Congratulations to the Phillies!

October 29, 2008 at 11:54 pm | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 9 Comments

Well, it’s over now.  The Philadelphia Phillies have defeated the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2008 World Series.  I smile as I type that, knowing that the Rays had an amazingly successful season beyond my wildest dreams, and that the Phillies are an incredibly deserving World Champion team.

For the last few years, I’ve thought that the Phillies were a very talented team that was on the cusp of greatness.  It seemed that they were only a few players away from becoming an elite team.  I have to admit that I didn’t think of them as a World Champion during the regular season, and I even foolishly predicted that they would lose to Milwaukee in the NLDS.  I knew that they had the star power – Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Cole Hamels, but it was their supporting cast – guys like Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Brad Lidge, and Jamie Moyer, that put them over the top this year.  They were clearly the better team in the World Series and now they are champions.

There probably isn’t any fan base that deserves a championship more than the Philadelphia fans.  This is the Phillies’ first World Series championship in 28 years, and the first championship for any Philadelphia team in 25 years.  I was friends with a lot of people from Philly when I was at Penn State, and I know that everyone from that area is a die-hard fan of all four of their teams.  I hope that they enjoy that parade down Broad Street that they’re always talking about!

Now we sadly must endure a long winter without baseball.  2008 will go down as my favorite baseball season of all time.  Not only did my favorite team surprise everybody by going from being the worst team in baseball to the World Series, but I also rediscovered my love for baseball card collecting for the first time in 14 years.  And I started this blog and shared my thoughts on both the baseball season and the baseball card hobby with some really great people.  Years from now, I’ll be able to look back on these posts and fondly relive my memories of the 2008 Rays season and my return to collecting.

With the season ending, the focus of the blog will shift from my constant posts about the Rays postseason (which surprisingly seem to have been quite popular) back to my opinions on the baseball card hobby.  You can look forward to video box breaks of every hobby box that I open.  Either this weekend or early next week, you’ll see me open new boxes of Bowman Chrome, Upper Deck Masterpieces, and Donruss Threads.  And I will be sharing the huge amount of thoughts that have been circling in my head about how the card industry can be improved.

We’ve got 3 1/2 months to go before pitchers and catchers report for 2009 spring training, but there will be lots of excitement in the coming months here at Fielder’s Choice Baseball Card Blog!

Remembering all that’s good about collecting

October 29, 2008 at 1:50 am | Posted in My Cards, Trades | 5 Comments

You may have read about a recent card trade that I made with Patricia and Lucy from Dinged Corners.  Let me reassure you that I’m not from the planet of Krypton and I don’t live in the Fortress of Solitude.  I don’t even have any superpowers (at least that I know about yet).

I’ve been meaning to share what I got from the girls in New Mexico in the deal.  First, I got a letter from Lucy, which is one of the coolest things that I’ve received in any trade.  It is great to see kids get excited about baseball and collecting baseball cards.  I love reading Patricia and Lucy’s perspective on collecting at Dinged Corners because it really does bring me back to all that is good about collecting.  And this was one of my wife’s favorite things that I’ve gotten in a trade.  She’s a third grade teacher, so she loves anything related to kids.  Anyway, here’s a scan of the letter:

I’ve answered Lucy’s questions already, but in case anyone else wants to know, my cat’s name is Lady.  She’s a 12-year old Maine Coon cat.  My wife adopted her a little while after we started dating in early 2004.  Even though she started out as my wife’s cat, Lady has grown to love me even more than her!  Here’s a picture of us (it is impossible to get her to look in the direction of the camera):

The answer to Lucy’s other question is that I love living in North Carolina.  Since I grew up in New York State and went to college in Pennsylvania, I am very appreciative of the warm weather that we get down here.  We’re close to the beach and not far from the mountains.  On top of that, the Raleigh-Durham area is one of the fastest growing areas in the country and there are a ton of good companies and great universities here.  Plus, we have lots of sports teams around.  We have an NHL hockey team, two minor league baseball teams (and others that are close by), and three of the best college basketball programs in the nation (although I’m not a basketball fan).

I also got a big stack of Rays cards from Lucy and Patricia.  Here are a few of my favorites:

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces

2008 Upper Deck Masterpieces

I didn’t get this card from my Masterpieces hobby box.  It’s a great portrait of C.C., although it would be nice if the artist had painted a new Rays uniform on him.  It has been almost a year since the change.

