Tag Archives: World Series

Prediction.

RED SOX WORLD SERIES STREAKS

One hundred years ago this month, in October of 1916, the Boston Red Sox were in the middle of a seven year period in which they won four pennants and four World Series Championships, the only four they would win until 2004. They won in 1912, 1915, 1916 and 1918.

When they next won the Series, in 2004, it kicked off a ten year period when they would win three World Series Championships in ten years after a drought of 86 years.

In the intervening years, the Sox got to the World Series four times and lost all four times, four games to three. In 1946, after finishing seventh of eight teams in 1945, the Sox won the pennant and lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1967, after finishing ninth of ten teams in 1966, the Sox won the pennant and lost the World Series to the Cardinals again.

In 1975, after finishing third of six teams in 1974, the Sox won the pennant and lost the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. In 1986, after finishing fifth of seven teams in 1985, the Sox won the pennant and lost the World Series to the New York Mets.

In their 108 year history as the Red Sox, they have been in eleven World Series. They won the first four appearances in a row, lost the next four appearances in a row and have now won the next three appearances in a row.

Prior to the streak from 1912 to 1918, playing as the Boston Americans, the team had won the first World Series, in 1903, defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates, five games to three. They adopted the name Red Sox in 1908 and in the four years before their first World Series as the Red Sox, never finished higher than third, finishing fifth of eight, 24 games behind, in 1911 before winning their first World Series the next year.

The Sox have a history of streaks when it comes to the World Series. They appeared in four World Series in seven years, from 1912 to 1918, winning all four times, in their first streak. In their next four appearances, although it took 86 years to complete, they lost all four times, taking their opponent to seven games each time. In their next three appearances, they won all three times.

A World Series win in 2016 would complete the third streak, giving them four wins in four appearances over 13 years. As Red Sox fans watch two other teams play in the World Series starting Tuesday, many will be day dreaming about just such a possibility after the 2015 season ended with what I call the Miracle of Yawkey Way.

The Sox have a history of success in years following disappointing years. Whether they can pull off another Worst to First scenario in 2016 is something we will have to wait to find out but don’t bet against it at this point.

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BEN ZOBRIST, KEY TO WORLD SERIES?

The Mets against the Royals in the World Series promises to be an interesting match up in many ways. The Mets young pitching staff may have enough power to control the Kansas City bats but the Royals bull pen may be able to shut down the Mets offense if the Royals can get a lead. So many things can happen in a short series that there is no almost no point in speculating on the eventual outcome.

Both teams have some exceptional young players who may hold the key to the series and both have some veterans with the ability to get hot and make a difference in a seven game series.

If I had to pick one player, outside of pitchers, that I think is key for either team, I’d pick Ben Zobrist, Kansas City’s Jack of All Trades and Master of All Positions. Zobrist has played second base and batted second for the Royals in every game of the ALDS and ALCS.

He hit .333 with 6 hits in 18 at bats against Houston in the ALDS and .320 with 6 hits in 25 at bats against Toronto in the ALCS for an overall post season average of .326 with 6 RBI’s and 10 runs scored.

Zobrist has played every position in the field except pitcher and catcher in his ten seasons in the Big Leagues. In addition to his versatility in the field, he is a switch hitter which adds to his value.

He began his career with the Tampa Bay Rays and played there for nine years before being traded to the Oakland Athletics on January 10th of this year. He played in 67 games for Oakland, hitting .268 before again being traded to Kansas City on July 28th..

Since coming to Kansas City, he hit .284 in 59 regular season games with seven homers and 23 RBI’s. In those 59 games, he played second base, third base, right field and left field as well as designated hitter.

At Tampa Bay, Zobrist was a fan favorite and hit .264, while doing everything except pitch and catch and sell hot dogs. I was in Tropicana Field for the last exhibition game and the start of the regular season in April and spoke with many Rays fans about losing Zobrist and long time Manager Joe Maddon in the same year. Almost invariably, the fans were more upset about losing Zobrist than Maddon although everyone said the team would not be the same without the two.

Zobrist is a Free Agent at the end of this season and is expected to be highly sought after. I am sure Maddon, now the Manager of the Chicago Cubs, would love to have this versatile player back given his belief and practice that players should play multiple positions.

Zobrist is one of those rare position players who seems to be comfortable and competent wherever he is asked to play. He has been named to two All Star teams, in 2009 and 2013 another rarity for a utility player.

He has said he would prefer to stay in Kansas City but, like every player at this stage of his career, money will probably dictate where he goes. It’s hard to imagine a team that couldn’t make good use of his offensive and defensive versatility and production.

He has been hot at the bat during the first two post season series and could be a major factor in the upcoming World Series.

