October 22, 2016

Chicago Cubs Win First Pennant in 71 Years!

The Chicago Cubs beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 on Saturday night, winning their first National League pennant in 71 years.

Kyle Hendricks (7.1-2-0-0-6, 88) and Aroldis Chapman (1.2-0-0-1-1, 15) faced only 27 batters, allowing a mere two singles and one walk. It was only the second time in postseason history a team has faced the minimum number of batters. The first time was, obviously, Don Larsen's perfect game in 1956.

So the 2016 World Series will feature the Cubs and Cleveland - the two teams with the longest title droughts - with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday night in Cleveland.

And on Friday, October 28, Wrigley Field will host its first World Series game since 1945.

After losing Game 7 of the 1945 World Series to the Tigers, the Cubs languished almost 40 years before they made the postseason again. Since then:
1984 - Lost NLCS to Padres 3-2
1989 - Lost NLCS to Giants 4-1
1998 - Lost NLDS to Atlanta 3-0
2003 - Lost NLCS to Marlins 4-3
2007 - Lost NLDS to Diamondbacks 3-0
2008 - Lost NLDS to Dodgers 3-0
2015 - Lost NLCS to Mets 4-0
2016 - World Series

October 21, 2016

David Ortiz Played In Serious Pain For Four Years

Rob Bradford, WEEI:
It turns out we had no idea just how long Ortiz endured the injuries that ultimately forced him into retirement after a walk-off season for the ages. Many point to July 16, 2012, when Ortiz was driven from the lineup by sore heels. That created memorable uncertainty entering the storybook 2013 campaign. It opened our eyes to the agonizing process of reaching the finish line this year.

But the reality is this problem had been building for years. It impacted not just his Achilles' tendons in isolation, but basically every bone, tendon, ligament, and muscle below his ankle. It even affected his skin.

"He was essentially playing on stumps," [Red Sox coordinator of sports medicine services Dan] Dyrek said.

That's not even the half of it. Now that Ortiz has walked into the sunset with a garage full of retirement gifts after an historic farewell season, the story of how he reached that rocking chair can finally be told.

October 18, 2016

Terry Francona Claims Middle Finger Flipping Is "Nervous Habit"

Cleveland manager Terry "Playoff Assassin" Francona was shown apparently giving the middle finger to a lingering TBS camera during last night's ALCS Game 3.

Francona, during a radio interview this morning:
God, I was so embarrassed when I heard that or when somebody asked me that after the game. I think I have a nervous habit of kind of picking my face a little bit. I would never do that [intentionally]. ... That's just a quirk of fate.
Sure, Tito. It must have been an impromptu itch. Sure.

Jays Down 0-3, Comeback Has Got To Be Impossible

Thirty-four teams have been down 0-3 in a best-of-seven postseason series.

Thirty-three teams eventually lost the series.

Only one team has won Games 4, 5 and 6, forcing a do-or-die Game 7. And that team won Game 7!

With Cleveland taking advantage of every single mistake (big and small) the Blue Jays have made and Playoff Tito firing on all cylinders, with his players doing everything right, this series is over for Toronto.

October 17, 2016

ALCS: Circumstances 2, Blue Jays 0

Toronto's Jose Bautista says there are "circumstances" working against the Blue Jays in the ALCS. What he's implying is that the home plate umpires are calling pitches against Toronto and in favout of Cleveland.
I'm having great at-bats. It's just sometimes the elements and the circumstances that we have to deal with as hitters sometimes doesn't necessarily go our way. But I'm not trying to really get into that. All you have to do is go look at video and try to count the number of pitches they have thrown over the heart of the plate. It hasn't been many. But they've been able to do that because of the circumstances.
In the two ALCS games, the Blue Jays have scored only one run (on 10 hits and two walks).

So, could Bautista be right? Are the umpires secret Cleveland fans or have they received orders from the Commissioner's office to make sure the Blue Jays lose the series because having a team from Canada in the World Series might mean lower TV ratings?

Fortunately, we do not have to guess. Data exists that can tell us how accurate - or not - the home plate umpires have been in the two games. (It is that data that should be used in the actual games, rather than relying on the imperfect eyes and sometimes questionable judgment of the umpires.)

