts to achieve the most hallowed record in the game. Once a Gold Glove level talent, he has slipped considerably, but age (and perhaps the lack of "assistance" wink, wink) have combined to make the 42 year old a near liability in the field. This is a chance the Giants are obviously willing to live with, though Interleague play (don't get me started on this - it will generate a whole other column someday) will allow manager Bruce Bochy to use the aging slugger in the DH role for a few games.

The existence of the DH, by default, makes managing in the American League that much easier. Subtle things like knowing when to pinch hit for your tiring pitcher, when to give him the hook, or when to double switch are all decisions the AL skipper is never forced to make. Bunting has become a lost art, and it is almost comical to see lifelong AL pitchers at the plate when forced to bat. Managers who have led in each league attest to the fact that the NL forces one to employ more strategic decisions than in the push button AL.

Somehow the perception exists that people embrace scoring, and lots if it. Recall if you will the ugly 1993 World Series game between Toronto and Philadelphia, final score 15-14. An ugly, ugly game all around - ineffective pitching, shoddy fielding, etc. Compare that to the ten inning 1-0 masterpiece by Jack Morris in Game 7 of the 1991 series, which is considered one of the greatest games ever. There are countless more examples, but the bottom line remains that fans enjoy well played baseball, be it during a 7-6 game or a 2-1 pitchers duel.

There must be a pocket of folks who feel the same way, as a full time DH has never been able to win the MVP. The argument comes up, much as it does when a pitcher's name is in the mix. David Ortiz was almost able to pull it off in 2006, but Minnesota's Justin Morneau, who owns and uses a glove, won the honor. The fact that his team came roaring back from way behind to win a division title, while Ortiz' BoSox finished a disappointing 3rd probably turned the tide, but I'm sure some of writers who voted held the DH role against Big Papi.

Come on, Mr. Commissioner, let's reopen the debate here. I know the Players Association is extremely powerful, but I think enough bones can be tossed to them to shut them up. For starters, expanding the roster from 25 to 26 should placate them. No jobs will be lost. I know in your heart of hearts that you are a National League guy, and probably loathe the DH as much as the rest of us. At the very least, implement it in the low minors and let it work it's way up the chain. Oh, and while you're at it, stop letting the All Star Game decide home field advantage in the World Series.

Okay, I'll let that one go if you fix the abomination that is the DH. We'll still have to talk about Interleague play, but again, fix this first. Good luck.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Nice, but still, damn.

Full disclosure: Your humble editor is a Mets fan.

After a spring training which, even though we all know doesn't mean a blessed thing, still was beginning to make me a little nervous, the Mets opened 2007 against the very same team which eliminated them in 2006. Ladies and Gentlemen, your World Champion St. Louis Cardinals!

The three game beatdown was thorough and saisfying, no doubt (outscoring St. Loo by a 20-2 margin, hearing the Greatest Fans In The World boo their team, shooting down any questions about the legitimacy of the Met pitching staff). But......jeez, even a few of those 20 runs would have been great to have last October.
Hopefully this portends to bigger and better things this season. The team seems hungry, as if pursuing something they feel is theirs, and taking away the sting of October, 2006.
Damn. It still bugs me, though.
Silver lining? The Phillies are already 2 1/2 games out.