2006 Bowman Heritage

2006 Bowman Heritage

This is an Andy Sonnanstine rookie card.  It’s actually a “prospect card” from 2006.  At the time that the card came out, Sonny was still pitching in Double-A, leading the Montgomery Biscuits to the Southern League championship.

2008 Tristar Projections

2008 Tristar Projections

Despite the very unhappy look on Wade Davis’ face, I’m thrilled to get this card.  Everybody knows about David Price, but Davis isn’t very far behind him on the prospect radar.  He’d easily be the #1 pitching prospect in most team’s organizations.  He should be ready to join the Rays in early 2009, but he may have to join the bullpen since the starting rotation will be so crowded.

2007 Bowman

2007 Bowman

Speaking or prospect cards, here’s one of Reid Brignac, one of the top shortstop prospects in all of baseball.  It’ll be interesting to see if Brignac can beat out Jason Bartlett for the starting shortstop job next year.  He plays above average defense and he’s capable of putting up big power numbers.  Brignac and Evan Longoria formed a dominant left side of the infield together in Single-A and Double-A.  Hopefully they can replicate that success in the majors!

So thanks to Patricia and Lucy for a terrific trade!

By the way, I will be revamping the Trading Corner on the blog in the near future.  I’ll be adding a few new sets that I’m collecting and I’ll be listing Rays cards that I need.  So if you’ve been thinking of offering me a trade, it’s probably best to wait until after I update it…

It’s not over yet!

October 29, 2008 at 12:03 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 2 Comments

So my faith in the Rays has been fading since Game 3 of the World Series.  Let’s face it – Game 3, Game 4, and most of Game 5 have not been pretty.  It seemed like only a matter of time before the World Series would end with the Phillies celebrating and the Rays wondering what went wrong.  But the top of the 6th inning of Game 5 gives me new hope that it’s not over yet for the Rays – they could still win this thing!

Tonight I decided to download the song “Down and Out” by Tantric on iTunes.  It’s the song that plays at Tropicana Field when Evan Longoria comes to the plate.  I thought it would be a good song to play during future video box breaks.  It struck me how appropriate some of the lyrics are for the situation that the Rays are now in:

Just when you think that you’re down and out
Don’t preconceive what I’m all about
Look for a reason that you have to start…

And when you think that we played it out
We come from the bottom and knock it out
Look for a reason that you have to start…

And then there’s the quote from J.P. Howell after Game 1 of the ALCS:

We’ve been at our best this season when things looked worst.

J.P. was absolutely right.  There have been so many times during this magical season that it looked like all hope was lost for the Rays.  I remember when they fell below .500 toward the end of April with both Scott Kazmir and Matt Garza on the disabled list.  I told my friends “here we go again” and predicted another last place finish for the Rays.  I remember the 7-game losing streak right before the All Star break that knocked the Rays out of first place.  All of the experts thought that the Rays would fade away and that the path was cleared for the Red Sox and Yankees to take over the A.L. East again.  I remember early September when the Rays headed into Boston after getting swept in Toronto.  The Red Sox came within 1/2 game of first place.  Now that we were in the heat of the September pennant race, the Rays would surely fall back to earth.  And then there was the ALCS.  They blew the 7-run lead in the 7th inning of Game 5, and then lost Game 6.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Red Sox would win Game 7 and go back to the World Series…

But each time that it looked like all hope was lost for the Rays, they came back stronger than ever.  In a season filled with unbelievable and improbable successes, it’s fitting that the Rays are now stuck in a hotel in Delaware during the last week of October.  I imagine that they’re coming together as a team in that hotel, thinking about how, as bad as this series has been, all they have to do is win the final 3 1/2 innings of Game 5 in Philly, and then they can go back home to warm, dry Tropicana Field and just win 2 more games to become World Champions!

If the Rays do come back and win this thing, coming back against all odds would be the perfect ending to this season.  In a season where they’ve had to defeat adversity so many times, it’s only fitting that the final chapter would be the toughest obstacle of all!

My faith is now restored and I’m believing in this team again.  B.J. Upton’s valiant effort to score the tying run during the torrential downpour last night will turn out to be the turning point in this series.  The bad weather in Philly has allowed the Rays to pause the series, regroup, and refocus on the task at hand.  Watch out Phillies – it ain’t over yet!