CATCHERS MAKE THE BEST MANAGERS

Did anyone notice that three of the four Managers in the American and National League Championship Series’ were former catchers in their baseball careers? Joe Maddon of the Cubs, John Gibbons of the Blue Jays and Ned Yost of the Royals were all catchers during their playing careers. Only Terry Collins of the Mets was not. Collins was a shortstop during his playing career.

In the beginning of this year’s Playoffs, of the ten teams involved, including the Wild Card Teams, six of the ten were managed by former catchers, including all five American League teams.

In all of Major League Baseball, 13 of the 30 Managers were catchers during their playing career. Why are 60 per cent of the Post Season teams, 75 per cent of the teams in the LCS and 43 per cent of the Major League teams managed by former catchers?

After all, catcher is only one of nine positions on the field at any given time, yet 43 percent of the Managers come from the ranks of catchers. What special ability required to manage a baseball team does a player develop from playing at this least glamorous position that gives him the skills to be a Manager? After all, the catcher’s equipment has always been referred to as the ‘Tools of Ignorance’. One wouldn’t think that ignorance would be an asset in such a complex position.

According to Baseballreference.com, the term ‘tools of ignorance’ was ‘…meant to be ironic, contrasting the intelligence needed by a catcher to handle the duties of the position with the foolishness needed to play a position hazardous enough to require so much protective equipment.’

The catcher takes a position, generally more that 100 times a game, behind the batter, that puts him at severe risk. Both ball and bat are moving at a speed around 100 miles an hour and arrive at a spot directly in front of the catcher at precisely the same instant. If you have never experienced the sensation when this happens, you don’t have a true understanding of the phrase ‘in the blink of an eye’.

Until the recent rule change, the catcher was the only player on the field that it was acceptable to crash into while running at full speed into home plate. He is an advocate for the pitcher in ball and strike counts, making him a favorite target of umpires. If an opposing batter gets hit with a pitch, the catcher, who obviously must have called the bean ball, is the most logical target for the opposition pitcher’s retaliation.

Given the dangers involved and the options available, why would any sane person choose to catch? While catching may be the most dangerous position on any sports field, it’s where the action is. The catcher is involved in every play. Every play starts with a pitch the catcher calls by signaling to the pitcher what to throw and where to throw it.

While following general directions given by sign from the dugout, the catcher must consider a myriad of things while deciding, in a few seconds, which pitch he will call for next. Among the things he must consider are the ability, condition, mental attitude and performance so far that day of his pitcher, who, by the way, is only one of 11 or 12 different pitchers he will catch this week. He must also monitor the situation on the field, including the ball and strike count, the number of outs, the score, any base runners and their locations, speed and ability and, of course, the batter, including, but not limited to, his physical ability, what he has seen in his previous at bats and what he can be expected to try to accomplish in this at bat.

I have merely scraped the surface of the things a catcher must know and anticipate in every situation. Most of us would need a computer to catalog the things we would need to consider before putting down those fingers to call for a pitch, never mind analyze those factors and come up with a decision.

Once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, the real action begins. The person squatting behind home plate who was just imitating a rocket scientist now becomes an amazing specimen of human agility and reaction. The pitch will come in at anywhere between 70 and 100 miles an hour, may go where it was supposed to go or somewhere else and may not even be the pitch the catcher thought he called for. If you have ever expected an 80 mile an hour slider and, instead, gotten a 100 mile per hour fastball, you’ll know where the term handcuffed came from.

Assuming the ball is not put into play, which it isn’t most of the time, and the catcher catches it, and there is no one stealing a base, the scenario starts all over again. If the ball is hit, depending upon where it is hit and whether is is caught by a fielder, or one of the dozens of other things that can happen, the catcher now has other responsibilities. These include backing up first base on grounders, directing throws within the infield, preparing to catch a ball for a play at the plate and on and on and on. After this play is over, his responsibilities begin all over again.

Considering their responsibilities and all they have to learn to play their position, is it surprising that catchers make good Managers? The catcher is like the football quarterback who must know the role of every player on every play.

That is why catchers make the best managers and why there is a good chance two former catchers will be managing against each other in the World Series this year just as Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost, two former catchers, did last year.

CUBS VERSUS ASTROS IN WORLD SERIES??

AZ 2014 004What could be more exciting than a Playoff Season that started out with all four of the Underdogs ahead of the Favorites two games to one after three games? So far, both American League Favorites, the Blue Jays and Royals, have come back and won Game 4 to avoid being eliminated. But both the Dodgers and Cardinals, winners of their National League Divisions, are down two games to one, to the Mets and Cubs, and facing possible elimination tonight.

