Hitting Back is something that originated a decade ago. A way for me to connect my observations on sports. Always hard hitting and fun hit back at me.
October Baseball: Buck Showalter fails, Giants/Mets, Odell Beckham
It’s been a while since I voiced my opinion on this blog. Well, it’s finally time to let it all go. So, what have I been doing? Lately, just getting ready for another hockey season our main New York Puck blog covering Rangers, Devils, Islanders and Sabres. That can be checked out if you’re interested in puck talk.
I also have really been preoccupied hosting shows on my Hard Hits Network. These have become 30-minute live editions for those interested in sports talk and other random topics mixed in. There’s also 15 extra minutes of overtime which can be anything goes. It features Colin Cannaday, John Giagnorio and yours truly, The Flex, Derek Felix. 😉
Here is our latest one covering the ALCS won by the Blue Jays in extras on a walk off three-run home run by Edwin Encarnacion to beat the Orioles and face the Rangers in the ALDS. Plus previewing and predicting scores for Giants/Mets NL wildcard and my hard hitting take on Odell Beckham:
Above, you can hear our 45-minute podcast on the hot topics. Here are my observations in written format.
-Once again, Buck Showalter let the moment get the best of him. It was 21 years ago in Game 5 of a classic ALDS that he decided it was safer to go with Black Jack McDowell to close out the Mariners in extras than closer John Wetteland. Edgar Martinez did the rest with Ken Griffey, Jr. rounding the bases faster than Usain “Lightning” Bolt. So, why on earth would Showalter opt for Ubaldo Jimenez in the bottom of the 11th over Cy Young closer Zach Britton? That’s one he’ll be left thinking about.
-The Jays are too explosive an offense to mess around with. Once Jimenez put a runner on, Britton should’ve been in the game. End of story. You can’t always manage by the book. Especially in a do-or-die win or go home scenario. I could care less if Jimenez tossed a gem last week. He’s a back of the rotation starter. You have to do whatever it takes to get out of that jam.
-Instead, Encarnacion launched one into the left field seats at The Skydome Rogers Centre sending the Blue Jays to a dramatic 5-2 victory. Jimenez didn’t retire a batter. Ser—io–usly. This was another epic fail by one of the good guys who does a great job managing in the regular season. Let’s just say Showalter doesn’t have the best track record in the postseason. End of story.
-The Jays will meet the Rangers again a year later. Jose Bautista is back on track. He finished strong and continued with a Bautista bomb to get the scoring started. Major league home run leader Mark Trumbo responded with a two-run bomb off Toronto starter Marcus Stroman. There were no runs scored following Ezequiel Carrera’s run scoring single that tied it in the home fifth.
-In fact, the Orioles went without a hit the final five innings. Five Jays’ relievers combined to allow only a walk and strike out six batters. Closer Roberto Osuna got all four batters he faced with two K’s before giving way to Francisco Liriano. The former Pirates’ lefty starter fared better going one and two thirds with a K to pick up the win.
-So, you get an enticing series between two evenly matched teams. Texas is home for the best-of-five series. It should be fun. We’ll preview it in another post.
-The NL wildcard is later tonight with a real barn burner featuring a pair of aces between the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard. It features the third and fourth best ERA’s in the Senior Circuit. Syndergaard with a 2.60 while Bumgarner had a 2.74. Hopefully, it lives up to the billing.
-I am going with the Mets due to their more potent lineup. Especially if Bumgarner can’t go the distance. He’s got an unreal track record dominating the 2014 postseason to lead the Giants to a third World Championship in five years. All btw even years. Here is San Francisco again in in an even year. We shall see if the magic continues for Dad’s Giants dating back to when he followed legends Mays and Marichal and McCovey at The Polo Grounds. My final score is Mets 4, Giants 2 with Asdrubal Cabrera hitting a walk off.
-Why is the Mets lineup better? For starters, you have a great 1-2 punch in Jose Reyes and Cabrera. It’s been a decade since Reyes has seen the playoffs. He was then manning shortstop for that ’06 team that came so close to a World Series, losing in gut wrenching fashion to the Cardiac Cards. A game best remembered for Endy Chavez’ catch followed by Yadier Molina breaking Amazin’ fan hearts. The ending was cruel with Carlos Beltran unable to pull the trigger on a nasty curve by then rookie Adam Wainwright leaving the bases loaded at the old Shea Stadium.
It’s hard to believe those teams never made it again with consecutive collapses and the unjust firing of since blackballed former skipper Willie Randolph. Here is Reyes rejuvenated with the only team he ever should’ve played for getting clutch hits and playing a respectable hot corner with Cabrera at short. Can he deliver in the twilight of his career?
-Aside from those two, you have the ever dangerous Yoenis Cespedes, who either will crush the ball or swing at everything and come up empty. Jay Bruce got hot after slugging a pinch hit home run into the upper deck, finishing with three jacks and looking the part. Curtis Granderson wound up with 30 dingers after struggling mightily. His bat came to life when it was needed. Coincidentally, I dropped him in fantasy baseball.
You also have young unproven bats in T.J. Rivera and Michael Conforto. Rivera was a nice surprise at second for the Mets hitting after they lost Neil Walker at second. Eric Campbell will probably get the call at first with his righty bat going against Bumgarner. That leaves Terry Collins with a strong bench featuring Lucas Duda, James Loney, Conforto and clutch pinch hitter Kelly Johnson.