Card Wagers

October 28, 2008 at 1:21 am | Posted in Blogs, Trades | 3 Comments

One of the fun things about the Rays postseason run has been that I’ve gotten to make some card bets with bloggers who are fans of the Rays’ opponents.  For the ALDS, I made a bet with Steve from White Sox Cards.  If you haven’t already, you can see the outcome of that here.  For the ALCS, my betting partner was Joe from Cardboard Addiction.  The terms were that if the Rays won, he’d send some Rays “hits” to me and if the Red Sox won, I’d send some Red Sox “hits” to him.  I got Joe’s package today, and I was blown away by his generosity!  There will be a post, and maybe even a YouTube video, sometime soon (probably after the World Series ends) to show you what I got from Joe.  I will also be sending consolation prizes to both Steve and Joe in the near future.

Before the World Series started last week I ended up making two bets with Phillies fans.  Unfortunately it’s looking like I’ll be the one on the losing end this time.  First I made a bet with the guy who runs Jawdy’s Basement.  I really upped the ante with him; we’re betting a hobby box of 2008 Bowman Chrome.  I also made a bet with Paul from the Phungo blog.  We’re betting a couple of hobby packs of either Donruss Threads or Topps Stadium Club, plus the loser will write a guest post about the winning team on the winner’s blog.  So you can probably look forward to reading something from me on Phungo soon, and I’ll also have a couple of packages to mail out – unless of course, the Rays can turn this thing around!

World Series Games 3, 4, and 5

October 28, 2008 at 12:52 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 2 Comments

So here it is Monday night and I haven’t posted anything since late Thursday night.  I’ve been busy, but the reality is that I haven’t wanted to write any recap posts because I wanted to forget about the last couple of games as soon as they ended.  But, in case you were wondering what my thoughts have been, here you go…

Game 3:

  • Jamie Moyer pitched a lot better than I thought he would, and Matt Garza was worse than I thought he’d be, but I think that the home plate umpire had a lot to do with it.  It was horribly frustrating to watch the umpire, some schmoe named Fieldin Culbreth, call a strike for every Moyer pitch that was anywhere near the strike zone, and then call a ball when Garza would throw a pitch to the exact same location.
  • Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria continued to frustrate me.  Not only did neither of them have a hit through the first three games of the series, but they both looked totally clueless in their strikeouts.  It was clear that the Rays would not be able to win this series unless their #3 and #4 hitters could somehow wake up.
  • B.J. Upton was carrying the team on his back.  He seemed to be the only player who was playing with any competitive spark.  I really wish he could transfer that to his teammates.  I’ll always remember how amazing it was when he single-handedly tied the game with his baserunning in the 8th inning.  First, he runs out an infield single with his hustle to get on base.  Then he steals second.  And then he steals third, and winds up scoring on a throwing error on the play!  It’s hard to believe that it was only a few months ago that he was benched by Joe Maddon for not hustling!
  • My happy memories from the top of the 8th inning were wiped out by the events of the bottom of the 9th.  It’s hard to score a run by having to do less than what the Phillies had to do.  First, J.P. Howell hits Eric Bruntlett with a pitch to put him on first.  Grant Balfour replaces Howell, and he throws a wild pitch, on which Bruntlett advances to second.  Dioner Navarro throws the ball into the outfield, moving Bruntlett to third.  At this point, there are no outs, and it’s likely only a matter of time before Bruntlett crosses the plate for the winning run.  But Joe Maddon goes crazy with some sort of “strategy”.  He has the next two hitters intentionally walked to get to Carlos Ruiz, who has been swinging a hot bat.  He moves Ben Zobrist from right field to the infield and goes with a five-man infield.  That’s OK since any ball hit into the outfield is going to score Bruntlett anyway.  But none of that matters when Ruiz hits a grounder to third, and Evan Longoria throws it over Navarro’s head as Bruntlett scores.
  • I wanted to strangle Joe Buck to death in the 4th inning.  It wasn’t because of his horrible announcing, or because he dislikes baseball, but because he decided to give away the outcome of the Penn State vs. Ohio State football game for no reason.  As a huge Penn State fan and alumnus, I had decided earlier in the day to record the football game and watch the baseball game live.  The only reason was that on ABC during football games, they show the World Series score on the bottom of the screen.  I knew that Fox did not show football scores during its baseball coverage.  Anyway, during the rain delay I watched the first half of the football game.  It was tied 3-3 going into half time.  I couldn’t wait to watch the second half after the end of the baseball game.  And then in the 4th inning, out of nowhere, Joe Buck says “well, the football game just ended and Penn State won”.  That was all he said.  I was obviously happy that Penn State won, but the second half was completely undramatic for me when I watched it.  I have no idea why Buck had to give away the result.  It was almost like he was intentionally trying to piss me off.  And there are a ton of Phillies fans who are also Penn State fans, so he probably pissed off a lot of people.