What could be more exciting would be an American League Championship Series that pitted the Houston Astros, who finished in fourth place in the Western Division last year, against the Texas Rangers, who finished in last place in the Western Division last year, in an all Texas series. If you have forgotten, Houston won only 70 games while losing 92 in 2014 and finished 28 games out of first. The only thing that kept the Astros out of last place was those Texas Rangers, with a record of 67-95, 31 games back. Texas was the only team in the American League that lost more games than the Astros, who were tied for the second worst record in the League. Tomorrow night both of them have a chance to advance to the American League Championship Series.

What would be just as exciting would be a National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs, who finished in last place in the Central Division last year, facing the New York Mets, who finished in third place in the Eastern Division last year. The Cubs won 73 and lost 89 last year and finished 17 games out of first. The Mets finished with the same 73-89 record and were also 17 games out of first. The Mets are up two games to one over the Dodgers while the Cubs have the same advantage over the Cardinals. If the Mets and Cubs can each win one of the last two games against the Dodgers and Cardinals, the Mets and Cubs will meet in the National League Championship Series.

The four Underdogs finished with a combined record of 295 wins and 353 losses last year while the other four teams finished with 356 wins and 292 losses. This year, the Underdogs finished with a combined 361 wins and just 287 losses compared to the Favorites record of 380-268.

Imagine a World Series with the Chicago Cubs, who finished last in their division the past two years and the Houston Astros who finished in fourth last year and last the previous year after being moved from the National League Central to the American League, facing each other. Remember also that the Astros finished in last in the National League Central their last two years there and were the only thing that kept the fourth place Cubs out of last.

The Astros have not been in the World Series since 2005, when they lost their only appearance in the Fall Classic to the Chicago White Sox in four straight. The Cubs have not been in the World Series since 1945, 70 years ago, when they lost to the Detroit Tigers four games to three. They have not won a World Series since 1908, 107 years ago, when they beat those same Tigers four games to one.

The chances of it happening are slim but don’t tell Manager Joe Maddon of the Cubs or Manager A. J. Hinch of the Astros, who, by the way, are both in their first year of managing these clubs. The fact that these four Underdogs have gotten to the point that they all have a shot at getting to the Championship Series should be excitement enough for one playoff season.

As I say every year at this time, how can anyone get excited about football, basketball or hockey when baseball is giving us its usual Fall dose of excitement and suspense?

BLUE JAYS AND CARDINALS ARE THE TEAMS TO BEAT

The Major League Baseball regular season ends two weeks from today on October 4, with a full slate of games. All the games on that date start at 3:00, Eastern Time, so that all of them will be ending their season at approximately the same time, theoretically. My guess is that the geniuses who run MLB’s Promotion Department were hoping for the pennant races to go down to the wire and provide some drama on the last day.

If they were hoping to duplicate the finish of 2011 when the Red Sox and Braves were edged out by the Rays and the Cardinals for the Wild Card on the last day, they bet on the wrong horse. Most of the races are already all but over.

If the season ended today, the Toronto Blue Jays, who lead the Yankees by 3 games, would win the East. The Kansas City Royals, who lead the second place Twins by 11 games would win the Central and the Texas Rangers, who lead the Houston Astros by 2 ½ games would be the Western Division winners.

What happened to last year’s Division Winners in the American League? Last year’s Eastern Division Winner, the Baltimore Orioles, are in third place, 12 games behind the Jays and just 1 1/2 games ahead of the last place Red Sox. Last year’s Central Division Winner, the Detroit Tigers, are in last place, 17 1/2 Games behind the Royals. Last year’s Western Division Winner, the Oakland Athletics, are also in last place, 16 ½ games behind the Texas Rangers and have already been mathematically eliminated from the race.

The Yankees appear to have a lock on the first Wild Card, leading their closest challenger, the Astros, by four games. The Astros lead the Los Angeles Angels by 1 ½ games and the Minnesota Twins by 2 ½ games for the second Wild Card. All three of the teams chasing the Yankees and looking for the second Wild Card, have not been doing well recently so anything can happen there.

This seems to be the only place having the potential for drama in either league. The National League playoff teams have just about been decided. Three of the playoff teams will come from the Central Division as the St. Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates by four games and the Chicago Cubs by five and all three of these teams have better records than the other two division leaders. The New York Mets lead the Washington Nationals by 6 ½ in the Central and the Los Angeles Dodgers have an 8 ½ game lead on the Giants in the West.

If the season ended today, the American League Wild Card Playoff game would pit the Yankees against the Astros with the winner playing the Royals, the team with the best record. The other Division Playoff would be between the Rangers and the Blue Jays.

The National League Wild Card Game would be between the Pirates and the Cubs, with the winner playing the Dodgers and the other Division Playoff would be between the Mets and the Cardinals.

As I always caution, anything can happen in baseball but the matchups above look like a pretty good bet at this time. At this point, my money is on the Blue Jays and the Cardinals to meet in the World Series but, with two weeks to go, who knows.

