- My world series prediction of the Twins vs Padres is not looking good. Of the twenty-one teams that have lost the two games of a divisional series playoff, nineteen have gone on to lose. One of these teams is the Oakland A’s, so there is still some hope. But not much.
- The secret of Joel Zumuya is out. A converted starter, Zumuya was dynamite all season long for the Tigers, hitting 100 on the radar gun numerous times. Another set-up man and future closer, the Dodgers Jonathan Broxton is also starting to break out. This is bad news for fantasy players hoping to slip these players onto their squads next season.
Sorry this is a couple days behind the times, but with the wrap up of the regular season we should look at some of the great last weeks of the season since 1969.
Great NL Divisional Pennant Races Since 1969
2003 NL Central
Before their 19-8 September lead by stellar pitching by Kerry Wood and Mark Prior the Cubs were 3 games over .500, in third place in the Central, 2.5 games behind St. Louis and Houston. They took 4 of 5 games against St. Louis over Labour Day weekend and they didnâ€™t look back. They entered the last weekend of play a half game ahead of Houston. They took both ends of a Saturday doubleheader against Pittsburgh to clinch the title with a game to spare.
1999 NL Central
After a bad start the Cincinnati Reds were playing catch-up to the Houston Astros all season and they were able to catch them before going into the last weekend of the season. The Astros won the first 2 games vs Los Angeles while the Reds dropped the first 2 in Milwaukee to give the Astros the Central title. The Reds needed to win the season finale; which turned out to be the last game at County Stadium and they did 7-1 to force a playoff the next night in New York – who had swept Pittsburgh to catch the Reds on the second to last day. The Mets prevailed in the playoff 5-0 on a 2 hit shutout by Al Leiter.
1996 NL West
The upstart San Diego Padres had flirted with the Dodgers for the NL West lead even after playing though a terrible slump in June and July. They controlled their own destiny coming into the last weekend of the season. It was a tough hill to climb, as they needed to sweep the Dodgers on the road. Fortunately for the Padres the Dodger bats went to sleep for the final series. The Dodgers managed only 4 runs and 3 extra base hits in the first 2 games. In the 2-0, 11-inning season finale which saw the Dodgers manage only 4 singles in the game and only 1 after the fifth inning while Bob Tewksbury, Dario Veras and Trevor Hoffman combined for an 11-inning shutout and the NL West crown.
2006 MLB Playoff Predictions
A’s GM Billy Beane once said that the playoffs are basically a crap shoot, and that the real test is winning out over a 162 season. I would have to agree with him, although his opinion may be slighted, seeing as he’s never had any real playoff success. While can be viewed as a crap shoot, the first round ridiculed for only being five games, the baseball playoffs are for all intents and purposes the greatest event in sports.
The main factor that I look for when predicting for the playoffs is just looking to see what brand of baseball a team plays. I call this “playoff baseball”. This basically equates with being edept at playing small ball when needed, having adequate starting pitching, and a very good bullpen. This test doesn’t always work, but it has been successful in recent history (White Sox, Angels, etc). On to the predictions;
Yankees vs Tigers
For all their power hitting, Joe Torre and the Yankees can still adopt a “playoff” type ball when needed. I’m concerned, like many, with the sharp decline of the Tigers over the past month.
2 summers ago I attempted to coach a pee-wee baseball team. After the first practice, I quickly realized that I was in way over my head. Not only did I not remember any drills from my days as a 12 year old, but I had trouble keeping the attention of a group of 15 boys and girls who were hyperactive and had no attention span. Luckily, while strolling through Chapters, I came across this coaching book by Hall of Fame Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill Ripken.
This is a thoroughly illustrated instructional book that clearly explains proper baseball fundamentals and it is based on the teachings of Cal Ripken Sr. who was a player, coach and scout for the Baltimore Orioles for 37 years. The book is divided into 9 sections or “innings” if you will. Each inning covers a specific baseball fundamental such as hitting, baserunning, pitching, fielding, etc. Not only that, but the most valuable part of the book is the teaching philosophy and how to instruct kids, skills in which I was sorely lacking.
The Ripken baseball approach consists of the following principles:
1. Keep it Simple: Teaching that is too complicated is difficult to remember and can result in frustration. This is especially true with a pee-wee group of ball players.
2. Explain Why: A teacher who cannot explain why is not truly teaching. Lessons that make sense will stick with the players.
3. Celebrate the Individual: No two players are alike, so why treat them as if they are?
4. Make it Fun: The game gets serious enough quickly enough on its own. Drills and instruction should be structured so that players can enjoy themselves while learning.
I also found it extremely useful in helping me sleep at night, knowing that I was teaching kids how to throw, field and hit properly and not just giving them the same old advice a coach told me (how many times have we been told to keep our elbows up when hitting?) because “that is the way I was taught and thats how you should do it too.” Now when a player asks me why I am teaching them a certain way, I have Cal Ripken Jr. to help me answer.
When coaches are coaching, they quickly realize that they are not just teaching kids on how to play baseball the right way, but they are also teaching them how to grow into being young men. The Ripkens have this part covered too – including how to deal with tantrums, sulking and the like. The only thing I would have liked to had added to the book would be on how to deal with over-zealous parents. Other than that, this is a comprehensive guide to coaching and a must read for the first time coach to the veteran coach.
On the way to a Jays game a week or so ago, Daperman and myself were having a discussion on the “Baseball Names” article that I wrote and brought up a few names that I had left out. Daperman told me about Johnny Leonard Roosevelt Martin, a man with two nicknames. He was commonly known as Pepper Martin, but he was also known as the “Wild Horse of the Osage”. That nickname was branded into my brain and a few days later I investigated this Wild Horse.
Pepper Martin was born on Monday, February 29, 1904, in Temple, Oklahoma. Martin was 24 years old when he broke into the big leagues on April 16, 1928, with the St. Louis Cardinals. He played thirdbase and was an Outfielder for the “Gashouse Gang” – The St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930′s. I am not going to bore you with his stats, which were above average, or what his value is over a replacement player (I don’t care) or his Win Shares, because it doesn’t matter. Not even his Runs Created Above Average. What matters is that he was a colourful player who was a menace on the basepaths.
“A chunky, unshaven hobo who (Pepper Martin) ran the bases like a beserk locomotive, slept in the raw, and swore at pitchers in his sleep.” – Author Lee Allen in The National League Story (1961)”
In the 1931 World Series, Pepper Martin batted .500 and stole 5 bases as the Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Athletics 4 games to 3. During the series Martin was asked how he had learned to run so fast; he replied “I grew up in Oklahoma, and once you start runnin’ out there there ain’t nothin’ to stop you.”
Pepper has the third highest World Series career batting average ever at .418, and is tied for ninth in stolen bases with seven
As part of the Gashouse Gang, Martin formed the “Mudcat Band”. The Mudcats played before and after games in the clubhouses of the National League and enlisted such members as Fiddler Bill McGee, Bob Weiland on jug, Frenchy Bordagaray on washboard. Martin played guitar. Not only was Pepper a hillbilly music aficianado, he also had a penchant for midget auto racing.
Martin retired at the age of 40 and became a minor league manager. While managing Miami of the International League he was suspended and fined for choking an umpire. When brought before the league chancellor, Pepper was asked if he really intended to harm the umpire. Pepper replied “I meant to kill the buzzard”.
Pepper didn’t like to be called Pepper, so instead teammates called him “Johnny”.