Game 4:

  • Game 4 was an absolute nightmare for me.
  • Again, the umpire was horrible at calling balls and strikes.  This time it was Tom Hallion.  Perfect strikes thrown by Andy Sonnanstine were being called balls.  In all seriousness, Sonnanstine’s control is so good that almost any time he walks someone, it’s because of a bad home plate umpire.
  • It hurts that it was Joe Blanton who beat the Rays in this game.  He really is a horrible pitcher, and the Rays should have beaten him.  To top it off, Blanton hits a home run.  That was the lowest point of the series so far.
  • Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria continued to frustrate me.  Not only did neither of them have a hit through the first four games of the series, but they both looked totally clueless in their strikeouts.  It was clear that the Rays would not be able to win this series unless their #3 and #4 hitters could somehow wake up.  Sound familiar?
  • There were very few bright spots for the Rays.  Carl Crawford and Eric Hinske (nice to see him back) both hit solo home runs.  Sonnanstine, who always hits well in inter-league play, hit a single.  That was it.
  • I think the weather was a factor in the game.  The temperature dipped below 50 degrees, and I know that the Rays are not comfortable playing in that kind of weather.  Let’s face it, they play their home games in a dome in Florida.  Most of their players were born and raised in warm climates.  It had to be tough for them to endure the lopsided score and the cold weather.
  • It’s obvious that the Rays aren’t playing with the same passion that they had in the ALCS and for most of the season.  Defeating Boston and winning the American League pennant was such a huge accomplishment and such an emotional high.  I guess it’s tough to follow that up.

Game 5:

  • I’ll admit that I was not excited at all for the start of Game 5.  In fact, I dreaded it.  I had pretty much given up hope that the Rays could win the series.  If they couldn’t beat Jamie Moyer or Joe Blanton, how could they beat Cole Hamels?  And it was even colder than the night before.  It was only a matter of time before the Phillies would be crowned champions.
  • Another game, another horrible umpire behind the plate.  This time it’s Jeff Kellogg.  He should have stayed in his family’s cereal business instead of becoming an umpire.  I understand that every umpire has a different interpretation of the strike zone, but all I ask is that they’re consistent.  If two pitchers throw a pitch to the same location, the call should be the same for both of them.  But too many times in this series, a pitch that’s a strike for the Phillies pitcher is a ball for the Rays pitcher.  It’s awful.
  • Holy crap!  In the 4th inning, Carlos Pena hits a double (although it looked like Werth could have caught it) and then Evan Longoria drives him in!  I had forgotten what it looked like for either of them to be on base.
  • I think I fell asleep in the bottom of the 4th inning and slept through the entire 5th inning.  It doesn’t look like I missed much.  When I woke up, there was a downpour of rain.  I’ve never seen a game continue through rain like that.  They really should have delayed it earlier than they did.  With the temperature in the 40s and the rain coming down, the conditions were horrible for both the players and the fans.  But B.J. Upton reaches first on what I thought should have been an error by Jimmy Rollins.  Then he runs through the mud to steal second, and ties the game on a single by Carlos Pena.  Yes, another hit for Carlos Pena!  Now I’m happy that the Rays were able to tie it before they did stop the game in the middle of the 6th.
  • So the game will resume tomorrow night in Philly.  I have to think that this is a break for the Rays.  They were able to come back and tie this game 2-2, and now they have new life.  If they can pull out a win in the last three and a half innings tomorrow night, it’s back to St. Pete for the last two games.  With the home field advantage in the climate controlled Tropicana Field, and Shields and Garza on the mound, they might be able to win this thing after all…

Searching for the Mute button…

October 24, 2008 at 2:36 am | Posted in Baseball, World Series | 15 Comments

We’re in the middle of the World Series, America’s oldest and greatest sporting event.  It’s a time when all baseball fans unite in the annual tradition of watching the games to see a new champion crowned.  What should be an entirely positive experience for the fans is unfortunately diminished every year when we have to endure the broadcasting of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck.