SUPERBOWL V. WORLD SERIES

This noon, I spoke at the Sanford Kiwanis about my book ‘ From Beer To Beards, Boston Baseball’s 2011-2013 Roller Coaster Ride.’ A friend of mine had asked me to come and speak to the group. That’s the kind of friend everyone needs. Invite you to give a speech about a baseball book the week of the Super Bowl.

Anyway, until I got up to speak, everyone was talking football and I’m not sure it stopped even then. The funny thing was, they talked about Deflategate, the fact that the Pats were the most hated team in football, Seattle being the second most hated and what would happen if it were proven that the Pats had cheated but not much talk about the game itself.

This got me to thinking about the differences between football’s extravaganza and the World Series.

The NFL plays a 16 game season followed by a maximum of three playoff games per team before the Super Bowl contestants are decided. In all, 12 teams make the playoffs and they play a total of 11 games, including the Super Bowl.

MLB, on the other hand, plays a 162 game season followed by a maximum of 13 playoff games per team before the World Series contestants are decided. In all, 10 teams make the playoffs and they play a maximum of 43 games, including the World Series.

The Superbowl is a one game, winner take all, single elimination contest while the World Series contestants have to win four games out of a maximum of seven.

Football is a much more physically demanding sport and must play a shorter season with longer breaks between games. Baseball, which requires superb conditioning also, is less physical on a day to day basis and players can play day after day.

As a result of this difference, football takes two weeks off between the playoffs and the Superbowl while baseball starts the World Series a few days after the playoffs end.

In the Superbowl one key player having an exceptionally good or bad day can mean the championship. In a World Series, because of the length, one player’s performance can be critical but not so much so as in the Superbowl. Of course, when you have a Madison Bumgarner to effectively win three games in a seven game series as happened this fall, that generality goes out the window.

Both events are analyzed to death as they approach. The networks and the rest of the media trot out experts on every aspect of the games and the teams in them. The fact that baseball plays multiple games, softens the media effect as the focus changes somewhat from day to day as the series progresses.

Starting with media day, the Super Bowl has the spotlight for the entire week before the game. By the time the Superbowl begins, most fans know more than they want to about both teams. That two week layoff, especially this year with Deflategate, provides so many distractions that it seems that the game itself becomes secondary to the hype.

The contest among the sponsors to provide the best commercial and the multi-million dollar half time show seem to become more interesting than the game to the average fan.

Maybe that’s why my friends at Kiwanis were talking about the Superbowl but not the game itself.

Whatever the reasons for or the effects of the differences, both events provide the ultimate in sports viewing and competition. Even though I am a baseball fan first, I wouldn’t miss the Patriots thumping the Seahawks this weekend for anything.

GO PATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WILD CARD TEAMS NO SURPRISE

No one, especially me, could have predicted that the two Wild Card Game winners would make it to the World Series. Yet, here we are, the World Series coming up next week and the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals who won the Wild Card Game in their respective leagues are the opponents.

As you probably know, Kansas City has gotten to this point without losing a single game, eliminating the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card Game, blanking the powerful Western Division winning Los Angeles Angels in the ALDS and embarrassing the Baltimore Orioles with a four game sweep. On the other side, the Giants knocked off the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card Game before making short work of the Eastern Division winning Washington Nationals, three games to one, in the NLDS and then easily handling the Central Division Champion St. Louis Cardinals four game to one.

It’s not the first time both opponents in the World Series got in by the Wild Card route. Back in 2002, the Angels and Giants, both Wild Card winners, met in the series. The Angels won that series in seven games.

In the 16 years since the Wild Card began in 1995 until 2012, when it was expanded from one team in each league to two, requiring a playoff game to get to the League Division Series, at least one Wild Card team made it to the World Series in nine different years. In those nine years the World Series was won by the Wild Card team five times. The Miami Marlins beat the Cleveland Indians 4-3 in 1997, the Angels beat that year’s other Wild Card team, the Giants, 4-3 in 2002, the Marlins beat the Yankees 4-3 in 2003, the Red Sox beat the Cardinals 4-0 in 2004 and the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers 4-3 in 2011.

I, for one, opposed the expansion of the Wild Card to two teams, mainly because of the fact that it required a single game elimination playoff to advance after playing 162 games to get there. Under the old system, even though a five game Division Series was and is still too short to me, at least it provided a reasonable test of a team’s ability that doesn’t happen in a single game playoff.

On the other hand, the Wild Card system has allowed some franchises that have not generally been in the hunt to compete in the playoffs and to reach the World Series. The Astros, Mets, Rockies and this year’s Kansas City Royals are perfect examples.

Whether you like the Wild Card system or not, this year’s World Series will be won by a Wild Card team. Which one it will be is anyone’s guess at this point. There is one thing certain, the winner won’t be either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Detroit Tigers as I predicted it would be on September 29.