-Perhaps the Mets’ biggest edge is closer Jeurys Familia, who paced everyone with 51 saves. He and set up man Addison Reed are dependable if it comes down to a tight game. The Giants’ pen is the worst in baseball blowing a zillion leads. Yet they were able to get it done sweeping the Dodgers to make it here. Sergio Romo is now the closer. We’ll see if he continues to throw well. If it comes down to a battle of the pens, you have to like the Amazin’s. But this is baseball. Anything can happen.
-For the Giants, look for ex-Met Angel Pagan and table setter Denard Span to be factors if they come out on top. Each outfielder has been hot with the bat and both have speed. Key Giants’ hitters include former World Series MVP Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt. The latter two who didn’t hit for much power down the stretch but are capable of timely hits.
-Here’s a thought on Cy Young. Max Scherzer has the wins (20) and strikeouts (284). But his ERA is almost a full run worse than Kyle Hendricks’ NL best 2.13. Scherzer is a horse. Hendricks isn’t as he only completed his third year in the big leagues. Jon Lester also is in the conversation winning 19 games with a 2.44 with the third best WHIP (1.016) behind Hendricks (0.979) and Scherzer (0.968).
It would all be for naught had Clayton Kershaw not missed significant time.He still went 12-4 with a 1.69 in 21 starts with three shutouts leading the league. In 149 frames, he allowed 97 hits with only 11 walks and 172 K’s. Oh btw…his WHIP was a ridiculous 0.725. Kershaw might not win his fourth Cy but it’s all about October for him.
-Not listed is Johnny Cueto who won 18 games and posted a 2.79 with 198 strikeouts in 219-plus. Great signing for once by Brian Sabean. Syndergaard and Bumgarner each had their own superb years both going over 200 K’s and going 3-4 in ERA.
-It still is hard to fathom that Jose Fernandez is gone. Only 24 and he had already proven to be the future of the NL. He won 16 games on the inconsistent Marlins only losing eight times with a 2.86 in 29 starts. Fernandez posted an amazing 253 punch outs over 182 and a third. His average K’s per 9 innings was a jaw dropping 12.5. What might he have accomplished? We can only imagine. That is such a huge hit for that franchise. If only they didn’t push his start back. God bless him and his other two friends and their families. 😦
-I have been steadfast as far as the AL MVP. Mike Trout undoubtedly is the best player in the game. That’s without dispute. But his numbers as great as they are don’t blow away Mookie Betts or Jose Altuve. Betts was my pick at the beginning of the year to chuckles from my buddies. Well, he sure lived up to the hype tying for second in batting average (.318) with Boston teammate Dustin Pedroia while also tying for second in runs scored (122) right behind Trout (123).
Betts led the junior circuit in total bases (359), at bats (672) and ranked fourth in runs batted in (113) despite starting the season at lead off before moving to third. He went over 30 homers as predicted and stole 26 bases while recording 214 hits. Only Trout was better at WAR (Wins Above Replacement) going 10.6 to Betts’ 9.6. Trout has the edge in Offensive WAR (9.9) to Betts’ 6.2. In case you’re wondering, Altuve who won the batting title at .338 was second with a 7.9 (7.7 overall) and led in hits with 216. Betts was second in Defensive WAR at 2.8 and should win a Gold Glove.
-I can easily see voters going: 1.Trout 2.Betts 3.Altuve.
I don’t advocate choosing the best player when he played for such a mediocre to bad team. Unless he blows everyone away like Andre Dawson, I have to give it to Betts, who undoubtedly played on a much better team. Will they penalize him for such a great offense that included OPS leader David Ortiz, Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Xander Boegarts? We’ll see.
-NL MVP is easier with Kris Bryant on his way to his first, outdistancing Daniel Murphy and NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager. His big second half and Murphy’s injury riddled second half ensured that. Seager is a stud. He could be the Dodgers’ toughest out already. I wouldn’t want to face him in a key situation.
-That series against the Nationals should be something to behold. It features Kershaw and Scherzer along with Seager, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, a rejuvenated Yasiel Puig and on the flip side, Murphy, Bryce Harper, Nats’ electrifying rookie Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon. It should go the distance. I am going Dodgers in 5 due to better pitching. The Nats also have no Stephen Strasburg and Wilson Ramos is done.
-If the Indians had Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, I would take them over the Red Sox. Trevor Bauer is going in Game 1 which doesn’t inspire much confidence. At least Corey Kluber pitches Game 2. The Indians’ best chance is to get the Red Sox’ starters out early and get after their bullpen. That means big series for Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and ex-Red Sock Mike Napoli. Tyler Naquin had a quietly very good rookie year and Rajai Davis stole 43 bases.
-Cleveland did this without Michael Brantley. The match-up also pits former Boston hero Terry Francona against the team he guided them to two world titles including the historic comeback from 0-3 down against the Yankees en route to the 2004 World Championship, which ended the long drought since 1918. John Farrell guided them to a third world title this century in 2013. Can the Sox do it again in Big Papi’s last hurrah?
-I also believe this series has the potential to be a classic. I’m thinking five games. Andrew Miller gives the Indians a decided edge late over the shaky Craig Kimbrel. But I just get the feeling this Red Sox lineup will hit its way past the Indians in Ortiz’ final October.
-And finally, on Odell Beckham. As a diehard Giants fan, if he can’t be enthused about playing a kid’s game which he gets paid top dollar for in only Year 3, then take a walk. Go participate in Dancing With The Stars. If he can’t draw motivation from the inspiring and comeback story Victor “Salsa” Cruz, then there’s something wrong. Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard have been better so far. The last I checked a whiny Beckham is blaming everything from the refs to the NFL for only 22 catches in four games with zero touchdowns. Enough already! Either shape up or get lost.
Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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