There are many talented analysts and play-by-play announcers working for every team in Major League Baseball.  Many of them would do a great job broadcasting nationally televised games.  So why is it that we are forced to listen to McCarver and Buck at every single All Star Game, World Series, and one of the league championship series every year?

Let me start by ranting about Tim McCarver.  As far back as I can remember, going back more than 20 years, McCarver has been the analyst for every All Star Game and World Series.  He’s been on ABC, he’s been on CBS, and he’s been on Fox.  No matter what network buys the rights to broadcast baseball nationally, they hire McCarver.  I am baffled by this because I have never heard McCarver provide any interesting insight during a baseball game.  He constantly spews meaningless platitudes and makes obvious points.  He frequently launches into lengthy explanations about mundane things as if his audience has never seen a baseball game before.  Worse, he always seems unprepared to discuss the teams that are playing.  I think he memorizes a few points about each team and then repeats these points throughout each game.  From listening to him, it’s obvious that he hadn’t watched any Rays games this season and he probably never watched the Phillies before the NLCS.  For example, he seemed amazed by the Rays infield shift against Ryan Howard after they’ve been doing the same thing against David Ortiz and other left-handed pull hitters for the last few years.

Unquestionably, my favorite memory of Tim McCarver is when Deion Sanders dumped buckets of water over him after a game in the 1992 NLCS, which prompted McCarver’s helplessly hilarious comeback of “You’re a real man, Deion”.  It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving idiot.

I was hoping that I could find a video of McCarver’s humiliation on YouTube to post here, but I couldn’t find it.  Instead, I found a very funny song about McCarver.  Why is it that it’s always Red Sox fans who post great YouTube videos:

Now, on to Joe Buck.  I was never very impressed by Buck as it seemed that his only qualification to be the play-by-play man for national baseball broadcasts was that he was Jack Buck’s son.  Jack Buck was an extraordinarily good announcer for the St. Louis Cardinals and for CBS.  Joe Buck, on the other hand, has never had anything interesting to say during any broadcast that I’ve ever seen.  I’ve also never heard him show any enthusiasm or passion for baseball.  This summer, we found out why.  He admitted on a radio show that he hates watching baseball and actually prefers watching The Bachelorette.  Seriously.  He thinks baseball is boring and he thinks the games are too long.  That’s funny since he seems to love the NFL, which has even longer games.  You can listen to his appalling comments and read about it here.

It is not good for Major League Baseball to have such useless, unenthusiastic announcers broadcasting the most important games every year.  Tim McCarver and Joe Buck certainly do not help attract new fans and they infuriate the current fans.  They should be replaced before next season.  If Fox won’t get rid of them, then MLB should try to find a new network once its current deal with Fox expires.

It shouldn’t be hard to find good replacements.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Bob Costas doing play-by-play again.  Sure, we’d have to put up with hearing him talk about Mickey Mantle every other minute and listening to his diatribes about how horrible he thinks the DH is, but at least he actually likes the game of baseball!  There are plenty of other candidates who are currently announcing for individual teams.  Josh Lewin of the Texas Rangers is one who I think would do a really good job.  The Rays radio announcer, Andy Freed, would be another good choice.  Let’s face it, anyone would be better than Joe Buck!

Likewise, there are many analysts out there who would do a much better job than Tim McCarver.  However, I don’t think that just one should be picked to replace McCarver.  My idea is that for every postseason series, the analysts from both teams that are playing would both participate in the broadcast.  So, for this World Series, it would be Joe Magrane of the Rays and Gary Matthews (I think) for the Phillies.  This way, fans would get insight from guys who have been following the teams all season.  I think that setup would work very well.  I want to actually learn information that I didn’t know from the analyst, and again, pretty much anybody would be better at doing that than Tim McCarver.

What do you think?  Can you tolerate listening to these buffoons during the World Series, or have you been hitting the mute button on your remote?

World Series Game 2: That’s More Like It!

October 24, 2008 at 12:58 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 4 Comments

I was more confident that the Rays would win tonight than I had been for any other game this postseason, mostly because I was thoroughly unimpressed with the Phillies starting pitcher, Brett Myers.  Myers wasn’t quite as bad as I thought he’d be.  He was awful in the first inning and decent after that.  On the other side, James Shields lived up to the “Big Game” moniker that both the TBS and Fox announcers have anointed him with.  Although it seemed like he put the leadoff man on base in every inning, Shields didn’t allow anyone to score.