CBS Sports looked at the ball-strike calls (as plotted by Brooks Baseball) and determined:
Home plate umpires Laz Diaz and Jim Wolf called big strike zones in Games 1 and 2. That's true. The PitchFX data confirms it. The Indians got more called [strikes] on pitches off the plate because they threw more pitches there. They took advantage of the big zone. The Blue Jays did not.
Another writer reported that the missed calls were almost exactly even for both sides. A third article looked at the pitches from a number of key Blue Jays at-bats - and found absolutely nothing suspicious. And, of course, Bautista's mention of "circumstances" doesn't explain the swings and misses by Toronto batters - Bautista, among them - at pitches out of the strike zone.

As you might expect, Cleveland is having fun with Bautista's comments. The team's Twitter page now reads:
"Official Twitter of the 2016 AL Central champions. We control all of the circumstances. #RallyTogether"
This is one of the actual circumstances working against the Blue Jays (12 batters faced, 10 strikeouts):

October 14, 2016

AL/NL Championship Series

My picks:
Blue Jays over Cleveland in 6.
Cubs over Dodgers in 5.
Game threads here, if you like.

Talk Of Curses

With the Chicago Cubs having advanced to the National League Championship Series and former Red Sox manager Terry Francona heading to the American League Championship Series with Cleveland, there has been a lot of talk in the sports media about "curses" - i.e., the Red Sox's 86-year World Series drought that Francona held end in 2004 and the 108 years that have passed since the Cubs were champions of baseball.

However, the C-word is often not presented in quotes; most writers are not typing "alleged curse" or "mythical curse" or "so-called curse". No, the hex is presented to the reader as though it was/is real. If you asked these sportswriters, do you truly believe that the Red Sox were cursed by a dead man's ghost or that the Cubs were cursed by a bar patron's goat back in the mid-40s, what would they say?

This is nothing more than lazy writing.

Andy Martino, New York Daily News, October 1, 2016:
Ever since his days as the wunderkind GM of the Boston Red Sox — he was just 30 years old when that team broke its own 86-year curse to win the 2004 World Series — Epstein has always belied his new-school reputation by taking tradition into account as well.
Bill Ballou, Providence Journal, October 5, 2016:
In his first season in Boston, the Red Sox broke an 86-year curse by winning the World Series, and doing so by coming back from a 3-0 deficit against the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Evan Grossman, New York Daily News, October 6, 2016:
So proven curse-breaker Theo Epstein was hired as president of baseball operations five years ago and, according to plan, he has the Cubs 11 wins from exorcising some serious demons.
John Ruane, Chicago Now, October 7, 2016:
During the next four weeks ... We will also know if the Chicago Cubs, the team with the best record in Major League Baseball during the 2016 regular season, will win the World Series and end the 108-year drought, curse and frustration of generations of Cubs fans.
New York Post Headline, October 9, 2016:
Cubs' Ugly Win May Be First Sign Their 108-Year Curse Will End
Doug Padilla, ESPN, October 10, 2016:
The Cubs are the story of the year, with the best record in baseball, a team full of dynamic young budding superstars and a 108-year curse they need to vex on the corner of Addison and Clark streets on the city's Northside.
Hunter Felt, The Guardian, October 11, 2016:
It would have been a powerful moment if Ortiz were merely the last remaining Red Sox player from that 2004 team, the one that so memorably broke Boston's 86-year curse by winning the World Series for the first time since 1918. As spectacular as that achievement was, it was merely the beginning of Ortiz’s reign as the face of the franchise.
Jerry Crasnick, ESPN, October 14, 2016:
Nineteen years after he made his managerial debut with a 68-win team in Philadelphia, Francona is mingling with more elite company. He has two titles in his portfolio -- the first of which broke an 86-year-old curse in Boston.

October 12, 2016

Blue Jays Announcer Refuses To Use Cleveland Nickname

Toronto Star:
Don't expect to hear the word "Indian" when Jerry Howarth calls the play-by-play in the Blue Jays' American League Championship Series against Cleveland starting Friday.

The longtime Blue Jays announcer said on The Jeff Blair radio show Tuesday that he made a decision more than two decades ago never to use the term because it is found offensive by many First Nations people.

Howarth told Blair that he has also made it a practice to not use "Braves" for the Atlanta baseball team, or phrases like "a powwow on the mound" for talks between coaches and pitchers.

Howarth said he made the decision back after the 1992 series, when the Blue Jays won their first World Series against Atlanta.