We saw another impressive relief performance from David Price.  He did give up a home run to everyone’s favorite lumberjack, Eric Bruntlett, but the other run was the result of yet another 9th inning error by Evan Longoria.  Let’s hope that’s the last one.

Let’s also hope that Longoria can get a hit or two in this series.  It’s kind of amazing that the series is tied at 1-1 given that neither Longoria nor Carlos Pena have a hit yet.  I have a feeling that their luck will change on Saturday night against Jamie Moyer!  B.J. Upton’s bat did wake up tonight, although I’m still waiting to see some home runs from him.

The runs scored by the Rays tonight were all somewhat unconventional.  The two runs in the first inning were both the result of ground ball outs.  The third run was the result of a B.J. Upton hit that scored Dioner Navarro, but the inning ended when Rocco Baldelli was thrown out at the plate.  And the fourth run was scored by Cliff Floyd when Jason Bartlett laid down a bunt on a well-executed safety squeeze.

Is it just me or does this World Series seem a little bit anticlimactic after that great ALCS?  The rivalry between the Rays and the Red Sox made the ALCS incredibly intense.  I could barely sit still as I watched the games, and it seemed like the outcome of the series hinged on every pitch.  This series hasn’t come close to that level yet.  The Phillies don’t seem to be as dangerous of a team as the Red Sox, and the Rays have not had to play as well as they did against Boston.  Maybe that will change as the series goes on…

As a Rays fan, I really think that beating the Red Sox to win the ALCS and reach the World Series is a bigger deal than actually winning the World Series.  I know that may sound ridiculous, but hear me out.  Nobody expected the Rays to make the World Series anyway.  The Rays and their fans were focused on winning the division all year.  Once they won it, it became important to defeat Boston in the playoffs so that the division championship would still mean something.  Now the Rays are American League champions, and that’s far more than any Rays fan dreamed about this year.  The World Series is kind of a bonus.  Now that they’re there, it would be great for the Rays to win, but honestly, even if they lose, no one will be disappointed in the Rays.  It would actually give them a bigger goal to shoot for next season.  I mean, if they win the World Series, it’ll be tough to top that next season.  That said, I do think that the Rays will win.

Finally, I want to thank Patricia at Dinged Corners for keeping me entertained with some live blogging during tonight’s game!  I’d love to join in the discussion over there for Game 3, but I’ll be staying far away from the computer on Saturday night.  You see, the Penn State vs. Ohio State football game will be on at the same time, and I’ll be recording it to watch later in the night.  I won’t want to risk finding out any details about what’s happening in that game by looking at anything on the internet!

Tonight’s MVP for the Rays:

World Series Game 1: It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

October 23, 2008 at 1:08 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 6 Comments

While watching Game 1 of the World Series tonight, I had to check my TV to make sure that I wasn’t watching a rerun of Game 1 of the ALCS.  Tonight’s game seemed like a carbon copy of that game.  We saw a great effort from the Rays starting pitcher canceled out by an even greater effort by the opposing starter, and a total lack of production from the heart of the Rays lineup of Upton, Pena, and Longoria.

I tip my hat to Cole Hamels tonight.  He was what I thought he was – one of the best pitchers in baseball.  I do think that after seeing him once, the Tampa Bay hitters will be better prepared for him in Game 5.  The Phillies hitters, with the exceptions of Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz (who I dubbed “King of the Bloop Single” during the game), were not overly impressive.  Ryan Howard looked especially horrendous.  I felt like I might even be able to strike him out…

Some other thoughts about the Phillies:

  • I was shocked to see Eric Bruntlett pinch run for Pat Burrell in the 7th inning.  Was it really a good idea to take Burrell’s bat out of the lineup for a very important at-bat in the 9th?
  • Even though Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge didn’t give up any hits tonight, I thought they both looked very hittable.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them give up a few runs in this series.
  • Question for Phillies fans: Is Charlie Manuel as dumb as he sounds when he talks?  I listened to him in the postgame press conference, and I thought he was going to turn into Admiral Stockdale for a minute.  Who am I?  Why am I here?

As for the Rays, if it hadn’t been for one mistake by Scott Kazmir, the pitch that Chase Utley hit out of the park in the 1st inning, they would have won the game.  I was very impressed by the bullpen tonight, especially Grant Balfour.  It looks like he’s over what happened in Game 5 of the ALCS, and he’s back to being the most dominant middle reliever in baseball.  As for the hitters, Akinori Iwamura was really the only bright spot in the lineup tonight.  Crawford’s home run was obviously nice to see too.

I loved Upton’s throw to get Shane Victorino out at home plate in the 2nd.  What was he thinking testing B.J.’s arm on such a shallow fly ball?

Now we’re on to Game 2, and the first of Philadelphia’s “three stooges” – Brett Myers – will be pitching.  I predict an offensive explosion for the Rays.  And like I said yesterday, since Hamels won tonight, I’m now predicting a Rays series win, 4-2.  I just can’t see any other Phillies starters winning games.

And finally, don’t forget to get your free taco from Taco Bell next Tuesday, courtesy of Jason Bartlett!

Tonight’s MVP for the Rays:

2007 Upper Deck Ultimate "Future Signatures" #22/25

It’s time for the World Series!

October 22, 2008 at 1:19 am | Posted in Baseball, Rays, World Series | 13 Comments

It’s time for the most storied and exciting annual sporting event in the world, the World Series!  Tomorrow, Wednesday October 22, 2008 at 8:00 PM EDT, it all begins as Scott Kazmir will lead the Tampa Bay Rays and Cole Hamels will lead the Philadelphia Phillies into battle at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.  This will be the first World Series in the history of the Tampa Bay franchise, which has only been around since 1998.  Philadelphia has been in the National League since 1883, but has only won the World Series once, in 1980.  So being a part of this year’s World Series is a major accomplishment for both of these teams.

Both teams are built around their young superstars.  The Phillies feature a core of four players, all under the age of 30, that I believe is stronger than any group of four players on any other team.  I’m talking about Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins.  While the Rays are not loaded with genuine superstars like the Phillies are, they have an even younger core of stars including Scott Kazmir, James Shields, Matt Garza, Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, and Carl Crawford.  This will be the first time for all of these players in the World Series, and I believe that most baseball fans are excited to see so many fresh faces headlining the Fall Classic.

That brings me to a major point that I want to make.  There has been a lot of media speculation recently that this year’s World Series will get low ratings.  The argument is that fans only want to see the “large market” teams in the World Series.  If there’s no team from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or Boston, the viewing public will stay away.  JRJ from the excellent Sports Locker blog recently posted about this.  I definitely disagree with this sentiment.  On Sunday, Game 7 of the ALCS shattered the all-time record for the number of viewers for a baseball game on cable.  Sure, you can argue that it was all because of Boston.  But I believe that even more people were tuned in because they wanted to see the underdog Rays bring down the Red Sox empire.  I believe that the vast majority of baseball fans, who are not Red Sox or Yankees fans, are tired of seeing the same two teams dominate for more than a decade, and they’re hungry to see new teams have postseason success.  Also, don’t forget that Philadelphia is actually the fourth largest media market in the country.

The storyline for this year’s World Series is very compelling.  It’s the unlikeliest matchup since the Twins and Braves both went from last place in their divisions in 1990 to the World Series in 1991.  That 1991 Braves team was the only team in history that had the worst record in all of baseball one year and went to the World Series the next.  They lost to the Twins in 1991, so the Rays have a chance to be the first team that goes from the worst record in all of baseball to World Series champions in one year.  And I believe that there are many, many baseball fans who are excited to see if they can do it.  On the other hand, the Phillies have some of the most passionate fans in the world, and they’re starving for a championship.  It’s been 28 years since the Phillies won the World Series, and it’s been 15 years since the last time they were in it.

The 1991 World Series was one of the most exciting and entertaining of all-time.  The games were very close and the series went to seven games.  Can the 2008 World Series reach the same level of competitiveness?

First, I must issue a disclaimer.  As you know, I’m a huge Rays fan and there is no way that I could pick the Phillies to win.  So take my prediction with a whole shaker full of grains of salt.  But also keep in mind that I successfully predicted that the Rays would beat the White Sox 3-1 and the Red Sox 4-3.

My prediction is that the Rays will sweep the World Series, 4-0.

I don’t make that prediction lightly, and I really wanted to predict that the Phillies would win a game or two, but I just can’t see it happening.  I apologize to all the Phillies fans who are reading this.  They really are one of my favorite National League teams to watch.  I’m a big fan of Rollins, Utley, and Hamels.  I absolutely loved Citizens Bank Park when I saw a game there this summer.  But here’s why I can’t see them winning a game:

  • Their starting pitching is horrible.  Yes, horrible.  Cole Hamels is outstanding, but when I look at the other names in their rotation, I wonder how they managed to make the playoffs.  Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton are going to be starting in this series.  Seriously? I’ve disliked Myers ever since he assaulted his wife on a public street in 2006.  But his numbers are appalling too.  Guys with 4.55 ERAs and 1.38 WHIPs who pitch to amateur batters 1/9 of the time should not be in any team’s postseason rotation.  Jamie Moyer?  I know he has fans, and his success at the age of 45 is admirable, but he has gotten shellacked in the playoffs.  Upton and Longoria must be salivating about facing him.  And Joe Blanton?  When he was in the American League, he was one of the guys that you were always happy to see your team face when they needed to end a losing streak.  Let’s see, we play Oakland next, and Blanton’s pitching – thank God! He’s terrible, and I was amazed that the Phillies thought he could actually help them in the pennant race this year.  When I look at Myers, Moyer, and Blanton, I can’t think of many teams in the entire American League that have worse 2nd, 3rd, and 4th starters in their rotations.

    So that leaves Cole Hamels.  He’s one of the best pitchers in baseball; there’s no doubt about it.  And he’s been great in the playoffs.  He’s a lefty, and the Rays tend to hit better against righties, although they did beat Jon Lester twice in the ALCS.  However, Hamels is pitching in Game 1 at Tropicana Field against Scott Kazmir, who is coming off a dominating outing in Game 5 against Boston.  Kazmir’s slider was more effective than it has been all season, and if he has that going for him again, he’s not going to lose Game 1 at home, even against Hamels.  And if the Rays beat Hamels in Game 1, they’re certainly not going to lose to the three stooges that follow him in the Phillies rotation.  That’s why I’m predicting a 4-0 sweep.  However, if the Phillies do happen to win Game 1, then I believe that they can also win Game 5 with Hamels on the mound in Philly, so my prediction would change to 4-2.

  • The second reason why I can’t see the Phillies winning a game in the World Series is the “rest effect”.  They will have had an entire week off between their NLCS clinching win against the Dodgers and Game 1 of the World Series.  We saw what that did to the Colorado Rockies in last year’s World Series.  The Rockies had been unbeatable for about a month before their weeklong rest, and then they were promptly swept by the Red Sox.  This isn’t the Phillies fault, and MLB really should try to prevent situations like this from occurring again, but it’s going to be tough for them to recover from it.  Let’s face it, no team in baseball has rested for more than 3-4 days (during the All Star break) since March.  It’s simply unnatural for a baseball team to not play for 7 days.  This isn’t the NFL here.  Many Rockies have admitted that the rest hurt them last year, and I believe that it will hurt the Phillies this year.  On the other hand, the Rays just finished an extremely intense ALCS on Sunday.  They can easily carry their intensity over into the World Series.

So it’s time to get this thing started.  I can’t wait!  I have to find a Phillies blogger to make a card bet with…

Me at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on June 22, 2008.

Me at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on June 22, 2008.

Well that’s a coincidence…

October 21, 2008 at 11:27 pm | Posted in My Cards, Rays, Upper Deck | Leave a comment

In my post about my Evan Longoria collection yesterday, I mentioned two redemption cards for Evan Longoria autographs that I had redeemed.  I wasn’t expecting to receive either card at any time in the near future.

When I came home from work today and got the mail, I was surprised to see a package from 5909 Sea Otter Place in Carlsbad, CA, which I know is Upper Deck’s address.  What could it be?  I wasn’t expecting it to be my Evan Longoria SPx autograph card because when I checked Upper Deck’s web site a couple of weeks ago, I was told that the “athlete is committed to signing” but that I must “be patient”.  Could it be the winnings from one of the many NPN drawings that I’ve entered on Upper Deck’s web site?  Was Upper Deck trying to bribe me with free cards as they’ve been doing with other bloggers lately?  I considered this possibility and thought about how fun it would be to burn the cards on video if that was the case…

I opened the package immediately when I walked in the door, and there it was, my SPx Rookie Signatures card of Evan Longoria!

I redeemed this card in early July, so the wait wasn’t too bad.  On the other hand, I redeemed for my Topps Red Hot Rookie Longoria autograph on September 30, and according to the Topps web site, “the card is planned to be shipped 30 weeks from the date that the code was entered”.  That would be sometime in April 2009.  Great.  And I’m still waiting to get a Co-Signers dual autograph card of Jeff Francis and Jason Hirsh that I mailed to Topps in June…

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